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Vini Rossi-L'Ultimo Piano

Asti Trattoria

Tasted June 6, 2010 by austinwinesalon with 1,100 views

Introduction

Our numero XX wine salon, and the third focused on Italian red. Forty salon attendees drinking nine flights of five wines each, in nine tasting groups--each tasting group tasted three flights. We had such fine wines contributed to this event that this is the first of two overviews of great Italian red wines, with the second scheduled in the fall. Our gracious hosts, Lisa and Emmett Fox, provided some fine antipasti and participated in our tastings. There is no better place to taste Italian wine than in an Italian Trattoria!! A neighbor to the south, John Antonelli gave a brief introduction to Italian cheese and provided us with ten different formaggi, set on a counter in order of softness to hardness, lightness to richness. This made selecting cheese to go with our wide range of Italian wines so easy and accurate for matching flavors. And we had grand cucina, with John GL of www.alcoholian.com preparing a "a 60 hour sous-vide chuck semi-deconstructed stew-like thing" (see his blog for the recipe and full descrip), James K providing a very delicious Lasagna which many raved about, and Loren a complex wild duck pasta. These dishes made our Italians sing!

Flight 1 - Grand Montepulciano d'Abruzzo (5 notes)

A look at top 9-10 year old Montepulciano d'Abruzzos, unfortunately one of our wines was corked. Otherwise, this was an instructive flight, with some wines declining and some on their way up. We threw in a top Vino Nobile di Montepulciano to shed light on a classic misnomer.

Red
2000 Antonio & Elio Monti Montepulciano d'Abruzzo Pignotto Italy, Abruzzi, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo
87 points
"Undeniably the greatest Montepulciano d'Abruzzo I have ever tasted," stated the Wine Advocate eight years ago, but this was our least favorite in this flight. Purple color, purple fruit, where's the tannin? The nose was weak, fruit was upfront, the midpalate weak, and the finish okay--"less generous, less interesting," this was the lightest of the four wines in this flight. A dozen tasters noted some slight brett with persimmon, black raspberry, cherry, pepper, slate, rose water, nectar, and even some anise flavors. A very drinkable wine, but not grand and Mr. Parker correctly noted this "greatest ever" was to be drunk a few years ago. It's a shame he didn't review the good vintage wines of Edoardo Valentini.
Red
2001 Cataldi Madonna Montepulciano d'Abruzzo Toni Italy, Abruzzi, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo
88 points
"Sweet, sweet,sweet," the Toni was enjoyed by its dozen tasters, but admired by none. With very ripe fruit, the wine needs food, maybe BBQ. Rather dark, it had some maple and oak on the nose, with flavors of grenadine, root beer, flat cola, chocolate, tar, earth, dark berries, clove, and some spice. It had good balance and drinks well now. A classic Montepulciano d'Abruzzo, in other words.
Red
2001 Azienda Agricola Valentini Montepulciano d'Abruzzo Italy, Abruzzi, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo
91 points
Probably too young now, this wine still was the favorite in our flight of Mont D'Abs. This wine has power and a complex nose, is slightly rustic with excellent balance and strong chocolate notes. For some tasters there was candied orange dipped in chocolate, light roasted coffee beans, cocoa nibs, lively/bright fruit, even mandarin and apple cobbler notes. Many tasters liked the balance and thought the wine would improve with age. A grand Montepulciano d'Abruzzo!
Red
2001 Binomio Montepulciano d'Abruzzo Italy, Abruzzi, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo
flawed
Unfortunately was corked, this was to be the fourth M d"Ab in a flight.
Red
2000 Poliziano Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Vigna Asinone Italy, Tuscany, Montepulciano, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano
91 points
Thrown into a flight of top Montepulciano d'Abruzzos to show the distinction of that varietal's namesake, this vineyard-designated Vino Nobile is quite good. Of course it is much lighter than the Mont d'Abs, but it has complex flavors and very good structure, and tied with an Edoardo Valentini wine for best in flight. Very ripe and balanced sangiovese here, the wine has a sweet nose and good acidity, is quite evolved with pronounced leather, dark fruit, cherry, some oak, and a smooth transition to the finish. A couple of tasters found some varnish and polish initially on the nose, but then they liked the balance and the fruit seemed to come through. Drinks well now.

