One of My Favorite Valpolicella’s

Today’s Story: Dal Forno Romano

Dal Forno Romano is a family-owned and operated estate winery established in 1983 in Val D’Illasi by Romano Dal Forno. Though the winery is relatively new (built in 1990), the Dal Forno family has owned the property where their vineyards sit for four generations and produced wines previously for the majority of that time. The wines since 1983, however, launched the Dal Forno family quickly to prominence with their big, beautiful, and true to variety style. The estate’s vineyards are all traditionally farmed and planted to indigenous varieties of Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella, Oseleta, and Croatina, while Romano practices more modern techniques in the cellar. Though Dal Forno typically achieves incredibly high-quality fruit (barring any vintage challenges), they remain wildly rigorous in the selection process come harvest. The fermentation process is designed to extract as much character from the grapes as possible, while aging in oak barriques provides enough backbone to the wines without completely stealing the show.

Today’s Wine: 2013 Valpolicella Superiore Monte Lodoletta

70% Corvina and Corvina grossa, 20% Rondinella, 5% Croatina, and 5% Oseleta; 14.5% ABV

The 2013 Valpolicella Superiore is opaque deep ruby in color and almost black at its core. Given about 90 minutes to open up, the nose showcases aromas of black cherry, plum, blackcurrant, cedar spill, violet, smoked meat, cracked pepper, chocolate, and slate. Once in the mouth, this opulent yet elegant wine displays notes of blueberry, blackberry, tart cherry, rich tobacco, scorched earth, tar, chocolate, baking spice, and vanilla. This is full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium (+) but velvety tannins, and a long finish.

Price: $100. I think this is well worth its price tag, and Dal Forno Romano provides consistently delicious and high-quality wines across vintages that I’ve tried. This is also my go-to by the glass wine at one of my favorite wine bars here in Los Angeles. Pair with ribeye steak, roasted chicken with fig, or charcuterie and aged cheese.

Food Friendly Value Italian Red

Today’s Story: Pasetti

Pasetti is a family-owned estate and winery established by Silvestro Pasetti, now in its fifth generation of winegrowing and winemaking. Though Silvestro and later his son Rocco worked largely on planting vineyards and battling Phylloxera, third-generation Franco began producing his own wines during the 1960s. Franco prided himself on growing healthy and high quality fruit by spending a lot of time in his vineyards, though he also realized the need to craft a respectable wine for broad appeal in the cellar. When management of the estate passed to his son Mimmo, Pasetti expanded into the foothills of Pescosansonesco and acquired vineyards with 45-year-old somewhat abandoned vines. All of the Pasetti wines are made using native varieties such as Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Trebbiano d’Abruzzo, Pecorino, and Passerina which was an important decision by Mimmo to stick to their roots while those around them planted Cabernet, Merlot, and Chardonnay. Though Mimmo continues to run the estate today, he is joined by his wife Laura and their children Francesca, Massimo, and Davide who work alongside him.

Today’s Wine: 2015 Tenutarossa Montepulciano d’Abruzzo

100% Montepulciano; 14.5% ABV

The 2015 Tenutarossa is opaque deep ruby in color. Given a couple hours to open up, the wine showcases a nose of blackberry, plum, black cherry, licorice, leather, baking spice, sage, and slight oak. Once in the mouth, this dark-fruit dominated wine displays notes of blackberry, blueberry, dark plum, anise, sweet tobacco, loamy earth, chocolate, clove, green herbs, and iron. This is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, grippy medium (+) tannins, and a long finish.

Fun Fact: This wine used to be called “Testarossa,” but I am told Ferrari had a problem with that…

Price: $30. This is a pretty solid value good for everyday drinking, while offering great versatility with food. Pair with lasagna, beef brisket, or spicy Italian sausages.

