Welcome to The Spirit Haus, Amherst's Specialty Beverage Center

Tomorrow we taste two Vernaccia, one Tuscan from San Gimignano and then a strange and exciting, oxidative one from the western side of Sardinia. And then, on our way to a Nebbiolo Langhe and two Baroli before finishing with a sandy soil Garnacha from a western appendage of the Madrid denominacion, we will sample two delicious “little” local, organically farmed trattoria wines with rustic hints from soil and variety. Like last week's all French except for one, this week we are all Italian except for one.

Back in 1634, Michelangelo wrote that the white wine made from the Vernaccia di San Gimignano grape “kisses, licks, bites, slaps and stings” akin in fashion to a wine writer today saying of good Vernaccia di San Gimignano that it both sates and piques the appetite by balancing its mild fruity character with a slight vegetable bitterness, like a hint of radicchio or endive. Tomorrow's Vernaccia di San Gimignano is the 2016 from Montenidoli [$19.99] which we have had on our racks for about ten months. It is from organically farmed grapes, is fermented on the skins and remains a wine of energy and activity in the mouth. However, it will probably feel tame when compared tomorrow with the Silvio Carta's Vernaccia del Tirso [$23.99], a local Sardinian grape either introduced by the Phoenicians or cultivated from wild vines of the Tirso Valley, a smidgen inland from the sleepy coastal town of Oristano where the Corte family has lived for generations. Their oxidative style, dry and minerally, with a nutty note, will immediately bring Manzanilla sherry to mind. Forty year old bush vines in sandy soils, native yeasts, brought up in 90 year old chestnut barrels filled only about 2/3 of the way to allow the protective flor to develop. What a difference this upbringing makes. The wine is amazingly fresh...

It is so tempting to include a red wine from the Marche made from the Vernaccia Nero grape just because of the name! And yet, the ampelographers, those botanists concerned with identifying and classifying grape vines, say all these Vernacci are not related. Instead, we are left turning to etymologists who say the root of the name Vernaccia translates to “vernacular,” and can thus apply to any local grape. But instead of revolutionary DNA studies, wouldn't you prefer following names where ever they may lead. Is it not much more fun to track one's mother's maiden name to the MacKenzie castle of Eilean Donan on the Scottish coast near Skye than to purchase a 23andMe?

For tomorrow though no Vernaccia Nero. Instead we will taste two wines from Project Fuso21, a noble attempt to search for and bottle the best of Italy's daily drinkers – wines that one would find in a memorable local trattoria or wine bar. All use organically farmed grapes, native yeasts and are fermented in cement or steel. Keeping true to wine quotidian everydayness, deliciousness is favored over complexity and polish. If a bit of rusticity seeps in, that is because it is in the vernacular. These do not speak the Queen's English.

We taste Fuso Vino Rosso 2016 [$14.99], a Piemonte Barbera and Brusco Sangiovese Toscano 2017 [$16.99], from estate fruit of Chianti Classico producer Villa del Cigliano. “Brusco” is Tuscan dialect for “a person or thing that is off the cuff and a bit rough but genuine through and through.” The Fuso Rosso we carried a couple years ago. The Brusco Sangiovese is new to us last month.

A new vintage of Guidobono's Langhe Nebbiolo [$14.99], the 2017, farmed following the European Union's integrated farming practices is our fifth wine and direct passage to Cavallotto's 2011 Barolo Bricco Boschis [$49.99] and Barolo Riserva Vignolo 2008 [$109.99; sale price tomorrow 20% discount = $88]. The Cavallotto Winery sits atop the unique, contiguous 25 hectare Bricco Boschis Estate in Castiglione Falletto which has been owned by the family since 1928. They released the first bottling of their own Barolo in 1948. In addition to the “basic” Bricco Boschis Barolo, they bottle two single Cru Baroli, the Vigna San Giuseppe from a sheltered, south-west hilltop amphitheater and the Riserva Vignolo from a steep, south-west facing hillside. [We have a bit of both Crus from 2008 available.] They are wonderful examples of a traditionally styled Barolo based on superb, organic farming practices. Vintage 2008 Crus were bottled in 2014. Here are reviews of the Baroli:

Cavallotto – Barolo Bricco Boschis 2011 Castiglione Falletto

Antonio Galloni, Vinous, December 2015: The 2011 Barolo Bricco Boschis is super-finessed and silky in the glass. Freshly cut flowers, rose petal, mint and cinnamon all give the 2011 an attractive upper register. The 2011 is a bit forward, which, along with its mid-weight structure, suggests it is best enjoyed over the next decade or so. Drink: 2016 – 2026. 91 points.

