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CAVALLOTTO
wpe73.jpg (10737 bytes)The Cavallotto family has been farming some prime vineyards in the Barolo area village of Castiglione Falletto.  We've known this family for many years, finding their wines to be quite good in the so-called "smaller" vintages and rising to levels of importance in the bigger years. 
Virtually anyone in the Langhe region will concede, for example, that Cavallotto made "the best" Barolo in 1979. 

Yet they've worked in the shadows of their more promotion-savvy neighbors, selling their wines for fair prices and not tooting their own horn about it.
They have about 25 hectares, with 23 being vineyards. 

Decades ago they never had good representation in the U.S. market, perhaps in part because they already sell most of their wine to European neighbors. 
wpe72.jpg (12819 bytes)Finally they've become aligned with someone serious and we're delighted to have their wine in the shop and at a most attractive price. 

I was a bit concerned when I noticed they'd signed up with Marc de Grazia, a fellow whose stable of (excellent) producers leans heavily on the use of French oak.
wpe77.jpg (11474 bytes)"How many French oak barrels did you have to buy?" I inquired.
"None." said Cavallotto.
"Zero? Zip?? Nada??? Niente????" I asked.
"None."
"Good...I'll be disappointed if you do."


wpe75.jpg (8474 bytes)So, Cavallotto continues to produce "traditional" style Barolo. 
 

Quite good is the 2004 Barolo Riserva "Vignolo."  This comes from a small parcel of about one-and-a-half hectares.  I don't find it hugely different from the San Giuseppe.  It shows some brown spice tones and a bit of a sour cherry fruit tone.  It's medium-bodied on the palate and rather nice now, but it may be cellared a few more years.  This estate handled the classic 2004  vintage with skill and care.  It's nice now, but given a decade, or so, it will really turn into a memorable bottle.

The 2003 'normale' bottling is quite good...quite nice in early 2009 and it should continue to develop additional complexity with time.  It's a lovely example of Nebbiolo from Barolo made in a classic style.    It seems to have the right stuffing and structure for a cellar-worthy wine.  If you want to drink one in the near term, please decant it and allow it to breathe for a few hours.  


Currently in stock:  2004 CAVALLOTTO BAROLO "Riserva" Vignolo (list $120)  SALE $99.99

2003 CAVALLOTTO BAROLO "Bricco Boschis" (List $65)  SALE $53.99
2005 CAVALLOTTO BAROLO "Bricco Boschis" (List $66)  SALE $49.99


We were invited to a lovely vertical tasting of Cavallotto wines going back to the 1971 vintage...these age rather handsomely and the 1971 was simply a model of perfection.


Laura Cavallotto

We attended a tasting in Italy and each winery had an oak barrel as the "table" to present the wines.
I immediately had to take a photo of Alfio Cavallotto...



"Finally," I explained, "I have the only photo of Cavallotto using a barrique."

 

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ETTORE GERMANO

Sergio Germano is the winemaker for this small family estate in the Barolo sub-area called Serralunga. He had worked, for a number of years, at the Fontanafredda winery.  After that, he's been at the family estate, with his wife Elena, in the areas of Cerretta and Prapo, north of the town of Serralunga.

The red wines from this site tend to be structured for extended cellaring.  

He also has a vineyard site in Ciglié, about a 15 minute minute ride south of Serralunga.  It's a higher elevation location and cool enough to cultivate Riesling with success.

Barolo here is quite good and traditionally-styled, but made with modern sensibilities.  Sergio's wines have become more polished and complex over the past decade and he's a guy who's earned the respect and admiration one hears from his neighbors (and competitors).

The bubbly carries the DOC of "Alta Langa."  This is a relatively recent addition to the roster of deonominazione and there are less than ten producers of such a wine.  

Sergio is a fan of French Champagnes and is now making his own bubbly.  His Brut "Alta Langa" sparkler is terrific.  It's got a nicely toasty quality (minimum of 30 months en tirage for vintage-dated Alta Langa wines).  The first vintage we had was fairly big and toasty, with a woodsy note.  The 2008 shows greater refinement and elegance...
We've enjoyed a number of bottles of this wine, frankly.  It's a good alternative to Champagnes and every bit as good as many of the grower's bottlings we enjoy.

The 2006 Cerretta Barolo is a young pup...it comes from a 2 hectare parcel of vines that are mature (around 28 years of age in 2006) and thriving.  The wine has a relatively short time of fermentation with the skins and it's matured in French oak barriques and casks or puncheons.  In its youth, you'll find this to be a bit woodsy and "modern-styled."  If you keep a bottle, well-stored, for a decade, it will take on fragrances and flavors more reminiscent of classic, old school Barolo.

The 2007 Barolo "Prapò" comes from a tiny parcel and the vines are older (40 years of age in 2004). Germano gives this a longer period of skin contact and the wine is matured in large wood tanks.  It's the more traditionally-made wine, but after lengthy bottle aging, the two wines arrive at a similar place "on the map."   The 2007 is nicely showy and you can drink it now, if you like, especially with grilled or roasted meats.

