Brunello: The Impossible Dream?

Not my 93-point Caparzo!

You said it couldn’t be done… and so do most retailers: Brunello di Montalcino has to cost $50 or more, like it’s in the Italian wine codes. Not at B-21. Consider Caparzo, a label I’ve stocked on our shelves for years: always a fine example of Brunello, and then comes the exceptional 2006 vintage (a 97 pt year according to Sig. Robert Parker). ’06 Caparzo is a rich classic full of dried cherries, licorice, mint and spice. Now’s the time for it, too.


2006 Caparzo Brunello di Montalcino

Love the flowers, ripe berries and minerals on the nose here. Light dried fruits too. Dried porcini! Full bodied, round and fruity, with a decadent and fruity finish. Try in 2013.

Highest-Rated Chianti in Top 100

2007 Monsanto Classico Riserva

Great Chianti is the heart of Tuscany and has been for more than century. Fashion changes, but the same terroir and the experience of generations continues to make great wines like Monsanto’s 2007 Chianti Classico Riserva: This wine is ripe, juicy and luscious, fruit-forward and very plush in texture. Yet it has a sturdy structure and plenty of Chianti spice. The Monsantos have been leaders in Chianti for a long time; they campaigned for DOCG status and were the first to eliminate the minor white grapes (this bottle is 90 percent sangiovese, a select pick of the crop). When a $20 wine gets a 92 from the Spectator and 90 from Parker, everybody listens. When it’s a Chianti Classico, I jump. You should, too.

…juicy red is full of sanguine notes, along with black cherry and blackberry flavors. The tannins are well-coated by fleshy fruit and it lingers with a long, spicy aftertaste.

94-pt Falcone: Apulia Jewel In The Heel of The Boot

2006 Rivera Il Falcone
2006 Rivera Il Falcone

Stopped by Fratelli Lyon in the Miami Design District last week (a midday stop for an Illy). Saw a staffer storing silver and napkins in a 1996 Rivera Il Falcone wooden case. Says lots about their wine selection and utility. Struck me funny having just tasted the 2006 a few days before, and knew I had to bring it to your attention. We both have to go south to make this point, all the way to the boot’s heel. Rugged Apulia is known for full-flavored wines and this is the finest I have tasted from this area. A lot of people go there for cheap peasant reds. Wrong idea, Falcone is Apulian nobility. Marvelously intense and exuberant, big, sleek and sexy. It’s made from the lusty Nero di Troia (a gift from Helen?) and the popular Montepulciano, and they’ll be happy together for another 15 years. Il Falcone is a tribute to Federico II, a master of falconry as well as King of Sicily and the Holy Roman Empire. He built the massive five-sided Castel del Monte during the 13th century and it still dominates the landscape and gives its name to the D.O.C. Rivera shows the potential of Castel del Monte wines …if you can find them. I’ve got Il Falcone for you Italian wine lovers. Explore the best of Apulia, a 94-point knockout.

Barolo For Burgundians: 97-pt Elio Altare Brunate

The dream was born when Elio Altare left Barolo thirty years ago to see what he could learn from Burgundy. Maybe that’s why his wines constantly ring up scores of 94, 96, 97 points from Parker and they’re in such demand: nebbiolo warmth with the elegance of the Cotes de Nuits. Altare’s wines are Barolo all right yet quite special ever since Elio chopped up all the old big wooden tanks. He brought in French barriques and new ideas but the terroir is the real deal. And in Barolo, ’07 was equal to ’06. Elio’s grandfather started putting together top cru vineyards after WWII and Elia’s home and winery are still on a prime hilltop in LaMorra. Of their three prime DOCG vineyards in 2007, the finest is the Brunate; has all the classic Barolo flavors of prunes.licorice and mint with a whiff of roses and wild herbs. This is how 97-points beautiful and tastes. Likewise the spicy Arborina and the Barolo; beauty inside the bottle. Every Barolo lover should try Altare.

