Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Le Pupille, Poggio Valente Riserva

 2009 Fattoria Le Pupille, Poggio Valente Riserva  Morellino di Scansano 14.5% ABV, $35

From the single vineyard, Poggio Valente, at 280m elevation, the Poggio Valente is yet another great example of the quality and value that can be found in Morellino Di Scansano. The nose has a lot to offer with aromatic blackberry and black cherry, Earthy Asian spice, and savory aromas under the fruit. There is a restrained ripeness at the core that adds depth and takes this wine to the next level of enjoyability. The palate starts with a smooth attack and more black fruit that is firm, and nicely chewy. The savory component is present on the palate too, with seasoned, mixed grill flavors supported by flinty Earth, and some tobacco. The finish is long, aromatic and savory. Quite satisfying. 40,000 bottles produced. Aged 15 months in French barriques, 40% new / 60% second passage. 97% Sangiovese, 3% Merlot 94Pts

Monday, September 22, 2014

Marquis De Grinon, Caliza

Excellent Syrah Value From DO de Dominio de Pago Valdepusa

Xandra Falco, Director General, CEO
 All of the wines from this top Spanish producer are solid and even outstanding as you move up the line. The property has been in the Falco family since 1292 (yes, that's a year), and has a rich history of influencing the Spanish wine industry.
I especially like the Caliza for its value, and variety. You don't typically think of Spain, when you think of Syrah; and I love what this varietal can do in the hands of good winemakers in atypical locations. This is a prime example. The name Caliza is a reference to the limestone soil, in which these vines are planted, that significantly influences the wine's character.
Other Marquis De Grinon wines include a 100% Syrah, and the "Emeritus", their top cuvee which is a blend of 63% Cabernet Sauvignon, 32% Petit Verdot and 5% Syrah. I tasted both, but did not makes specific notes. They were both excellent and complex, with the Emeritus having a structure clearly built for longevity.
Caliza, with the Image of a Limestone on the Label

2010 Marquis De Grinon "Caliza" D.O. de Pago Valdepusa, Spain 14.5% ABV $17

The nose starts off with dark roasted cherry and strawberry preserves, with notes of espresso beans, and a fresh, clean, mineral note underneath. The palate is meaty, and full flavored with charred strawberry, and black cherry, a little smoke, flinty Earth, and textured minerality. There's good length on the firm finish and a pleasant chewiness. With the additional presence of moderate acidity, the Caliza is complete, and well balanced.  65% Syrah, 35% Petit Verdot  90Pts

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Terralsole Brunello Di Montalcino 2004

2004 Terralsole, Mario Bollag, Brunello Di Montalcino 14% ABV, $55

Decanted 1 hour prior with plenty of sediment present. Firm, dark, dense black fruit,  is the primary feature to start on the nose. Overlaid on that foundation is dried flowers, subtle dried mint leaves, some green tobacco, and savory herbs. The palate has aromatic black cherry, and more savory notes, with a ripe core, but still giving an impression of rusticity with it firm grip and flinty undertones. Later, notes of coffee emerge. Tertiary notes are present, but hard to pin down. Masculine at its heart with long finish, and a little salinity at the end. 90 Pts

Terralsole is located in the south-eastern section of the the Brunello DOCG, near Castelnuovo dell'Abate. Grapes for this Brunello are grown at an altitude of 250m in classic marl. While not officially certified organic, their practices follow the principles of organic farming. The wine spent 28 months in large French tonneaux , and six months in bottle before release.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

2009 Brunello - Vintage Report

  Welcoming the 2009 vintage

Gotham Hall NYC - Seminar on the 2009 Brunello Vintage
January 27th saw the arrival of the Benvenuto Brunello road show, from The Fortezza in Montalcino, to Gotham Hall in Manhattan. The purpose of the event was to showcase (and welcome) the 2009 vintage of Brunello Di Montalcino, being as it was, the January five years after the harvest year.

Approximately thirty producers were present to pour the wines of Montalcino: 2009 Brunello, 2008 Brunello Riserva, various Rosso Di Montalcino (Mostly 2012), Sant' Antimo DOC.