Flight 2 - Some Northern Rossi (5 notes)

A variety of top reds from the northern provinces, "must-taste wines" to balance out our salon's southern wines.

Red
1988 Nino Negri Sfursat 5 Stelle Italy, Lombardia, Valtellina, Sforzato di Valtellina
Three groups tasted this wine, and for one group it was a stunning favorite (of the day) and for another group their least favorite wine of the flight. Our representative from Trentino thought the wine defective, while a CWE declared it absolutely wonderful. "The word for this wine was soft, soft nose, soft fruit....." The fruit was rich and ripe, a mix of red and black cherry. Some loved the wine's bouquet and its juiciness and candy. Like some amarones, plum and raisins were noted and the wine had an orange color, but there were also tar and rose notes. All said "drink up," and some raved on about the wine.
Red
2004 Nino Negri Sfursat 5 Stelle Italy, Lombardia, Valtellina, Sforzato di Valtellina
Two of the three groups that tasted this wine thought this the wine of the flight, quite "beautiful." From our Texan/Italian winemaker, "raisined, almost candied red fruits on nose, concentrated red fruit character on palate, med + acidity, med oak balances well with alcohol and fruit." To this we'll add that once the alcohol leaves the nose, the mouth feel and taste is quite scrumptious, with noted structure and cocoa, licorice, pepper, lots of minerality, figs, and black tea leaveson the palate and a pleasant bitterness. This wine is young and needs some time (we drank a 1988 along-side it, and it was peaking). Some thought the wine drank in stages and was going dumb, had much minerality and was a bit disjointed, but the finish lingered. Should be a great wine some day, and was a top wine of our afternoon.
Red
1999 Dorigo Friuli Colli Orientali Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso Montsclapade Italy, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Friuli Colli Orientali
This was quite an enjoyable wine for most, a favorite of a few. It had a clear, inky black purple color, was "lively and bright," "young and exciting," "vibrant"--ah, sweet youth. A taster found it had ripe plum and cooked fruits on the nose, was very amarone-like both in bouquet and on the palate; another thought the nose tight, and yet another found black fruit and minerals there. It had good acidity, refined fruit flavors (raspberry, baked black fruits), was dry (esp. compared to the Nino Negris), and had a long finish, "syrupy but balanced with alcohol." Probably will improve with some age.
Red
1997 Tenuta San Leonardo San Leonardo Italy, Trentino-Alto Adige, Trentino, Vallagarina IGT
This wine did not fare well in our northern rosso flight, and I would bet that on its own, with a lamb or beef dish, this wine would show quite well. But cast with flavor-packed wines, its cabernet sauv and franc characters of green and dill made it taste under-ripe and stemmy, rather one-dimensional. We included this wine in a rather miscellaneous flight because this may be northern Italy's best cabernet and it has a dozen tre bicchieris for such a claim. Here it showed pencil, graphite, grass and herbs, no fruit, and had some barnyard and spice on the nose. Indeed a few people enjoyed the wine, with its oak and green vegetable character. For others the "canned corn, asparagus, okra" and medicinal flavors were off-putting. C'est le vin.
Red
2001 Foradori Granato Italy, Trentino-Alto Adige, Vigneti delle Dolomiti IGT
Concentrated dark red purple color, still looked youthful, cherry pit, anise, with slight dust on nose, more concentrated red fruits and rose petal, anise fades to back end, still fresh with acidity, delicious wine drinking very well (thank you, Bill). Most of our group liked this wine for its balance and round flavors, of plum and concentrated fruit, tobacco, leather, smoke, and baking spices. It had a deep red/purple cpolor, was musky with a bit of barnyard and soy smell, and had some earthy minerality and rusticity--what many of us like in Italian indigenous reds. This went great with a wild duck sugo!

