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PIEMONTE4  (G.D. Vajra, Borgogno, Damilano, Montaribaldi)

 



MORE PIEMONTESE WINES

G.D. VAJRA

Some may tell you the initials "G.D." stand for "Good Dolcetto."  But it's not only Dolcetto at this family estate that is good.

In fact, G.D. are the initials of Aldo Vaira's grand-pappy, Giuseppe Domenico Vajra.

You'll notice there's a difference in the spelling of the family name and the spelling of the winery name.  Until 1918, or so, it was spelled "Vajra."  Then in the 1920s some nationalistically political types got the letter "J" to be permissible solely when followed by a vowel.  So the spelling of the Vajra name was changed to Vaira.
When it came time to print labels, Aldo found a type font where the letters "I" and "J" looked very similar, so he used that font and restored the old spelling of the family name to his wine brand.


The winery is situated in Vergne, a small, off-the-beaten path town that's about a 5 minute drive up in the hills west of the town of Barolo.  The elevation influences the Nebbiolo vines, of course, and the Barolo here can be quite good, if a bit tight and lean in its youth.  

We've known the Vaira family for many years and have appreciated their vinous efforts through a series of local importers.  They started in the early 1970s.  Aldo grew up in Torino, as we understand it, and his lovely wife Milena hails from a small town southwest of Cherasco, some 20 minutes by car west of Vergne.  

They're a delightful couple...and when you taste their wines, you'll sense they have refined palates and appreciate elegance in wine.

Now the next generation of Vairas are involved in the family business and this is a positive sign for the future.  If you meet Giuseppe, Francesca or Isi, you will immediate sense they are as passionate about vineyards and wine as are their parents.

Aldo seems to appreciate "classic" wines.  But he's not close-minded and is interested in experimentation.  He enjoys Riesling and so he planted some!

 



At a dinner in Barolo some years ago, a fellow from Barolo poured me a glass of a "mystery red" wine as we had been discussing various types of wines.  He was sure I'd be baffled by this wine, since it was not Dolcetto, Barbera or Nebbiolo...I took a sniff and instantly said "Hey, this is a nice Pinot Noir."  
The poor fellow nearly fell off his chair, shocked that I could identify what was a Piemontese Pinot Nero so quickly and with precision.  The wine was, as it turns out, made by Vajra, who was seated at a neighboring table.
I got up from the table and went over to compliment "Monsieur Vaira" for his terrific Burgundian red wine.  Vaira was delighted that someone had such an appreciation for his efforts.
 


So...now that you know Vaira is a fan of both Pinot Noir and Riesling, you (perhaps) understand this is a gentleman with discerning and refined tastes.  In fact, he recently told us that all Barolo winemakers should plant Pinot Noir, simply for the experience of growing it and vinifying Pinot..."If they can make a decent wine from Pinot Noir," he explained, "they'll make better Barolo, too."  Both Aldo and Milena say they've learned a lot about winemaking since they've been dabbling with Pinot Noir.
 

 



The Vairas also make a benchmark red wine from the rather unheralded "Freisa" grape.  Many producers in Piemonte who still bother with this, tend to offer wines made along the lines of a Beaujolais and, often, with a bit of effervescence.  We order these as a starter wine during a meal as they can beautifully "set up" a more important wine thanks to the striking contrast.
Freisa, therefore, is usually seen by most wine drinkers as a frivolous and rather unimportant wine.  But, on the contrary, it perhaps is of great importance, especially to producers of Barolo and Barbaresco.  You see, it turns out Freisa is genetically related to Nebbiolo.  University studies in Trentino and Torino show Freisa is probably one of the 'parents' to Nebbiolo.

Vaira makes a substantial red wine from this grape, a far cry from the fruity and fizzy Freisa wines.  It has the curious name "Kyé" and this is Piemontese dialect for "chi è?" or "who's there?" (Pronounced key-ay)  I've suggested that this might be the unofficial wine of the New Orleans Saints, since a rallying cry for Crescent City football fans is "Who Dat?"  Kyé is, essentially, "who dat?" in Piemontese.


We have several Vajra wines presently.

