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domenica 26 febbraio 2017

Visit to Giuseppe Rinaldi in Barolo

Entrance to the Cantina Rinaldi. 
On a slightly cold Friday winter morning in February a friend and I walked to the Giuseppe Rinaldi Cantina to meet one of the daughters, Marta.  The sun was shining magically on the Le coste vineyards as we approached.  

The annual production of Barolo here is around 16,000 bottles.  Rinaldi has 1 hectare of vineyards in Brunate and .5 hectares in Le Coste which produces perhaps their most famous blend of Barolo. The other vineyards for Nebbiolo are Cannubi San Lorenzo and Ravera. The biggest of the four plots is Ravera (3 hectares) which also holds Dolcetto, Barbera and Freisa vines and is used as well for the limited production of their excellent Langhe Nebbiolo. 

8 AM Early morning sun in the Le Coste vineyards of the Rinaldi estate looking south. 

Marta pouring us a sample of 2015 Langhe Nebbiolo from cask
which she explains is still a little nervous at the moment. This will be bottled in one week (at the end of February, 2017).  

2013 Barolo Brunate in an unmarked bottle. 
Marta poured us the unreleased but recently bottled 2013 Brunate. 85% Brunate juice with the remaining 15% from Le Coste vineyard. This was drinking surprisingly pleasant for not having been released yet.  Very healthy fruit with plenty of grip and some classic mint notes surfacing.  

Marta was excited with the results from 2013.  The harvest took place towards the end of October which was later than 2012.  Currently its displaying easier tannins and is a bit more feminine in its personality compared with '12.  2014 was a tough vintage in Barolo and in 2016 the Brunate vineyard got hit with some hail in July.

Beppe joined us to chat about cigars and the new vintage of Brunate.

The legendary chestnut Botte for Brunate.
 The oldest barrel which open ferments each vintages entire harvest from the Brunate vineyard.
This year it is celebrating its 70th harvest 

Beppe drinking Barolo with his father Battista Rinaldi (on the left) in their vineyards some years ago.
This is an old photo hanging just near the stairs to the Cantina.  
Beppe took over the winery full time in 1992 after his father had passed.  By the 1993 vintage he started bottling two different blended Barolos: Brunate - Le Coste and Cannubi San Lorenzo - Ravera.  These bottlings started at roughly 60% to 40% blends. In 2010 when Barolos labeling laws changed they moved to a one vineyard name "Brunate" with minimum 85% Brunate juice and allowing 15% to Le Coste to keep the classic blend alive. The Cannubi San Lorenzo - Ravera blend changed to Tre Tini where the remaining Le Coste juice would go into. 

Classic Piedmont antipasti from top left, Carne Cruda di Fassona, Vitello Tonnato and Insalata Russa. 

During our day in Barolo we stopped at Mangè in La Morra for lunch, one of the only restaurants open since in February most locals are on vacation and close up shop.  I spotted a Rinaldi Langhe Nebbiolo, 2014 at an amazing price for less than $40 and couldn't resist.  One huge difference in Italy is the much smaller mark up on restaurant wine lists compared to the United States.  

Their Langhe Nebbiolo is a very small production of around 2,000 bottles and quite hard to find outside Piedmont.  This bottle didn't let us down and it was extremely delicious and drinkable.  The depth and mouthfeel surpassed all of my expectations and on the palate it had marvelous healthy fruit and a distinctly herbaceous character that went well with all of the classic Piedmont foods.

A big thanks to Marta and the Rinaldi family for a great visit and to Mangè for an always epic yet simple dining experience. 

domenica 13 novembre 2016

Langhe Nebbiolo lot 1 and lot 2 with Alfio Cavallotto in Manhattan

Above: On my left, Mark Fornatale, Italian portfolio manager for Skurnik imports and to my right is Alfio Cavallotto tasting a lineup of current releases.  

