Category Archives: Barbaresco

Barolo & Barbaresco World Opening

On Tuesday, February 4th, the BBWO Grand Tasting was held at Center 415 in NYC. The event was organized by the Consorzio di Tutela Batolo Barbatesco Alba Langhe e Dogliano representing over 450 wineries in Piedmont. I was not only invited to the walk around tasting on the first day, but also was asked to be a judge of a blind tasting of 2016 Barolo and 2017 Barbaresco the next day.

Part 1 was a walk around tasting of 200 producers from the Langhe presenting their wines. In the middle of the room surrounded by all the producers were two large round booths, one for Barbaresco and one for Barolo, divided by commune.

There was so much wine I wished the tasting part would have been two days, one for Barbaresco and the next day for Barolo.

There was also a seminar given by Alessandro Masnaghetti on Barolo and Barbaresco, which I was not able to attend.

These are some of the wines I tasted:

Barolo “Rocche Dell’Annunziata” 2015 Aurelio Settimo. The wine is aged for 42 months,18 in big French oak casks and 6 in new big oak casks of Austrian wood.This is a well-structured and balanced wine with hints of cinnamon and licorice, spicy and balsamic notes.Tiziana

I visited the winery 3 years ago and really enjoyed my visit with Tiziana Settimo, administrator of the winery.

 Barolo “Sperss” 2015 Gaja Fermentation and maceration takes place for 3 weeks. The wine is aged in oak for 24 months. The wine has aromas and flavors of dark ripe fruit, black cherries and prunes with a hint of cloves and black pepper.Angelo

Once many years ago Michele and I interviewed Angelo Gaja over breakfast for an article we were writing. It is something that never happened with anyone else and seemed so un-Italian!

 Barolo “La Rosa”2015 Fontanafredda Aging is in oak Allier barrels, 50% new for about 12 months and then racked into oak casks of 2,000 and 3,000 liters for one year. In January, I went to a Fontanafredda tasting where they had the “La Rosa” 1996- a truly great wine.

 Barolo “Bussia” 2015 Poderi Colla aged in large oak casks for 24 to 28 months. This is a full-bodied wine with hints of red berries, tar, licorice, and tea. This is a classic Barolo. I visited the winery three years ago and was very impressed with all their wine.

Barolo 2015 Pio Cesare Vinification in stainless steel with skin contact for about 30 months. The wine is aged in large French oak botti for about 30 months and a small amount in barriques as well. The wine has hints of black cherry, licorice, tobacco and spice, a classic Barolo. I have visited the winery a number of times and once Michele and I were invited to the home of Pio Boffa, owner of the family winery for dinner.. We had a great time. Pio was not at the tasting.

Barolo 2015 “Rocche Dell’Annunziata 2015 Rocche Costamagna The wine is aged in botti (large barrels) of Slavonia oak for 24 months and in bottle for one year before release. The wine has hints of raspberries and licorice with floral notes and a touch of spice.

I first met Alessandro Locatelli, who now runs the family winery, when he was a teenager in the 1980’s at the winery and several times since. I enjoyed speaking with him about the people we know in common.

Barolo “Sarmassa” Vigna Merenda Scarzello 2013 The wine is aged in 600 liter Slovenian tanks for 26 to 28 months. It is then aged an additional 12 months in bottle before release. 2013 was an excellent year. This is an old style traditional Barolo and I was very impressed by it

Barolo “La Serra” 2016 Marcarini The wine is aged for 24 months in Slavonian oak casks and six months in the bottle before release. It has hints of cherry, violets, licorice with a touch of spice and a note of violets.

I had not seen Manuel Marchetti since I was the wine director of I Trulli Restaurant in NYC and that was a number of years ago. It was nice to catch up.

Barolo “Cannubi” 2015 Damilano Temperature-controlled fermentation for 20 days. The wine is aged in large oak barrels 30 to 50 HL. This is an elegant Barolo with hints of cherry, plum, tobacco, licorice, leather, a touch of white truffles, a long finish and a very pleasant aftertaste.  

Babaresco “Ovello” 2015 Produttori del Barbaresco The Orvello vineyard covers an area of 16.25 acres at 290 meters with a south/southeastern exposure. The wine is aged for 4 years in Slavonian oak barrels. This is a traditional Barbaresco and over the years Orvello has become my favorite of the single vineyards.

Barbaresco “Campo Gros Martinega” Riserva 2013 Marchesi di Gresy. The wine is aged in barriques for 12 months and then in Slavonian oak casks for 16 months and in bottle until ready for release. The wine has hints of dried roses, leather, tobacco, licorice and a note of violets. I visited the winery many years ago on the suggestion of the late wine writer, Sheldon Wasserman.

Barbaresco “Rabaja” 2016 Castello di Verduno There is 30 to 40 day macerations and extended aging in large Slavonian botti. The wine has hints of red fruit, spice, roses and a hint of tobacco.

Barbaresco “Montersino” Alessandro Rivetto 2016 Manual harvest. Stem pressing and cold maceration for 2 days after which fermentation takes place in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. Maceration lasts for 20 days. The wine remains in oak casks for 18 months and in bottle for 6 months before release. This is a balanced wine with hints of cherries and violets and touches of tea and rose petals.

I met Alessandro a few years ago at a wine tasting in NYC and I always enjoy speaking with him.

For more information on the tasting see.  a blog by Tom Maresca

On Feb 5th there was the World’s Best Palates tasting. Matteo Ascheri President of the Consorzio said it was the aim to assess the overall quality of the 2016 and 2017 vintage. The judges were Masters of Wine, press, wine critics and sommeliers. The panels were designed to be diverse so we could share the experience with others from different nationalities and wine trade areas. At my judging table the chairperson was from New Zealand, other members were from Italy, Spain, America and Latvia.