Many bottles have now found their way to store shelves, so I thought it a good time to share my thoughts on the vintage.

The 2009 Brunello Vintage

Officially rated at four stars, out of a possible five, 2009 was a season that provided challenges for producers, but seemed to have a relatively happy ending.
 Here is the official description of the vintage from the Corsorzio Del Vino Brunello Di Montalcino:
"During the first phase, there were many rainy days which resulted in a large accumulation of water reserves in the land. This was in the Spring, at the beginning of the vegetative development of the vines. This mainly rainy phase lasted longer than normal, until the middle of July. During the second phase, the summer season, the weather was very dry and hot. The water reserves, accumulated during the first phase, proved very useful. The ripening speeded up from the second half of the month of August and followed a steady rhythm, as is clear also from the analytical data collected by the Consorzio. The potential alcohol contents of the grapes are quite high, but with excellent levels of total acidity and extracts. The amounts of polyphenols are both substantial and well balanced."

My General Impressions of the Wines Tasted
Lovely fruit was a frequent characteristic, with many showing especially rich spiced cherry that lends itself to early drinking. Many wines ended up with slightly higher alcohol levels as well. That said, there is still good balance and structure in many of the wines that I tasted, which bodes well for some aging potential. One pitfall of the vintage was the heat that lingered into late summer. Poor timing during harvest could result in poor balance, and weak structure. As always, these generalities are subject to the practices of individual producers. Sadly, some producers never quite meet the mark of this noble wine, for one reason or another, but there are many fine examples in the class of 2009.

Notes on several 2009's tasted, at Benvenuto Brunello and elsewhere.

2009 Le Ragnaie V.V. Brunello Di Montalcino 14% ABV
Aromatic and rich with solid depth to the dark spice red cherry fruit.Notes of espresso beans are pronounced on the nose with delicate dried flowers on top. Soft textured, and elegant in weight in the mouth. More aromatic action energizes the red cherry fruit with dried herbs and dusty charred Earth. The finish has good length, more espresso, and a very fine grained texture. At over 600 meters elevation, the Le Ragnaie vineyard is the highest in the Montalcino zone, which seems to have helped in the high temperatures of the 2009 summer.. Only 2200 bottles produced. 92Pts

2009 Le Ragnaie Brunello di Montalcino14% ABV, $60

Rich Earth and aromatic red cherry skins with underlying minerality and notes of dried herbs (thyme?). Later green tobacco and sandalwood appear on the nose. The palate is delicious being somehow rich and lean at the same time.Spiced red cherry leads the way with nice freshness and juicy acidity. The finish is long and finely textured. Satisfying, and complete. 91 Pts


2009 Pinino Brunello Di Montalcino 14% ABV $50
Iron, dried herbs, tobacco, red cherry skins, and some vanilla bean on the nose. The palate consists of tart red cherry fruit that is a bit lean, accented by sparse Asian spice. The brief finish is firm and rustic. 87 Pts



 2009 Col D'Orcia Brunello Di Montalcino 14.5% ABV $55

First out on the nose is warm, spiced, dark cherry with a bit of tangerine rind, clay earth,
and pretty floral notes. The palate has an elegant weight, and is a bit subdued, showing subtle flavors of spiced red cherry, dried herbs, tobacco, and mineral Earth. Perhaps a bit shut down at this time, and likely to open and improve with time. 3 years in Slavonian oak and a year in bottle. An organic producer since 2013. 200,00 bottles produced. 88-90 Pts





2009 Tenuta Brunelli Brunello Di Montalcino 13% ABV $60

The nose is dark and firm, with black cherry skins, mineral Earth, and serious floral notes on top and a suggestion of spearmint. The palate is finessed, with great strength underneath, showing elegant red cherry, and raspberry, with Asian spice, and fine texture. Notes of charred Earth accent the structure, which is complete and balanced, albeit a bit disjointed at this young age. The finish has good length and a fine grained grip. There is a depth to this wine that draws you in to focus your attention. No riserva was made in 2009, so all of the Brunello grape production went into this wine, and it shows. Luca told me that the challenge in 2009 was deciding when to harvest. The heat in the summer was substantial, and carried through into September, harvesting too early in September had to be avoided; Luca harvested late in the month. 91 Pts

