Early last month I had the opportunity to cover the Spring Tasting of Vias Imports extensive portfolio. I arrived 30 minutes earlier than the general public and was able to visit with several producers before it got crowed. Overall, it was an excellent venue and event although the crowds made it sometimes difficult to photograph the wines and chat with winemakers. As is always the case, given the lack of food and small pours available, I present only a range of scores with limited comments. Salute!
|~ The tasting was in lower Manhattan, right near one of the High Line entrances ~|
The Argiano estate extends over 250 acres and since 1992, has been owned by the Countess Cinzano. Toward the late 1990’s I sensed that quality at this estate was in “treading water” mode, but recent vintages have shown that the estate is once again on the right track. There’s something here for everybody.
2013 Rosso di Montalcino: This is very nice with berry and soft spice notes on the nose and palate. A generous rosso, but more in the feminine style. 88-90 points.
2013 Non Confunditur Rosso: I’ve never been impressed by this wine, however this one, was the best “NC” I’ve ever tasted. By far. This is 40% Cabernet with the balance to many other grapes including Sangiovese, Syrah, Merlot, etc.. Forward and delicious with good body and acidic structure. Great value at around $18. 90-92 points. Very impressed
2012 Solengo: Tight and very young. This is now predominantly Cabernet and a focused Bordeaux blend of Merlot and Petit Verdot. Young and muscular with large scale tannins and loads of black fruit flavors. Hints of sage. 91-95 points.
2012 Suolo Rosso: This is a modern interpretation of Sangiovese Grosso that is not aged long enough to be Brunello. 100% Sangiovese aged exclusively in barrique, this is filled with berries, new leather, vanilla and spice aromas and flavors. The winery principal told me this is the last vintage for Suolo. Beginning in 2013, this wine will become a single vineyard Brunello Cru. 91-93 points. Poor value here. Retail ~ $140.
2010 Brunello: Young, smokey, meaty and delicious. This hasn’t changed much from Benvenuto Brunello and I still love it. This is packed with flavor and finesse. 92-95 points.
|~ Part of the Argiano line up ~|
Next up were the wonderful wines of Fossacolle, fast becoming a favorite at Casa di Tuscan Vines. Family member Stefano was on hand to present the wines and recognized me. “I know your tweets!” This wonderful family farms 10 acres of propety near Tavernelle. All of their wines, with the exception of the Brunello Riserva, are vinified and aged 100% in cement.
2013 Rosso di Montalcino: Each year, Fossacolle doesn’t set out to craft a Rosso. The production varies depending on the quality of the fruit because as Stefano explained, their Rosso is really “downgraded Brunello” that didn’t make the cut. As a result, this has more body and structure than your typical Rosso. Solid flavors of wild berry, tobacco and earth persist nicely. Really special. 90-92 points
2010 Brunello: New leather, crushed berry and cherry, fresh herbs and flowers mark this amazing Sangiovese on the nose and palate. Showing just like here: Make Magic. This has a long life ahead and I’ve put it in my cellar. 95-97 points.
2007 Brunello Riserva: As I mentioned, this too is fermented in cement and then sees 2 years in used barrique, 1 year in cement and the remainder in bottle before release. The vines for this wine are 30+ years of age and Stefano said they only produce a Riserva when everything is perfect. This has a classic brick red color with an iodine tint at the rim. Power and grace, a wonderful rare combination. Bottle sweet fruit notes of cherry, sage, spices and flowers. Wow! Should be a good value for Riserva where retail runs around $75-80. 95-98 points.
|~ These are special wines ~|
Camigliano was acquired by the current owners in 1957 who immediately set about creating a high quality Tuscan wine making estate. Today there are 220 acres under vine with about 125 of those dedicated to the production of Brunello. The very charming Paola Falabretti was on hand to pour the wines.
|~ Paola Falabretti ~|
2013 Rosso di Montalcino: Softer than some. This rosso has nice aromas and flavors of berries, spice and soft savory herbs. Could use some more concentration. 85-87 points.