The chairperson tasted the wine and if it was approved it was poured for the rest of the table. There were 4 flights of about 10 wines grouped if possible by commune. There would be 6 minutes to evaluate, score and discuss each wine. Each panel member had an ipad for the scoring. The chairperson recorded all results and an average was taken for the 2007 Barbaresco and 2016 Barolo. My panel discussed every wine, sometimes we agreed and some times we were very far apart in our scores. The discussion was held before you put in your final score so that you could change it based on the discussion. I did not change any of my scores.

It was informative to taste blind and to hear the opines of the others on the wines. I really enjoyed the experience as everyone was very professional.

The final score for all the panels for the Barbaresco vintage 2017 was 98.1 and for the Barolo 2016 vintage 99.3.

Some of the wines I gave high scores to in the blind tasting were:

Barolo Momforte D’Alba Poderi Colla

Barolo La Morra Cabot Berton

Barolo La Morra Marcarini

Barolo La Morra Mauro Veglio

Barolo La Morra Corino

Barbaresco Neive Oddero

Barbaresco Nieve Massimo Rattalino

Barbaresco Nieve Adriano Marco e Vittorio

That night there was  Gala Dinner for all the produces and judges. The dinner was prepared by Massimo Bottura. Unfortunately I was leaving for 5 weeks in Italy and was unable to attend.





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Filed under Barbaresco, Barolo, Uncategorized

Another Celebration

My birthday this year fell on a Saturday and to celebrate I spent a long weekend in Montclair, NJ at the home of a good friend. It was a wonderful time of eating and drinking including a 1942 “Chianti.”

For my birthday dinner, Michele made Anchovy Twists for an appetizer, sticks of tender cream cheese pastry filled with anchovies.

With this we had

Champagne “Chardonnay” Brut 1982 Pol Roger & Co. made from grapes from the Grand Crus of the Cõte des Blancs: Oiry, Chouillu, Cramant, Avize and Oger. There are two débourbages (settlings), one at the press house immediately after pressing, the second “a froid” in stainless steel tanks at 6°C for 24 hours. A slow fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks with each variety and each village kept separate. There is full malolactic fermentation prior to the final blending. The secondary fermentation takes place in bottle at 9°C in cellars 33 meters below street level. It remains here until it undergoes remuage (riddling) by hand, a rarity in Champagne today. The wine has hints of grapefruit, apricot a touch of apple and a note of hazelnut. Produced in limited quantities, this cuvee has been aged for 7 years in the cellars before release. It was showing very well.

Melon Soup – A refreshing chilled soup made with cantaloupe, orange juice, honey and yogurt.

Trebbiano d’Abruzzo 2002 Eduardo Valentini made from 100% Trebbiano d’Abruzzo. The winery is organic and biodynamic. The wine is aged in large botti of Slavonia oak for 24 months. This is a very complex, full-bodied wine with hints of citrus fruit, apple, mineral undertones, good acidity, a great finish and aftertaste, and that extra something that is difficult to describe. One of the guests called it the wine of the afternoon.

Puligny-Montrachet “Les Folatieres” 1982 Joseph Drouhin made from 100% Chardonnay in the central part of the Cotes de Beaune. There are 10,000 vines per hectare and the pruning system is guyot. There is a very slow pressing and the juice from the last pressing is not retained. No yeasts or enzymes are added. The wine goes directly into the barrel after decanting. It is aged in French oak barrels, 25% new. This is a complex, rich, velvety wine with hints of honey, honeysuckle, almond with dried fruit notes, with a very long aftertaste. It was wonderful.

Grilled Skewers  on the BBQ of Lamb, Bacon and Bread

served with Green Beans in Salsa Verde and a Tomato Salad was our main course.

Gevrey-Chambertin Premier Cru “Lavaux Saint-Jacques” 1982 Domaine Maume made from 100% Pinot Noir grown in a 28 hectare vineyard of clay and limestone soil. The vineyard is worked by horse and plow and is certified organic. The grapes are hand harvested and destemmed prior to fermentation on indigenous yeast. The wine is aged in 70% new French oak for a period of 18 months and then the wine is bottled unfined and unfiltered. The wine has hints of black and red cherries with notes of violets and rose petals.

Barbaresco “Camp Gros Martinenga” 1982 Tenuta Cisa Asinari Dei Marchese Di Gresy made from 100% Nebbiolo (Magnum). This is a wine of elegance and structure with hints of tobacco and cherries, a touch of balsamic, well balanced and a long finish. There was almost half a bottle left and we drank it two days later and it was even better.

Cote-Rotie 1999 (Magnum) Jean Francois et Carmen Garon made from 100% Syrah. The Domaine is located in the municipality of Ampuis and it extends over 7 hectares in the extreme north of the Rhone Valley. This is a terroir- driven wine. It is a big, structured wine with flavors of red and black fruit and hints of cherry and blueberry. The wine needs more time and was drinking marketdly better two days later.

Brolio Rosso “Chianti Superiore” Castello di Brolio in Chianti, Siena, Casa Vinicola Barone Ricascoli Firenze 1942. The wine was made mostly of Sangiovese with the addition of Canaiolo, Malvasia and Colorino. I do not know if there was any Trebbiano in the blend or if the governo method was used. The wine was showing its age but still drinkable.

The dessert was a perfectly seasonal fresh peach cake which we ate with ice cream.


Filed under Barbaresco, Birthday 2019, Brolio Chianti Classico, Burgundy, Champagne, Cote Rote, Joseph Drouhin, Uncategorized

Pizza, Champagne, Older Italian Red Wines at Keste

Every so often Ed McCarthy sends out an e-mail to a group of Pizza and Wine lovers known as the G6. This time we agreed to meet at Keste Wall St for the pizza and as usual we will bring Champagne and older Italian red wines.

When we arrived, Roberto Caporuscio, master pizzaiolo and owner of Keste told us about a new appetizer he wanted us to try. It was homemade burrata with small mozzarellas inside.  He served it with ripe tomatoes and herbs and a drizzle of good olive oil.


