La Fiorita Brunello: Metaphor for Harmony

La Fiorita Brunello: Metaphor for Harmony

la-fiorita-oliveros-cipresso-meAlong with a small group of wine lovers, I joined Natalie Oliveros and Roberto Cipresso in New York for an intimate luncheon and tasting of wines from their La Fiorita winery.

Located in Montalcino, Italy, La Fiorita produces earthy, rich Brunello, the kind that tempts fine wine lovers and Sangiovese geeks alike.

Cipresso, a self-described “wine tailor” interested in putting together different vineyard expressions of Sangiovese, explained that “…Montalcino is a magic mountain…” and that the expression of terroir is that “magic moment” when wine becomes emotion.

la-fiorita-brunello-2007Lunch kicked off with La Fiorita’s Rosato 2013 which was enjoyable and immensely drinkable, setting the right mood for what was to come.

Wines were served in a single flight during lunch, providing a great opportunity to taste each of the wines alone, compare them to one another, and to experience each one paired with wonderful food plates prepared by La Masseria:

La Fiorita’s Brunello 2007 is typical of the vintage with a soft, warm palate, sporting bigger tannins than the 2008, more muted fruit, while the Brunello 2008 set a deeper, darker tone, moody and magnificent (available in California, not yet on East Coast).

la-fiorita-brunello-pouringCipresso’s Brunello 2006 Riserva has gained even more harmony since my last tasting of that wine in 2013. Complex aromatics, mouth filling density, muscular yet supple. A long life ahead of that one. (for more on this particular wine, see my article, link below). The 2004 Riserva, on the other hand, is a more delicate, refined Brunello, ripe and silky tannins, super elegant with the lightness of fine Burgundy. Ethereal.

Cipresso is not so much interested in the macro view of Brunello as in exploring the possibilities of different growing areas. Interestingly, La Fiorita is a couple of vintages behind many peer producers as they prefer to hold their wines longer, meeting mandatory wood aging requirements for the denomination, but keeping the wines for additional aging in bottle – 30 months, in fact, for the Riserva bottling.

la-fiorita-brunello-2006-riservaAs a group, the wines are connected by unifying suites of ripe, fine tannins and an astounding harmony of elements that are at once both interdependent and independent, not unlike melody lines in the musical counterpoint of JS Bach.

A great tasting of La Fiorita Brunello, intelligent, selfless, wines of depth, beauty and structure, that serve to enrich all that we know about Montalcino and Brunello.

You can read more about La Fiorita and the Brunello 2006 Riserva in my related article here.

Aglianico: Do-It-Yourself

Aglianico: Do-It-Yourself

For those of you pursuing an indie do-it-yourself wine education (Really, who else can do it for you?), you might like to take time to explore one of the great and most important grape varietals of Italy’s south, Aglianico.

You’ll probably notice pretty quickly two confounding things about Aglianico: a) that you won’t find it in every wine shop and, b) that when you do, you will likely encounter Aglianico wines from varied regions such as Campania, Sicily, Molise, Puglia, and Basilicata to name a few.

tenuta-del-portale-le-vigne-a-capanno-2009-1All the aforementioned regions produce noteworthy expressions of Aglianico and you must try them eventually. But, do yourself a favor: begin your exploration with Aglianico from Basilicata, Aglianico del Vulture to be specific (takes its name from the region’s dormant volcano Monte Vulture), or from Campania’s Taurasi appellation (named for one of the production area communities), as those two expressions of Aglianico generally set the bar for important Aglianico reference points.

Brief geography: Basilicata is that part of the Italian peninsula that forms the ankle on the boot. You can locate that pretty easily. With only slightly more effort, to find the area for Taurasi, zero in on the Province of Avellino in Campania and you’ll have the place (Hey, don’t complain, I did say “brief” geography, remember? It is do-it-yourself, afterall). Separated by just 40 or so miles, the very common denominator relating the del Vulture and Taurasi production zones is the volcanic soil on which they are situated and in which Aglianico seems to thrive.

I can offer a thumbnail sketch of how the Vulture and Taurasi wines compare: well, actually, I hate doing this kind of broad brush thing, because there are always exceptions, but as you force me:

Aglianico del Vulture wines tend to be wines of complexity and detail, with dark and red fruit tones underlined by mineral character (volcanic, right?) and firm, often dusty tannins, while Taurasi – again, generally speaking – is perhaps the more structured of the two, also has the mineral thing going on, a wine that can show incredible depth and a finish that can go on forever. When cellared, Aglianico wines from either del Vulture or Taurasi areas will reward your patience.