There's a lovely, classically-styled 2013 Barbera d'Alba.  The vintage started a bit late due to wet weather, but the late summer saw hot days and cool nights, ideal for ripening the Barbera grapes while retaining the textbook, snappy acidity.  The Vaira family has Barbera vines which were planted shortly after World War II.  These produce a wine of good intensity and character...it's not an internationally-styled red, so you won't find oak as part of the wine's character.  It's medium-full-bodied and deep in color...lots of dark fruit aromas and flavors and snappy acidity.

We were delighted with Vajra's 2012 Nebbiolo Langhe, as well.  There's a touch of black cherry fruit on the nose and palate...mildly tannic and mouth-drying...this might be cellar-worthy, but we rather enjoy it now paired with lamb or duck...



A somewhat "recent" addition to the Vajra portfolio is a Moscato d'Asti.  When I first became familiar with the Vajra family, Moscato was not part of their stable of wines.
It's a fairly recent addition and, as you might expect from a winemaker who appreciates Riesling and Pinot Noir, there's a point of finesse to this wine.

The fragrances are reminiscent of ripe honeydew melon, citrus fruits and, well, Muscat grapes.  The wine has a nice zesty acidity to balance its sweetness and, of course, it's fizzy and tickles the palate.
 
 
 
 
Aldo Vajra had said he'd love to be able to make Riesling in Germany, but since their harvest coincides with grape-picking in Piemonte, that's not likely to happen.  So he planted some Riesling getting cuttings from both Germany and Alsace.  They planted two sites with Riesling.  One is their home base Fossati vineyard which is oriented to catch the morning sun.  High elevation and sandy soils...
They other parcel is southeast of Serralunga and just a tad west of Sinio...it's a chalky soil and the vines face North-East.

Francesca Vaira writes: "Dad was the pioneer of Riesling in Piemonte. His intuition came about at the end of the 70’s and materialized in 1985.  This story about Riesling is just one of the many examples which demonstrates my dad’s curiosity and passion: extremely respectful of our territory and traditions, but open to the world. Luckily for my brothers and me, we have also fallen in love with this stunning variety but are, moreover, endlessly surprised by the love our father has for his work."
 
We are big fans of Riesling, too.  German.  Austrian.  Australian.  Alsace.  Washington.  New York.  Michigan.  California (once in a while).  Kuenhof in the Alto Adige.  Germano in Serralunga (whose Riesling comes from Cigliè south of the Barolo area). 

When we've tasted (or consumed) Vajra's Riesling, dubbed Pietracine (pietra for rocks/stones and racine for roots) we find a simple, straightforward, perfectly okay Riesling.  
And yet we have seen (on numerous occasions), the wine really blossoms in the glass as it both warms up from refrigerator temperature and gets some aeration.  After about a half an hour in the glass, it's different.  More compelling.  It draws in a Riesling fanatic (I suspect a California Chardonnay drinker would not be particularly impressed by this wine), revealing nuances and layers of fragrances and flavors which were not 'visible' at the outset.

I found some vintages more Alsatian in style than Germanic, but the 2014 gives good dry (trocken) Rieslings from Germany a serious run for the money.  
How do you say "Grosses Gewächs" in Italian?
Or translate Austria's "Smaragd" into Italian?
Yes...we're fans!  And we have this wine in the shop more for our own enjoyment, but are happy to 'share' it if others want to discover this off-the-beaten-path bottle.


They make some rather expensive Barolo...but Vajra recently introduced a more affordable version and it's not a secondary sort of wine at all.  

The wine is dubbed "Albe," the plural of the word "Alba."  Now, of course, Alba is the major city in the Langhe region...but they call this wine "albe," or "sunrises" because it comes from three vineyard sites.  Each vineyard (La Volta, Fossati and Le Coste) sees the sun for the first time in the morning at a different moment, so there are, in a sense, three different "sunrises."

A friend of ours, who's hardly a wine aficionado (apart from her love for Moscato d'Asti) sent us a note saying she'd just discovered an amazing wine while dining out at a local steak house.  Not one to remember names, she sent a photo of the bottle...and it was Vajra's Albe Barolo.  This, of course, is a bit astonishing, as most palates which prefer sweet, low alcohol Muscat, don't usually find tannic, astringent Barolo to be especially palatable.   "But this had the most amazing character," she wrote.  "There's a spice note I've never found and it was sensational with the grilled steak!"