Outstanding Traditional Rosso di Montalcino

Today’s Story: Biondi-Santi (Tenuta Greppo)

Biondi-Santi (Tenuta Greppo) traces its roots to the mid-1800s when Clemente Santi realized the immense promise of the land and vineyards in the heart of Montalcino. A writer with a profound knowledge of chemistry, Clemente set about crafting wines built for long-term aging and utilized racking and barrel aging techniques that were much more advanced than neighboring producers. Clemente started gaining admiration for his wines, particularly the 1865 vintage of red wine at the 1867 Universal Expo in Paris. After Clemente passed away, his grandson Ferruccio took over and continued the drive of producing age worthy wines with 100% Sangiovese. Though he passed away in 1917, in 1932 Ferruccio was credited with the invention of Brunello di Montalcino by an interministerial commission studying the area.

Ferruccio’s son Tancredi took over management of the estate following his father’s death, quickly becoming an ambassador for Brunello and bringing the wines to new heights. One of the unique practices Tancredi started is the refilling of old bottles of reserve wines, beginning with the 1888 and 1891 vintages in 1927. With Brunello wines at new heights of quality, particularly those of Biondi-Santi, Tancredi’s son Franco eventually took over the estate and brought them to wider audiences. Franco travelled the world tirelessly to showcase the longevity and beauty of his wines, while also growing the estate from 4 hectares to the current 25. Today, Franco’s sons Jacopo and Alessandra work at the estate and are joined by Jacopo’s son Tancredi who marks the seventh generation of family tradition.

The winemaking practices at Biondi-Santi are very traditional, beginning with manual harvesting of fruit and sorting in the vineyards at the end of each row. The fruit is gently crushed for native yeast fermentation in concrete tanks, with the musk pumped over twice daily. Malolactic fermentation occurs under temperature control, lasting 30 days, before the wine is transferred to large Slavonian oak barrels to age. The Brunellos then spend at least 3 years in these barrels before being bottled, where it sits for at least another 6 months before release.

Today’s Wine: 2015 Rosso di Montalcino

100% Sangiovese; 13.5% ABV

The 2015 Rosso di Montalcino is translucent medium garnet in color. This wine showed its best after two hours in the decanter, with the nose showcasing aromas of cherry, dried strawberry, tomato paste, red rose, licorice, tobacco, dried earth, savory herbs, and mocha. Once on the palate, the wine displays notes of cranberry, tart cherry, raspberry, strawberry, violet, leather, tea leaf, woody spice, crushed rock, and underbrush. This is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium fine-grained tannins, and a medium (+) length finish.

Price: $110 (cheaper in Europe). Certainly not cheap (particularly for Rosso di Montalcino) but an outstanding bottle of wine that lives up to the great Biondi-Santi name. This is a very precise wine drinking beautifully now, but the ageability is certainly there. Pair with meat sauce pasta, lamb with rosemary, or Pecorino cheese.

Outstanding Value With a Long Life Ahead

Today’s Story: Mastroberardino

I previously wrote about Mastroberardino when I reviewed the 1968 Taurasi Riserva in An Italian Legend early this year.

Mastroberardino is a family-operated winery founded in 1878 in Atripalda within the Provincia di Avellino in the Campania region of southern Italy. While widely known for their production of Taurasi DOCG, Mastroberardino further cemented themselves into Italian viticultural history through tireless efforts to identify and protect native ancient varieties in Campania, particularly those formerly grown in Pompeii. For instance, Mastroberardino was selected by the Italian government in 1996 to oversee the Villa dei Misteri project in Pompeii where they replanted vineyards destroyed by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in AD 79 using the same plans, varieties, viticulture, and winemaking practices of that period in time. Though the winery has had its ups and downs over time (including near collapse following WWII due to economic hardship, phylloxera, neglect, and even family feuds), Antonio Mastroberardino resurrected his family’s legacy and helped build the winery into what it is today: a standard bearer of winemaking in southern Italy. Traditionalists in style, Mastroberardino continues to make some of Italy’s most historically important wines with Antonio’s son Piero now at the helm.

Today’s Wine: 2015 Taurasi Radici

100% Aglianico; 13.5% ABV

The 2015 Taurasi Radici is opaque medium to deep ruby in color with deep garnet variation near the rim. I gave this a couple hours to open up, allowing the nose to blossom into aromas of black cherry, ripe plum, strawberry, licorice, game, dusty dried earth, crushed rock, cedar, chocolate, and cracked pepper. Once in the mouth, the wine displays notes of blackberry, black raspberry, cassis, anise, violet, tobacco, loamy soil, granite, coffee grounds, smoke, mild vanilla, and rocky mineral. This is medium- to full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, high tannins, and a long finish. Drinks with remarkable depth, complexity, and character now but will only be better in five years and beyond.

