The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

Go-To-Wine Tuesday: Casa Vinicola Bruno Giacosa 2014 Dolcetto d’Alba

A delicious, fresh everyday Giacosa bottle!











31TqXXO1wyLThis past weekend was Mothers Day,and we all honored our mothers for raising us, loving us, and supporting us. Honestly, is there a better way to show your appreciation than with a bottle of wine? You really can’t go wrong when the name Bruno Giacosa is on the bottle, so I chose the delicious, yet affordable Casa Vinicola Bruno Giacosa 2014 Dolcetto d’Alba.

Bruno Giacosa is one of the finest producers of Barolo and Barbaresco. His highly sought-after wines are often intense in character and rich in flavor. This Dolcetto, however, represents the more approachable side of Giacosa; it’s a balanced everyday wine that’s under $30 a bottle. Giacosa’s estates have been crafting high quality wine for decades, so it may surprise you that Giacosa once purchased all of his grapes from outside suppliers. This explains why the name Casa Vinicola appears before his name on this wine. The Giacosa estate does not own the vineyards in its Casa Vinicola bottlings; rather, it hand-selects the finest and most desirable grapes from farmers whom the Giacosa team trusts.

Dolcetto roughly translates to “little sweet one,” but this translation does not do the wine justice. This Dolcetto bursts with fruit, but it’s balanced by a bright acidity. The result is an easy, approachable wine that goes well with pretty much anything. I had mine with grilled chicken and vegetables, but, due to its versatility, it can just as easily be enjoyed with pasta or even pizza. This wine is an instant crowd-pleaser and an ideal wine to have on hand for any occasion.

Castello dei Rampolla’s Harmony with Nature

Why biodynamic agriculture doesn’t need to make sense to make great wines











Biodynamic Castello dei Rampolla

Biodynamic Castello dei Rampolla

Farmers who use biodynamic growing methods choose to plant, weed, treat, harvest and, if they’re winemakers, vinify in concert with the movement of the planets. The point of biodynamic growing, an agricultural movement that looks at organic farmers as folks who do something right if somewhat incompletely, is to look at the growth cycle of the entire field as one holistic unit. To those of us who bear an empirical mind and like to see cold, calculating and clear evidence to support assertions (and I do count myself among that number), biodynamic practices with their airy-fairy reliance on manure-filled and cow-horns that are buried and exhumed, water’s circular memory, and a vague tie between planetary movements and “energy” can make us roll our eyes.

Some people decry the ability of biodynamic agriculture to actually make a difference in winemaking. It’s too magical, too lacking in substance, too weird, and too unscientific, they argue. It is hard to understand exactly how or why water that has moved in one direction rather than another would affect a plant’s hydration, and it’s hard to see how burying a cow horn would do anything to affect a vineyard’s production. Being fairly empirically minded, I might accept these arguments had I not spent an afternoon with Luca di Napoli Rampolla at his biodynamically maintained Tuscan estate, Castello dei Rampolla. This afternoon changed my thinking about biodynamic methods, and even if I don’t understand them, I became a believer.

It might have been spending a couple of hours walking around the estate as Luca pulled up tufts of grass and named each plant in his hand. It might have been his patient explanation of the ways that his vines interact with the trees that surround them, with the soils that support them, and with the weather that touches them. It might have been the clear, unremitting commitment that Luca makes in every choice for his estate—from the solar panels on top of the vinification area to the placement of his chicken coop.

It might be all of that talking, walking and looking helped me grasp that choosing to prune according to how the alignment of the planets will affect the plants. Or it might be sitting on Luca’s terrace, drinking the wine that he made helped me believe. But on that Thursday afternoon, I became a biodynamic convert. I don’t really care how the science works. It’s clear to me that there’s something very special, very alive and very unique about this wine.

