Two expert selections from John Camacho Vidal
We collect wine for different reasons and one is that the wine’s vintage holds sentimental value. Be it a birth year or anniversary, it’s nice to open a bottle that commemorates an event or a memory. Through the years I have been able to acquire bottles of my son Lucas’s birth year, always choosing wines from producers who are special to me and whose passion shows in their wines. This past Sunday I opened one of these special birth year bottles for Lucas’s graduation from UNC Chapel Hill. It was a special moment and I needed a special wine.
I have always been fascinated by the wines from the Fiorano Estate in Lazio made by the prince of Venosa, Alberico Boncompagni Ludovisi. The story of how the Prince meticulously tended his vines and then later burned them down to ensure that his legacy gives a fairytale-like explanation for why these wines are a rarity. Their scarcity makes them more special, but even if you don’t know their backstory, these wines are majestic elixirs in a bottle. If you are not familiar with the story of the Prince and his wine, I encourage you to read about it.
To celebrate Lucas’s graduation, we had a family dinner at Lantern, a local Chapel Hill restaurant. The chef was the 2011 winner of the James Beard award for Best Chef for his unique marriage of Asian flavors and North Carolina ingredients that he sources from local farms and fisheries. We were all looking forward to a great meal, and I brought the 1994 Fiorano No. 46 Bianco and 1994 Fiorano No. 47 Semillon to pair with it. The wines showed spectacular with the family-style dishes accented by Asian spices, making the evening even more enchanting.
Fiorano 1994 No. 47 Sémillon $124.00
This Fiorano shows a golden yellow hue and offers a nose full of melon and honey tones followed by caramel mixed with apricots and kumquat. Airing the glass gives you baked green apples and slight tropical notes. This Sémillon has a soft, creamy palate with slight tangy acidic minerality with lingering sherry-like notes of almonds on a nice, soft, long, mineral-inflected finish. Drink now and for the next decade.
Fiorano 1994 No. 46 Bianco $165.00
This Bianco was a little brighter than the Semillon with a nose of apricot and crushed stones mingled with melon and honey. With air, the wine opens up layers of herbal notes followed by soft peach and tropical fruits. The palate is crisp with a soft, balanced acidity that lingers nicely on a long, nutty, tangy finish that does not let go. Drink now to 2041.
Two expert selections from Garrett Kowalsky
Bruno Giacosa is where my love of wine started—and not just Italian wine, but the whole wide wine spectrum, wine from all corners of the earth. I grew up around wine; my parents owned a wine shop and my brother was a Burgundy fiend, but my love for it was not immediate. It took years of sweet drinks, bad beer, good beer and more before my palate finally came around. It was New Year’s Eve 2010 at La Pizza Fresca on 20th Street when a 1989 Barolo from Bruno Giacosa switched the wine light on. It’s been a love affair ever since and I see no signs of my passion slowing.
I’ve chosen two wines from the iconic Giacosa estate to celebrate my wine epiphany—and to deepen your wine love.
Barbera is one of the most widely planted grapes in Italy but it’s mostly known for being the little brother to Piemonte’s Nebbiolo-based Barolo and Barbaresco. Nearly all of the producers who make these great wines also grow and make a Barbera because, realistically, you can’t have a Barolo every night. This Giacosa Barbera is bursting with sweet fruits, a lively acidity, and a surprisingly long finish. Feel free to pair this with pasta, risotto, burgers, pizza—nearly any dish under the sun. You’ll end up smiling each and every time. Drink now to the end of the decade.
While the Barbera is all about sweet fruit and accessibility, the Barolo Riserva or “Red Label,” as it is known at the Giacosa estate, is an absolute powerhouse. In its youth this wine’s Nebbiolo fruit is tight and foreboding, but as time passes and the tannins integrate, this bottle becomes a wine of extraordinary elegance and remarkable complexity. This bottle will never hit you over the head with bombastic flavors; it would much rather seduce you over a long, long time. Drink 2018-2035.
Two expert selections from John Camacho Vidal
As my palate evolves and my understanding of wine increases, I have grown to appreciate the secondary and third flavors that a bottle of mature wine can provide. I’m amazed that in some cases after 60 or 80 years in a bottle a wine can still smell and taste like the fruit that made it. It’s as if the wine is expressing itself at sublime levels. Whenever possible I try to include a wine with some age in our Saturday tasting series so that our clients are able to experience old vintages.
