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.
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.
"How many French oak barrels did you have to buy?" I inquired.
"None." said Cavallotto.
"Zero? Zip?? Nada??? Niente????" I asked.
"Good...I'll be disappointed if you do."
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.
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."
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 area of Cerretta, north of the
town of Serralunga.
The red wines from this site tend
to be structured for extended cellaring. Germano is at a fairly
high elevation and even cultivates some Riesling (remember, his name is Germano!)
Barolo here is quite good and traditionally-styled. I ought to have
some in the shop, but we're so packed with wine, I don't have a slot for
it presently. They make good Dolcetto, Barbera and now even a
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 2007 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 2004 Cerretta Barolo is a young pup...it comes from a 2 hectare parcel
of vines that are mature (around 26 years of age in 2004) 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 "Prapň" 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
Currently in stock: 2004 Nebbiolo Langhe Sold Out 2007 ALTA LANGA Brut Sparkling Wine $39.99
2003 Barolo $27.99 (half bottles)
2007 BAROLO "PRAPO" (list $75) SALE $65.99
2004 BAROLO "CERRETTA" Sold Out
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 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.
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."
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
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
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
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"
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
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...
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
Traditional cooperage in the cellars...although they do have small French oak
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
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 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
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
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
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
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
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
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!
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
Bartolo passed away in 2005. He was, as some described him, "l'ultimo
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
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
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 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
Maria Teresa runs the Mascarello winery today with her Mom lending a
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
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
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 $44.99
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
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
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
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
Bava family owns the sparkling wine firm of "Cocchi" in Italy's
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
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 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
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.
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
They make a couple of Barolo wines. One is labeled Barolo
Pič 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
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
2005 CAPPELLANO BAROLO PIE RUPESTRIS Sale $79.99
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.
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.
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.
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"
1999 BAROLO "Santa Stefano" SALE $99.99
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
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.