• Ultimate Ambassador of Piedmont: G.D. Vajra

    Ultimate Ambassador of Piedmont: G.D. Vajra

    The wines of G.D. Vajra stole my attention when I was living in Burgundy, but a subsequent visit in Italy put the whole picture in to context: These are Piedmont elite at pricing that speaks to everyone. From the Dolcetto through the Barolo Ravera, this family estate is the first place to turn for the entire spectrum of what Piedmont is all about.

    Aldo and Milena Vaira bottled their first vintage in 1978 from vineyards planted by Aldo's father in 1948. Vajra's vineyards are set at the highest elevation in the commune of Barolo. Aldo from the start was heavily influenced by the traditional approach of his neighbors down the hill, Bartolo Mascarello and Beppe Rinaldi

    The Vajra wines stand at a perfect intersection between two styles. Aldo has noted descriptions of the estate as "The most modern of the traditionalists and the most traditional of the modernists". Though traditional fermentation and aging is the common approach, the accessibility and silken texture of the wines calls to mind modern sensibilities.
    Posted by Alexander Rosen
  • The King of Wines & The Wine of Kings:  Barolo for the Ages

    The King of Wines & The Wine of Kings: Barolo for the Ages

    In the peak of summer I find myself longing for those cool, late fall nights complete with a big bowl of pasta and a bottle of favorite Barolo. Below is my dream list. The kind of names that may keep one up late at night, tossing and turning in bed, with images of wild boar bolognese, homemade fusilli, and a cheese plate filled with top notch Pecorino. 
    Posted by Alexander Rosen
  • The King of Wines & The Wine of Kings:  Barolo for the Ages

    The King of Wines & The Wine of Kings: Barolo for the Ages

    In the peak of summer I find myself longing for those cool, late fall nights complete with a big bowl of pasta and a bottle of favorite Barolo. Below is my dream list. The kind of names that may keep one up late at night, tossing and turning in bed, with images of wild boar bolognese, homemade fusilli, and a cheese plate filled with top notch Pecorino. 
    Posted by Alexander Rosen
  • Alto Piemonte's One & Only:  2015 Ferrando Carema Bianca & Nera

    Alto Piemonte's One & Only: 2015 Ferrando Carema Bianca & Nera

    Ferrando's Carema is where Alto Piemonte tugs at my hearstrings the very most. While pricing is always below top examples of Nebbiolo from Barolo and Barbaresco, it is still a wine you can argue deserves special attention and occasions. 

    Today, I'm happy to offer the new release of the 2015 Ferrando Carema Etichetta Bianca & Nera, along with the value kingpin 2017 Canavese Rosso Torrazza for $25 per bottle.

    For me, there is no single estate that defines Alto Piemonte like Ferrando Carema.In the region of Canavese, sitting at the foot of Monte Bianco, these terraced vineyards of Carema are planted to Nebbiolo. Here the variety is portrayed with an alpine inflection different from Barolo and Barbaresco, but with a track record of aging that's completely on par.

    Ferrando's vines sit in a south-facing amphitheater of slate soils overlooking the Dora Baltea river that runs through the Valle d'Aosta into northewestern Piedmont. Unlike their more famous southern neighbors, vines here are trained high up on pergola, or"Tupin", to harness maximum sunlight. The entirety of the Carema appellation reaches only 16 hectares of plantings, with Ferrando controlling just 2.5.

    Ferrando's Etichetta Bianca is comprised of 100% Nebbiolo and is produced each year with aging taking place in large and small barrels, bottling is after 30-36 months aging. Nebbiolo here is more translucent in color than we find further south, but still displaying the variety's inherent tar and roses note, with a brisk alpine streak throughout. The sensation of minerality here is more pronounced because of the alpine elements, but certainly the slate soils conjure that unmistakable finely-crushed rock quality that comes through vividly in regions like the Mosel.