Italy, unlike the United States, is a place where people continue to believe in magic. I’ve never lived long enough in other areas of the world to make further comparisons, but while Americans might wistfully wish for magic, Italians feel it. It’s in the mountains and in the sea. It’s in the cities, like Venice and Rome, that shouldn’t exist, not as they do, not after all these centuries. It’s in the food and in the wine. And sometimes, I think, you just have to put science on hold, sit back, exhale, and enjoy the magic. It’s ephemeral, beautiful and vital. If it’s biodynamic, then it’s simply all the better.

IWM has the new 2011 Sammarco release coming from Castello dei Rampolla. Don’t miss this extraordinary biodynamic Super Tuscan!

Inside IWM, May 2 to May 5, 2016: Beautiful Wine Secrets

A look back at the week that was











photo-2-300x300This week, we took a peek under the hood of IWM and got a glimpse at the secret wine cellar where your IWM wines live, breathe, and age in temperature-controlled splendor. And Stephane Menard made a compelling case for enjoying the 2013 Le Volte, Tenuta dell’Ornellaia‘s “second” wine, early and often. This under-the-radar Super Tuscan is under $30 and completely delicious!

Garrett Kowalsky confessed that the first wine he fell in love with was a Bruno Giacosa Barolo, and he picked two wines to testify to the longevity of his passion. John Camacho Vidal explains the secrets of enjoying mature wines, selecting two beautifully aged Barolos for you to try. Michael Adler alerts you to a hard-to-find, little-known Burgundy producer, François Gay, by selecting a dynamic duo from this overlooked estate. And it’s no secret that Chablis is perfect for summer; Crystal Edgar picks a pair from William Fevre.

Cheers to your beautiful wine secrets–may you share them with the people you love!

Expert Picks: Damilano and Giuseppe Mascarello

Two expert selections from John Camacho Vidal











CamachoAs 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.

Go-To-Wine Tuesday: Tenuta dell’Ornellaia 2013 Le Volte

Intense, structured, vibrant and delicious under $30 wine from Ornellaia!











RD8563-2I was very excited and curious to try the new 2013 vintage of Le Volte, the “second wine” from the iconic Tuscan producer Tenuta dell’Ornellaia. After drinking it this past weekend, I’m delighted to tell you that this 2013 Le Volte drinks like a beauty and priced just under $30 it offers a great price-to-quality ratio for a top quality Super-Tuscan.

With neighboring producers like Tenuta San Guido, Antinori’s Guado al Tasso, Grattamacco, and Le Macchiole,Tuscany’s tiny coastal town of Bolgheri is at the pinnacle of winemaking in Tuscany.  Tenuta dell’Ornellaia was one of the region’s first estates, and 1985 was the estate’s first vintage. The estate’s 63 acres are planted predominantly with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, with small plantings of Cabernet Franc, all sitting on elevated parcels composed of clay, gravel, and loam soils. Although it is considered the “second wine” of the estate, Le Volte combines the Tuscan expression of opulence and generosity with structure and complexity. The approachable style of Le Volte , a blend of 50% Merlot, 30% Sangiovese and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon (sourced from trusted neighboring estates), reflects the philosophy and outstanding savoir-faire of Tenuta dell’Ornellaia.

One of the secrets of this gorgeous wine is that the grapes from each vineyard ferment separately in individual tanks. This makes a lot of work for winemaker Axel Heinz’s team, but it means that each individual base wine (of which there are more than 60!) contributes its own character to creation of the final blend according to the specific conditions of the vineyard area.  Only after a period of 12 months of aging in French oak barrels does the Ornellaia team select and blend the base wines to create an elegant expression of the vintage’s unique character.

Intense red and dark fruits aromas burst from the glass and the pure fruit notes are beautifully delineated. The 2013 Le Volte reflects its cool growing year and late harvest in its concentration, structure, energy and purity. It’s a perfect wine to enjoy now with a bit of decanting and it’ll pair perfectly well with a wide variety of Mediterranean dishes, grilled or braised meats, but it will drink beautifully for another 7-10 years if you have the patience to age it in your cellar. I highly recommend it and hope you will enjoy it too!

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