For Those Who Haven’t Given Up On Great Barolo at a Reasonable Price

If ye are of sufficient faith to be holding your spend for great Barolo at an affordable price, then you would do well to navigate yourself in the direction of the nearest bottle of Luigi Einaudi Barolo Cannubi 2013. One of the great young Barolo wines I’ve come across of late, Luigi Einaudi Barolo Cannubi 2013 lives up to praise bestowed upon the 2013 Barolo vintage as one that will be remembered for wines of great finesse. Aromatic and textured, showing good depth, along with expected notes of tar and roses, finishing with graceful, silky tannins. The wine is pure pleasure even now. This is one that neither the Nebbiolo-curious nor Barolo junkies will want to miss.

*provided as sample

Two Wines, Snow, Hungry Birds

Given the recent weather, I am pretty certain, no matter where in the great New England outdoors you may be standing at the moment, that you are quite knee deep in snow. In my particular case, thigh deep, actually, and trudging through to fill a bird feeder with seed for our local fine-feathered friends.

I am thinking to introduce you to a couple of wines that, back indoors, brought some much appreciated sunshine – however virtual it may have been – to an otherwise snowy weekend:

vinarija-dingac-plavac-peljesac-2012-1Dingac Vinarija Pelješac 2012
I adore this somewhat geeky wine from the Pelješac (pell-yuh-shatz) Peninsula on Croatia’s rugged Dalmatian Coast. Produced from 100% head-trained Plavac Mali or Little Blue, Plavac is apparently a varietal cousin of California Zinfandel. Savory herb components are in good unison with the wine’s sweeter notes of wild berry, plum, and dried fig, underlined with delicious salinity, a taste / aroma profile calling to mind that of Carignano del Sulcis. Come to think of it, both do share a certain wildness of spirit. That humid conditions do not exist in the vineyard(s) has allowed the producer to forego spraying vines for mold. A flourishing yeast population kick-starts a wild fermentation conducted in stainless steel. Aged for one year in used oak.

vajra-barolo-albe-2009G.D. Vajra Barolo Albe 2009
Vajra’s Barolo Albe conferred a fitting level of refined drinking to a family sit down of rare-cooked lamb t-bone cuts, butternut squash risotto, and roasted asparagus, dinner taken by the woodstove on a recent and cold ass New England evening. On the feminine side of the Barolo gender-meter, this lovely wine gives up delicate notes of dried flowers, herbs, underbrush, hints of anise and cocoa, pleasantly ripe tannins. Blended from sustainably farmed grapes sourced from three different vineyards at altitudes of 400-440 meters, undergoes 30 – 40 day fermentation. The wine is aged ~36 months in Slavonian oak.

As an aside, both these wines, in their respective price ranges, bring serious value for money to the table. Poseur wines with inflated price tags: take notice. But, that’s a discussion for another day.

Anyway, yesterday brought another fourteen inches of snow. And I hear that Punxsutawney Phil, America’s weather forecasting Groundhog, on February 2nd 2015, the 129th North American Groundhog Day, predicted another six weeks of winter. Best I should pull on boots and thick wool trousers and head out to top off the feeder.

Bottle Roundup, Two Nebbiolo-based Wines with Varietal Character and Complexity, Reco’s at a Glance

bottle-round-up-fay-caves-de-donnas-may-2013Left to Right:

Caves de Donnas DONNAS – 90% Nebbiolo grapes (Picotendro), 10% Freisa and Neyret. Valle D’Aosta. $$

Sandro Fay Rosso di Valtellina – 90% Nebbiolo (Chiavennasca), 10% Merlot, Brugnola, Rossola, Pignola. Lombardia Valtellina. $

A Mountain Red from Italy’s Vallée d’Aosta: La Kiuva Arnad Montjovet 2010

A Mountain Red from Italy’s Vallée d’Aosta: La Kiuva Arnad Monjovet 2010

Good things, they say, come in small packages.