Germano is proud to be getting fruit from another famous site near the winery, Lazzarito. He made a really good 2003 and recent vintages show the cellar-worthy qualities of Barolo from this well-regarded site.


Currently in stock:   2004 Nebbiolo Langhe Sold Out
2008 ALTA LANGA Brut Sparkling Wine $39.99
2008 Barolo $29.99 (half bottles)
2007 BAROLO "PRAPO" (list $75)  SALE $64.99
2006 BAROLO "CERRETTA"  SALE $71.99


Sergio Germano in the cellar.


Sergio showing off the vineyards on a crisp, clear winter's day.

There are new vineyards south of Barolo in the commune of Ciglié.

Here Sergio cultivates Riesling.
"I am German-o, so I like Riesling." he explains.


Paparazzi seem to have mistaken Sergio for Brad Pitt or George Clooney.


Sergio is Out-Standing in the vineyard.


A "mama-razza" who routinely "stalks" Signor Germano.

 


A small parcel of Barolo vineyards in the Lazzarito cru...


Meanwhile...back in the cellar, tasting Barolo...


A barrel for Weimax!


There are large tanks in the cantina as well...


Sergio makes terrific Barolo wines...not as famous as some, but certainly as quality-oriented and as capable.




 

 
 
LUIGI BAUDANA
Luigi Baudana and his wife Fiorina live in a town near Serralunga called "Baudana."  Everything seems to have the name Baudana on it...the wineries are all owned by people named Baudana and I passed a trattoria called Baudana on a street called Via Baudana!

I thought the guy's wines I had tasted over here were good, but I didn't know they were that good!

Luigi Baudana had owned about 5 hectares of vineyards for years.  But it was only recently that he and Mrs. B have made their own wine commercially.  Luigi worked in an enoteca for years before finally taking the big plunge and starting his own wine cellar.  Since they have no kids, the couple sold the vineyards and winery to the Vajra family from way over in Vergne, an elevated town in the western part of the Barolo appellation.  Aldo and Milena Vajra do have kids and so this beautifully extends the family enterprise.

A full range of wines is produced at Baudana, including an interesting proprietary white wine called Lorense.  But it is Barolo that is of major interest.

The wines of this producer demonstrate the notion of "terroir."  That is, the wines taste like Barolo, but with a particular character of Barolo.  The Serralunga region is regarded as producing wines of cellar-worthy structure, even more so than those from Castiglione Falletto, La Morra, Monforte, etc.  
 
Luigi Baudana
 
Practitioners of "old school" Barolo typically ferment their Nebbiolo wines with the grape skins for 20-30 days.  Those in the so-called "modernist" school have much shorter maceration periods, from 4-7 days, perhaps.  Baudana, like famous winemakers such as Domenico Clerico and Luciano Sandrone, takes a middle-of-the-road approach.  "We do a ten to 12 day maceration on the skins." he explains.

Luigi & Fiorina



Samples of the 2000 vintage.

Over the past few years we've been able to follow the wines from this little estate.  The wines are routinely good quality and seem to reflect the character of the vintage.  

The 2004 vintage is a classic and produced a really magnificent Barolo.  The wine was not one worth opening upon its arrival here (in 2009), as it needs time to develop, soften, mature and blossom.  Tasted in its infancy, the Ceretta 'cru' promised to be really good.  Tasted a year later, one can see a tiny bit of evolution.  This is going to be a terrific wine in a time frame of 2015-2025.  As a result, it's not for everybody.  But for passionate Barolo aficionados, this will repay cellaring quite handsomely (providing you, too, are sufficiently youthful).


Baudana strives to improve his wines.  "You have to seek to make better wines and you have to have good quality and fair pricing.  But you must always look to make better wines."  The Vajra family has the same outlook, so the future for this label is bright.
 


Currently in stock:  2004 BAUDANA BAROLO "Ceretta"   SALE $71.99
2001 BAUDANA BAROLO  $99.99

 






ELIO GRASSO
Elio Grasso retired from a lucrative job in the banking industry and took over a winemaking property that has been in the family for several generations.  Wines used to be sold off in bulk and Grasso started bottling his own wines in the late 1970s-early 1980s. 
The winery and vineyards are located in Monforte d'Alba and the Grasso family has had holdings for more than 100 years.  

I first met Elio Grasso back in the mid-1980s.  He stuck out his hand and introduced himself saying "Io sono Grasso."  (This translates to "I am Grasso," of course, but the word "grasso" means "fat" in English.  I grabbed his hand and responded with "Anch'io!" which translates to "me too!"  We had a good laugh and have been friends every since.

 



Elio and the boss, his wife Marina.



