Category Archives: Wine Articles

Grapelive: Wine of the Day November 9, 2021

2016 Enrico Serafino, Barolo DOCG, Monclivio, Piedmonte, Italy.
This winery and label has recently burst back on to the scene, now run by the same group that owns Vietti and with winemaker Paolo Giacosa crafting the wines it is getting some well deserved attention, especially their 2016 Barolo offerings, with this Monclivio Barolo bottling being one that really stood out to me in a recent tasting. This Canale based winery, is located in a picturesque landscape, as the winery itself notes, it is set in the famous Langhe hills across the Tanaro River in the northeast part of Cuneo Province, with Monferrato to the east, this area of Roero and Langhe are recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site for their beauty and their winemaking traditions. The Monclivio is sourced from all sustainable grapes from the communes of Castiglione Falletto, La Morra, Monforte d’Alba, and Serralunga d’Alba, all of which are prime location on the classic clay and limestone Helvetian soils that allow for depth, richness and powerful structure, as this wine clearly displays. The full bodied palate is dense with fruit concentration and youthfully tannic, but remarkably supple and luxurious showing red berry, damson plum, black cherry and mulberry fruits, along with subtle game, black licorice, cedary wood and hoisin notes. This garnet/ruby colored Barolo is a ripe and mouth filling Nebbiolo wine, pays a nice tribute to its place and the vintage, and is best served with hearty foods, perfect for the Fall and Winter cuisine options to come, and it should continue to age well for another 7 to 10 years. There is a lot to admire here in this well made wine and I am glad I got to taste through their latest set of wines, these Enrico Serafino efforts, which were new to me, are all quality examples and pretty solid values too with clean flavor profiles and expressive personalities.

The Enrico Serafino winery, in the Roero, is the oldest in the region and was founded in Canale d’Alba back in 1878, so has been continuously making wines here in its original location for 140 years now and interestingly is most famous for its Champagne style sparkling wines, though they have long made serious Barolo, like this beautiful and complex Monclivio version from the fantastic 2016 vintage. These metodo classico sparkling wines, which they have made since the late 1800s were crafted using the same process mastered in Champagne only a couple of decades earlier, and pioneered these methods and technologies that were just starting to be available outside of the Champagne region at the time. The winery’s long history of making Barolo in Canale, and good reputation such that the Enrico Serafino winery has been grandfathered in as an exception to the rule that doesn’t allow producers vinify Barolo outside the limits of the Barolo DOCG. In the past this estate did a wide array of wines from Gavi (Cortese grapes) to Alta Langhe grapes for the bubbly, as well as classic Nebbiolo, Pinot Nero, smaller amounts of Arneis and Chardonnay and today the winery owns 25 acres of Barolo vineyards in the renowned areas of Serralunga, Monforte d’Alba, and Castiglione Falletto, along with a traditional Barbera d’Alba. The winemaking employed on this Barolo was pretty standard with 100% de-stemmed grapes fermented with a selected culture (yeast) and macerated for about three weeks before being rack to a combination of small and large oak casks, including some French 225-liter barriques. Then this Monclivio selection was aged for 24 months in the wood, after which it was bottled and rested a further six months before being released with about 3,000 cases made. This wine, plus their Brut style Alta Langa “Oudeis” bubbly (80% Pinot Noir and 20% Chardonnay) impressed me and are well worth teaching out.
($49 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day November 8, 2021

