More Piemontese Wines
Ratti has taken over the reins of this esteemed property from his late father and the
wines are better than ever.
Renato was quite an ambassador for the wines of
the Barolo area, making a map of the region and highlighting what he felt were the top
"vineyard sites" or "crus." Visit more than a
handful of cellars in the Langhe and you'll, no doubt, find Renato Ratti's
map of the area posted. We see this bit of 'art' work everywhere in
the Barolo region.
The winery is in the La Morra zip code and Ratti
produces very good and very typical wines from this region.
Though he's quite a progressive and modern fellow, Ratti has a sense of
tradition and makes wines which are in a classic style, but you'll sense and
"air" of modernity here. This is a cellar rooted in
tradition, but aware of modern conveniences such as electricity and such.
Years ago, as we discussed the notion of deeply-colored Barolo and
Barbaresco wines. Signor Ratti explained that he and his father
(especially) tried every sort of winemaking technique to enhance the color
of these Nebbiolo-based wines. "If you see a wine darker in color
than this," Pietro explained, "it's probably a wine that's not
A new cellar has been completed, built into the hillside and providing a
measure of natural cooling. From their vantage point in La Morra you can see a panorama
from Alba (and beyond) to the Serralunga valley, Castiglione Falletto and
south to Barolo and Monforte.
The cellar has impressive stainless steel, temperature-controlled
The wood-aging cellar features French oak
barriques, but also large wood to that their wines don't taste like
Ratti makes a dynamite red called "Villa
Pattono," a blend this vintage of 50% Barbera from near Asti, along with 30% Cabernet
and 20% Merlot. Matured entirely in new French oak....this is a
"Super-Piemontese" red, competing quite easily with those wines known as
"Super Tuscans." Unlike many Tuscan wines, this arrives here
for a price which the wine easily justifies.
We opened a bottle of 1995 in the Spring of 2006. I happened to stash
a bottle and found it while rummaging around the back room. It was a
nice "old" wine.
Complex? To a degree.
Was it worth saving for so many
years? Probably not. The Villa Pattono wines made today are
probably best enjoyed when the wood is sort of fresh and cedary.
is a name you will find on the Barolo of Ratti. They have three
bottlings, usually. One is the "simple" Marcenasco.
The other two are the "Conca di Marcenasco" and the "Rocche
di Marcenasco" wines.
I liked the 2003 Barolo called "Conca di Marcenasco." This
wine is a bit unusual, reminding me of
Barolo-Meets-Northern-Rhone-Syrah. There was an unusual character to the
wine that is reminiscent of some Cote-Rotie or Cornas wines when it was
released in 2007. We tasted this twice in 2009 and now it's classic
Barolo...the spice notes are a bit subdued and the leathery Nebbiolo is
starting to shine.
The 2004s are delightful and young. You can drink them at this
stage, if you like, but patience will be rewarded as the wines will
blossom, unfold and turn into far more complex wines if left for a decade,
These are going to be grand.
I found the 2005 Marcenasco to also be quite good. It is a wine
which comes close to matching the 2004 in terms of quality. Many
Barolo producers made good wines in 2005, but for many, 2004 is the
superior vintage. But for some estates, the 2005 vintage rivals the
2004s. It's a somewhat modern-styled wine at this stage
and I suspect in a decade it will show itself to be a more
2011 Dolcetto from Ratti is very good.
This is not a major wine in terms of complexity, but it is a remarkably
delicious rendition and it's a great example of what sort of charm
Dolcetto can have. Medium ruby in color, the wine is teeming
with berry-like fruit aromas and flavors. Ratti does a good job in
producing a balanced wine and one for immediate drinking. You can
chill a bottle tonight and serve it with all sorts of foods. We have
it sale-tagged at $13.99 (these days most
Dolcetto wines are $16-$25 a bottle).