Flight 3 - Siciliani Tre Bicchieri (5 notes)

Five very top wines from Sicily, including three nero d'avolas and a nenello. This was a disappointing flight for most of the tasters, but maybe it was the company these wines were keeping. I enjoyed them for what they were, fine quaffs as you seek out Tunisia in the horizon.

Red
2000 Morgante Nero d'Avola Sicilia Don Antonio Italy, Sicily, Sicilia
Overall the second favorite wine in a flight of five Siciliani tre bicchieri, this wine had a lot of black cherry and dried fruit character. A well-made wine, it was quite ripe and extracted, and had good balance, though lacked some adicity. A Christmas wine, with syrupy and extracted flavors of chocolate-covered cherries, stewed fruits, ginger, plums, and raisins--perhaps mince-meat pie with dried cherries. A good finish.
Red
1997 Planeta Noto Santa Cecilia Italy, Sicily, Noto
The first year of this wine, where 15% syrah was added to the nero d'avola, it placed in the middle of our pack of five tre bicchieri sicilian reds. The Santa Cecilia was very quaffable, with sweet, pleasant fruit and a good mouth-feel and finish. With some oakiness noted, it had molasses on the nose and was well-balanced with a nice red fruit earthiness (cranberry, plum, black cherry), some spice notes, good acidity, and a short finish.
Red
2000 Cottanera Sicilia Sole di Sesta Italy, Sicily, Sicilia
This syrah finished at the bottom of our siciliani tre bicchieri, as it seemed more new world and less nuanced than our other wines. For some it was too green and vegetal, with notes of canned asparagus, menthol, okra--this group tasted it an hour after the wine was opened. Another group, tasting the wine after it was first opened, found a smokiness and deep and ripe red fruits, strong tannins, good acidity, and little nuance to the wine (like the nero d'avolas showed). So the wine's fruit and balance seemed to diminish an hour after opening--better drink up!
Red
2003 Donnafugata Contessa Entellina Mille e una notte Italy, Sicily, Contessa Entellina
1001 over-ripe and under-ripe vegetables and fruits, the wine was tannic and disjointed. Initially we detected roasted chilis and green pepper, with good acidity and a chalky finish, but the wine became somewhat funky as it had air, with more menthol and green notes evolving. It didn't work for most of the tasters. However, it was one seasoned tasters' favorite of the flight.
Red
2000 Palari Faro Italy, Sicily, Faro
The overall favorite of the flight, what was not to like. This seemed a feminine wine, light in color, quite floral and spicy, might even work with seafood. It was elegant and had a silky mouthfeel, and a sweet tea character. It had some good fruit and a dark chocolate component that faded at the midpalate, and a short finish. An interesting and tasty wine, liked by all though not in the top half of this salon's wines.

Flight 4 - Sacre Sagrantino (5 notes)

A look at an upstart indigenous grape varietal grown on about 350 acres (the size of Pichon Baron and Pichon Lalande) mostly around a lovely Umbrian town, Montefalco. This simple horizontal represents a third of the grapes producers.