2019 Combe, Trousseau Pet’ Nat, Dry Sparkling Wine, Stolpman Vineyards, Ballard Canyon, Santa Ynez Valley.
The success of this Combe Trousseau Pet’ Nat by Stolpman Vineyards is easy to see, it is a well made and delightful dry and zesty, Brut style sparkling wine with mineral fresh intensity and lightly earthy fruit, making for an vibrant and slightly frothy quaffer that is a perfect aperitif or appetizer wine. The Combe Pet’ Nat is made from night picked estate grapes that are transported to Petaluma and carefully crafted there by one of California’s best sparkling wine winemakers, Michael Cruse, who is famous for the high quality versions of Pet’ Nat and Methode Champenoise made under his Cruse Wine Co and Ultramarine labels. The Combe Pet’ Nat is fermented towards dryness and was placed into bottle under crown-cap with just a touch of natural sugar remaining to allow a second fermentation that finishes in bottle creating the bubbles. Stolpman notes, that Michael disgorges each bottle, removing any solid yeast material and lees from the bottle prior to release ensuring clarity and a consistent and elegant mousse. The 2019 is one of the best and with a little extra age now it has gained some secondary character and roundness showing preserved citrus, muskmelon, bruised pear and peach notes on the light to medium bodied palate that adds some creamy elements and contrasting tanginess with the delightful energetic beading of the mouse, it was a nice way to celebrate a Sunday afternoon.

Pete Stolpman’s most esoteric project is labeled “Combe” which he was spurred on to do with a push from Raj Parr, the famous Sommelier who is based in Santa Barbara, with the name referring to the French word for a small sheltered valley within a vineyard where Stolpman grows tiny parcels of Chenin Blanc, Mondeuse and Trousseau, that is used to make this fun and unique bubbly. Sometime around 2010, Pete became convinced of the great potential for the pale red Trousseau grape, most famously grown in France’s remote Jura region, thinking it would thrive on the limestone soils of Stolpman’s estate vineyards. Stolpman and Parr decided to make a light red Trousseau, like the classic Jura wines, like those of Ganevat, Puffeney and the legendary Michel Gahier, and more geeky, a Trousseau Pet’ Nat or “Pétillant Naturel” an ancient method and faster way to make sparkling wine, it is a French term that roughly translates to “naturally sparkling. The first vintage for the Combe Trousseau wines was back in 2014, and Pete now have 3.5 acres planted to the varietal, which because of the success of them, hardly seems enough, these are always instant sell outs, especially this bottling. The Stolpman wines are class acts, with their Syrah offerings being exceptional and in recent years they have been adding to their So Fresh lineup that started with their fabulous and playful Love You Bunches -The carbonic whole cluster Sangiovese that has taken the hipster wine scene by storm, these So Fresh wines deliver exciting no pretense drinking pleasures and well priced to allow stocking up on your favorites.
($42 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day November 7, 2021

2020 Garofoli, Supèra, Verdicchio di Metelica DOC, Le Marche, Italy.
New in the Garofoli lineup is their first Verdicchio di Metelica DOC wine, called Supèra, it is a nod to the future and as they winery says, to expanding possibilities and potential in the higher elevation Metelica Valley in the Appenines Mountain range a bit further inland from the Adriatic Sea. Having worked with Verdicchio solely from the Castelli di Jesi area for generations, Matelica is a new adventure for the Garofoli family who have a long tradition of winemaking here in the Le Marche. The crisp and fresh Supèra is an expansion of a partnership with a young and vibrant winegrower from this high valley on the Esino River valley that is full of potential, I was incredibly impressed by this stylish version of Verdicchio, which can be rather thin and bitter when not grown well or with such careful handling. The Supèra Verdicchio di Metelica DOC is a mountain wine”with a vibrant core of citrus fruit and a bit more complexity than most examples of this grape, especially at this price, making this a very compelling offering that comes from all sustainable grapes near Esanatoglia that are grown on almost pure clay and formed by ancient glaciers. This 2020 vintage is as pure as it gets with the fermentation and aging all done in stainless steel and with a very short 4 month elevage before quickly being bottled to preserve all of the vitality and zest, making for a great little white for light dishes and or raw oysters. The profile is light and zippy with lemon lime, almond oil, similar to Gruner, and a steely mineral note along with hints of melon, saline and wet stones.

