96 Giacosa Rabajà, 90 Struzziero Taurasi, 82 Antinori Chianti Classico, holy crap

From the department of “that’s what friends are for”…

Lots of good folks came out last night to share well wishes and good thoughts on my last visit to Los Angeles and Sotto for the year.

Schachter pulled out all the stops, reaching deep into his cellar for his last bottle of 1996 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Rabajà (white label) — honestly one of the best bottle of wine I’ve ever had. True to the legacy of the Rabajà cru, this mighty wine — from what many believe to be the greatest vintage of that decade — delivered aromas of mint and tar and earthy, savory flavors before revealing delicate, sublime fruit…

Keep smiling, keep shining, knowing you can always count on me, for sure.

Later in the evening, Anthony, Lars (who was in from Chicago), and Dan came in for a late-night dinner at the end of my shift.

Dan brought a number of incredible bottles, including the 1990 Taurasi Riserva by Struzziero (classic blended Aglianico with no vineyard designation). I’d only ever tasted Struzziero back to 1993 (which we have on the list at Sotto) and I was blown away by the elegance and the balance of this wine, still so fresh and with the vibrant acidity that traditional Aglianico can deliver. Another best-ever wine, with gorgeous ripe red fruit and an ethereal earthiness that prompted Lars and me to call this top wine in the flight.

And now there’s so much more I see, And so by the way I thank you.

Although no show-stopper like the Struzziero Taurasi, the 1982 Chianti Classico Riserva by Antinori was fantastic — a wine, we all agreed, from a time before America, California, and Parker, a wine from a time when Antinori still made wine. Classic Sangiovese, with impressive acidity for a wine this old and delicious plum and red stone fruit flavor. It was a fantastic pairing for the sous-vide Wagyū tongue that chef Steve sent over to our table. Loved this wine and the now forgotten era of Tuscan winemaking for which it spoke to me.

My goodness… From my baby shower to all the hugs that the staff gave me before we said good-bye, from the camaraderie, solidarity, and thrilling wines to the wishes that our friends shared with me on this last trip to Los Angeles… I know that I never would have emerged from the darkness of my life before to reach this magical, blessed moment… what a year it’s been… someday I’ll tell Baby P all about it…

Oh and then for the times when we’re apart, well then close your eyes and know, the words are coming from my heart.

Wineries named in Brunello investigation


The server that hosts VinoWire is having problems today and so I’m unable to post there but I will do a detailed post asap.

Today’s Florence edition of the Italian national daily La Repubblica reports the names of the seven wineries investigated in the Brunello inquiry, dubbed by Italian authorities, “Operazione Mixed Wine” or “Operation Mixed Wine.” The five that were found by the Italian Treasury Department to have bottled wine “not in conformity with appellation regulations” are: Antinori, Argiano, Banfi, Casanova di Neri, and Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi. According to the article, Biondi Santi and Col d’Orcia were also investigated by were cleared by investigators of any wrongdoing.

Par condicio: Pian delle Vigne 2003 sample sampled

Par condicio is a Latin expression used historically by the Italian legislature and subsequently by the Italian media to denote, among other things, “equal [air] time” for Italian political candidates (it’s modeled after the expression par condicio creditorum or as per agreement with creditors).* It’s an Italian political campaign convention much criticized by the hegemonic Forza Italia (Go Italy!) party and its leader Silvio Berlusconi, who happens to own and control a majority stake in Italian national television — private and public. (Silvio made The New York Times today for his prudish — yes, prudish! — attitudes. See below.)

When my buddy Lance invited me to attend an Antinori tasting over at Wine House in West LA, I felt a sense of moral obligation to swirl, sniff, savor, and spit. In particular, I was curious to taste the 2003 Pian delle Vigne, Antinori’s controversial, once-impounded, and now-cleared 2003 Brunello. (See this recent interview with Antinori winemaker Renzo Cotarella here.)