The Cavallotto estate is on my top 5 list of traditional Nebbiolo no doubt.  All the vineyards and production of Cavallotto wines are located in Bricco Boschis of Castiglione Falletto which is quite unique for a Barolo producer.  They do make a Barolo Vignolo as well which is attached to the Bricco Boschis.  This means all of the Nebbiolo fruit has the potential to become Barolo. I carry the Langhe Nebbiolo on my restaurants list and it is one of my favorite bottles to sell and the value is unbeatable.  They usually release two different lots as Langhe Nebbiolo while they are deciding what to keep for Barolo and what to bottle earlier as Langhe Nebbiolo. 

When we tasted this week I was amazed by how much the Langhe was drinking like a young Barolo and I soon learned how they just released the second lot which has aged 23 months in large botti compared with the normal 18 months of the first Langhe Nebbiolo lot.  Below you can see on the left of the label the dates L 16.02.16 for the bottle on the left vs L 12.07.16 on the right.  This is always reassuring and it seems to me the new generations of wine makers are trying to be more and more informative when labeling wines.  Both wines are absolutely delicious and Alfio thinks you couldn't tell them apart unless you were drinking them side by side. I believe those extra 5 months give it an extra boost in complexity and in aging potential.  All I can hope for is that these wines will remain one of the best values in Piedmont Nebbiolo. 

venerdì 7 ottobre 2016

Matteo Gatti manual disgorging a 2006 Franciacorta Extra Brut

From one cantina to another we discovered that Franciacorta winemakers are doing a lot of experimenting.  Here is an example of Matteo Gatti of Ferghettina disgorging a 2006 Brut that has been hanging onto the lees for ten years. They dedicate a section of their cellar they call the library for saving bottles and playing with aging capabilities.

venerdì 23 settembre 2016

The styles of Franciacorta from the big to the small

The van door closed one last time and I clumsily stumbled back towards the agriturismo buzzed and exhausted with the other four American wine writers for Franciacorta.  We just finished a memorable dinner of lasagne, donkey steaks and polenta and we gathered on the second floor deck to wind down with one last bottle.  After tasting over 20 wines a day we suddenly realized that we hadn't found one wine we disliked during our three days touring wineries.  That dinner we finally opened an offensive bottle that shocked us a bit but hey, it's bound to happen eventually and it actually helped put everything into perspective.  We needed a redemption bottle and we popped a delicious Brut vintage 2009 from Ronco Calino which spends 50 months on the lees.  The sharp cool air was a comforting shock on the skin and the healthy bubbles from Calino reminded us of all the great stuff we drank these last few days.

The wavy vineyards of Ronco Calino in the backyard of the winery

Consistancy and quality is a huge stand out here in Franciacorta and you can see it from a smaller 70,000 bottle producer like Ronco Calino all the way to the gigantic 1.5 million bottle production of Ca' del Bosco.  

Ferghettinas square bottle in the lights of the cellar
There are also many unique styles in production from one winery to the next. Mosnel swears by their horizontal stainless steel tanks to achieve more complexity.  They have some of the most drinkable and refreshing yet complex wines of the trip.  Ca' del Bosco puts all of their grapes through a jacuzzi bath to reduce sulfites before they end up in the biggest stainless steel tank I have ever seen in my life.  They even add Nitrogen to eliminate the presence of oxygen while Mattia Vezzola of Bellavista purposely adds oxygen to the must with his unique method to eliminate impurities, a campaign they call "air your wine".  Another interesting idea comes from Matteo Gatti of Ferghettina who patented a square bottle so there is more surface area for the wine to come in contact with the lees.  The Ferghettina winery is a great example of not judging a book by its cover and if you dig deeper into their story it is a truly fascinating one.  While most of the Franciacorta producers have an Industrial background in common, the Ferghettina family come from a background of sharecropping.  

But, whichever style winery you come across the end product that almost all of the producers want to acheive is a similar one.  Fresh, bright, healthy acidity, limited use of oak only for fermentation and usually the least amount of dosage as possible.  These are great wines that taste of the land and express the passion and thirst of the winemakers.

Jeremy next to the epic million bottle Cuvee' Prestige, stainless steel tank at Ca' del Bosco

First day in Franciacorta with team Classicmethod!