The 2010 Nebbiolo d'Alba is another well-made, good value red from
Piemonte. It's a medium-bodied Nebbiolo and with bright fruit aromas
and flavors at this stage. If you were to keep this for a couple of
years, it will change into something else...a more 'serious' red wine
showing more earthy notes than fruit. Still, this is a delight in
its youth and pairing it with tomato-sauced pastas, vitello tonnato,
carne cruda, etc. will show of this wine beautifully.
The 2011 Barbera d'Alba follows in the footsteps of its predecessors, which was my top wine in a recent
blind-tasting. I liked a number of the wines in the line-up, finding
the Ratti to strike a nice balance between oak and fruit. The wood
is present, but it's not the focal point of the wine.
((I also thought Franco Massolino's 2010 was exceptional and that has no
oak, near as I can tell.))
Good bang for the buck here...
Ratti, too, is sensitive to the cost of his wine and he's worked to have
them arrive here at honest prices. In fact, they're bargains.
In May of 2008, Pietro shared several magnums of wines, two of them
Barolo wines from unheralded vintages.
A 1987 Barolo, a 1993 Rocche Barolo and their 1997 Nebbiolo d'Alba were
shared by Pietro Ratti at a spectacular table in the Langhe.
The 1987 Barolo was the last vintage vinified by Pietro's father, Renato
Ratti. It was still quite alive and it blossomed nicely over the
course of an hour, or so. It was paired with oven-roasted kid goat.
- Currently in stock: 2004 Barolo "Conca" $89.99
2004 Villa Pattono SALE $26.99
2003 Barolo "Marcenasco" (list $52) SALE
2004 Barolo "Rocche" (List $115) SALE
2004 Barolo "Marcenasco" $55.99
2005 Barolo "Marcenasco" $49.99
2011 Dolcetto d'Alba SALE $13.99
2010 Nebbiolo d'Alba $19.99
2011 Barbera d'Alba $18.99
Now I understand why they make a wine called
A magnum of 1987...the last vintage vinified by Renato Ratti before he
Tasted in 2008, this was a lovely wine...still showing a lot of vitality
and nicely complex!
Pietro Ratti in the Fall of 2009.
We took him to dinner in San Francisco and the 'surprise'
bottle of wine we had was his father's 1967 Barolo.
This was exceptional...still alive and complex, with leathery and tarry
- ELIO ALTARE
fellow always seems somewhat shocked by all the praise and adulation heaped on his wines.
I recall first meeting him on a trip to Piemonte with Randall Grahm. This
photo on the right was taken on that visit many years ago!
Altare's vineyards and winery are
located in the Annunziata "Frazione" of La Morra. A bit off the beaten
path of a typical winding "spaghetti road," Altare cultivates a small vineyard
in the Arborina area. He has about 15 acres, so production is not huge.
Our visit was interesting as Elio and Randall compared notes on winemaking. Altare
was quite excited to bounce his ideas off Randall and he enthusiastically offered us
Barbera and Nebbiolo wines to taste. Frankly, I thought everything merely tasted of
oak. When Randall and I departed, I said the only way you could tell the wines apart
was by the color, Barbera being a bit deeper in hue.
Of course, many wine writers embraced this "new style" of wine, the oak being
something which they could understand more easily than the aromas and flavors of Nebbiolo
Over the years the wines of Altare have become more refined. Though a couple of
"Langhe" wines are French oak-matured, they do show some fruit to go along with
all that oak. These are Langhe Arborina (Nebbiolo) and Langhe Larigi (Barbera).
Langhe "La Villa" is a blend of Nebbiolo and Barbera.
We see a few bottles of his "normal" (ha! Like Altare makes
"normal" wines!!!) Dolcetto, Barbera and Barolo. The Dolcetto
and Barbera wines usually show some elegance and balance. Dolcetto is properly
fruity and not tannic to excess. Signor Altare has really become a wine
"master" over the years, creating some exceptional wines!
tends to be a medium-weight wine and, though oak-aged, isn't loaded with wood.