I spoke with Roberto about the type of flour he uses to make the dough for his pizza. When I first went to Keste on Bleecker Street ten  years ago,  he was using 100% Tipo  00.  When  he opened  Keste on Wall  Street,  he started  using  Tipo 1.  He said he now uses 70% Tipo 1 and 30% Tipo 00. I really enjoyed the  pizza.

As always, we started with Champagne Perrier-Jouet “Belle Epoque” 2004 Made from 50% Chardonnay, 45% Pinot Noir and 5% Pinot Meunier. The wine is aged for over 6 years and the dosage is 9 grams per liter.  It has both delicacy and structure with a crisp freshness, hints of peach, pear and citrus notes. I was very impressed with this Champagne.

Our first pizza is  always a  Margherita made mozzarella, tomatoes and basil.

Barbaresco 1999 Produttori del Barbaresco made from 100% Nebbiolo. The wine is aged in large oak barrels for two years. This is a very traditional co-op, maybe the best and one of the oldest. It has all the classic Nebbiolo flavors and aromas but the wine needs more time to develop.

The next pizza was made with sausage, pistachio nuts and mozzarella.

Barbaresco 1988 “Gallina di Neive” Bruno Giacosa made from 100% Nebbiolo. Giacosa was one of the great producers of Barbaresco and the 1988 was drinking exceptional well.

Then the Sorrentino made with smoked mozzarella, basil and lemons.

Barolo 2001 “Monprivato” Giuseppe Mascarello made from100% Nebbiolo, The Monprivato vineyard is about 15 acres on a southwest- facing slope in Castiglione Falletto. The chalky and gray marl soil is perfect for growing Nebbiolo. This is classic Barolo but it needed more time.

The next pizza was topped with culatello, a type of prosciutto made from the choicest part of the pig, known for its tenderness and flavor.

Chianti Classico 1969 Riserva Ducale Ruffino showing its age but still drinking very well for a wine 50 years old.

Next we had a fried pizza, the Montagnara  topped  with  mozzarella and flavored with truffle  paste.

Roberto said he had a special pizza that he wanted us to try and it was a pizza with caviar and  avocado.  

We ended on a sweet note with fried dough sticks topped with Nutella


Filed under Barbaresco, Barolo, Champagne, Chianti Classico, Chianti Ruffino Gold Label, Kaste, Nebbiolo, Pizza, Pizza and Wine, Uncategorized

Pizza at Sottocasa

I first met Luca Arrigini when he was with the master pizzaiolo Roberto Caporuscio at Kestè on Bleecker Street.

Luca opened Pizzeria Sottocasa in Brooklyn and Michele and I tried it several years ago. We really liked the pizza but somehow we did not have the opportunity to return.

Two weeks ago friends that live in Harlem said they have been ordering pizza from their local branch of Sottocasa and invited us to join them there. We were glad to go.

Luca is from Milan and now lives in Brooklyn where he normally works, but he told me he would meet me at the Harlem location when I came. His partner Matteo Prospiti and his wife Elena live in Harlem so they are typically at that location.

The Brooklyn Sottocasa is located at 298 Atlantic Ave (718) 852-8758. The Harlem branch is at 227 Lenox Ave (646) 928-2870. Both locations are on the ground floor of a brownstone, which is where the name comes from.

We started with gluten free focaccia because one in our party is on a gluten free diet. It crisp, tasty and very good.

Next we had a regular Margherita made with tomatoes, mozzarella and basil. The crust was flavorful and well risen and a light dusting of semolina underneath gave it a subtle crunch. The toppings were good, too. The tomatoes were sweet and the mozzarella fresh tasting.

After that we tried the Napoli made with tomatoes, mozzarella, anchovies, oregano and basil which we also enjoyed.

Our friend ordered a gluten free Margherita, which was very good for gluten free.

The last pizza was a Laura, named after Luca’s wife. It was topped with tomatoes, mozzarella, mascarpone, speck and rosemary.

Luca said they make Neapolitan style pizza because he believes it is the best pizza of all.

The dough is made with Caputo 00 flour and rests in different stages for 48 hours, though it is usually never used before 60.

They use only Italian organic tomatoes for their sauce, freshly crashed and with just a little salt added. Fior di Latte mozzarella from Wisconsin is the cheese they use. They break the cheese by hand everyday to insure the right texture. The extra virgin olive oil is from Sicily, labeled directly for Sottocasa.

We also enjoyed the generous salads, which were lightly dressed and a good complement to the pizzas.

The wines 

Brunello di Montalcino 1990 from Livio Sassetti made from 100% Brunelllo. The wine was drinking very nicely, showing no signs of age and should last for a number of years.

Barbaresco 1971 from Produttori del Barbaresco made from 100% Nebbiolo. This has developed into a classic mature Barbaresco and is a pleasure to drink.

Both wines were a perfect complement to the pizza.

The cappuccino.

Matteo offered us two amaros and said because they were across from a school they did not have a liquor license and only could serve wine. The two Amaros were wine based.

The first was Pasubio Vino Amaro from G Cappelletti which was very nice but a bit too fruity.

The second, Cardamaro Bosca, was stronger and with more herb and spice flavors. We all really liked it.


