High-end Italian Wine from Piedmont, Tuscany, and the Veneto

In light of all of the sad news last week, we thought that we would brighten the mood with an OUTSTANDING Italian wine tasting. This week we will feature some truly world-class wines from the most prestigious regions of Italy; Piedmont, Tuscany, and the Veneto. These appellations are known for some of Italy’s most saught-after wines such as Barbaresco, Barolo, Chianti Classico, and Brunello di Montalcino, and styles such as Amarone and Valpolicella; we will sample an example of each this Thursday night.

The regular prices for these wines range from $29.99-$72.99, but we have special pricing for the tasting on Thursday. Most of the wines received outstanding reviews in either the Wine Spectator or Wine Advocate, ranging from 91-95 points, although one, the single-vineyard La Grola Valpolicella 2009, has not yet been reviewed.

In addition, the Hotel Capstone will provide some delicious antipasto to pair with the wine selection. This is a tasting that any wine lover, especially those who love Italian reds, will not want to miss! We hope you will join us for a wonderful line-up this Thursday night.

The following are details regarding the producers and specific wines for the tasting:


Cantina del Pino is a small, family-owned producer located within the village of Barbaresco in the Langhe area of Piedmont. The proprietor and vigneron, Renato Vacca, is a humble man, who, with the help of his family (aunts, uncles, cousins) and close friends, harvests the grapes by hand and makes wine in a traditional manner. All of Cantina del Pino’s vineyards are located within Barbaresco and are farmed as naturally as possible, without the use of chemical fertilizers or pesticides. Robert Parker says of Cantina del Pino: “This range from Cantina del Pino and proprietor Renato Vacca is one of the most impressive I tasted this year. Every wine from this small cellar in the center of Barbaresco is fabulous. I can’t say enough good things about Cantina del Pino. I never turn down a chance to drink these wines, as they are exceptional. The Barbareschi see long, submerged cap macerations that last up to a month. The wines are aged for one year in 225/228 liter French oak barrels and a second year in cask. The 2007 harvest was finished by late September, a good 10 days earlier than 2008.” For the tasting we will sample a single-vineyard Barbaresco, from Albesani vineyard, that received 95 points in the Wine Advocate.

Cantina del Pino Barbaresco Albesani 2007– Albesani Vineyard, Barbaresco, Piedmont. “The Cantina del Pino Albesani Barbaresco is rich, round and enveloping. Warm southern exposure and a higher percentage of clay in the soil gives this wine structure, rich color and ripeness. There is a wonderful dark red fruit complimented by spices, dried flowers and roses which add complexity on the palate. The intensity of the fruit covers the tannins nicely, and with time the wine’s power becomes more evident.” 95 Wine Advocate– “The 2007 Barbaresco Albesani is a big wine that captures the essence of this south-facing site in Neive. Despite its size, the Albesani shows remarkable polish and depth. Black cherries, menthol, licorice and mint are some of the nuances that are woven together in this intense, sensual Barbaresco. All of the elements come together beautifully. I can only wonder why there aren’t more wines like this being made in Barbaresco today. This is simply dazzling juice. Anticipated maturity: 2015-2027.” Tasting $47.99

The Monfalletto estate’s beginnings date back to April 3, 1340, when Pietrino Falletti became the owner of the commune of La Morra within Barolo. The property was held continuously through 16 generations, until the death of the Countess Luigia Falletti di Rodello in 1941. Her grandson and closest eligible heir Paolo Cordero di Montezemolo became the proprietor of the property, who, together with his children Elena and Alberto, still personally manage the vineyards and fruit to this day. They are environmentally-conscious, using only organic fertilizers (purely Langhe bovine/equine manure) rather than chemical fertilizers, and synthetic products are not used in managing vine disease. The land is managed with mechanical soil working (plowing, mowing, and natural grassing) to promote natural sustainability for the local ecosystem. From this historic estate, we will sample their entry-level Barolo 2007, that, according to Robert Parker, is an exceptional entry-level offering; he awarded it 92 points in the Wine Advocate.

