Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Agricola Molino Ausario Barbaresco, 2000

Front Item PhotoA considerably older wine than the two Barolos (below), but the bouquet was much more muted when the cork was popped. Flavors were also a bit reticent, but with airing this wine really opened up.

Actually darker than the Guido Porro Barolo. Bouquet develops nicely over several hours--cherries, violets, leather. The flavors, thouigh, are glorious, even compared to the two Barolos on the table. The cherry component is brighter with more red tints--probably because of higher acidity. Dances on the palate. This wine is my favorite of the evening, and that is saying a lot.

Guido Porro Lazzairasco Barolo, 2009

Square2009 was a particularly warm vintage in the Piedmont, and Kerin O'Keefe advises drinking most wines "through 2019." I agree; this Barolo is drinking beautifully right now. I prefer it over the  2013 San Silvestri Patres (below), although both are excellent wines.

Lighter than the San Silvestri and more garnet tones (not a bad sign for a Barolo). Initially, the two wines are aromatically similar but within a couple of hours, the Lazzairasco starts to show dark tones of licorice as well as plums, cherries and leather. On the palate, it's smoother and less tannic. Nothing to inhibit the lovely Nebbiolo flavors. I am in Piedmont heaven tonight.

San Silvestri Patres Barolo, 2013

labelI usually don't drink Barolo this young, but it was a gift from a dinner guest. And Kerin O'Keefe, my go-to source for information about Piedmont wines, says, "It's rather forward for such a young Barolo so drink sooner rather than later." (Wine Enthusiast)

Medium dark and very aromatic from the time the cork is popped. I let it air for four hours, and the scents grew more powerful and complex: flowers, black fruits and earth. Deep and serious with a long after taste. But it's still very tannic--particularly compared to the Barolo and Barbaresco to follow it. If I had a few bottles of this, I would put them away for at least five years.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Villa Baglio Barbaresco, 2009

BARBARESCO VILLA BAGLIO 09  .750I don't know much about this Barbaresco estate, but the wine was selling for $14.99 at G.B. Russo in Grand Rapids. (That was several years ago.) I thought it was well worth a try. And I was right.

Medium light color, lighter than the Albe Barolo from the same year. Beautiful Nebbiolo scents--flowers, dark cherry. Same on the palate. 2009 was a warm year and a vintage to drink sooner rather than later. This is showing well right now.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Brezza Barbera d'Alba Superiore, 2012

This bottle comes from my cellar back home, but it brings back happy memories of drinking a glass or two of red wine (always with gratis appetizer).while waiting for the local trattoria or ristorante to open at 7:00 p.m. This bottle, though, is very good, more suited for a primi or even a secondi piatti.

Beautiful ruby red, deep and brilliant. The aromas are very cherry, red and slightly tart. Also some red raspberries, mint and licorice. Cherries on the palate, too--freshly picked and bright. Abundant fruit but enough depth and complexity to accompany any meal. A gorgeous Barbera.

Brezza's Barbera comes with a glass cork--eliminating the risk of a corked bottle while offering more elegance and class than a screwtop closure. I like it. .

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Italian Wine Country: Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre, where picturesque villages are perched on steep mountain slopes overlooking the sea, is known for its scenery but you don't want to visit without tasting the local wines. Similar to Carema, vineyards are grown on steep, rocky terraces. The vines must be old because re-planting would be a herculean effort.

Made from Bosco, Albarola and Vermentino grapes, Cinque Terre wines are aromatic (hay, citrus, apples) with crisp well defined flavors. No butter or toast in these wines but rather a salty, savory minerality. They are what I most like in white wine, but they are limited in quantity and almost impossible to find in the United States.

Italian Wine Country: Visiting Carema

After four days in the Piedmont, I scheduled three days in Pont St. Martin/Carema, where Nebbiolo is grown on terraces sculpted out of steep mountain slopes bordering Val d'Aosta. I went because I love the red wines of Carema, and they are very hard to find in the United States because only about 55,000 bottles are available for the whole world to enjoy.

Ferrando is the top producer of Carema; the other one is the cooperative, which also produces excellent ageworthy wines. The top wine of the cooperative is the Riserva but I was also impressed by the Carema Classico, which sells for about $12. Tasted over three nights, this inexpensive Carema seemed fruity and somewhat straightforward on the first night, then filled out and developed a great deal of complexity over the following days. I suspect it will age for at least a decade, maybe two.

Lunch at a small restaurant near the cooperative was another occasion for drinking the Carema Classico. Like many local establishments, the restaurant had no menu and not even a blackboard list of dishes and prices. When the waitress started giving us choices for a four-course lunch, I had visions of an enormous tab but thought, "what the heck." The food was fantastic, servings were large and the wine got better and better. When the bill finally arrived, the total cost, food and wine for two, was $35!