Filed under Barbaresco, Brunello, Pizza, Pizza Restaurants, Produttori del Barbaresco, Sottocasa, Uncategorized

Old Vintages of Italian Wine and Pizza

Roberto Caporuscio, one of the best pizzaioli in New York and owner of Keste and several other restaurants, is now creating his pizzas with a new type of flour that he says yields better results.  He invited me and a group of friends who enjoy older Italian wines to come to his Keste Wall Street location for a tasting. A full report on the pizza will appear in another blog.
The notes on the wines were written by Jason De Salvo and I added a few notes of my own. I have a great respect for Jason’s palate and his attention to detail.
The wines
1971 Verrazzano Chianti Classico
4/11/18 — 90 points.  Now-2022.   Slightly cloudy brick-ruby color.  The nose is mocha-infused red cherry fruit, black raspberries, dried meat, potpourri, earth and underbrush.  On the palate this has vibrant acidity, a bit of a hole in the mid-palate and a relatively short finish.  That said, it’s a lovely drink!  Charles: Sangiovese can age as well as Nebbiolo as this wine proves.
1974 Produttori del Barbaresco
4/11/18 — 92 points.  Now-2027.   Medium ruby-garnet color, slightly cloudy.  The nose is candied black cherries, fennel blossoms, honey, smoked game and subtle notes of tar.  On the palate this is lovely.  Elegant, refined dusty tannins and a medium-long finish. Charles: This was my second favorite wine. Produttori del Barbaresco can age. Barbaresco can age as well as or even better than Barolo.
1974 Borgogno Barolo Riserva
4/11/18 — NR.  Drink Now.  Cloudy brick-ruby color.  The nose is stewed cherries, celery, wet leaves and tobacco.  On the palate this has sweet, stewed fruit notes and is clearly either past its
prime or a slightly off bottle.  Medium body.  The wine did work well with the pizza nonetheless.
Charles: We tasted the 1974  Barolo and 1974  Barbaresco side by side- it was no contest.
1947 Franco Fiorina Barbaresco
4/11/18 — NR.  Drink Now.    Slightly cloudy amber-golden color with just a faint hint of ruby.  The nose is like a hypothetical blend of a 30-40 year old Tawny Port and a Fino Sherry with oxidative notes of caramel, stewed cherries and licorice.  On the palate there remains a sweetness from what was obviously a hot, tremendously concentrated vintage, but alas, this wine bottle is solidly into its twilight. 
1998 Borgogno Barolo Riserva
4/11/18 — 92+ points.  Now-2040.   Medium ruby color.  The nose here is soaring with black cherries, minerals, licorice, rose blossom and cured meat.  On the palate this is vibrant, medium-full bodied with a complex, tactile finish. 
1979 Giovannin Moresco Barbaresco Poderi de Pajoré 
4/11/18 — 93 points.  Now-2030.    Medium ruby color.  The nose here is stunning with soaring notes of black cherries, black raspberries, crushed dried roses, freshly chopped garden herbs and baking spices.  On the palate this is supremely elegant and well integrated.  Gorgeous balance and a medium-long finished buttressed by refined, dusty tannins.
Charles:  for me this was the wine of the afternoon and it may be my favorite Barbaresco. It is made from the “Rose” subvariety of Nebbiolo. Unfortunately this was the last vintage and the vineyard was sold to Angelo Gaja.
1979 Cavallotto Riserva Vigna Colle Sud-Ovest
4/11/18 — 94+ points. Now-2028.    Medium brick-ruby color with a slightly watery rim.  The nose here is black cherries, black licorice, tobacco, a lovely stemmy note, coffee grinds, underbrush and smoked game.  On the palate this is velvety, nuanced and deep.  This is the best example of this wine I have had thus far. Charles: Jason liked this wine more than I  did.   I like their wines a lot but to me this bottle was not showing that well.


Filed under Barbaresco, Barolo, Borgogno, Chianti, Chianti Classico, Italian Red Wine, Produttori del Barbaresco

Vertical of Produttori del Barbaresco from 1962 to 1989

Produttori del Barbaresco has always been one of my favorite produces of Barbaresco. Their wines can last for 50 years or more even in mediocre vintages.  Ernie De Salvo, a good friend and fellow wine lover, suggested that we invite some friends and do a tasting and lunch with these wines. There were 8 of us and we gathered at Il Gattopardo restaurant in NYC a few weeks ago.

The vertical tasting consisted of 8 wines in vintages from 1962 to 1989. They were all in good condition except for the 1970 Barbaresco Riserva Ovello, which was corked.


Produttori del Barbaresco is a wine cooperative, arguably the best in Italy. It has roots going back to 1894 when there were 19 members, but the co-op as we now know it dates from 1958.  Today there are 52 members. Over the years, a few members have left the co-op to go out on their own.

Produttori has 100 hectares of Nebbiolo in the Barbaresco Appellation, 1/6 of the area. Each grower makes his own decisions as far as growing the grapes is concerned.

Produttori del Barbaresco only produces wine from the Nebbiolo grape, Barbaresco DOCG, a blend of grapes from different vineyards, and Langhe Nebbiolo DOC.

In great vintages, nine single vineyard Barbaresco’s are produced within the boundaries of the village of Barbaresco: Asilli, Rabaja, Pora, Montestefano, Orvello, Pagé, Montefico, Moccagatta and Rio Sordo.  The co-op takes great pride in these wines and the name of the single vineyard.  The total number of bottles produced and the name of the owners of the vineyard are on the label.

The 1996 Ovello Riserva, for example, has on the label the name of the single vineyard, the number of bottles produced (18,145) and the names of the vineyard owners: Cravanzola, Gonella, Maffei, Vacca, Varaldo.

In his book Italy’s Noble Red Wines, Wasserman states in the section on Barbaresco,  “There are a few producers making Barbaresco in the same class as the wines of Produttori, but none who surpass them.”  In the years since this was written I have drunk many bottles of Produttori and it is as true now as it was then.

All of these single vineyards basically have the same soil, calcareous limestone with sandy veins. The only difference is in the exposure. The grapes are hand harvested. They are also vinified in the same way. Traditional fermentation takes place with 18 to 20 days skin contact and aged for 36 months in oak barrels of 25 to 50 HL and 8 months in bottle before release. All of the single vineyards are reserve wines.

The regular Barbaresco is aged for two years in large oak barrels.

For the last number of years the winery has been run by Aldo Vacca the managing director.

The wines

Jason De Salvo took the notes on the wines that follow. I have great respect for his palate and his great attention to detail.