So, we have the 2011 Vajra "Albe" Barolo in stock.  It's a medium-bodied, somewhat berryish Nebbiolo with nice red fruits and light tannins (for Barolo).  It's a good introduction to Barolo, being well-made, classically-styled and it has a few more years of aging potential. With so many bottlings of Barolo carrying $60-$100 price tags, this one is downright reasonable!

 


We ought to mention the Vajra's foray into bottle-fermented bubbles.
It's called "VSQ" (Vino Spumante di Qualita) NS (Nostra Signora) Della Neve (of the Snow) Extra Brut.

It's a blend of Pinot Nero and Nebbiolo, 50/50.

The grapes come from a difficult-to-cultivate little site near the town of Roddino.  This is about a 20 minute ride from the Vajra winery to Monforte and then up towards the Alta Langa.  You're near the fabulous dining spot, "da Gemma," a place not to be missed.

They give the juice a bit of skin contact before the fermentation and then the wine, once assembled to be turn into bubbly, spends more than 2 years on the spent yeast.  
This is not only a good aperitivo, it can pair nicely with a lot of different foods over the course of a meal.  It's quite dry, too.  
 
 
 
 

 
 
Not of much interest to most wine drinkers is a curious "aperitivo" or "digestivo."  It's called Barolo Chinato and it's a spiced wine based on Barolo.  (Remember that Piemonte has a long tradition of "aromatized wines" such a Vermouth, so Chinato is not much of a stretch for them.)


Many wineries used to make Barolo Chinato, but it has been a dying art.  

Though lately we're seeing more Chinato wines arriving here in the U.S.


If you ask, however, you might be surprised how many producers still have some bottles that a previous generation made.  Everyone had/has a unique recipe, but the word "Chinato" refers to "china" or "Quinine."  More dominant on the nose and palate of these wines are cloves, cinnamon and other spices.  The Vajra's version of Barolo Chinato is mildly sweet and it does have a slightly bitter edge to it.  Some sort of chocolate dessert matches this exotic nectar, but for some people, it's an acquired taste.
Cappellano's has been the benchmark, but we think Vajra's is now in the same league and a really great example.

It's not inexpensive...they're using Barolo, remember, as the base and then this remarkable array of seasonings.  

Try a sip of this either on its own as a digestivo or get some fine chocolate like our neighbors (Preston's Candies) truffles and see what you think.


Some of the spices and such included in Vajra Barolo Chinato...

Currently in stock:  2013 VAJRA BARBERA D'ALBA $27.99
VSQ N.S. Della Neve Extra Brut Bubbly  $39.99
2009 KYE' Langhe FREISA  $49.99
2012 VAJRA LANGHE NEBBIOLO $27.99
2014 VAJRA MOSCATO D'ASTI $20.99
2014 VAJRA Langhe RIESLING "Pètracine" Sale $39.99
VAJRA BAROLO CHINATO  $67.99 (750ml)
2011VAJRA BAROLO "Albe"  SALE $39.99
2010 VAJRA BAROLO "Ravera"  $69.99
2010 VAJRA BAROLO "BRICCO VIOLE"  $89.99


Aldo Vaira...a Piemontese Visionary

 

 

 


A visit with Francesca who brought the entire portfolio.

 

 

OUR DINNER WITH GIUSEPPE VAIRA

OUR 2014 DINNER WITH GIUSEPPE

 

***********************

CASCINA FONTANA

If you wish to be let in on the best-kept secret in the Langa region, keep reading. 
If you only can buy wines from the most highly-touted, prestigious and famous wineries, go have a look elsewhere.

Mario Fontana is the 6th generation of the Fontana family to be a winemaker.  As I understand, he broke away from another part of the Fontana family and has a small cellar in the little area of Perno, just a little bit north of Monforte d'Alba.

The vineyards are situated in several locations:  right near the winery in Perno, a bit north of Serralunga in the zone of Sinio and there's a small patch in the La Morra area.  

Oh, by the way:   he's related to the Mascarello family...Bartolo's daughter Terri is his cousin.

And he's a fan of Mascarello's wines, as you might expect.

Mario's grandpa was born in 1903 and he was a guiding light.  Saverio Fontana thought Piemonte should focus on wine, especially Barolo, though in his days, most farms were comprised of numerous crops and livestock.  Wine was a mere part of the work.  