2009 Loacker Corte Pavone Brunello Di Montalcino 15% ABV  $75

Rich spiced red cherry is dominent on the nose. The palate shows brite acidity, lots of rich cherry,
with a hint of sweetness, all supported by a subtle firmness. Easy drinking. 89 Pts






2009 Livio Sassetti Pertimali Brunello Di Montalcino 13.5% $50

Here is a wine that is consistently solid, ready to drink, and well balanced. The 2009 is no exception. Starting with a core of dark, spiced, black cherry flesh and skins, the nose draws you in. The presence of mineral and bramble notes provides added complexity as dried flowers float over it all to punctuate things. The palate has nicely aromatic fruit, black cherry skins and a bit of strawberry, with some anise, and dried herbs. Well balanced, with plenty of acidity to carry things, and medium grained tannins framing it out. Complete and easy to drink now, and likely to improve in the short term. 90 Pts.


2009 Castello Romitorio Brunello Di Montalcino 14% ABV $50

 The nose is understated, with Earthy notes and some fragrant wood and fine red cherry skins. The palate is much more pronounced with tart red cherry, and bright acidity with sandalwood and subtle dried herbs. Most enjoyable was a fine green tobacco aroma late on the nose and also in the long, finessed finish. Perhaps a bit closed, I think it needs to be revisited in a year or two to see how it settles out. 12 months in French oak, and 14 months in Slavonian. Only 24,000 bottles produced.


2009 Palazzo Brunello Di Montalcino 14.5% ABV $70

Subtle smoke and incense overlay dusty dried red cherry skins on the nose, with a pleasant little note of smokey candle wax.
Nicely structured and well balanced, the palate shows red cherry skins, dark Earth, and flinty stones, with
dried herbs and a fine mouthcoating finish that lingers. Elegant and solid at the same time. 92 Pts












2009 Ciacci Piccolomini Brunello Di Montalcino 14.5% ABV $50

 Fine, black cherry, and black berry fruit, with elegant dried floral notes are the focus on the nose, along with burnt orange, iron, and a subtle richness. The palate has a fine grain, and elegant weight, with flavors of black cherry skins, anise, and some dried herbs. A bit awkward at this young age, with plenty of upside. 90Pts





2009 Siro Pacenti  "Pelagrilli" Brunello Di Montalcino 15% ABV $40

Beautifully rustic on the nose with cedar, forest floor, warm Earth, dried herbs, and firm black cherry fruit and skins. The palate has firm black fruit, more forest floor, and acidity in good measure that melds into the firm, fine tannins. The finish is long and interesting with some funk, and fine, mouth-coating tannins. 90Pts





2009 Siro Pacenti  Brunello Di Montalcino 15% ABV $75

The nose first shows firm masculine black cherry and black berry fruit with aromatic wood and some incense. On the palate, solid black cherry, some sweet tobacco and Earthy underbrush lead into a long, mouthwatering finish that has fine grip, and lingering tobacco notes. 91Pts







2009 Tenute Silvio Nardi Brunello Di Montalcino 14.5% ABV, $70

Forward, warm and toasty, spiced cherry leads the way on the nose.
Like a roasted cherry cobbler, with aromatic herbs, dried flowers, and forest floor. Very nice complexity. The palate has firm, fresh,  black cherry,with solid tannins, some espresso notes (which also develop later on the nose) and a long clean finish. Quite a nice ride. A blend of grapes sourced from twenty different vineyards, with an average vine age of 20 years. 12 months in barrique (new & used) followed by 18 months in botti. 150,000 bottles produced. Yummy and serious at the same time. 91Pts

2009 Il Grappolo - Fortius Brunello Di Montalcino 14.5% ABV

  The first impression on the nose is of beautiful spiced, red cherry fruit, followed by tobacco, some forest floor notes, orange rind, molasses, and dried flowers. The palate has lean red cherry, with more spice, mineral, dried herbs, and a moderately long finish. Well balanced, with good structure. 37,000 bottles produced. 90 Pts







2009 Capanne Ricci Brunello Di Montalcino 14.5% ABV $55

Quite Earthy on the nose, with roasted black cherry flesh and a grilled meats.
The Earthy quality continues on the palate along with spiced black cherry, the acidity is a bit
understated, being upstaged by the solid fruit and pronounced,but fine tannins. 89 Pts.



