Last week I had the pleasure of attending the Annual Vias Portfolio Tasting in downtown Manhattan. This is an event I make a point of covering each year because not only is it a chance to taste some excellent wines – Vias has a great portfolio – the event is in a great venue with nice amenities and plenty of bright, spacious room to move around in. The accompanying food is always delicious and there is an outdoor terrace to sit and make notes. Well done Vias!
With any tasting like this, pours are very small and don’t lend themselves to a detailed evaluation of the wines. As such, I didn’t take detailed notes. Therefore, what follows are general impressions of style and quality along with a score range. Producers at the tasting are represented by either a Vias ambassador or a winery principal. I try to visit most tables represented by someone from the winery as their pours will be larger and it’s generally a better experience. That said, Gagliole was my first stop.
The winery was represented by Alessia and Cosimo who are jointly in charge of sales and marketing. They are both very knowledgeable about the estate and the wines. Alessia mentioned that although Gagliole owns property in Castellina and Panzano, they have just acquired new land in Panzano and have broken ground for a new cellar on that property. I will be visiting both Gagliole properties next month, so stay tuned for a deeper dive into this estate.
The 2016 Valletta brings to mind everything I’ve said to date about the 2016s. This is fresh and vibrant with plenty of red and black fruit character with spice and tobacco complexity. This is a stylish blend of 50% Merlot from Panzano and 50% Sangiovese from Castellina and shows nice depth and balance. Well done. 92-94 points.
The 2014 Gagliole is a blend of mostly Sangiovese with a dollop of Cabernet. I have to admit I was surprised at how nice this wine was, especially after the 2016 but it held its own. Nice concentration, fresh, balanced with solid, medium body. Red plum flavors and some herbal notes add complexity. Certainly ready to drink. 89-91 points.
The next two wines are very intriguing and would make a great side by side tasting. They are both 100% Sangiovese however “Gallule” comes from Castellina and “Pecchia” from Panzano.
The 2015 Gallule Chianti Classico Riserva lives up to the vintage reputation in spades. It’s a dark garnet color and gives off wild aromas of brush, flowers and fruit. The primary flavors are still about black fruits and this is long, masculine and intense. I could see this lasting 25 years. If you can keep your hands off it. Gallule is the ancient name for “Gagliole”. 94-96 points.
The 2015 Pecchia is an equal match to Gallule. It would be great to put a glass of each in front of you and makes notes about the differences. Almost black in color this shows black (and blue?) fruit character. Pristine purity. Balanced, full bodied and long this may be a bit more tannic than its brother. There’s a dusty aspect to the tannins that I love too. 95-97 points.
Next I diverted to Castello dei Rampolla. Although manned by one of the Vias brand ambassadors, he was very knowledgeable about this winery and the area in general.
The 2016 Chianti Classico is utterly and simply, stellar. It is a nearly black wine owing in part to the small additions of Cabernet and Merlot in the blend. Classic? Maybe not. But I don’t care. This is drop dead gorgeous. Sexy, velvety fruit is concentrated and suave with a viscous like texture. Fresh, balanced and long with dried herb, mocha and tobacco character. Maybe it needs a touch more acidity? Rises to the level of Fontodi’s Chianti Classico and frankly, the best of these three wines. Stock up! 92-94 points.
The 2014 Sammarco is well done for the vintage. A blend of 80% Cabernet and 20% Sangiovese it displays currant and plum flavors marked by rosemary and fennel. As I discussed with the Rep. many of the high end 2014s are good wines that will provide pleasant, early drinking. But my hang up is that you’re still paying a premium for an early drinking wine. I can’t get past it in most cases. 89-92 points.
The 2014 Vigna d’Alceo has a bit more complexity than the Sammarco. A darker wine, it also displays a little more “heft” across the palate. The black fruit flavors are nicely concentrated but there is still some pepper and eucalyptus character here that lets you know the vintage wasn’t ideal. For the price, this is one to stay away from. 91-93 points.
The Chianti Classico far outpaced both of its more sought after brethren.
Next stop was a favorite Brunello producer of mine. I was hoping to see Francesco Buffi pouring but alas, it was an ill informed Vias Rep.