The Garofoli winery was originally founded back in 1871 in the city of Loreto in Marche, which is the site of the Basilica della Santa Casa, one of the most important Christian pilgrimage sites in Italy since the Middle Ages and is still among the most visited pilgrimage churches today. Antonio Garofoli was an Inn keeper in the mid-19th century and in 1871, according to the winery and local historians Garofoli began making wine to quench the pilgrims’ temporal thirst, which was the beginning a long family tradition of winemaking and generous hospitality. Thirty years later, his son Gioacchino founded a full-scale winery operation and the family went into the wine business on a much more serious level. The winery expanded commercially after World War II and was known as Casa Vinicola Gioacchino Garofoli with national and European distribution beginning in 1950. Loreta’s famous basilica was built around a small house that is said to be the very structure in which the Virgin Mary was born and where Jesus was conceived and raised. According to folklore, the house was flown out of Nazareth in Palestine by the angels before that city fell to Muslim forces during the Crusades, and it, as legend has it, wound up here in Loreto, on the Adriatic coast in the remote provence of Le Marche, home of the Castelli di Jesi growing area, noted for Verdicchio grape, that makes for the signature crisply dry white wine of this region. For hundreds of years now, thousands if not millions of the faithful have traveled here from far and wide to see and pray at the Santa Casa (Holy House) and sip the refreshing Verdicchio wines.
($18 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day November 6, 2021

2018 Poliziano, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG, Tuscany, Italy.
The latest Poliziano Vino Nobile is as it always seems to be, a benchmark wine for this region and delivers a classic tour de force of Tuscan goodness with dark layers of bramble berry, plum, dried cherry and strawberry fruits along with a background of subtle earthiness, spice and mint lead by hints of soy, cedar, anise, loam and snappy herbs . After a few swirls a richer body emerges and there’s a lingering array of porporri, pipe tobacco, fig and currant. There’s fresh acidity and some authentic raw tannin here that provides a soulful structure to this vintage and makes it a wine that is at its best with a full and hearty meal, it all comes together with meat and or mushroom dishes and having tried with grilled steak it proved excellent and gained depth and complexity on the robust palate. This pure terroir driven Vino Nobile di Montepulciano is made from 85% Prugnolo Gentile, the local name for Sangiovese, with the other 15% being a mix of Colorino, Canaiolo and Merlot grown on the estate’s clay and silted soils that contain many fossilized stones at set up at prime higher elevation for added complexity and balance. The Poliziano grapes are all grown with sustainable methods, mostly to organic practices though without certification and are fermented in large oak casks before being aged close to 20 months in various sized French oak barrels, with only a about 20% seeing the smaller 225Ls. While still youthful, there is some serious aging potential here with this 2018 and it might ultimately prove as good as the 2016s and it is a remarkable value at the price, easily making it a wine to enjoy without much guilt or wallet pain. I will always remember my first visit to Montepulciano, the rustic and beautiful hilltop town, once prized for the healing power of its spring waters that have long been used for local spa treatments, I got to witness this remote village bring in its grapes in late September and the air was filled with the glorious smell of fermentation, making the experience extra special. This wine brought back memories of a chaotic comedy, that could only happen in Italy with an ancient truck overloaded with grapes struggling to make it up a steep grade to the co-op in the old town and men rushing over to help push it up the final stretch, me included, with all of us, the old diesel included sliding dangerously on rain slick pavement! Oh man, I laughed, though I was worried I might be seriously injured or even be run over, happily we all, grapes included survived.