Nowhere in Italian winemaking is mature wine more important than in Barolo. Over the past three decades, a new wave of Barolo producers has worked to show different, non-traditional characteristics and to make more modern expressions of the Nebbiolo grape. Some of these winemakers have made Barolo more approachable through more modern vinification methods, but Barolo remains a wine of patience, and there is a division between modernist winemakers and those who protect the traditional way of making Barolo. I’ve chosen mature wines from two producers who make wines that are traditional, age-worthy, and great. Both of these mature bottles are unique expressions of a time that we’ll never see again.
Damilano 1978 Barolo $199.99
Making wine since 1890, the Damilano estate is one of the oldest wineries in Barolo; run by the fourth generation, Damilano continues to make excellent Barolos. This 1978 Barolo is a perfect example of perfectly mature Nebbiolo. The palate has just enough fruit that the wine is elegant, but the secondary and tertiary notes of orange peel, leather, earth, wet leaves slight tobacco and minerals make it very interesting. The palate is silky with some bitter notes that give way to sweet tannins and a nicely acidic finish that lingers with its secondary flavors. Drink now.
Giuseppe Mascarello 1968 Barolo $425.00
Giuseppe Mascarello was a vine-grower before he started the family estate in 1881 in the village of Monforte d’Alba. This 1968 Barolo is a traditionally made Barolo with grapes sourced from three vineyards, each one imprinting specific aromatics, structure and fruit. At this stage, this wine is ethereal showing a nose full of secondary aromas—loads of truffle mingled with remnants of dark red and black fruit flavors, some spice and wet leaves with notes of tobacco. The palate is very elegant with silky tannins that lead way to a soft mineral finish. Drink now.
Two expert selections from Francesco Vigorito
Bruno Giacosa and Giuseppe Rinaldi are two of the best Barolo producers known, and if there were a Mt. Rushmore of Barolisti, these guys’ heads would absolutely be on it! Both winemakers craft a very classic style of Barolo that embody the traditions and meanings of “Barolo” and “Nebbiolo.” I’ve chosen a pair of Barolos that share the commonality of being from riper years, making them approachable and medium-term wines, which is nice given the string of intensely structured vintages like 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2010 that make you wait to enjoy them.
Currently drinking in all of its glory, the 2003 Le Rocche shouldn’t be missed if you need a beautifully drinking Barolo at a killer price. Everything is right where it needs to be in this wine: the aromatics leap from the glass and the structure has integrated, leaving firm yet ripe tannins on a lasting finish that lets you know you are drinking classic Barolo from one of the Piedmont greats!
After having enjoyed the 1994, 1996, 2000 and 2004 bottlings of this wine, Rinaldi Barolo Brunate Le Coste has easily become one of my favorites. Rinaldi’s wines have gathered a cult-like following, and these Barolos have proven to be very hard to get, especially back vintages—Rinaldi simply doesn’t make enough wine. 2007 was an anomaly in Barolo; the combination of ripe fruit, aromatics and fresh structure are rarely in this kind of equilibrium. 2007 one of my favorite vintages in Barolo, and it just doesn’t get any better than Giuseppe Rinaldi!
Two expert selections from John Camacho Vidal
When we think of international grapes in Italy we think of red Super Tuscans. But in Italy’s North, winemakers have experimented with the same vigor as Toscana’s producers; however, they often embrace white grapes, not reds. One such producer is Angelo Gaga. Located in Piemonte in the district of Langhe, Gaja is mainly known for producing Barbaresco and Barolo, but he has long been a maverick and an innovator, credited with developing techniques that have revolutionized winemaking in Italy. The “man who dragged Piedmont into the modern world,” Gaja embraced Chardonnay, and his work with this French grape is almost unparalleled in Italy. I’ve chosen two Chardonnay bottlings from Angelo Gaja that show how great this meeting of Piemonte and French white grape can be.
Coming from several vineyards owned by the estate, Rossj-Bass is composed of Chardonnay with a kiss of Sauvignon Blanc. Named after Angelo Gaja’s youngest daughter Rossana (Rossj), the wine is elegant with a nose of citrus, white flowers and honeydew melon followed by minerality and a slight herbal note. The palate is bright with zingy acidity that sits nicely mid-palate and a nice, lengthy finish that leaves the palate fresh. Drink now to the end of the decade.
Gaja Chardonnay 2005 Gaia & Rey $329.00
The first white wine that Gaja produced, Gaia & Ray derives from Gaja’s first Chardonnay vineyard, which is named after Angelo’s daughter Gaia and his grandmother Clotilde Rey. This wine has a rich, full nose full of honey and citrus notes that mingle with slight stone and floral notes and a hint of toast from the oak. The palate is balanced with bright acidity, ripe fruit, a full mouth-feel, and a long finish that persists for over a minute. Drink now and into the next decade.keep looking »