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I think that tasting Pelaverga should be a transparent wine experience. I want Pelaverga to show vivacity and freshness. Too ripe and you lose the lift and charming white pepper, savory herbs, and bright current fruit that’s key to a distinctive expression. Alessandria’s has it all: lively bright color, peppery and fruity, graceful and energetic on the palate. Pelaverga is versatile at the table – a red wine for fish, able to handle some spice and heat, quite brilliant with vegetables. I love this bottle! Jamie Wolff
2014 was a challenging vintage in the Langhe, with hailstorms, rain and a relatively cool summer leading to uneven ripening and variable quality. Fortunately for us, the high standards that we are used to from our friends are Barale didn't drop, and while the 2014 Barolos aren't as concentrated or deep as the 2013s or 2010s, they offer a lot of pleasure to those inclined to drink their nebbiolo younger. The normale bottling comes from the vineyards of Castellero, Preda, and Monrobiolo, and shows classic notes of dried cherry, dried rose, earth, and warm spice, lifted by good acidity. A great option while you wait for other Barolo in your cellar to mature. Oskar Kostecki
Castellero is located in the village of Barolo, between the more famous vineyards of Bussia and Cannubi. This steep slope is composed of well-draining calcareous marl which are perfectly suited to Nebbiolo. This site is planted to the historic Michet, Rosè and Lampia clones of Nebbiolo, and propagated by massale selection. The Castellero is deeper and shows more concentration than the normale bottling, with notes of cherry, red forest fruit, dried spices, herbs, floral notes of rose and violet, sweet spice, and undergrowth. Pair with roasted red meat or game, or cellar for a few decades. Oskar Kostecki
The Barale Barolo is a blend of fruit from 3 vineyards (all in the town of Barolo): Castellero, Monrobiolo di Bussia, and Preda. The 2015 has good depth and extract, but it seems completely effortless in it’s elegance – this is wine that feels like it just exists – it hasn’t been forced in any aspect. In April it was aromatically seductive, with lovely orange peel and eucalyptus, silky tannin, and a long, expansive finish. Jamie Wolff
Barale's Dolcetto d'Alba is a very charming wine, with pretty violet floral tones and soft red/black fruit (plum, wild raspberry, redcurrants). The vines grow on calcareous marl soils in Monforte d'Alba at 450 meters above sea level, and while this wine is very easy-drinking, it is by no means simple, with great acidity and medium, very well integrated tannins giving it a pleasing structure. This would be a perfect addition to any summer barbecue or cookout. Oskar Kostecki
Last week marked the 3rd time I’ve tasted three vintages of Boggione Brunate together, and it’s reinforced how consistent in quality the wines are, expressive of vintage, but very un-fussed with in the cellar. The 2013 is showing very savory, earthy and chalky, with some cherry fruit and very fine ripe tannin. It’s an expansive mouthful, in a way that suggests it’s going to drink well fairly soon. A very fine wine indeed! Jamie Wolff
A really terrific 2014, and the most forward of the trio of vintages we currently have in stock. It’s a touch lighter and more open than the 2015, brighter and with grainy, slightly more rustic tannin; good (and balanced) concentration and a mostly savory palate speak to me of Brunate – a wine to drink sooner than the 2013 or 2015. Jamie Wolff
After a decent interval to let the wine breathe, the 2015 shows its great potential – fragrant with flowers and earth; plenty of bright juicy fruit, but overall savory in character, with pronounced ripe tannins – as you taste the wine it blossoms, expressing both finesse and the power of Brunate - and it becomes increasingly delicious. I will put some bottles in the cellar, but given sufficient time in the decanter you can enjoy this now. Jamie Wolff
To my taste I would have to guess this was a Barbaresco, but a Barbaresco of great finesse and elegance. If there’s a place in the wine to determine that you’re elsewhere, it might be the unbelievably suave and ripe tannins of the Bricco Ernesto. Aromatically the wine is expansive and rich, a lovely combo of dark cherry fruit and earthy Nebbiolo florality and earthiness. The palate is bright and intense, with an incredibly complex finish – a burst of black cherry, amaro-like herbs, citrus, balsam, and that very fine tannin to extend everything. This is a much deeper and more serious Roero wine than one would ever expect. It is, by any definition, a natural wine, completely unmanipulated, and with a final SO2 level of 27mg. Pretty brilliant wine, in my book, and it will be really interesting to see how it develops. I have a very high opinion of just two other Roero producers (Chiesa, and Val del Prete), but Bricco Ernesto is a game-changer. Jamie Wolff
The 2017 boasts a more warm, comforting character. It started out pronounced and edgy, but after tasting periodically over an evening, the wine mellowed into aromas of cherry, winter spices, and airy, roasted coffee. Flavors of dried red fruits and black pepper developed on the palate. Perfect for a cold night. Dave Hatzopoulos
All of Francesco Clerico’s wines (Barbera, Barolo, Dolcetto, and Nebbiolo) could be used in a class as textbook examples of traditional Langhe wine. Clerico’s certified-organic vines are in Bussia di Monforte (mostly in the Colonello sub-zone of Bussia Soprana, and also in Bussia Dardi), an easy walk from his cantina in Borgata Bussia Soprana - like the wines, a hamlet that feels as though time has passed by. 2015 was a good year for Barbera in general; Clerico’s is cool, deep, and lifted, with lovely balance between bright plummy fruit and earthy, savory and forest-y notes. It makes perfect sense for Thanksgiving, as it should work well with all of the varied components of the meal, even the cranberry. Jamie Wolff