2007 Elio Altare Barolo2007 Elio Altare Barolo2007 Elio Altare Barolo Vigna Arborina

…simply breathtaking. A bouquet that recalls Pinot Noir melds into pure Nebbiolo fruit as this captivating, sensual Barolo reveals off its pedigree…94 Points, Robert Parker’s WA

2007 Elio Altare Barolo Vigna Arborina

…soft, silky and perfumed in its red cherries, menthol, flowers and licorice. This sumptuous, impeccably balanced wine boasts incredible inner sweetness and tons of elegance…96 Points, Robert Parker’s WA


Tuscan Thriller You Have To Meet: ’08 Barco Reale, 92 WS.

2008 Capezzana Barco Reale di CarmignanoThis would be super Tuscan except for the bargain price, Barco Reale is a beautiful sangiovese/cab from one of the oldest estates in Carmignano. Capezzana has been making wine and olive oil since at least 800 A.D. You could say the Medici’s slept here but actually it was their relatives who owned it. And not so long ago Sara de Rothschild owned it. Fascinating? Maybe, but taste what the Contini Bonacossi make today, elegant and earthy, and just gorgeous. Cherries, anise and spice wrapped together in a plush purple robe. Not heavy but soft and voluptuous. This will make you want to fix your finest pasta. Night after night and at this price. Capezzana’s Barco Reale is going to be on your house wine list. Run-n-tell that.

2008 Capezzana Barco Reale di Carmignano

“A wine of finesse and elegance. Cherry, licorice and spice flavors, with a saline element, combine seamlessly with the medium-bodied frame and firm structure. The savory note continues on the lingering finish….”  92 Points, Wine Spectator

Told You So: Tua Rita Perlato’s A Top 100 Super Tuscan (93 points)

2008 Tua Rita Perlato del Bosco Vino da TavolaTua Rita used to be something of a secret. Lots of people knew Bolgheri was the home of Sassicaia and the big names. I knew it was the place to get Perlato wines, great and small. Now Wine Enthusiast has told the world and named it #12 on their Top 100. Knew it would happen, the 2008 Tua Rita’s Perlato del Bosco is just too good and too affordable not to be recognized. It’s as super as its super neighbors. The estate hit 100 points ten years ago with an estate cuvee that costs up to $400 but I think you’re gonna love how much class and minerality comes through in Perlato del Bosco. Half Sangiovese, half Cab and the best of both, a big blend of black cherries, strawberries, and cassis, with coffee, leather, and spice. Perlato del Bosco is not a big name YET, but it is a big flavor and a super big value. Run-n-tell that.

2008 Tua Rita Perlato del Bosco Vino da Tavola

“The price is right and the blend is excellent. Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon are mixed in equal parts resulting in excellent integration and aromas that express the characteristics of both varieties. Blackberry and cassis is followed by spicy tones and bright freshness….”  93 Points, Wine Enthusiast #12 on WE Top 100 of 2011

Antinori Brunello ’06 Sell Off: 95 Points!

2006 Antinori Pian delle Vigne Brunello di Montalcino, MontalcinoDeals sure do come along this time of year! Lots of you may take the end of the year off to unwind. Me, I go bargain hunting in high gear for jewels like Antinori’s great Brunello di Montalcino from the fabulous 2006 vintage, a 95-pointer from James Suckling that would cost you $65 (the low) anywhere else in the U.S. The big credit goes to the Marchesi and this terrific southern Montalcino plot. This is rich, mysterious stuff. Endlessly complex, you can taste orange as well as raspberry, truffles and licorice, tobacco, and chocolate. A triumph, this is a Brunello you must have in your cellar to light up the next ten years or more. And now, while you enjoy the fruits of my labor, you ought to lay in enough to last that long. Run-n-tell that!