Descriptors for wines from either zone could include red cherry, black cherry, plum, violets, smoke, meat, leather, vanilla, cocoa, menthol and tobacco, and no, that is not a definitive list. Foodie’s will appreciate that Aglianico’s naturally high acidity makes it a great food wine (and also balances alcohol levels that can be north of 14%).

Recommended, reasonable price points and pretty good trade distribution as far as I know:

Bisceglia Aglianico del Vulture
Tenuta Portale Le Vigne a Capanno Aglianico del Vulture
Mastroberardino Radici Taurasi
Terredora di Paolo Taurasi Fatica Contadina

Benvenuto Brunello 2014, New York

Benvenuto Brunello 2014, New York

If, like me, impatience has driven you to pop a Brunello cork prematurely, you may be interested to know that the 2009 vintage of Brunello di Montalcino will require no personal improvement in self-discipline 😉

benvenuto-brunello-2014-2aBrunello wines from the four-star 2009 vintage previewed January 27th at Benvenuto Brunello in New York. I found the wines to be generally open, opulent, with many …dare I say it … ready to drink early.

Accordingly, the vintage should be a great one not only for the restaurant market but also for the private consumer who wants pleasure in the short term from his Brunello spend. For collectors seeking cellaring potential, however, the five-star 2006 and 2007 vintages remain better options.

A seminar and guided tasting segment featuring eight Brunello di Montalcino wines was presented by Gloria Maroti Frazee, of Wine Spectator School. Maroti Frazee, to her credit, took attendees on a rather Socratic tour of Brunello wines and Montalcino terroir, teaching through astute questioning along the way. The seminar-tasting proved a great roadmap to delineate and distinguish differences between Brunello’s north and south growing zones.

At one point during the seminar, speaking of Sangiovese, the grape varietal responsible for Brunello di Montalcino, Maroti Frazee noted that, “Sangiovese whispers, not shouts, of its tipicita.” I so appreciate that statement as it does hint, I think, at one of the true beauties of Brunello, that being Brunello is so subtly reflective of variations in Montalcino’s altitude, soil, and temperature.

benvenuto-brunello-2014-1aOn the main tasting floor, I encountered many wonderfully open, plush Brunello wines from 2009 as well as stellar normale and riserva examples from the ’08, ’07 and ’06 vintages.

Yet, even in that context, it was obvious that Rosso di Montalcino wines from 2011 and 2012 being shown by producers alongside their Brunello entries were drinking spectacularly well, showing outstanding quality. Not to be too surprised, however: as noted during the seminar, approximately 50% of Rosso di Montalcino is produced from reclassified Brunello grapes. Discerning lovers of Sangiovese will do well to keep Rosso di Montalcino wines on their buying radar especially where a solid fix of good Sangiovese is required at times when the wallet is perhaps too thin to endure the pricier Brunello spend.

In summary, the Brunello and Rosso di Montalcino wines I tasted at Benvenuto Brunello 2014 NYC give continued testimony to the exceptional quality and terroir of Montalcino.

Memorable among the show’s exhibiter producers:
Canalicchio di Sopra
Cappane Ricci
La Fiorita
Le Ragnaie
Palazzo
Tenute Silvio Nardi
Paradisone – Colle degli Angeli
Santa Giulia
Ucelliera

Special shout out to the IEEM team for hosting the event in a space offering a measure of elegance befitting Brunello wines. Gotham Hall was a gorgeous venue for this event!

Related Post, from my 2012 media trip to Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino – A Reflection

La Fiorita Brunello Riserva 2006

La Fiorita Brunello Riserva 2006

Note: La Fiorita Brunello Riserva 2006 was provided to me as a tasting sample. If interested, see Vintrospective policy about wine samples here.

la-fiorita-brunello-riserva-2006Between the wine world’s opposing forces of trendiness and typicity, there is often too little room left for originality.

But, every so often, good things happen in small spaces 😉

La Fiorita Brunello Riserva 2006 asserts itself with originality and timeless style, a reflection of both yesterday and today.

Begun in 1992, La Fiorita started life as a project between owner Roberto Cipresso and friends. Cipresso carefully selected vineyard locations from land characterized by richness in soil and climate to align with the estate’s production philosophy.

La Fiorita Brunello Riserva 2006 is produced from 100% Sangiovese sourced from the estate’s Pian Bossolino vineyard. The vineyard, established during the second half of the 90’s, is planted at a density of 7K plants per hectare. The wine ages for 12 months in first and second passage French Tonneaux and 12 months in Slavonian oak.

