Last month I was fortunate to cover the annual Vias Portfolio tasting in New York.  
I was permitted to arrive 30 minutes earlier than the general public and was able to visit with several producers before it got crowded.  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 Venue for the tasting was very well organized, though the tables you see were often occupied by more than one producer, making it tight once the crowds began increasing.  ~

Francesco, the affable director of sales and marketing was on hand to present the wines again this year.  He is a pleasure to speak with and generous with his time. 

Last year,  we tasted Argiano’s Suolo, a Sangiovese Grosso that was not aged long enough to be Brunello.  2012 was the last vintage for Suolo and the fruit from that vineyard will now be a single vineyard cru Brunello beginning with 2013.

2013 Solengo:  A great version of Solengo. This is round and ripe with classy, toasty oak, black plums and licorice on the nose and palate. Finishes long with substantial tannins.  90-93 points.

2014 Rosso di Montalcino:   From a vintage that was essentially a total washout in most of Tuscany.  This is actually tasty.  There’s a nice floral nose, simple enough with berries and little else. It’s good but that’s all. Contains lots of declassified Brunello. 84-86 points. 

2011 Brunello:  Ripe, rich and very nice with warm notes of cherry, earth, and pipe tobacco on the nose and palate.  Showcases a bit of the heat from the vintage.  Solid effort.  89-91

2010 Brunello Riserva:  Tight, but massive.  Elegant, but powerful.  This is astounding.  Loads of fruit, with acids and tannins to match.  Wonderful aroma of balsamic, cherry, leather, chestnut.  Huge core of fruit on the palate is fresh and vibrant.  Big time success here.  96-98 points.
~ Argiano’s lineup of wines is well made and impressive ~

From 37 acres located in Panzano,  Gagliole may be slightly off the radar for some, but that would be a mistake.  For the second year in a row, winery principle Alessia Riccieri was on hand to present the wines and her job is easy, because the wines impress. 

2011 Gagliole:  This is 90% Sangiovese and 10% Cabernet and is the flagship of the estate.  This has loads of wild berry, mushroom, spice and herb character on the nose and palate.  Power and elegance combine wonderfully here.  Awesome wine and well worth the search.  95-97 points. 

2013 Valletta:  Named for the villa on the Gagliole property, this is a blend of 50% Sangiovese and 50% Merlot and the 2013 is only the 3rd vintage of this wine.  The Merlot comes from Panzano and the Sangiovese, Castellina.  I love this.   My tasting sheet says “Awesome, find some”.  Silky, sexy plummy fruit with ripe tobacco and sage penetrate the nose and palate.  I haven’t found any yet, but I’m looking.  92-94 points. 

2013 Rubiolo Chianti Classico:  This is 90% Sangiovese and 10% Merlot from Castellina.  Delicious and juicy with pretty wild berry, floral tones, and underbrush. I really like this and it’s fairly plush for the vintage.  87-89 points.

~ These two were some of the standouts of the entire event ~

~ Alessia Riccieri presented the wines for Gagliole ~

Rocca di Frassinello

Like every other winery expanding towards Maremma,  Castellare is no exception and Rocca di Frassinello is their estate along the coast.  A wide range of wines are crafted but the two discussed below stand out. 

2013 Le Sughere di Frassinello:  This is a blend of Sangiovese, Merlot and Cabernet and is a dark purple color with notes of black plums, fresh mocha and flowers on the nose and palate. Classy and refined with silky tannins – a solid red.  87-89 points. 

2013 Baffonero:  Baffonero means mustache, as you may guess by looking at the photo.   This is pure 100% Merlot and it will be the next great Merlot from Maremma.  Absolutely succulent.  Wild blackberries, licorice, mint, dark chocolate and coffee notes are sublime. Sadly, there is very little around and like similar Maremma Merlots,  it’s not cheap. (about $200)   94-96 points.

~ 100% Merlot from Maremma ~

In post World War II Piedmont, a local priest, who realized that the only way for small growers to survive and make a living was to band together and join their efforts, created the Produttori del Barbaresco in 1958.  Thank goodness for us all!  These wines routinely represent some of Piedmonts best bargains. 

