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.
"Sashi Moorman and Rajat Parr turned out a memorable set of Pinots at Domaine de la Côte... They show all of the concentration of the 2020 vintage and yet are so expressive of site." — Antonio Galloni, Vinous
Burgundy is the backbone of our selection, and when I turn our supporters toward California, this is the first destination for top-grade, terroir-driven Pinot Noir. It's here where Pacific Ocean-influenced conditions lead us to what might be the most marginal, Burgundian conditions in our state.
I'm inclined to compare this extreme hill to the Côte de Nuits over the Côte de Beaune traits typically found in Santa Barbara's inland terrain. Like Gevrey Chambertin and Morey-Saint-Denis, Sta. Rita Hills has darker fruit expression, deeper structure, and fascinating depth and complexity. The juxtaposition between sweet and savory spices is simply unique to this setting.
Sashi Moorman and Raj Parr walk the walk when it comes to viticulture. These are wines with intense concentration due to dense planting (4,000 to 7,000 vines per acre) and small yields. The diatomaceous soils from a 25 million-year-old seabed define this wind-battered slope seven miles off the Pacific.
From day one, Sashi and Raj have intended to produce wines they want to drink. A large percentage of whole clusters are used here for fermentation, and extraction levels are moderate, only to give regal framing and backbone to the wines still characterized by purity and transparency of site.
The pitch-perfect 2016 Southern Rhône vintage does not require much more explanation, and today's duo embodies the regions' best overachieving appellation, Gigondas. Commonly known as Baby Châteauneuf, Gigondas has the elevation and steep slope grade to induce a seriousness to these Grenache-dominant blends that are in another league of terroir from neighboring zones.
Today, I'm happy to offer the 2016 Les Pallières Terrasse du Diable and Gour de Chaulé Cuvée Tradition.
2016 is a replay of the 2010 vintage in Southern Rhône—high ripeness, and superior finesse, cut, and definition. A perfect storm for classic-leaning palates, one that we're only rewarded with a couple of times each decade.
Terraces cut into the Dentelles de Montmirail hillsides give us Gigondas from the 15th century-founded Domaine Les Pallières. Of the two cuvées produced by the Brunier brothers (also owners of Vieux Télégraphe in Châteauneuf du Pape), it is the Terrasse du Diable (Devil's Terraces) that has always struck a chord for me. These are the highest elevation plantings on the estate, bringing the essential brisk structure to balance Grenache's forward-baked strawberry and white pepper profile.
Gour de Chaulé, like Pallières, focuses on extremely high percentages of Grenache in their blend, not relying on the dark and muscular tones of Syrah and Mourvèdre to impress. (Both domaines are over 85% for these two cuvées). While Pallières partially de-stems, GdC always sees 100% whole cluster fermentation. Here, there's an extra element of tension and a more reserved fruit profile that always reminds me that this gives one of the most disciplined frames of any southern Rhône red. Josh Raynolds of Vinous captures why this more reticent personality is greatly rewarding:
"In great vintages like 2016, this 15-hectare (10 of them in Gigondas and mostly composed of very old, low-yielding vines) domaine’s wines have proven that they can age remarkably well and better than most others from the region. Twenty years is usually the outer limit for cellaring Gigondas, to my taste, but plenty of two-decade-old (and even older) bottles of Gour de Chaulé over the last three decades have proven themselves worthy. [...] and the wines here, which have long been among the standouts of the appellation (especially for those whose tastes run to the traditional and unadorned), have never been better."