The Poliziano winery in Montepulciano was named after Agnolo Ambrogini, who was more commonly known by his nickname “Poliziano” (born in 1454 and died in 1494), the famous Italian poet and humanist and considered the foremost classical scholar of the Renaissance period, he was also a friend and protege of legendary Lorenzo de’ Medici, of the ruling family of Florence. It was because of his ties to Montepulciano and his work as a humanist that make him one of the town’s most cherished sons, who’s name was derived from the Latin name of his birthplace, Montepulciano (Mons Politianus). He was poisoned at the age of 40 by followers of Piero de’ Medici who worried he might lay claim to the seat of power in the aftermath of Lorenzo’s death. His life was full of controversy and makes for fantastic reading, as does the history of the de’ Medici family, these were intriguing times to say the least! The Poliziano winery has storied past and was founded in 1961 by Dino Carletti, who was a visionary in the region and helped it gain its status as one of Tuscany’s premier DOCGs. Now Poliziano is led by Dino’s son Federico Carletti and his children, Francesco and Maria Stella about to become the third generation to run this historic estate. Obviously the main focus at Poliziano is Prugnolo Gentile, the most prestigious clone of Sangiovese (the same as Sangiovese Grosso in Brunello di Montalcino), but they also have Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot vines, along with native rarities Canaiolo Nero and Colorino. Federico is the former president of the Consorzio del Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, leading the group from 2008 to 2013 and was a founding member of a small group of vintners, called the Alliance that wanted the top DOCG wines in the area to be 100% Prugnolo Gentile (Sangiovese) like Brunello, instead of only being 70% as the rules dictate, and from the 2015 vintage on, these pure Sangiovese wines, one level up from this one, will feature the word “Nobile” in large type on their label and be from single vineyards. Poliziano is well worth searching out, especially for this bottling as well as for the winery’s entry level Rosso di Montepulciano, which is a no nonsense bargain as well as their single cru offerings, the Poliziano Vino Nobile di Montepulciano “Asinone” and the “Le Caggiole” Vino Nobile di Montepulciano that are more difficult to find over here. Poliziano also sources grapes from another charming hilltop town, Cortona, which they craft a 100% Merlot from, though I haven’t tried it yet I am sure it is delicious. This recent tasting has really got me itching to re-visit Italy and Tuscany soon, I am so ready for Covid to be in the rear view mirror, and wines like this have me dreaming of future travels.
($35 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day November 5, 2021

2019 Weingut Von Winning, Riesling Trocken, Deidesheimer Paradiesgarten, VDP Erste Lage, Deidesheim, Pfalz Germany.
Always a favorite in Von Winnings lineup the Paradiesgarten Trocken Riesling is every bit as good as 90% of the GGs out there and this 2019 is a thrilling wine of class and depth with a full range of flavors, energy and exceptional length, it is crystalline, crisply dry and brilliant from start to finish. The Deidesheimer Paradiesgarten, a VDP Erste Lage or Premier Cru vineyard, is located on top of the slope right underneath the forest, with spectacular vines grown on red sandstone and with some löss and loamy soils. The Paradiesgarten is Von Winning’s coolest site just above the village of Deidesheim, and completely surrounding the Grand Cru site of Langenmorgen and is farmed 100% organic, interestingly, according to the winery, here the top soil consists of fine loamy sand, unique for this hillside. This terroir one of their most elegant sites for dry Riesling, in fact this could easily be a GG with the character it delivers, which makes this bottling, especially in vintages like this 2019 a stellar value and truly a world class white wine. I was first turned on to this wine by the famed importer and Riesling guru Terry Theise more than a decade ago now and it continues to be one of my go to Pfalz bottlings. The Von Winning Paradiesgarten Riesling is completely barrel fermented and then aged on the lees for one year, giving it a regal presence in the glass and it has an opulent mouth feel, but a firm structure that allows for extended cellaring, while offering noteworthy early drinking pressure and the mentioned remarkable length. This vintage is ripe and hints at the exotic, but has chiseled detailing and Riesling purity with vibrant array of white peach, green apple, apricot, tart pear, kumquat, key lime, kiwi and bitter quince fruits as well as rosewater, orange blossoms, saline, crushed wet flint and verbena all elevated by the natural acidity and rounded by the leesy texture, hazelnut brioche and subtle wood influence.