By the time he was a young teenager, Mario was on the tractor and working in the vineyards.  Grandpa had learned how to make wine from his father and grandfather and Saverio was a wise and learned man.  He told Mario that "...your wine is never the best.  You can always improve and make it better."  

We first brought in Mario's 2003 Barolo.  What enchanted us about the wine was its traditional character, good quality and honest price.  By the way, some critics will tell you 2003 is not a good vintage.  As in every year, there are always good wine made by good winemakers.  The jokers are the ones who need a perfect vintage to make good wine and these years are then pronounced as exceptional.  If the slackers made good wine, it must be a great vintage.

And the wine is along the lines of Mascarello's Barolo, but with its own character and personality.  Mario, like Mascarello, blends vineyard sites to create Cascina Fontana Barolo.  Grapes from Villero and Valletti (Castiglione Falletto) are blended with Gallinotto (La Morra).  Actually, each site is vinified separately and then Mario makes a master blend and this is aged in large wood tanks.  

We're impressed to note that he's sensitive to vintage variation (some winemakers work with a written-in-stone recipe) and the wine spends a particular amount of time in wood to mature.  Then it may go into stainless steel to "age" or develop a bit more.  From there it goes into bottle.

Mario's 2007, a year highly-touted by many critics as exceptional (yes, some good wines, but for a Barolo purist, it's an odd vintage) was released before his 2006. 

We have some 1998 Cascina Fontana.  This comes from a vintage we'd by-passed in favor of 1996s and 1999s.  Yet now that the 1998s have had time to develop, it turns out to be a really nice vintage.  Many critics gave too much praise to 1997 and not enough to 1998.  When we are in Piemonte, we look for 1998s these days on wine lists.  The prices are often quite attractive and the wines are just hitting their peak.  And Fontana's is delightful.  Classic, notes of leather, earth and a bit of truffle...it does have a modest level of tannin, but paired with food, it softens up nicely.

There's a bit of 2001 Barolo, as well.  It is classic, still a bit tight, but spot-on!  

And the 2006!!!
Glory be!

This is precisely what one looks for in Barolo.  At least if you're crazy for Barolo.  If you only appreciate Australian Shiraz or Napa Cabernet, this wine may cause you to wonder what all the fuss is about.  


MARIO'S THOUGHTS ON BAROLO


My Barolo is like my grandfather, like those men from another age – the ones who never wanted anyone to know easily what they were thinking. This wine is just the same: it does not ever reveal itself easily or cheaply. You have to discover it, slowly and thoughtfully. The appreciation and discovery of Barolo is not something that should ever be fast: you must have time, patience and experience.


In tasting the 2006, I can see a wine of great potential.  It's already special.  But if you have the patience Mario mentions (above), you will have a remarkable bottle of wine.

On a recent visit to Piemonte, I told Fontana I would let him know if I tasted anything more impressive during a week of intense tastings.  After a couple of days, I sent him a note saying I'd not found anything.  At the conclusion of my visit, I saw him and said I had, finally, found a wine which was perhaps at that moment, more profound:  A magnum of 1974 Barbaresco from the Produttori del Barbaresco.

"Okay," he said.  "I don't feel badly." as he grinned, happy to have another admirer in the Cascina Fontana Barolo Fan Club.

The 2008 is showing marvelously.  This is a beautifully elegant rendition.  I find it to be very good and even showing nicely at a remarkably early stage.  The wine seems to have some backbone and structure for aging, though it's not as unyielding as some young bottles of Barolo.  With some young Nebbiolo wines, you simply have to let them develop for a decade before even considering touching them.  Fontana's 2008 is approachable young and will make for a memorable bottle if cellared.  

The 2009 is remarkably good.  We also like the 2010, but it's still tight and really needs until 2020 before opening it.  The 2009 is somewhat more open and is likely to develop more quickly.  

 
 

Currently in stock:  
2003 CASCINA FONTANA BAROLO  $54.99
2006 CASCINA FONTANA BAROLO $74.99
2008 CASCINA FONTANA BAROLO $59.99
2009 CASCINA FONTANA BAROLO $59.99
2010 CASCINA FONTANA BAROLO $64.99


A real Barolo Meister tasting young Barolo.