Red
1995 Arnaldo-Caprai Sagrantino di Montefalco Italy, Umbria, Montefalco, Sagrantino di Montefalco
Three groups tasted this wine, and it was far and above the favorite of the sagrantino flight of one (scores of 92-95) and the least favorite of another (scores of 82-83)........ Its fans first (after wine opened 45 minutes) : Brown / red brick color, orange brown rim, slightly cloudy, intense red fruit and floral nose, red fruits and dried flowers on the palate, still lively with acidity, drying earth driven finish. It was dry with serious acidity, "West Texas dust storm, red sand in the teeth" said one taster. It needs food, with its dry tannins, and had flavors of cherry, leather, stewed fruits, fresh fig, dried herbs, baking spices. A lively, somewhat volatile wine. Our resident wine doctor thought it needed more time...... The detractors (after the wine was opened an hour and a half) thought it had a slight nose, earthy soil and minerality, lacked fruit, showed alcohol, and was past its prime. We could have tasted a 1997 Caprai XXV but we wanted to evaluate a regular sagrantino fifteen years old. I think the majority of tasters ruled that they enjoyed the 1995 Caprai very much, and consistently said it needed food; the minority's dislike may have been that the fruit of the wine dissipated after more than an hour of air.
Red
1997 Tili Umbria Sacreterre Italy, Umbria
So this sagrantino is "sacratino" on the label, hence the sacreterre nomenclature, and it is not from Montefalco but near Assisi. The wine was the least favorite of the four sagrantinos in our flight, and was enjoyable. It showed more age than the 1995 Caprai, with a garnet/brick color fading to a lighter red rim, with a clean, earthy nose--one taster found banana he. The flavors were abundant, with many tasters picking up milk chocolate and cocoa powder and chocolate milk, and much more red fruit on the palate than the nose. Other flavor notes included lots of spices, evergreen, cherry cola, mint, stems, mushrooms, clay minerality. It had medium-plus body, medium acidity, and a medium finish. Most tasters scored this wine around 88 points..
Red
1999 Paolo Bea Sagrantino di Montefalco Secco Italy, Umbria, Montefalco, Sagrantino di Montefalco
The favorite sagrantino of one group, the least favorite of another. The fans: red brown hue – slightly orange rim variation, dried and concentrated baked fruits, cherry, raspberry, cranberry. Very rich, firm tannin, mouth filling fruit character, very persistent finish, great length (thank you, Bill of Mandola Wines). One taster noted it had a tawny-like character, with dark chocolate, dried fruits, figs, dried herbs, and, again, a long finish. Another thought of cherry brandy. You liked this wine a lot, or didn"t. The didn'ts: nasty nose, ethyl acetate, VA, stewed fruit.....dumped out. Sounds almost like port....you like it or don't. I've had numerous bottles of this wine in this vintage, and for those I drank it with, it was typically a tasty revelation, and had much more impact than an Arnaldo Caprai introduction. I think some of the Bea detractors enjoyed the dry character of the other sagrantinos in this flight, and this was rather like having a recioto among several valpolicellas........ Paolo Bea is a controversial one.
Red
2001 Perticaia Sagrantino di Montefalco Italy, Umbria, Montefalco, Sagrantino di Montefalco
This wine might need some time, seemed more new world in style and had noticeable oak. It had a ruby/purple color and a faded ruby rim, gripping tannins and good acidity, was dense and tasted young, did not have much flavor yet, though dark fruit and mint were noted. Needs food and probably more time. Had a bitter finish, with a slight green character.
Red
2001 Scacciadiavoli Sagrantino di Montefalco Italy, Umbria, Montefalco, Sagrantino di Montefalco
A disappointment, for this was to be our fifth bottle in a flight of sagrantino with some age. Universally declared a corked bottle.

Flight 5 - Definitive Barbera (5 notes)

One of the best flights of this Italian red salon, all five wines were quite alive and kicking, and showed that barbera can age quite well for ten or more years. Those tasters who ranked the wines consistently gave all the wines 90 to 95 point scores. A 1998 Michele Chiarlo le Court Barbera, consumed during a food break, was also quite remarkable.

Red
1996 Coppo Barbera d'Asti Pomorosso Italy, Piedmont, Asti, Barbera d'Asti
An old school barbera, this was a surprisingly good wine for its dozen tasters. Ready nose, with an "amazing" and floral nose, the wine was dry with medium tannins, good acidity, and good balance. It finished short. Lots of noted flavors: dark and tart cherry, leather, dry fruit, cedar box, root beer, spice, earth, smoke, salami and meat. This wine was good enough that at the end of our salon a couple of tasters approached and wanted to know more about the wine: it was probably the cheapest wine we drank this day, I responded.
Red
1999 Hastae Barbera d'Asti Quorum Italy, Piedmont, Asti, Barbera d'Asti
The easiest drinking barbera in the flight, some found the wine to be delicious, with a fine balance of fruit and earth, and some pronounced ripe and dark cherry notes. The favorite of one tasting group, it had an all-spice nose, medium tannin, and some barnyard character, along with additional raspberry, rhubarb, and pepper flavors. One tasting group found the wine boring, pruny, ripe with tomato flavors, and barnyard-this group tasted the wine after it was initially opened, so maybe the wine developed with air as the other two groups were fans of the Quorum. This is a consortium wine, with two of its producers represented in this flight (coppo and braida, and a third, michele chiarlo, had its le court consumed happily during a break ).
Red
1999 La Spinetta (Rivetti) Barbera d'Asti Superiore (Bionzo) Italy, Piedmont, Asti, Barbera d'Asti Superiore
Luscious, ripe cherry fruit with a big upfront, it fell off and had a short finish. It had the darkest fruit in this barbera flight, had good structure, strong tannins, the highest acidity among the five barberas, and a modern style, where the oak was noticeable. Quite extracted, a food wine.
Red
2000 Roberto Voerzio Barbera d'Alba Riserva Vigneto Pozzo dell'Annunziata Italy, Piedmont, Alba, Barbera d'Alba
The overall favorite amang a very strong flight of five barberas, this had great extraction of fruit, was "bready, yeasty, huge, rich, awesome." With a closed nose, it was balanced, juicy, but not quite ready to drink. The nose developed after awhile, and the wine was then noted for a silky texture, great balance, flavors of candied red cherry, sweet spice, strawberry, leather, graphite, and cedar. Available only as a magnum.
Red
2005 Braida (Giacomo Bologna) Barbera d'Asti Bricco dell'Uccellone Italy, Piedmont, Asti, Barbera d'Asti
The young wine in our group of five barberas and drank in magnum, it was quite perfumey, had lively acidity, good structure, big tannins, a huge palate, and was oh-so-young--needs at least five years. Characterized by sweet, dark cherry fruit and strong tannins, and some coffee bean, some though it uncharacteristic of a barbera.....but then what was it? Young, rich barbera.

Flight 6 - Brilliant 1997 Sangiovese (5 notes)

A look at representative Toscano sangioveti from a great vintage for the grape, the wines are just beginning to come around, with the exception of a top Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, seemingly a bid tired.

Red
1997 Fontodi Chianti Classico Italy, Tuscany, Chianti, Chianti Classico DOCG
A very fine Chianti that showed well alongside the powerful Tuscan sangioveti in this flight. it was the favorite of one tasting group, probably costing less than 20% of some of the other wines here. It was of course the lightest in color of the group but had a rich nose of mushrooms, truffles, leather, and earth, an interesting structure, good acidity, and had the cherry, leather, baking spice notes of classic chiantis. This is a food wine, and at least should have some bread and olive oil to show its fruit and earth brilliance. Will age. Very fine indeed, and rewards those who held off drinking 1997 Chianti.
Red
1997 Fattoria di Fèlsina Berardenga Chianti Classico Riserva Rancia Italy, Tuscany, Chianti, Chianti Classico DOCG
A light, elegant wine with a nice lift through the mid-palate, the tannins are well-integrated and the balance quite good. There is more rich fruit and mineral on this single vineyard, riserva Chianti than the Classico, more intensity, with some chalkiness, clay, dried floral, raspberry, dusty cherry notes. This was the overall favorite of the flight, though all the wines were close in the taster's rankings.
Red
1997 Avignonesi Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Riserva Grandi Annate Italy, Tuscany, Montepulciano, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano
A great Tuscan red, this 1997 drank well and should have eclipsed the Chiantis in our flight, but alas..... Almost liqueur-like, this is a dark and quite ripe sangiovese, perfumey with fine structure and a soft palate. Lots of flavors, including sweet cherry, minerals, mint, earth, spice, flowers. Bright with fruit on the midpalate, the finish fell flat. Might have been better a couple of years ago as the balance was slightly off.
Red
1997 Pian Delle Vigne (Antinori) Brunello di Montalcino Italy, Tuscany, Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino
The third vintage of this top Brunello, this wine should have captured the 1997 Sangiovese flag, but fell short. It may still be young, but this was an elegant drink. Rich and full with a muted nose and good acidity, there is pronounced cherry, raisin, stewed tomatoes, some chocolate and blueberry, and minerals on the palate. Brooding, with no high notes yet, some tasters thought the wine needs another ten years and will be outstanding.
Red
1997 Isole e Olena Cepparello Toscana IGT Italy, Tuscany, Toscana IGT
Rustic and funky, with strong tannins, upon opening this tasted rather like a Gigondas, but then with air and time developed into a rich, ripe, balanced drink. It has a slight new world character, with integrated oak, was dark for a sangiovese and had some uncharacteristic coffee flavors, but its dried, bright fruit carried it to become the favorite of one of our tasting groups.

