Recent Standouts: Hofstätter, Le Bèrne, Chiarli, Tabarrini, …

I recently had a glass of fabulous Pinot nero at Cantinetta Luca, one of my very favorite Italian restaurants within reasonably close proximity to where I live. On perusing the by-the-glass list, my eye was immediately drawn to the Pinot nero from Alto Adige but then I saw all kinds of other interesting stuff: Gaglioppo, Montepulciano, Aglianico. But after a couple of rejected tastes I told the bartender to just pour me a glass of the Pinot — I’d go with my original inclination and have faith in it. This one did not leave me disappointed. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I’m a huge fan of “mountain” Pinot from Italy.

J. Hofstätter Mezcan Pinot nero—Blauburgunder 2010. Alto Adige DOC. Pine oil resin, fresh strawberries, and a rocky minerality. Full of bright cranberry and a lively fruity finish with a touch of oregano and chalky tannins. ★★

The other morning I made a mad dash to San Francisco during rush hour traffic to make it to two seminars: one on Prosecco and one on Tusacan wines.  Two standout Proseccos were from Furlan and Spagnol, neither of which are imported to the US yet. Hopefully they were discovered during the event!

Furlan Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore Millesimato 2011. Conegliano Valdobbiane Prosecco Superiore DOCG. Extra Dry. Glera 100%. Calcareous soil, 4-8 year old vineyards located in Costa and Guizza. (The designation of Superiore puts a further constraint on alcohol and fizziness level, or location in the case of Cartizze Superiore. Millesimato just means “vintage.”) On the nose, aromas of sweat (not repulsive, but like freshly sweaty skin, like the smell of being outside), Fuji apple, marshmallow, and it changes … river rocks, moss, and little bit of balloons. The palate is leesy, yeasty; this usually makes me think of a mild cheese. The refreshing finish packs in tons of lime and lemongrass. A really interesting wine. ★★

Spagnol Valdobbiadene Spumante Col del Sas 2011. Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG. Extra Dry. Glera ~100%. Dusty and savoury scents with a simple dollop of apples and bananas. Spicy on the palate, finishing with a good deal of sweet vanilla. ★★

Other Prosecco standouts included:

Sorelle Bronca Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore Spumante. Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG. Extra Dry. Glera 100%.

Sorelle Bronca Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore Spumante Particella 68. Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG. Brut. Glera 100%.

Oliver McCrum is the importer of Sorelle Bronca in California.

Zardetto Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore Spumante ‘Z’. Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG. Dry.

Zardetto Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore Spumante ‘Rive di Ogliano’ Tre Venti Millesimato 2010. Conegliano Valdobbiadene DOCG. Brut. A Rive refers to a wine made in one particular municipality or village, in this case Ogliano, and is a denomination that has been created to promote diversity of terroir within the subregion. It is usually a location of very steep vineyards as well, as are most in the DOCG delimited area.

Zardetto‘s importer is Winebow, Inc.

A strange mix for the day — but I wasn’t complaining — after Prosecco we had wines of Tuscany. Featured regions/wines were: Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Brunello di Montalcino, and Chianti Classico. I focused on the Vino Nobili because there was too much land to cover without a focus and it’s most difficult to find good Vino Nobile or even Rosso di Montepulciano around the greater Bay Area.

Le Bèrne Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2008. Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG. Sangiovese 97%, Colorino 3%. Mostly clay soil in the vineyard with vines ranging from 20-40 years old. Maturation in 60% 25HL Slavonian oak and 40% in French (Allier) oak barrels/barriques. Long maceration with intense pumping over in the initial phases. A peculiar range of essences: tequila-agave-earth, Goji berries, and limes but all the while not really very aromatic at all. You really have to stick your nose in the glass to get anything. The mid-palate is a big burst of cherries. Then after swallowing — which is not a difficult feat with this one! — you get an exquisite mix of cherry, lime essence, and refined tannins. Really juicy but brisk. My very favorite red and favorite producer of the day. ★★ ☆

Other notable wines from Le Bèrne:

Le Bèrne Rosso di Montepulciano 2010. Rosso di Montepulciano DOC. Sangiovese 100%.

Le Bèrne Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2009. Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG. Sangiovese 100%.

Le Bèrne Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Riserva 2008. Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Riserva DOCG. Sangiovese 90%, Colorino 10%.

Le Bèrne is imported by Siena Imports, Inc in California.

Another memorable Vino Nobile di Montepulciano was:

Poliziano Asinone 2007. Vine Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG. Sangiovese 90%. Colorino and Canaiolo 10%. Soft clay and slightly skeletal soil. A mix of vine ages: 20 and 50 years old. Aged 16-18 months in French oak barriques. Fermentation and maceration for about 3 weeks in stainless steel. Asinone is the name of the vineyard and it is shaped like a goat, evidently. Aromas of cherry, tomato, and tomato leaf with freshly cut grass and an agave/tequila note. A very mellow mid-palate with a tart finish coming from a mix of pronounced acidity and tannins. Notably balanced with a good structure to carry through flavors of herbs, coffee, and ripe red berries. ★★ ☆

Imported by Chambers & Chambers in California.