Anyone who reads my blog knows that I am not a fan of modern-style Brunello and frankly, Pian delle Vigne is not a wine that I drink. But in the spirit of “fair and balanced” coverage, I am compelled to report that, judging from the color of the wine and its flavors and aromas, it was 100% Sangiovese (see the bright, clear color of the wine in the photo above). And although it was wooded, it did taste like Brunello: frankly, I found it to be more traditional-leaning than other bottlings of Pian delle Vigne. In all fairness, it’s a very well made wine.

One question remains, however: why were we tasting hand-labeled “samples” of the 2003 Brunello when the wine was presented in the U.S. as early as January 2008 with printed Antinori labels? There are certainly bottles of 2003 Pian delle Vigne in this country — many undoubtedly shipped before the April controversy, when Siena authorities impounded the wine. The wine has since been “cleared” by the Siena magistrate (as has Banfi’s, as of yesterday). So, why the need for “samples”? Food for thought…

Americans continue to adore Antinori’s wines and gauging from the stampede for the Guado al Tasso, Solaia, and Tignanello last night, the Marquis has not suffered from the recent Brunello controversy. It’s remarkable how much wine he makes and in how many regions. I had no idea, for example, that he makes a nice Franciacorta (Montenisa) and I was really impressed by his La Brancesca 2006 Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Santa Pia, traditional in style, for under $40 retail.

In other news…

Separatist Italian agriculture minister Luca Zaia approves bag-in-box packaging for DOC wines. See this report.

In other other news…

Tiepolo’s titties tethered by Italian chieftain in “The Truth Unveiled by Time” tela!!!

In an unusual act of prudish countenance, the Berlusconi government ordered the nipples in Tiepolo’s “The Truth Unveiled by Time” covered. The painting appears in the backdrop of the Italian prime minister’s press conferences. See this report in The New York Times.

* “One of the cardinal principles governing the liquidation of insolvent estates is the equal treatment of creditors—the classical par condicio creditorum. Debtors on the eve of bankruptcy, either of their own volition or under pressure, may accord preferential treatment—by way of payment or security—to certain creditors.”

Source: “bankruptcy.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2008. Encyclopædia Britannica Online.

Breaking (good) news: Antinori’s 03 Brunello released by Italian authorities

It’s not entirely clear what went on “behind the scenes” but Marchesi Antinori has become the first Brunello producer — of the 5 officially known to be suspected of adulteration — to announce that its 2003 Brunello will be available for sale as early as next week. Read the whole story at VinoWire.

Although the question of when Brunello producers will be given “guarantee” letters by the Italian government remains unclear (nor is it clear which arm of the government will issue said letter, now required by the U.S. government for Brunello imports), the news of Antinori’s green light seems to be a very positive step in the right direction.

I, for one, am very relieved to see that the Brunello controversy is beginning to subside and I look forward to drinking 03 Brunello by all of my favorite producers.

In other news…

Above: Grilled Mahi Mahi tacos and 1989 Lopez de Heredia Viña Tondonia at my favorite taco shack, Bahia Don Bravo, in Bird Rock (La Jolla), CA. Click on image for centerfold.

I finally convinced my favorite taco shack to let me bring my own wine: last night Irwin and I opened 1989 Lopez de Heredia Viña Tondonia (white) with our grilled Mahi Mahi tacos. Irwin was really blown away by the Lopez de Heredia, noting that “there’s nothing about this wine that I don’t like.” It was showing very well, with nice acidity, nuanced fruit, and judicious alcohol — perfectly balanced.

Bahia was packed last night and we were lucky to find a table for two. Irwin really dug the Viña Tondonia, saying that it was “the best white wine I’ve ever had.” I have to say that it is one of my all-time best white wines, too.

We also drank a 2003 Vignalta Gemola, a Bordeaux-style blend made in the Euganean Hills outside Padua, where Petrarch spent the last years of his life compiling and editing his life’s work. It didn’t show as well as other bottles I’ve opened.

Bahia Don Bravo
5504 La Jolla Blvd
La Jolla, CA 92037
(858) 454-8940