Italy’s smallest wine region, Vallée d’Aosta, presents no exception: I find gem after wine gem from this region that is neatly tucked away in Italy’s northwest corner where Europe’s highest peaks – Monte Rosa, the Matterhorn, Mont Blanc and the Gran Paradiso – dominate the skyline.

la-kiuva-arnad-montjovet-2010Let’s pause here for a moment, just long enough for me to offer you what you can consider a New Year recommendation. No, I will not recommend you a particular bottle of wine. That would be too easy. My New Year recommendation for you is this: place the region of Vallée d’Aosta squarely on your wine radar. And then, do everything you can do to taste and explore Vallée d’Aosta wines. 2013 will be a better year for your effort 🙂

OK, we continue: With its cold winters, cool summers and ventilating winds running down from the mountaintops, the region of Vallée d’Aosta is naturally inclined to vine cultivation without obligation to entertain excessive pesticide interventions.

The DOC of Arnad Montjovet takes its name from a pair of villages in Vallée d’Aosta. In these parts, the local clone of Nebbiolo, known as Picotendro, yields small bunches of smallish, ripe grapes well-suited to the region’s climate. Able to mature well there, they confer dimensions of intense fruit and depth to the local wines.

Founded in 1975, the La Kiuva Cooperative includes approximately 60 growers working 25 or so hectares of vineyards. Near as I can tell, yearly production comes in at somewhere between 70-90K bottles. The Cooperative has a reputation of producing wines of exceptionally high quality.

La Kiuva Arnad Montjovet is produced from at least 70% Nebbiolo with the addition of other permitted local grapes including Gros Vien, Neyret, Cornalin and Fumin. Sandy soils of the area are of glacial origin. The wine is aged for eight months, two-thirds of which it spends in steel, one-third in wooden barrels, followed by an additional six months in bottle.

Tasting Notes / Impressions:

Bright cherry-red fruit with an attractively moody underside, impressions of roses, saddle leather and spice. Smooth in the mouth with fine, grippy tannins, bracing acidity, hints of citrus peel and almond on the finish. Differs from Barbaresco or Barolo in that it is lighter, fresher, yet still maintains that haunting essence of Nebbiolo.

Food Pairing Suggestions:

This is a super-talented wine at table: I wouldn’t hesitate to pair it with most meat dishes ranging from a bison burger covered with caramelized onions and melted Fontina d’Aosta to roast beef served with horseradish sauce. I would also find this wine a good partner for dishes featuring cheese or cream sauces – to be tucked away on a cold night with a good movie, authentic fondue and a bottle of La Kiuva Arnad Montjovet would not be a bad evening. The wine will also do well with rich fish entrees such as salmon with butter sauce. Vegetarians might consider marrying the wine’s “moody” side with the earthy tones of a mushroom risotto or a cheese-y root vegetable casserole.

PS – A warm thank you to a special friend for a great bottle of wine.

Oddero Barolo 1998

Oddero Barolo 1998

Psychologists tell us that most people live in the past with their regrets or in the future with their worries.

Confession: I am, on occasion, guilty of both.

oddero-barolo-1998-2There is an art to living in the moment. In fact, my virtuosity in that pursuit has recently improved somewhat thanks to a bottle of Oddero Barolo 1998 😉

Brilliant garnet in color, the wine showed brooding dark cherries, tobacco and faded roses dominating the nose during the first hour. Smoke, mushroom and tar made their appearances during hour 2. Majestic, fine, silky tannins are totally the main event and lead us to a satisfying finish with notes of dried fruit and licorice.

This Barolo kept me riveted with sheer pleasure to the here and now, transfixed in a moment that lasted an entire evening.

100% Nebbiolo, selected manually. Fermentation / maceration carried out in stainless steel over 20 days. Aged in Slavonian and Austrian oak for 30 months. 6 additional months in bottle.

A great expression of Piedmont terroir from an historic producer.

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Mirafiore Barolo 2007

Tobacco hangs in the curing barns now. Great fields of corn have been cut down to brown stalks returning an expansive feel to the local landscape. Thousands of jack-o’-lantern-orange orbs peek out from among the pumpkin vines.

mirafiore-barolo-2007Fall is rolling into my neck of New England. Today, the world outside seems composed in shades of brown accompanied by a sleepy, rainy day’s soundtrack. But inside, overhead lighting and the sizzling sound of shitake, portobello, porcini mushrooms and shallots hitting the pan turn the kitchen into a lively space. We’ll simmer these in a cream sauce and serve over fettuccine, washing it all down with a bottle of Barolo.