2006 Antinori Pian delle Vigne Brunello di Montalcino

“Flowers and citrus fruit galore on the nose. Opens to white truffles and plums. Full bodied, with chewy tannins and dried fruits. Goes from rustic to class. Give it bottle age to mellow. Best since 1997. Best after 2012…”  95 Points, James Suckling

Amarone Lovers Only: 93-Point Zenato Classico ’07

2007 Zenato Amarone della Valpolicella Classico, VenetoAmarone is not for everyone. Their loss. A rich, majestic wine, call it the king of Verona since it captures the gold of the Italian sun. I’ve been a loyal subject since first visiting Zenato in 1993 and my devotion deepens every year. Parker called the ’06 at 95 and the ’07 was equally great growing in northern Italy: I’ll bet his verdict on the ’07 comes close. By then you probably won’t get it at the price I’ve got for you now, ten dollars under my regular offer. It’s not a big risk, so I have known and trusted the Zenatos for 20 years. Their vineyards are among the tops in Valpolicella, between Lake Garda and the Adige river, downstream from the Alps. The quality of the human touch at Zenato impresses me more and that’s crucial to the elevation that makes Amarone such a jewel. Takes a lot of care to make the grapes raisin right, press them, watch them on the lees for weeks, ferment and age for years. Zenato does it perfectly and that’s won them several Tre Bicchieri over the years. The result is subtle, supple, and very complex. Sweet, smoky and savory, like a fruit cake filled with dates, red fruits and cinnamon, covered with fudge and served with black tea. Well, that’s over the top but you get the idea, a lot going on here. And it lasts a long time, in the glass and maybe 20 years in your cellar. The ’07 is a luscious treasure and right now you can steal it. You’re gonna want that.

2007 Zenato Amarone della Valpolicella Classico

“Light tannins add subtle grip to this supple Amarone, framing flavors of sticky, sun-dried date, black cherry, and crushed black raspberry, with aromatic hints of sweet smoke, loose tea leaf and lots of ground spice. The finish is long and refined. Drink now through 2030…”  93 Points, Wine Spectator

What were we drinking….with chicken-prosciutto ravioli?

2009 Tamellini SoavePlus barbecued chicken so a chef might have called it a chicken duo.  Actually it was a lazy night dinner, the chicken grilled the night before and the ravioli was cooked straight from the freezer (thanks to having the Ravioli Co. three blocks away).  We added sliced cherry tomatoes, basil, lemon zest, olive oil and grated Parmesan.

Seemed Italian so I grabbed some Soave. Not the $5 stuff of old so bland and light it made pinot grigio look like white Burgundy. Nope this was the good stuff Soave Classico from the most beautiful walled city in northern Italy, and mine was from Tamellini, one of the leaders in better Soave.  It had good apple and apricot flavors and enough body to stand up to solid food. Almost too lively and given its tradition, perhaps better suited to seafood. I’m thinking shrimp scampi!

Sublime Brunello: 2006 Palazzo Is A 96-Point Thriller For Me

2006 Palazzo Brunello di MontalcinoI’m never intimidated by big tastings of 100 wines or more like our big holiday kickoff. Even when you have great lineup like we did, the best still jump out. Boy, do they. For me, it was that Palazzo Brunello di Montalcino. What a classic. Don’t have to take notes; the great bottles call you back to their table. That was the Palazzo for me in a roomful of good bottles. We had fine Barolos and Brunellos like that superb ’06 Valdicava, but the Palazzo was new to me and easily in that very elevated class with Valdicava The concentration of the Palazzo is remarkable, The length of the finish is a 5K which is minerally driven and extended. This is sublime Brunello. Very complex, mixing fruit flavors with deeper darker edges of licorice and tar, yet graceful and elegant. Wine Spectator sez 95 points. An exciting addition for the top shelf of your Brunello collection. You’re gonna want that.