2010 Brunello: Wonderful Sangiovese. More approachable than other 2010’s I’ve tasted, but this has a wonderful elegance to it. Crushed berry, flowers, mocha and medium weight tannins dominate the palate and are well woven. 91-94 points.
Castello dei Rampolla
Despite the fact that they are located in the heart of Chianti Classico, in Panzano, Castello dei Rampolla is best known for its two flagship Super Tuscans. The Di Napoli family has owned the estate since 1964 and the first commercial bottlings were released in 1975. A Vias rep was pouring the wines and recited the same talking points to every visitor to the table.
2012 Chianti Classico: This is very typical of Panzano with dusty road notes, Tuscan herbs, dried tobacco and berry character. Lovely. 88-90 points.
2009 Sammarco: I have long loved Sammarco but there is so little made, it’s not the easiest wine to find. Classically a blend of Sangiovese and Cabernet, the 2009 has some Merlot in the blend. That makes the wine more elegant and more approachable than most Sammarco I’ve tasted. This is very ripe, with olive notes added to the black fruit and sweet tobacco frame. Not my favorite showing of this wine. 89-91 points. Almost $100 now.
2009 Vigna d’Alceo: This is Cabernet and Petit Verdot. The flagship of the winery with price to match. This is silky smooth, velvety and elegant with loads of black fruit, spices, flowers and fresh herbs on the nose and palate. Finishes with traces of mint. My oh my. 92-95 points. But the price? Over $200 now and climbing even higher for the 2010 vintage.
|~ Excellent wines to be sure, but not the best values ~|
Just south of Montalcino, near Castelnuovo dell’Abate, lies the 60 acres of vineyards of La Poderina, now owned by the Saiagricola group. Riccardo Cotarella is the winemaker. It may fit, therefore, that La Poderina’s belief is that “innovation serves traditions” and in that vein, the wines are aged in barrique as well as large cask.
2013 Rosso di Montalcino: This is a solid rosso but not up to the level of many 2012s. Bright berry and soft spice/vanilla notes lead to a medium bodied finish. Straightforward. 85-87 points.
2010 Brunello: Very young and tightly wound with lots of dark cherry, spice and leather character on the nose and palate. Lots of fruit and structure here with large scale tannins. In my experience, a bit atypical for this estate as past vintages seem more fleshy and velvety. Needs time. 92-94 points.
2008 Poggio Abate Brunello Riserva: I was not impressed with the 2009 version of this wine at Benvenuto Brunello, and I’m not impressed with this. Why make a Riserva in 2008? Shy on the nose with dried herbs and drying fruit on the palate. Brick in color with orange highlights – it already looks and tastes old. Not sure what the point is here. This isn’t expensive as Riservas go, ~ $60 retail ~ but it’s not a good buy. 86-88 points.
|~ The La Poderina Line up ~|
I’ve loved Colpetrone’s wines for a long time and now with Riccardo Cotarella on board, the quality is increasing even more. Four wines were offered for tasting, including the Sagrantino Passito – a new experience for me.
2011 Montefalco Rosso: This is Sangiovese, Sagrantino and Merlot. I first tasted this wine (the 2004 I think) in Castiglione del Lago in Umbria and have been enchanted with it ever since. This is a lovely wine with floral notes, perfume and wild berries on the nose and palate. There’s grip here too for added structure and enough of it to even cellar this for a year. 89-91 points. Great value around $15.
2009 Sagrantino: This is the estate Sagrantino and although massive, it’s well balanced. Lots of black fruit, meat and cherry on the nose and palate with a long finish. Another great value. Stunning in fact around, $24. 92-94 points.
2006 Sagrantino Gold: A special selection and despite the age, it’s as tight as (insert your favorite descriptor here) This is smokey and slightly charred. Big time grilled meat and fruit behind a behemoth wall of tannin. This is a 30 year wine. It’s simply not approachable. I don’t know how to score this but my gut says that if you wait, you’ll be rewarded. 90-95?