Dave Fletcher writes: “50% of the vineyards I work with are certified organic and the other half is under conversion. As a day job I work for one of the biggest Biodynamic producers in Barolo and Barbaresco. I believe 100% in these techniques for my own grape production and strive for better health and lower impact for the vines and their surroundings. Not wanting to contribute to an ever increasing mono-culture in the Langhe, I offset the land used for my grape production with ownership of the equivalent area in Forest, swamp and grasslands rich in biodiversity.” I thought Fletcher’s 2015 Barbaresco was outstanding. A couple of instances of crossed-wires have thus far prevented me from tasting the 2016. We very rarely borrow anyone else’s tasting note, but in the present instance, who better than Walter Speller to help out? Jamie Wolff "Barbaresco. Tasted blind. Mid ruby. A little reluctant on the nose. Leafy rather than fruity at this moment. Very slow to open up. Tightly built and with austere but finely chiselled tannins and long-lasting, sweet-sour cherry fruit. Still tight and truly elegant and in need of much more time. A beauty in the making. 17.5" Walter Speller (published on jancisrobinson.com,"2016 - A Turning Point for Barbaresco", 5/29/19)
Dave Fletcher writes: “50% of the vineyards I work with are certified organic and the other half is under conversion. As a day job I work for one of the biggest Biodynamic producers in Barolo and Barbaresco. I believe 100% in these techniques for my own grape production and strive for better health and lower impact for the vines and their surroundings. Not wanting to contribute to an ever increasing mono-culture in the Langhe, I offset the land used for my grape production with ownership of the equivalent area in Forest, swamp and grasslands rich in biodiversity.”
I thought Fletcher’s 2015 Barbaresco was outstanding. A couple of instances of crossed-wires have thus far prevented me from tasting the 2016. We very rarely borrow anyone else’s tasting note, but in the present instance, who better than Walter Speller to help out? Jamie Wolff
"Barbaresco. Tasted blind. Mid ruby. A little reluctant on the nose. Leafy rather than fruity at this moment. Very slow to open up. Tightly built and with austere but finely chiselled tannins and long-lasting, sweet-sour cherry fruit. Still tight and truly elegant and in need of much more time. A beauty in the making. 17.5" Walter Speller (published on jancisrobinson.com,"2016 - A Turning Point for Barbaresco", 5/29/19)
Considered to be the warmest part of the valley of Valtellina (hence the dramatic name) Inferno is situated close to the town of Poggiridenti, with the grapes growing on steep slopes and rocky soils. This 1974 has aged gracefully, with a faint grip of tannins and good acidity framing slightly vegetal and herbal notes of sage and mint, with coffee, tobacco, cedar, warm spice and hint of cured meat and smoke. Fully mature, this is a wine to be enjoyed now with roasted meat, game, or a mushroom risotto. Oskar Kostecki
Sassella is widely considered to be the most noble and elegant of the five subzones of Valtellina. Terraced vineyards on steep, south-facing slopes produce high quality "mountain nebbiolo" with great ability to age. The 1974 Sassella from Pelizzatti still clings to a bit of fruit, with notes of dried cherry, cherry pit and red plum being accompanied by cedar, sage, and hint of smokiness. Drink now with roasted pork, game, or savory dishes laden with umami. Oskar Kostecki
Principiano's Barolo Serralunga comes from two crus: Lirano, and the younger vine portion of Boscareto, the historic vineyard that abuts the famous Francia. In the 2015 vintage there will be no single cru bottling of Boscareto from Principiano, and so all the grapes are going into the Barolo Serralunga. This wine shows a beautiful light ruby color in the glass, with faint hints of brick red. The nose is deep and complex, with cherry, red fruit, rose and sandalwood combining in a balanced expression of classic Barolo. The palate shows the ripe nature of the 2015 vintage with quite open and approachable fruit, and once again that note of sandalwood and spice. Oskar Kostecki
Cowabunga! A Piemontese wine at only 10.5% abv. I would say that's unheard of, yet here it is. Principiano's incredibly charming and utterly delicious Dosset (the name for Dolcetto in the regional dialect) is a beauty: light, fruit-forward and energetic on the palate, with soft tannins and lively acidity. The Dosset shows vibrant fruit notes of cherry, forest berries, red current and red plum, with beautiful floral tones of rose and violet. Very light when first opened, with some air it fleshes out a bit, and a purple plummy note creeps in, along with a hint of spice. Great with a slight chill, this wine is perfect with a summer barbecue. Oskar Kostecki
Allowing for the fact that wine is a very subjective experience, I like to think that I call it as I see it. So I believe I’d know if it was a disaster, but otherwise I’m irrational and unreliable on the subject of G. Rinaldi. When I’m there, I wander around in a kind of stupor of infatuation with the wines. My penetrating notes (for 2013 Tre Tine, for example) say things like “super-great” [full stop]. I suppose if I have to have a wine crush, it might as well be on one of the best wineries in the world. Jamie WolffPS: Please don’t shoot the messenger. We don’t make the prices (neither, so far as I can tell, do the Rinaldis, because the wines leave the cellar at very reasonable prices). We’re well into the world of luxury goods here, and all I can do is sigh and make puppy dog eyes at the bottles while they’re in the shop. I do think it’s an objective fact that these are great wines and even if it’s a gratuitous comparison, they are the superior of many far more expensive wines.
