Ferrando’s Erbaluce

If you’ve traveled around Italy, you know things change fast. The ragù in one town is nothing like the ragù two towns over. The cheese in one valley is completely unknown on the other side of the hills. Perhaps only Japan can rival Italy in its incredible tapestry of hyper-local specialties. It’s what makes Italy such a fascinating place for eating, drinking, and exploring.

Today’s exploring brings us north of the Langhe, past Turin and into the mountains. We’re still in Piedmont, but only just. If we went any farther we’d be in the truly Alpine country of the Vallée d’Aoste. This is Caluso and Carema, where our friend Luigi Ferrando makes some of the most beautiful Nebbiolos of Alto Piemonte—or anywhere.

But Luigi also makes incredible mountain whites—exactly as you’d expect in the hills below Mont Blanc. He grows Erbaluce one of Italy’s hyper-local treasures. It’s virtually unknown as close as 50 miles away, but in this valley it’s the white grape—and a special one at that.

erbaluce

It has a magical combination of weight and naturally high acidity, kind of like Chenin Blanc. So, like Chenin, it’s used to produce sweet and sparkling wines as well as dry.

But today we have the dry wine for you. Its rich side is almost honeyed, but the high-altitude acidity and mineral tension give it a vibrant life-force. There is stone fruit and fresh-cut flowers. It is remarkably good for such an obscure variety.

Why do such great things not spread? How did Erbaluce remain so hyper-local? For a practical reason: it’s very hard to grow. It’s susceptible to disease and it buds early, making it susceptible to frost. And even when it grows, it’s low-yielding. In short, Erbaluce is not a natural choice for anyone who needs to make a living producing wine.

But it’s a natural choice for us! Delicious and refreshing and very complex for the price, it’s also something more: a rare window into a tiny corner of Italy’s amazing wine-scape.

Ferrando, Erbaluce di Caluso “La Torrazza”, 2014

Minière Champagne

“If I hadn’t met Anselme [Selosse] I would not be making the wines I make today.” – Fred Minière

So many of today’s great Champagne growers trace their roots back to Anselme Selosse. It’s amazing that some of them still fly under the radar. But it’s likely the case that you haven’t heard of Fred Minière, who worked for Selosse in the 1990s before deciding, with his brother Rodolphe, to convert the family domaine into an all-organic grower-producer working in Selosse’s Burgundian style.

miniere

You are not to blame for your ignorance. It was only after their father retired in 2007 that the brothers could take over and run things like they wanted. And it’s only recently that their wines have made it to America.

The quantities don’t help. They have eight hectares of vines, but they only keep the best fruit—about four hectares’ worth—for their own wines (they sell the rest to big houses). The vines, in their home village of Hermonville in the Vallée de la Marne, tend to be quite old and include a parcel of ungrafted Chardonnay.

Honestly, until just a few weeks ago we didn’t know about Minière either. But one of the perks of living (and dining) in New York, is the wine lists put together and served by knowledgeable and passionate people. And when we saw a Blanc de Blancs we didn’t recognize on Rebelle’s wine list, we knew it would be worth checking out.

Boy, was it ever! The Absolu is a single-vineyard Blanc de Blancs from Les Grands Blancs, where the domaine’s ungrafted Chardonnay is located, as well as other Chardonnay vines planted in the 1960s. It is 80% 2008 vintage and 20% 2007. And it’s delicious.

We could taste the Selosse influence in the wine’s fruit precision and white Burgundy vibe, but the structure and style seemed a little more classical, calling to mind the barrel-produced wines of traditionalist boutique houses like Krug or Jacquesson. It’s a powerful Champagne, but with enough age (six years on the lees and two more after disgorgement) that its parts have settled into a wonderfully harmonious wine.

A couple weeks later we tried the vintage 2008 Brut Zero. Here the Chardonnay is blended with Pinots Meunier and Noir. With no dosage, this veered a little more towards the Selosse end of the spectrum. It’s a less powerful Champagne with greater emphasis on crystals and minerals. Some will prefer this style; others the Absolu. Taste is like that.

Champagne Minière F & R, Cuvée Brut Zero, 2008 – $65.99
Champagne Minière F & R, Cuvée Absolu, [2008/2007] – $73.99

Santa Cruz Mountain Winery

For a while the wine world talked about New California—the wave of new producers like Arnot-Roberts, Cruse, and Donkey & Goat, that made wines of finesse and drinkability—in contrast to the point-seeking monsters of the Parker era. But critics were quick to dispute the “New” designation, because California had a long history of making elegant wines. They pointed to famous producers like Ridge, Mayacamas and Heitz.