There are professional wine critics who loved Mirafiore’s Barolo 2007. And there are non-professional, but informed palates that have spread the word otherwise. The wine didn’t flex much muscle, frankly, and seemed somewhat contrived at times. Impressions of dried leaves and faded roses for which nebbiolo is famous lacked volume in comparison to other Baroli at similar price points. Nonetheless, the wine was lovely with dinner, showing a gentle firmness of structure and an alluringly soft texture that worked well enough with the mushrooms and cream.

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Vallana Spanna Colline Novaresi 2008

Vallana Spanna Colline Novaresi 2008

It is Halloween week here in the US and for many trick-or-treaters there is magic in the air.

So, let me tell you about magic:

vallana-colline-novaresi-spanna-2008Magic is what happens when the Vallana family of the village Maggiora in Italy’s Alto Piemonte ferments Nebbiolo grapes. And their potion known as Vallana Spanna Colline Novaresi 2008 will certainly cast a delicious spell upon you.

The wine is made with super-selected Nebbiolo grapes (95%) along with a splash of Vespolina and Bonarda sourced from high-altitude vineyards in sub-regions Gattinara and Boca. Vines were planted during the late ‘60’s.

Grapes are cold soaked for 24 hours, then fermented in cement tanks with attentive decision-making overseeing the evolution of every batch. The wine spends 6 months in large oak before bottling.

Tasting Notes / Impressions:

Intense, beautifully articulated pure berry fruit shows great depth, earthy and elegant with notes of smoke, flowers and herbs. Delicious acidity; cough medicine on the finish. Distinctively Italian, yet summons recollections of good Burgundy. Drinking super well right now, this wine is like a fine young prince, noble in its youth and sure to develop magnificently.

Food Pairing Suggestions:

Broad-brush picture: you won’t go wrong pairing this wine with roasted meats, aged cheeses or hearty pasta entrees. But, to keep it interesting: I would not hesitate to pair this Spanna with mild-medium spicy Indian dishes or hearty lentil soup with or without meat (sausage would be my choice ! ).

Related Posts: Vallana Gattinara 1999
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Rainoldi Sassella Valtellina Superiore 2006

Rainoldi Sassella Valtellina Superiore 2006

I like to think about harmony in wine as I do about harmony in music: a super-connection of relaxations and tensions that manage to stay balanced in a way that’s pleasing to the senses.

And, Rainoldi’s Sassella Valtellina Superiore 2006, I’ve found, is a wine that is, first and foremost, one of harmony.

rainoldi-valtellina-superiore-2006Rainoldi is based in Lombardy’s famous Valtellina, a great Nebbiolo terroir and the northernmost wine region of Lombardy. Here, Nebbiolo, known locally as Chiavennasca, is cultivated predominately by hand on steep slopes where mechanization is nearly impossible.

Rainoldi makes its Sassella from 100% Nebbiolo, grown in the rocky, sandy soil of high altitude vineyards, approximately 250 – 550m altitude, with southern exposure.

The wine matures for close to two years in Slavonian oak followed by refinement in bottle for at least 1 year before being released to market.

Tasting Notes / Impressions:

A magnificently interwoven spectrum of aromatics and flavors – cherry, orange peel, herb, plum, anise and smoke – resolves beautifully into the wine’s structure. Moderate tannins with good grip and a long finish showing a mature smoothness. Harmonic and balanced, an astounding value for money.

Food Pairing Suggestions:

I find this wine works well with dishes enriched with cream, butter, and / or cheese… hearty courses – with or without meat – of soups, risotto, pasta and polenta are going to pair well. For example, consider a first course of rich risotto with butter, cheese and thin slices of the cured meat called Bresaola (if you are vegetarian, substitute porcini mushrooms for the Bresaola). Cheeses like Mascarpone, Robiola, Gorgonzola, Camembert, Taleggio, Brie de Nangis, will be especially good. Of course, this wine, as you’d expect, is awesome with red meat: try a main course of veal roast with cream.

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