Pian Bossolino
Pian Bossolino
Tasting Notes / Impressions:

A core of ripe berry fruit surrounded by notes of forest floor, leather, anise, eucalyptus, cedar and mint, join forces together in a massively focused nose. Structured, supple and muscular, the wine is utterly harmonious, a masterful demonstration of artistic restraint. The finish is all about the beauty of the wine’s powerful yet smooth tannic suite, dusted with hints of cocoa. Delicious now, this wine is one not to miss in five years from now. Decanted for one hour.

Food Pairing Suggestions:

This Brunello served with grilled, thick Porterhouse steaks was, for me, one of the year’s best pairings. Need I say more?

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2 Wines from Luce Della Vite

Note: Luce Della Vite “Luce” and “Lucente” were provided to me as tasting samples. If interested, see Vintrospective policy about wine samples here.

To set the mood, allow me a moment to share what are, IMHO, a couple of great collaborations:

Lennon / McCartney
DeNiro / Scorsese
Pasta / Fagioli 😉

luce-della-vite-luce-lucenteAfter tasting Luce Della Vite’s “Luce” and “Lucente”, I am inclined to add the names Frescobaldi / Mondavi to that brief list of names linked together in successful alliance.

Responsible for Tenuta Luce Della Vite, the collaborative project resulting in Luce and Lucente, the families Frescobaldi and Mondavi need no introduction to anyone interested enough in wine to be reading this blog. Suffice it to say only that these families have been leading forces in the world of winemaking.

(If you truly are unaware of the Frescobaldi / Mondavi histories, consider performing 30 minutes penitential research which you are hereby given.)

Luce Della Vite “Luce” 2008

Opaque, deep ruby color radiates warmth and vitality. Polished, rich scents of berry jelly, cherry tobacco, mint and black pepper. Suggestions of dark chocolate. Round and soft in the mouth underscored with exhilarating minerality / acidity. Excellent suite of sophisticated tannins come on like the stick attack of NYC bucket drummers. Long, meditative finish that seems to take you to tomorrow.

Luce is produced from Sangiovese (45%) and Merlot (55%) with long maceration on skins, aged in hand-split oak barrique (90% new, 10% used once) for 24 months.

Luce Della Vite “Lucente” 2009

Dense, clear ruby with amaranth reflections. Aromatic mélange of cherries, red berries, and strawberries, showing, as in Luce, suggestions of black pepper, chocolate. Red fruits transfer to a round, elegant palate. Deliciously silky, fine-grained tannins. Long, flavorful fruit-driven finish with hints of anise.

It is Merlot (75%) and Sangiovese (25%) that go into Lucente, fermented in stainless steel and aged for 12 months in 55% new French oak, 5% American oak, 40% French oak used once.

Luce and Lucente are stylish art wines that bring something of interest to the table for lovers of either traditional or international styles. Especially easy entry points into Italian wine for Cali lovers and vice-versa.

Fratelli Alessandria Barolo San Lorenzo 2005

Fratelli Alessandria Barolo San Lorenzo 2005, DOCG

I don’t like categories. Well, no, that’s not quite true, actually… what I don’t like is the way categories are often applied.

Categories are tools for organizing, not for describing.

Misuse = instant homogenization.

fratelli-alessandria-barolo-san-lorenzo-2005I do like when the greatness of a thing resists categorization: J.S. Bach’s Sonata No.1 Adagio; Michelangelo’s Pieta; a poem of Pablo Neruda.

Add to that list –> Fratelli Alessandria’s Barolo San Lorenzo 2005.

NOTE: technically speaking, the list should also include a Balinese girl I met at the seashore during the summer I was 17 years 😉

Existing in a realm insufficiently described by terms like traditional or modern, Fratelli Alessandria Barolo San Lorenzo is pure soul floating across a timeline of taste, some ageless liquid prayer.

Owned by the Battista family, Fratelli Alessandria is located in the municipality of Verduno in Italy’s Piedmont and consists of approximately 12 hectares. The estate makes about 250 cases per year of its single cru Barolo San Lorenzo. The wine is made of 100% Nebbiolo from 20 year old vines of southern exposure grown in calcareous slimy limestone at 300m altitude.

Fermentation takes place over 12-15 days, followed by 6 – 10 months in 500 litre French oak barrels, then 16 – 20 months in 20 – 30 hectolitre oak casks, 3 months in stainless steel tanks and at least 12 months in horizontally laid bottles. Bottled in the summer 33 months after harvest.(1)

Tasting Notes / Impressions

Ruby red with chromatic curves of garnet. An aromatic polyphony of scents dangles in time and space: smoke, tar, violets, hints of burnt orange, dark caramel. Quiet complexity slowly unravels itself in the glass, bringing additional notes of coffee, anise, spice, earthy mushroom, awakening in me a perception of non-linear time, wordless terrestrial language. On the palate, impressions of rich, yet unimposing fruit marry beautifully to matching tannins. Finishes long with sensual, soft intensity.