Those names are well known. Here is one that may be new to you: Santa Cruz Mountain Winery.

santacruz

The Napa Valley is California’s most famous wine region, but many think that the greatest terroir is actually in Santa Cruz. Here you have a range of altitudes, a complex mix of soils, and a strong ocean breeze. On the western, ocean-facing side, you have particularly cool sites perfect for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Facing the Silicon Valley, you have warmer sites that are capable—just—of ripening Bordeaux varieties. Anyone who has tasted Ridge’s Monte Bello or Rhys’s top Pinots knows the sub-region’s great potential.

Santa Cruz Mountain Winery only started distributing in New York recently, but the winery wasn’t entirely new to us. Several years ago we stumbled upon some Pinot Noirs made by the winery in the 1970s, mixed in with some better-known wines that we had acquired. We started reading and were amazed to discover tasting notes on their web site of Pinots going back to 1975 (they’re still posted there). They noted that the wines could need up to 30 years of cellaring, and that Frenchmen confused them with the great wines of Burgundy. Really?

So we tasted, and were stunned. These were 30- to 40-year-old Pinots that had aged better than 90% of Burgundies from the same era. We had questions. What happened to this winery? Did they still make wines? Why has no one heard of them? Can we get more?

It took a few years, but everything has come together. The winery, of course, is still around, and they visited our shop and we tasted some wine. The line-up was brilliant, and exactly in the style we imagined. These were Old examples of New California, elegant wines of balance and finesse that promised drinkability and pleasure in their youth, but also longevity and complexity for the patient.

There was one little surprise, and that was that the easy star of the line-up was the Cabernet Sauvignon! It probably shouldn’t have been a surprise, since Monte Bello, arguably the best site in all of California for Cabernet Sauvignon, is in Santa Cruz. And Santa Cruz Mountain Winery’s 100% Cabernet is from the Luchessi Vineyard, which is just a touch northeast of Monte Bello.

The vines are almost 40 years and yield very little fruit. Alcohol levels are modest. We were lucky to taste the 2013, maybe the best vintage in recent memory. The wine is like the Cabernet version of the great Pinots we tasted from the 1970s. It’s not shy about being Cab; the fruit is front and center. But it’s fresh and drinkable (and food-friendly)—not a bottle you’ll have any trouble finishing.

But it also has a quiet sophistication to it. There are flavors—Santa Cruz Mountain earthiness, call it—that hit you here and there. It’s not a wine that tries too hard, and yet every taste tells you it will go the distance. The winery says that it will cellar easily for two or three decades. We believe them.

Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon “Luchessi Vineyard”, 2013

Free Tri-State Wine Delivery to New York, New Jersey and Connecticut

freeshipping
Nobody likes to pay shipping charges, so we are thrilled to be able to announce that the New York store now offers free shipping on all online orders above $129 to New York, New Jersey or Connecticut!

Yup, whether you need a case of rosé for a party, a special bottle of Cabernet for a dinner, or a special gift for a client, we will get it there for you, no extra charge.

We’re going to try to keep tweaking and expanding this program, so please let us know how you like it and what we could do to improve it here or in the note of your order.

And if you do like it, please share it with your friends!

Here are some details:

· Your online order must be over $129, before tax and after any applicable discounts.

· We will ship your order to a single address.

· We will use Fed Ex ground for most deliveries. As always, an adult signature will be required to complete delivery; an adult will need to be available during Fed Ex Grounds delivery window to receive the shipment.

· If you require a shorter delivery window than Fed Ex Ground can provide, please call the shop (212-477-1315) and we will do our best to accommodate. Additional charges may apply.

· This offer does not apply to express shipments, repeated delivery attempts or returned shipments

· This offer does not apply to Flatiron Wine clubs and may not apply to certain other offers.

· This offer has no other exchange or cash value.

· We hope to expand this offer in the future, and may need otherwise to change the terms of this offer in the future. If we do, we will update this blog post.

· Orders taking advantage of this offer are subject to our general shipping terms and terms and conditions, which you can read at the linked pages.

The Twilight of Small Family Owned Domaines in Burgundy?

It’s a story that has been told again and again in France ever since Napoleon l.  The head of a successful family dies and the estate is divided equally between all of the children.  It used to be that the eldest son got everything, the second son joined the military, the third the priesthood, the daughters were married off.  If you were the fourth son, well – you might have to work for a local landowner tending his vineyards.