Flight 7 - Brunello di Montalcino Vecchio (5 notes)

The 1990 vintage sang, the 1985 disappointed, an off-year was so-so.

Red
1985 Poggio Antico Brunello di Montalcino Italy, Tuscany, Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino
There were two takes on the wine, which was opened and then tasted by three groups at the same time. The wine's fans, mostly in one group, found it rustic, with a brick-ish color and caramel and maple on the nose, spice on the palate, It had some noticeable oak still, and notes of big red cherry, charcoal, cinnamon, and cardamon, with some floral tones. About half of the tasters did not enjoy the wine--found a funky, dry fruit nose and a thin, metallic, one-dimensional side of the wine, described as like "licking a tin can." For them this 1985 was flat, had a tart, bitter taste, fell short, was raisinated: "it is what rap is to a symphony." But with no Ice Cube for this tea.
Red
1985 Pertimali (Livio Sassetti) Brunello di Montalcino Italy, Tuscany, Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino
flawed
Most tasters thought this wine corked, though initially several tasters thought it just over-the-hill, with no tannins left and a tea characteristic, described as having a good mouthfeel and mid-palate.
Red
1990 Castelgiocondo (Marchesi de' Frescobaldi) Brunello di Montalcino Italy, Tuscany, Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino
The two 1990 brunellos showed well in this flight. This wine was vibrant and exciting, with balance and bright, big fruit. Initially it had barnyard and earth on the nose, which grew meatier, had spice, black cherry, blackberry, plum on the palate, good mouth-feel, some green-ness, and a disappointing, short finish. Some thought it might improve with a bit of time.
Red
1990 Azienda Agricola La Torre Brunello di Montalcino Italy, Tuscany, Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino
Reminds of the 1990 Beausejour-Duffau, as in "where did this wine come from?" I've had half a dozen bottles of this wine over the years and it always has drunk well, surpassed expectations, and raised the "what is it" question among drinkers, with the answer simple: a great vintage and good timing in the field. This was the favorite wine of most of this flight's tasters. It had a floral, violet nose, good acidity, structure, and back-palate, with an excellent finish. Some thought it feminine, describing it as elegant, aromatic, earth. Licorice flavors were noted, as well as raspberry, grilled meat, smoke. "Mellow," with good depth and noticeable balance, it probably won't get any better than now. And how.....
Red
1994 Tenuta Greppo (Biondi-Santi) Brunello di Montalcino Italy, Tuscany, Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino
An off year for Brunello, but we thought this might drink well now as our experience with Biondi-Santi is that the brunellos take years to come around, this wine was good but lacked the excitement of our excellent 1990 brunellos. It was musky and tart, threw sediment, seemed in decline. It had some lleather, Asian spice, and must on the nose, dried fruit and raisins on the palate, excessive acidity, and was not quite balanced. "It underwhelmed." But it probably drank as well as any 1994 Brunello and a few people enjoyed it and scored it well..
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Flight 8 - World-Class Merlot (5 notes)

An extraordinary group of Italian merlots tasted alongside a Pomerol by a dozen experienced salon-ers.