Jeremy Parzen aka Do Bianchi above showing us the topographic map of the Franciacorta vineyards when five of us arrived here on Tuesday.  One of the most important things we learned right away about Franciacorta is the diversity in soil types as shown in the different colors on the map.  The wine makers can vinify up to 40 different expressions of chardonnay seperately and combine those base wines in their own artistic expression for their finished product.  This is a mythical place to grow grapes posted up right underneath Lago d'Iseo.  The lake gives a maritime influence on top of the Alpine climate and a prehistoric glacier slide creates a natural amphiteatre almost enclosing the vineyards in the area.   There is an incredible consistency of quality and movement towards organic viticulture that is not easy to come across in any other wine region.  What a complex area to learn about and as Jeremy has said, "These wines aren't beginner wines and deserve some time and concentration to try and understand them."   So I take a deep breath of clean crisp alpine air before diving into this majestic land of grapes and sparkling wine. 

giovedì 11 agosto 2016

Monthelie from Roulot, a new release worth drinking

Domaine Roulot, Monthelie 2014

Perhaps best known for their white wine and Meursault parcels, Domaine Roulot also has .38 hectares located in Monthelie, just north of Meursault in the Côte de Beaune.  A great example of trusting an epic producer no matter what they are bottling. The 2014 Monthelie was one of the best new release red wines I have tasted in a long time. Super expresive nose that kept getting better throughout dinner.  Tons of minerality, asphalt and purity of red fruits. All of their wines are farmed organically.  The pinot noir is destemmed for the Monthelie and the fermentation typically lasts 12 days in open wooden vats and ages 12 to 15 months in barrel-15% new oak.  The low yields and strict farming practices delivers an expression of Burgundian purity that is hard to come by.  If you can get your hands on any wines from Domaine Roulot, snag a bottle immediately.  

martedì 24 maggio 2016

Freisa is what im drinkin'

Borgogno, Langhe Freisa, 2013

Freisa is the shit because of its ability to be offensive upon immediate evaluation but with time and patience, it will open up and seduce you somehow someway. While sharing similar nebbiolo characteristics it is opposite in approachability and not nearly as obvious in its appeal. Robert Parker once described it as producing totally repugnant wines and that all the more confirms my point of view.  

The fun part about freisa is you can discover this lesser known grape of Piedmont made by some of your favorite Barolo producers at a fraction of the price their Nebbiolos would cost.

This freisa by Borgogno was very acidic with sour tannins upon first opening.  Still enough fruit to make it drinkable, but the difference after 2 hours was crazy.  It became much more inegrated with the delicious salty raspberry fruit that Freisa famously displays.  There is some rose and liquorish reminiscent of nebbbiolo and the after bite of tannin that keeps your spirit floating in the langhe of your fantasies. 

The 2012 Giuseppe Mascarello Freisa is another hot steal.  Not too hard to find in New York City. 

domenica 1 marzo 2015

Nebbiolo of the day, Giuseppe Rinaldi Brunate 2005

Still life of Giuseppe Rinaldi Initialed boot by Moreschi with a magnum of limited edition 2005 Barolo Brunate signed by Giuseppe himself. 

sabato 8 novembre 2014

Barolo bar 2014 at Maialino NYC

What better way is there to spend a late afternoon in New York than looking out into Gramercy Park
and tasting through this epic list of Barolo by the glass at Bar Maialino

Tasting these big name Nebbiolo's side by side was a soothing experience that was a much needed contrast to the usual chaotic tasting room scene one hurriedly darts through in Manhattan. The photo of the below list can speak for itself but there were some surprises of course.

The 1999 Bartolo Mascarello was drinking the best for me. 1999 was a classic vintage in the Langhe and the consistency I have found with Bartolo Mascarello Barolo's is unmatched by any other producer in my opinion.  They have also bottled an insane 2003 Barolo in such a difficult vintage and you'll see most other producers are already drinking past their peaks with that very hot and over ripe vintage of 2003.  Bartolo sources the grapes from the vineyards of Canubbi, San Lorenzo, Rue and Rocche' and is always a blended Barolo.

