Arriving at Stella di Campalto was a curious moment. As I stepped out of the car and felt the intense blast of heat something didn’t seem quite right. We’re in the middle of a very extended heat wave here in Tuscany, but I had just left the north side of Montalcino where the weather had been substantially cooler. How was it that I was about to enter the home of arguably the most featherweight and famously dubbed “Burgundian” estate in all of Montalcino? But as all things go with Stella di Campalto, this is a winery where since inception conventions have been broken.
Today, I'm very happy to offer the 2010 Stella di Campalto Brunello di Montalcino Riserva, both in 750ml and 1.5L formats, as well as the 2012 Rosso di Montalcino (100% de-classified Brunello di Montalcino). Today's offer is also the only in the entire country for each wine.
The moment you taste a Stella di Campalto wine you realize these defy any preconceived notions you may have of the rich Sangiovese Grosso varietal in Montalcino. I learned there are many keys to the surprisingly fine and lifted personality of Stella’s wines. Many of these parcels contain high concentrations of sand and white quartz, and strong breezes come from down from the Mount Amiata, a former volcano. A river in very close proximity to the estate also plays a role especially helping temperatures dip quite low at night, preserving the much needed acidity.
We tasted parcel by parcel (a rare opportunity) and could see how these elements from various soils worked together to create the grand image of this tiny estate. Some showed high toned with white pepper spice, and others darker and more savory. But, each had a common thread of weightlessness and a beautiful sense of agility.
The very young Stella had been living in Milan with her family and began to fall in love with traditional wines. Serendipitously, she was gifted by her father-in-law an un-planted property on the southern side of Montalcino. After exploring the rundown former farmhouse, and finding the quiet setting very comfortable, she made the move to plant vines. Her heart was adamant about 100% Sangiovese and farming the land with organic and biodynamic principles - now certified.
The birth of Podere San Giuseppe Stella di Campalto dates back to 1910 when Giuseppe Martelli had a sharecropping estate. It was abandoned in 1940 and then acquired by Stella’s family in 1992. Today, 6 parcels of vines comprise these 6.7 hectares, each being fermented on its own prior to blending.
Fermentations are in old open top wood casks, with 45-minute pumpovers 4 times per day, surely an element to the soft tannins. The wines follow traditional methods of long, slow ferments (30+ days) and are aged in botti with a very small addition of old barrique.
I’ve never come across another Brunello which showed so well each time it was poured, no matter the vintage, no matter weather decanted or popped-and-poured. To me, this is always the true sign of a great producer.
The wines are unfortunately made is very small quantities, and allocations are usually counted in bottles, not cases. I’m always working to acquire more even with the challenges due to quantity, but after this visit my determination had a new sense of rejuvenation. Again, today's three bottlings are the only offered in the U.S.
Finding satin-textured, über-young Nebbiolo that calls to mind Foillard's Morgon Cuvée Corcelette more so than a customarily tannic Barbaresco is something I never considered possible. Stay with me here. Hunting down this silk-fruited trait simply was not on my Nebbiolo radar, as usually it's only conveyed by the ultra-modern Piedmont examples, which, stylistically, are not for me. But, when an iconic Burgundy producer tipped me off to this Barbaresco name I made sure to taste immediately.
Today, I'm happy to offer Paolo Veglio's Cascina Roccalini Barbaresco Roccalini. Including the supremely approachable 2015, 2014, and the rare 2013 Riserva.
Barbarescos from Roccalini flip preconceived notions of the region and its capabilities upside down. There's an up-front, plush immediacy of the fruit profile that's just so easy to drink, yet with complexity and a mid-palate grip that's true to Nebbiolo and this heralded zone of Piedmont. As far as the delicious-factor is concerned, this is a total knockout - Among Piedmont discoveries I've made since opening in 2015, this is atop my list.
Paolo Veglio's story meanders through the cellars of Bruno Giacosa where Paolo's father, an architect, took him as a young boy. Years later in 1991, Paolo returned to Giacosa and asked if he might be interested in purchasing grapes that he was now tending on his home property. A skeptical Giacosa asked, "And, which vineyard is this?" Paolo told him it was Roccalini. And Giacosa replied, "I'll see you in the morning."
The surprisingly fresh, approachable and remarkably seamless Barbaresco from Roccalini is undoubtedly derived from Paolo's natural approach. Living above the cellar and vines, Paolo knew early on that organic farming was not only necessary for producing the best possible wine, but also for a healthy family life on this estate.
Paolo's insistence on taking the road less traveled in Piedmont leads him to question conventional thinking. He says, "Every time I see something that's too easy, something's not right, something we don't know yet." And, his philosophy at every stage is to take the longer path, one that requires more time, effort, and patience. And, I promise you, what you will find in this bottle will be a revelation unlike any you've had from Piedmont.
Roccalini is a special vineyard, just as Bruno Giacosa knew. It was 10 years of trials before Paolo finally chose to bottle his own family label. Any trepidation about drinking current release Barbaresco can be tossed aside right now. This wine is ready to go and will open your eyes to a very unique spirit in Barbaresco. As holiday season is in full gear, I highly recommend you pair Roccalini with your favorite winter recipes and prepare to be floored.
2018 in Beaujolais marks a much-needed return for growers to good yields and very high quality with a dry harvest. The last couple vintages have not been kind for vignerons in each of these areas. Massive amounts of spring rain actually proved a blessing as July and August heatwaves came next, meaning reserves of accumulated ground water was more than sufficient during through this stretch. 2018 is a ripe vintage for sure, but as compared to the bombastic 2015's, the alcohol is lower, acidity higher, and freshness a big part of the finished product.
As compared to other titans of Cru Beaujolais, Foillard and Lapierre, I find Dutraive's often lighter in color, with a more concentrated, lifted spice, and a more wild natural element that stands out from the pack due to his lower sulphur protocol. Waiting several years after release to get into top cuvées has been a big goal of mine, as the rare aged Dutraive is pure magic when fruit begins to fall more to the background and exotic spices become more prominent.
The magic of the wines coming from Elisabetta Foradori's estate in Trentino's Dolomite Mountains has been well documented here before. Today, I'm happy to turn to some new arrivals covering a huge diversity of colors and styles.
In a world where skin-macerated whites seem to be vying for the title of orangest, haziest, apricottyest, the elegance and grace in Nosiola is a reminder of the possibilities. Aged on the skins in amphora, the result is a bright, orchard and citrus mountain stream with an amazing texture that never once makes you think orange wine. As compared to Elizabetta's Pinot Grigio and Manzoni Bianco, Nosiola is leaner and less obviously skin contact. Its subtlety is what impresses the most.
Nosiola is an ancient variety that's native to the Trentino. Plantings have reduced drastically over the last centuries, and today is primarily in these hills in the Valle dei Laghi above Trento and Pessano. Nosiola really strives in porous soils, planted here on just two hectares of a limestone/clay mix. The delicacy and more reserved nature of this white is largely attributed growth on these depleted soils. And, long maceration on skins in clay amphora (tinaja from Villarrobledo, Spain) slowly coax out Nosiola's personality. Decanting and serving above 60 degrees is highly recommended.
Manzoni Bianco is a cross between Riesling and Pinot Bianco, developed by Dr. Manzoni in the 20th century. It comes from the clay and limestone Fontanasanta hills above Trento. It's macerated for one week on its skins in cement tank and then pressed off into Acacia barrels for 12 months aging.
Foradori's Teroldegos are the kinds of wines I'd like to see on the list at every restaurant I frequent, as their versatility is remarkable. The wines from this esoteric variety open with notes of dark plums and licorice, then soften allowing more floral and herbaceous qualities to come to the forefront, finishing with fine pronounced minerality. From first sip to the last, these wines of Elisabetta are always changing, and fascinating to no end.
Foradori Teroldego comes from gravelly soils, aged in a combination of neutral barrels and stainless steel.
Foradori Sgarzon Teroldego is darker and more concentrated, with greater black fruit emphasis, black licorice, and wild savory spices.
From sandy soils. 8 months macerating in amphore, with further aging in large neutral barrel.
Foradori Granato Teroldego comes from fine silt, limestone, and gravel soils. Vines for this cuvée were planted as far back as 1938, and as young as 1956. Aged in older foudre, Granato is the most refined and understated. Textured and creamy, black cherry, dark plums, and mint. Granato was the first "riserva-level" Teroldego that Foradori ever bottled in 1986.
Elisabetta's journey to being one of the most respected natural wine producers in the world came with challenges. Her family purchased this Trentino estate in 1934, her father bottling his first vintage in 1960. His untimely passing in 1976 meant that her mother had to manage the winery until Elisabetta finished her enology degree, then being thrust into the 1984 harvest and taking control of production thereafter.
The philosophical trek for Elisabetta was a winding one that began with the immediate removal of high yielding pergola-trained vines. She wisely chose massale cuttings from the estates oldest vines and trained them much lower in the guyot method. Her approach brought a new concentration to the wines that garnered awards in the 90's, but she felt their was an energy and vitality missing.
Upon familiarizing herself with Rudolf Steiner's teachings she slowly adopted biodynamic principles and eliminated laboratory yeasts. Sulphur additions were lowered, riper stems began to be included in ferments, and a more gentle extraction protocol was used. She also began visiting Giusto Occhipinti at COS, learning about the use of clay amphora for aging.
There's been a steady rise in awareness for Foradori's wines in the US and each release I find these have an added layer of refinement and precision. If you're curious about the best whites & reds being produced in Italy's extreme alpine setting, Foradori is the spot I recommend you turn to first.
An epic retrospective tasting of the wines from Giuseppe Rinaldi were featured by Antonio Galloni in Vinous in May of 2017. This dinner in London was complete with vintages spanning 1990-2010. Looking back at these notes recently was the impetus for today's offer. A visit just before harvest in 2012 to the cantina was one of my very fondest memories of travels on the wine route. It was a true privilege to meet the family and taste the wines, including the monumental 2010's still in botti.
Today, I'm happy to offer a wide range from Giuseppe Rinaldi stretching back to the epic 1967 Brunate Riserva.
The first wines labeled under Giuseppe Rinaldi came in 1921 (pictured below). Battista Rinaldi continued the tradition at the estate in 1945, and after his passing his son Beppe returned home in 1992. Beppe's spirit over the last decades has been even more immortalized than the legendary wines he's produced. It was over this span that worldwide attention on Piedmont had gradually increased, and even in the last 15 years pricing and scarcity of the wines has drastically changed. In 2010 Beppe's daughter's Marta and Carlotta began making the wines, continuing in the same traditional fashion.
Along with drinking the wines of Bartolo Mascarello and Giacomo Conterno, Rinaldis are among the most memorable I've had in Barolo. They appeal to every aspect of the senses and continually remind me that no matter how articulate experiences can be conveyed the true magic of them is a deeply personal one.
As noted by Galloni, most of the production from this cantina had been sold to private customers. Finding back-vintage wines is not a common occurrence today. I was thrilled to be able to work over the last year with Rinaldi's US importer, Vinifera Imports, to acquire several older wines directly from the Rinaldi estate.
Rinaldi is a revered traditionalist, following the techniques Battista and Giuseppe had employed in the early and mid 1900's. Wines are macerated on their skins for a long time, and aging takes place large botti. The results are powerful, deep Barolos that are met with the precision and aromatics that make them incomparable. They offer wild spices, gamey notes, and of course Nebbiolo's tell-tale tar and roses.
Essentially two Barolos were made, the Brunate-Le Coste and the Cannubi (San Lorenzo)-Ravera. Laws recently changed and now multiple crus aren't permitted on labels. Starting in 2010 the Brunate-Le Coste was bottled with a higher 85% Brunate and just 15% Le Coste (the maximum legal addition). The Cannubi (San Lorenzo)-Ravera began to implement wine from Le Coste and the new name for the bottling is "Tre Tine" (three vats).