Thursday, May 31, 2007

Bordeaux 2003

This blind tasting was done as homework for the Bordeaux course by Wine Spectator School. The idea is to see the differences between generic Bordeaux, Cru Bourgeois and a classified growth from the same vintage. The differences between the levels were easily noticeable. Besides that, my take was to continue and avoid buying generic Bordeaux wines, as there are much better wines
to buy for 8 Euro.

Selection J. P. Moueix Bordeaux, 2003
Pale ruby red, very thin nose with some cherries and slight mocha. Way too simple. 70

Rollan de By Medoc 2003
Medium purple, blackberries, cassis, earth and chocolate along with a medium body and good amounts of tannins it is a balanced and good wine. Medium finish. 86

Malescot St. Exupery Margaux, 2003
Dark purple. A deep wine with layers of raspberries, current , blackberries and black cherry. This is complemented by bell peppers, tobacco, chocolate and some oak. Full bodied, balanced wine with a long finish and tannins that clearly announces: "5-6 years before the next bottle".
This is the wine we drank after unveiling the bottles. 93

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Ristorante Vecchia Fontana

Vecchia Fontana was our best dinning experience around Verona. It is located in a small village, about 20 minutes drive from Verona and serves local dishes with slight "International" touches. With the exception of one dish - scallops in Veronese sauce - everything was very good to excellent. The wine menu has a wide Italian selection, all wines are priced very reasonably.

Inama Vignete Di Foscarino Soave Classico 2004
Nice slightly smoked aroma is accompanied by summer fruits, mainly peaches, along with lemon & mango. Pleasantly acidic it's a refreshing but not simple wine. The finish is excellent. 89

Gaja Barbaresco 1997
A classical wine from a great year. Deep ruby red color, showing a very rich set of aromas and favors, where every glass reveals some new ones: earth, tobacco, leather, truffles, cherries, ripe plums and slight eucalyptus. Very balanced with smooth tannins. Long and satisfying finish. 95

Ristorante Vecchia Fontana Via Mezzavilla, 29/A - 37030 Marcellise (Verona) 045 8740444 email:

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Primitivo A Mano

This simple red is a long time favorite. With the exception of the 2003 vintage all vintages that I've tried were excellent table wines. Not meant for long term storage, but very enjoyable 1-2 years from release. The 2005 vintage is one of the best releases.

Primitivo A Mano, Puglia, 2005
Deep velvet color, Cherries, Blackberries slightly smoky and black pepper. Very nice and pleasant, medium bodied with mostly smooth tannins. nice finish. Perfect fit for a great pizza. Not very complex but very enjoyable. 88

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Gaja winery

On the gate of the Gaja winery it is clearly written: we don't sell wines, don't accept walk-ins and will only accept wine professionals for scheduled visits. The process of scheduling a visit involves filling an online questionnaire that ensures you are not there just for a free sip. From the moment you are in, the hospitality is very friendly and professional. We spent more than an hour with Sonia Franco, learning about the winery's history and wine making process and finally tasting the wines. The hospitality was impeccable.
The winery is very impressive. The wine barrels are stored in the combination of an old cellar - the original Gaja house with additions that were made along the years. This is connected by a tunnel that goes under the main street in Barbaresco to the Barbaresco castle cellar which is owned by Gaja. The tunnel is a modern addition that connects the two old parts by a new and interesting piece of modern architecture and art. When one understands that Angelo Gaja's great grandfather started the winery with probably 1/100 the size of cellar you appreciate the winery even more.
The main motto is: "total dedication to uncompromising quality". This motto was set by Clotilde Rey - Angelo Gaja's grandmother.

Due to our short time, we tasted only two wines:

Barbaresco 2003
Wonderful fresh medium color. Layers of casis, coffee, plums, red berries, earth and a tiny bit cranberries. Very good finish. The tannins are still a bit biting, but they will calm down with bottle age. It's an excellent example of what this tough vintage can achieve - production was less than half of the usual level. 93

Langhe Spress 2001
Very dark wine, with earth, plums and some truffles. Overall this wine seems to be in a dump phase right now, as it shows very little fruit. Its very tannic and has a long good finish. Right now I would not give it a score above 88, but it definitely feels that it's a wine that should be tasted again in 5-6 years and re-scored.

Even I preferred to catch the flight and see my kids in favor of more wine. After a great long weekend with my wife, eating the excellent piedmotese food and drinking their fabulous wines. We will be back again!