Other excellent producers of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG and Rosso di Montepulciano DOC included:

Il Conventino Rosso (2010), Vino Nobile (2008), and Riserva (2007). Imported by Vignaiolo Selection in New York.

Crociani Rosso (2010), Vino Nobile (2008), and Riserva (2007). Imported/distributed by Terrell Wines in California.

Contucci. Rosso (2010), Vino Nobile (2008), Mulinvecchio (2008). Imported by Caffo Beverages in New Jersey and distributed by Kiwi Distributing in California.

While I was focusing on Vino Nobile and Rosso di Montepulciano, I was NOT going to pass up the opportunity for some classic Brunello. That would have been nonsensical …

Uccellieria Rosso di Montalcino (2010), Brunello di Montalcino (2007), and Brunello di Montalcino Riserva (2006). I discovered this producer when I was in Montalcino in 2006 and they never let me down. They’re not cheap, but … what is in Montalcino?

Imported/distributed by Estate Wines Ltd in California.

Fattoria dei Barbi Rosso di Montalcino (2010), Brunello di Montalcino Vigna Fiore (2007), Brunello di Montalcino (2007), and Brunello di Montalcino Riserva (2006). Imported by Pasternak Wine Imports in New York and distributed by Epic Wines in California.

Last week I attended the Gambero Rosso Tre Bicchieri San Francisco tasting event, which is always fun and educational, although nothing compared to Vinitaly. Nevertheless, while relatively small, everything there is good. Maybe not everything is your favorite (or mine) but all the wines are of quailty. So it’s kind of like a “choose your own adventure” experience.

I like to seek out the weirdest stuff I can find while also making sure I don’t miss any notable Baroli.

Ottella Lugana 2010. Trebbiano di Lugana DOC. (This DOC at the south of Lago di Garda extends from Veneto and crosses into Lombardia.) Lots of lime and tropical fruits, a little yeast but tons of minerality. I heard they were looking for an importer and this one seemed to be priced really well. I hope to see it in the near future! ★★

Ottella Molceo 2009. Lugana Superiore DOC. Trebbiano di Lugana 90%, Incrocia Manzoni (a cross between Riesling and Pinot bianco) and Chardonnay 10%. A soft but light wine with a smooth texture. Lime, peach, vanilla, and a marked minerality. ★

You haven’t had Lambrusco until you’ve tried Chiarli! I’m a fan anyway but these seriously knocked my socks off.

Chiarli Vecchia Modena Premium 2010. Lambrusco di Sorbara DOC. Light pink bubble gum color. Aromas of wild strawberries. Fruity but dry — there’s a little saline — and has all the flavors of grape bubblegum without being sweet. Don’t be turned off by the bubble gum. It’s a beautiful dichotomy: all the flavors of it without being cloying. ★★

Chiarli Vigneto Enrico Cialdini. Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro DOC. Dark purple with a bouquet of plum jam, fresh mint, and black licorice. Dark in color; bright in character. Awesome wine! And I’m sure in a different setting, there’d be an abundance of nuances to pick out. ★★☆

Marotti Campi Orgiolo 2009. Lacrima di Morro d’Alba Superiore DOC. Lacrima 100%. This one was super weird and unique! It reminded me of Ruchè with its intense bouquet of roses but it’s murkier. Think “black” roses. The fruit is all black berry and purple plums with a juniper background, always roses, and chalky tannins. Loved it! Send me to Marche! ★★☆

Fattoria Colle Allodole Montefalco Rosso Riserva 2008. Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG. Sangiovese 85%, Sagrantino 15%. A big structure based on ashy tannins and floral scents of violets and roses. Full bodied with black cherries and all sorts of berries. ★★

Giampaolo Tabarrini. All of his red wines were outstanding.

From what I could understand, all of the Montefalco Sagrantini are aged half in large botti and half in barrique for about 3.5 years.

Montefalco Rosso 2010? Sangiovese, Sagrantino, Barbera. ★★

Montefalco Sagrantino Colle Grimaldesco 2007. Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG. ★★☆

Montefalco Sagrantino Campo all Cerqua 2007. Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG. Rich ripe tomato, cherry. Elegant and round.  ★★

Montefalco Sagrantino Colle alle Macchie 2004. Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG. Blackberries and ash with chalky tannins. (I think I forgot to rate this one but I probably would give it ★★—★★☆.)


Angelo Negro & Figli Sudisfà 2008. Roero Riserva DOCG. Nebbiolo 100%. By law Roero Riserva states that the wine must be aged for a minimum of 32 months, with 6 months in oak. This one is aged in barrique for 2 years and in bottle for 1 year. Bouquet full of dark fruit and scents of smoke. Bright red fruit flavors are supported with an impressive tannin structure. Definitely one to seek out when I’m in the area! ★★

Ettore Germano Hérzu 2009. Langhe Bianco DOC. Riesling 100%. Bright, lemon peel, no petrol to speak of. ★★

Ettore Germano Barolo Cerretta 2007. Barolo DOCG. A big Serralunga expression of 2007! Very floral with an elegant array of potpourri and roses and violets. The fruit is there but it’s not yet ripe. I taste sweet cherry tomatoes. Tannins are huge. This one needs time for sure but I think it will have a big window. ★★

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