Crichet Paje comes from some very old vines in the Paje vineyard. Luca Roagna explains that for years "because of the complications of local regulation we had to choose between callling the wine Barbaresco, or Crichet Paje — we could not call it Barbaresco Crichet Paje, so we chose to call it Crichet Paje... Crichet Paje is intended to be a unique and particular wine, an expression of our identity." It wasn't until 1996 that they were able to label the Crichet Paje as "Barbaresco Crichet Paje".
Last May we tried a ton of Dolcetto in the company of two distinguished tasters who kept saying they didn’t like Dolcetto, which tends to put a damper on the experience. Sandri’s, however, made them sit up and take notice, so I give them credit for staying alert and flexible enough to change their minds. It’s bracingly juicy with wild brambly fruit that’s balanced with savoury herbs and chalky stone. Medium-bodied, very lively and lifted, it’s long and complete. I happen to like Dolcetto, but if they were all half as good as this one I might say I love it. Jamie Wolff Since the Fall cooking around my house is Piemonte-centric, I would be remiss for not including Cascina Disa's wines in my top choices for autumnal wines. Elio Sandri makes fabulous reds in Monforte d’Alba (Perno), which offer sophistication (though not flashiness) and also express terroir and Langhe soul beautifully. The 2015 Dolcetto is dark-fruited with ripe aromas of violets, blackberry, black cherry, plum, and pencil lead. The supple, but racy palate offers more dark fruit flavors over well-knit tannins and a succulent, buoyant finish. Fabulous with salumi, smashing with a cheese plate after dinner. This has a fine ratio of generous fruit to structure to terroir detail without any of the heat or excess that sometimes characterizes the vintage. I’m regularly impressed by the wines from Elio Sandri and can say without hesitation that he is a grower to watch. John McIlwain
Last May we tried a ton of Dolcetto in the company of two distinguished tasters who kept saying they didn’t like Dolcetto, which tends to put a damper on the experience. Sandri’s, however, made them sit up and take notice, so I give them credit for staying alert and flexible enough to change their minds. It’s bracingly juicy with wild brambly fruit that’s balanced with savoury herbs and chalky stone. Medium-bodied, very lively and lifted, it’s long and complete. I happen to like Dolcetto, but if they were all half as good as this one I might say I love it. Jamie Wolff
Since the Fall cooking around my house is Piemonte-centric, I would be remiss for not including Cascina Disa's wines in my top choices for autumnal wines. Elio Sandri makes fabulous reds in Monforte d’Alba (Perno), which offer sophistication (though not flashiness) and also express terroir and Langhe soul beautifully. The 2015 Dolcetto is dark-fruited with ripe aromas of violets, blackberry, black cherry, plum, and pencil lead. The supple, but racy palate offers more dark fruit flavors over well-knit tannins and a succulent, buoyant finish. Fabulous with salumi, smashing with a cheese plate after dinner. This has a fine ratio of generous fruit to structure to terroir detail without any of the heat or excess that sometimes characterizes the vintage. I’m regularly impressed by the wines from Elio Sandri and can say without hesitation that he is a grower to watch. John McIlwain
Sandri’s 2017 Barbera is a beauty. I might as well say tell you now: it has 15° alcohol. This is becoming quite common in Piedmont; some winemakers / some wines can handle it, and Sandri seems to have it figured out – at any rate the wine isn’t hot or overblown. It’s a Monforte wine – structured, savory, with lovely balanced black fruit, somewhat restrained; it’s a big wine, but has grace and energy. This is a Barbera that will benefit from a little time in the cellar to unwind and show it’s best, although you can promote the same result if you give it a couple of hours in a decanter. At the moment I’m writing (July), it strikes me as a perfect barbeque wine! Jamie Wolff
The nose is pure, with young dark flowers, fresh cut stems, green herbs, tilled earth and black cherry. The palate is more fruit-driven and bold, with flavors of savory red berries, fennel, and a core of iron-laced minerality. The wine develops over time, with a tannic structure that loosens into a soft richness. Pair with meals of dark meat, simply prepared veggies, and hard cheeses. David Hatzopoulos
Perhaps Francesco Versio is just young-looking… He has to have a lot of energy for his very demanding day job (winemaker at Luigi Oddero with Dante Scaglione) and yet he is also making his own excellent Barbaresco. The 2016 is about 65% from San Cristoforo and the balance from Cotta and Starderi (all in Neive). Tasted in late June the wine was showing gorgeously, very open and complete, savory with delicate citrusy aromatics, and beautifully balanced – a super elegant and refined Barbaresco. Jamie Wolff