The 2017 Baricci Rosso di Montalcino was a slight disappointment if not much of a surprise. Even from the northern part of the zone, near Montosoli the blistering heat of this vintage has left its mark on the wine. Medium bodied cherry flavors are fairly monolithic and display hints of overripeness. You can also feel the heat in this wine. Not a fan. 84-86 points.
The 2014 Brunello is somewhat better, but doesn’t distinguish itself. It’s medium bodied at best with some pretty berry notes and soft vanilla overtones. Straightforward and well made given the vintage but nothing to really get excited about. 85-87 points.
Several years ago I first discovered Fossacolle at the very same Vias tasting. Since then, I have enjoyed the masculine, meaty even wild version of Brunello that this estate embraces with its style.
The 2016 Rosso di Montalcino is a lovely wine. Deep ruby with fresh flowers and crushed red fruit flavors comprising the package this does display some “grip” akin to the house style. More masculine than some other 2016 Rossos, this wine, along with the Riserva are generally “on premise” wines. 89-91 points.
The 2014 Brunello was rather good. The winery Rep. told me they were actually very proud of the wine they made given the vintage and after reducing their production by about 50%. It’s a dark ruby with good concentration of red fruit, spices and meatiness. More structure and tannic presence than expected, I’d be nervous letting this one lay around in the cellar too long. I’ll revisit this with my annual Brunello coverage later this year, but drink this while the fruit is fresh. 89-91 points.
The 2012 Brunello Riserva is a beast. There’s a huge core of black and red fruits with tar, tobacco and grilled meat flavors adding complexity. Large scaled, with wide shoulders and tannins to match, this is a wine for the cellar. The “16” on the label refers to the number of times Fossacolle has produced a Riserva -since 1997. I think patience will be rewarded here. Wait 7-10 years more. 93-96 points.
The next producer was new to me. I noticed in the press kit that Vias provided that they were based in Maremma, south of Grosseto, and produced a 100% Grenache. I had never tasted a Tuscan Grenache so I was very curious. The owner and winemaker Marco Bruni was pouring and he was affable, informative and passionate.
The 2018 Morellino di Scansano “Marteto” is 85% Sangiovese, 10% Syrah and 5% Alicante. I was surprised to see such a recent vintage being poured but I really enjoyed this wine. It’s a bright violet to purple color and displays flowers, vanilla and an almost fruity/black grapey profile that seems ultra fresh and clean. Juicy and vibrant, this medium bodied red is quite attractive. Over 200,000 bottles produced. 88-90 points.
The 2016 Oltreconfine Grenache is 100% Grenache and a Tre Bicchieri winner now four years in a row. Medium purple to violet color, the nose of this wine is very expressive with flowers, black fruits and vanilla notes. Really pretty. Polished and fresh on the palate, this juicy red presents a medium to full bodied core of black fruit with very silky mouthfeel and is almost devoid of tannins. Hard not to like, but not a blockbuster. 90-93 points.
The Camigliano Estate 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. When the 2010 vintage was released I enjoyed this wine a lot but was let down by the 2011. This latest tasting covers three different vintages and all acquitted themselves rather well.
The 2014 Brunello displays a medium ruby color that is fairly translucent. Attractive aromas of berries and sandalwood are complimented on the palate by medium bodied berry fruit and hints of vanilla. Pretty and accessible. 87-89 points.
The 2012 Brunello Paesaggio Inatteso is the best wine of the three. Deeply colored, this is a single vineyard selection, though not a Riserva. Wild flowers, crushed berry and tobacco dot the nose and palate of this elegant wine. Medium to full body with good acidity and structure. Inaugural vintage and I am impressed. 91-94 points.
The 2013 Brunello Riserva Gualto may ultimately rise about the 2012 but at the moment, it’s a tight brooding monster. Classically styled with chestnut, crushed fruit and tobacco notes, this turns notably tannic on the palate. Though the stuffing is there for aging, this still needs a good 5 years to round out. The freshness and sapidity bodes well. 90-93 points.
Next up was Fattoria del Cerro and their range of wines – all sporting new labels.
A few years ago, I think it was the 2011 Vino Nobile that was a Gambero Rosso Tre Bicchieri and since then, I’m not sure what’s going on. The winery, part of the Saigricola Group, was represented by its Export Manager.