Grasso's wines have often been magnificent.  I recall a tasting some years ago where his Barbera finished in first place.  Barolo wines have also been exceptional.  These are not exactly "old school" or traditionalist wines in a certain sense.  The Grasso Barolo tends to have a certain ripe and plump quality.  Today's bottlings seem a bit different from those I recall of the 1980s, showing a touch of oak.  That's a "touch of oak," not "overwhelmed-by-a-forest-full of wood."  They might be classified as "modern" styled wines, but given sufficient bottle aging, they develop into classics.
 
Currently in stock is a magnificent 2004 from their Gavarini Vigna Chiniera cru.  This is a 3 hectare parcel that's south-facing and features slightly sandy, moderately chalky soil.  This wine was matured for 24 months in Slavonian oak.  At this stage the wine shows a woodsy element and dark red fruits.  We find notes of berry and dark cherry.  It's tannic and cellar-worthy, to be sure, but having tasted it a few times (most recently in March 2010), I noticed a layer of development on the nose (especially).  This is a beautiful and elegant Barolo and it is a shining example of Nebbiolo grown in Monforte.

Grasso's prestigious bottling is called Rüncot.  It's his smallest parcel or cru of Barolo, accounting for but 1.8 hectares of vineyard and it's within the Gavarini cru..  The vines were planted in 1990 and it was in 1995 that the Grasso family made its first Rüncot Barolo.  I find the wine more lavishly oaked in its youth and a more concentrated, intense wine than his other bottlings.  It spent about 28 months in French oak (Allier).  The 1999 is very fine and it's showing magnificently at this stage and should continue to develop and blossom over the next 10 years.   The 2001 is a stellar bottling as well.  It is only offered in top vintages, so you won't find Rüncot vintage to vintage.

There are three hectares of the Ginestra Vigna Casa Maté cru.  The soils have more clay than in their other sites and this wine, in top vintages, is typically fairly tannic and demands cellaring.  It is also matured in Slavonian oak.

He also makes a bit of Dolcetto to go along with the Barbera.  Chardonnay, called "Educato," is well-regarded by many.
Currently in stock: 2004 ELIO GRASSO BAROLO "Chiniera"  SALE $79.99


The new cellar at Grasso's place...


Two fans of the wines of the Paternoster winery in Basilicata, John Downing and Ronnie Grant turn out to be 'tifosi' of the wines of Elio Grasso.
Here they're tasting with Gianluca Grasso in a tiny, hidden room, deep in the winery.


An old vintage of Grasso Barolo...molto buono!  The various Barolo wines of this estate tend to age very well.


Here's an old label...





ODDERO

The Oddero name has deep roots in the world of Langhe wines.  The family has long owned vineyards and a winery in La Morra, but they also have holds in the Barbaresco, Serralunga, Monforte, as well as Barbera and Moscato vineyards near Asti.

I always found their wines to be traditionally-styled and perhaps a bit rustic.  Today, however, the quality of the wine is quite high and this is a label many wine drinkers ought to know about.

Giacomo Oddero, who today is in his 80s, was affiliated with the Cuneo government and it's his signature on documents granting D.O.C. and D.O.C.G. status to wines, cheeses and other agricultural products of the Langhe.  He's been an active Chamber of Commerce big-wig and he was the moving force behind the Il Centro Nazionale Studi del Tartufi, an organization devoted to studying truffles, of which Alba has the best.

The winery, today, is in the hands of Giacomo's daughters, Mariacristina and Mariavittoria.  Now, Mariavittoria's daughter Isabella is also working with the company.

They have about 35 hectares of land, cultivating a lot of Nebbiolo within the Barolo appellation.  They also cultivate peaches, plums and hazelnuts.



Traditional cooperage in the cellars...although they do have small French oak as well...


There's a lot of history here...


...and the future is bright for Oddero!


The 2006 Rocche bottling from Oddero's holdings in Castiglione Falletto is an outstanding wine.  The vines, from a parcel that's 2/3s of a hectare in size, are about 50 years of age.  Here's a wine which bridges the traditionalist-to-modernist gap.  There's a whiff of wood but underlying the oak is a strong core of Nebbiolo.  It's a young wine and still needs time to acquire the classic character of mature Barolo.  


We recently opened a 1967 Oddero Barolo (not a vineyard-designated wine) and this was still alive, though certainly well-aged.  
It had the leathery, meaty, tarry notes we appreciate in classic Barolo wine.

 

There's a really good example of Barolo in half bottle format from Oddero...very nice now, especially if you can give it an hour in a decanter...it opens nicely.

The Bussia Soprano site is in Monforte and Oddero's vineyard there is called Mondoca.  It shows some red fruits on the nose and there's a hint of woodsiness in the background.  The 2004 is still youthful and opening this ahead of time is beneficial.  You can also hold this for another ten years, if you like...it will repay aging quite handsomely.

 

 

Currently in stock:  2006 ODDERO BAROLO "Rocche"  $59.99
1967 ODDERO BAROLO $129.99
2006 ODDERO BAROLO half bottles $23.99
2004 ODDERO BAROLO Bussia Soprano "Mondoca"  Sale $64.99
2007 ODDERO BAROLO "Villero"  SALE $49.99




ALESSANDRIA CRISSANTE
The Alessandria family runs this small domaine, farming nearly five hectares of vineyards in the area of La Morra.  (Crissante is dad's name.)  Roberto and Michele Alessandria take care of the place, Roberto doing the cellar chores, while the older brother, Michele takes care of business aspects of the enterprise.

The place was founded in about 1960, when the boys were kids.  They make three wines, two single-vineyard Barolo wines and a barrique-aged Barbera.  

We found their wine in a blind-tasting of 1997 Barolo.  This is a wine that polarized the tasters: old timers (hard to imagine I am now an "old timer") had this scored highly, finding it to be a throwback to really good, serious, old-style Barolo.  The tar, roses, earthy, meaty fragrances cannot be mistaken for anything but wine made from Nebbiolo grapes.  On the other hand, those more comfortable with lavishly-oaked fruit bombs did not find this to be to their liking.  Pick which "school" appeals to you and make your choice.

Roberto explains they do a traditional vinification.  The skins remain in contact with the juice through the duration of the fermentation.  "Sometimes this takes 30 to 40 days." he tells us.  The wine is matured in "botti di legno," large wooden cooperage, while about 30% of the wine is matured in the standard size French oak barrel.  Amazingly (to me, anyway), I don't sense the use of barriques (the smaller cooperage) in this wine.    Like many 1997s, the wine is gorgeous now.  I don't know how well it will age, but suspect 5-10 years is probably about right.

The Crissante wines are no longer being brought in to our market...pity.
Currently in stock: 1997 CRISSANTE BAROLO "Roggeri" Sold Out

CLICK HERE TO SEE PHOTOS OF MY VISIT AT CRISSANTE ALESSANDRIA'S WINERY




 
HASTAE / QUORUM
For the most part, Barolo and Barbaresco wineries tend to think they make the best Dolcetto and Barbera wines.  Over the past decade they've had to admit that the region of Asti may actually produce Barbera wines of superlative quality.  The reason for this is that near Asti the best vineyard sites are planted with Barbera.  You can grow Moscato almost anywhere, but Barbera needs more care.  In the Barolo and Barbaresco areas, the top sites are planted with Nebbiolo and Dolcetto and Barbera are cultivated in sites which might not quite be as fine.

The late Giacomo Bologna was a giant in the wine biz.  Literally and figuratively.  He made profound Barbera wines.  These were admired by many of his peers.  The vineyards are between Asti and Alessandria.  His family has joined with the Antinori's who own Prunotto, the Currado's and Cordero's at Vietti, the Coppo's, the Chiarlo's and the Berta distilling family in a joint venture called Hastae.  This project is to show the world the greatness of Barbera d'Asti.  

To avoid some of the pitfalls of having five cooks in the kitchen, they hired the famous "chef" Ricardo Cotarella (he's responsible for a stable of amazingly good wines around Italy, but principally in Umbria and Lazio).  My initial thought was "How brilliant!  These winemakers can hire this fellow, see how he makes wine and then steal some of the secrets for their own productions!"  But, actually, the whole group makes pretty amazing wines.  The goal is to show the world that Barbera can have the nobility of Nebbiolo, Cabernet, Pinot Noir or Syrah.  Given how many producers have simply made "everyday" quality rosso from the grape, it is remarkable to see the potential of Barbera.

The first vintage was 1997.  Nice.  Lots of oak.  Many trees died to make that wine.  Not that "Quorum" Barbera will ever be described without reference to wood, but the first one was more oak than wine (in my humble opinion).  I'm not sure the 1998 we have in the shop is any less woody, but there seems to be more wine there.  The resulting balance, for my taste, is certainly dramatic, but less "over the top."  

While no expense is spared in producing the wine (relatively low yields in the vineyards, new and costly oak barrels, a famous winemaker, etc.), a side benefit these people derive is that you don't feel so badly about parting with $25-$50 for a bottle of their own wines, when you might have dropped $75 for the Quorum!   I bought a bottle of the 98 Quorum and served it with some grilled lamb to some frugal friends who sell wine.  "You know," said the Queen of Frugality, "I think this wine is so good it's worth every penny they ask for it."  Her husband and I each just about fell off our chairs upon hearing this.  Oh, and she doesn't like Italian wines.  Usually.

Meanwhile, the term "Hastae" is an old Roman word for the city that is now known as "Asti."  I commented to one of the collaborators "Barbera, Hastae, Asti, Basta!"

