• Langhe Smart Buy: 2019 Fratelli Alessandria Prinsiòt

    Langhe Smart Buy: 2019 Fratelli Alessandria Prinsiòt

    “Fratelli Alessandria is one of Piedmont’s under-the-radar jewels.” — Antonio Galloni, Vinous

    Fratelli Alessandria has become a house favorite in no time, and to no surprise, the 2019 "Prinsiòt" Nebbiolo ($30) has me a little more than enthusiastic. In Verduno, locals refer to the soil as Marne di Sant'Agata, a combination of sand, clay, and deep veins of limestone. There's no wonder why this northern commune of Barolo has an extra lift with with snappy acidity and crisp red fruits.

    2019 will likely be one of the best vintages of the decade. With heat spells only in June and July, the rest of the season had good diurnal shifts that have led to my favorite vintages firmly in the classic and traditional realm (2010, 2013, and 2016, for example).We have made many crucial discoveries in Piedmont, but Alessandria stands out among the great value wines, also producing Barbera, Dolcetto, and Pelaverga.

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    Posted by Max Kogod
  • O.G. Abruzzo: Valentini & Emidio Pepe

    O.G. Abruzzo: Valentini & Emidio Pepe

    Edoardo Valentini and Emidio Pepe are kings of Abruzzo's Trebbiano, Pecorino, and Montepulciano. Valentini is famous for his disdain of paperwork and insistence on only bottling Montepulciano in select vintages when quality is sky-high. Emidio Pepe is known best for his late releases of aged Montepulciano (The wines below came directly to us from their cellar). Both producers generally eschew sulfur, making them true models of a hands-off regimen in the cellar.

    Today's list also gives an honorable mention to Amorotti, started by Gaetano Carboni in 2000. He grows five hectares of vines on his family's polyculture farm and received guidance from Valentini on what clonal material to plant. They released their wines for the first time starting with the 2016 vintage. Though relatively new to the market, Amorotti offers a great introduction to Abruzzo before diving into the higher-priced cuvées by the region's legends.

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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
  • Sancerre Royalty: 2019 Domaine Vacheron

    Sancerre Royalty: 2019 Domaine Vacheron

    A visit to the eastern Loire in May 2016 was a great awakening to the potential and diversity within Sancerre. Styles of winemaking differ nearly as much as the change in soil throughout the region, from flint to marl and Kimmeridgian limestone. But when the tours concluded, it was Vacheron's duo of sites that stuck with me.

    Vacheron's epic south-facing slopes of old vines immediately felt special when we hit the rocky terrain. In a marginal climate, where every last ray of sunlight counts, these Sauvignon Blancs have a generous cut and rigor. They develop faint notes of honey, ginger, and orchard fruit while maintaining a disciplined frame and finish with loads of crushed rocks and salinity.

    Not a lot of vignerons farm organically in Sancerre, as the weather can be brutal and uncooperative. Less than ten producers are certified organic including Vacheron (since 2000). In the cellar, they've transitioned to larger vessels such as foudre to ensure the wines are taut and structured, as temperatures in the region continue to climb. The wines ferment spontaneously with native yeasts, and the lunar cycle dictates when bottling occurs. No fining or filtering!

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    Posted by Max Kogod
  • New World Adventure: 2021 Ryme Vermentino

    New World Adventure: 2021 Ryme Vermentino

    Ryan and Megan Glaab are the kind of winemakers I'm always thrilled to be introduced to. Their small-production winery has slowly grown since 2007, focusing on varieties that are more obscure in California. Their love of old-world wines, particularly those from Campania, Friuli, and Sardinia, was the catalyst for their label.

    The cool and foggy Las Brisas Vineyard is an ideal home for the aromatic, late-ripening Vermentino variety. It's located on the Sonoma side of Carneros, heavily influenced by the San Pablo Bay and Petaluma Gap—an ideal place to produce racy whites. "Hers," referring to Megan's preferred style of Vermentino, is clean, bright, mineral-driven, and refreshing, calling to mind northern Sardinia and the Ligurian coast of Italy where Vermentino reigns supreme. The grapes are immediately pressed off their skins and aged in a combo of stainless steel and neutral French oak.

    Ryan and Megan's goal is to make wines they want to drink, using Italy's rich history as a guiding force to show the ultimate potential that exists in California. The couple met while working harvest in Australia years. They quickly fell in love and returned to California, and each has worked at iconic wineries including Pax, Peay, Marcassin, and Sine Qua Non. These invaluable, diverse experiences gave the couple the tools needed to execute the project they had dreamed of.

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    Posted by Max Kogod