There's a supple texture to the wine....I would say that's Altare's
Altare lost most of one good vintage as his cork supplier provided him with
a batch of corks which had a very high failure rate. This entanglement
made for quite a court case, with the results being somewhat a "private
matter." All we learned was that Altare would continue to use the
same firm whose corks were defective. This would lead one to suspect
the cork purveyor was not entirely at fault in the wine from that vintage
(1997) having some problems.
In November of 2002 we opened a bottle of 1985 Barolo "Vigna
Arborina." The wine was fantastic! Still quite alive and
vital, with a beautiful bouquet and great aromas. On the palate there
was still a bit of tannin which bodes well if YOU have any bottles in your
stash of wines (this was my last bottle and it died a noble
2006 is a
delight. It is certainly drinkable now, but if you can exercise a bit
of restraint, you'll be handsomely rewarded. I'd expect this vintage
can be cellared for 10-15 years, certainly. Today the wine seems
to show a glimpse of what it promises. Dark cherry notes with a bit of
plum and a touch of a woodsy spice quality...It's certainly the work of a
We also have the 2010 Barbera d'Alba. Here's a delightfully exuberant
Barbera...loads of dark fruits...not "fortified" with Barolo...It
spent a brief maturation period in seasoned French oak barrels, so wood is
not a major part of this wine's make-up. It's probably best consumed
in its youth, while it offers lots of dark berry notes.
- Currently in stock:
2006 ALTARE BAROLO SALE $99.99
2010 ALTARE BARBERA D'ALBA $26.99
- AURELIO SETTIMO
- A modest little azienda in the Barolo-area village of La Morra, the Settimo
family makes very traditional wines. Interestingly, their wines are
imported by a local grape-grower/wine broker who is a friend of the Settimo family.
Settimo has just seven hectares of vineyards. The winery has been in operation since
1962 Aurelio worked up until his death in March of 2007 and the place
is now totally operated by his daughter, Tiziana (who's a delightful
Aurelio's parents settled on the property during World War II and the farm had
all sorts of activities, with wine grapes as merely once facet of the
business. Domenico Settimo passed away in the early 1960s and it was
at that point that grape growing and winemaking became the focus here.
Traditionally-styled Nebbiolo wines are produced at this little
cellar. They make two bottlings of Barolo, a 'regular' and a single
vineyard "Rocche" bottling. There's a Nebbiolo Langhe and a
tiny bit of Dolcetto.
Over the years they've refined the winemaking, reducing the amount of skin contact given
to their Barolo, though Tiziana explains they typically have about 15 days of skin contact
during fermentation of their Barolo. Like many "traditional" winemakers,
they view the use of new oak as robbing the wine of aging potential and changing the
inherent character of "Barolo."
Their 1993 Barolo
"Rocche" was a marvelous wine! It has a modest amount of tannin, though it is certainly very drinkable now with savory
foods. We had a bottle with Jonathan and Lucy Tollgate's outstanding
home-grown veggies and bagna cauda in 2000. Though the vintage was
not highly-regarded, it's impressive that Settimo made such a good wine.
We have their 2003 Barolo "Rocche." I probably
should point out there are several "Rocche" sites in the Barolo zone, notably in
Castiglione Falletto and one in La Morra.
Of course, Settimo's comes from La Morra (even more specifically, short of longitude and
latitude, within the Marcenasco area of Annunziata). It's been said this little
patch yields a Barolo with hints of truffle fragrances. Settimo's holdings here are
planted exclusively to the Lampia sub-variety of Nebbiolo. I don't know what
you can do, armed with all this information. Hopefully your friends will be
The 2003 Settimo is
old-school winemaking, a very nice wine. I find the wine to be fairly tannic, but certainly drinkable now, especially with
"Barolo"-foods. There's a ripe berry note to the fruit along
with a hint of leather. The wine will probably last, well-stored, for
another 5-15 years, maybe longer. It shows a nice "woodsy"
note, as well. The price is most fair, especially since Barolo has
become such a fashionably expensive wine.
