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Wine: Reviews, Thoughts & Culture

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Dinner with Piedmont Winemaker Gianpaolo Manzone

Gianpaolo Manzone represents the sixth generation of his family involved in the wine business in one aspect or another. His family has two plots of land that add up to 24 acres under vine. In addition to being the winemaker, Gianpaolo is also the vineyard manager for this property which sits is in two different town’s right in the midst of the Piedmont Region. I recently had dinner with Gianpaolo at Ristorante Morini in New York. The evening was fascinating for a multitude of reasons, but two in particular stood out for me. He was remarkably passionate about what he does; that love and intensity for his vocation comes rushing out of him in loud and descriptive bursts. Here’s a man who not only loves tending his vines and crafting wine, he loves sharing it with people and explaining what he does. The other captivating item was how differently he treats each wine he makes. An example would be the grape Nebbiolo. He uses it to make both a varietal wine and several Barolos. However, he has different production and barrel regimens for each. By treating each one differently he’s allowing the grapes in question to shine more prominently than they might otherwise. Over the course of the night we tasted nine wines including a couple of slightly older Barolos which helped form a mini-vertical. Read the rest of the story over at The Daily Meal

Atttilio Ghisolfi - 2006 Barolo Bussia “Bricco Visette”

There is hardly a more enlightening way to taste wine than at the side of the winemaker who shepherded it into the world. So whenever the opportunity arises to taste in that manner I do everything I can to take part. A few weeks back I was fortunate enough to taste alongside a couple of Italian winemakers. One of them Gianmarco Ghisolfi was there presenting his family wines made in Piedmont. By and large he poured some lovely selections, but my favorite was his 2006 vintage of Barolo, which I’ll look at today. The Atttilio Ghisolfi 2006 Barolo Bussia “Bricco Visette” was produced from fruit sourced at estate vineyards with between 20 and 50 years of age on them. This offering is 100% Nebbiolo. Fermentation took place using native yeasts. 70% of the wine was aged in large French oak barriques with the remaining 30% being aged in smaller French oak barrels; in both cases they spent 30 months in oak. 10 months of bottle aging in a temperature controlled environment followed. 470 cases of this wine were produced in the 2006 vintage and it has a suggested retail price of $79.99.

Rose petal aromas leap from the glass of this 2006 Barolo along with hints of smoke. From the first sip your palate is enveloped by concentrated red fruit flavors accompanied by oodles of spice. This wine is impeccably structured and balanced with a long, dry finish which shows off bits of earth and beckons you back to the glass again and again for sip after sip. This is a harmonious wine made to enjoy with substantial foods. It’s the kind of wine you’ll want to share with a friend over a leisurely meal so you can experience it’s evolution in your glass. In short this wine has the complexity, depth, length and age worthy characteristics that are expected of excellent Barolo.

In listening to Gianmarco he made it clear that one of the goals with his wines, the Barolos in particular is to make traditional offerings. Barolo has a long and storied history; as well a claim to being one of the very best and most age-worthy expressions of wine emanating from Italy. Having tasted several vintages and expressions of Barolo he makes, they’re achieving their goal of making classic, age-worthy Barolo. Their wines are delicious now but most will improve with age. In the case of the 2006 Bricco Visette I expect it to be even more beautiful in 15-20 years than it is today. If you’re looking to lay down some Barolo for a special occasion, here’s one you should strongly consider.

Paolo Manzone - 2007 Barolo DOCG

Every country has a grape or style of wine that’s King. Napa has Cabernet Sauvignon, Australia has Shiraz. In Italy a couple of things come to mind immediately for wine lovers. But while Sangiovese based wines such as Chianti and Brunello get a lot of deserved attention, Barolo is the rock star. Today I’ll look at a new release Barolo from producer Paolo Manzone. The Paolo Manzone 2007 Barolo DOCG was produced entirely from Nebbiolo. The vines this fruit was sourced from have 15 years of age on them; they sit on a hillside approximately 400 meters above sea level. The fruit was hand harvested and then fermented in a temperature controlled environment. Barrel aging occurred in French oak over a period of 24 months; 16 months of bottle aging followed prior to release. 500 cases of this wine were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $59.99.

Violets, rose petals, and dry red fruit aromas fill the intensely fragrant nose of this 2007 Barolo. Flavors of red cherry and dried cranberry are joined by gentle spices throughout the palate which is deeply embedded with layer after layer of flavor. Earth and hints of black tea emerge on the finish which continues to show off red fruit flavors. Terrific, racy acidity and firm tightly wound tannins provide excellent structure. This is a powerful Barolo that has prodigious depth of palate and tremendous length. This wine is nice now particularly paired with food; however it will benefit from another 6-8 years of bottle aging after which it will be even more accessible and perform more brilliantly.