So to this day in Burgundy the vineyards are divided equally between the heirs.  Not everyone wants to be a country winegrower, the work is relentless, unforgiving and at the mercy of capricious weather.  What’s more, almost every successful family want their sons and daughters to have a solid education in something other than this maniacal alchemy of agriculture that is wine growing.

Sometimes the value of the land itself so outweighs the potential return that the family members insist that the vineyards be sold to the highest bidder and let someone else practice this ancient trade of growing grapes and making wine. So alliances are formed within the families and sharecropping deals are negotiated to keep the vineyards in the family while spreading out the risk.

In rare instances a winegrower has the financial wherewithal to buy out his brothers and sisters and keep the domaine intact.  Either that or a decades long loan agreement using the precious vineyard parcels as collateral. Many of the most famous domaines in Burgundy only exist intact through such elaborate financial agreements.  Is this the twilight of the small family owned domaines in Burgundy?  Will everything be bought up by luxury goods firms?  LVMH bought Clos des Lambrays and there was the recent sale of Bonneau du Martray to an American sports magnate.  Is this the future?

Sometimes families sell off most of their vineyards to a prosperous negociant.  Sometimes a little remains and a new generation comes along determined to re-establish the family domaine.  Maxime Cheurlin (grandson of Georges Noellat) and Charles Van Canneyt (grandson of Alain Hudelot-Noellat) are both members of a new generation of winegrowers determined to recreate and maybe surpass their predecessors.  Both are in Vosne Romanee – a tiny village where vineyard land rarely changes hands.  It is the most sought after land in the world and not just agricultural real estate.  It costs more per square foot than anything on the Champs-Elysee in Paris, the Ginza in Tokyo or Madison Avenue.

In March I had the great opportunity to attend the “Trilogie en Cotes de Nuits” tasting at the Chateau du Clos Vougeot.  This is a bi-annual tasting that features the wines of three villages.  This year it was Vougeot, Morey-Saint-Denis and Chambolle Musigny.   Seventy-six properties presented their wines from Maison Ambroise to Domaine Cecile Tremblay.  I stopped at table after table where the latest graduates of the Lycée Viticole in Beaune had taken over and their mark on the wines was stunning – Antoine Amiot-Servelle at Amiot-Servelle, Mathilde Grivot at Domaine Grivot, Charles Lachaux at Domaine Arnoux-Lachaux, Amelie Berthaut at Domaines Berthaut-Gerbet.  These irrepressible new growers have fresh ideas and boundless enthusiasm.

Almost fifteen years ago David Croix, Benjamin Leroux and Cecile Tremblay were the new class graduating from Lycée Viticole.   They have since all put their mark on Burgundy.  David Croix has Domaine des Croix in Beaune and has joined Jean-Marc Roulot in Meursault.  Benjamin Leroux learned from Pascal Marchand at Comte Armand – now both Benjamin and Pascal have their own “micro- negociants” and produce a great variety of red and white wines from throughout the Cote D’Or.  Cecile Tremblay’s family has been buying vineyards for generations and leasing them out on sharecropping contracts.  As these contracts expire she is regaining control of more vineyards, her domaine keeps growing and she now owns vines in four villages including top Premier Cru and three Grand Cru sites.

Handsome and dapper twenty-nine year old Armand Heitz is in a similar situation to Cecile Tremblay, his family owns vineyards that had been leased out, mostly to Joseph Drouhin.  The vines are in top condition.  Armand attended the Lycée Viticole, then spent three years in Switzerland studying enology, chemistry and economics.  His first vintage was 2013.  He already owns a remarkable portfolio of vineyards – Pommard 1er Cru “Clos des Poutures” (Monopole), Pommard 1er Cru Pezerolles,   Pommard 1er Cru Rugiens-Hauts, Volnay 1er Cru Taillepieds, Meursault en la Barre, Meursault 1er Cru “Les Gruyaches”,  Meursault 1er Cru “Perrieres”,  Chassagne Montrachet 1er Cru “La Maltroye”, Chevalier-Montrachet and a remarkable Bourgogne Blanc “Les Durots” just below the Meursault vineyard of the same name.  It tastes like Meursault.  He also has a negociant license and will make more wine from purchased grapes. His aunt is going to allow him access to the vineyards she has regained control of – Chassagne Montrachet 1er Cru “Tete de Clos”, Chassagne Montrachet 1er Cru “Les Chenevottes”, Meursault Villages.