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Roberto Voerzio winery

Roberto Voerzio's winery is located in La Morra with a wonderful view to Italian Alps. We were hosted by Robert's new assistant: Cesare Bussolo. Cesare started the winery tour in the vineyards, where we saw the meticulous attention to details that creates the foundation for Voerzio's excellent wines. One of the best examples, which might sound very technical, is how the new Barolo vines plantings are done every 50 cm instead of the previous 100 cm. So, this might sound a boring detail, but: with the smaller distance the vines have to fight for resources, which makes them yields more interesting wine. This, along with the almost fully Bio agriculture and other examples, give a view into how much effort is done in the vineyards. It's a clear message: the wine is made in the vineyard. The main work at the winery is to express the vineyard. Terroir is the word, and it shows in the wine.
Cesare has been working at the winery only for three and a half months, but has seven years of wine making experience. His enthusiasm about making wines and following Roberto's way is amazing.

All the wines were tasted directly from tank. This was a very impressive set of wines that show the ability of this producer. A real treat!

Dolcetto D'Alba Privano 2006
Medium deep color, concentrated fruit with blueberries and strawberries. Nice acidity and surprising tannins for a dolcetto. Finishes very nicely. One that will hold for 5-6 years from release. The best Dolcetto I've had. 88-90
Barbera d'Alba Cerreto 2005
Deep color and very nice fruit. Typical Barbera acidity. Lovely wine. 88-90.
Barolo Cerequio, 2005
Medium/light color. Subtle but excellent nose of blueberries, cherries and earth. It is a very rich wine and tannic at this stage. Sweet finish. All is combined in a terrific wine. Its a wine full of finesse. 93-95
Barolo La Serra, 2005
Medium/deep color, red berries, truffles, more expressive than the cerequio, very tannic with long and excellent finish. 93-95
Nebbiolo San Francesco, 2005
Lighter and more brown colored than the previous Barolos. Nice fruit along with nuts and a bit truffles. 88-90
Barolo Fossati Case Nere, 2004
This is a wine that will be released in 2014! After 10 years in the cellar... A new and interesting concept - the winery will age the wine for the customer. I like the Idea and even more the deep and most concentrated wine in this tasting: Blackberries, red berries leading to a very long finish with a good amount of tannins that will surely calm down in 10 years. I pronounced the word "California" and the sky didn't fall... 96-100

This was a wonderful way to end the tasting and as we had to rush to our next meeting we only looked at the wonderfully designed new tasting room.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Giuseppe Cortese winery

The Cortese winery is built on topc of one of the hills in Barbaresco and the picture shows what one can see from the tasting room's balcony. These are vineyards that belong to the winery.
The evening before visiting this winery we had dinner at Antine restaurant in Barbaresco. Excellent restaurant, serving very good piedmontese dishes and with a very reasonably priced yet deep wine menu. We had the Giuseppe Cortese Rabaja Riserva 1996. It was excellent and a perfect match to the local food. This has built high expectations for our next day visit, which were fully fulfilled. The visit started with an overview of the winery, where the most important point is the use of traditional large Slovenian barrels along with the more modern small barrels.
We were then given the opportunity to taste the Barbaresco Rabaja 2000-2004 and the Riserva 1999.

Barbaresco Rabaja 2003
Pretty deep color for the vintage, not very fruity, good earth on the nose but overall seems to be a bit shy there. However it is very balanced, the tannins announce their presence but don't bite. Very good finish. 88
Barbaresco Rabaja 2001
Blackberries, smoke, truffels all interweave to a very balanced wine with a very long and excellent finish. It still needs significant time as its too tannic, the structure is great. Overall a very fine wine. 94
Barbaresco Rabaja 2000
Dried plums, ripe red berries, leather. A very nice finish and good structure. 89
Barbaresco Rabaja 2004
Beautiful deep color, very fruity with mainly red berries. The tannins are right now biting, but this is typical for this young wine. A bit hard to judge but seems a wine with an excellent potential. 90
Barbaresco Rabaja Riserva 1999
The vines that are used for this wine are 55 years old and the production is only 6000 bottles. The results are great: Dried plums, blackberries, Mediterranean herbs, leather and tobbaco - very layered wine. The tannins are a bit too harsh to allow current drinking, but its still very enjoyable now. Build to last. 95

