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Announcement: tasting notes have permanently migrated elsewhere. This page and its sub-network will stand for a while, and will always be Google-accessible, but that's where the new action is and will be.

(NB: For purely arbitrary reasons, moscato d'Asti, brachetto d'Aqui and their ilk will be listed as sweet wines, while lambrusco will be considered a dry sparkling wine.)

s p a r k l i n g

Sorelle Bronca Prosecco di Valdobbiadene (Veneto) – Fun citrus and sweet flower nectar with grapefruit and ripe melon. Aromatic and succulent. Terrific prosecco. (4/06)

Bisol Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Crede Brut (Veneto) – Quite dry and unfriendly, showing mineral bitterness and strident tones of rindy citrus. I’m not sure if the wine is angry at me or I at it, but either way it’s not a worthwhile exchange of ideas. Or maybe it’s just too dry. (4/06)

Bisson 2004 Prosecco dei Colli Trevigiani (Veneto) – Bone-dry, perhaps excessively so, with a powdery, misty texture and the bitterness of citrus rinds. Severe. I almost like it, but in the end I think this would be improved with just a hint of residual sugar. (2/06)

Gibellini “Tenuta Pederzana” 2004 Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro (Emilia-Romagna) – Rough-hewn purple berry slushie, with zingy acidity, lip-staining tannin and a delightful froth of bubbles. Soda for adults…but adults who own a good toothbrush…and more fun every time I drink it. (12/05)

Negri’s Wine “Gelsomina” 2004 Lambrusco Mantovano (Lombardy) – Vivid, tooth-staining purple, with neon-enhanced tart blueberry and gritty red fruit, a great deal of berried acidity, and a mild tannic zing. Very lightly sweet, and lots of fun, but you’ll need to call your dentist afterwards. (11/05)

Canella Prosecco di Conegliano (Veneto) – Sweet, simple, effervescent and fruity. (11/05)

Ca’ de’ Medici “Terra Calda” (Emilia-Romagna) – A sparkling red wine with the profile of a good Lambrusco: purple grape soda and light-to-moderate tannin, dry and only half-fun (but that other half is not at all unpleasant). Interesting. Purple. “And what have we learned about ‘Terra Calda,’ Thor?” “Foamy!” (8/04)

w h i t e

Prà 2002 Soave Classico (Veneto) – Showing signs of maturity, as the softly perfumed fruit is stripped away in layers to reveal the soft, mineralized underbelly shot through with streaks of vivacious acidity. It’s not an aggressive wine by any means, but it’s both fuller and sharper than at release. This is at full maturity. (7/07)

Mastroberardino 2004 Greco di Tufo “NovaSerra” (Campania) – Surprisingly juicy. Ash-dusted green berries and whitewashed lemon are given lift by slick acidity. It’s a very tasty wine, but somehow seems to lack soul. Maybe age will help matters. (6/07)

Gravner 2001 Ribolla Gialla “Amfora” (Venezia Giulia) – Tannic, showing black cherry, mineral salts, and grey-white, chalky earth. (Note for the unclear: this is a white wine.) It’s long, with great balanced and structure; full-bodied and wonderful. A complex masterwork, though I suppose it’s worth noting that it tastes pretty much only of itself. Stunning. (5/07)

Clivi 2002 Collio Goriziano “Brazan” (Friuli) – Extremely austere and almost tasteless at first opening. As it airs, it develops (very slowly) a magisterial air, regal and refined, showing windblown mineral dust and a powerful crescendo of intensity. The basic error was mine: I should have decanted it for a half-day, at least. Possibly longer. But there’s every indication that this is a stunner, for anyone who can exhibit some patience. (5/07)

St. Michael-Eppan “Sanct Valentin” 2002 Sauvignon Blanc (Alto Adige) – Pure essence of sauvignon in all its green-hued glory. Torqued, Kermity and strong, with a mineral undercurrent and a biting skin-abraded finish. Classic. (5/07)

St. Michael-Eppan “Sanct Valentin” 2004 Sauvignon Blanc (Alto Adige) – Grass over rocks, with a firm structure dominating whitewashed fruit of balanced, subtle ripeness. The finish is persistent and columnar. Eminently solid. (4/07)

Fratelli Alessandria 2004 Langhe Favorita (Piedmont) – Trebly fruit with alpine flowers and light notions of mint; a refreshing mouthwash of prickly green-white juice with suggestions of cactus. A little simple, but good. (4/07)

Colterenzio “Prædium” 2005 Pinot Bianco Weisshaus (Alto Adige) – Stones, water, rocks, sun and gravel, with only the faintest hint of lime-flavored tonic to intrude on the geologic exhibit. Despite all this minerality, it’s somewhat soft on the midpalate. Call it Minerality Lite. (4/07)

Aia dei Colombi 2005 Guardia Sanframondi Falanghina (Campania) – Grasses, herbs, flowers and leaves; this is a garden shop with a misty humidity that dries around the edges. Focused and enticing. A very pleasant wine, with more available for the digging but no insistence on its own importance. (3/07)

La Colombera 2005 Colli Tortonesi Bricco Barolomeo (Piedmont) – Very dry, almost to the point of dustiness, with a low hum of grassy energy but a reticence about bursting forth into springlike growth. Crisply acidic. Somewhat submissive to food. (3/07)

Belisario 2005 Verdicchio di Matelica Terre di Valbona (Marches) – Mixed culinary herbs and grasses with green-stemmed citrus, pink grapefruit zest, tart tropical notes, and a nicely-balanced increase in weight and presence on the finish. For verdicchio, this is positively polished. But in a good way. (2/07)