Armand Heitz - photo credit T. Edwards Wines

Armand Heitz – photo credit T. Edwards Wines

This is a brand new domaine based in Chassagne Montrachet – Armand Heitz is a name to watch.  He was in the same class at the Lycée Viticole with his good friends Nicolas Faure, Amelie Berthaut, Aurelien Gerbais of Champagne and Aurelien Bailly of Bailly-Reverdy of Sancerre.  Along with the aforementioned Maxime Cheurlin, Charles Van Canneyt, Mathilde Grivot and others – this new generation will  renew and invigorate Burgundy a wine growing.

The Crazy Market in Bordeaux and How to Take Advantage

As we’ve explained before in our newsletter, the market in Bordeaux is upside down. New releases are expensive and often over-priced. But mature bottles — bottles that are actually ready to drink — represent some of the best values in the world of wine today. I’m not talking about First Growths, Cheval Blanc and the like. Those wines have powerful brands and you will always have to pay for that. However, look beyond the famous names and you find plenty of great Bordeaux that are just, well, great. And many of them are superbly priced.

We are finding more and more opportunities working with negociant partners in Bordeaux itself. Because release prices for Bordeaux are so high, it is rare that the Chateaux or negociants sell through all their stock right away, especially in vintages that are not over-hyped. In a wine region where prestige is intimately tied to price, no Chateau wants to underprice a neighbor just to clear stock. Better just to hold it for quiet release at a later date, often at a lower price, or at least at a price that in no way accounts for the additional cost of holding and storing stock for multiple years.

bordeauxboxes

Come to our New York shop now, or browse our Bordeaux selection here, and you’ll find a very strong selection of fairly priced Bordeaux that are full mature and perfect for drinking tonight. Many of these were recently acquired directly from negociants in Bordeaux, who either sourced the wines from the Chateau’s own library of stock, or were keeping it in their own cellars under perfect conditions. These are wines that have aged remarkably well, and always seem to drink better than bottles of the same wine that first came into the U.S. back when they were first released and have since bounced around the country in the secondary market. The simple fact is that nobody knows how to store Bordeaux as well as the Bordelais themselves, and that in any case the less wine moves around the happier it is.

Sometimes you can find cheaper examples of the same wine scattered throughout the country, but in those cases you can never be sure of provenance, and even when the wine has been stored properly by U.S. collectors, it just never seems as young and as fresh as examples direct from Bordeaux. (Partly this may be explained by the fact that many of these wines were first released in an era when they were not reliably shipped to the U.S. in refrigerated containers.)

In any case, pricing for these “direct” Bordeaux can be really good. Let’s take one of my favorite wines, Cantemerle, from the 2000 vintage. Back in 2001, Sherry Lehmann offered that wine as a future for $17/bottle. I remember being sorely tempted. So let’s imagine an alternate universe where I succumbed to that temptation and purchased a bottle for $17 and drank it tonight.

How much did that wine really cost me? Well, to store the wine professionally since 2003, when I would taken possession of the wine, would have cost approximately $45. So we are up to $62. Plus, there is the time value of money.  Instead of spending that $17 I could have purchased a tax free muni bond and earned interest of probably 3% per year. That adds another $10 to the cost of the bottle, and we are up to $72, or maybe $75 once you consider your storage company’s “in and out” fees and so forth.

Well, we were able to recently acquire this exact wine from a negociant who had been storing it under perfect conditions in Bordeaux. Our price for the wine?  $69.99.  With a case discount (that $17 futures price was only available if you purchased a whole case), you’re looking at $63. It’s quite a bargain. And an extremely delicious bottle of wine, by the way.

Here’s a list of other recent “direct” acquisitions (as of May 30):

Château Beauséjour, Saint-Émilion, 2004   $59.99
Château Beauséjour-Becot, Saint-Émilion, 1996   $109.99
Château Grand Mayne, Saint-Émilion, 1998  $74.99
Château Grand Mayne, Saint-Émilion, 1996  $52.99
Château Phelan-Ségur, Saint-Estèphe, 1996  $74.99
Château Phelan-Ségur, Saint-Estèphe, 1995  $74.99
Château Clerc-Milon, Pauillac, 1999  $122.99
Château Lagrange, Saint-Julien, 2001  $87.99
Château Lagrange, Saint-Julien, 1996  $104.99
Château Boyd-Cantenac, Margaux, 1990   $99.99
Château Boyd-Cantenac, Margaux, 2000   $89.99
Château Giscours, Margaux, 1999  $89.99
Château Malescot-St-Exupéry, Margaux, 2001  $77.99
Château Malescot-St-Exupéry, Margaux, 1999  $89.99
Château Cantemerle, Haut-Medoc, 1999  $57.99
Château Cantemerle, Haut-Médoc, 2000   $69.99
Château Cantemerle, Haut-Médoc, 2001   $52.99
Château Cantemerle, Haut-Médoc, 2005   $59.99 
Château La Lagune, Haut-Medoc, 1995  $89.99

This stock is all New York stock, but Californians watch this space, as many of the same wines will soon be arriving in California.

