The wines we tasted were surprisingly good from start to finish, one from each producer. Maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised. But, nursing a slight cold, might palate was a bit dulled and in most tasting I have been to, there are always a few wines or more that I find no more than palatable or made in a style that I don’t enjoy. There were a few wines that I viewed as no more than palate, or just decent, but a surprising fifteen of the nineteen I thought were excellent, including four that were phenomenal. It was a terrific tasting, one of the best that I have been to. Complexity and refinement were two notable characteristics found in most of the wines presented. The only disappointment was from Alois Lageder, a top producer in the Alto Adige in far northern Italy, that decided to bring an obscure wine from its portfolio, a 100% of the very obscure Manzoni Bianco grape, rather than one of its many acclaimed wines. I thought that they might have been trying to showcase something not currently distributed here in the hopes of some orders for it. It certainly wasn’t a poor wine, but not one that showed well to me nor as nearly any other wine they might have brought instead would have.
Below are the wines from the tasting that you might want to seek out, especially if cost is of little object. The first four I thought were exemplary.
Antinori Badia a Passignano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2013 – $46 – Round, long and beautiful and “a richly refined expression of Sangiovese in Chianti Classico” to accurately quote the Antinori representative.
Donnafugata Ben Rye Passito di Pantelleria 2015 – $47 (375 ml) – This famed dessert wine lived up to its billing with its wonderful and strong aromas and a big, mouth-filling presence and flavors not unlike a nice Sauternes whose high sugar content is balanced with a lot of acidity, helping make this “very powerful wine” a gorgeous one, too.
Gaja Conteisa Barolo 2014 – $270 – Refined, beginning with very enjoyable aromas, a beautiful taste with terrific balance including a paucity of tannins that was a surprise for a Barolo so young, and a terrific wine to drink right now.
Tenuta San Guido Sassicaia 2015 - $210 – Big, bold, and polished, this 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Cabernet Franc blend with well-integrated is a gorgeous expression of a common Bordeaux blend that is something all together different from Bordeaux and more so, the Napa Cabernets.
Argiolas Turriga 2014 – $70 – 85% Cannanou that was developed by famed winemaker Giacomo Tachis is had a big aroma, with tannins that nicely fades; a proud flagship for the brand
Carpene Malvoti 1868 Extra Dry Prosecco Superiore – $14 – Balanced with good acidity, and though light was mouth-filling and still very easy to drink
Col d’Orcia Poggio al Vento Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 2010 – $125 – Refined, long-lasting and powerful, but with fairly elegant tannins; what you desire from most Brunello Riservas.
Michele Chiarlo Cipressi, Nizza Barbera 2016 – $25 – With prominent acidity as expected with Barbera, it was a very enjoyed wine with less fruit than the others in the tasting, but certainly a very good wine with many foods.
Jermann Vintage Tunnina 2015 – $60 – 25% Chardonnay, 25% Sauvignon Blanc, 23% Ribolla Gialla and 22% Malvasia, aromatic, and almost luscious with the flavors of Chardonnay and Sauvignon taking duty at the first part of the sip while the Malvasia provided a touch of well-matched sweetness at the end
Lungarotti Rubesco Vigna Monticchio Torgiano Rosso Riserva 2011 – $50 – This fairly refined wine made entirely of Sangiovese nicely paired the fruit and acidity of the grape with a proper amount of oak for an excellent result.
Masi Campolongo di Torre Amarone 2011 – $160 – Very dark, rich with prominent dark fruits and tannins, and also noticeable acidity that was not overly rich nor strong for an Amarone, its 16% ABV well hidden by the expertise of the winemakers, and easily drinkable now.
Mastroberadino Radici Taurasi Riserva 2011 – $65 – A refined version of Aglianico that had a lot going on though with tannins only present and the end of the taste and nicely integrated with the rest. We were told that this will be even much better in five to ten years.
Rivera 2012 Il Falcone Riserva Red – $45 – Mostly from the less known Nero di Troia grape of northern Puglia, this was somewhat aromatic, round and elegant with enough fruit and some tannins
Tasca d’Almerita Rosso del Conte 2014 – $57 – Over 60% Nero d’Avoloa, this wine was long-lasting and balanced with some ripe fruit that was very pleasant.
Umani Ronchi Campo San Giorgio Conero Riserva 2012 – $70 – This 100% Montepulciano was grapey, mouth-filling with ripe tannins that was slightly chewy, but almost elegant, a refined version of the varietal.
There is a reason that these wineries sport many of Italy’s most well known labels. They often make excellent wines.