2006 Palazzo Brunello di Montalcino

“Appealing for its sweet fruit flavors of cherry and plum, with licorice and mineral elements adding complexity and depth. Chewy and muscular, yet shows a sense of harmony and grace. Iron and tar accents complete the finish….”  95 Points, Wine Spectator

Love Old-School Amarone? Michele Castellani Is One For Me!

The season for Amarone is here and for many winter nights to come. One thing I admire about traditional Amarone is that it’s not for all seasons and not for all palates. Very distinctive, like it or don’t. Leathery, smoky, tarry, intense wines for meaty meals, game and strong cheese, what they used to call “real wine for real men.” But both sexes love a good cigar nowadays and plenty of Italian wines have gone soft and crowd-friendly. Not Amarone and not Michele Castellani’s. The Castellani’s dedicated themselves to Verona’s finest wine 60 years ago. Corvina from the best hillsides, picked carefully and the best clusters dried for months. Aged in large old barrels and small barriques to get the right balance. Happy to tell you we’ve landed two of their best. 2007 Castellani Cinque Stelle Amarone della Valpolicella Classico The 2006 Colle Cristi (93WS) has the classic toast, dried berries, and spice, and is juicy enough to open now. The Cinque Stelle from 2007 is indeed five-star (and 95WS) with all the big flavors of coffee, tobacco, roasted nuts and stewed fruits. Sounds like a holiday feast in Dickens and Amarone is great when you let it take its time. The longer you wait the more seamless and lovely they get. Castellani Amarones are pleasures to stash away for cold nights and warm friends. You’re gonna want that.

2006 Castellani Colle Cristi Amarone della Valpolicella Classico

“Shows dried berry, spice and cigar box notes, with dried fruits. Full-bodied, with round, caressing tannins and lots of ripe fruit and toasty oak, yet balanced and juicy. Why wait? But patience will pay off. Best from 2011 through 2018…”  93 Points, Wine Spectator

2007 Castellani Cinque Stelle Amarone della Valpolicella Classico2007 Castellani Cinque Stelle Amarone della Valpolicella Classico

“Tar and leather notes, with dense tannins, frame and focus this powerful red, which is layered with subtle hints of kirsch, coffee liqueur, dried herbs and grilled nuts. It’s tightly meshed right now, but with a seamlessness that creates an overall elegant style-the proverbial iron fist in a velvet glove…”  95 Points, Wine Spectator

Flawless Barolo From The New Serralunga Superstar: Get In Line.

Pira LuigiThe smart wine guys at Gambero Rosso love Luigi Pira’s wines, so does Parker. I’ve been a fan since the 2001 vintage and you agreed so I’ve a got a fresh boatload on the way. What makes Pira so good is Luigi’s sons, Giampaolo and Romolo. They combined the big powerful terroir of Serralunga with no-shame modern thinking (quicker maceration, more barrique aging, but nothing extreme). They applied that sensibility throughout the Piemonte, with their Dolcetto and Barbera d’Alba and the Langhe the family had always farmed, and they put their brand on Barolo as well. The results are unusually opulent and seductive Barolos, especially with the openness of 2007. Downright friendly for Serralunga Nebbiolo, whether you drink the plain Barolo or the grander single-vineyard Margheria (94) and Marenca (95!) . You’ll love their newer reds too. The ’09 Barbera and Langhe Nebbiolo and even the 2010 Dolcetto which is suave not simple. Order now to you get yours at our pre-sale price before I let the public have at it. These 2007 Barolos are going to be ready on your table sooner than the ’06 and the rest of the Piras will make you smile as soon as you get them home. You’re gonna want that.