Price: $40 (I got a steal at $29). At $40 this is a great value and I do not use the term “steal” lightly when I realize and appreciate I only paid $29 for this experience. This is one of those wines that I could be completely comfortable stockpiling for enjoyment over the decades to come. Pair with wild boar, roasted lamb, or smoked and spicy charcuterie with Pecorino cheese.

Incredible QPR From Chianti Classico

Today’s Story: Castello di Monsanto

Castello di Monsanto is a family-owned estate and winery in the Barberino Tavarnelle municipality of Chianti Classico. Aldo Bianchi was born in San Gimignano, however he left before WWII to seek opportunities in northern Italy. When Aldo visited Chianti again, however, he fell in love with Castello di Monsanto and purchased the property. It was Aldo’s son Fabrizio, however, who through a love of wine and entrepreneurial spirit realized the potential of their terroir and produced their first wine in 1962 using fruit from the Il Poggio vineyard. This was a special endeavor, not simply for it being the first Monsanto wine, but because it was the first single-vineyard Chianti Classico Cru. Fabrizio did, however, make a Chianti Classico Riserva in 1962 as well. As time passed Fabrizio augmented the Monsanto portfolio with Fabrizio Bianchi Sangioveto Grosso (100% Sangiovese in 1974), Nemo (100% Cabernet Sauvignon in 1981), Fabrizio Bianchi Chardonnay (in 1990), and more. Today, Fabrizio’s daughter Laura (who joined in 1989) works alongside him at Monsanto to carry the estate onto another generation.

To learn more about Castello di Monsanto and view pictures of the vineyards, cellar, and castello, check out the website here.

Today’s Wine: 2016 Chianti Classico Riserva

90% Sangiovese, 10% Canaiolo and Colorino; 14% ABV

The 2016 Chianti Classico Riserva is mostly opaque medium ruby in color with garnet hues. I decanted this for 2 hours thanks to its youth, and the nose showcases aromas of ripe cherry, cranberry, plum, anise, loamy earth, tar, savory herbs, and light oak. Once on the palate, the wine displays notes of brambleberry, dusty black raspberry, pomegranate, black cherry, tobacco, crushed rocky soil, mild baking spice, coffee bean, and oak. This is medium-bodied with medium acidity, medium (+) dusty tannins, and a long finish.

Price: $25. Outstanding QPR, and one of those wines to buy by the case to stock in your cellar. This is incredibly young but approachable with air, and will drink well for another decade or two at least. Pair with pasta bolognese, ossobucco, or meat lover’s pizza.

Traditional Brunello di Montalcino for a Great Value

Today’s Story: Fattoria dei Barbi

Fattoria dei Barbi is a historic estate in Montalcino, founded in 1790 by the Colombini family who were one of the region’s most influential and noble families. Though they established Barbi in 1790, the family owned land in Montalcino dating back to 1352 and first built Poggio alle Mura (now Castello Banfi) and then Argiano. The Colombini family greatly helped build the prestige and quality of Brunello di Montalcino as one of the original producers, with bottles back to 1870 in their cellars today. Barbi was the first Montalcino estate to ship wine to France (1817), by mail order (1832), and to the United States (1962), England (1969), and Japan (1975). Today the estate spans more than 306 hectares and is under guidance of 20th generation family member Stefano Cinelli Colombini.

To learn more about Stefano, this historic estate, or peruse their portfolio of wines, you can visit the website here.

Today’s Wine: 2015 Brunello di Montalcino

100% Sangiovese; 14.5% ABV

The 2015 Brunello is medium to deep garnet in color and mostly opaque. Given a couple hours to decant, the wine blossoms to showcase a nose of black cherry, redcurrant, dried strawberry, cedar, tobacco leaf, worn leather, loamy earth, gravel, and savory herbs. Once on the palate, the wine displays notes of plum, juicy blackberry, black raspberry, stemmy tomato paste, blue florals, licorice, tobacco, oregano, espresso, and black pepper. This is medium- to full-bodied with medium acidity, medium (+) grippy tannins, and a long finish.