The 2003 Giacomo Conterno, Cascina Francia was showing a very promising aromatic profile from the glass.  A delicious balance of fruit, herbs and spice, but on the palate fell very short.  There really is no structure or length for this expression of 2003, but is still delicious to chug down with food if you just want a tasty Barolo without thinking too hard about it (for $39 a glass).

The Giuseppe Mascarello, Monprivato 2005 was another favorite of mine at the bar.  This beast from Castiglione Falleto was showing a nice bloody muscular side of Barolo and was still very young and big but also generously food friendly.

At the beginning we started off with a taste of the 2007 Fratelli Alessandria, Monvigliero.  Monvigliero is the prized single vineyard in the northern Verduno area of Barolo and is known for its greatly aromatic wines that also bring a firm backbone and great complexity.  This wine did not let us down.  It was showing that amazing Langhe bouquet while still being very traditional and approachable for such a young wine.  A step lighter in body than some of the big hitters on the list but Monvigliero for me is delivering some promising and exciting wines for the market here in the United States.

The 2000 Giuseppe Rinaldi, Brunate-Le Coste was a wine I was so looking forward to tasting.  They are one of the most sought-after and prized of all the Barolos.  When they are on point they are fucking amazing and life changing but there definitely isn't the consistency I see in a producer like Bartolo Mascarello.  This wine was pretty wild.  At first it had a big chemically wet paint and truffle aroma almost coming off as a touch of volatile acidity.  The harshest of it blew off after a minute in the glass but it was still an amazing wine to meditate over.  It had very beautiful layers and was insanely complex but I have to like the Bartolo over this wine because of its absolute harmony and togetherness.  I was sipping with a few Maialino employees at the bar and was informed that it wasn't just this bottle that was showing the slight V.A.

As of 2010 Rinaldi's Barolo will be labeled as just "Brunate" and "Tre Tine" as the law no longer permits two vineyards on a single label.

Happy Nebbiolo Season! I hope to be back soon.

lunedì 20 ottobre 2014

1971 Barolo Fontanafredda at Maialino NYC

Uncorking this 1971 Fontana Fredda Barolo this weekend at Maialino in New York City 
was a bit like opening a coffin in The Langhe and experiencing Nebbiolo zombies awakening from the dead to slowly climb into the glass.  

At first this wine smelled of rotten corpse, soil and maybe some tar for the sake of tradition.  Slowly opening into what reminded me of molded fruit loops covered in forest soil, and eventually into a more focused cherry with long classic Nebbiolo notes but still with a sense of rotting materials.  The acid was healthy as hell and the colour was notably a few more notches towards ruby than I expected.  I have had 80's Barbaresco and Barolo that were much more orange in colour.  But this was a fabulous and memorable wine and I believe we enjoyed the last bottle stocked at Maialino.

lunedì 29 settembre 2014

Nebbiolo of the day! Barolo Monvigliero by Castello di Verduno

After shuffling through some 30 to 40 wines at last weeks Domenico Valentino tasting in NYC at 
I Trulli restaurant I stopped everything the second this nebbiolo entered my glass.

Castello di Verduno makes some interesting, fun and easy drinking wines such as their bottlings of Pelaverga which include a bianco, a rosso and a sparkling rosato.  I have worked a lot with their Pelavergas and some Barbaresco as well but tasting their Barolo is a different story.  These expressions of Nebbiolo show that they aren't just about fun and games all the time but can put out a serious traditional styled bottle of Barolo that is absolutely delicious.

Castello di Verduno gets their name from the village of Verduno in the north most part of the Barolo DOCG right above La Morra.  Monvigliero, the grand cru of the area is known for its fine white marl, also known as "Marne di Sant' Agata''.  The soil produces age-worthy wines that are distinct and aromatically complex.  The 2007 Riserva (aged at least 30 months in botti grandi) was already so expressive with layers and layers of classic nebbiolo rose, cherry, liquorish and tar unfolding from the nose.  The tannins were very present but not overwhelming as many traditional 2007 Barolos are at this point in their life.

 A look from near the top of the CDV Monvigliero vineyard, captured courtesy of Levi Dalton

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