2010 Luigi Pira Dolcetto d’Alba

“Blackberries, blueberry jam, tar and crushed rocks are just some of the notes that emerge from this textured, multi-dimensional Dolcetto. The house style is nicely balanced by the freshness of the year. This is a dynamite showing…”  90 Points, Robert Parker’s WA

2009 Luigi Pira Langhe Nebbiolo

“Dark red cherries, crushed flowers, licorice and mint are given an extra shade of dimension in this fabulous, textured Nebbiolo. A rich, totally seductive finish makes it hard to resist a second taste. This is easily the equal of many a Barolo or Barbaresco.”  92 Points, Robert Parker’s WA

2007 Luigi Pira Barolo

“This is a darker, richer wine than the Nebbiolo, with more depth but not necessarily more complexity. Layers of black cherries, licorice, leather and tar caress the palate in an inviting, sensual Barolo that shows many of the hallmarks of Serralunga…”  92 Points, Robert Parker’s WA

2007 Luigi Pira Barolo Marenca

“Beautiful, well-delineated aromatics are woven throughout a core of expressive, racy fruit, adding lift and freshness. The Marenca is usually the biggest of the Baroli here, and the 2007 is definitely an extroverted wine, but is also beautifully balanced…”  95 Points, Robert Parker’s WA

2007 Luigi Pira Barolo Margheria

“The vintage has smoothed out some of the more angular contours this wine tends to show when young, while not overpowering what remains a structured expression of Nebbiolo. Sweet dark cherries, tar, smoke, flowers, licorice and saline notes wrap around a radiant, energetic finish supported by plenty of grip…”  94 Points, Robert Parker’s WA

Breathtaking 95-pt Super-Cab You Won’t Find in Tuscany: ’07 Montevetrano

2007 MontevetranoNope. Smart Italian connoisseurs are heading south past Naples to one of the first growths of Campania where Silvia Imparata has built one of the finest wines in the south. You don’t have to go that far. I’ve lined up the last cases of this delicious vintage and they’re coming your way. They call Signora Imparata “Boss,” for she demands and gets the best. She wanted to prove that the slopes of Salerno could make world class wine like the Greeks made there 2000 years ago. She one-upped the Super-Tuscan crowd with something bolder: planting Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot with the long-lived local Aglianico that the ancient Romans loved. The results are stunning, especially in 2007. It was hot, hot, hot, but the Wine Advocate says the ripeness hits that perfect just-so spot and is as good as Montevetrano’s legendary ’97 and ’99. Order now to taste a rare Super-Salerno at its best. You’re gonna want that.

2007 Montevetrano

“Bright red fruit, flowers and spices are some of the nuances that emerge from this silky, beautifully balanced Montevetrano. The combination of explosive ripe fruit, richness and finesse is utterly breathtaking…”  95 Points, Robert Parker’s WA

Great Wines of the World: 12-year Vertical of Rinaldi Barolo

For any collector who treasures Barolo, actually for anyone who demands the best the world can produce this is a once in a lifetime opportunity, a private vertical tasting in a box of 12 vintages from 1995 to 2007 (except 2002) of the magnificent Brunate/Le Coste by Guisseppe Rinaldi. He is the most iconic producer in the Piemonte and a regular Tre Biccherri winner. My first visit to Rinaldi was in the early 90’s. I fell in love and sold you enormous amounts of 1988, 1989 and 1990. Beppe Rinaldi puts all his faith in the vineyard, the terroir of Brunate, not the winery or the cellar. So his wines are the most natural and unmanipulated in the region, the most traditional of the most traditional. Simply “one of the greatest wines in the world.” That’s what Antonio Galloni said at a tasting of barrel samples in Napa last week. Naturally Rinaldi’s exceptional wines are usually available only through auction and private sale, but when I heard about these limited verticals I knew it was an exquisite pleasure for Barolo lovers and a rare chance to examine one of the great wines of the world year by year. You’re gonna want that.

Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo Brunate Le Coste 12 Vintage Vertical Pack: Contains 1 bottle each of:

Rinaldi Barolo2007 – 96 WA
2006 – 95 WA
2005 – 92 WA
2004 – 96+ WA
2003 – 92 WA
2001 – 93 WA
2000 – 96 WA
1999 – 89 WA
1998 – 86 WA
1997 – 90 WA