Cordero di Montezemolo Barolo Monfalletto 2007– Monfalletto, La Morra, Barolo, Piedmont. 92 Wine Advocate– “The 2007 Barolo Monfalletto is another superb-entry-level Barolo. The essences of crushed flowers, spices, roses and tobacco come together beautifully in this mid-weight, refined Barolo. The Monfalletto shows wonderful mid-palate density and fabulous overall balance in a pure style that recalls some of the great past vintages here. Anticipated maturity: 2012-2027.” Tasting $44.99

The Felsina property was planted to the vine around 900 A.D. but has been owned by the Poggiali family since 1966. They have created a modern winery that deeply respects local traditions, and is known worldwide among the finest of Tuscan producers. According to Robert Parker: “Felsina is the house Giuseppe Mazzocolin built, to borrow a phrase from Babe Ruth and the original Yankee Stadium. Last year Mazzocolin decided to step back from his insane day to day schedule running the winery. While Mazzocolin remains intimately involved in the winery, the future leadership of Felsina is in the hands of Giovanni Poggiali, the oldest son of proprietor Giuseppe Poggiali.” Their principal grape is, of course, Sangiovese, which is the most important grape of Tuscany (and perhaps even all of Italy). Felsina’s overall goal is to match the grape with its ideal growing conditions and perfect terroir; they cultivate a variety of Sangiovese clones that offer numerous possibilities for incredibly complex wines. We will try the Chianti Classico Riserva 2007, a wine made from 100% Sangiovese that, in order to be called “riserva” (or reserve), should spend approximately two years in barrel and three months in bottle prior to release. Robert Parker awarded this one 91 points.

Felsina Chianti Classico Reserva DOCG 2007– Chianti, Classico Zone, Tuscany. “The vineyards are located in Castelnuovo Berardenga, in the southeastern part of the Chianti Classico appellation, to the northeast of Siena. Almost exclusively with a southwestern exposure, they sprawl across ventilated slopes at an altitude ranging from 320 to 420 meters above sea level. Geologically, the terrains are mixed: in the higher parts the soil is predominantly rock quartz and calcareous alberese mixed with alluvial pebbles; strataform sandstone and loam characterize the vineyards on the edge of the Colli Senesi in the direction of the Crete Senesi. Ruby red, with good hue and intensity. Spicy with notes of flowers, wild berries and mineral tones. Notes of spices and fresh fruit, smooth tannins and consistent, good structure on the palate. Fermentation temperatures between 28-30°c. Maceration 12-15 days. Automatic punching scheduled daily. After fermentation and racking, moved to small and medium-capacity oak barrels in March-April. After 12-16 months of aging, blending and bottling. Bottle-aged 3- 6 months.” 91 Wine Advocate– “The 2007 Chianti Classico Riserva emerges with hints of smoke, underbrush, licorice, leather and wild cherries. The wine gains volume and depth in the glass as its sheer pedigree emerges over time. There is plenty of muscle to back up the delicate aromatics in a striking balance of elegance and power, all in an essentially classic, mid-weight style. The round, deeply satisfying finish makes it hard to put the glass down. Anticipated maturity: 2012-2027.” Tasting $25.99

Casanova di Neri was established in 1971 when Giovanni Neri acquired a large estate within Montalcino. In 1991 his son Giacomo took over as head of the estate and winemaking. Today they own 48 hectares of vineyards (120 acres) divided between four distinct sites. Casacova di Neri’s vineyards express the region’s terrain and microclimate; this, together with optimal vine cultivation and traditional vinification techniques has created a reputation of quality wines of elegance and expressiveness with a modern style. Robert Parker states of the 2007 Brunellos: “Giacomo Neri describes 2007 as a year with a warm spring followed by a cold, dry summer. Neri is one of the few growers who considers 2007 cooler than 2006, showing just how diverse Montalcino is. Temperatures were unusually warm during the spring, but then moderated over a coolish summer that saw very little rain. Acidities are a bit higher in 2007 than 2006. All that said, my tastings of the 2007s reveal them to be silkier and more polished young than the firmer 2006s. Needless to say, it will be fascinating to follow the evolution of both vintages over the coming years.” For the tasting we will sample the entry-level Brunello di Montalcino 2007, which scored 93 in the Wine Advocate.

Casanova Neri Brunello di Montalcino 2007– Brunello di Montalcino, Tuscany. 93 Wine Advocate– “The 2007 Brunello di Montalcino bursts from the glass with freshly cut flowers, violets, leather, licorice and black cherries. Firm underlying tannins lend vibrancy to the voluptuous fruit. The Casanova di Neri straight bottling – sometimes referred to as the “white label” – is made from some of the estate’s cooler sites. In 2007 the wine has more depth, fruit and overall harmony than is typically the case. Bright acidity frames the long, polished finish. In short, this is a fabulous wine from Giacomo Neri. Along with the 2006, the 2007 is one the best and most complete vintages I can remember tasting in some time. Most importantly of all, though, it is flat-out delicious. Anticipated maturity: 2015-2027.” Tasting $47.99