1962 Barbaresco Riserva

12/11/17 — 89 points.  Light brick-garnet color.  The nose is candied cherries, leaves, leather, tobacco and dried roses.  On the palate this is supremely elegant and still holding together.  It is amazing that this is still as alive as it is, given what I have heard about the 1962 vintage!

1967 Barbaresco Riserva Speciale Rabaya

12/11/17 — 97+ points. Light-medium ruby-brick color.  The nose here is absolutely gorgeous with haunting notes of smoke, black cherries, wild flowers, balsamic-pine notes, fennel flowers and dried game.  On the palate this is f*&%ing stunning with great grip, incredible balance, loads of flavor nuance and a long finish.

1967 Barbaresco Riserva Paijé (Cavaliere del Tartufo bottling)

12/11/17 — 98 points. Deep ruby color, nearly opaque.  The nose here is extraordinary with deep black cherry fruit, loads of dusty minerals, lilies, potpourri, pomegranates and dried roses.  On the palate this is deep, intensely flavored and positively youthful.  Unreal juice.  Absolutely stunning and still going strong nearly two hours after it was opened and poured.  This was the wine of the day for Jason .

1978 Barbaresco

12/11/17 —  95 points.  Deep ruby-brick color.  Powerful umami notes on the nose with soy, black cherries, smoked game, black raspberries, flowers, pink lilies.  In the mouth this is gorgeous with a grippe palate presence, beautiful balance and loads of dusty tannins leading to a long finish.  A touch less complex than the two 1967 crus that preceded it, but otherwise virtually at the same level!  Wow.

1979 Barbaresco

12/11/17 — 94 points.  Medium-deep brick-ruby color.  From a cooler vintage than the 1978 served alongside it.  Aromatically this is actually more complex than the 1978 with just a stunning nose of dried game, black raspberries, sour cherries, smoke, leather and dried flowers.  On the palate this is a tad more acidic, less opulent and lighter than than the 1978.  I prefer the ’78 in the mouth and the nose of the ’79.

1978 Barbaresco Riserva Rabaja’

12/11/17 — 96 points. Deep ruby color.  The nose here is black licorice, a distinct note of celery, leather, black cherries, earth, forest floor and dried porcini mushrooms.  On the palate this is the most structured, deepest and intense wine of the tasting thus far.  Massive quantities of ripe, dried black cherry fruit in the mouth with plush mid-palate and a long, structured finished buttressed by a good dose of classy, ripe tannins.

1989 Barbaresco Riserva Ovello

12/11/17 – 97 points).  Medium-deep ruby color.  Beautiful nose with gorgeous, soaring aromatics of red plums, black raspberries, minerals, dried roses, saddle leather and red cherries.  On the palate this is gorgeously elegant with a wonderful nervosité, excellent mouth-puckering acidity and a gorgeously long, dusty tannic finish.  Wow.  This wine is right in its sweet spot right now and is really singing.

The best way to understand these wines is with food. Here are some of the dishes prepared by chef Vito Gnazzo of Gattopardo to go with the wines.





Filed under Barbaresco, Produttori del Barbaresco

Tasting Gaja Wines at La Pizza Fresca NYC

Recently La Pizza Fresca Ristorante in NYC celebrated its 20th anniversary. The restaurant was one of the very first in the city to serve genuine Neapolitan style pizzas and it has one of the best wine lists in the city. Brad Bonnewell, the owner, created the list and he often hosts wine dinners at the restaurant.

I have been going there since it first opened and recently Brad invited me to a dinner featuring the Barbaresco of Angelo Gaja.

Representing the winery was the charming and knowledgeable Giovanni Gaja, Angelo’s son. I was lucky enough to sit at the same table as Giovanni and therefore could ask him a number of questions.

Giovanni is 24 years old and most of the wines we tasted were older then him. He is the youngest child and his youngest sister is 14 years older than him. He joked that it was like growing up with 3 mothers.

I asked Giovanni what changes occurred to the single vineyard Barbaresco in the last few years. Giovanni told me that he and his sisters, Gaia and Rossana had a discussion with their father Angelo about the single vineyard Barbaresco. He emphasized that it was a discussion and not and argument or a fight.

Giovanni Gaja

Angelo’s children convinced him to return to 100% Nebbiolo for the Costa Russi, Sori Tilden and Sori San Lorenzo. Giovanni said that before the DOC (1966) laws Barbaresco could contain other grapes, predominantly Barbera. So Angelo had detached the wines from the DOC appellation in order to produce them as they were in the past. Beginning with the 1996 vintage Angelo Gaja used 15% Barbera in these wines.

Giovanni said every generation has the right to do things in their own way.

So from the 2013 vintage their single vineyard wines are 100% Nebbiolo.

He added they have the full support of their father, and “We can now pursue the pure expression of the Nebbiolo grape once again.”

Giovanni said that Angelo had joined his father in the winery in 1961. In 1978 he changed Barbaresco forever with the introduction of barriques and other new techniques. We can only imagine what Angelo’s father thought of this and of his planting of international grapes such as Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. That same year, Angelo took a prime Nebbiolo site and planted it with Cabernet Sauvignon. Legend has it that when Angelo’s father passed the Cabernet vineyard he would mutter “Damagi,” meaning “what a shame or a pity,” or “Damn It” and so the vineyard came to be called Damagi.

So Giovanni and his sisters were just following in their footsteps of their father by doing things the way they wanted. I asked Giovanni if the regular Barbaresco was made the same way today as it was when Angelo took over in 1978. His answer was “yes” adding that they still use a combination of barriques and large barrels (botti).