Price: $45. The 2015 Barbi Brunello di Montalcino is a great value for the region and is beautifully traditional. Give this another 5 years of bottle age and drink it over the following decade. Pair with Bistecca alla Fiorentina, herb-roasted leg of lamb, or Pecorino cheese.

Tasty and Opulent Nero d’Avola

Today’s Story: Gulfi

Gulfi is a family owned and operated wine estate located in Chiaramonte Gulfi, and it was established by Raffaele Catania. Though Raffaele fled Sicily during the crisis following WWII and moved to France, he always desired to return to Chiaramonte Gulfi and even sent his savings there with the hope of purchasing property. In 1970, the Catania family moved back to Sicily and Raffaele devoted himself to winemaking which began during the 1980s following the first release of Gulfi’s Nerojbleo label. When Raffaele passed away in 1995, his son Vito had the important decision of leaving his career in the chemical sector (at his own company no less) or selling the family vineyards. Fortunately for Gulfi, Vito had a deep-rooted interest in wine from growing up in France and decided to take over the Gulfi winery.

Gulfi practices organic viticulture by not using any chemical fertilizers, insecticides, or pesticides and only uses manure and/or leguminous crops in the vineyard to enrich the soil. Meanwhile the hot and dry climate defends against insects and mold. Furthermore, Gulfi does not irrigate their vineyards which forces the vines to struggle and reach deeply for nutrients in turn producing higher quality and healthier fruit. Gulfi grows Nero d’Avola, Frappato, Nerello Mascalese, Nerello Cappuccio, Carricante, and Albanello (all native varieties) and all are harvested manually.

Today’s Wine: 2016 NeroBufaleffj

100% Nero d’Avola; 14% ABV

The 2016 NeroBufaleffj is opaque medium purple/ruby in color. Given about an hour to open up, the nose showcases aromas of black cherry, black plum, prune, licorice, dried tobacco, charred loamy earth, cocoa powder, and light oaky spice. On the palate, this wine displays notes of spiced black plum, dark cherry cola, jammy blackberry, dried strawberry, anise, tobacco, dusty volcanic earth, dried green herbs, and a hint of oak. This is full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium (+) tannins, and a long finish dominated by syrupy black and blue fruits.

Price: Typically $40-45 (I paid $35). Very well-priced if you can find it around $35 like I did, but I think the more common $40-45 range puts this a little over the top to be called good value. Without a doubt a delicious wine though. Pair with grilled game, beef stew, or mature cheeses.

Outstanding Value From the Tuscan New Wave

Today’s Story: Montepeloso

Montepeloso is a small, 15 acre estate located in the Tuscan comune of Suvereto. Current owner and winemaker Fabio Chiarelotto purchased the estate in 1998, though Montepeloso was already producing world class wines under original owners Willi and Doris Neukom. When Fabio took the helm, he undertook an immense overhaul of the vineyards, reshaping them over the course of 8 years by retraining, pruning, and regrafting a significant number of vines. Fabio loved the wines of Montepeloso before this drastic feat, however he rightfully assumed that the terroir had so much more to offer in producing elegant and finessed wines rather than concentrated examples easy to make in the hot climate. Fabio’s wines are proclaimed as some of the greatest examples of Tuscany’s “new wave,” characterized as “beautiful, profound, and expressive.” Fabio practices biodynamic viticultural methods, relatively short macerations, fermentation using only native yeasts, and bottles his wines without filtration.

Today’s Wine: 2016 Eneo

45% Sangiovese, 35% Montepulciano, 15% Alicante, 5% Marselan; 14.5% ABV

The 2016 Eneo is opaque medium ruby in color with some purple hues. This needs at least 1-2 hours to really open up, but once it does the nose showcases aromas of plum, blueberry, black cherry, anise, lavender, cigar box, dry chalky soil, dried green herbs, light baking spice, milk chocolate, and light oak. Once in the mouth, this beauty displays notes of brambleberry, black raspberry, black plum, mild tobacco, scorched earth, slate, savory herbs, black pepper, and espresso. This is full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, fine-grained medium (+) tannins, and a long finish dominated by black fruit and purple/blue florals.