Weingut Von Winning, an off-shoot off the Dr Deinhard Winery, is based in Deidesheim and has some of the greatest Cru vineyards in the region in their portfolio, including the Deidesheimer Grosses Gewachs of Grainhübel, Langenmorgen, the wildly exotic Kalkofen and Kieselberg, as well as Ungeheuer, Kirchenstück, Jesuitengarten and Pechstein, the Forst GG’s. Apart from from the collection of elite Riesling sites, Von Winning has some of the world’s best Sauvignon Blanc, that must be tried to believe, as well as very good Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc or Weissburgunder as it is known locally, plus in recent years their sparkling wines or Sekt, which are all Methode Champenoise Brut style wines are outstanding too. The heavenly Paradeisgarten Trocken is sourced from all organic grapes that see an elevage in a combination of smaller 500L and classic 1200L barrels, all used, to promote transparency and purity, then it was bottled with a gentle/light filtration for clarity. These Von Winning wines are impeccably made and are some of the best in Germany, if not the whole of Europe and the world, do not miss any chance to try them and savvy Riesling drinkers will want to get a few of these Paradeisgartens. This 2019 is close to perfection and a gorgeous bottle, and I am hearing a buzz that the 2020s are just as good if not better, which makes it a great time to stock up on the Von Winning wines, especially this one. I see a few sales on the earlier vintages that are insanely good buys, but at around $30, this 2019 is outrageously under priced for what is in the glass, it is a serious Riesling and it should age another decade with ease. I could just sip and enjoy this on its own, but it deserves an evening and a meal to get the best from it, and since it’s bone dry it doesn’t need hot or spicy dishes, making great with everything from cured meats to briny sea food.
($32 ESt.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day November 4, 2021

2017 Fattoria Selvapiana, Vigneto Bucerchiale, Chianti Rufina Rserva DOCG, Tuscany, Italy.
The Fattoria Selvapiana, located in Chianti Rufina, in the foothills of the Apennines and close to Florence was among the first Tuscan producers to make the Riserva made only from 100% Sangiovese and to produce their flagship wine from a single vineyard, which is Selvapiana’s Vigneto Bucerchiale, which was debuted back in 1979 and continues to be a benchmark wine from this region, and this 2017 is an absolute joy to behold in the glass. The depth found here is remarkable for the year, it highlights the terroir here in the hillside of Rufina, where the nearness to the mountains strongly influences the microclimate here with cooler summers and a big change in temperature between day and night that all makes these wines at Selvapiana elegantly balanced and age worthy, with this 2017 really putting on a great performance, making it a wine that offers tremendous value. The 2017 is pure Sangiovese at its best with a beautiful dark color and an inviting bouquet with a classic array of crushed berries, floral notes and a delicate earthiness and snappy herbs that leads to a full bodied palate that is lifted by natural acidity and a touch of mineral to go with briar laced black raspberry, plum, cherry and strawberry fruits that are nicely accented by ground tobacco, cedar, anise, dried rose petals and lingering currant coulis. This wine, when I tasted it, was up against some well regarded and powerful Italian reds and it more than held its own and it had even more of an impact when was tried with robust cuisine.

In a week where I’ve focused on Italian wines, I could not let my love for Tuscany go not mentioned and this brilliant wine certainly deserves mention and merit, it shows fine details, graceful structure and will make almost any meal much more rewarding, if you’ve not had Fattoria Selvapiana, it is a good time to change that, especially this Chianti Rufina Riserva Vigneto Bucerchiale. I first discovered Selvapiana when I tried their amazing Vin Santo del Chianti Rufina, one of Tuscany’s most prized treats, but I was slow to get into their reds, something that I will make up in the future, as this Vigneto Buccerchiale Rufina Riserva certainly left a big impression on me. The Chianti Rufina Riserva Vigneto Bucerchiale saw a spontaneous native yeast fermentation and a 30 maceration period with manual punchdowns and pumpovers to extract color, flavor and its backbone of tannins. One primary fermentation is finished the Vigneto Bucerchiale is racked to barriques for close to 15 months, mostly used oak with just about 10% new wood used, which adds a subtle touch of sweet toast and gives this wine its sense of purity. I normally focus my attention to the southern hills of Chianti Classico, closer to Siena, when I’m looking for outstanding Sangiovese, like the wines of Felsina, Le Miccine, Castello di Ama, Montevertine and others, but after trying this one I’ll be careful to not overlook this Rufina estate going forward. Selvapiana doesn’t make this bottling every year, so it only sees the best grapes in the best vintage, which gives Sangiovese lovers an extra degree of confidence when picking this bottle, it is thrilling and rewarding wine that is great with food.
($37 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day November 3, 2021