Castellinuzza e Piuca is a small family owned winery in the hilltop town of Lamole, halfway between Siena and Florence, home to some of the highest elevation vineyards in the Chianti Classico zone. Their Rosso Toscana is a bit of a throwback, a co-fermentation and maceration of 80% Sangiovese and 20% Malvasia Bianca like Chianti would have been made in the old days. Fermented with indigenous yeast and macerated on the skins for 8-10 days, they wine then aged for 12-14 months in concrete tank before it is bottled with only minimal filtration. A beautiful ruby red in the glass, this wine has great freshness and tension, backed by good acidity and medium, but rustic tannins. Notes of fresh cherry, dried cherry, red forest fruit, dried flowers, and an herbal undercurrent. Juicy and fun, but with enough complexity to keep it engaging all the way through, this would pair wonderfully with any sort of roasted poultry and fall flavors. Perfect for Thanksgiving! Oskar Kostecki
While I always love the wines from Monte Bernardi, every year Sa’etta is one of the most compelling. The organic viticulture, reflective sandstone soils, extra élevage result in wines of great purity, lift, tension, and dare I say, flair. There’s the beautiful characteristic Morello cherry fruit (though perhaps given a boost of florality and finesse here). This is underlain by a deep sense of nearly salty minerality (not just acidity, though this is also expressed, despite the warmth of the vintage). And finally there’s this savory, energetic kick to the finish, which pulls off the neat trick of not just length, but expansiveness; there’s real dimension and style here to match the stoniness at the core of the wine. A real treat now, but this should be splendid with 8-12 years and beyond in the bottle. John McIlwain
A blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petite Verdot, this is the only Super Tuscan we carry in the store, and an anomaly within the character. Not over-extracted or over-oaked, this is a brighter and fresher expression, with a beautiful mix of red and black fruit and ample acidity. Notes of dried herbs and hay round out the palate. Great now, this will only improve with time. Oskar Kostecki
This lovely Pecorino is named after the Papilio machaon butterfly that lives in Abruzzo meadows and forests. The wine is made from biodynamic grapes, grown on limestone and clay, and fermented with wild yeasts in stainless steel. Aromas of melon, pineapple, and lemon zest mingle with salty, briny notes and a touch of dried flowers and anise. The palate is refreshing and mineral with bright acidity and juicy tropical and citrus fruits, lemon zest, a touch of mint and anise with a tangy finish. This is a perfect sipping wine that can easily be enjoyed on its own or paired with crunchy salads, fish dishes or white meats.
Ausonia makes this delightful Trebbiano from estate-grown biodynamic grapes that have been hand harvested. Fermentation is carried out spontaneously from indigenous yeasts in stainless steel tanks, and the wine is bottled with minimal use of sulfur and without fining or filtration. The aromatic nose exhibits aromas of fresh pear, citrus zest, white peach and a touch of jasmine. The palate is dry and crisp with fresh and fruity flavors of pear, melon, lemon pith, chalk, Thai basil and a green almond note on the finish.
Crivella is made with fruit from Bianco’s oldest vines, including some planted in the mid 1800s by Riccardo’s great-great-something grandfather; such old vines are extremely rare, and while they produce very little fruit, it’s impossible for Riccardo to even think about replacing them. At a tasting in the shop a customer said, “Like Sauternes with bubbles!” which was a lovely way to describe the wine and its rich and unctuous character. made lively with fizz. While there’s no botrytis, Crivella is much more complex and detailed than all but the very best Sauternes. I’ve certainly never tasted anything like it — a stunning wine. Jamie Wolff Moscato d'Asti is usually a fairly light and simple affair, but this bottling has gravitas to stand up to the most complex, aged cheeses. If an old Stilton and Port sounds a bit much, try this invigorating Moscato for a bit of a lighter approach. John Rankin
A perennial favorite of ours! This is one of the most eagerly awaited skin contact wines for us, and the 2018 vintage does not disappoint. Made from the distinct Trebbiano Spoletino grape grown in the hills around Montefalco in Umbria. The grapes are hand-harvested in late October, fermented on the skins for 10 days, with daily punch-downs to extract color and structure. The wine is copper-colored and the nose is an explosion of stone fruit, peach nectar, preserved lemon, pungent blossom, tea leaves, chamomile, and dried hay. The aromatic complexity continues on the palate, with great phenolic grip, ripe tannins, and a hint of dried spices. Unlike some of its cousins, Trebbiano Spoletino keeps its acidity late into the growing season, and so the Maceratum has a fresh edge to all of its denser and more rounded elements. A near-perfect orange wine. Oskar Kostecki
Manzoni Bianco is an early 20th-century crossing of Riesling and Pinot Bianco, and is almost exclusively planted in a small corner of the Dolomites. Elisabetta Foradori has a small 3 hectare parcel above the town of Trento, farmed biodynamically on clay-limestone soils. Though the wine only sees 3 or 4 days of skin maceration, there is a wonderful richness and texture to the Manzoni, coupled with notes of citrus, citrus peel, honeysuckle, almond, and a definitive herbal character running through it. Very expressive. The wine ages mostly in acacia barrels, with 15% in clay. Oskar Kostecki
This crowd-pleasing natural Prosecco is the perfect way to start your Thanksgiving dinner, and it's easy on your wallet as well!