I had the opportunity to taste an old Barolo from Settimo in April of
2008. I guessed it to be the 1979. It was their 1978. And
the wine was quite impressive as it displayed the truffle-like notes of good
Nebbiolo with a hint of a tarry element. It was a world away from the
"gobs of fruit" wines so popular in the New World today!
The 1999 Rocche, tasted in Spring of 2009, is blossoming beautifully...it
has the truffle-like fragrances we expect in this wine. It's
medium-bodied on the palate and still mildly tannic. I recall tasting
this in its youth when it was rather peppery, but didn't find the spice
notes at this stage. Very good now and it should cellar well for
another 5-10 years, well-stored.
We keep hoping some importer will start bringing in Settimo's Barolo
- Currently available: 2003 Barolo "Rocche" Now
- Photo: The late Aurelio Settimo on the left, his cellar helper in the
middle and daughter Tiziana with the bottle and big smile.
The 1979, tasted in 2010.
- Now under the ownership of the Antinori "empire" from Tuscany, this
winery had been making good wines for many years. The winery is located just on the
outskirts of the city of Alba, a central location given they're making wines from fruit
grown to the south in Barolo and the north in Asti and Barbaresco.
To our taste, the wines are a bit superficial and perhaps lacking the 'soul'
of wines produced by wineries with a bit more focus and attention to detail
in the vineyard.
As for their once grand Barolo wines these days...they're well off the pace set by good, small,
artisan producers. We're sad to see this brand turning out such
standard to ordinary quality wines...you'd think, given the resources of the
Antinori family, this place would have higher standards. Or, maybe
Currently available: Special order
- I know some critics will tell you there's "too much oak being used in
making Barolo" these days.
The Boroli winery in Castiglione Falletto is one of Piemonte's
"woodiest" wineries. But that's because the outside of the
facility is covered in staves from old oak barrels!
The Boroli family, long-time book and map industry folks, sold their
publishing interests and bought some vineyards. The family owns two
vineyard sites, one north of Alba that's about 26 hectares. Here they
cultivate Dolcetto in a place ideally suited to that variety.
In the Barolo zone, they own about 10 hectares in Castiglione Falletto and it's
here they have a winery where you will find tons of oak. They purchased
this property from a big negociant firm and remodeled the winery, essentially
building a brand new facility which was designed by one of the four Boroli
brothers (who's an architect). The outside of the building is covered in
staves from oak cooperage which they "inherited" from the previous
Their tasting room sits atop the winemaking facility and cellar. From here
you can have a wonderful look to the towns of Barolo and La Morra.
They have quite a range of cooperage, allowing them to balance
the use of oak in their wines.
The firm owns vineyards in two "grand" cru sites in
Barolo: One hectare of vines is located just outside the winery door in
the "Villero" cru and they purchased (in 2003) a small parcel of 1.2
hectares in the Cerequio cru. They also make a "Bussia"
bottling of Barolo along with a "simple" Barolo. In fantabulous
vintages, they'll offer a Villero bottling that's held back for additional aging
to obtain the "riserva" designation.
Though the business is quite young, having started in 1997, this property seems
to be quite serious about making good, rather refined and elegant wines.
Silvano Boroli has a good grasp of using modern techniques to make rather
classically-styled wines. Though I saw quite a few small French oak
barriques, their wines don't show much in the way of wood.
The range of wines is solid, but I'm mostly enchanted by their
Villero bottling of Barolo. I found the 1999 to be quite good and the 2001
is also remarkably fine. In a tasting of 2003 Barolo wines, I gave both
the Villero and Cerequio bottlings "starred" ratings, finding the
Cerequio to be one of the top wines of the entire tasting (more than 200 Barolo
The 2001 Villero is very fine. The vintage is quite good and the wine
shows some woodsy tones, having notes of forest floor and a hint of cherryish
fruit. The tannins are balanced and the wine is very good now, with aging
potential through 2015, or so.