Wine Spectator, Sept 2015: is elegant, exhibiting rose and cherry flavors, with hints of tar, earth and underbrush. The supple texture is offset by the fine grip of tannins. Fresh and youthful, presenting a lingering aftertaste of mineral. Best from 2018 through 2033. 2,000 cases made. 93 points. –BS

Cavallotto – Barolo Riserva Vignolo 2008

Antonio Galloni. Vinous, August 2014: Sweet, silky and exceptionally well-balanced, the 2008 Barolo Riserva Vignolo is all about texture and harmony. Floral notes meld into dark red stone fruits, plums, cinnamon, tobacco and orange peel. Today the aromas are quite closed, the result of the recent bottling, but all the elements are in place for the 2008 to develop into a gorgeous Barolo. Here, it is the wine's purity above all else that is striking. With time in the glass, the aromas start to gradually open up, releasing an incredibly expressive array of floral and savory overtones. There is so much to look forward to. Drink: 2018 – 2038. 94+ pts.

Wine Spectator,April 2015: A rich, dense version, with power and beefy tannins supporting the cherry, wild herb, eucalyptus and tea notes. This is tight and bursting with latent energy, so give it more time. Shows excellent length and resonance on the finish, which hints at the ultimate potential here. Best from 2018 through 2036. 692 cases made. 97 points. –BM

For our eighth and final wine, we jump to Spain with Bernabeleva's 2014 Arroyo del Tortolas [$36.99], a single vineyard Garnacha wine from sandy and decomposed granite soils thatproduce a uniquely styled, beautifully aromatic and almost elegant Garnacha. We have two less expensive wines from Bernabeleva which are good values: the basic 2016 Camino de Navaherreos [$15.99] and the 2015 Navaherreros Garnacha [[$22.99], a selection of old vine fruit. The Arroyo del Tortolas is, however, very special. If there is any fine grained tannin left on your tongues from the Cavallottos, the fruit of the Garnacha will sweep it away.

Bernabeleva – Arroyo del Tórtolas 2014

Luis Guitierrez, Wine Advocate, June 2017: The single vineyard Garnacha 2014 Arroyo del Tórtolas reminded me of the outstanding 2012. This is always sourced from a north-facing slope at 800 meters altitude that always has a slower ripening. And, in 2014, it seems to have ripened to perfection as the nose is explosive, and the palate has supreme elegance, very fine tannins and focused, clean and delineated flavors with refined tannins and a very lengthy finish. This is a little headier, developing more notes of cherries in liqueur that transported me to the best wines of Châteauneuf du Pape. This is super tasty... The Château Rayas of Bernabeleva? At this price, it's a steal! 2,200 bottles produced. Drink: 2017-2024. 94 points.

We begin at 2 pm. with cheese, salami and a baguette accompanying. The paid portion of our tasting will be $7.

Thank you so much for your time and interest. Tomorrow's tasting should prove especially interesting.


Cavallotto Barolo Bricco Boschis 2011

we 95 ws 93

The 2011 vintage was a vintage of extremes; one that showed two radically different faces at different parts of the year. Until the 7 August, the vintage was cooler than normal with the exception of 5 days of heat at Easter which led to a very even bud break. After the 10th of August it was hot and dry thru October. Our Barolo Bricco Boschis shows the perfume and generosity of fruit & flowers (raspberries, cherries and roses) that come from the heat at the end of the season, but with a foundation of cool-vintage acid and tannins that give this wine both its structure and potential longevity. This is a wine that can be enjoyed earlier than other vintages, but has the complexity and structure to reward several years of cellaring. Long, dry and precisely focused finish. Notes on Matching with Food: The wine is best with second courses of red meat, simply grilled or roasted. Also good with hard and aged cheeses. It can also be enjoyed as a "vino da meditazione" (a wine for meditiation) by iteslf.



Cavallotto Barolo Riserva Vignolo 2008

ws 97 we 95

This harmonious, full-bodied wine has an intense ruby red hue that, with age, changes to a deep garnet. Intense and fruity on the nose, it shows aromas of tobacco and liquorice with undertones of red fruit jam, dry roses, and violets. On the palate it is dry, warm, and supple with sweet and rounded tannins. Overall a well-balanced wine with a long finish.