Passerina is a grape that I have little experience with beyond the wines of La Visciola in Lazio, which is a real shame given the depth of flavor a lifted texture the wines show. An obscure variety native to Lazio (and possibly distinct from a grape also named Passerina that grows along Italy’s Adriatic coast). The 2015 shows a more lifted character than the 2014. The nose is fairly tight on opening, giving notes of tart apple and pear leading into thyme and white flowers after a few minutes in the glass. Medium body with a soft texture and crisp acidity, the flavors show more candied lemon peel, green apple, and tart pear. Try it with grilled fish, potato or white pizza, soft cheese, or cured pork. Andy Paynter
Oltretorrente has produced a wonderful Timorasso since they were founded in 2010 by Chiara Penati and Michele Conoscenti. The vines, planted in 1996, are tended organically with biodynamic practices and the grapes are vinified simply: the bunches are pressed whole-cluster and fermented with native yeasts in steel, resting on the lees for 8 months to lend texture and complexity. A touch golden in the glass, the wine shows strong aromas of ripe peach, honey, beeswax, and yellow flowers. The palate has some weight with a smooth texture, plenty of acidity, and rich stone fruit over a chalky mineral backbone. Simultaneously rich and crisp this wine would bring levity plus flavor to starchy winter foods.
Orto di Venezia is a striking wine grown on the island of San Erasmo within the lagoon of Venice. Based on Malvasia Istriana but comprised of a number of other local cultivars all planted on its own root stock, the wine is deeply colored in the glass, with a nose reminiscent of ripe golden apples and honeysuckle undercut by a salty tone. The palate is bold, with an initial attack of juicy orchard fruit and rich texture, followed by a honeyed note giving way to a long savory finish. More than anything else, Orto shows a stern backbone of minerality bracing its mellow acidity and weight on the palate. I served it with shrimp cooked with their own stock and butter, but this wine would pair beautifully with anything out of the sea, soft cheese, or rich vegetable dishes. Open early and serve slightly chilled. Andy Paynter
Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Viognier and Manzoni froma small .6 hectare parcel above the town of Bolzano. The vines are only 10 years old, but are already producing a beautiful, textured white wine, that is both weighty and elegant. Quite floral on the nose, the palate shows notes of white blossom, ripe citrus, apricot, honey, and crushed vitamin candies. Decant before serving, or age for another few years. Oskar Kostecki
Equal parts Vitovska, Malvasia, Sauvignon, Pinot Grigio macerated for 10-15 days and then aged for 12 months on fine lees in 1500L-2000L tini. The 2017 Ograde has a vibrant peach hue, closer to ramato copper than pink. The nose is effusive with aromas of apricot, blood orange, chamomile, and bee pollen. The palate is textured and just-this-side of oily. Flavors of juicy guava, ripe stone fruits, and a savory ferruginous note dominate the palate (red soils?). While there are light tannic notes from the maceration, the subtle character from the extended lees contact adds a note of roundness on the mid-palate. The finish is bright and vibrant without some of the rancia character of some orange wines. A nice pairing with farro with pistachios, wild mushrooms, arugula, and roasted delicata squash, far better with whipped Salvatore ricotta, black pepper, and chestnut honey. In this case the flush of juicy stone fruit flavors with the creamy cheese and bitter honey was delightful delightful and more satisfying. This has good balance and complexity and it is worth the price of admission for the nose alone. I'd love to check in on this with a few years age or perhaps drink with heartier fare. John McIlwain
Camerani Marinella, of Corta Sant’Alda fame, and her eldest daughter produce this remarkably fresh wine from 5 hectares of vines in Valpolicella. The grapes (35% Corvina, 35% Corvina Grossa, 20% Rondinella, and 10% Molinara) are hand harvested, destemmed, and gently pressed. In the cellar, the juice is vinified using native yeasts in stainless steel. The nose is floral, with dark flowers. There is a hint of tilled earth along with more pronounced aromas of cured meat and red berry. The mouthfeel is relaxed, with exceptionally low tannin, and a thread of acidity that works to carry the cherry fruit on the palate. Pairing with hearty, earthy foods like Thanksgiving carrots, potatoes, and yams will work beautifully. David Hatzopoulos
Ausonia’s Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Anfora is made using an ancient method of fermenting and storing wine in clay vessel (or amphora) which originated in Georgia and was used by the Greeks and Romans for centuries. The amphora helps protect the wine from oxidation and gives the wine a tannic and earthy, yet mineral-driven character. Ruby red in color, this Montepulciano has an intense aroma of red fruits, sweet spices, dried flowers and turned earth. The palate is full-bodied and complex with a dense core, lush tannins, bright acidity, and flavors of ripe cherry, raspberry compote, dark chocolate, dried violets and a distinct minerality. The finish is long and earthy and full of licorice and herbal notes. This wine would make an excellent complement to hearty dishes, red meats, roasted vegetables, and grilled mushrooms. Anna DeBeer
Ausonia’s Montepulciano d’Abuzzo “Apollo” is named for the Parnassius apollo butterfly that lives in the mountains near the estate. The wine is made from biodynamically grown grapes, hand harvested and fermented with indigenous yeasts in stainless steel, and bottled without filtration. Deep and ruby in the glass, aromas of red and black berries jump out first, followed by light baking spices and a touch of thyme and oregano. On the palate bright red cherry, juicy blackberry, raspberry and a dusting of spices are wrapped around velvety tannins, with a slightly herbal and earthy finish. Medium-bodied and juicy with refreshing acidity, this is a great example of why Abruzzo’s cooling Adriatic breezes and warm sunshine are capable of producing such delicious wines. This one is easily enjoyed on its own or paired with grilled meats, pasta with meat sauce, and aged cheeses.