2009 Mocali Brunello Di Montalcino 

Fresh red cherry and red cherry skins, with smokiness, and Earth. On the palate, lean red cherry, some green herbs, and  good structure. Straightforward and ready to drink now. 87 Pts


2009 Gianni Brunelli Brunello Di Montalcino 14.5% ABV $60

Red cherry skins, and dried flowers lead the way on the nose with some clay Earth, mineral, and meatiness. The palate is nicely balanced, with finesse, showing more firm red cherry and floral notes, followed by a long, dusty finish. This is the full package, complete, satisfying, and likely to last in the cellar for a while.  91 Pts






2009 Uccelliera Brunello Di Montalcino 14% ABV $45

Fragrant, dried black cherry, with Asian spice notes, flinty Earth, and a subtle dairy notes, comprise the nose on this welcoming wine. The palate shows fresh, red cherry, some anise, with mouth coating dusty tannins and long, mouthwatering finish. Well built, and really easy to drink. An excellent value. 91 Pts



2009 Tenuta San Giorgio Brunello Di Montalcino 14.5% ABV $55

Sweet wood notes on the nose with cranberry, dried herbs, black pepper, and some cinnamon candy. The palate is fresh, and light in weight with clean red cherry, moderate acidity, and fine grained tannins. 87 Pts

Thursday, June 12, 2014

2009 Castello Di Ama Chianti Classico

2009 Castello Di Ama Chianti Classico Riserva 13.5% ABV  $33

This producer is one that provides "next level" Chianti perennially. The immediate first impression on the nose
is of depth, darkness, and complexity. The beautiful rich dark fruit, black cherry and blackberry, has a pleasant hard edge that suggests seriousness. Overlying the fruit is cedar, dried violets, charred sandalwood, faint vanilla bean, and subtle spice cake aromas. The palate is mid weight and mildly chewy. With the dark fruit leading the way again, the palate shows lean black cherry, dried flowers, and subtle grilled meat. Very firm and structured, but still quite approachable because of the fine fruit component. There is a long savory finish, with minerality and fine grained grip. Big and balanced, this will certainly reward cellaring. 92 Pts

Check out Levi Dalton's interview with Castello Di Ama director Marco Pallanti, on the I'll Drink to That! podcsast.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Castello Dei Rampolla - Sammarco 1997

Castello Dei Rampola, Sammarco 1997, IGT 13% ABV

Solid and full of character, this has not faded like some other '97's. With solid, dark, red plum and black cherry skins giving it a fullness on the nose and a rich core, it is very much alive and well. Other notes on the complex nose include dry underbrush, forest floor, rare roast beef, dark incense, and some black pepper. The palate has plenty of backbone, with firm acidity and  somewhat chewy tannins. Savory, with more black cherry skins, incense, and some dried floral notes. The finish is lingering and carries through the savoriness. Late notes of dark tobacco developed on the nose. There is no sign that this is near its crest. Mostly Cabernet Sauvignon, with Sangiovese and Merlot. A real pleasure. 92 Pts

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Barbi 2007 Brunello

Fattoria dei Barbi 2007 Brunello Di Montalcino 14% ABV, $40

The nose is full and rich with spiced red and black cherry fruit, rare beef, iron, aromatic dried herbs, hints of burnt orange rind and pleasing Earth undertones. The palate is light weight, but satisfying and full flavored, showing red cherry skins, and Asian spice with anise notes. Well structured with sweet acidity and fine grained chewiness on the finish, which lingers briefly. This is a much more readily enjoyable Barbi than ones I've tasted in the past. Easy to drink now, and built to support aging. A very good value. 90Pts.