2016 Tenuta Gugi, Amarone Della Valpolicella

Any time I have the presence of mind to pick up an Amarone (like this 2016 Tenuta Gugi Amarone Della Valpolicella), I’m rewarded for the choice. There’s just something about the production of this wine that strikes a chord with my favorite tastes in wine. And that feels odd to say, because it’s very different from the big Napa reds that I often enjoy and write about here in Notes.

2016 Tenuta Gugi, Amarone Della Valpolicella, Italy

The 2016 Tenuta Gugi, Amarone Della Valpolicella has dark fruit notes in plentiful supply. Culled from Corvina (60%), Corvinone (20%), Rondinella (15%), and Oseleta (5%) grapes in the Illasi Valley of the Veneto region, it’s a wine made in the classic Amarone style. It’s different enough from most modern wine production that I’ve talked about in nearly each Amarone wine entry. In the Tenuta Gugi, the grapes are harvested and left to dry for 90 days. They’re fermented for 80 days, and aged in French oak barrels for 30 months.

Fantastic stuff, and indicative of the Amarone Della Valpolicella DOCG. This results in raisin-like cherry flavors, delicate spices that are just beyond your reach, and notes of licorice and black pepper. It pours the most intense, blood-like red in your glass, but it’s also soft and flavorful without being too overbearing.

I picked this up (good price point too!), and a few more just like it, from one of my favorite online suppliers. I’d encourage you to keep your eyes open for the same. Cheers to you in the meantime, and thanks as always for your readership.

2014 Chianti Classico Riserva, Conti Torraiolo

Savvy marketing or a good end cap occasionally turns my head to a wine that wouldn’t normally make my dinner table. The 2014 Chianti Classico Riserva Conti Torraiolo is the latest example, an old world red from the Tuscan region. It was positioned to grab shoppers’ attention and that’s why I’m coming to you now to talk about this easy-drinking red.

Italy’s Chianti region includes multiple districts, including the Chianti Classico subregion, and its best wines come from hilly areas (colli or colline in Italian) where the terroir has a strong hand in shaping the wine. Further research shows that only the Chianti Classico carries its own DOCG distinction, owing to the high quality of wines produced in this region—which lies between Sienna and Florence. (With a sigh I think again of our postponed Italy trip and the opportunity to drive through all the winding hills from Florence out to this countryside…) The soils of Chianti Classico are galestro: a soft, clay-like soil that enables the wines produced here to have high acidity and noticeable tannic structure with a medium body.

Towns in the region include Greve, Radha, Gaiole, and Castellina, and top producers include Badia a Coltibuono, Brolio, Ruffino. That’s the company kept by this 2014 Chianti Classico Riserva from Conti Torraiolo, which we finished last evening.

2014 Chianti Classico Riserva, Conti Torraiolo, Chianti Classico DOCG, Italy.

I found the wine to be pleasantly fragrant, light cherry and leather, when poured in the glass. It’s 100% Sangiovese. The Torraiolo, however, was thin and underwhelming. I can appreciate that Chianti Classico can be a total powerhouse, but that’s not the case here. The 2014 Chianti Classico Riserva by Conti Torraiolo accompanied a mixed salad and (delicious!) crab cake dinner, and that meal called for (if you’re pro-red as is this taster) a lighter bottle that would play well with the tastes of the arugula and dill… the Torraiolo didn’t really do that.

It was okay, but only okay. The price should have offered a clue of this, but perhaps I was all caught up in Christmas shopping and missed the sign. Enjoyed this opportunity to taste and comment on a new wine, but this first experience with the 2014 Chianti Classico Riserva, Conti Torraiolo does not need a repeat. Happy holidays and thanks for reading!

2018 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Conte di Castelvecchio

The Notes review of this Montepulciano is overdue, but believe me dear readers you are not missing much in this wine. Yes this is still part of my wistful “there with you in spirit” Italian vibe, but this thinking has had me kissing more frogs than princesses as of late. Notes has covered more than 100 Cabernets (mostly hailing from California) and 110 red blends (ditto) to date, and I’ve become much more adept at picking winners from that AVA than I have from the old world.

Based on an interesting price point and forecasted tasting notes, I selected from an online provider this 2018 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, from Conte di Castelvecchio in Montepulciano, Italy. It’s not so amazing, and it leaves me wanting for a better class of Italian red…something as delightful as the Amarone recently reviewed here.

2018 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Conte di Castelvecchio, Montepulciano, Italy.

Yes, I fully realize it’s not just to compare this (mass production?) Montepulciano to an Amarone, but life’s too short to drink bad wine. This Montepulciano became a fast “weeknight” dinner beverage instead of a staple that you look forward to in a weekend bottle.

The 2018 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo has cherry at its base structure, but it’s a thin and underdeveloped cherry at that. It has a ribbon of smoke running through it, but really tastes so immature that I was disappointed in my selection. There’s really not that much to be said for this wine, so I’ll cut the review short. Hoping you’re enjoying your quarantine and staying safe!

2015 Amarone della Valpolicella Classico, Allegrini

This Amarone gem breaks a run of recent “meh” Italian wines sampled for Notes in recent weeks. Whereas each of those was undermuscled and generally thin, this 2015 Amarone from Allegrini compared very favorably to what I traditionally enjoy in a new world Cab, Syrah, or robust red blend. Thanks for the great birthday gift Mom, and here for you all is the run down on the 2015 Amarone della Valpolicella Classico – Allegrini.

2015 Amarone della Valpolicella Classico, Allegrini, Italy.

Notes has covered on a few prior occasions the process used in the production of Amarone wines (just browse or filter by “Amarone” if you’re interested), so a repeat is unnecessary here. Do know that this wine packs in nearly 15% alcohol and is a powerhouse. It is full of fruit (corvinone, oseleta, rondinella, and corvina veronese grapes) and has a pleasantly bitter finish. In sampling the 2015 Amarone della Valpolicella Classico, you’ll likely detect black cherry, a little bit of chocolate, and certainly the “raisin” or dried fruit typical of an Amarone. That’s one of my favorite notes and I’m 100% confident I could pick it out from other varietals.

This 2015 accompanied a Mediterranean meal that was as fun to prepare as it was to eat. Our menu included a Greek salad (cucumbers, tomatoes, kalamata olives, mushrooms, and green onions, accompanied by a homemade dressing of vinegar, olive oil, oregano, salt and pepper), falafel, tabouleh, tzatziki, hummus, and toasted bread that stood in for pita. My favorite of the foodstuffs was a lemon dill yogurt sauce that accented any of those bites. It’s one of those meals where you can search all night for the right combination that produces the “ideal bite” and enjoy the hell out of each attempt – even when you fail you win.

Plus, we had this rich, balanced drink to make the whole thing come together. The Allegrini Amarone is high class grapes, and we treated it with all the necessary respect. Our only want here was a second bottle. Give it a go and you’ll know exactly what I mean. Big thanks for this thoughtful and delicious gift!

2017 Centine Rosso Banfi

Honestly, this time it’s not about the wine or tasting notes. The 2017 Centine Rosso Banfi is more about the tip of the cap. It’s a red blend consolation prize doled out by COVID-19, aka the coronavirus. Yes this a wine from Tuscany but those are not the foothills of beautiful Montepulciano in this background. That Italy trip will have to wait for another day…

2017 Centine Rosso Banfi, Tuscany, Italy.

…and the situation over there is deteriorating rapidly; Cara and I have wayward eyes cast in that direction even while we enjoy this amazing scenery (which involved several white-knuckle moments on the drive in). We’re trying to unwind airline, hotel, and similar reservations while trying out this Italian red and a few similar bottles from the old country.

This is a medium red, a cherry- and strawberry-noted Tuscan offering that combines Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot grapes. The wine is (curiously) lighter than all three, which seems odd to me given that it’s a blend delivered on the backs of these richer reds. We’re drinking it, and that’s fine and all, but different from sampling Tuscan reds straight out of the vineyard tasting room(s). Each of us is a “glass-is-half-full” optimist, pun intended, and looking forward to another shot at Repubblica Italiana.

Wishing you well, readers, and stay safe out there.

Winter 2019 – The Ones That Got Away

2016 Treana Red, Treana Winery, Fairfield, California, USA.

2017 Zinfandel Private Reserve, Buena Vista Winery, Sonoma, California, USA.

2017 Evodia, Altovinum, Spain. 

2016 Obsidian Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa, California, USA. 

2017 Courtney Benham Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa, California, USA.

2014 Amarone Della Valpoliccella Classico Riserva, Catarina Zardini, Valpolicella, Italy.

2017 Layer Cake Cabernet Sauvignon, Hopeland, California, USA.

2015 Villa Maffei Amarone Della Valpolicella, Valpolicella, Italy.

2017 Karoly’s Selection Petite Sirah, Buena Vista Winery, Sonoma, California, USA.

 

 

2012 Barbaresco Riserva, Roberto Sarotto

My first Barbaresco for Notes this evening, and breaking quite a domestic run that I’ve been enjoying over the past several months. Before this Italian gem, the only “offshore” wines I’ve sampled as of late have consisted of Orin Swift‘s Locations, so even that means international grapes through the lens of a US winemaker. Many years ago at a client dinner in Buffalo I had my only previous Barbaresco, and since I don’t remember that very well this one is getting a good up-close glimpse.

2012 Barbaresco Riserva, Roberto Sarotto, Barbaresco, Italy.

2012 Barbaresco Riserva, Roberto Sarotto, Barbaresco, Italy.

The wine is really nice, an easy-drinking red that runs lighter than a Napa Cab but heavier (and smokier) than a Pinot Noir. At its core the 2012 Barbaresco Riserva is cherry in flavor, albeit with some definite spice and smoke on the palate. It is made from Nebbiolo grapes and a nice break from the fruit-forward reds I have favored as of late. This fruit is grown in the Piedmont region of Northern Italy and mixes “tart berry flavors with dray earth, spices, and potpourri.”

Vivino (from where I purchased this bottle) says of Barbaresco, “If you ever wished that Pinot Noir had the punch of Cab, this might be the wine for you!” A truism and I just might be that dreamer–at least on a summer nights where a Cab is a bigger commitment.

This evening the 2012 Barbaresco Riserva from Roberto Sarotto accompanied a simple meal consisting of grilled steak (seasoned only with salt and pepper) and a garden salad. Enjoyed the meal; enjoyed the bottle of wine even more.

It’s the first Barbaresco for Notes but I’m pleased to report it will not be the last. Thanks as always for your readership!