Italian Wine Country: Tasting Barolo and Barbaresco

Aside from the tour at Costa di Bussia (below), most of my tasting in Piedmont came from glasses ordered in bistros and trattorias (typically $8 for Barolo or Barbaresco, $6 for Langhe Nebbiolo, $4 for Barbera or Dolcetto) and from visits to community tasting rooms in Barolo and Barbaresco. A trip to Dogliano was a good occasion to sample the excellent Dolcettos from that area. The White Truffle Fair in Alba, held on weekends during the month of October, was also a great place to get free tastes of both wine and food. At the fair, I was particularly impressed by the lineup of wines from Curto Marco, including the LaFoia Barolo, the Arborina Barolo and the Freisa. From Aurelio Settimo, I enjoyed the 2015 Barolo and the 2015 Barbaresco--both showing nicely developed aromas and flavors even at a young age.

Other wines I tasted and enjoyed on the trip included (listed in rough order of preference): 2015 Negretti Bricco Ambrogia, 2015 Fratelli Barale Cannubi Barolo, 2015 Lodali Barbaresco. 2015 Giuseppe Marcarino Pertinace Barolo, 2017 Fratelli Revello Nebbiolo, 2015 Cortes Rabaja Barbaresco, 2015 Gigi Rosso San Pietro Barolo and 2015 Ca Roma Romano Marengo Rapet Barolo.

Probably best of all, for my taste, were the 2015 and 2016 Barbarescos from Produttori del Barbaresco, the excellent cooperative located in the heart of the Barbaresco village. Consumed with an astounding truffle pasta at the Trattoria Bollito in Alba, the 2015 was so good that I had to order a second glass (a splurge at $6). At the tasting room in Barbaresco a few days later, I had tastes of both the 2015 and 2016 plus the 2008 Riserva. At this stage, my vote goes to the 2015. Then again, 2015 is a good year for early drinking Nebbiolo.

Italian Wine Country: Costa di Bussia

Sorry for my extended absence. I spent most of the month of October in northern Italy, then faced some pressing personal matters right after my return. I will try to fill in the gaps with some impressions and memories from Italian wine country.

A visit to the Piedmont wine area has been a long-time dream of mine, and I thoroughly enjoyed tasting my way through Barolos, Barbarescoes, Langhe Nebbiolos and Barberas. We stayed four nights in an 18th century Cantina in the middle of the vineyards of Costa di Bussia. Early Fall in the Piedmont was warmer than we expected, but colors were beginning to appear on the vines, and the two to three mile drive through the vineyards of Bussia hill (two or three times every day) was exhilarating. The Nebbiolo grapes on one side of our building were still on the vine--small berries, ripe and lovely. On the other side was a Barbera vineyard with larger grapes, also ripe and lovely but with more straightforward flavors. Harvest was expected to begin about the 20th of October, the day after our departure from the area.

Lodging at Costa di Bussia (about $100 a night) was good. There are three regular rooms, a suite and a community room with refrigerator, microwave, toaster and coffee maker. A selection of cheeses and sausages were left in the refrigerator each morning, along with Nutella, for self service breakfast. The packaged white bread did not tempt us so we got by on cheese, sausage and snacks we brought from home. Breakfast was not the highlight of our stay.

We signed up ahead of time for an afternoon tour and tasting and that was the highlight we anticipated, although I would have liked more detailed information about individual vineyards and their influence on the wines. The Nebbiolo vines outside our room (Campo del Buoi) were only about 30 years old. Donna wisely asked what had been there previously, and the answer (Barbera vines) suggested that the site might not have been considered ideal for Nebbiolo until Barolo prices started to escalate in the 1990s. That is pure speculation, but the Barolo from that vineyard was not my favorite of the four wines tasted, although it does sell for a higher price than the basic DOCG Barolo.

The 2013 DOCG Barolo was my second favorite (after the Riserva) and very impressive: roses, dark cherries and black licorice, savory and silky. Deep and classic.

2013 Barolo DOCG Bussia Vigna Campo dei Buoi: Single vineyard Barolos command a premium price and some (Cannubi, Bric del Fiasc, Sarmassa, Arione) are well worth it because of site and soil. This one is very good and distinctive, but, in my opinion, not worth a premium price. Darker than the DOCG Barolo. Scents of coffee, chocolate and mint. Ripe but feels dry on palate. Deep and persistent flavors.

2013 Barolo DOCG Bussia Riserva: Complex nose: dried flowers, plums, mint. Berry flavors, warm and ripe. Long finish with lots of berries.

2013 Barolo DOCG Bussia Luigi Arnulfa: This is the top of the line Barolo, named after the pharmacist who first shipped Barolo wines to the United States in the late 19th century. Darker. Very ripe aromas. Ripe berries, tobacco, licorice. Powerful tannins but ripe and silky. Although this wine feels like a long ager to me, our tour director told us she would age it for an additional five years but no longer.

I liked all of the Barolos; all are made in the traditional style with aging in large Slavonian oak barrels--12 months for the basic Barolo and 24 months for the others. The Luigi Arnulfa is made from what the estate calls "overripe and selected Nebbiolo grapes." I did not taste the Barberas, but I buy several bottles of the basic Barbera nearly every year at home. It is one of my favorites and one reason I decided to visit the vineyards.