2018 Vietti, Barbera d’Alba DOC “Vigna Scarrone” Piedmonte, Italy.
This ripe and full bodied Vigna Scarrone Barbera is a serious wine that will convince you, if you not already a Barbera lover to become one with a deep saturated color and surprising depth filled with dark berry fruit, a dusting of fine spices, heady floral notes, hedonistic textural richness and thrilling length. The grapes for Vietti’s gorgeous Scarrone Barbera are grown in asingle steep terraced vineyard in Castiglione Falletto, the Barolo cru. These vines, the winery notes, were planted in 1989 and set on ancient marl soils, which is a combination of clay and limestone. Vietti’s superstar winemaker Luca Currado, who’s latest wines are some of the greatest in the Piedmonte, if not all of Italy, has created a special wine here, it is one of the best expression of Barbera I’ve tried, comparing well with my favorite La Spinetta Gallina bottling. The grapes saw a short period of cold-maceration, then fermented in open stainless-steel tanks for about two weeks at cool temperatures with frequent remontage and délestages, which are punch downs and pumpovers, that Currado explains is to achieve a perfect level extraction of color and tannins. This vintage, a warm one, adds to the instant and heightened pleasure on the palate with blackberry, juicy plum and currant fruits leading the way along with hints of chalk stones, sandalwood, sprigs of wild herbs, tarry anise, kirsch and a peony porporri. To promote purity and suppleness the Scarrone Barbera was raised 18 months in various vessels, including large oak casks, small barriques and steel tanks, making for an impactful wine that highlights the studied approach taken to made it, this is Barbera at its best.

The Vietti winery is located in Castiglione Falletto of famous Barolo area of the Cuneo province, and it was founded in the late 1800’s by Carlo Vietti. The estate has gradually grown over the years to include some of the most highly-prized terroirs in Piedmonte. While influential in the local area and have been making wine for four generations, this label only came of age in the 1960’s when Luciana Vietti married winemaker and art connoisseur Alfredo Currado, who was one of the first to bottle a Rocche di Castiglione cru Barolo back in 1961, as well as to produce a single-varietal Arneis in 1967, along with the introduction of an Artist Label in the early 1970s. These wines and packaging made him a legend and his efforts were of some of the most significant innovations of the era. His legacy lives on here, and Luca Currado, who has contributed even more to the success of Vietti in recent years making it an iconic label of quality, his set of Barolo wines are some of the most collectable and desirable wines in the world, especially his Lazzarito and Rocche di Castiglione Barolo(s), but you find quality throughout his collection, with this also being a standout. In 2016 the historic winery was acquired by Krause Holdings, which has given Luca and his Elena a free hand to run Vietti brand, and to add a number of prized crus to the estate’s holdings, so the future here is secure and allows them the resources to reach new levels of greatness. The Vietti Scarrone Barbera d’Alba is a perfect reflection of its terroir and is well worth the price, with this 2017 being an outstanding effort, inviting in the glass now and one that has potential to age another decade. The winery suggests it will be rewarding with hearty stews, pasta dishes and or poultry with rich sauces, game birds, as well as roasted meats and sharp cheeses, all of which makes me want more of this stuff.
($48 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day November 2, 2021

2017 Proprietà Sperino, Uvaggio, Coste delle Sesia Rosso, Alta Langhe, Piedmonte, Italy.
The Proprietà Sperino winery is located in the Lessona DOC appellation, in the Alta Langhe part of the greater Piedmonte region, and is one of the oldest and most historic wine-growing areas in Italy with wine producing records showing, as early as the 14th century, this was a thriving wine community and now it is one of Italy’s hot spots, along with Mount Etna on Sicily, with wines like this one, made from mostly Nebbiolo, being a fine example why these wines are getting such attention. Luca de Marchi, who’s family has some Piedmonte roots has a well known father, Paolo, who owns the famous and critically acclaimed Tuscan estate Isole e Olena in Chianti Classico, runs this Lessona property with a passion for Nebbiolo. This 2017 Uvaggio Coste delle Sesia Rosso, which is 80% Nebbiolo, 5% Croatina and 15% Vespolina, is a beautiful and exciting wine with a fresh nature and ripe fruit that allows it to drink fabulous in its youth, while still having the depth and structure underneath to age well with a pretty array of red fruit, perfumed floral notes and delicate earthy elements and a silky and supple texture. There is loads to please the palate here in this medium body wine with crushed raspberry, dark cherry, wild plum and blood orange fruits along with seeped rose petals, tangy garden herbs, mineral tones and a light touch of wood, this red has a brightly fresh personality, but has a subtle savoriness, a good cut of acidity and a nice tannic backbone that is not aggressive.