Sicilian wine is generally perfectly suited for the Thanksgiving meal, as it goes so well with the mash up of savory and sweet sour that characterizes the island’s food - and our national feast. I’m a great fan of Frappato but rarely find compelling wines; COS makes the benchmark version, retaining freshness and avoiding the unfortunate opacity of flavor that most versions slip into. The COS Frappato is distinguished by haunting complexity, balancing fruit and earth and herbs, and showing depth and intensity, all with 12% alcohol. This wine is a crowd pleaser, satisfying the casual drinker and any serious geeks at your table. I’m now determined that we need some at our house! Jamie Wolff
Natalino Del Prete farms 10 hectares of mostly Negroamaro and Primitivo vines just north of Lecce in southern Puglia. Certified organic since 1994, his vineyards are never treated with any chemicals (they look quite wild!) and the vinification is decidely old-school, with minimal intervention and no sulfur added at any point, including bottling. The 2017 Negroamaro Anne is from a plot of 30 to 60 year old vines planted on clay soils. Rustic and slightly barnyardy on the nose, this wine opens with black cherry, black plum and a general medley of dark fruits, and finishes with notes of dark cocoa and earth. Medium plus bodied, with very good acidity, this is a wonderful example of "farmhouse" wine from the Italian South. Oskar Kostecki
Natalino Del Prete farms 10 hectares of mostly Negroamaro and Primitivo vines just north of Lecce in southern Puglia. Certified organic since 1994, his vineyards are never treated with any chemicals (they look quite wild!) and the vinification is decidedly old-school, with minimal intervention and no sulfur added at any point, including bottling. The 2017 Primitivo is from 30 to 60 year-old vines planted on clay soils. An elegant, deep and inviting nose leads to a bright palate of red plum, black plum, dark raspberry, blackberry, earth and spice. There is a hint of something wild about all the Del Prete wines, but in my personal opinion it leads to a bit more depth, complexity, and curiosity. I really like the spirit of these wines. Jules Dressner calls them "unpretentious peasant wine " and while that is a great description, I think there is a little more to them than just that. They speak to a certain vision, in a certain place, one maybe not necessarily associated with "natural wine". Oskar Kostecki
Foradori's Teroldego feels like a benchmark. Not that there is excessive opportunity to do comparative tastings of this lesser-known grape, but of the ones that we've tried, this wine is neither over-oaked, nor reedy and thin, but always perfectly balanced in its intensity and expression. A medley of brambly red and dark fruit (blackberries, plum) interwoven with dark spice, earth and green notes of blackcurrant leaf. The 2016 vintage is quite reserved when first opened, but some air reveals its true potential. One of my favorite pairings with roast pork. It's a great testament to Elisabetta Foradori and her family, and the hard work that has been done in the vineyards and winery for nearly 40 years, that this expression of Teroldego has risen from relative obscurity to be a true staple. Oskar Kostecki
Cesanese is perhaps the most “important” indigenous red grape of Lazio, capable of making fresh red wines with intense perfume and delicate structure. The reds from La Visciola are all varietal Cesanese from different plots showing distinct features of this underappreciated grape. The Mozzatta is the most assertive cuvée from the estate, made from 60-year-old vines planted on a “grey, clay soil,” that is a clay with some degree of incorporated limestone. Like the other reds it is vinified with native yeast in lined-cement (though with the addition of 20% whole cluster rather than being entirely destemmed) and then rested in large barrels for around a year. The result is a much more assertive style of Cesanese with more earthy flavors. The nose is brooding, showing pine needle and forest floor over ripe red fruit and black pepper spice. The body is quite full with grippy tannins and plenty of acidity though it shows deeper flavors rather than extra weight on the palate. The finish is dry and quite mineral. Try it with grilled sausage, chops, rich vegetable dishes, carbonara or other full-flavored pastas. Andy Paynter
Cesanese is perhaps the most “important” indigenous red grape of Lazio, capable of making fresh red wines with intense perfume and delicate structure. The reds from La Visciola are all varietal Cesanese from different plots showing distinct features of this underappreciated grape. The Vignale plot was planted in the 1960s on a soil of mixed sand and clay. It is vinified with native yeast in lined-cement, and rested in large barrels for around a year. The Vignale shows a more definitely spicy nose with black pepper, allspice, and fruit tones of cherry and orange zest with dried bay leaves. The palate has a fairly rich texture with fine-grained tannin and restrained acidity, showing poise but with a bit more heft than the Ju Quarto. The Vignale will pair easily and widely; try it with everything from pizza and simple veggie dishes to carbonara, pork chops, or roasted mushrooms. Andy Paynter
Azienda Agricola Le Strie is a tiny property located in Valtellina, composing a little over 1 hectare of vines located in Sassella and Valgella subzones, producing around 7,500 bottles annually. The grapes are farmed organically, hand-harvested, and fermented with indigenous yeasts in stainless steel. The subsequent wine ages for about 18 months in large botti. The Le Strie Rosso di Valtellina has a wonderful nose of raspberries, red and black cherries, red plum, rose, and crushed violets. The palate is precise, at once delicate and lifted, but also carrying intensity, with soft tannins and bright acidity. With a hint of earthiness, this wine worked beautifully with a mushroom risotto. Oskar Kostecki
A quite notorious vintage in northern Italy, 1994 was marred by weeks of rainfall in September, diluting the quality across much of the renowned growing regions of Barolo and Barbaresco. While it's hard to find concrete vintage reports on Oltrepo Pavese, we can assume some similarity; indeed the 1994 Barbacarlo is lighter in both color and mouthfeel than other vintages tasted from the 90s. Yet in no way would I say this is a lesser vintage, and as with all Maga wines, bottle age knits it together in beautiful ways. A bottle opened in Verona in April showed slightly fresher, with more raspberry, currant, and ripe red fruit. The bottle tasted in New York in September was slightly more muted on the fruit side, but showing beautiful notes of development; sage, nutmeg, baking spice, hints of cedar and tobacco leaves wonderfully integrating with notes of dried cherry and dried cranberry. There is amazing vivacity to all the Barbacarlo's I've tasted, and this is no exception. It will throw a bit of sediment, so decanting an hour before serving is recommended.