2009 Sagrantino Passito: This is a unique beast. Loads of reduced cherry, with spice, raisin, prune and cake spice aromas and flavors. Like vintage Porto only maybe more tannic. Not really my cup of tea – as it were. 89-91 maybe higher if you like this style of dessert wine.
|~ The Passito is in a 375ml bottle, though it’s hard to tell ~|
Fattoria del Cerro
Located in Montepulciano, Fattoria del Cerro has over 420 acres on the estate, of which almost 230 are dedicated to Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. Another member of the Saiagricola group, these are serious wines, at incredible prices and with Cotarella involved, they’ll continue to improve.
2011 Vino Nobile: The Tre-Bicchieri winner that I’ve covered both here and here. I’ve nothing more to say about this wine. It’s drop dead gorgeous. It’s a steal. Load up. 92-94 points.
2011 Vino Nobile Riserva: Didn’t know this wine existed. Didn’t think the above wine could be eclipsed. What you don’t know can hurt you. Stunning is the operative word. No, make that absolutely stunning. This has it all. Fruit, tannin, acid, texture, flavor upon flavor that is long and complex. Another steal. This is a gem. Among the best Vino Nobile I’ve ever tasted. 95-98 points.
2010 Monterufoli Val di Cornia DOC: This is 100% Sangiovese from a tiny DOC and stood out for its crazy label and for the fact that it followed the above wine. This is delicious and serious with roasted meat, flowers, herbs and cherries. Lively and fresh with a long finish. 92-94 points.
|~ Wines to seek out ~|
You may not have heard of this estate in Castellina and the label may be about as unrecognizable as can be, but make no mistake, these wines are the real deal and if you see them, don’t pass them by. Alessia, the lovely winery rep was on hand to pour the wines.
2013 Rubiolo Chianti Classico: This is vinified entirely in stainless steel and then sees three months development in large oak barrels prior to bottling. A blend of 90% Sangiovese and 10% Merlot, this is fruity, ripe and forward with good flavors of tobacco, spice and red fruits. Not overly complex, but attractive. 86-88 points. SRP ~ $15.
2010 Gagliole Colli della Toscana Centrale: From the hills of Central Tuscany… this is 90% Sangiovese with 10% Cabernet blended in. Absolutely gorgeous here with tobacco, herbs, fruit and minerals woven together elegantly. Surprised me at how good this was. 92-94 points. Retail is $40-$50.
The estate of San Leonardo sits in Trentino, high atop the plains where the Dolomites begin their rise. The estate is 300 hectares but only 25 are planted with vines. Marchese Carlo Guerrieri Gonzaga was on hand to present and discuss the wine; a perennial Tre Biccheri winner.
2008 Villa Gresti Vigneti delle Dolomiti: This is a blend of Merlot and Carmenere and was a new experience for me – the baby brother of the San Leonardo. Very flowery, with stargazer lilies dominating the aromas. Medium weight with fleshy texture and hints of green herbs. A soft, fruity finish wraps things up. I was hoping to like this more than I did. 85-87 points.
2008 San Leonardo: I’ve come across this wine 3 or 4 times now at various tastings and it’s going to be a must in my cellar. Its impressed every time and it’s that good. Deep ruby in color with loads of ripe fruit, alpine herbs, fennel, tobacco and cedar on the nose and palate. It’s gorgeous and shows well consistently. 94-96 points. Expensive at around $70 retail, but worth it. There’s a long track record of successful cellaring here too.
|~ I love San Leonardo ~|
This was an impressive showing by the Vias Portfolio even given the fact that many of the wines presented were from excellent vintages and were expected to show well. Still, the quality was exceptional across the board and many of these wines are great values. When I come away from a tasting hoping to add wines to my personal cellar, I can’t imagine offering any higher praise. Shop around, prices can vary widely. Most of the above estimates are based on full retail pricing given to me. I’ve only included prices above that I thought were noteworthy, but have more details available if you’re interested.
June 30, 2015