Currently in stock: 2001 Boroli "Barolo" Villero $57.99
- LUIGI COPPO
- The Coppo name is an important one in Piemonte these days. The
winery dates back to 1892 when Piero Coppo founded the establishment.
His son Luigi got things really going after World War II and the Coppo name
was well-regarded for sparkling and sweet wines, though they made the
typical range of reds (Barbera, Freisa and Grignolino). Luigi's sons
run the place these days and they've really done their homework to make the
Coppo name one that's recognized around the world.
The winery may owe its foundation to the Muscat grape. They're
situated in the town of Canelli, rather close to the town of Asti.
Today you will find some really remarkable wines made by the Coppo brothers.
I recall some years ago being visited by our friend Paolo Coppo and he was
interested in showing us a wine made from a curious grape variety. It
was called "Chardonnay." We tasted the wine and did not find
it to be particularly exceptional. On a visit to Piemonte in
2007, I tasted a Coppo Chardonnay and I was floored! It was exceptionally
good and stylish...a serious challenge to top California estates and
French white Burgundy domaines. On my return, I purchased a
bottle of this from the local importer. It was a 2002 vintage (in
2007) and the wine was rather tired and over the hill. Too bad.
Stay tuned, though, because I'm eager to find this sort of wine from Coppo
to have in the shop.
We usually have their delicious, sweet, fizzy red dessert wine made of
Brachetto. It's from the area of Acqui not too far from Asti.
The wine is low in alcohol and has a marvelous fragrance of ripe, red
berries. Served chilled with a mix of summer fruits, this is
In the realm of "serious" quality wine, Coppo makes a benchmark
bottling of Barbera. It's called Pomorosso and it's amazingly
good. This is a wine which can be served in place of a
"cult" bottling of Napa Cabernet, for example. The juice and
skins remain in contact for a fairly lengthy time to pick up color and
flavor. New French oak cooperage is employed for maturing the wine and
you'll find delightful red fruit aromas and cedary, vanillin oak
tones. It's full-bodied and rich on the palate...a full-throttle
bottle!!! The wine costs and arm and a leg, but it's one of those
rare, costly wines that's worth what they ask for it.
The 2007 vintage Pomorosso is very pretty. Dark in color, it's showing
a fragrance of berries, sweet oak, cherries, vanillin and a touch of
espresso. The wine is deep and full on the palate. Pair it with
savory Italian fare...polenta & sausages, rosemary-seasoned lamb,
grilled duck with a cherry sauce...you get the idea. It's very pretty
now and probably can be cellared for five to ten years, maybe longer.
Paolo Coppo...Mister Pomorosso.
Bottles of Pomorosso ready to pack into shipping boxes and send off
around the world.
Currently in stock: 2006 COPPO BRACHETTO
D'ACQUI Sold Out and they are no longer producing Brachetto!
2007 COPPO Barbera d'Asti "POMOROSSO"
We can order Coppo's other wines, if you like.
Drop me a note...
Minuto family owns this well-known property in the Barbaresco
region. It's been in the family for many years and today is run
by brothers Sergio and Francesco Minuto.
Though these fellows are now "old timers," they make a
rather modern style of wine.
Wines come from vineyards owned by the Minuto family or leased and
farmed by them. Barbaresco is the highlight here, though they do
make a small bit of Chardonnay and Dolcetto. There are three
bottlings of Barbaresco, Cole, Basarin and Bric Balin. I've
found the wines to be quite pretty and sweetly-oaked. In this
sense they are not precisely traditional or classically styled.
