Archive

Posts Tagged ‘Soldera Brunello di Montalcino’

Top 20 of 2020

December 29, 2020 2 comments

It is that special time of the year. Time to reflect. Time to conclude. Time to decide. It is Top Wines of The Year time.

I happily engaged in this Top Wine selection process for the past 10 years. What is a better way to reflect on your year in wines than thinking about all the wine experiences of the year, and deciding on the most memorable ones? Good wine should solicit an emotion – this is the main criteria for the wine to be included in this top list. The wine should be memorable, one way or the other, even if it was not the highest-rated wine of the year. If I can easily re-live the moment of tasting the wine, then the wine belongs to the top list.

Making decisions is not my forte in general. Making decisions about wines is even worse – a real pain. When I created my very first Top List in 2010, I wanted to create a Top 10 list. I quickly realized that Top 10 is not going to happen, then the Top Dozen was born. 2010 and 2011 both had a single Top Dozen list, actually consisting of 12 wines. In 2012, I realized that I can’t fit into one dozen anymore, the two dozen lists were born. In some years, even the 2 dozens were not enough and the lists were reaching 25, 26, and even 27 wines.

2020 presented truly a unique challenge. Every year until 2020, there were many opportunities to find the wines worth inclusion into the top wines lists – dinners with friends, samples, trade tastings, dinners with winemakers, and of course, all the wines casually consumed at home. 2020 completely changed that, and outside a few of the dinners with friends and trade tastings at the beginning of the year, the only sources of the wine experiences were a few samples and wines opened at home. As the end result, I was unable to come up with two dozens of wines for the top wines list. However, I still had more than a dozen wines that I really enjoyed and which would be easy to remember. Thus a compromise was needed, so the Top 20 seemed to be just the right number for the best wine experiences of 2020.

Without further ado, let me present to you the Top 20 of 2020.

20. 2016 Shelter Winery Spätburgunder Baden ($28) – While Germany has 3rd largest plantings of Pinot Noir in the world (which was a total surprise for me), I didn’t encounter an enjoyable German Pinot Noir yet – until this wine, which was classically old world, perfectly drinkable and enjoyable.

19. 1997 Burgess Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley ($NA) – Twenty three years is a good amount of time to render many wines non-drinkable. This, however, was a delicious California Cabernet in its prime. This wine could still evolve for a few more years, and it supported quite an enjoyable evening.

18. 2017 Shiloh Secret Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon ($40) – Israeli wines are underappreciated by wine lovers – maybe it is for the better for those of us who already discovered them? A classic Cabernet Sauvignon, with cassis and eucalyptus, just as you want your Cab to be, and perfectly balanced. Balance in the wine is a canvas for pleasure and this wine fully delivered.

17. 2006 Bodegas Emilio Moro Ribera Del Duero ($25) – One of the perennial favorites. This is one of the introductory level wines from the Emilio Moro universe, showing no signs of aging at the 14 years mark. Superb fresh fruit with a dark core of herbs. Drink Ribera del Duero wines, my friends.

16. 1998 d’Arenberg Cabernet Sauvignon High Trellis McLaren Vale ($19 @ BWG) – First, I have the utmost respect for d’Arenberg wines – great producer. Second, I’m always on the lookout for the wines from the 1998 vintage, as this year is special in my book (birth year of my son). Third – when you see d’Arenberg 1998 wine at $19 at the Benchmark Wine website, you just grab it instantly. Fourth – you open the bottle, say “ahh” and enjoy it. The wine was perfectly delicious, still young, fresh, and memorable.

15. 2018 Cecchi Sangiovese Toscana IGT ($12) – This wine was just a revelation. While Cecchi offers a great range of Sangiovese-based wines, with different levels of power and complexity, this simplest bottling brought literally an unexpected joy of the unadulterated beauty of Sangiovese, an open wine with the perfect balance of fruit and acidity. A memorable simplicity.

14. 2017 Alit Pinot Noir Willamette Valley ($33.64 | $18.50 Alit Collective) – Polygons. Basalts. Volcanic soils. Site-specific wines even if the whole site is only two and a half rows of vines. Alit, together with its sibling Rose and Arrow, are on the quest to discover the Oregon Grand Crus, and I’m happy I was able to join that quest. The wine is a quintessential Oregon Pinot Noir. Try it for yourself.