    The Etichetta Nera is only produced in vintages deemed exceptional, sourced primarily from two special parcels, the Silanc and Siei vineyards. Aging is for at least 3 years before bottling, with elévage taking place exclusively in barrique, of which a portion is new. The Black Label is regarded by many as the most age-worthy of all the wines from Alto Piemonte. 

    I work with a wide range of importers, but Neal Rosenthal's selections sit in rare company at the top of the list. Neal is famous for his work with producers like Fourrier, Jacques Carillon, Paolo Bea, and Cappellano but his words on Ferrando have always stuck with me, once declaring that if he was given only one wine to drink, it would be Carema. Bottles going back to the late 70's are renowned for their freshness and unparalleled clarity that belie the underlying power.

    When Neal began to import European wines to the US in 1980, Ferrando was his very first. At that time Carema was unknown here, and although the following in still relatively small vs. that of Barolo, those who line their cellars with Conterno and Mascarello all know the secret of Alto Piemonte.

    Ferrando's Carema bottlings always represent a special occasion for me when opened. They are ethereal, and at the same time deep and saturating on the palate. Looking throughout the images of this alpine appellation I'm reminded this wine can come from nowhere else on earth. It is Nebbiolo is its most singularly delicate and awe-inspiring.
    Posted by Alexander Rosen
  • Cappellano Barolo:  Pié Rupestris & Pié Franco

    Cappellano Barolo: Pié Rupestris & Pié Franco

    For many, the wines of Augusto Cappellano need little introduction. Yet they deserve as much text and praise as we shower Barolo's other heroes, Roberto Conterno, Beppe Rinaldi, and Maria Theresa Mascarello. Today's offer does revisit what was the very anticipated, highly lauded 2013 release with new quantities available. But, the impetus for this email is something else.

    2006 was a Barolo vintage that, in my estimation, has flown way under the radar. For classic-leaning palates it might only be rivaled in the decade by 2001 and 2010.Today's list features 24 bottles of Cappellano's 2006 Barolo Pié Rupestris. 


    Antonio Galloni of Vinous got right to the point: "Two thousand six is one of the most powerful, structured vintages of the last three decades."

    Focus on the structure. Even young, the 2006's held a special place with me for their unapologetic raw Nebbiolo features. It was like naked Barolo, without unctuous, rounded fruit to hide behind. I've always found the the snap of tannin and flicker of austerity totally hypnotizing. It was a vintage that just screamed of a rare authenticity of place from day one, and spoke to a long, slow evolution ahead.Today, especially from the traditionalists like Cappellano, these wines are starting to enter their drinking windows.

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

    Cappellano is also known for insisting that critics who taste at the cantina do not publish scores for the wines. Although these are among the top Barolo produced in Piedmont each year, you will never see ratings for these wines - Another philosophy at this estate that I admire a great deal.

    With only four hectares the demand for these wines far outweighs supply. The Piè Franco from pre-phylloxera own-rooted vines is also located in the Gabutti cru, but shows a more lifted and ethereal side as compared to the Pié Rupestris. The whispers heard on this ultra-rare bottling surround the belief that this is what Barolo tasted like before American rootstocks were forced to be grafted to the majority European vines.

    The Barolo Chinato is, in many ways, the most esteemed product at Cappellano. The tightly-held secret family recipe has been passed down for generations. The wine is infused with a special ratio of spices, herbs, and other earthly components and ground by hand using a stone mortar and pestle.


    Cappellano Barolo Chinato
    Terrific on its own, but I'd be remiss if I didn't include some other recommendation's from importer, Neal Rosenthal:
    As an aperitif: 4 parts gin, 4 parts Campari, 2 parts Chinato, a touch of ice plus a slice of orange.
    - As a “thirst quencher”: cold sparkling water plus 10% of the volume in Chinato with the juice of a freshly squeezed lime accompanied by a slice of lime.And, Augusto Cappellano reminds us: don’t forget the pleasure of drinking the Chinato accompanied by the best chocolate one can find!
    Posted by Alexander Rosen