The Allegrini family has been a part of the wine culture of Fumane and Valpolicella since the 16th century. They have passed on their winemaking traditions from generation to generation. Franco Allegrini, the current winemaker and head of the estate, is considered one of the finest winemakers in the region, and perhaps all of Italy. He is committed to the philosophy that was handed down from his father, that the lifestyle, history, and culture of the family’s traditions are the reasons behind the success of Allegrini. We will try their single-vineyard Valpolicella from La Grola Vineyard which is “situated in the foothills of Fumane, this vineyard is named after the adjacent Villa della Torre, an important legacy of the Italian Renaissance which is also part of the Allegrini Estate. It extends to cover an area of 26 hectares (64 acres), stands at an average altitude of 240 m (787 ft) a.s.l. and its east-facing position guarantees good exposure to the sun. The varietals grown here are Corvina, Rondinella and Sangiovese, planted between 1962 and 1989.” The 2009 vintage that we will sample is newly-released and has not yet been reviewed. (To read more about Valpolicella wines click here.)

Allegrini Veronese Valpolicella La Grola 2009– La Grola Vineyard, Valpolicella, Verona, Veneto. A blend of 80% Corvina Veronese and 20% Syrah that matured separately for 16 months in second-use oak barriques, blended together for 2 months then bottle-aged for 10 months prior to release. “La Grola is considered one of the most prestigious vineyards in the Valpolicella region due to its combination of chalky clay soil and high elevation. Opaque ruby red in color with arresting aromas of wild berries juniper tobacco and coffee. On the palate the wine is rich, elegant and full-bodied.” “The La Grola vineyard represents, in conjunction with an ancient legend that traces birth of the Corvina varietal precisely to this magnificent hill, the ideal location for ‘wine-making’, and has always stood as a symbol of the Valpolicella Classico zone. La Grola vineyard consists of 30 hectares planted between 1979-1998. A robust, intense and elegant wine, it is deep ruby red in colour, with a broad and enveloping nose reminiscent of forest fruits entwined with hints of juniper, tobacco and coffee. The high plant density and consequently low yields in the vineyard contribute to this wine’s characteristic concentration. Ageing potential: 10-12 years.” Tasting $28.99

Zenato was founded in 1960 by Sergio Zenato, who created the winery with the great love of wine and dedication to quality that was passed on to him by his father. Over the years he tried new systems, constantly developing and improving the vineyards; he expanded his horizons into Valpolicella and was able to continue his experiments. “At Costalunga, a 35-hectare estate 300 metres above sea level, the Corvina, Rondinella and Oseleta varieties of grape led to the creation of a wine of great tradition and fame: Amarone.” Amarone is a style of wine made from partially dried grape skins. The main grapes used in Amarone (and Valpolicella) are Corvina, Rondinella, and Molinara, although the example we will try is a blend of Corvina and Rondinella with a small amount of Croatina and Oseleta, two ancient grapes that have recently been “revived.” The Wine Spectator awarded this one 93 points; regularly priced at $72.99, it will be $64.99 for the tasting.

Zenato Amarone della Valpolicella Classico DOC 2007– Valpolicella, Verona, Veneto. 93 Wine Spectator– “Light tannins add subtle grip to this supple Amarone, framing flavors of sticky, sun-dried date, black cherry, and crushed black raspberry, with aromatic hints of sweet smoke, loose tea leaf and lots of ground spice. The finish is long and refined. Drink now through 2030. 1,250 cases imported.” “Zenato Amarone is a blend of the more traditionally used grapes, Corvina and Rondinella, with a touch of both Croatina and Oseleta, two ancient grapes being revived in the region.  Corvina is prized not only for its intense marasca cherry flavor, but its ability to stand up under the drying process. Used in small quantities Rondinella also fares well in drying, and contributes dark color and an alluring floral note. Oseleta provides tannic structure and minerality while Croatina is introduced to add a certain youthful fruitiness. All this attention to detail pays off in a wine that is immediately approachable yet unmistakably ageworthy. Ruby red in color with intoxicating aromas of dried black cherry, cassis, truffles, chocolate fudge and tar. This wine is silky, luscious and complex, with a lingering finish.” “Use of the classic method with this type of grape dates back some time in Lugana, with the cultivation and vinification of Lugana grapes ever since the 1960s, giving long experience and an understanding of every aspect of this cultivar. It is also a project of great significance for it is a challenge and, at the same time, a gesture of love towards a grape that came into being and that grew together with the company, forming an inextricable bond between the two.” Tasting $65.99

la grola zenato

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