• Catching Fire: 2018 G.D. Vajra Barolo

    Catching Fire: 2018 G.D. Vajra Barolo

    G.D. Vajra has been on fire. In the case of Vajra's contemporaries, like Bartolo Mascarello and Giuseppe Rinaldi, their wines are nearly impossible to source (That being said, a small portion of 2018 Rinaldi Baroli just landed). The Vajra wines stand at a perfect intersection between the two styles. Aldo Vaira has called the estate "the most modern of the traditionalists and the most traditional of the modernists."

    Bricco delle Viole is among the great insider wines of Barolo. Planted in 1949, the name refers to the abundance of violets (viole) that appear here each spring and the ridge (bricco) where the vineyard lies. The soil is composed of a Tortonian mix of limestone and clay. Because the porous and rocky soil here does not hold very much heat, harvest often takes place two weeks after other vineyards in Barolo.

    Aldo and Milena Vaira bottled their first vintage in 1978 from vineyards planted by Aldo's father in 1948. Vajra's vineyards sit at the highest elevation in the commune of Barolo. From the start, they were heavily influenced by their neighbors, Bartolo Mascarello and Beppe Rinaldi, down the hill.

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    Posted by Max Kogod
  • The Main Event: Vietti Cru Baroli

    The Main Event: Vietti Cru Baroli

    Vietti's Luca Currado works tirelessly to continually improve the quality of his wines and Barolo's reputation as a whole, and the 2018 vintage proved no different. Antonio Galloni wrote in his 2018 Barolo report how this was "the most erratic, frustratingly inconsistent Barolo vintage" that he has encountered in his career. Still, Vietti's Baroli were standouts from the region, and the 2018 Castiglione, Lazzarito, and Ravera earned glowing reviews, as you'll see below.

    Aside from being a banner year in Piedmont, 2013 cemented a shift in Currado's philosophy—now, the Baroli lineup is nearly exclusively aged in large format botti as opposed to small French barrique. (The Ravera was the first bottling to undergo this change in 2010, and the powerful Villero was the last in the range to do so in 2013).

    Many consider Vietti to have one foot in the traditional camp and one foot in the modern camp. In addition to aging in botti, the Baroli see long skin macerations (a requisite for the traditional category). If one aspect leans modern, it's their vineyard work, which is about keeping yields low and doing everything in their power by natural means to push ripeness higher.

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    Posted by Max Kogod
  • Barolo's Royal Family: 1967-2019 Giuseppe Rinaldi

    Barolo's Royal Family: 1967-2019 Giuseppe Rinaldi

    Rinaldi is a revered traditionalist following family techniques used since the early and mid-1900s. With long macerations on the skins aging in large botti, the results are powerfully deep Baroli met with precision and aromatics that make them incomparable. They offer wild spices, gamey notes, and of course, Nebbiolo's tell-tale tar and roses.

    The Giuseppe Rinaldi wines first appeared in 1921, though, it was during Beppe's lifetime that the world's attention turned toward Piedmont—Beppe's spirit is more immortalized than the legendary wines he produced. Sadly, he passed away in 2018, but he had several years to see his daughters, Marta and Carlotta, continue to raise the bar.

    I visited the Rinaldi cantina just before harvest in 2012. It was nothing short of a privilege to meet the Rinaldi family and taste the wines, including the monumental 2010s still in botti. Finding back-vintage wines is not a common occurrence today, and I was thrilled to work with Rinaldi's US importer, Vinifera Imports, to acquire several older wines directly from the Rinaldi estate.

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    Posted by Max Kogod
  • Barolo Bullseye: 2016 Poderi Colla

    Barolo Bullseye: 2016 Poderi Colla

    You may know how special 2016 was in Piedmont, but the Colla family name is still flying under the radar. Antonio Galloni's La Festa del Barolo shined a spotlight on Poderi Colla's legendary Bussia bottling, and my chance to taste the 2013 was a "wow" moment. Since then, the wines from Colla have become more refined and transparent. While Monforte d'Alba has some of the most structured and authoritative Barolos in the region, its famed Bussia cru is revered for an atypical finesse.

    The style at Colla relays this as I've never quite seen it before - There's a combo of featherweight power and sappiness, the perfume meeting notes of licorice, mint, orange peel, and dried cherry, and a seamless mineral finish. Traditional Barolo, no matter how in vogue, often requires hearty food when young, but there's a lift and transparency to Colla's Bussia that make this so appealing today despite the banner year's structure, which denotes a long life ahead—think Bartolo Mascarello via Monforte d'Alba.

    Beppe Colla was the first to label Monforte's Bussia cru on bottles in 1961. The Colla family owned the famous Prunotto estate for decades, and in 1994, they sold and started their eponymous winery. The first initiative was to buy the storied Dardi parcel within Bussia, a section of vines planted in 1970.

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    Posted by Max Kogod
  • Soulful Serralunga: 2016 Cappellano Barolo

    Soulful Serralunga: 2016 Cappellano Barolo

    The wines of Augusto Cappellano need little introduction yet deserve as much text and praise as we shower Barolo's other heroes like Roberto Conterno, Beppe Rinaldi, and Maria Theresa Mascarello.

    These are among the top Barolo produced in Piedmont each year, though you'll never see any ratings. Augusto insists that critics who taste at the cantina do not publish scores for the wines—another philosophy I greatly admire about this estate. Antonio Galloni wrote this about Cappellano's latest releases: "The 2016s are every bit as magnificent as they were last year... with the Franco showing more power and the Rupestris leaning towards the ethereal side."

    Cappellano is best known for crafting ultra-traditional and soulful Barolo with a natural focus, situated on the western slopes of Serralunga d'Alba. Here in the Gabutti Cru, we see the darker side of Nebbiolo within the Barolo zone. However, Augusto Cappellano's organic approach and low sulfur regimen instill these wines with a delicacy and sensualness that stands apart from his contemporaries.

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    Posted by Max Kogod