Attilio Ghisolfi - 2007 Barbera d’Alba Maggiora / 2005 Barolo DOCG

Italy has a stunning number of varietals that great wines can be made with. They run the gamut in styles and flavor profiles. Today I’ll look at a couple of current releases from producer Attilio Ghisolfi that feature Nebbiolo and Barbera The Attilio Ghisolfi 2007 Barbera d’Alba Maggiora was produced using fruit sourced at vineyards in Monfonte d’Alba. These vineyards sit approximately 400 meters above sea level. This offering is 100% Barbera. Vinification took place with wild yeasts. Oak aging occurred over 15 months in a combination of small French oak barrels (50%) and Large Slavonian oak (50%). Six months of temperature controlled bottle aging occurred prior to release. 840 cases of this wine were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $24.99.

Red and black berry fruit aromas are present on the nose of this wine. Dried cherry and cranberry flavors appear through the palate along with hints of herbs. Earth and spice mark the lengthy finish along with strawberry and rhubarb characteristics. This Barbera shows good structure marked by firm, racy acidity. This wine is built to be paired with food and will complement a wide array of flavorful options.

The Attilio Ghisolfi 2005 Barolo DOCG was produced using fruit sourced at southwest facing vineyards in the Visette section of Monfonte d’Alba. The average age of the vines is between 5 and 15 years. This offering is 100% Nebbiolo. Only wild yeasts were used and Vinification occurred over 10 days in a temperature controlled environment. Barrel aging took place over three years in large Slavonian oak. This was followed by 6 months of bottle aging prior to release. 1,500 six-bottle cases of this wine were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $44.99.

The highly perfumed nose of this 2005 Barolo features rose petals, red fruit and wisps of leather. Dried cherries, raspberries, pepper and nutmeg are prominently featured flavors on the deeply layered palate of this wine which is dominated by red fruit flavors tinged by black fruits chipping in. Chicory, earth, and bitter-leaning dark chocolate notes are all part of a super long finish that goes on and on long after the last sip of wine has been swallowed. This is an absolutely gorgeous example of Barolo that has excellent structure with firm tannins that yield with some air and fine acidity. If you’re going to drink this wine over the next year or so I recommend decanting it for 90 minutes to two hours. However don’t hesitate to lay it down for 10 to 15 years.

Both of these offerings from Attilio Ghisolfi represent well made wines that showcase their varietals well. They’re fairly priced for the quality they represent and are well worth seeking out when you’re looking to drink some terrific Italian Wines.

Martin & Weyrich - 2004 Nebbiolo

There are a growing number of wineries in California growing Italian varietals. Martin & Weyrich had been doing so almost as long as anyone. 04_nebbioloSome grapes are notoriously hard to grow. Pinot Noir as an example is famously fickle about where it's grown. One that's at least as difficult, but less talked about is Nebbiolo. While it may be the second most famous red grape from Italy after Sangiovese, the wines it makes are often legendary. It all depends on taste but Barolo (which is made from Nebbiolo) is right up there with Brunello (made from Sangiovese) in every regard. There are very few California Wineries taking a stab at this grape. The two best I've had come from Paso Robles. One comes from Caparone Winery, the other is a Martin & Weyrich release and I'll look at it today. The Martin & Weyrich 2004 Nebbiolo is made from fruit sourced at 3 Paso Robles vineyards. This offering was aged in French oak for 15 months; 20% of the barrels were new. 1,645 cases of this wine were produced and the suggested retail price is $18.

The nose of this Nebbiolo is incredibly perfumed. Cherry and cinnamon are the standout characteristics. Throughout the palate dried cherry notes are prominent and distinct. Light vanilla and spice accompany these. The finish is rich, lengthy and gloriously dry. Mushroom, earth and a touch of chicory, are all part of the equation. This wine is well structured with pleasing tannins and terrific acidity. Like Italian wines, this baby wants to be paired with food. The good thing is it will pair well with a host of full flavored Italian dishes.

There are two things that stand out most to me about this Nebbiolo. First is the fact that this wine displays all the classic characteristics of a Barolo. It certainly has some California in it two, but first and foremost the pure Nebbiolo fruit shines through. Secondly for $18 this wine is an absolute steal. Great, even good Barolo is very expensive. This wine tastes like a California version of a baby Barolo. It's worth every penny and then some. It should also easily age well for at least another 7-8 years. At this price I recommend socking some away.

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