13. 2016 Château Vincens Prestige Cahors ($13.99) – I guess 2020 was my year of rediscovering Malbec, from both new and old worlds. This wine was simply spectacular, an unmistakable old-world jewel, magically transporting you to the old cellar, holding hundreds of years of tradition. Pure pleasure.

12. 2017 Rabbit Ridge Allure de Robles Paso Robles ($10) – Respect. Erich Russel bottled this wine in the spring of this year, under the first, crazy quarantine, while the world was crumbling and nobody knew what to do. He bottled the wine so people would have something to drink. This might be the best damn $10 wine the money can buy. And without any regard to price, this is simply delicious, approachable, perfectly balanced Californian wine, ready to drink from the moment you pull the cork. Thank you, Erich.

11. 2016 Campochiarenti San Nicola Chianti Colli Senesi (€11) – I tasted this wine for the first time during an amazing night of Gran Selezione Chiantis and Brunellos, so I was not impressed at all and couldn’t understand everyone’s rave. A few months later, I had a sip of this wine, and my instant reaction was “oh my god”, that is stunning. Beautiful, generous, succulent Italian wine – the price is great, but the qualities of this wine extend well past any price category.

10. 2016 Domaine Anderson Estate Chardonnay Anderson Valley California ($40) – A brilliant wine. The Chardonnay done perfectly right – just the right amount of apple and vanilla, on a beautiful core of acidity. Powerful, delicious, and utterly balanced – one of the very best California Chardonnays I ever tasted.

9. 2013 Cecchi Coevo Toscana IGT ($129.99) – I tasted this spectacular wine during lunch with Andrea and Giulia Cecchi in New York City at the beginning of the year. There was some wine left in the bottle, which I was generously offered to take home – I gladly obliged. In the evening, we went to see friends, and after a few bottles of random simple wines, mostly from California, we poured Coevo. Upon the first sip, my friend’s reaction was priceless – “huh, why you didn’t tell us that brought serious wine” was the question. The depth and complexity of this wine are simply superb.

8. 2018 Landmark Vineyards Overlook Chardonnay Sonoma County ($27) – Another perfect California Chardonnay score. It is similar to Domaine Anderson with maybe a bit more power, but still perfectly balanced and fresh. Pure pleasure.

7. 2016 Pedro Cancela Selecção do Enólogo Dão Portugal ($10) – I discovered this wine during the Dão wine dinner at the beginning of the year. Portuguese wines are famously inexpensive, but QPR on this wine is just mind-boggling. This wine is hard to find in the US, but if you will be able to find it, I guarantee you an incredible amount of pleasure per dollar.

6. 2019 Mythic Mountain Malbec Rosé Mendoza Argentina ($11.99) – another delicious discovery of this year. Fragrant, effervescent, end elegant, this Malbec Rosé definitely exceeded my expectations. Outstanding QPR, and yes, I’m repeating myself – pure pleasure.

5. 2018 Ritual Sauvignon Blanc Chile ($19.99) – Some years ago I discovered Italian Sauvignon Blanc wines from Gaja and Ornellaia, which were superb, rather unexpectedly. This Ritual Sauvignon Blanc carries a similar level of surprise. It doesn’t have any of the grapefruit or sweet lemon notes but offers instead a touch of butter, and crisp, mineral elegance. If Italian Sauvignon Blanc doesn’t work for you, think Cloudy Bay from New Zealand. Yep, that good and that different.

4. 2016 Louis M Martini Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley ($40) – a California in the bottle. Imagine a powerful, fruit-forward Californian Cabernet Sauvignon, loaded with cassis, eucalyptus, mint, layered, silky smooth, and incredibly seductive, not leaving you a chance to resist its charm. Got the image? Now imagine that this California Cab is just freshly released. What are your chances of enjoying it as soon as you will open the bottle? Quite low, right? It is rather expected that after the first sip you will put it aside with the words “it needs to breath”, or you might reach out for a decanter. Now, imagine the perfectly seductive California Cab without the need to wait even a moment, just sip and enjoy. Yep, that would be this bottling of Louis Martini Cabernet Sauvignon. Perfect from the get-go.

3. 2008 Cantine Lonardo Coste Taurasi DOCG ($NA) – If the previous wine was quintessentially California, this wine was quintessentially Italian. I have no idea how I came in possession of this bottle, so I had no expectations when I brought this bottle to Cape Cod during summer to enjoy with the family during the visit. Wow. “Mind-blowing” doesn’t even describe it. the combination of fresh cherries, tobacco, leather, cherry pit, supremely balanced – everything you might want in Italian wine was present in this bottle. An absolute wow.