Luca de Marchi, who is a mission to bring more quality Lessona and has laboriously restored the family vineyards, which he and dad inherited in 1999 and have put hard work in ever since. The Proprietà Sperino is located, as they note, right at the foot of Monte Rosa, where the soil consists of marine sand and Alpine granite that are perfect for the Nebbiolo vines to thrive and produce exceptional long lived wines. The Nebbiolo, locally called Spanna, here is very aromatic and complex, and is lifted by the small amounts of Vespolina and Croatina, which adds to the flowery bouquet, some heightened pigment and gives some spicy notes to this Uvaggio Rosso. For this wine, de Marchi says that he is looking to craft his wine with a respect to nature and remaining faithful to history of this place and not imitate other oenological styles. To that end, the Uvaggio Coste della Sesia DOC is made from sustainable farmed grapes, which are all de-stemmed and fermented in tank and used wood and then it is raised 22 months in mostly small tonneau/barriques then bottled unfined and unfiltered. I tasted this one along side Luca’s signature Rosso Lessona DOC 2015, which is a powerhouse and is 100% Nebbiolo that saw 32 months in wood with 18 of those months on the fine lees, it is an ultra serious effort that rivals Cru Barolo for impact, while this wine is just a little more quaffable and playful, though both are well worth chasing down, especially Nebbiolo fans. This label was new to me and I was highly impressed with what I tasted and look forward to following Proprietà Sperino’s efforts in the future, plus I learned they also make a Rosé and a super rare single vineyard Cabernet Franc that I hope to sample someday!
($45 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day November 1, 2021

2017 La Ca’ Növa, Barbaresco DOCG, Piedmonte, Italy.
The 2017 La Ca’ Növa Barbaresco Normale is much more earthy and rustic than the Cru Montestefano, but as it opens it gains a sense of completeness and is a wildly good value even though it is a more old school version without quite the elegance of the upper level wines. That said, this wine performed well with food and is ripe in fruit and gives the vintage’s open knit textural richness, it just is not as perfumed or as distinctive as the Montestefano, but not many would complain for the price that this one goes for and this is a producer to keep on your radar! The 2017 starts with a bit of game and leathery notes with truffle and forest floor leading to the classic Nebbiolo fruit of which brandied cherries, damson plums, brambly vine picked berries and red currants which is accented by hoisin, cedar, minty herb, anise, loam, fig and some wilted rose petals. There is a meaty and sanguine edginess that fades with food to allow a more generous side to balance things out a bit and a nice lingering kirsch and dried herb remind of where this wine is from, it is pure Piedmonte in the glass with a orange edged dark ruby color. This wine is really at its best with robust and simple country dishes, hearty winter stews, meat dishes and or hard cheeses. Day two brought more supple fruit and a better display of the wine’s range, time gave it a fuller voice and there was more to appreciate on the medium to full bodied palate which bodes well for midterm cellaring, while still having its earthy character. As I talked about when I first tried Marco Rocca’s wines, including his fabulous Montestefano cru Barbaresco, this is a winemaker to watch and his La Ca’ Növa wines are bargains.