The 2015 Vino Nobile is a deep ruby to garnet color. An enormous, herbal, vegetal nose dominates this wine. I was surprised given the vintage and swirled it around more while talking to the Rep. who was very nice and knowledgeable. Finally I said to him, this smells like Fernet Branca. And he agreed! Yes, he said, this wine is made to display the herbs of the terroir. On the palate, the wine has soft berry notes that are fairly simple and straightforward. Green herb notes mark the finish. Don’t like it. Don’t get it. 84-86 points.
The 2014 Vino Nobile Riserva wasn’t much different. Frankly, I was surprised to see a Riserva made in that vintage but the Rep remarked that they did a nice job given how difficult it was. I have to say, he was right. The nose of the wine was identical to the 2015 – a melange of herbal notes reminiscent of Fernet Branca but also a sweeter tone akin to Montenegro. Meh. However, on the palate this wine was notably more concentrated with good red fruit flavors, tobacco leaf and soft vanilla notes. It’s enjoyable but the nose is still bizarre to me. 88-90 points.
The 2015 Vin Santo was a dramatic, wonderful wine. It used to be hard to find excellent Vin Santo but lately, the more examples I taste, the easier it seems to be find nice wines. Maybe people took notice of the few premium versions out there (Avignonesi/Isole e Olena/Capezzanna) and decided to up their game. This is deep amber, like liquid brown sugar. It’s got loads of honey, apricot, white flower, maple syrup and creme brulee notes on the nose and the viscous body of the wine is packed with syrup, toasted nut, brown sugar and citrus notes that are lively and fresh with very nice acidity. I’d enjoy this alone or with cheese and again, I was counseled not to dunk my cantucci! Pretty special stuff. 92-95 points.
Next up was the two Sagrantino offered from Colpetrone.
The 2007 Sagrantino was, as you may expect, almost black in color. Given the fact that this was already 12 years old, I thought it might be showing well but it’s “still a baby” as the Rep. was quick to point out. Huge flavors and aromas of black fruits, grilled meat, cedar and smoke. Monstrous fruit on the palate is backed by plenty of acidity and large framed tannins that are still chewy. Leave this in your cellar (I actually have it in mine already) for another 5 years and try then. It’s got promise. 92-94 points.
The 2010 Sagrantino Sacer was next up. Formerly called “The Gold” Sacer means Sacred. Impenetrable black color. This is almost unapproachable. Huge black fruits are punctuated by cracked black pepper on the nose and palate and there is little else. Gargantuan, Herculean tannins and structure. Mama Mia! This will need to be 30 years old to be ready. I can’t begin to judge it at this point except to say it’s from a great vintage and a reliable producer. Other than Caprai’s “25 Anni” maybe one of the most backward wines I’ve ever had. Good value too, usually under $40.
Finally, we ended with Saiagricola’s Brunello estate, La Poderina. Just south of Montalcino, near Castelnuovo dell’Abate, lie their 60 acres of vineyards now owned by the Saiagricola group. Riccardo Cotarella is the consulting winemaker.
The 2014 Brunello is an impressive effort. Production was reduced by almost 50% according to the Rep. and it was easy to tell. Medium ruby color, this displays attractive aromas of crushed berry, sweet fennel and vanilla. On the palate, the wine is medium bodied with a nice core of red fruits backed by fresh acidity. Smooth and ready to drink – essentially the hallmarks of all 2014 Brunello – this is pleasing with a nice, soft finish. 88-90 points.
The 2012 Poggio Abate Riserva is clearly on another level. Darker, bolder, more tannic. This is less elegant than a lot of the 2012s and reminds me more of 2010. Sports a new label. Lots of crushed berry, flowers and cured meat on the nose these turn chewy on the palate with fennel and tobacco. Mulch like finish. Needs plenty of cellaring to show its best. 90-93 points.
Overall, this was a very nice event by Vias whose portfolio of Italian wines is one of the best around. Many of the wines above are from “lesser” vintages but the producers seem to have managed that well and crafted wines that will charm early. Pricing given at these events is generally quoted at full retail, so I tend not to include them. Shop around and stay tuned here for more in depth reviews on some of the wines above.