2015 Azienda Agricola Marianot, Garblet, Barolo

About two years ago I snatched up several of these “Garblet” bottles from Azienda Agricola Marianot, and slowly I’ve worked through them without providing a Notes summary—until today. This is a classic Barolo from Italy’s Piedmont region, with Nebbiolo fruit harvested from vineyards (ranging in age from 10 to 40 years) in Castiglione Falletto, Serralunga d’Alba, Monforte d’Alba, Barolo, Novello, La Morra, Ceduno, and Grinzane Cavour.

The 2015 Barolo vintage, I’ve come to learn, is pretty exceptional and I half-question the good deal that delivered the Marianot Garblet to me. I mean to say, if 2015 is indeed a great year for Barolo (and acknowledging Barolo as the “king of wines”) doesn’t it suggest this a fledgling offering if I obtained at less than $20 per bottle? Freely I share that the previous bottles I sampled felt slightly undeveloped, but that could have been me drinking too early or without allowing the wine to breathe as much as I did tonight.

2015 Azienda Agricola Marianot, Garblet, Barolo, Italy.
2015 Azienda Agricola Marianot, Garblet, Barolo, Piedmont, Italy.

This bottle I liked much better, and not just because I was savoring the UNC victory over Duke tonight. The wine is light red in your glass, clearly not as deep-hued as a Cabernet or Syrah, but delivers excellent cherry flavors. Call it garnet red? The 2015 Marianot Garblet has notes of strawberry and earthiness on the nose too, a dry wine overall. It grew on me over time and I’m wistful I had not allowed the previous bottles to set up properly. We had this wine with dinner, a Saturday night special with steak, wedge salads, and asparagus—and though light in color its tannins stood up well to the task.

Of the 2015 Marianot Garblet, James Suckling comments, “A fragrant Barolo that adds a spicy, herbal edge to the impression of dried rose petals and caramelized orange peel. Medium-bodied and grainy. Medium-chewy and medium-long on the finish.

The Marianot team fermented the Nebbiolo in stainless steel tanks and ultimately let the wine mature for 24 months in Slovenian oak barrels. Fining consisted of 4 to 6 months in stainless steel tanks and at least 6 months in the bottle. The result is an intense, harmonious 2015 wine that I really enjoyed. Looking forward to more Barolo in the days and weeks ahead. 

2019 Ser Passo Super Tuscan, Barbanera

This Italian red blend was a great surprise and packed with dark cherry notes. It’s the type of wine I enjoy finding: a mix of dark berry fruits, hint of spice, and unexpectedly affordable too.

2019 Ser Passo Super Tuscan, Barbanera, Toscana, Italy.
2019 Ser Passo Super Tuscan, Barbanera, Toscana, Italy.

The 2019 Ser Passo is obviously produced in Tuscany and was offered to me from WTSO.com; I am not sure what resonated for me in that promotion but pleased I snatched up a foursome of these bad boys. It’s made in the ripasso method, in which winemakers use the grape skins in a second fermentation step (mostly in Valpolicella) in hopes of infusing more complexity to the wine. 

The result is a rich, even red wine. I’m not saying color (which is also a deep, enticing red) but rather a velvety, smooth, and even mouthfeel. You’ll find yourself looking back at your glass between sips, working to identify the various aromas and tastes at play, and thinking about your next.

That’s what I’m doing too. On this occasion my notes have nothing to do with the accompanying food but rather keeping you focused on the wine itself. Without researching further, I’d suggest this is a Sangiovese/Cabernet blend at the minimum…maybe a Merlot or similar to offer a bit of the sweetness you’ll sample in the Ser Passo? Even in a young vintage there’s a fine, blended vibe to this wine…not artificial but well-founded in the (re?)fermentation or pressing processes.

I’m reminded of Amarone, and at a far different price point. Again, the 2019 Ser Passo is a fun Friday wine and suggesting you pick up a few yourself. Thanks as always for your readership and cheers.

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.