Produttori del Barbaresco

2012 Barbarbesco (tan label):  This is quite the value because there were no single riserva wines made during the vintage.  Everything was declassed into this and the result is a classy Nebbiolo with juicy ripe flavors of berry, mushroom and flowers. Will be a great value on release because it should retail for under $30.  89-91 points. 

2011 Muncagota Riserva:  The more masculine of the two Barbaresco being poured and easy to see when tasting side by side.  Loads of flower, anise, cured meat and berry character on the nose and palate with lots of tannic structure cutting things short at the moment. Still, a beaut.  91-94 points. 

2011 Pora Riserva:  Very graceful and elegant here.   Lots of raspberry and spice character with notes of tobacco, fennel and dried herbs.  Not nearly as tannic as the previous wine, but well balanced with refreshing acidity.  90-92 points. 

~ The 2011’s are great. I recently tried another vineyard over dinner and was similarly impressed. That review coming in the near weeks ~

Castello dei Rampolla 

I’m not really sure you need to say anything more than that.  The reputation is stellar for a reason and this is Panzano at its best and has been for quite some time.  

2013 Chianti Classico:  This is one of the best 2013s I’ve tried.  Classic and well structured, this has lively wild berry, spice, tobacco and herb notes on the nose and palate. Wonderful balance to the acidity.  Seek this one out.  Fairly priced too around $22.  89-91 points.  

2011 Sammarco:  Mostly Cabernet and Sangiovese with a bit of Merlot.   The 2011 is one of the best Sammarco I’ve ever had.  Loads of black fruit, flowers, chestnut, tobacco and earth on the nose and palate lead to a long elegant silky finish with the tannins so polished and integrated. How to stop drinking this?   91-95 points.   Price varies, so shop around, $55-$90.

2011 Vigna d’Alceo:   My tasting note sheet says “Wax on”.   I got so carried away in tasting this that I stopped writing.  I realize that may or may not help you in making any sort of decision, but it speaks volumes to my state of mind at the time.  I also wrote “Oh my!!”   95-99 points.  A blend of Cabernet and Petit Verdot that will set you back close to $150.

~ A very, very impressive line of wines ~


Since last year’s Vias tasting, Fossacolle has been firmly on my radar.  Their 2010 Brunello was amazing and rests in my cellar.  So I was eager to try the current releases.  

2014 Rosso di Montalcino:  Oh boy – and not in a good way.  This is already dried out. Very tough. Light fruit seems diluted and thin. This has more acid than it needs.  Shame, and my anniversary vintage too.  81 points.  

2011 Brunello:  Tight and tannic, but meaty with that grilled character I love.  Slow to open, but reveals cherry, leather and spice notes on both the nose and palate that are cut short by the structure at the moment. Tough to judge, but I am comfortable with the chance.  Looking forward to evaluating this one properly with my upcoming 2011 report.  88-91 points. 

2010 Brunello Riserva:  Hello! Love the grilled meat and salume character that sits behind this mammoth cherry coated wine.  Notes of leather, porcini and earth are added. Full body and monstrous, this could live for 20 years easily I think.  As Riserva’s go, this will be a value too around $75.  91-95 points.  

~  The Brunellos clearly the stars of this lineup ~


Winemaker Riccardo Cotarella has  turned this winery around and these lovely wines from Montefalco are some of the best values you will find of the type.  

2011 Rosso di Montefalco: This is Sangiovese, Sagrantino and Merlot.  Lots of cured meat with tobacco and berry notes throughout.  Wonderful value around $15.  87-89 points.  

2010 Sagrantino:  This is surprisingly forward for such a young Sagrantino with lots of fruit and loads of integrated caressing tannins.  Some charcoal and grilled meat notes emerge as well.  Can still be cellared 10+ years with no worries.  89-91 points.  About $30.  

2006 Sagrantino Gold:  No legal Riserva designation exists for Sagrantino, so there’s this quasi Riserva.  This is a huge wine.  Everything you assume Sagrantino will be.  Bold berry flavors with black pepper, meat, herbs and fennel across the nose and palate.  Monstrous tannins and body.  I suspect it will outlive most humans born in the 60’s.  92-95 points.  About $60.