Both 2001 and 2000 are delicious wines.  Bring your wife or husband, pink slip and checkbook to Burlingame and we'll sell you a bottle.
Currently in stock:  QUORUM 2001 Barbera d'Asti  $74.99
2000 QUORUM Barbera d'Asti $89.99



 

BARTOLO MASCARELLO
I've known the Mascarello family since before they owned a telephone!  
You might think, then, that I have known them for 40 years or more, but that's not the case.  I've known them for about 20 years.  

Bartolo was the prototypical "old school" Barolo maker.
I used to tease him about not having a telephone (the local bar used to be where you could call him and they'd run around the corner and "page" him!).  I would send them notes once-in-a-while when I would find a postcard or greeting card with a telephone theme.  I once sent a die-cut card that was in the shape of a phone and I received this lovely hand-written letter from Bartolo thanking me for the photos of the family that I took when I visited.  

"I remain an old Italian winemaker in Barolo without a telephone.  I don't use the phone, I don't use French oak barrels and I am not visiting California to have a look at the wineries there.  Hope to see you soon...Bartolo."


Mascarello remained a vocal opponent of the producers who make French oak aged Barolo wines, saying the wines "don't taste like Barolo!"  Hobbled by old age, Mascarello could usually be found holding court in his little office on Via Alba in the village of Barolo.  A bottle of his wine was virtually always open and the family would share a taste of it with visitors.  While many winemakers think of themselves as artists, Mascarello spent much of his time drawing wine labels.  He was, in fact, a bit of an artist!  These labels routinely featured the "No French oak" theme, though some feature political statements, too.  Mascarello said "No barriques, No Berlusconi!" (the Italian prime minister).   

A store in Alba had bottles in the window with this label on them.  The police asked them to take the bottles out of the window, fearing someone of a different political perspective would vandalize the place!
 

Mascarello had quite a nice collection of two liter bottles of old Barolo vintages.  I was invited to lunch one day and they shared their 1958 vintage with me.  Mascarello's charming daughter, Terri, laughed as we drank this saying "My father is drinking my inheritance!"  

Bartolo passed away in 2005.  He was, as some described him, "l'ultimo dei Mohicani.
 as he was, "the last of the Mohicans."  He clung to what he knew:  good, old-fashioned Barolo.  

Terri now runs this small, historic winery.  They own vineyards in some prime locations and are proud of these.  They make tiny quantities of Dolcetto and Barbera, but, of course, are most famous for Barolo.  

Remember, Bartolo is "Barolo" with a "t".  

 



Mascarello wines are not widely available.  They don't make much and their former U.S. importer said he was "too busy" to even print a list of the wineries whose wines they import!  Mascarello finally changed importers (in 2013) and chose a more professional and sensible company.  


The 2003 is a bit more evolved, coming from a hot vintage.  It's the most drinkable of the three vintages we have of Mascarello Barolo.  You can serve it now, especially if it's sat in a decanter for an hour or two.  We expect this to develop additionally for another 5-10+ years.

The 2004 is a young, tight, undeveloped Barolo.  This will probably need several more years just to begin to evolve.  Cellaring it for a decade or two would be ideal, as the wine has the structure for aging.  It is not, frankly, especially showy presently.

The 2007 is a baby...nice to taste, but really, this needs another 4 or 5 years to start to blossom and show its character.


Currently in stock:
2003 Barolo List $125  SALE $115.99
2004 Barolo List $165  SALE $139.99
2007 Barolo List $135  SALE $119.99
 
 
 
 
 

I visit the Mascarello's virtually every trip to Piemonte.  Being an unofficial member of the Currado-Vietti family, I'd routinely tell Alfredo Currado a big "hello from Bartolo."  Alfredo greatly respected old Bartolo and I knew Mascarello felt the same about the Vietti wines made by Currado.

I'd promised to drive Alfredo, hobbled by age, to Barolo for a visit with the Mascarello family.  When you live in the neighborhood, making time to go visit the neighbors is difficult.   Alfredo said "We have to go see Bartolo today!" so we got in the car and motored a few miles to Barolo and knocked on the door.

The two gentlemen were thrilled to see each other and both were delighted to still be alive after so many years.  A bottle of Barolo was opened and I enjoyed sitting in the room, a bit like the proverbial "fly on the wall."

The two spoke about the old days.  They spoke of "old man Pio Cesare" and what a "gran esperto" he was in selecting fruit.  Apparently the farmers would cart their Nebbiolo harvest from Barolo to Alba and Pio Cesare would have a look and select only the top fruit for purchase.

The discussion shifted to the much-praised 2000 vintage, awarded a "perfect score" as a vintage by The Wine Spectator journal.  Mascarello told of his interview with a young wine writer who proclaimed it "the best vintage for Barolo since 1947."
Bartolo eyed the 25 to 30 year old whipper-snapper with a jaundiced eye and said "Son, I was making wine in 1947 and I know what that vintage was like.  Where were you in 1947?"