The wine will please modernists [ that’s organization, not description 😉 ] with its good measure of fruit and will win over traditionalists with firm tannins and good structure. All will appreciate the wine’s superb all-round balance.

Food Pairing Suggestions:

MEATS: generally speaking, rich meats, casseroles and stews are the name of the game, BUT, especially good will be: rack of lamb; beef tenderloin; veal cutlets stuffed with Fontina cheese; roast duck; if you like Asian flavors, do try this wine with Beijing Duck! PASTA: agnolotti / ravioli stuffed with beef, pork, or rabbit; VEGETARIAN: tortelli or ravioli stuffed with pumpkin and amaretti cookie crumbs, scented with nutmeg; wide egg pasta served with creamy gorgonzola- porcini mushroom sauce; herb risotto, using a mix of majoram, rosemary, basil, chives, parsley, sage, tarragon, served with butter and grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese; or radicchio risotto cooked with a small glass of the Barolo added, serve as above.

1, from Fratelli Alessandria website

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Fontanafredda Barolo Lazzarito vigna La Delizia 2000

Fontanafredda Barolo Lazzarito vigna La Delizia 2000, DOCG

You sometimes hear of Barolo’s haunting, ethereal character. Appropriate. The historical spirit of Barolo seems filled with ghosts and memories:

Of fathers and mothers grown old working the vineyards, and
times when you had to walk to get anywhere;
Wheat and maize planted between vine rows,
hail storms that destroyed the bunches.
Of youth spent working:
vineyards by day, hunting truffles by night.
Hand-washing the bottles, and
big families helping each other.
Poverty.
Wines that could out live you and tasted like where you stood. 1

fontanafredda-barolo-lazzarito-vigna-la-delizia-2000Fontanafredda Barolo Lazzarito vigna La Delizia is produced in an area of Italy’s Piedmont where the spirit of tradition and terroir is more than just apparition.

The cellars and estate of Fontanafredda were established during the late 1870’s by Emmanuel Guerrieri, Count of Mirafiori, who was apparently blessed with the passion, vision and means to produce quality wines. Drawing on over 125 years of experience, the Tenementi Fontanafredda brand expresses a “…vast heritage in terms of values, experience and style built up by Fontanafredda…”2; and was “…created to meet the expectations of lovers of wines with a strong personality: authentic expressions of a wine-growing culture with a long-standing tradition…”3

Made from 100% nebbiolo grapes from the La Delizia plot, Fontanafredda’s Barolo Lazzarito vigna La Delizia hails from an area of the Barolo zone nearby the village of Serralunga d’Alba, a locale known for long-lived, well-structured wines. La Delizia – which borders another important cru Lazzarito – is located at approximately 400 meters altitude with south/southwest exposure in a sedimentary marine soil that includes a calcareous marl component.

Key winemaking processes include frequent precision pumping of juice over the cap, maceration of 20-30 days and controlled temperature fermentation (alcoholic and malolactic). Matured in barrels of 50% new Allier oak for approximately twelve months, the wine is then racked into medium sized oak cask for an additional year. The wine is clarified with egg whites, bottled, and cellared for one further year before release.

Tasting Notes / Impressions:

Medium ruby color punctuated by flecks of crimson and, around the edges, just a tinge of burnt orange. Over several hours, aromas would appear, be gone, some only to reappear, vestiges of dried rose and cherry, plum, tobacco, mushroom, cola, ginger cake, and balsam. An utterly seductive palate experience features the simultaneous sensations of density and softness. Solidly structured, with close-grained tannins that have a cashmere-like fineness. The wine finishes with such a decrescendo of softness that it seems to momentarily exist somewhere just beyond touch.

Still capable of many cellar years.

NOTE: I decanted this wine for 2 hours before really sitting down with it.

Food Pairing Suggestions:

MEATS: rich meat dishes of beef, rabbit, chicken or duck, perhaps wrapped in pancetta and braised or roasted (note: I wouldn’t wrap the duck in pancetta). Use the juices to create a sauce to serve with polenta or pasta. CHEESES: medium to full aged cheeses.