Lino Maga described the 2011 vintage as "ampio-abboccato" meaning broad and slightly sweet, though it is already showing some signs of development. Slightly darker in profile than the vintages it proceeds, the nose opens with dark plum, blackberry, cassis, and licorice. The palate introduces a bit of development, with earth, fresh cut hay, and a hint of cedar, as well as an herbaceous quality of sage. Still great acidity, and a lot of energy on the palate. With a bit of time open it starts to reveal fresher characteristics, and gains in vivacity. As with all Lino Maga wines, a healthy decant is recommended. Oskar Kostecki
The bishop of Broni comes each year to sample Signore Maga's wines, and upon tasting the 2016 proclaimed it "mystical." So now Lino has a handmade plaque above his door that reads "We make mystical wine" and we as consumers have the opportunity to savor something divine. The 2016 will age tremendously. It is one of those vintages that has a touch of residual sugar, and a plumpness to the fruit quality. The nose is full of dark and enticing notes of plum, violet, black currant and baking spice. The palate is full of energy, with great acidity giving lift to the density; it also introduces red currant, ripe raspberry, dried orange peel, along with more nutmeg and spice. With a few hours open this wine harmonizes beautifully, carrying great complexity, softness, and depth. I've had this wine three times in the past two months and each bottle was spectacular. Just a baby right now, the 2016 will age for the next 40 years easily. If you do decide to open now (and it is delicious now), a few hour decant is highly recommended. Oskar Kostecki
We had the great pleasure of tasting with the winemaker from Marabino recently, and the Rosso Contrada was a stand out. Sourced from four different parcels and a mixed range of soil types, fermented whole cluster, with the intent of doing an "infusion" style with very little extraction. Maceration is long and slow, over 2 weeks, to respect the fruit and give longer structure to the tannins. Aging has been in large 60 hl barrels for a bit over a year, though they are thinking about using some stainless steel in the future, as oak brings out more sweetness and they are after the saltiness of Nero D'Avola and of the soils of Sicily. Each of the four parcels are vinified separately and then blended after malo-lactic fermentation, with minimal added sulfites before bottling (total 26mg/l SO2). As for how it tasted, the wine was ethereal, with vibrant black cherry fruit and fine, elegant tannins. A wine to spend some time with, and likely one that will improve nicely in the next 5 years. -EL
From a one hectare site of 120 year-old vines planted on the slopes of Mount Etna, this is volcanic wine at its best. The nose opens with a lovely bouquet of ripe raspberry and overripe strawberry, red currant, macerated cherry, deep red forest fruits, and dried orange peel. There are hints of nutmeg and other pungent spices, sage, thyme, and a hint of something green, perhaps tomato vine. On the palate it is medium bodied, with bright acidity and medium but soft, very finely integrated tannins. The palate introduces more citrus (blood orange) and pomegranate on top of the red fruit. The volcanic minerality really shines here, melding the fruit and herbal notes with ash and smoke. There is beautiful grip and intensity on the palate, which leads to an incredibly long finish. Paired perfectly with grilled sausages, but this is a very versatile food wine. Drink now with an hour's decant, this will continue improving for the next 10+ years. Oskar Kostecki
Danila Pisano took over the family estate in 1990 and received organic certification in 1996. The vineyards themselves are not young, with some of the terraces aging back to 1931. She has not had to plow or fertilize her vineyards for the last three years, and the cover crop is lush and filled with lovely flowers. Her plots are spread over several hills, and even include a sandy section that has many un-grafted vines that have been resistant to phylloxera. Although Dolceacqua is known for a weightier style of Rossese, Danila's wines always have freshness without sacrificing the distinctive spice and crushed plum fruit that the region is celebrated for.
