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Ascheri, I’m in love

[vineyard]Ascheri 2004 Langhe Montalupa Viognier (Piedmont) – Already fraying at the edges a bit. It’s varietally true, in that there’s sticky-floral apricot with hints of dry honey, but with more clay-like minerality showing through than this heady, often lurid grape will usually allow. But it’s a bit gauzy, and you’ll want to drink it a few months ago. (12/08)

Ascheri before dinner

[vineyard]Ascheri 2005 Langhe Arneis (Piedmont) – The expected chalk soda texture is here, but what dominates is whitewashed minerality and semi-desiccated apple; it’s a striking expression of grape and place that simply won’t be ignored. Delicious. (10/08)

Vajra phage

[vineyards]Vajra 2006 Langhe Rosso (Piedmont) – The aromatics are a mixture of elegantly floral and fruit-sprightly, hued dark-purple, with a bite of fine acidity and a very appealing nature, especially with food. An absurdly good value. (7/08)

Sito Corleone

Gaja 2004 Langhe “Sito Moresco” (Piedmont) – Less delicious than a year ago, still tasting of very expensive wood ground into the finest particulate texture, but with the smooth, balancing fruit starting to erode. It continues to caress the tongue, but there’s some fine-grained sandpaper newly entered into the caress. The near future of this wine is wood, wood, and more wood, so the remaining hope is that it comes out the other end with some interesting fruit to match the arboreal sensations. (5/08)

Solea flare

[bottle]Roagna 2001 Langhe “Solea” (Piedmont) – A blend of chardonnay and nebbiolo. Yes, that’s right. And it’s a white wine, too. Exotic red fruit aromatics (plus strawberry and red cherry) and fat peach encased in a cylinder of acidity…there’s chardonnay at the exterior of this wine, but the core is all nebbiolo. It’s structured and a heck of a lot of fun, though I wonder if it might be more enjoyable for blind-tasting games than it is a surpassing use of the raw materials. (1/08)

Vajra infection

Vajra 2006 Langhe Rosso (Piedmont) – Simple and beautiful, which is not someone one can often say about nebbiolo (which usually requires complexity to achieve beauty), and one of the best bargain bottlings of this sometimes difficult grape. It’s floral and suggests, more than actually delivers, a passel of red berries, with a light chomp of tannin and a firm, spinal acidity. A party wine for wine geeks, though it does even better with food. (12/07)

Vajra marketing

Vajra 2000 Langhe Freisa “Kyè” (Piedmont) – Upon ordering, the sommelier suggests that the wine is closed (thus initiating the elaborate decanting ritual described above), and he’s right…this gets markedly better as the evening progresses. Grapey and purple, but quite firm, showing berries and black dirt with a gritty, almost angry complexity. The acidity is fine-grained and precise, though a bit sharp until the wine begins to unfold. Ultimately very pretty and versatile (in its response to different accompaniments), with plenty of development yet to come.

The Gaja hypothesis

[angelo gaja]Gaja 2004 Langhe “Sito Moresco” (Piedmont) – Nebbiolo, merlot & cabernet sauvignon. Maybe. Whatever it’s made from, a more overtly sexualized wine can scarcely be imagined. The fruit (mostly berries and spice) is velvety, rich, luxurious and utterly seductive, and what structure remains is softened and lotioned and polished to virtual invisibility, though it’s important to note that it isn’t actually absent. As I said: sexy, though in an obvious, impossible-to miss way. I wouldn’t be surprised to find that this wine had a pimp. Or, more appropriately, a high-class madam. Even though my natural inclination is to carp about the wine’s clearly internationalized intent, I find it absolutely impossible to dislike the wine. If all the goopy New World monstrosities were actually this good, I might have to reevaluate the genre. Unfortunately (or perhaps thankfully, depending on your vinous religion), they’re not. This, on the other hand, is spectacular. (9/07)

Phineas fog

[label]Ettore Germano 2005 Langhe Nebbiolo (Piedmont) – Uninspiring, with obvious and prosaic nebbiolo dominated by its tarry, rather than floral, side and very little promise of inner aromatics to come. The tannin is correspondingly dominant, though there’s plenty of acidity as well. More than a bit hollow. It needs age, certainly, but I’m not sure the result will ever be all that compelling, and balance will remain an area of concern. (9/07)

TN: Bass, baritone, alto, tenor

[vineyard]Aldo Conterno 1999 Langhe “Quartetto” (Piedmont) – Nebbiolo, barbera, cabernet sauvignon and merlot. Dense, structured, heavy and a little tedious. Graceful nebbiolo aromatics dance above the surface, but beneath are thick, somewhat anonymous black cherry, chocolate, thyme, toast and tar solids. The wine doesn’t lack acidity, but it seems unintegrated. As internationalized wines go, this is a good one. But I suspect the nebbiolo alone would have been better. (5/07)