Marco Rocca’s La Ca’ Növa winery is located just outside of the historic village of Barbaresco and is a small winery that produces traditional styled wines that way over deliver for the price, especially this entry level Barbaresco and Marco’s masterpiece from the famed Montestefano cru. Marco’s main passions are his Nebbiolo parcels and his trio of Barbaresco wines, but as the winery notes, Marco also does Dolcetto and Barbera, which I will now search out, because if his Barbaresco Normale and Cru Montestefano are this good and are this insanely low priced, they must be fantastic values as well. The winery has prized holdings in the Montefico and Montestefano, which I just reviewed recently, as well as nice sites within the Barbaresco DOCG zone from which they make their set of Barbaresco(s), plus Marco does a entry level Langhe Nebbiolo DOC, another wine I think needs investigating. Rocca is old school and shy by nature, he is not into modern technology and his wines are made in rustic fashion but with extreme care and love. He does his fermentation(s) without temperature control or with stainless tanks, he only employs indigenous yeasts and everything is done by hand using open barrels, as was done in older and simpler times. The maceration, interestingly is done with a large wooden spoon, which Marco uses to stir the musts, which he notes, is very difficult and time consuming work, but it worth it, as it helps extract a much richer color as well as more polyphenols. If you’ve not had La Ca’ Növa, this is a great time to explore their wines, and as I noted in my prior review, this must be one of the best kept secrets I’ve run across in the last few years!
($30 Est.) 90 Points, grapelive

Grapelive: Wine of the Day October 31, 2021

2019 Domaine Jérôme Gradassi, Chateauneuf-du-Pape Rouge, Rhone Valley, France.
Gradassi’s latest Chateauneuf-du-Pape Rouge is a youthful, primary and grapey Grenache based effort that is firmly tight, savory and stony to start, but after opening up it is a fantastic bottle, deep in inky color and the depth of fruit is impressive, it highlights the rustic style with lots of whole bunch character, but rounds out nicely with a concentrated mouth feel and a full bodied palate of dark berry fruit, peony, spice and a sultry earthiness that balances everything so well here. This vintage looks to be one the best I’ve tried and I’m glad I was able to get a few bottles, especially has limited it is and I look forward to cellaring them another 3 to five years. Still a baby and ultra fresh the 2019 kicks things off with brambly boysenberry, juicy concord, pomegranate and black currant fruit that is accented by black licorice, wild flowers, sagey lavender, chalky saline, a touch of woodsy chanterelles and lingering fig, umami and kirsch. Maybe the smallest producer in the whole Chateauneuf-du-Pape AOC, France’s first appellation, Jérôme’s Chateauneuf ages just over 10 months, using cement and ancient oak casks, and is one of freshest you’ll find with a dry savory edginess and with stem fleshiness and tension, it’s a wine I’ve been a fan of since it was first available in the States, along with his Blanc, uniquely made from Clairette Rose, a Gris like varietal, super rare, closely related to more common Clairette Blanche.

As I’ve mentioned here in my prior reviews, this is one of my favorite small producers in the Rhone, I love these wines and am so glad tiny domaines can exist here in this historic region and make it doing humble and rustic offerings. Jérôme Gradassi is the ex chef of the Michelin starred restaurant, the “L’Isle Sonnant” in Avignon, which, after burning out, he sold in 2003 to take over a tiny Chateauneuf parcel of vines that was left to him by his grandfather. After making a few vintages in his late grandfather’s tiny house and basement cellar, a place so small the grapes were shoveled through a window and the juice had to be brought up in hand pulled buckets to barrel, a process that sometimes took a few days to manage, Gradassi is now in his brother’s ex-winery Domaine du Remparts, re-named Domaine Jérôme Gradassi. His micro production Chateauneuf du Pape Rouge is roughly about 75-80% Old Vine Grenache Noir and 20-25% Mourvèdre, fermented in cement vats and stainless and then aged in older barriques, using native yeasts and lots of whole cluster, making for a spicy/earthy rustic wine with a nod to old school traditions, which I adore in Chateauneuf. Farmed with holistic practices on classic limestone, riverbed and clay soils, the Gradassi Chateauneuf vines are planted with about 75% Grenache and 25% Mourvedre. His property, according to Domaine, is divided into 6 parcels located in the lieut-dits of Palastor, Bois Dauphin, and Cabriere, all in the cooler north of the AOC, shows a vivid lively form and balance, less dense and less hedonistic than the more modern styles. Thanks to Martine’s wines for importing this wine, it is well worth the chase, and this vintage of the Rouge should only get better and better!
($55 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive