• Maestro of Veneto: 2018 Quintarelli Primofiore Rosso

    Maestro of Veneto: 2018 Quintarelli Primofiore Rosso

    When it comes to Valpolicella Classico and Amarone della Valpolicella, Giuseppe Quintarelli is more than an icon. He is the standard by which all other examples are judged. Giuseppe's sixty-year career was defined by his perfectionist tendencies and steadfast traditional approach among a wave of modernist thinking that swept through the hills above Verona. Today, his daughter, Fiorenza, son-in-law Giampaolo, and grandsons Francesco and Lorenzo carry on that same philosophy.

    THE WINES

    Primofiore is a blend of 50% Corvina and Corvinone, 50% Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. The Cabernet Sauvignon is partially dried before pressing, and all others are directly pressed.

    Ca' del Merlo is a single vineyard comprised of 55% Corvina and Corvinone, 30% Rondinella, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc Nebbiolo, Croatina, and Sangiovese. After February, the wine is racked onto the lees of Amarone, starting a second alcoholic fermentation known as ripasso.

    Valpolicella Classico is a blend of Corvina, Corvinone, and Rondinella. Half of the grapes are dried for two months prior to pressing, and half are directly pressed.

    Rosso del Bepi is de-classified Amarone della Valpolicella sourced from limestone and basalt soils. The grapes sit in wooden boxes or straw mats to dry until the end of January when they're pressed. After 20 days of maceration, fermentation begins and lasts 45 days. Only produced in select vintages!

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    Posted by Max Kogod
  • Alto Piemonte Gem

    Alto Piemonte Gem

    2013 throughout Piedmont is now firmly cemented as one of the truly standout vintages over the last decades. While most were released some time ago, quantities long gone, those from Alto Piemonte's Rovellotti family in Ghemme were the last to arrive. Each year, I'm all-in on this alpine Nebbiolo-based star, but 2013 adds magic that's understandably on a different level.

    Rovellotti was introduced to importer, Neal Rosenthal by the Ferrando family of Carema. When you taste Rovellotti, it's clear these two estates are cut from the same cloth. I find a huge range of styles in Ghemme (and Alto Piemonte as a whole), with many examples showing grippy tannins that call to mind tar rather than roses. What I love about the wines from Rovellotti (and Ferrando) is the softness of the fruit and elegance of the structure, both still completely driven by their sense of place.

    Rovellotti's exclusive protocol of pumping over during fermentation and avoiding punchdowns of the cap plays a huge role in this more sensual and graceful texture. Each vintage tasting, it's their light-handed touch and supreme drinkability that stand out so much from the pack. In 2013, notes of dried black cherries, cinnamon, and orange peel jump out of the glass, and the famous floral rose quality of Nebbiolo melds with an alpine mint inflection that lingers on the long finish.

    Introducing Rovellotti to customers who love Barolo and Barbaresco has given me a huge sense of gratification. In every circumstance, there's a mix of joy and revelation, as the extended aging means this release is always easy to drink from day one. Pricing for the 2013 vintage is one of the greatest values in all of Italy.

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    Posted by Max Kogod
  • Startlingly Good Super Tuscan

    Startlingly Good Super Tuscan

    My great fondness for the traditional wines of Tuscany is no secret, but generally, I've kept Super Tuscans at arm's length. Dominated by Bordeaux variety blends, the category has overwhelmingly spoken less about place and more about a global-capitulating, one-size-fits-all model. Finding examples I'm truly passionate about that don't start at $200-plus upon release has been a challenge, but that all changed with Tenuta di Trinoro's Le Cupole.

    Andrea Franchetti's property sits in a remote southeast corner of Tuscany. Le Cupole, the second label of Tenuta di Trinoro, is all about open accessibility with the same sophistication as their top-end, single-vineyard wines. Cupole's blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Petit Verdot is planted on clay and limestone, mirroring Bordeaux's right bank.

    Cupole succeeds in grasping my attention due to a remarkable sense of balance, freshness, and crazy deliciousness still rooted in the variety's tell-tale characteristics. Antonio Galloni of Vinous wrote, "The 2018 Le Cupole is a delicious entry-level offering from Trinoro. Freshly cut flowers, sweet red berry, mint, and blood orange all run through the 2018." The finish persists with the sort of lingering minerality that is commonly achieved in Bordeaux but that Super Tuscans often fall short of.

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    Posted by Max Kogod
  • Montefalco's Legendary Maestro: Paolo Bea San Valentino

    Montefalco's Legendary Maestro: Paolo Bea San Valentino

    When considering the most soulful and magically unique wines in Italy, the name Paolo Bea always leads the discussion. Their family roots in Umbria's Montefalco region stretch back to the 16th century on this property, now a diverse ecosystem of livestock, vegetables, and fruits.

    Five of the fifteen hectares here are devoted to vines, and though the hearty and tannic Sagrantino variety is the focus throughout Montefalco, today we take a close look at the most approachable wine from the estate, the San Valentino.

    San Valentino is a unique blend of 70% Sangiovese, 15% Sagrantino, and 15% Montepulciano from a clay-dominant single vineyard at 1,300 feet. Wines from Umbria often stand out for extremely forward fruit personality - the high elevation here adds a dimension of snap and buoyancy that makes this one of the world's most hedonistic, yet refreshing wines.

    Harvest of these 50-year-old vines usually occurs at the conclusion of October where phenolic ripeness is perfectly achieved for all three varieties. The grapes are fermented in the traditional manner spending 30+ days macerating on the skins. The wine is then aged for three years in stainless steel, and then one year in bottle prior to release.

    The three varieties complement each other magically here. Sangiovese providing high-toned red fruit notes with terrific acidity. The combination of Sagrantino and Montepulciano provides inky blue and black fruits with a firm structure. In the end, sweet cherries, fig, tobacco, dried flowers, and hints of charcoal meld together beautifully.

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    Posted by Max Kogod
  • Giovanna's Chianti Classico

    Giovanna's Chianti Classico

    Making the case for why pockets of Chianti warrant the same attention as Brunello di Montalcino or even Burgundy is a challenge for me. The blame can fall squarely at the feet of those infamous straw-covered fiasco bottles or with higher-priced examples where sharp acidity may mesh with the marinara but not much else.

    But when I have the opportunity to prove that Sangiovese from Chianti Classico can show grace and pristine fruit quality akin to Red Burgundy, I use Giovanna Morganti's Le Trame as my first example. I implore you to trust this will be your moment of clarity for Sangiovese.

    Importer Neal Rosenthal's Montevertine and its Le Pergole Torte is a benchmark for the region. But in many aspects, Rosenthal's other discovery, Le Trame, is better suited to illustrate how Sangiovese's sometimes illusive fruit-forward profile and silken tannins can lead the charge in calling to mind those traits I personally adore about Red Burgundy.

    All the technical information clearly outlines how Giovanna's Chianti Classico is one-of-a-kind, but it doesn't do a fair job of referencing what will end up in your glass. Farming her fives hectares using organic and biodynamic principles, you know the raw material is going to be pristine. But what stands out for me is that each vintage, no matter how challenging, the wines are just perfectly composed. Purity of fruit is what I look for above all else, and Giovanna is making a strong case now as the prime address for the best value Sangiovese in all of Tuscany.

    I'd like to cut this one short and say this is a profound wine that's simply a joy to drink. The number of times I've used this bottling to convince friends that Sangiovese can be fun, approachable, and deadly serious is innumerable. I recommend you take the dive to see what this small gem of an estate in Chianti Classico is all about!

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    Posted by Max Kogod