Basarin might be the most elegant, with Cole being a bit shy and quiet
to start. Bric Balin often has a tad more 'power' than the other
We have their 2007 Barbaresco from the Basarin cru in stock
presently. It's a vineyard site that's located in Neive and is
less than 2 hectares, producing about 7,000 bottles, or so, in a
normal vintage. The wine spends about a year and a half in
French oak, so you'll find the fragrance to be reminiscent of brown
spices at this stage. There's a whiff of cherry underneath the
vanillin, coffeeish fragrances. The wine is medium-full on the
palate and mildly tannic. It's a flashy and modern version of
Nebbiolo...certainly drinkable now. It ought to cellar well
We had a chance to taste a bit of 'history.' Signor Minuto
opened a bottle of 1971 Barbaresco and, at 26 years of age, this was a
lovely bottle of wine!
Currently in stock: 2007 MOCCAGATTA Barbaresco
"Basarin" (List $65) SALE $49.99
Signor Minuto shows off their barrique cellar.
Pio Cesare winery is certainly an historic one, with its namesake as one
of the first producers of "fine" wine in the Langhe.
The history dates back to the year 1881 when Pio Cesare started this
little venture. Today it's run by Pio Boffa, the great grandson of
Pio Cesare. Pio, by the way, was the family name and Cesare was the
old boy's first name, yet today most folks would think it was the other
One day I brought a dear old friend over to the home of another dear old
friend. The two winemakers had great respect for each other and
they'd both been producing good wines for several decades. They
hadn't seen each other in a few years and so a bottle of the host's Barolo
was quickly opened and the two old geezers started chatting about the
good old days.
I enjoyed listening to these two codgers reminiscing about their salad
days and conditions in Piemonte "way back when." One of
them mentioned the name "Pio Cesare." I was curious to
hear his opinion...
"Pio Cesare was a great intenditore (expert) of Barolo and
Barbaresco. We'd bring our wagons of fruit to the Alba market and
Cesare would make the rounds. He always was able to select the very
best grapes and we were happy if he bought ours. It was a badge of
Well, today the winery has grown considerably and they cultivate more than
50 hectares of vineyards. They have holdings in Barbaresco and
around the Barolo region, along with vineyards in other parts of the
I've gotten to know Pio Boffa a little bit over the past couple of years
and view him as a bit of a modernist. His wines are good ambassadors
for the Langhe, as is Boffa (he travels quite a bit).
The current wines of Pio Cesare tend to be really nicely fruity
and moderately oaky. They are a good introduction to Barolo and Barbaresco
for drinkers of "New World" wines. You won't find these to be
rustic in any way, for example and the use of wood is recognizable. The
wines tend to be nicely structured and balanced to be drinkable at an early
The cellars are modern and well-kept.
Pio pours some wine at a dinner in the Roero region of the Langhe in 2008.
We had some bottles of a 1996 Barbaresco "Il Bricco."
This comes from a single vineyard of this name that's located in the town of
Treiso. "Bricco" is a Piemontese word for the crest of the hill
or hilltop. Pio Cesare only offers this wine in top vintages. The
1996 harvest was, easily, a "top" vintage. The wine is very fine
now and still has a lot of life to it.
We have some magnums of the 2004 Barolo. This is the sort
of modern wine which you might not immediately recognize as "Barolo"
in its youth. The wine shows a berry and cedar quality which may remind
you of some Napa Cabernets or French Bordeaux more than Nebbiolo, but that's, in
part, the fingerprints of Pio Boffa on the wine. We suspect, with a decade
in the bottle, the wine will blossom into something more Italian, but with the
fresh exposure to French oak, this shows a cedary quality up front.
Other Pio Cesare wines are available by special order. Just let me know
what you'd like and we'll make the inquiry.
Currently in stock: 1996 PIO CESARE
"Barbaresco" Il Bricco Sold Out
2004 PIO CESARE BAROLO $134.99 for magnums
A FEW PHOTOS OF
MORE PIEMONTESE WINES