Red
1996 Tenuta dell'Ornellaia Masseto Toscana IGT Italy, Tuscany, Toscana IGT
The favorite in a stupendous group of Italian merlot, this seemed almost perfect, with fine acidity, elegance, and power. It had a fading garnet color, with no bricking, it showed rich, beauftiful aromatics, great acidity and balance, much complexity. It had some dusty earth and meat taste components: one taster called it rare steak, another forest juniper. it had rose petals, cherries, tea, pepper, green peppercorn, spice, some bell pepper, "beautiful pure fruit.". A couple of us thought it quite like Bdx right bank, and it reminded me of 1989 and 1990 L'Angelus. I really liked the way its acidity worked with the grape. For some this Masseto was even restrained, perhaps young and might improve over the next five years. Still, how much can it improve? This is simply a top floor merlot!
Red
1998 Fattoria Petrolo Galatrona Italy, Tuscany, Toscana IGT
Located quite a distance from our other Tuscan merlots in this flight,the winery is not even in Chianti but the Colli Arretini, not far from Fattoria La Selva, a Chianti Producer and villa renter I have visited many times. This small area happened to make very good 1998's and it shows here. Much more ruby than garnet in color, with a light ruby rim, a burnt component to the nose, with some heat/alcohol and much acidity, very dry tannins, and ripe fruits. Seems quite young. Some thought it was a bit thin on palate and very soft: "why Americans like merlot," was a comment. Like "sleeping on a down feather mattress," another. But still lots of grip on this wine, the dry tannins noticeable. Tremendous balance but a weak finish, will benefit with some more bottle age we think.
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Red
1999 Tua Rita Redigaffi Toscana IGT Italy, Tuscany, Toscana IGT
The second favorite wine of a great Italian merlot flight, for most tasters this was just a bit less than the Masseto in the flight. It needed time to open up, had a dense garnet color, with a fading garnet rim, on the nose had some ripe cherry, chocolate, earth, floral, slight herb, a hint of VA. The palate had very ripe fruit, was slightly out of balance with more fruit than acidity (whereas the Masseto was very balanced here). Food worked great with this wine, bringing out plum and cherry flavors through to an excellent finish. Blueberry, brown sugar, stewed/baked blueberry flavors also noted. "Massive, beautiful now, will last ten more years," but the wine had a few detractors: "very American, pales in comparison with the Italian acidities, unfocused. Overall, probably averaged a 95-96 score for the scorers.
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Red
1999 Le Macchiole Messorio Toscana IGT Italy, Tuscany, Toscana IGT
"If Dal Forno or Quintarelli made a merlot......." This was a controversial wine, some loving it and some not (reminiscent of the Nino Negris also at this salon). The afficionados: Powerful, great structure, candied, exotic, wild. For me, it tasted much like a Peter Paul Mounds candy bar, with very strong chocolate and coconut flavors (repeatedly noted by the tasters). Some also noted flavors of pineapple, raisins, cough medicine, caramel, toffee, nougat, vanilla, ripe jam. It was deep garnet in color, with an almost opaque center, and seemed like it had much alcohol, but didn't (13.5%)-- was "Plush." Definitely a one-of-a-kind, quite distinctive wine (like Quintarelli Alzero for cab franc). The critics added: tastes like a Washington syrah, too much "death by oak," "smells like dishwater," too volatile. The "mound" of the top floor.
Red
1998 Château La Fleur de Gay France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Pomerol
Why a Bordeaux in the midst of the top Italian merlots in a flight? Because Bordeaux merlot is the obvious benchmark for most of us, and La Fleur de Gay is traditionally one of only two Bordeauxs that is not a blend (the other, Gomerie)--it is 100% merlot. And we had this Pomerol that was the same age as our Italians......so what happened? Well, I noticed at the end of this salon all the Italian merlot had been drunk but there was still some wine left in the La Fleur de Gay bottle........oh, well. Medium garnet with a light brick/brown rim, this was very elegant and balanced, feminine, and had a much more mineral component than fruit. "I could take a bath in this," was one comment. It had good alcidity, some smokiness, some dark fruit (but not much), cassis, rose petals, pencil lead, wet leaves. The excellent balance and finish were consistently noted ("the finish is killer"), and tasters thought it might improve in 5+ years. The difference for most of us, as this was drunk against Masseto, Redigaffi, et al, was that the Italian merlots were overall quite luscious with chocolate berry fruit, and had surprising structure and elegance "to boot" (good pun); this Pomerol was more subtle and nuanced, had a strong mineral component and was admired for its balance and finish, with almost a different Merlot grape at work here. Hills versus dales.