2. 2011 Cayuse Syrah En Cerise Vineyard Walla Walla Valley ($130) – Power. Raw power. Granite. I imagine this is how liquified granite tastes. The wine of impeccable finesse and pleasure, but also an incredible power. This wine is a beast, but it is a well-tamed beast. Did you see the movie “Venom”? Yep, that type of beast.

1. 1999 Soldera Case Basse Brunello di Montalcino DOCG ($NA) – And then there are wines which can make the whole room go quiet. Meditazione. Yes, it is an Italian word, same as the wine, but I’m sure you don’t need a translation. Once we were done sniffing this wine, which took good five minutes, everyone got quiet and lost in thoughts. A meditation wine. Wine of next level. The wine that instantly becomes an experience. Forever. There is no way I can describe it. As we are about to celebrate the New Year, I can only wish that you will be able able to experience it.

And we are done here – the presentation of the Top 20 of 2020 is now finished. What were your top highlights of the year?

What a night! Notes from OTBN 2020

March 14, 2020 11 comments

Open That Bottle Night is the best wine holiday out there. It is nice to celebrate all the individual grapes – Chardonnay Day, Albarigño Day and the likes – but that can’t compare with an opportunity to open a special or the most special bottle you have in your possession, and most importantly, share it with fellow oenophiles, the people who appreciate and respect that special bottle.

I’ve been lucky for two years in the row to be invited to someone’s house to celebrate OTBN – last year Jim VanBergen of JvBUncorked fame was our host, and this year John Fodera of the Tuscan Vines hosted of amazing wine night.

John did a great job organizing this memorable night for the group of people most of whom he never met face to face (yours truly included – we had been following each other for close to 10 years, but managed to avoid any face to face contacts until now) – he developed a loyal group of followers as Italian wines expert, and I’m sure everyone was happy to finally meet him in person.

John managed to come up with a great program. After the round of Lambrusco bubbles (which is the rave nowadays) we started the evening with two blind tastings. We had 2 groups of 3 wines each, trying to identify at least a place and type of wine, and ideally even the producer. We also voted for the group’s favorites. I generally suck at blind tastings, so I did poorly (as expected). I also decided not to use the external factors in the tasting (I.e., John is Italian wine guy, so we should simply expect all the wines to be Italian; another guess would be that as John’s blog is called Tuscan Vines, all the wines will be from Tuscany).

Here are my notes for the first flight:

Wine 1: Touch of mint, full-body, good structure, a touch of black currant – super Tuscan?

Wine 2: great concentration, dark fruit, layered, silky smooth – Montepulciano di Abruzzo?

Wine 3: nice fruit, bright, good structure. Super Tuscan? New World?

Needless to say that I was absolutely wrong with all three. Again, I could’ve used a bit of psychology and figure out that John would be pouring only Tuscan wines, but I deliberately refused to do so. The wines were perfectly polished and complex, all three, without screaming “I’m Chianti” with the appearance of leather, tobacco, or tart cherries. To make a long story short, all three wines happened to be Chianti Classico Gran Selezione from 2016 vintage, provided to John by Chianti Classico Consortium. In the order of appearance, these were the wines:

2016 Fèlsina Chianti Classico Colonia Gran Selezione DOCG ($NA, 100% Sangiovese)

2016 Rocca delle Macìe Riserva di Fizzano Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG ($NA, 95% Sangiovese, 5% Merlot)

2016 Fontodi Vigna Del Sorbo Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG ($NA, 100% Sangiovese)

I want to add that the second wine, Rocca delle Macìe Riserva di Fizzano, won a popular vote with 5 votes out of 10 – this was also my favorite wine.

The next flight consisted again of three wines. Here are my notes:

Wine 1: dark fruit, eucalyptus, crushed berries, green tannins – Bordeaux blend, can be from anywhere

Wine 2: Roasted meat, plums, salami, plums on the palate – Grenache/GSM? Can be from anywhere

Wine 3: too aggressive, green tannins, black currant. Bordeaux blend, can be from anywhere.