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Conterno Fantino winery

The navigation system decided to lead us to Monforte d'Alba through a dirt road. Chiara Giachino from the winery told us that this is the historical road leading to the winery, which is somehow used by most navigation systems. From the moment we entered the winery, the story was completely different. First thing that caught my attention was the shirt and picture of the local soccer team the "Barolo Boys" I would improve my soccer just to be in this team!
The wine estate and especially the tasting room are very nicely designed. They even have a nice collection of Romano Levy Grappa bottles above the bar. The winery was founded in 1982 by Claudio Conterno and Guido Fantino and is still managed by them. It focuses on high quality and has a firm believe in putting a lot of attention to the vineyards.
Chiara's warm and knowledgeable personality has put us in the right mood to start with the wines.
Langhe Chardonnay "Bastia" 2005
Very good and balanced chardonnay, honeysuckle, slight oak, ripe melon and some tropical fruit, not too buttery and a nice finish. 87
Docetto d'Alba 2006
Fruity with dominant blackberries and some jamy aroma , nice earthy flavor. Very fresh and nice. 85
MonPra 2004
Attractive blend of 45% Barbera, 45% nebbiolo and 10% C.S. It has a very deep almost dark color, with surprising dominance of the C.S. Raspberries and blackberries with tannins that show a good aging potential. The finish is medium but very pleasant. 90
Barolo Vigna Del Gris 2003
Light color, Leather, tobacco, cassis liqueur - overall the fruits are a bit shy right now due to the alcoholic nature of the wine. Still a very good wine that might significantly improve. 88
Barolo Vigna Del Gris 2004
Deep colored, very well structured wine with pleasant tannins. Truffles, raspberries and mineral. With a long and yummy finish. Much better than the 2003. 92

Barolo Sori Ginestra 2004
Deep colored, blackberries, leather, tobacco and minerals. The tannins and structure give a hint that this would be a wine to cellar for a long time. Excellent finish. 94
Barolo Mosconi 2004
This is a new single vineyard. Deep colored, blackcurrant, blackberries, tobacco and minerals. Surprisingly round and balanced for such a young Barolo. Amazing finish. 95

We were very sorry to learn that Conterno-Fantino are out of stock for all 2003 Barolo... We are sure going to search for the 2004!

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Paolo Scavino winery

Our visit to Piedmont started in the most charming way while we were looking for Paolo Scavino in Castiglione Falletto. The navigation system got us to the right place, but there 3-4 people were working in construction - adding a room to the house and no sign of the winery. Asking the man that supervised the work where is the winery we got a big smile and the answer "this is me". Enrico Scavino - the legendary wine maker worked with the construction people. He greeted us warmly and accompanied us into the winery/house where he introduced us to his two daughters: Elisa (winemaker) and Enrica (Marketing). All were dressed causally - they were in the middle of their working day. This is one of Piedmont's characteristics: casual, down to earth yet very sophisticated, beautiful and above all full of charm. Both the land and the people.

Founded in 1921, Paolo Scavino winery consistently produces outstanding and great Barolo wine as well as excellent Langhe blend and Barbera. 2003 was a tough vintage due to the very hot summer. Barolo and Barbaresco producers that did a good job in the vineyards and the winery got very good even excellent wines - which is the case here. 2004 is a different story - a much more typical vintage, but here again those that didn't play it right with mother nature got caught with wet vineyards. Scavino played the dice right!
The charming Enrica led us through the history of the winery and the wine tasting.

The wines

Barbera d'Alba Affinato in Carati 2004
Carati stands for barriques, this wine spent 8 months in barriques and 8 months in large oak barrels. The result is an excellent, deep Barbera. Deep colored wine. Ripe blackberries, meat along with a notes pf slight smoke and licorice. round tannins but enough to let the wine age for 4-5 years. Medium but very pleasing finish. 89-90

Corale 2004
60% Nebiolo, 20% Barbera, 10% Merlot and 10% C.S. This is a wine that is desired to cater to young people that are not used to drink the sophisticated Barolo wines. Still this internationally styled wine is a success: Very fruity, raspberry, cassis with a good structure and a sweet pleasant finish. 90-91

Barolo Bric Del Fiasc 2003
Light to medium color, Very fruity: cassis, red berries. Even though the high alcohol percentage the wine is very pleasant with a pretty long and very good finish. The tannins are less rough than a usual Barolo of this age, but still provide a good reason to believe that this will cellar nicely. 92-93

Barolo Bric Del Fiasc 2004
We got a barrel sample of what seems to be an excellent vintage. Deep and intense color. Blackberries, vanilla, mediterranean herbs with a sweet liqueur note. It feels powerful and great with surprisingly sweet tannins (this seems to be one of the vintage characteristics in Piedmont). The ending has a orange hint to it. Can't wait to buy it. 96-98

Rocche del'Annunziata Riserva 2001
This is THE real thing! Enrico Scavino bought a vineyard there after his mother, that read every letter in the newspaper, saw an ad. The vines are 60-70 years old and produce small quantities but very concentrated wine. The Riserva is produced only in great vintages. The color is deep, the wine is big and elegant with sweet red berries, blackberries vanilla and truffles. The tannins are elegant still provide an excellent structure for aging. The finish is long and great. 99-100.

In addition we tasted Barolo Bricco Ambrogio 2003 - I don't have the notes, but clearly remember that this is an excellent Barolo, although less than "Bric Del Fiasc" above.