Flight 9 - Barolo Vecchio (with one Barbaresco) (5 notes)

A fifty year old barolo shone, the quarter century wines were quite debatable.

Red
1961 Giacomo Borgogno & Figli Barolo Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo
The oldest wine tasted at this Italian red salon, and the favorite of many tasters. We'll start with taster Bill's notes and go from there: "bright, slightly maroon brickish with hints of red fruits, violets and rich tobacco on the nose, not as earth-driven and tannic which is often the case with younger Barolos I have had. Still very fresh on palate, medium acidity, tannin that has significantly softened but is still there. Fruits of sour cherry and cranberry with violets and smoky tobacco. Was exactly what I was hoping for with a 50 year old Barolo." We'll add that the wine was very balanced and had a jam component, one taster thought of strawberry preserves, the fruit coating the mouth, had some cordial cherry and flower notes. Those who scored put it into high 90's, a detractor thought there was an off-putting prune component.
Red
1978 Pio Cesare Barolo Riserva Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo
Most of the tasters liked this wine, one of the three tasting groups thought it the best of the vecchio barolo in the flight, et the wine had its detractors. It had a red/maroon color but had a car exhaust, old parchment nose. The palate was good but most thought it declining and somewhat tight. Flavor notes included cranberry, persimmon, pomegranate, barely-ripe cherry. There was some tartness to the wine, and some tasters thought the palate was weak. I have had a half dozen bottles from this case and found much variation. At an earlier, Piemonte wine salon, a bottle of this 1978 riserva was the favorite of the crowd out of 25 wines; and the next bottle was oxidized. I thought the bottle tasted here a bit less than average in this batch.
Red
1985 Vietti Barolo Castiglione Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo
Overall the least liked wine of this flight, one taster thought it like "an old, cold cup of coffee." The wine lacked structure and complexity, was flat, had a rubber component. One taster thought the nose resembled caramel popcorn, another the wine had some raspberry flavor. A few people enjoyed the wine, with slightly raisined fruit on nose, richer with less acidity than the 1985 Vietti Rocche tasted alongside it. It "seemed to have more warm weather feel to it with the roundness on the palate-still very good," was one pronouncement.
Red
1985 Vietti Barolo Rocche Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo
Liked more by salon tasters than the 1985 Vietti Castiglione, but less than the 1985 Produttori Barbaresco Asili, the Rocche had a beautiful nose, was well-balanced, but had little back-end. It had nice acidity, weak tannins, and clean red fruit, including a pronounced Queen Anne cherry flavor. After awhile the wine fell apart, but its acidity gave it another level of flavor that its 1985 Castiglione sibling lacked. Had some leather, earth forest floor and pipe tobacco flavors. A nice quarter century drink.
Red
1985 Produttori del Barbaresco Barbaresco Riserva Asili Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barbaresco
The favorite wine in this flight of old Barolo of one group, and the least favorite of another, most thought this 1985 Barbaresco better than the two Vietti 1985 Barolos. To bring Bill from Mandola wines back into this: "More of an intense sour red fruits and earth nose than the Barolos, more of a feminine and delicate mouth feel but the fruit and earth flavors seemed more intense. The aromatics coupled with a softer mouth feel and the depth on the finish separated this wine from the others." Its fans thought it quite approachable, forward, a lovely big wine with a nice palate. The group who didn't like it so much noted it had a cloudy color, much sediment, had lost its acidity and was not balanced, lacked flavor and had a tart finish. All salon-ers here tasted the wine soon after being opened, so the difference among their tasting experience here is one of personal taste, as each group had its dissenter.
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