Giovanni explained in detail about the 6 wines we tasted. “Barbaresco is the wine that we have always been producing for 5 generations. It is a blend of 14 different vineyards of Nebbiolo mainly located in the Barbaresco area and a small parcel in the Treiso area at an altitude ranging from 250m to 330m covering an area of 21.4 hectares. Each vineyard undergoes fermentation and maceration separately and we let fermentation take its course. According to the vintage, it can take longer or shorter period of time. After fermentation, the wine from each vineyard ages one year separately in small French oak barrels, mostly used and a small part new oak. Usually the ratio is 80% used and 20% new. After one year the wines are blended together and undergo a further year of aging in big barrels. Finally, the wines are bottled and spend a further period of aging in bottle before being released on the market to let the wine settle and balance.”

The regular Barbaresco is made from 100% Nebbiolo. Here are the wines we tasted:

Barbaresco 1988 — the bottle that we had seemed a little tired for its age. There was a discussion at the table and someone said they had a bottle of the 1988 recently and it was fine. We just got an off bottle. The aromas on all of the other wines were classic Nebbiolo with hints of black cherry, violets, blackberries, tobacco, leather and tea.

Barbaresco 1990 — for me was the wine of the tasting.

Barbaresco 1993 — was not a great vintage for Barolo but the wine was showing very well and will last for a few more years.

Barbaresco 1997 — was showing very well and most of the people at the table liked this wine along with the 1990.

Barbareso 2000 — this vintage got mixed reviews but Gaja produced a very good wine.

Barbaresco 2013 — this wine needed more time but has great potential.

pasta, sausage, saffron and parmigiano reggianp

With the wine we had Carpaccio di Manzo, Paccheri Zafferano con Salsiccia, Pizza Margherita, Pizza Savoia and Tortelli di Vitello.


Filed under Barbaresco, Gaja

Visiting Poderi Colla

I have always been an admirer of the wines of Beppe Colla. I had been to the winery before and was very happy to have the opportunity to visit it again when I visited Alba recently.

The Colla family’s connection with wine goes back to 1703, but the modern era begins when Beppe Colla purchased the Alfred Prunotto winery in 1956. Beppe owned the winery for 35 years and made it into one of the most renowned wineries in Piedmont.

Beppe’s younger brother Ernesto, called Tino, worked with him at Prunotto. Beppe was not feeling well when we visited, but Tino was able to show us around.

Tino is a gifted winemaker in his own right and worked very closely with his brother at Prunotto.

In 1994 Tino and his niece Federica (Beppe’s daughter) opened a new winery and so Poderi Colla was established.

Tino Colla

Tino Colla

As we were walking through the vineyards Tino said that the winery comprises three farms covering a total of 26 hectares of vineyards: Cascine Drago in Alba, Tenuta Roncaglia in Barbaresco and Dardi le Rose in Monforte.

He pointed out the different vineyards, explained the different microclimates of the area, and how important the work done in the vineyard is. He also spoke about the different types of soil.IMG_9125

Tino explained his wine philosophy. The key words are naturalness and originality, wines made without manipulation or invasive intervention. He feels the wines have a connection with the past and we must learn from the past, often using methods that his grandfather taught him. He pointed to the stainless steel tanks, which were all outside. No air conditioning for Tino.

Tino and the Truffle Hunter

Tino and the Truffle Hunter

At one point in the walk we stopped at a small house. The owner, a truffle hunter, heard his hunting dogs barking and came out to chat. Tino asked him to show us some of the truffles he had discovered. Some were very large and the aroma was wonderful. Most would be sold to nearby restaurants, he told us.

The walk was a true education.

The WinesIMG_9138

Vintage Spumante Metodo Classico Extra Brut “Pietro Colla” made from Pinot Noir and Nebbiolo. Tino said this is in line with Piedmontese tradition dating back to the early 1900’s and with the traditions of his grandfather, Pietro, for whom the wine is named. It is fermented and matured in the bottle for about 2 years before dégorgement, ouillage with the same wine without the addition of liqueur d’expédition. The wine is bone dry, with a rich bouquet, complex and elegant at the same time. Tino said it is a wine that could be served throughout the meal.IMG_9142

Langhe DOC Riesling 100% Riesling from vines in Alba planted in 1987 with a Northwest exposure at 350 meters and in Barbaresco, planted in 2009 with a western exposure at 240 meters. There are about 4,000 vines per hectare and the grapes are hand harvested between September 10th and 25th. The grapes are immediately soft crushed at 8/10 C for 24 hours. After racking, alcoholic fermentation takes place at a controlled temperature in stainless steel. The wine is left on the lees for a few months, before being naturally cooled in winter. The wine is bottled in the spring. It is a complex wine with full citrus flavors and aroma, hints of mountain flowers and fresh acidity. Tino said it is a wine that can age.IMG_9144

Barbera D’Alba DOC “Costa Bruna”  2013 100% Barbera. Vineyard planted in 1930 and 1995, about half of the vineyard contains the old vines. The new vines are a selection of the old vine’s understock. The grapes are hand picked and immediately destalked and crushed, maceration on the skins is for 10 to 12 days. Malolatic fermentation is completed before winter. Elevage in oak casks lasts about 12 months. This is an intense wine with hints of strawberry, cherry and spice and nice acidity.IMG_9141

Nebbiolo D’Alba DOC 100% Nebbiolo. The exposure is westerly and easterly and the vineyard is between 330 and 370 meters. The vines were planted in 1967, 1989 and 1999 and there are about 4,000 to 5,000 plants per hectare. Harvest is the 1st-10th October. Vinification is the same as above. Elevage is in Slavonian oak casks for about 12 months. This is a complex wine with hints of plum, red berries, dried roses and a touch of violet.IMG_9145

Barbaresco “Roncaglie” 2011 DOCG 100% Nebbiolo. The vineyard is at 244 and 280 meters and the exposure is south/southwest. The vines were planted in 1970,1980,1995 and 2010 and there are 4,000 to 5,000 vines per hectare. Grapes are handed picked from October 5th to 15th  The grapes are destalked and crushed and maceration is for 12 to 15 days, then malolactic fermentation is completed before winter. In the spring the wine is put into oak casks for 12 to 14 months. This is a classic Barbaresco with hints of blackberry, violet and spice and a touch of rose petal.IMG_9146