Price: $45. This is an outstanding value, and certainly one of the greatest out of Tuscany I’ve had in a long, long time. The finesse and depth this shows at such a young age is breathtaking, and I would love to stick this into a blind tasting lineup with wines twice it’s price. Pair with Bistecca alla Fiorentina, hearty red sauce pastas, or charcuterie and Parmigiano Reggiano.

Gorgeous Amarone With Great QPR

Today’s Story: Tenuta Santa Maria

Tenuta Santa Maria was established by the Bertani Family, a family with deep roots in the Valpolicella region of Veneto. Documents place the family in Valpolicella as early as the mid-1500s, though it was brothers Gaetano and Giovan Battista Bertani during the mid to late 1800s who ventured to create a new standard for their family’s wines. After being exiled to France, Gaetano Bertani returned and brought back an appreciation for the Guyot Method and the brothers practiced it when planting their vineyards with high vine density to reduce yields and create more concentrated fruit. Though Santa Maria follows traditional winemaking methods for the Veneto region passed down through generations of vintners, they also appreciate technological advancement and utilize modern techniques to produce the highest quality wines possible. Today Tenuta Santa Maria is guided by Gaetano Bertani, the great-grandson of founding brother Gaetano, and his sons with utmost respect for their history and fact that they are one of the oldest Italian winemaking families still in operation.

Today’s Wine: 2013 Amarone della Valpolicella Riserva

75% Corvina, 15% Corvinone, 10% Rondinella; 16% ABV

The 2013 Amarone della Valpolicella Riserva is medium to deep garnet with ruby hues. I decanted this for around 3 hours which greatly helped the wine blossom, however right out of the bottle this was a beauty. On the nose, I get aromas of cherry liqueur, sweet plum, fig, anise, purple florals, dried leather, crushed rock, cinnamon, and spice. Once in the mouth, this wine displays notes of sweet cherry, boysenberry, prune, licorice, dried rose, tobacco, dried rocky earth, brown sugar, nutmeg, and chocolate. This is medium- to full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, velvety medium tannins, and a long finish. It’s amazing how incredibly well-balanced this wine is, particularly given the 16% ABV which you would never guess.

Price: $74. Great QPR on this bottle, especially when compared to Quintarelli or Dal Forno Amarone that sells for $300+ (and more for the Riservas). Now I’m not saying this is the same calibre as Quintarelli or Dal Forno, but its elegance, balance, and quality are enough to make me think of them. Pair this with Wagyu filet mignon, wild boar, or parmigiano reggiano.

Textbook Aged Barolo From a Monumental Vintage

Today’s Story: Piero Testore

Unfortunately, today’s producer is another that, no matter how hard I try, does not appear to have a searchable history. I once again found accords of a select few enjoying the wines of Piero Testore, which according to CellarTracker consist of 1967 and 1974 vintages of Barolo. I’m sure there is more out there somewhere, so if anyone knows about the history of Piero Testore please let me know!

Today’s Wine: 1967 Barolo

100% Nebbiolo; 13% ABV

The 1967 Barolo is pale tawny in color holding onto pale ruby in the bowl of the glass. This certainly needed some time to breathe and really started to show well after 4 hours decanting. On the nose, I get dominating aromas of forest floor, earthy mushroom, and musty cellar before a beautiful bouquet of stewed cherry, dried rose, anise, dried herbs, tea leaves, tar, and cinnamon. On the palate, this displays notes of dried cherry, stemmy raspberry, dried-out licorice, dried rose, mild tobacco, truffle, sous bois, and light peppery spice. Beautifully aged, this Barolo is medium-bodied with medium acidity, integrated medium (-) tannins, and a medium length finish.

Price: I paid $60, though I’m not sure what the market value of this is/should be. I’m certainly glad I took the chance on this bottle because once it opened up, it was not only fun but incredibly enjoyable. It doesn’t hurt that the 1967 vintage for Piedmont is one of the excellent, milestone vintages. Pair this with filet mignon, veal, or white Alba truffles.