It was a wonderful hour and a nice glass (or two) of good, old-fashioned Barolo.  The two old pals grabbed each other's hand since a hug was out of the question (what with Bartolo in a wheel-chair and Alfredo wobbling around on crutches).
It had been many years since these two dinosaurs had seen each other and it was the last time they'd be together for reminiscing and shooting the breeze.

 

Maria Teresa runs the Mascarello winery today with her Mom lending a hand.


 
 








REVELLO

The Revello family has owned this little property just near La Morra.  They've made wine "on and off" over the years.  Lucky for us: It's "ON" presently!

Brothers Lorenzo and Carlo run the vineyards and cellar these days, starting their production in 1992.  Before that they sold grapes to other winemakers.  Today they use all their own production for the Revello wines.  There are some eleven hectares of vineyards, six of them planted with Nebbiolo, 1.5 planted to Dolcetto and 3.5 in Barbera.

We're big fans of their Dolcetto d'Alba.  Too bad they don't make more!  They seem to have the right idea, to our taste, in making a balanced wine which can be consumed when it's young and fresh.  But with one-and-a-half hectares of this, the supply is rather limited.

We also have had a really good Nebbiolo Langhe from Revello.  It's matured in seasoned oak barrels and bottled in the summer following the harvest.  The wine is made from young vines and is, essentially, a declassified Barolo.  Even though the wood has been used to mature one or two other wines, there's still a nice touch of cedar to this.  And, the tannin level is perfect: not too much, but still with a lightly astringent note.

This is a good source for Barolo, too.  Their 2001 is currently in the shop.  It's a medium-weight Barolo with just a whiff of a cedary tone from some aging in French oak.  The juice is fermented in horizontal, roto-tanks before going into wood for about two years.  This is very nice now and it ought to blossom handsomely in the next 5-8 years.  I suspect it will live until about 2015-2020.


By the way, the Revello's have a small "agriturisimo" (bed and breakfast, basically) available, should you be in Piemonte for a week...A room for two will set you back about $65 Euros a night.


Currently in stock:  2001 Barolo  Sold Out
The local distributor has been sold out of recent releases for a while...











COCITO

Giorgio Rivetti of La Spinetta fame made this wine from fruit grown in a vineyard that we're told is owned by some fellow in Milano.  The vineyard is near the cru of "La Gallina" and the wine is a most impressive and lavishly-oaked red.  The fragrance is wonderful, unless you're allergic to wood.  

The vineyard site owned by Ezio Cocito comprises less than one hectare.  The cru is Baluchin, a rather unknown site (unless you live in Neive, in which case you'll know precisely where this is located).  The wine is fermented in roto-fermentation tanks, somewhat along the lines of some Pinot Noir.  It's matured in 100% brand new French oak for 20 months, or so.  Total production for this vintage amounted to but 4,000 bottles.  

We like the dark cherry fruit and sweet oak.  Yes, I can say it's very difficult, if not impossible, to sniff a glass of this and say with certainty "This is a Barbaresco."  I'd probably guess it to be an Australian red of some sort.  Or a Napa Cabernet.  

Whatever it is, showy is one feature of this wine.

Currently in stock:  2000 Cocito Barbaresco "Baluchin"  $69.99







LUCA FERRARIS

One of the most obscure grapes one might encounter in northern Italy, and believe me there are dozens!, is one called Ruche.  

The story or legend entails some local monks bringing this grape back from France, probably Burgundy.  Some think the grape may be related to Pinot Noir.  

The name may be a corruption of the word "roncet," a term describing some sort of diseased vines.  Ruche, it seems, can be affected by nature more easily than Grignolino and Barbera.  Someone told me the name Ruche is that of a local castle and the monks simply didn't want to use the French name for the vine.  

Whatever the story, there's not much Ruche made.  It's a specialty of the Monferrato region and only about 12,000 cases of Ruche is made amongst all the producers.

Luca Ferraris grandfather planted a few vines in the 1920s and made a bit of wine, selling it in "bulk" format, for the most part.  Luca's father, like many people in the area, were attracted to working in the Fiat factory in Torino, so wine was an after-thought, though the grapes they produced were sold to the local grower's co-op winery.

In 1999, Luca Ferraris graduated from the local viticulture and winemaking school.  At that time, he renovated the old wine cellar and began making his own wine and selling it in bottle.  In fact, when the California Wizard of Wine (Randall Grahm) had dreams of making Italian wines, he purchased Ruche from Ferraris and had it bottled under his Bonny Doon label.  

Well, these days Ferraris wines are better than ever and his 2012 Ruche is a delight!  It captures the fruity notes of the Ruche with the floral tone being a shade more intense than normal.  We tasted a number of 2012 Ruche wines in Italy this past year and this is one of the best.
It's a medium-bodied red wine and the tannin level is low, making this immediately appealing.  We suggest serving it as you would a nice Beaujolais, at cool cellar temp.

Currently in stock:  2012 Ruché di Castagnole Monferrato SALE $21.99

 
 
 
 
COCCHI BAROLO CHINATO
The Bava family owns the sparkling wine firm of "Cocchi" in Italy's Piemonte region.  