La Torre 2012

“If you love elegant, age-worthy Sangiovese, then stock your wine cellar with 2012 Brunello di Montalcino.” – Kerin O’Keefe

latorre

We’ve had a few Brunellos from the classic 2012 vintage and by now you’ve hopefully had a chance to try a bottle. If so, you see why we (and Kerin O’Keefe and other Brunello experts) are so excited about the vintage. It’s not a massive vintage like glories past—2010 or 2001. It’s not a ripe vintage like 2007 or 1997. Instead, it is utterly classic in just the way that Sangiovese wants to be, interweaving Brunello’s generous fruit with nervosity, ethereality, and savory notes. It’s surprisingly approachable (the acidity really helps), but also with the structure and balance to age effortlessly.

In short: 2012 is a killer vintage.

So we couldn’t be more excited to present one of our very favorite producers, a wine that has been on our shelves since the day we opened: La Torre’s 2012 Brunello di Montalcino.

The thing to know about La Torre is that it resides in a slightly different neighborhood. The classic houses, like Biondi-Santi, cluster in the village of Montalcino, proper. La Torre is five miles to the south in the DOC’s highest corner, where the Sangiovese ripens slowly and evenly, often ready for harvest only in October.

La Torre’s style is really attractive. It offers the warming caress of any great Brunello, but also goes long on Brunello’s savory side. It has Brunello’s classic profile of “wild cherries,” but here the cherries seem extra wild. It’s always a giving wine, fine to drink young, a rare treat to drink old.

And older Le Torre is both rare and a treat. This Brunello is definitely in that special category of wines that you just have to cellar yourself: they don’t make much and it doesn’t trade at auctions, so this is your change to stock up.

La Torre, Brunello di Montalcino, 2012 

Top Five Steak Wines

Grilling season is now upon us, and a good grilled steak is just about the only excuse you need in warmer weather to open up a big red wine. But some red wines work with steak better than others.  Here is a top 5 list, in no particular order:

steakwines

1.  Brunello di Montalcino.  Anyone who has had Steak Florentine in Tuscany knows that Sangiovese is the perfect partner for steak, and Brunello is the grandest and noblest Sangiovese. Keep it on the young side, to ensure good fruit vigor and lively tannins. Consider giving your steak full Tuscan treatment: cook it rare but with a crusty exterior (which should be coated in salt, pepper and if you like some minced rosemary or sage), and then dress the sliced steak with salt, olive oil and a squeeze of lemon.

My choice:  Lisini, Brunello di Montalcino, 2012 ($56.99)

2.  Argentinian Malbec. No, our shop is not known for its Malbecs and the category isn’t my favorite in general, as far too many are made in a glossy, international style. But there are some made honestly and traditionally and they are simply perfect for the rich steak culture of Argentina.  The best have voluptuous red fruit, gentle spice and velvety tannins that are harmonious with beef.

My choice:  Carmelo Patti, Malbec, 2013 ($29.99)

3.   Ribera del Duero.  If you’ve read Bill Bufford’s great Heat, you know that the great beef of Tuscany actually comes from Spain. This has been confirmed by my own experience eating a gorgeous steak in Valladolid, the vibrant city that lies just at the western end of Ribera del Duero. The local wine was served, and as much as I associate these wines with lamb, it turns out it’s also a pretty great steak wine.

My choice:  Pesquera, Ribera del Duero Reserva, 2012 ($49.99)

4.  Right Bank Bordeaux.  No, don’t drink “clarets” or old Bordeaux with steak — save those for more subtle meat preparations like braises or roasts.  For your steak, open up some fleshy young Merlot from St. Emilion, Pomerol or, to save a little cash, Fronsac. It’s got those same Malbec-like tannins that are round and velvety, seemingly designed with steak in mind. I would look at vintages like 2004, 2006, 2009, and 2012.

My choice: Chateau Valois, Pomerol, 2012 ($54.99)

5.  California Cabernet.  I’m saving the easy one for last. Go to any American steak house and you’ll see that the wine list is filled with Cali Cabs. It’s a classic. Be careful, as it’s really easy to over-pay for some new-fangled brand just because it got a high score in a glossy magazine. To be safe, stick with classics, like my choice below.

My choice:  Heitz, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2012 ($57.99)

Amiot-Servelle

amiot
Amiot-Servelle has great holdings in Chambolle-Musigny, including some lovely village plots and vines in Les Charmes and Les Amoureuses. (not to mention Clos St. Denis). We recently had the chance to taste some ‘13s, ‘14s and as-yet-unreleased 2015s.

Our lesson? The Domaine is doing great work! The wines are fresh and pure with beautiful fruit and terroir-specific aromatics.

Their plot of Bourgogne Rouge is just across the RN from the heart of Chambolle-Musigny. It has seductive aromatics that, like all great baby-Chambolles, hint at the village’s classic perfume and elegance. But the soils are deeper and the wine is already a pleasure to drink, more fruit-focused than the village wine with charmingly rustic tannins and lovely transparency.

The Bourgogne Blanc is at the southern end of the appellation. It has that wonderful 2014 white burg balance of great fruit and fine, fresh structure. Burghound wrote, “there is good freshness to the delicious, round and saline-inflected flavors.”

These are delicious now but will improve with a little bottle age. We will drink some now but save a few to drink over the next few years, and to encourage you to do the same.

Musso

Piedmont is still, slowly, climbing its way into the ranks of great wine regions. It’s a fun moment. There are still plenty of discoveries to be made. This is especially true in Barbaresco, a DOC with a remarkable number of small producers who make fabulous wines that only intermittently make their way over to the U.S. Why bother with exporting when you can sell everything you make to local restaurants?

An example is Musso. Small and off-the-radar, Musso has only six hectares of vineyards in the DOC of Barbaresco. What they do have are well situated, as they lie entirely within the Crus of Rio Sordo and Pora. They have been bottling their own Barbarescos since the 1930s.

mussobottles

One of our trusted sources in Italy came across some older bottles from Musso and recommended them to us. Their arrival several months later felt a bit like Christmas: it is always a pleasure to open up those boxes to see what’s inside. In this case, it was several gorgeous-looking bottles of very mature Barbaresco.

Musso was entirely new to me. I inquired with friends who know more about this stuff than I do, and nobody knew these wines. Kerin O’Keefe had written them up in her great book on Barolo and Barbaresco, which was a good sign, but there was not much detail. There was only one way to learn: open some bottles.

We had a 1967, a 1979 and a 1982. The 79 and 82 were labeled “Rio Sordo” and the 1967 labeled “Riserva”. We stood them up in a cold cellar for several days, and then opened the bottles several hours before dinner. A quick taste suggested healthy bottles.

Kerin’s book says that Musso is a traditional producer who uses, for example, only large Slavonian casks to age the wines. These details are important, of course, but often not relevant when drinking older wines. Back in 1982 and 1979 only a tiny handful of producers in Piedmont — and possibly only Gaja in Barbaresco — were employing anything but large casks. In 1967 nobody was. I applaud Musso for maintaining this tradition, but that didn’t tell us much about the wines we would be drinking that night.

We started old, and poured the 1967. The bottle was in excellent shape, with a long ethereal feeling and even a touch of sappy fruit that belied its old age. Not a life-changer, but an elegant, harmonious wine and an awfully successful showing for a 50 year-old Barbaresco!

1979 is a shadow vintage. 1978 got all the hype but 1979s are almost as good and nobody ever paid attention. So it’s a vintage that’s undervalued in the market place and you should usually pick them up when you see them.  The Musso 1979 was another great bottle of wine. Rio Sordo is known to be a bit rustic and gamey, and of the three bottles, the 1979 showed that the most.

Last up was 1982, easily the most famous of the three vintages. This was higher volume and more vigorous wine. Not quite youthful, but certainly not old — like it’s picking up a few white hairs, but in a dignified sort of way. There was that gamey quality of the 79, but also that sappy fruit of the 67, merging together most splendidly.

Drinking these wines made me draw comparisons to other wine regions. When was the last time you drank great 30-50 year old Bordeaux from a producer you’ve never heard of?  Or even a Burgundy?  It almost never happens. Anyone making wine back then in those regions has been discovered and written about, over and over again. But Piedmont still has so many mysteries — both past and present — to reveal.