• Giacomo Conterno 1964 Through 2016:  Barbera, Barolo, & Monfortino

    Giacomo Conterno 1964 Through 2016: Barbera, Barolo, & Monfortino

    With recent additions of Giacomo Conterno's Cascina Francia Barbera d'Alba in stock, I thought today would be a great day to focus on the entire range. There's no producer in Piedmont that demands more attention or reverence than Roberto Conterno. Visiting with him in November 2012 offered a small glimpse into the genius behind the quiet and reserved exterior.

    Conterno's immaculate cellar and eye for detail, specifically with cleanliness, is unlike anything I've seen in person. The wines from the Cascina Francia vineyard (Barbera, Barolo, and Barolo Riserva Monfortino) are each benchmarks of the region. While deeply traditional methods in the cellar are applied, the sophistication and suave character of the wines in glass stand apart from his contemporaries.

    Vineyard practices have been called modern, in their focus on coaxing maximum ripeness from vines. I find this to be a huge element in why the customarily dark and tannic Nebbiolo of Serralunga's terroir exudes so much charm when poured.

     
    Posted by Alexander Rosen
  • Barolo's Royal Family:  The Wines of Giuseppe Rinaldi

    Barolo's Royal Family: The Wines of Giuseppe Rinaldi

    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).
    Posted by Alexander Rosen
  • Rockstar Realized:  2016 Guillaume Gilles Cornas

    Rockstar Realized: 2016 Guillaume Gilles Cornas

    There's no producer in the Northern Rhone that continues to raise the bar each vintage like Guillaume Gilles. His 2008 was a showstopper for me at the time of release, impressing for an authenticity of Syrah that grabbed ahold of me immediately - the kind that's romantically spoken of, but rarely found in bottle.

    Savage, spicy, purple-hued, and filled with crushed granite, Gilles' Syrah from the famed Chaillot vineyard encapsulates everything that habitually points me to Cornas. Last July's visit with Guillaume was a great opportunity to learn more about the young vigneron who highlights this new generation. 

    Today, I'm happy to offer the 2016 Guillaume Gilles Cornas for $87 per bottle, complete with special pricing on vertical packs.

    Guillaume trained under Jean-Louis Chave and the now-retired Cornas legend, Robert Michel. If Michel's wines were known for their uncommon transparency and light-handed touch, Gilles are darker, more ferocious, and packed with a concentration that's quite different. However, like Robert Michel, the soul of the wines from Gilles are founded on a sense of place that's undoubtedly pure granite and 100% whole cluster fermentation - just the way we like our Cornas!

    Personally, falling hard for the wines of 
    Thierry Allemand have set my eyes continually toward today's more under-the-radar producers. Allemand's 2016's will easily fetch $250+ per bottle - at less than half the price there's simply no producer deserving of more attention now than Guillaume Gilles. 

    Today, Gilles farms just 2.5 hectares, working by hand the famed Chaillot vineyard (pictured below) that he leased from Robert Michel. His traditional approach means zero de-stemming, aging in large neutral barrels, and no fining or filtering. That quintessential combination of roasted meats, violets, blackberries, smoke, black pepper, and the granitic "scorched earth" that Cornas derives its name from is always front and center.

    One of the secret wines in the range that only sees 30 cases arrive to the US annually is his Les Peyrouses VDF, which was served last at our tasting.
     Les Peyrouses is a small parcel containing vines planted over 100 years ago. Unlike the granitic soils of the terraced slopes of Cornas above, this lower portion is planted on sandy and clay soils scattered with the iconic galet stones from the plain of the river. Peyrouses is akin to the more rustic country cousin of Gilles' Cornas cuvée - But, these extremely old vines create an intensely concentrated wine that leads Guillaume to pour as the finalé during visits.

    And, for the first time I'm able to offer Gilles' Cornas "Nouvelle R". 
    The name comes from the vineyard Les Rieux, situated at a very high altitude in Cornas at 450 meters above the amphitheater. The soil here is very unusual, a white granite. Prior to the 21st century nobody had planted vines here, fearing they would not ripen properly. Of course, warming temperatures have winemakers everywhere looking for higher altitude land. At 12.5% alcohol this was a stunner when I tasted with Guillaume, and his mentor Robert Michel remarked this is what Cornas used to taste like in the 70's and 80's when alcohol levels were more modest.

    Posted by Alexander Rosen
  • Domaine Fourrier:   Gevrey's Satin Splendor

    Domaine Fourrier: Gevrey's Satin Splendor

    It's no secret that over the last decade Jean-Marie Fourrier has catapulted his family's domaine into elite status within Burgundy. Fourrier is the 5th generation to lead this 9-hectare Gevrey Chambertin estate, officially taking over for his father in 1994 after interning with the mythical Henri Jayer.

    Today, I'm very happy to offer a deep range from Jean-Marie Fourrier. 

    The wines of Fourrier are most associated in my mind for their silken texture with ripe and vivid fruit. They also are lauded for their ability to drink great at all stages of development. But, above all, it's a sense of purity and site reflection that have put them atop the wishlist of every traditional Burgundy collector.

    Jean-Marie is most noted for his strict reliance on using only old vines for domainebottlings - averaging 60 years according to my visit in November 2012. The maximum new oak employed is 20%, and like Jayer grapes here are overwhelmingly de-stemmed.

    Much of the magic to the wines' purity has to be tied into Jean-Marie's practice of using very minimal amounts of sulphur, instead relying on dissolved CO2 to remain in the wine protecting against oxidation. Because of this it's recommended that younger bottles are double decanted to help "blow-off" any slight effervescence that might remain.

    Below is a wide range of Fourrier's 2016's, as well as back-vintage gems through 1999. Jean-Marie has recently started a négociant project, but, with the exception of theBourgogne Rouge, 100% of the wines offered below are domaine, having been farmed by the Fourrier family for generations.
    Posted by Alexander Rosen
  • de Montille 1985 thru 2016:  Volnay, Pommard, & Vosne Romanée

    de Montille 1985 thru 2016: Volnay, Pommard, & Vosne Romanée

    The red Burgundies of Domaine de Montille still stand among the great wines of terroir from both the Côte de Beaune and Côte de Nuits. They were once famed for their sturdiness and unwavering authenticity of place that perfectly mirrored its vigneron, Hubert de Montille who revived his family's vineyards in 1947. Hubert passed away in 2014 at the age of 84, fittingly with a glass of 1999 Rugiens in hand. Today, that iconic cuvée now bears his name. Son, Etienne, has long since been responsible for the reds, and while they are as soulful as ever they have found ways to become much more accessible in youth.

    Today, I'm very happy to offer the 2016 release from Domaine de Montille, along with a nice collection of back-vintage wines stretching through 1985.


    Whereas whole cluster fermentation was often the calling card of this domaine (50-100% always), there has been a slow decrease for some cuvées in this regard. Now 30% whole cluster ferments are common for many wines, with Taillepieds seeing 100%, Malconsorts and Mitans seeing 66%. Maceration time has also been reduced over the last several vintages, from 20 days now to about 17 days. A move to pick earlier to preserve acidity has also been put in place to combat rising temperatures.

    New oak is relatively modest here given the top tier vineyards in play - cuvées like Malconsorts and Rugiens see 60% and 40%, respectively.

    Personally, over the last few vintages I've seen the wines show a brightness and fresher personality. No doubt my reading on this derives from the common saline tone on the finish that's a lovely counter to the sweet brown spices and ripe red and black primary fruits on the mid palate.   
    Posted by Alexander Rosen