Piemonte is a center for aromatized wines such as Vermouth.  You'll find the firms of Martini & Rossi, Cinzano and Gancia here in Piemonte.  On the other side of the hills in France you'll find Noilly Prat's vermouth facility and, at one point Boissiere (now made in Italy!).  

Barolo Chinato is a curious product with Barolo as the base wine.  This was a somewhat normal creation many years ago, but today it's sort of like using classified growth Bordeaux wines to produce the aperitif Lillet, for example.

The Bava family's Cocchi company is highly-regarded for its Barolo Chinato, an aromatized wine featuring quinine  (china calissaia) for its particular character.  Add to this a myriad of spices and notes of rhubarb and gentian and you have one mysterious beverage.

If you're interested in discovering this mystery, stop by the shop with $39.99 and we'll sell you a half liter bottle of this rarity.

 

 

CAPPELLANO

Cappellano IS Barolo Chinato.  
Years ago, Dottore Giuseppe Cappellano created a digestive using Barolo as the base wine and it had various herbs and spices.  The main feature was quinine or china (pronounced 'kee-nuh" in Italian) and to this Cappellano added cloves and who-knows-what-else? to the mix.

Barolo Chinato became so popular, it was much imitated and many winemakers took a stab at recreating Cappellano's unique potation.

Well, now many years after its initial production and rise to popularity, Teobaldo Cappellano continued the family tradition and made Barolo Chinato until his untimely passing in early 2009.

Cappellano's is still a remarkable concoction.

I first met Teobaldo in the mid-1980s.  He was a great character and people always enjoyed listening to him tell jokes and stories.   He always asked if I could tell some jokes when we were at various events around the time of VinItaly, for example.  I seem to recall some evenings when we were at dinner with a bunch of other Piemontese winemakers outside of Verona at a particularly favorite osteria.  My command of Italian wasn't sufficiently good enough to tell my jokes and stories in their language, so Teobaldo, who spoke reasonably good English, would do me the honor of translating.

He had a twinkle in his eye, too.  And given the volume of laughter for his own stories, I gather he was a bit of a comedian himself.  

But there was a serious side to this guy and I only recently appreciated this part of his personality.  I was reading an article on Cappellano in a book devoted to Piemontese winemakers.   He's got a wonderful philosophy in regards to wine 'criticism.'  

Here are some thoughts from Teobaldo Cappellano:
"What I dislike about this world is the superficiality of thinking that an evaluation mark, set next to my labels in a wine guidebook, might determine a judgment -- be it positive or negative -- on my work into which I have put passion and strong feelings that certainly can't be described by a number.  On the threshold of 60 (years) of age) I decided to stop accepting marks.  Also because when I meet a friend I don't want to be asked what score Robert Parker gave me.  But what the hell do I care?  I'm an atheist.  Should I worry about the judgment of a man?" 

Cappellano's wines must be experienced to have a chance at understanding the philosophy and artistry of this winery.  And if you experience a nice bottle of their wine, you will have a clearer understanding of precisely why Teobaldo didn't want critics making a numerical judgment of his wine.  

We ordered a bottle of Cappellano's Barbera on a visit to Piemonte.  The wine was poured and we took a sniff and a taste.  Lovely.  But over the course of the next 30 to 40 minutes, we swirled, sniffed and sipped, each time finding something new in the glass.  The wine was magnificent to watch as it blossomed and danced in the glass.  I mentioned that it was a bit like tasting a half a dozen, or so, different wines and the evolution was that remarkable.

So--the question for someone reviewing the wine and assigning it a score:  how can you capture an accurate number for a wine which is in motion during its time in the glass?  It's a bit like trying to capture a butterfly without a net.  It's a bit like critiquing a film based on one frame of celluloid.
Good luck!!!



The Barolo Chinato is remarkable...Cappellano incorporated about 13 different herbs in the mix and you may sense hints of cinnamon, nutmeg, anise, cardamom and mint.  Perhaps there's a note of rhubarb, too.  

The Cappellano Barolo wines are often terrific.  You might say they're "under-rated," but that's because they're not rated at all, typically.

They make a couple of Barolo wines.  One is labeled Barolo Piè Rupestris as it is planted on American root-stock.  Apparently the precise clone or clones of Nebbiolo are unknown and so they will tell you they have "Nebbioli" (meaning more than one kind of Nebbiolo) in that parcel. The vines are said to be 60+ years of age and they are in the cru known as Gabutti.
The other bottling is made from vines planted on their own roots, not on some particular rootstock.  This is called Pie Franco.  Teobaldo decided to risk planting some Michet (we understand) without Phylloxera-resistant rootstock back in 1989, or so.  The vineyard continues to do well and it produces a very fine example of Barolo.



