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!

I4, Locations Wine

Yes a Dave Phinney wine, and the first Locations covered in Notes in months. This is the second I4 that I purchased before the holidays (the first review got away from me…), and somehow I had enough restraint to hold off opening it until this evening. And open it I did.

I4 Locations Wine, Italy.

I4 Locations Wine, Italy.

Loved savoring this wine, this mix of black cherry and spices. It classed up a nondescript dinner that isn’t worth sharing here. The I4, however, is. This red blend is rich, it carries faint scents of raisin, and it has a smooth lasting finish.

The grapes? Well, these I had to look up as we are definitely straying from the California vineyards I travel so frequently. In the I4 blend are negroamaro and nero d’avola from Puglia and barbera from Piemonte. I’m searching my memory and think the only time I’ve sampled this fruit previously was the I4 I drank nearly six months ago.

Of the I4 Locations, the winemaker’s notes are as follows: “Black cherry, nutmeg, cinnamon, and cured meat–which are complemented by shades of sandalwood, vanilla, balsa, and evergreen. The entry is silky smooth with a textured mid-palate of velvety fig, blueberry jam, and soft oak.

I suspect the fig is what I called raisin, but good to know I’m not too far off the pace. Black cherry is a no-brainer too. And “cured meat” sure sounds awesome but this escaped my unrefined palate. You’ll have to try it yourself and make a call.

I am aware that most Notes photos show label fronts, and perhaps I surprise you by avoiding Phinney’s iconic lettering? No matter; I just like the clean lines and striking red of the back label and decided to show this to you instead as a change of pace. Pull one from the shelf of your favorite wine store and share your thoughts–I’ll be waiting.

 

2014 La Giaretta Amarone

Amarone is special wine, made in a classic style (ie, drying grapes prior to fermentation) that has spanned centuries and dates back to the first days of winemaking–some reports say as far as 4th Century BC. The Venetians are usually acknowledged as the masters of Amarone, specifically, and that means this Italian red has old world charm in spades.

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2014 La Giaretta Amarone, Amarone della Valpolicella, Italy. 

Aged for a minimum of two years, Amarone often has a higher sugar content than other reds and thus is stronger vino. It’s also relatively pricey because of the amount of fruit used in the process. If you’re interested in a longer explanation of the Amarone method, just click here for Notes‘ quick take on the topic…but we’re moving on to the present. This bottle came out on a Friday night, a badly needed wine experience that put a long week into the rear view mirror, if only for a few hours.

It accompanied a simple meal of seasoned pork chops (little bit of spice rub; plus salt, crushed black pepper, and a garlic/lemon salt blend) and white rice. The pork was on the grill about a minute too long, and the fruity La Giaretta helped compensate and add just a bit of juice into each bite. The Amarone is rich, it is intense, and it packs a hint of the raisin smell that I have attributed to such bottles in the past. It is a lovely drink and makes for great complement to your evening. This one originates from Amarone della Volpolicella, Italy, and I’m certainly interested in adding more to my wine rack. Thanks for reading – and be sure to tell a friend. Nothing like sharing good wine!