From 15 year old vines planted in both guyot and pergola training systems, Pranzegg's Lagrien is fermented with submerged cap for 4 weeks, and is a deeper expression of "mountain wine."Notes of dark fruit (blackberry, plum, and cassis) mingle with mineral notes wet stone and graphite. Framed by quite bright acidity, this is a great food wine, and will pair well with anything from a steak or roast pork, to a burger or barbacue. Oskar Kostecki
Pranzegg 2014 Schiava (Vernatsch) Campill. From 50-year-old biodynamically farmed vines fermented partial whole cluster. 12% abv. Medium dark garnet translucent robe. The nose offers an array of brambly hedge fruits with black and red currant, wild blackberry, and pomegranate aromas dominating, with faint notes of wet bark, dusty violets, blackberry seed, and game peeking around the edges. On the lighter-side-of-mid-weight palate, the wild berry flavors vie with salty and ferrous soil notes for attention, giving way to to notes of plum skin, and cassis, with a mouthwatering, savory acidity propelling the finish. Great balance between fruit, earth, and freshness. A fine pairing with tagliolini with Prosciutto San Daniele, radicchio, and poppy seeds, but I could see this with roasted pigeon on red wine bruschetta, or gnocchi with speck and Grana Padano. Martin Gojer makes such vibrant and gratifying wines. It’s almost embarrassing that I don’t drink them with more frequency. John McIlwain
Sourced from 50 year-old vines trained in pergola and farmed biodynamically, this is a more profound expression of the grape Schiava than one usually finds. The wine is fermented with 30% stem inclusion and macerates for 6 weeks in large conical vats followed by elevage in old oak and cement tank for 10 months. 2015 was a warmer year, and the wine shows more exuberance than previous vintages. The nose is full of dark cherry, ripe plums, plum skin, dark wild forest fruit, violets, cracked black pepper, and blackcurrant leaf (my original note reads: "smells like a pristine forest"). The palate introduces more red fruit: raspberry and cherry. The wine has great verve and acidity, with medium tannins that are quite soft and well integrated. Well-rounded and well-balanced, this is at a great moment now, showing a bit of development, yet still retaining nice primary elements. Very giving, yet relaxed. An engaging food wine, that has the ability to pair with a wide range of dishes. One of my first choices for Thanksgiving dinner. Oskar Kostecki
The Allegracore bottling from Romeo del Castello is from the younger part of their vineyard, planted in 2004. An elegant and approachable Etna Rosso, it has been a Chambers Street favorite since the 2009 vintage! 2017 was a hot year in Sicily, but the wine is very balanced thanks to an earlier harvest and aging in stainless steel. A blend of Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappucio, though from my understanding, primarily Mascalese. Chiara says that in the past Cappucio was use more to give color and boldness, while the structure comes from the Mascalese. -EL
The Ronchi di Cialla Rosato is made entirely from Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso and in the few years that it has been produced has quickly become a feature on our shelves every spring. It is certified organic, fermented on native yeast in steel tanks, and bottled after a few months on the lees. The 2018 has wonderful bright acidity and fine structure, with elegant, husky minerality on the nose and a bit of funk on the palate wrapped in fine, fresh strawberry notes. Perfect as an aperitif or with any manner of Mediterranean feasting options like mezze, cured olives, anchovies, aged sheep's milk cheese, hummus, or the traditional Istrian stew of Trieste, Jota. Andrew Farquhar
In the words of our friend Ernest from PortoVino: "It’s the mediaeval elixir that the monks saved in the monasteries when Rome was burning." 2013 was the first vintage that Luigi Tecce has released of this wine, a small parcel of ancient Aglianico clones planted in 2000 using the cordone speronato trellising system. The yields here are about half of Tecce's other vineyards, and the wine carries a depth and density that justifies its name. There is beautiful intensity on both the nose and palate, with heady aromas of macerated black cherry, blueberry, and fig, with a smoky mineral/volcanic underbelly and a touch of balsamic. The 2013 is starting to show some slight notes of development, but its still clearly a baby, and will be rewarded with decades in the cellar. Oskar Kostecki
2016 was a near perfect vintage in Taurasi, with just the right amount of rain and temperatures remaining stable throughout the growing season, leading to very classic, structured wines with a lot of tension. Satyricon comes from a 1.5 ha, southwest-facing parcel at 550 meters above sea level. Notes of black cherry, kirsch, and wild black forest fruit interweave with hints of tar, roasted meat, and bitter dark chocolate. The wine has great structure, with very well-integrated medium plus tannins offset by great acidity. A pleasure now, this will have a long life ahead of it, and I wouldn't hesitate aging this for ten to fifteen years. Oskar Kostecki
Tasting Vinica’s Tintilia makes me wonder how this grape ever fell out of favor in Molise in the first place. It seems particularly well adapted to the high altitude vineyards of the region, showing a balance between ripe fruit and fresh acidity. The grapes are crushed at low pressure and allowed to ferment naturally in open top vessels before being held in steel tanks for two years. There is no temperature control at any point, which allows malolactic fermentation to occur naturally over time. The wine has a pleasant herbal tone of green pepper that peaks out on the nose over tart berry fruit, red roses, and moist earth. The palate is quite fresh and marked by bright acidity and soft tannins with a pleasant, earthy finish. This may not be a wine to cellar for ten years but it is a wine that casually conveys a sense of joy and is a carefree food pairing choice. Give it a try with rich pasta dishes, roast pork, stuffed mushrooms or open it at your next summer barbeque. Andy Paynter