Again, I should’ve expected another line of Italian wines, but I thought John could play some tricks, so I didn’t go with an obvious idea of Super Tuscans. And I was wrong. All three wines were well known Super Tuscans (these three wines were courtesy of Kobrand Wines):

2017 Tenuta Sette Ponti Oreno Toscana IGP ($75, 50% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Petit Verdot)

2016 Tenuta San Guido Guidalberto Toscana IGP ($54, 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot)

2016 Lodovico Antinori Tenuta di Biserno Il Pino di Biserno Toscana IGP ($70, Cabernet Franc with Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petit Verdot)

I really didn’t appreciate the tannic nature of wines number one and number three, and those tannins were not only aggressive but literally biting. Oh well. Wine #1, Oreno, was the crowd’s favorite (7 votes out of 10). This time around my vote didn’t match the majority, as I went with the wine #2, Guidalberto, as this was the only drinkable wine for my palate.

After finishing the tasting and discussing the results, it was time to eat. First, there was pasta bolognese, which John masterfully prepared:

And then there was meat. John decided to spoil the group with 2.5” porterhouse steaks, to make Bistecca Fiorentine:

We went to work the grill which was an interesting adventure, mining the grill to prevent flare-ups on a cold night. We actually had to make two attempts to get the steaks right, as they were still mooing after the first pass. But we managed to produce something delicious in the end and not ruin the amazing steaks.

Now, time to meditate. Nope, this was not an organized food prayer session. What happened was that the bottle of Soldera Brunello di Montalcino was poured out of the decanter. Mike Giordano brought a bottle 1999 Soldera Brunello de Montalcino in completely unassuming, low key, way. Gianfranco Soldera was a legend, who bought a property called Case Basse in Montalcino in 1972, with an aim to produce the best Brunello wines. By 1990s Soldera wines reached cult status, coupling impeccable quality with small production. Talking about Gianfranco Soldera and his wines would be best suited for a separate dedicated post, as controversy completely surrounded him; I have to say that I never expected to taste his wines – until this memorable OTBN.

Just look at this color…

1999 Soldera Case Basse Brunello di Montalcino DOCG was truly a meditation wine. “Meditation wine” might not be a simple term to explain in words, but if you like wines, there is a chance that you experienced it one time or the other. The nose, the aroma, the bouquet of this wine were simply magical. Taking the whiff from the glass, the time was stopping – no need to try to analyze the amazing palette of flavors to come up with individual descriptors – this wine should be described purely on the sensory level, as every smell was bringing a pure, hedonistic pleasure. I didn’t care for food, I didn’t care for talking – I just wanted to take another smell, and another, and another. When I finally took a sip, the wine was magnificent on the palate too – a perfect balance of plums, cherries, textural layers, structure, sage, rosemary – a perfect harmony of flavors. It is quite possible that this was my wine of the year 2020 – I know it is only March, but this was an experience that is seriously hard to beat. I don’t feel that I should even try rating this wine, but if I would dare, this would be my second ever 10- (don’t ask me why not 10, I have no idea what my perfect 10 wine should smell and taste like).

After the meditation session, just a few words on the dinner. In addition to the delicious meat, John made a couple of side dishes – the sautéed white beans were an absolute hit, adored by all literally as much as the beef. John actually promised to share a recipe – you can find the recipe in this post.

This was not the end of our wine program. We also had 2016 Campochiarenti San Nicola Chianti Colli Senesi – Campochiarenti is a producer John is always raving about in his posts, so it was definitely interesting to finally taste this wine (Campochiarenti wines at the moment are not imported into the US, but available directly from the winery). The wine was classic and simple, and for about $12 (if it will be imported into the US, this is expected retail price) it will be definitely a great value. I brought a bottle of 2010 No Girls Grenache from Walla Walla in Washington, which was very tasty but radically non-Italian, so I don’t think it was well-received. I also brought one of my recent finds – 2016 Pedro Cancela Selecção do Enólogo from Dão, which was an old world and a lot closer to the overall theme, and an amazing QPR at $9 per bottle at the local Bottle King store. 2010 Capanna Brunello Di Montalcino was delicious, but it was a tough call to get everyone excited after experiencing the Soldera. Lastly, we had 1999 Natale Fantino Nepas Nebbiolo Passito Piedmont which was interestingly dry and light, but not necessarily my favorite.

That gives you more or less a full picture. We also had a wonderful spread of Italian desserts, and truth be told, for the first time ever I tasted cannoli which I liked. It appears that the good cannoli should be filled with cream at the moment of purchase and not before – now I will know.

And now we are done. How was your OTBN 2020? Cheers!

%d bloggers like this: