To taste wine is a privilege by itself, and to do so in the halls of Lincoln center is always a special pleasure. Even the humid, late summer air and the dark, grey skies could not diminish the regal and somber atmosphere of the David H. Koch Theater. The Martin Scott Portfolio spans the globe, but I knew I could not taste everything - thus my notes are highlights of what I found intriguing and are in no way encompassing the entirety of the tasting.
I met David Redondi in Barolo this summer, and it was a pleasure to see a familiar face right at table 1. While I haven’t finished my blog on the Marche wines just yet - I was already impressed by the wines of Gioacchino Garofoli back in June. They present an uncommon balance and a respect for the grape. The first wine I tasted was the Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore Podium 2015. This 100% Verdicchio sees no oak and thus the immediate impression on the nose is that of ripe citrus fruits – sweet yellow grapefruit and pineapple. The broad mid-palate is impressive, offering both texture and mineral to combat the ample fruit of the wine. It finished with a long and dry note of bitter almond and citrus zest, making me think of cheese and salumi that would do so well with this wine, as well as the spicy hints of fresh olive oil. The second wine was the Rosso Conero Piancarda 2015 – a red wine from the Montepulciano grape. This is an absolute food wine, begging for a rich steak or chunks of roasted lamb. The wine opens with red and black fruit, plum and cherry dominating, but they are underscored by sweet herb and tobacco leaf. The mid-palate follows suit, with ripe black fruit notes and herbs, but drier, brisker than the nose suggests, with a strong, rustic tannin structure.
I continued my Italian journey by falling back in love with Sangiovese. I am, by all accounts, a monogamist. However, that seems like a silly concept in Italian wine; how can one not love both Nebbiolo and Sangiovese (and Sagrantino, and Friesa, and Aglianico…and the other 200 grapes I have not listed)? I was faced with two absolutely different and yet excellent expressions of Sangiovese (without getting into the Sangiovese Grosso debate). On the one hand there was the Castello di Cacchiano Chianti Classico 2011, deeply savory, with meat and iron notes, showing some development already on the nose, while the core is still bright with ripe cherry and a plush, soft structure that envelops the mouth. Perfect now, but surely with years to go. On the other hand, the brilliant (and painfully young) Capanna Brunello di Montalcino 2013, if only you could bottle elegance – this would be it. The wine opens with lovely floral and red berry notes over a hint of iron and earthy tones. The mid-palate is mineral, bright and juicy, leaning toward red fruit and berry notes, with a hint of the silky tannin and structure hidden beneath. The wine clearly needs time to show itself – but it is already a beauty.
One of the most memorable moments of this summer was our dinner with the Vajra family in Barolo as part of the Collisioni Festival. And it was not just the wines - it was the amazing family, their love for the region and their respect for the history that was evident to all of us attending the dinner. This passion is easy to see in their wines as well - from the “newcomer” Riesling (peachy, citrusy deliciousness in a glass) to their powerful and age-worthy single vineyard Baroli. However, let us take a step back in history – with the Vajra Langhe Nebbiolo JC Clare 2017. A wine made in the traditional lightly sparkling style going back centuries into history, which is now more frequently seen with Freisa wines. This was a very interesting wine - spicy, with a hint of effervescence. The mid-palate brought bright red fruit and sweet herbs, leading to a vibrant, refreshing finish. I compared it to the still and dry Freisa – the 2014 Kye, which also showed the bright red notes, but in a more floral, riper cherry tones. The elegance of the wines showed itself on the palate, with bright sour cherry and sweet herbs leading the way. I can see this aging well but I wouldn’t mind it even now – especially if paired with a lovely pasta or a pork dish. The Dolcetto Coste and Fossati really shined in 2017, brimming with ripe rich cherry fruit on the nose, the rich, bright wine is firing on all cylinders on the palate, a mix of dark and red fruit , hints of tannin and spice and a long, sweet-and-savory finish. Finally I must mention the 2014 Barolo Bricco delle Viole. A stunning wine – perhaps made more approachable by the softer structure of the year, but that has taken nothing away from the depth and complexity of this bottle. The rich and lush structure of the wine is balanced by the brightness of the cherry fruit at the core, leading one into the seamless, long finish that shows a good tannic grip. Don’t miss this one.
I could not pass the Elio Grasso table without stopping by, especially seeing the 2013 Gavarini Chiniera open. But first I tried the 2014 Barolo, a bottling made in the more difficult vintage that combines the qualities (and the grapes) of both top sites – the Casa Maté and Gavarini Chiniera. The wine showed a ripe red fruit on the nose and a hint of violets and iris. The palate was elegant, with red currants and red berries along with a more rustic structural notes. This will be interesting to watch over time, as I expect the palate to become broader, with more earthy and deeper red tones coming with time. The Barolo Gavarini Chiniera 2013 on the other hand, bowled one over with its power and unabashed depth. Rich red cherries, sweet herbs and mineral notes dominate the palate, leading to a powerful, quite tannic but refined finish. A beauty, and one that will reward patience.
My next stop was to taste the wines of the Dr. Hermann estate and to, finally, meet the winemaker - Christian Hermann in person. I have been looking forward to trying these wines and they did not disappoint. The 2016 Dr. Hermann Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Kabinett was a good example: the wine opened with a nose of ripe, rich peach and pear. Spicy notes hinted at the vineyard. But the mid-palate was lithe, bright, carrying the RS with aplomb. The 2013 Dr. Hermann Erdener Treppchen Riesling Auslese was another stellar example of Mosel Riesling. The wine was in an interesting place in term of development – showing some orange notes and a hint of petrol over the bright ripe apple and grapefruit tones. While the palate is surely ripe and creamy, and the botrytis is present - the wine drinks with impressive lightness and an edge of acidity to keep it very fresh. The last wine is a collaboration between Christian Hermann and Stefan Steinmetz, a powerful dry wine: 2016 Steinmetz und Hermann Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Alte Reben. The wine showed riper and richer than I had expected, with pink grapefruit, ripe citrus and orange notes, with sweet and savory herb to keep the big wine fresh. A hint of sweetness toward the back gives the wine a creamy touch and a long finish hints at the potential.
Although Stefan was not at the tasting (slacking off by beginning harvest this week, the “easy job” surely), I was glad to taste a few of his wines as well. The 2016 Weingut Günther Steinmetz Brauneberger Juffer Riesling feinherb showed itself as a bright and juicy wine with lovely fresh florals and deep citrus and pear tones. There was a crunchy acidity present on the palate, hinting at a bright future, the wine punches well above its value. I am really enjoying these bright Mosel feinherbs, not only are they amazingly food friendly throughout their lifetime (I prefer to age the Kabinets and Spatlesen) – they age into sleek, mineral-laden beauties. The second wine was his 2016 Weingut Günther Steinmetz Pinot Noir Unfiltriert. Stefan is justly proud of his reds, and this wine is an excellent example: earthy, light, elegant, with a palate of cranberry, and raspberry notes. The earthy tones take over toward the back, leading to a spicy and fresh finish. Very pretty indeed – I can only imagine what the single vineyard wines are like.
After that taste, I went searching for more Pinot. And I was glad to find some delicious examples from Oregon. I am a fan of the wines from Zenith Vineyard – they have the bright zesty red fruit that is impossible to resist. The 2014 St. Innocent Pinot Noir Zenith Vineyard provided just that: very pretty ripe but red fruit, with high toned, berry component. The mineral notes on the palate and the long finish really made it into a beautiful wine. The 2015 St. Innocent Pinot Noir Temperance Hill Willamette Valley was a different beast all together. Both the vintage and the site showed itself – the wine was riper, more rustic and much more chewy. Red and black cherry, ripe core of spicy and powerful fruit dominate the palate, but the wine is balanced and brought to a long, spicy and red-fruited finish.