Snow in 2014...the view to the vineyards at Cascina Fontana.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

***********************

 

 

GIACOMO BORGOGNO & FIGLI

The Boschis family had owned this historic winery right in beautiful "downtown" Barolo.

The Borgogno family traces its root back to the 1700s, maybe even farther.  They're still proud of their wine being served at a dinner celebrating the unification of Italy back in 1861 and then, again, to a visiting Russian czar in the 1880s.

The winery passed to the niece and nephew of Cesare Borgogno in 1968 and the Boschis family continues to run the place today, though we understand they sold the winery, vineyards and its inventory of old vintages to a fellow who's made his millions in electronics and who now has a gourmet grocery store in Milano and Torino.  The Boschis brothers are now, we understand, no longer involved here.

The wines are certainly "old school" here.  I've had the pleasure of tasting numerous old vintages of Borgogno Barolos and they age nicely, though the old bottles are reportedly topped up with younger wine...still, nice to touch old history...

The wines are a bit slow to develop, typically, and so they don't get the recognition of some of their more modern and more flashy neighbors.

We recently received some 1996 Barolo, a classic wine from a classic, hall-of-fame caliber vintage.  I remember tasting this years ago and didn't find it as compelling as others.  Today, now having about 15+ years of bottle aging, the wine is a textbook example of Barolo.  A good taster would not mistake this for any other wine from anywhere else on the planet.  The 1996 shows the leathery, earthy, almost truffle-like fragrances of good Barolo.  It's well-structured and tannic.  You'll still find the wine to have a 'bite' to it, but it's very drinkable now with food and should age well for, at least, another 10 years, probably 20.

There are some more recent wines, too.  The 1998 is blossoming handsomely and is an over-looked vintage.  The 1999 still has its 'grip' on the palate and needs good food to show it off.  The 2000 comes from a much-hyped vintage and it's good, but not quite in the same league as the others.  The 2001 is stellar, but still young and a shade backwards.

We saw the importer had some 1995 in the warehouse...very good and beautifully developed...pretty much at its peak.  And it's well-priced.

If you've never experienced a "vertical' tasting, come pick out some bottles of different years and put them on your dinner table, each with its own glass.  Then you can contrast and compare....

The older vintages are a delight...

Currently in stock:  1996 BORGOGNO BAROLO  $119.99
1958 BORGOGNO BAROLO  Sold Out
1961 BORGOGNO BAROLO $299.99
1995 BORGOGNO BAROLO  $89.99
2001 BORGOGNO BAROLO $99.99




Tasted in March of 2010, the 1961 Barolo was still alive and kickin'!
It was beautifully leathery and mildly smoky/tarry.  There was a nice bit of tannin and it blossomed in the glass over the 40 to 60 minutes we spent lingering over our main courses...


FRANCESCO RINALDI

Some Americans are quite familiar with the name Francesco Rinaldi...they think it's a brand of spaghetti sauce and, in fact, they are correct.

But this Francesco Rinaldi is more famous for some lovely, understated Piemontese wines and they are not in the business of processing tomatoes for sauce.

Their sauce is quite different and it's often quite good, though the Rinaldi name these days carries less cachet than it did, say, 30 or 40 years ago.

Part of the "problem," if you want to call it that, is that the current generation of Rinaldis is a bit shy and reserved...they don't go on world tours, beating the streets, meeting the geeks and holding winemaker dinners around the world on a regular basis.   They seem to quietly go about their business of tending their vineyards, making wines and waiting for the world to beat a path to their door.
And over the years, there was a giant stylistic change on the part of dozens of wineries in the region, as people dabbled with blending other grapes into Barolo and Barbaresco, as well as aging those possibly majestic wines in brand new French oak, fundamentally changing the character of the wines.

Rinaldi's biggest change, perhaps, was in no longer keeping some Barolo in 34 and 50-something liter demijohns and bottling these when the wines were ten, or more, years of age.  
The more things changed on the outside world, the more Rinaldi has stayed the same, for the most part.

The Rinaldi wine company was, at one point in time, eons ago, partners with Barolo's Barale family, another bunch of old-fashioned stalwarts.   As a side note, I believe the Barale clan still keeps some Barolo in those old damigiane before bottling, so in this regard, perhaps the Rinaldis are modernistas!  Anyway, in 1900 the place was "Barale & Rinaldi," but it 1920 the two families went their separate ways.



Paola Rinaldi in the cellar at Francesco Rinaldi winery in Barolo.

I believe, if memory serves, the family had another cellar or warehouse, at least, in the city of Alba.

They own approximately 11 hectares of vineyards and buy additional grapes.  Some vineyards are situated in Barolo, La Morra and Castiglione Falletto.  Some vineyards are rented on a long-term basis and these , if I understood correctly, are in Novello.  The family also produces a bit of Gavi (a white wine) from well outside the Barolo area as their winemaker lives in that part of Piemonte.  Additionally, they produce a bit of Grignolino, a grape that's fallen out of favor in the Nebbiolo-dominated appellations in Piemonte.  Ever heard of Montaldo Scarampi?  That's where the vineyard is located that produces Rinaldi's marvelous Grignolino and it's about a 40 minute drive these days (15 or 20 years ago this would have taken maybe twice as long by car) from Barolo.

The Grignolino grape is weak in color, but makes up for it with crisp, snappy, sometimes shrill acidity.  In an era when many people are looking for inky dark wines, high alcohol, robust, full-throttle, ripe fruit to the point of making wines resembling some sort of chocolate confection, Grignolino is a wine meant for a very small percentage of wine drinkers.  And we like Rinaldi's....it's light, acidic, crisp and pairs handsomely with fatty salumi or a serving of fried calamari or shrimp.  


Rinaldi ferments the wine for 15 days, or so, on the skins and still this yields a wine with very light cherry red color...it's a tad darker than some Rose wines, but not by much.  And it's bone dry and shows snap-snap-snappy acidity.  

Paola Rinaldi is amused that the US market is so enchanted with their Grignolino d'Asti.  In the 2011 vintage, for example, they produced approximately 4000 bottles (333 cases)...

But the family makes lovely Barolo and Barbaresco, along with some Dolcetto and a bit of Barbera.

Barolo comes in "normale" which is a blend of vineyard sites including some from the Sarmassa cru, some from Rocche dell'Annunziata in La Morra, a bit of Cannubbio from Barolo, a bit from a site in Castiglione Falletto and a couple of other parcels.  It's usually a pretty nice wine but because they don't make much of a fuss to toot their own horn, this is usually given short shrift by critics and collectors.



Rinaldi makes a couple of site-specific Barolo wines..."Cannubbio" (that's how they spell it...it's an old spelling and many locals had long considered this hill one of the best places in the Barolo zone as it combined the soil types of soils...The Tortonian of the western part of Barolo and Helvetian from the east.  Rinaldi's wine is not a wine for 'tastings' or competitions.  It's one of those that some people will dismiss for being "too light," while others prize the wine for the fact that it is beautifully subtle.  This is a classic case of "your mileage will vary."  But it's easy to understand why their wines, tasted young, are not often cited...they take years to develop and in an era when folks are impatient, this is difficult wine for most folks to appreciate.

The Le Brunate Barolo comes from a site which was called Cascina Brunata in the old days if I recall correctly...this tends to have a bit more body than their Cannubbio bottling and it's a tad more approachable early on, though still really is best with 10-20 years of age on it.  We have some 2010...delightful wine!  It's very fine now, despite it being young and it can go one or two+ decades.

The Barolo wines at Rinaldi get the old-fashioned, long skin contact treatment and the wines go into old botte grande for maturation.  

Anyway, this is a producer who's over-shadowed by many of its neighbors, though at one time Rinaldi cast a shadow over them...the wines have not really changed, but there are many more really good producers in the Langhe these days compared to 30 or 40 years ago, for one thing.

If you run in to older vintages of Francesco Rinaldi Barolo's, give them a try...

Currently in stock:  2010 FRANCESCO RINALDI GRIGNOLINO D'ASTI $20.99
2010 FRANCESCO RINALDI BAROLO "Brunate"  $74.99


In the tasting room at Rinaldi, there are old photos and books of invoices, chronicling sales of wine dating back to the early 1900s.  There are hotels with restaurants that bought Rinaldi's wines and these sales required paperwork.  I suggested to Paola that maybe we should call one or two of these places to inquire about a "past due" bill from, say, 1906!
She was amused by that notion, but didn't think it would be a good idea.