1, Original remix drawn from impressions of A Wine Atlas of the Langhe, section Barolo, Eye Witness Reports

2, 3 from Tenementi Fontanafredda website

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Featured Producer: Giuseppe Rinaldi

The next time you drink Barolo, offer a toast to the Marchesa Falletti Giulietta Vitturnia Colbert di Maulévrier. It was she who wanted her nebbiolo wine to celebrate in name the place of its origin: Barolo.

Indeed, Marchesa Giulietta was “…a cultured…and generous benefactress and the leading light in a generation of Barolo makers who laid the foundations of town’s future fortune.”1

True, guys. It took a woman to name Italy’s King of Wines 😉

giuseppe-rinaldi-barolo-brunate-le-costeMany times I had the good fortune to return home with my bag of wine samples still containing a taste or two of Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo left in the bottle. In the words of singer-songwriter James Taylor, these were days where “Daddy loves his work”.

It is odd to me that Rinaldi so often flies beneath the radar of many die hard Barolo geeks – this producer is a pillar of quality and tradition in Barolo winemaking. So, I am happy to write here about three vintages of Barolo Brunate – Le Coste from this exceptional producer.

Giuseppe Rinaldi entered the wine business through the portal of a long family tradition in winemaking, leaving behind a professional life as a veterinarian and taking over the family wine business in 1992 when his father, Battista Rinaldi, passed away.

Although the label of “traditionalist” would apply here, I more like to think of Rinaldi as a classicist, as it is a word that conveys a certain intelligence and respect not only for traditional viewpoint, but also for principles and ideas which tradition rests upon. A subtlety, yes, but one that I think is more accurate in terms of where Rinaldi is coming from, so to speak, and one which he deserves.

If you are a Barolo lover, I am guessing you are already familiar with the name Brunate. But if not, you’ll want to remember it: Brunate is among the grandest and finest of Barolo crus and constitutes the lion’s share (80%) of Rinaldi’s Barolo Brunate – Le Coste cuvee. Brunate is known for wines of great balance, permeating fragrance and considerable structure. Le Coste, another highly regarded Barolo cru, is fantastically located with good southern exposure and excellent sun, and completes the cuvee. (Yes, a cuvee – although classic and traditional, Giuseppe Rinaldi does not fear original thinking.)

The Rinaldi Barolo cuvees – there are 2 – are made from 100% nebbiolo grapes sourced from the estate’s plots – in this case Brunate and Le Coste – and follow the same traditional vinfication course: long macerations on skins, daily punch downs by hand and maturation carried out in large wood vats, and aged for 3+ years in botti, the large casks of Slavonian oak ubiquitous to traditional Barolo winemaking.

Tasting Notes / Impressions:

Rinaldi Barolo Brunate – Le Coste 2001

Medium garnet color with translucence reminiscent of fine crystal. Cherry kirsch, flower, and spice aromas interlace an alluring incense. Exquisitely complete flavors of red fruit, flower, tobacco, and powdered chocolate and a spirit of feminine strength. Finishes with the firm embrace of classic Barolo tannins.

Rinaldi Barolo Brunate – Le Coste 2000

Medium ruby color. A smokey, brooding perfume of red berries, dark fruit, earth, tobacco, eucalyptus. That mood continues on the palate with rich, shaded sensations of cherry kirsch with hints of truffle and plum. Masculine in personality compared to the 2001, the wine finishes with a handshake of aftertaste and firm tannins that do not miscommunicate what you are drinking.

Rinaldi Barolo Brunate – Le Coste 1999

Slightly darker than medium ruby color. Incredibly complex on the nose – earthy aromas seem to breathe in and out an entirely other perfume of roses, leather, and berries, as if each embodies the other. Delicious acidity underscores the intensity of ripe dark berry fruit and hint of pipe tobacco. Powerfully tannic, massively structured, with an ethereal, slowly retreating finish strung with haunting images of aroma and flavor.

NOTE: Rinaldi wines are intended for long cellaring – don’t make the expensive mistake of buying a recent vintage and opening it for dinner tonite ;-).

Food Pairing Suggestions:

MEAT: red meats and game, either braised, stewed, roasted, especially try Brasato al Barolo (beef braised in red wine) served over polenta; veal stuffed with cheese and flecks of truffle; Risotto: hearty risotto cooked with red wine (barbera or nebbiolo); Cheeses: well aged cheeses.

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1. A Wine Atlas of the Langhe: The Great Barolo and Barbaresco Vineyards: published by Slow Food Editore, authored by Vittorio Manganelli and other writers, edited by Carlo Petrini. NOTE: This is an absolutely incredibly volume and highly recommend it for your reference library or general reading.