Rocche Costamagna and Prunotto

For the sake of being comprehensive, I will review two winery visits from my stay in Piemonte in the fall of 2010, which I did not enjoy.

From: lunedì, 20 settembre.

Rocche Costamagna

Even though I didn’t love all the wines, Alessandro Locatelli, the owner of Rocche Costamagna was a friendly and amicable host.  The lady who normally does visits was out on maternity leave so he was doing her work, and absolutely everything else.  Plus I was visiting at peak harvest time so I did a lot of waiting around for Alessandro as he attended to workers, callers, and other visitors.  But I didn’t really mind.

The lobby of Rocche Costamagna is beautiful and with all the books, it is a wine library in and of itself.

Alessandro accommodated my request that he speak entirely in Italian during my visit (so I could learn) and he also let me try a tank sample of Barbera d’Alba 2008, which was about to be bottled.  While very young and thus intense, it does have delicious flavors blackberry and a refreshing acidity.  This Barbera, which has fruit sourced from both Annunziata and Verduno is not offered yet, but will be an addition in the future.

While I can’t remember having a Barolo from them that I had enjoyed prior to this visit, I remembered having really loved their Dolcetto d’Alba Murrae and Barbera d’Alba Annunziata

During my visit I was lucky to have the opportunity to try almost everything else, but the problem was, I didn’t like anything.

Arneis 2009.  Langhe Arneis DOC.  Rich smell with nuts, honey, and pear, almost like a Chardonnay.

Rubis 2007.  Dolcetto d’Alba DOC.  In the nose I get human sweat, herbs, and red berries, finishing very bitter.

Rocche delle Rocche Superiore 2006.  Barbera d’Alba DOC.  A modern Barbera, smelling like vanilla, finishing bright but sweet.  This one is aged in French barrels (barrique) for 15 months.

Annunziata 2007.  Barbera d’Alba DOC.  I still much prefer this one, with a balance of red fruits, finishing smooth.  ☆

Rocche dell’Annunziata 2006.  Barolo DOCG.  The bouquet: harsh tobacco, burned coffee, some flowers, but it smelled corked too.  By now I’d been joined by two groups and everyone else seemed to be enjoying it so I just didn’t say anything, judging that it would be unproductive since hey, if they liked it, more power to them.  Maybe Alessandro could sell them some and I wasn’t going to buy anything since I can easily get their wines in California.  The finish on this wine was overpowering with a lot of bitterness and acid.

Bricco Francesco 2005.  Barolo DOCG.  This one is actually pretty good but with a simple rich, sweet, cherry-vanilla nose and while strong, a more balanced finish.  ☆

From: giovedì, 30 settembre.


Let me start off by saying that I have to give them credit for being the only Barbaresco winery that returned my email saying they’d take me in for a visit to the winery during this time, the end of September.  As it was the top of harvest, I understand that a lot of Barbaresco producers had other things to do, but nevertheless, it was surprisingly disappointing not to get in anywhere new.  But I guess Prunotto responded because (from my interpretation after visiting) this is an industrial winery that is owned by the Tuscan wine house Antinori (since 1989) and maintains a lot of employees, including one who can always be available to host visits.

My hostess (whom I will refrain from naming) gave me a brief tour of the large winery and I learned that at Prunotto, they do their aging a little differently than any other Piemontese winery I’d been to.  She told me that they use a mix of Hungarian and French oak barrique, and large French oaks casks.  Normally in a Piemontese cantina the barrique are French oak only and the casks are Slavonian oak or some sort of eastern European oak (not French).  So this was a big surprise and in the end I felt like the Hungarian oak was overly influential in most of the reds.

My hostess was cordial at best but offered absolutely nothing for conversation.  Believe me, I tried.  I asked questions about her, her job, Alba, about this and that, and I got nothing.  She gave me a brochure that explained all the wines so there wasn’t much to be inquired there.  Although, to her credit, she was happy to open whatever I wanted but after a few tastes, I just wanted to get out of there.

Roero Arneis 2009.  Roero Arneis DOC.  Bright and fresh but really simple with slightly discernible apple flavors.

Grignolino d’Asti 2009.  Grognolino d’Asti DOC.  Perfumed and light in body and color.  Standard.

Occhetti 2007.  Nebbiolo d’Alba DOC.  I was excited to try this one since I love Renato Ratti’s Ochetti Nebbiolo from Monteu Roero  (I don’t know why the two spellings.)  But this one paled in comparison.  They’re both evidently aged in French oak, but this one saw some time in 50 HL French oak casks as well.  It seemed like it needed a lot more time in the bottle.  Maybe its complexity (imbalance?) will smooth out over time.

For the rest of the wines, I wrote virtually no notes and I really don’t have much to say about them.  In general, while I didn’t think the wines tasted bad, they just seem to lack personality and soul.  Maybe they do, or maybe I just don’t like the taste of Hungarian oak on my Nebbiolo.

Barbaresco 2006.  Barbaresco DOCG.  (Barbaresco and Treiso vineyards.)

Bric Turot 2006.  Barbaresco DOCG.  Lots of rose and cocoa.  The 2006’s aren’t reviewed yet but Wine Spectator and Robert Parker both gave the 2005 Bric Turot 92 points, recommending consuming after 2011, and between 2012 and 2025, respectively.  I received the 2005 as a gift last year so perhaps I’ll change my mind about these wines when I open this one in seven or eight years… ?

Barolo 2006.  Barolo DOCG.

Bussia Barolo 2006.  Barolo DOCG.  (Monforte d’Alba)

If you want to know more technical information about their wines, their website lays it all out clearly.

I didn’t take any photos there.

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