Barolo “Bussia Dardi Le Rose” DOCG made from 100% Nebbiolo from the hamlet of Dardi in Bussia Soprana di Monforte. It was the first to be vinified separately by Beppe Colla in 1961 and identified on the label. The vineyard has a south/southwest exposure and is at 300 to 350 meters. The vines were planted in 1970 and 1985 and there are about 4,000 vines per hectare. It is vinified like the Barbaresco but is aged in oak casks for 24 to 28 months. This is a full bodied wine with hints of red berries, tar, licquorice and tea. This is a classic Barolo.IMG_9143

Campo Romano Langhe Pinot Noir. Tino said the vines were planted in 1977 from vines imported from Burgundy. In the field when the ground was being ploughed they found remains of a Roman settlement, hence the name. The exposure is westerly, at 330 meters and there are 4,000 vines per hectare. Harvest is September 10 to 20th and the hand picked grapes are immediately destalked crushed. Maceration is for 8 to 10 days followed by malolactic fermentation completed before winter. The wine rests in oak casks for 12 months. This is a balanced and elegant wine with hints of red fruit and floral notes.IMG_9140

Bricco del Drago made from 85% Dolcetto and 15% Nebbiolo. Tino said the wine was first produced in 1969 when Dott. Degiacomi, former proprietor of Cascine Drago, which produced an unusual Dolcetto requiring barrel aging, decided to combine it with a small portion of Nebbiolo, naming it after the estate. Vines were planted in 1970,1989 and 2,000 and there are about 5,000 plants per hectare. Dolcetto is harvested from September 20th to the 30th and the Nebbiolo from October 1st to 10. The varieties are vinified separately and maturation takes place at different times. The wines are assembled and then undergo élevage in oak. Maceration is for 5 to 8 days for Dolcetto and 10 to 12 days for the Nebbiolo. Aging for 12 to 18 months depending on the vintage. We tasted a number of wines going back to 1995, a wine that was showing no signs of age. I was very impressed with all of the vintages we tasted.




Filed under Barbaresco, Barbera, Barolo, Bricco del Drago, Campo Romano Pinot Noir, Italian Red Wine, Italian Sparkling Wine, Italian Wine, Nebbiolo, Nebbiolo d'Alba, Poderi Colla

Meeting Alessandro Rivetto

Alessando Rivetto

I will not even look at Barolo and Barbaresco until they are 10 years old. I look at them but put them aside to age for at least another 5 to 10 years. That’s why I like to buy older Barolos and Barbarescos — so I will not have to wait too long to drink them.

Franco Bengazi, owner of the Wine Emporium, an importer and distributor of mostly Italian wine, told me he had a friend who had older vintages of Barolo and Barbaresco to sell.IMG_2005

I went to visit his friend.  He had Barolo and Barbaresco from the 1960’s and ’70’s, stored in cardboard cases that fell apart when we tried to open them.  The wines were from the Rivetto winery and I bought a number of them.


Alessandro Rivetto

Though we had never met in person, Alessandro Rivetto is my Facebook friend.  When he saw on Facebook my pictures of the Rivetto wines from his families winery, he wrote to me and said that next time he was in NYC we should get together.  I said I would open some of the older vintages for him.

That was a few years ago and a number of things have changed since then.  I drank all of the wines I had bought and Alessandro left his family’s winery and went out on his own. He inherited part of the family vineyards and now has three partners.  Alessandro produces two different lines of wine, the Alessandro Rivetto line and the Ipoli line.  His original family winery is still in business under the name of Rivetto.

Lorenzo Baricca, wine director of Tarallucci E Vino Restaurant in NYC knew of my interest in these wines and my contact with Alessandro.  When he scheduled a dinner featuring Alessandro’s wines, Lorenzo invited me to join them and I met Alessandro at last. We tasted the wines from the Alessandro Rivetto line.


Langhe Arneis “ Matire”2013 DOC 100% Arneis

The harvest is manual. The must and the skins are in contact at cold temperatures for about 30 hours after which the fermentation takes place in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. Maceration lasts for five days. The wine is aged in stainless steel. This is an Arneis with some body, fruity with hints of citrus and good acidity.IMG_7224

Barbaresco 2010 DOCG made from 100% Nebbiolo. Manual harvest. Stemmer pressing and cold maceration for 2 days after which fermentation takes place in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. Maceration lasts for 20 days. The wine remains in oak casks for 18 months and in bottle for 6 months before release. This is a balanced wine has hints of cherries and violets with touches of tea and rose petals.IMG_7226

Barolo Serralunga d’Alba 2009 DOCG made from 100% Nebbiolo. Manual harvest. There is stemmer pressing and cold maceration for 2 days. Fermentation takes place in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. Maceration lasts for 20 days. The wine is aged for more than 3 years in oak casks. The wine remains in the bottle for 10 months before release. It is a wine with hints of blackberries and violets with a touch of tea and spice. IMG_7235

Barolo “Lazzarito”2009 DOCG 100% Nebbiolo Manual harvest then stemmer crushing and maceration. Fermentation is in temperature controlled stainless tanks. The maceration lasts for 37/42 days. Aging is in oak casks for more then 3 years and in bottle for 18 months before release. This is a wine with hints of leather, spice, licorice and a very long finish. It is a Barolo that will age for many years.

The executive chef at Tarallucci E Vino, Andrew Welch, did a great job of matching the food with the wines.