~ That is the Montefalco Rosso in the glass. The first bottle was horribly corked.  I had to switch out my glass while the Vias rep. opened a second bottle ~

La Poderina 

Finally, another entrant to my Brunello 2011 Report coming this fall.  La Poderina is also helmed by Riccardo Cotarella and is located near Castelnuovo dell’Abate.   La Poderina believes that “innovation serves tradition” and uses both barrique and botte in the production of their wines.  Vineyards include 25 acres for Brunello and 8 acres for Rosso di Montalcino.  

2013 Rosso di Montalcino:   This is great.  Lovely aromas of crushed berry, flowers, sage and earth.  Fresh, vibrant and juicy this is quite the nice wine.  88-90 points. 

2011 Brunello di Montalcino:  Lovely aromas coming from this wine already.  Black pepper, smoke, crushed cherry, chestnut.  This is ripe and seductive on the palate with long fruit flavors punctuated by sweet pipe tobacco.  A very nice first impression.  91-93 points.  

~ One of the better 2011 Brunello on the day ~


The engaging Guido Damilano was on hand to present his wine for the second year in a row.  If you ever have the chance to meet Guido, I highly recommend it.  He’s proud and passionate and exceedingly generous with his time.  I’m certain I could still be there talking to him!  What’s more, his incredible lineup of Barolo may be some of the best I’ve had as a group.

2011 Le Cinque Vigne Barolo:  As the name implies, a Barolo from fruit blended from 5 different vineyards.   Lots of crushed flower and cherry character join anise and mushroom.  Damilano’s most approchable Barolo and also its best value.  91-93 points. 

2011 Brunate:  More power here.  This is more masculine with deeper cherry flavors that combine with cedar, herb and tobacco.  Anise laced finish.  92-94 points.   

2011 Cerequio:  Even more masculine than Brunate.  Everything is amped up here.  Loads of fruit, tobacco, pepper and spice.  Monstrous tannins.  Balanced acids. Long licorice flavored finish.  Needs time.  93-95 points. 

2010 Liste:  This is an East facing vineyard and as Guido explained, can sometimes be overlooked at the expense of some more notable vineyards.  This too is huge and masculine. Brute power to the black cherry fruit laced with spice, mocha, tar and earth.  Needs time to integrate the tannins and in this vintage, a 30 year wine at least.  93-96 points.  

2008 Barolo Riserva “1752”:  This is a Riserva from the Cannubi vineyard and the name is a nod to the first year the word “Cannubi” appeared on a wine label.   Aged in large botte for 5 years and 2 additional years in bottle before release.  Quite simply, this is one of the best wines that has ever passed my lips.  It’s seductive. It’s massive. It’s powerful. It’s elegant. It’s light on its feet.  Red fruits, orange fruits, anise, smoke, porcini, leather, spices.  I played with this for almost 20 minutes in my glass.  A masterpiece.  97-100 points.  Sadly, about $200.

1999 Barolo Riserva:   The fruit in this wine comes from three different vineyards.  Long aged in massive barrels the resulting wine is almost devoid of any sort of wood imparted traits.  Cherries, licorice, tar and flowers on the nose and palate lead to a softer, more feminine expression of a Riserva.  That’s not to say the wine isn’t full bodied because it certainly is.  And for the genre, it’s an excellent value around $75.   93-95 points. 

~ The 2008 Barolo Cannubi Riserva 1752 was easily the wine of the day ~

Closing remarks

This was another spectacular event by Vias who is blessed to have an incredible array of Italian wines.  There were more wines at the event then reported above,  but given the time constraints,  I didn’t have a chance to visit all the tables and/or my notes weren’t complete enough to offer a fair assessment. 

2013 Chianti Classicos are variable – so stay tuned for future articles coming on those.  The 2014 Rosso di Montalcinos are essentially uninspiring as you might expect.  I can’t see drinking any of them.  Gagliole as a winery is underrated and as odd as it seems, Castello dei Rampolla may also be. 

If you have any questions or comments about the above,  please leave a comment.  Salute!

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