 

 


DAMILANO

The Damilano name is an old one in the Langhe, but it's a fairly recent "arrival" to today's Barolo scene.

The owners have had a hand in this place since the 1890s, but have made a fortune in the bottled water business.   Happily they're not turning wine into water, but are making some very good Barolo wines. 

Some years ago there was a bit of turmoil here, when some family members were in favor of cashing out and selling the vineyards and winery, while others fought to preserve the business.

Leading that effort was Guido Damilano and today he's at the helm of this estate along with his sister and a couple of cousins.  The winery focus is on Barolo and they own a modest chunk of the famed Cannubi vineyard and, in 2008, leased a substantial parcel previously sold to a neighboring winery.  Now the Damilano crew has more than half the Cannubi site at its disposal!

There's nothing fancy about the winemaking.  It's fairly traditional, although you will find some small French oak barriques in the cellar.   
 
 
 

Guido Damilano shows off the latest vintage of Barolo.
 
 
 
We have several Damilano wines in the shop.

The 2004 Cannubi is particularly good.  It ought to be, given the vintage and vineyard.  Damilano matures the wine in small French oak, yet the wine retains its character of Nebbiolo and Barolo "Cannubi."  I suspect the "Cannubi" character will become even more pronounced as the oak recedes and the wine continues to develop.  It's too young to open now, but well-stored, this should be a terrific wine for drinking between, say, 2012 and 2020.  

There's the "Liste" cru in magnum format.  This is a small parcel which, like Cannubi, is also located within the confines of the town of Barolo.  It's a shade less majestic, let's say, than the Cannubi bottling, but still is going to be a grand bottle, especially in magnum format.  We bought a few magnums at a very attractive price.  

Damilano also is one of perhaps two or three dozen producers to make "Barolo Chinato."  This is a curious potation which features Barolo as the base wine.  Remember, Piemonte is/was a major center for the aromatized wine known as "Vermouth."  But imagine making a similar beverage using Nebbiolo from the most regal of appellations and then infusing it with your own secret recipe of herbs and spices.  Quinine (china in Italian) is first and foremost, but each firm has its own special blend.  Damilano's has a nice vanillin tone and it's appropriately sweet, yet still has a slight tannic 'bite' to it.  
 
So...Damilano is presently a name on the rise.  It's not yet as prestigious as some of its neighbors, but the quality of the wines is quite good and it's a reliable brand at this stage.
 

Currently in stock:  2004 DAMILANO Barolo "Cannubi"  $99.99

DAMILANO "Barolo Chinato" (reg. $75) SALE $49.99 (375ml)

 


An old photo taken years ago of newly-planted vineyards on the Vajra estate with the famous "Monviso" peak in the background on a rare clear day.

 

 

 

AZIENDA AGRICOLA MONTARIBALDI

Montaribaldi_Sign.jpg (3740 bytes)This small winery is operated by the Taliano family.  They started in 1969 and the property has grown over the years.

 

 



wpe36.jpg (18390 bytes)They have 4 hectares of vineyards which they own outright, with another eleven hectares of vineyards being rented.  They have just two hectares of Nebbiolo in the Barbaresco denominazione.

Photo:  Roberto Taliano explaining the Montaribaldi vineyard and the southern exposure of the hillside.

 


  wpe3B.jpg (9231 bytes)Papa Giuseppe Taliano is proud of the work being done by sons Roberto and Luciano. 
The winery has, as you can see in the photo, a number of small, French oak barrels.  The fabulous Barbaresco is matured in oak, half being brand new and half going into "one wine"-old cooperage.


 

 

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wpe3C.jpg (8166 bytes)Photos: (Above) The stacks of barrels in the Montaribaldi cellar.
(Left): Luciano Taliano opens a number of good bottles.
(Below): Dad seems to enjoy the various wines being made by his sons.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



wpe3E.jpg (8623 bytes)


We have the 1997 Barbaresco in the shop--opened a bottle in December of 2009 and was pleasantly surprised...this has developed beautifully and yet it's still tannic and can be cellared for another decade, or so.

 

Currently in stock:  1997 MONTARIBALDI BARBARESCO  $79.99

 

 

 

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