Filed under Alessandro Rivetto, Arneis, Barbaresco, Barolo, Italian Red Wine, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine

A Non-Traditional Thanksgiving

Our Thanksgiving menu was an unorthodox one this year, but we started as always with Champagne.IMG_6593

Champagne Delamotte Brut NV made from 50% Pinot Noir, 30% Pinot Nero and 20% Pinot Meunier. The wine is light and fresh with citrus aromas and flavors and good acidity. The sister house is Salon and both are part of the Laurent-Perrier group. At about $38 a bottle, it is a bargain and is our current house champagne.IMG_6594

Blanc de Blancs Brut “Amour de Deutz” Millesime 2002 William Deutz made from 100% Chardonnay from their own Grand Cru villages of Avize and Le Mesnil-sur-Oger in magnum. This is one of the most complex and elegant champagnes that I have ever tasted. It comes in a clear bottle and 2002 was an excellent vintage. With the Champagne we had olives, cheese wafers, and pears wrapped in prosciutto.IMG_6596

Auxey-Duresses 2001 Lalou Bize-Leroy made from 100% Chardonnay. Biodynamic farming is practiced. A careful selection of hand picked grapes is brought to the cave in small baskets in refrigerated trucks. The grapes are carefully sorted on two large sorting tables (not moving conveyor belts). Only the best grapes are chosen. Fermentation is in large wooden oak barrels without any de-stemming or crushing to avoid any oxidation and to preserve the native yeasts, which are present on the skins of the grapes. Pigeage–crushing down the cap–and remontage–removing the fermented juices from under the cap and bringing it on top of the cap–takes place followed by slow fermentation and a long maceration. After pressing the wine goes down to the first underground cellar. It stays here until the end of malolactic fermentation. After pouring the juice off the lees–soutirage a la sapine--no pumps are used only gravity. The wine then goes down to a second, deeper cellar. It stays there until it is bottled. This wine was showing very well with good citrus aromas and flavors.IMG_6590

We go to restaurant SD26 often and really like their signature dish, Uovo in Raviolo, a large raviolo filled with ricotta and a soft cooked egg yolk, topped with truffle butter. Michele said she would like to do this dish for our guests on Thanksgiving. She made the pasta for the ravioli by hand, IMG_2731and instead of truffle butter she used Kerrygold butter, a favorite brand. I bought a beautiful fresh white truffle to shave on top.  The warmth of the raviolo and hot butter brought out all the aroma and flavor of the white truffle IMG_6597

Dolcetto D’Alba “Boschi di Berri” 1988 Poderi Marcarini made from 100% Dolcetto from pre-phylloxera vines. The vineyard is over 100 years old and because the soil is sandy and the particular microclimate of the vineyard, the vines are phylloxera free. They are not spliced onto American rootstock but are native vines. The vineyard is 0.5 hectares; there are 4,400 vines per hectare. The training system is free-standing espalier with guyot pruning and the exposure is west. The vineyard was planted in the late 1800’s. This was an exceptional wine, showing no sign of age. It had hints of cherries, raspberries, currants and a touch of leather. It was unlike any Dolcetto that I have tasted before. If this was the traditional Dolcetto from the last century, we are missing a lot today!IMG_2737_2

The main course was a bone-in pork rib roast with cranberry fig mostarda, a recipe from Michele’s latest book, The Italian Vegetable Cookbook. With that we had roasted potatoes and Brussels sprouts baked with butter and Parmigiano Reggiano.IMG_6598

Barbaresco Riserva “Ovello” 1979 made from 100% Nebbiolo Produttori del Barbaresco.  Produttori del Barbaresco is a wine cooperative, arguably the best in Italy. It has roots going back to 1894 when there were 19 members, but the co-op as we now know it dates from1958.  Today there are 56 members. Over the years, a few members have left the co-op to go out on their own.

Produttori has 100 hectares of Nebbiolo in the Barbaresco Appellation, 1/6 of the area. Each grower makes his own decisions as far as growing the grapes is concerned. Produttori del Barbaresco only produces wine from the Nebbiolo grape — Barbaresco DOCG, a blend of grapes from different vineyards, and Langhe Nebbiolo DOC.

In great vintages, nine single vineyard Barbarescos are produced within the boundaries of the village of Barbaresco: Asilli, Rabaja, Pora, Montestefano, Orvello, Pagé, Montefico, Moccagatta and Rio Sordo.  The co-op takes great pride in these wines and the name of the single vineyard, the total number of bottles produced, and the name of the owners of the vineyard are on the label.

The Orvello vineyard covers an area of 16.25 acres at 290 meters with a south/southeastern exposure. The 1979 was aged in large barrels of Slavonic oak for four years. This is traditional classic Barbaresco at its best. I have been drinking these wines for over 35 years.IMG_6600

Barolo Riserva 1971 Giacomo Borgogno and Figli 100% Nebbiolo. The grapes come from three different cru vineyards: Cannubi, Liste and Fossati. The winery is located in the center of the town of Barolo. The wine is aged at least five years in large oak barrels. This is a wine produced with traditional and natural wine making methods. Long fermentation and pumping over by hand takes place. Today the Farinetti family that also owns Eataly owns the winery. I have always had very good luck with older vintages of Borgogno. This is a classic traditional Barolo.

We finished the red wine with the cheese course.IMG_6603

Fiano Passito “Privilegio 2011 Irpinia DOC Feudi di San Gregorio made from Fiano and Falangina grapes, harvested by hand, late harvest with a touch of Botrytis (noble rot) in mid October. The vines are 15 to 20 years old, there are 4,000 to 4,500 vines per hectare and the vineyards are at 1,000 to 1,500 ft. The grapes are then dried on straw mats for several months. After a soft pressing, the clarified must is fermented in new French Troncais oak barrels. The wine has hints of honey, figs, apricot and pear and was a perfect combination with the pumpkin pie and apple crisp we had for desert.IMG_6592

After the cafè we toasted the holiday and our guests with Romano Levi Grappa.

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Filed under Amour de Deutz, Auxey-Duresses-Bize-leroy, Barbaresco, Barolo, Borgogno, Boschi di Berri, Champagne, Delamotte NV, Dolcetto, Feudi di San Gregorio, French White Wine, Italian Red Wine, Italian Wine, Marcarini Winery, Produttori del Barbaresco