Currently in stock:  CAPPELLANO BAROLO CHINATO $66.99 (750ml)
2005 CAPPELLANO BAROLO PIE RUPESTRIS  Sale $79.99






ROCCHE COSTAMAGNA

The Locatelli family owns this 14 hectare estate situated in La Morra.  If you go to visit, simply park your car in the little central parking lot below the famous restaurant Belvedere and you'll probably see the sign down the little street to the north.  ((There's a dynamite bakery called Cogno just across from the parking area and don't miss their little cookies and "La Morrese" treats!))

I've known this family for years and their Barolo is routinely good, but it's not made for today's wine critic.  It's not deep and dark in color, it doesn't see small French oak barrels and you won't find "gobs of fruit" or a wine resembling Cabernet Sauvignon or Zinfandel in this bottle.
 
Claudia Ferraresi's family owned the vineyards and cellar, though in the 1930s her aunt sold off some vineyards and wine was made only for the family.  They sold their grapes to neighboring winemakers until the 1960s when Claudia and her husband, Giorgio Locatelli, started to produce wine commercially.  Claudia is an artist and she's been a wonderful "ambassador" for the food, wine and art culture of Piemonte.
 

The cellar at Rocche Costamagna.


Alessandro Locatelli


Milanese Wine Aficionado Carlo Perini in the background of a taste of the 2003 Rocche Costamagna Barolo.


Today their son Alessandro is the dynamo behind this place and while they do make a few wines for today's palate, their Barolo "Rocche dell'Annuziata" remains a traditionally-styled wine.  The 2006 vintage is the current offering and it's a medium-bodied Nebbiolo with notes of red fruits and a slight tobacco/earthy element.  It was matured for 2 years in big oak tanks, so wood is not particularly noticeable here.  The wine is mildly tannic and mouth-drying, so pairing it with a savory meat dish or something incorporating mushrooms is ideal.  Allowing the wine to breathe for an hour, or so, in a decanter is ideal.  We expect this to develop additionally over the next 5 to 10 years.

Currently in stock:  2006 ROCCHE COSTAMAGNA Barolo "Rocche dell'Annunziata"  $39.99 (750ml bottles)
2006 ROCCHE COSTAMAGNA Barolo "Rocche dell'Annunziata" $26.99 (375ml bottles)

 

The winery also has 4 guests 'apartments'.  If you're interested in having a look, CLICK HERE to see their web site info on renting one of these.

 



GIUSEPPE MASCARELLO

This is a very old estate and they make rather old-style or traditionally-styled wines.  Mauro Mascarello is a famous winemaker and his wines are certainly "old school."  

The property dates back to 1881 and some may claim not much has changed in more than a century.  The family certainly eschews making fruit-forward, modern, barrique-aged wines.  

Currently in stock:  1999 BAROLO "Monprivato"  SALE $99.99
1999 BAROLO "Santa Stefano"  SALE $99.99

 


FONTANAFREDDA

I guess I can understand with a name of Fontanafredda (cold fountain or spring), why many Piemontese wine aficionados are 'lukewarm" to the wines from this historic property.

It is a large winery located in the Serralunga valley and it had been owned by a bank.  The wines over the past couple of decades have been "correct," but not especially exciting.  A few years ago, someone working there seemed to have the idea of actually making better quality wines and they set about doing so.  And, in fact, the quality seems to have improved a bit.

In 2008 the winery came under new ownership.  Two independent investors took shares of the winery and, as well understand it, they own nearly two-thirds of the business.  The remaining percentage, something close to slightly more than one-third, is owned by a charitable foundation which is affiliated with the bank that had owned the winery.  This would be the Monte dei Paschi di Siena Foundation in case you're taking notes.

The winery is managed, as it has been for several years, by Giovanni Manetti.  He remains in charge and it's under his watchful eye that things have been on the upswing.

Fontanafredda owns extensive acreage and they have vineyards in some prime Barolo sites.  Too bad they have been under-achievers for so many years or today the winery would be held in high regard by Piemontese wine fanciers.

One of their best wines is a relatively "minor" bottling of Barbera.  It comes from vineyards the winery owns in the Monferrato region as well as the Langhe.  They also purchase grapes for this wine.  The wine is vinified to be drinkable in its youth and is not made with long-term aging in mind.  After its secondary fermentation, the wine spends a brief time in wood;  some French oak and some of the more traditional Slavonian oak vats.  

The 2009 shows a lightly berryish quality and just a touch of wood.  It's a medium-bodied red wine and a nice introduction to Piemontese wines.  It's certainly a nice alternative to similarly-priced Tuscan wines, for example and it's a good deal more interesting than commercial, inexpensive Montepulciano d'Abruzzo wines.
 

Currently in stock:  2009 FONTANAFREDDA Barbera "Briccotondo"  $11.99 (Case discounts are 10 to 15%)



 

 


Here I am pouring a "little" glass of Vietti Barbera "La Crena" for my dear friend, the late Alfredo Currado.



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