San Giovanni “Kiara” 2005 Offida Pecorino (Marches) – Dense and unsupple, perhaps a bit like tasting a wall, with very slightly rotted stone fruit, cantaloupe and turmeric, then some biting, bitter nuts on the finish. It sounds bizarre, but it actually works…though the wine could definitely use some more acidity. The finish is somewhat abrupt. Interesting, though perhaps not immediately appealing. (2/07)

Coroncino 2004 Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi “Gaiospino” (Marches) – This wine has presence and style, but it also has a quite noticeable dollop of wood, and there’s just not enough other stuff to stand up to it. A little acid rears its head here, a tart melon there, a squirt of lemon spatters off the surface, but mostly this is a lightly- but over-oaked wine that just doesn’t bring much authentic pleasure. (1/07)

Podere Canneta 2005 Vernaccia di San Gimignano (Tuscany) – Intensely fresh, like green apples from a seaside tree, eaten while still attached to the tree. There’s a saltiness to the acidity, and the wine is vividly focused and sharp throughout. Very, very good. (1/07)

Lageder 2004 Pinot Bianco (Alto Adige) – Fine-ground rocks in a downy pillow, braced by crisp, lemon-apple acidity and showing fresh, lightly herbed grapefruit notes. As solid and basic as white wine can be. (12/06)

Gini 2004 Soave Classico La Frosca (Veneto) – This gives the strong impression of being not entirely dry, with cotton candy stone fruit and a light, squishy minerality. It’s a fun wine, but don’t look too closely, because there’s less there than meets the palate. (12/06)

St. Michael-Eppan 2004 Pinot Bianco Schulthauser (Alto Adige) – Austere in structure but organoleptically zingy. Waterfalls over chalk and granite cliffs; this tastes of the mountains more than it does of grapes. A fine, albeit fruitless, wine. (12/06)

Villa Bucci 2000 Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi “Riserva” (Marches) – Corked. (11/06)

Villa Bucci 2000 Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi “Riserva” (Marches) – Not corked, perhaps, but still not quite intact. Maybe mildly corked. There’s enough pleasantness here to render it drinkable – old hay, soft minerality, delicate yellow-tinged fruit – but it lacks the complexity and verve that usually marks this wine. (11/06)

Bisson 2001 Cinque Terre “Marea” (Liguria) – Slightly oxidative, but gorgeous, with pulverized moss-covered rocks in a wet stream, crystalline grapefruit rind and a white, cloud-like texture. Fully mature, I’d guess, though I don’t have enough experience with the wine to be absolutely certain. (11/06)

Pieropan 2004 Soave Classico (Veneto) – Very tight at first opening, and only coming into its fabulously brittle aromatic maturity with an hour of aeration. Mixed rocks and dried white flowers dominate this wine, which straddles some sort of line between Teutonic and Italian with flair and masculine style. (9/06)

Sella & Mosca 2004 Vermentino di Sardegna “La Cala” (Sardinia) – Wet garden vegetables and solid, albeit monolithic, yellow-green citrus. There’s a lot of heft and a not insignificant alcoholic presence here, which is slightly less than ideal for a flavorful but medium-bodied white wine. Still, the flavors are appealing. (9/06)

Banfi 2004 Pinot Grigio “San Angelo” (Tuscany) – Light lemon-grapefruit juice with a sticky, palate-deadening texture. Off-dry? This is cocktail wine, totally unsuitable for food, and just reeks of industrialism. (7/06)

Bucci 2004 Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore (Marches) – Fresh but lively, with citrus rind and a seashore quality carried on striking (yet balanced) acidity. It gets more complex on the finish, throwing flowers and exotic but very gentle spices into the mix. (7/06)

Dettori “Badde Nigolosu” 2004 Romangia Bianco (Sardinia) – 100% vermentino from a noted sub-region of the island, and our sommelière has definitely taken my encouragement towards the unusual literally. This wine is slightly cloudy, showing fat, spicy white melon and a powdery complexity on the palate that turns silky on the long finish. Like many Old World wines, it rises and falls in intensity proportional to the demands placed upon it by the accompanying food. Really, really interesting. (7/06)

Bucci 2004 Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore (Marches) – Fresh but intense pale citrus and seawater, kelp, mountain flowers and black licorice. A fascinating and complex wine, and a terrific bargain as well. (7/06)

Alois Lageder “Tòr Löwengang” 2004 Pinot Grigio Benefizium Porer (Alto Adige) – Clean mountain streams cascading through firm pillars of minerality and down a white granite cliff, and exploding in a fine mist over an orchard of ripe Bosc pears. Definitely not mass-market pinot grigio. (7/06)

Troiani “Fontaleoni” 2004 Vernaccia di San Gimignano Vinga Casanuova (Tuscany) – Surprisingly intense green fruit and lightly grassy notes with a touch of briny adhesion. It’s a touch awkward without food, but shines with it, showing a certain strength and fortitude (along with a decent wallop of well-integrated acid). (6/06)

Valdinera 2004 Roero Arneis (Piedmont) – Like especially vivid seltzer, this grabs one’s attention not with weight or concentration, but with a vivacious, dancing palate presence. But other than some light floral and citrus aromas, there’s not a whole lot of tactile substance here, rendering the wine more exciting than satisfying. It’s refreshing enough with restrained cuisine…but just don’t expect too much, otherwise. (6/06)

Villa Bucci 2001 Verdicchio dei Castelli dei Jesi “Riserva” (Marches) – More restrained than a previous bottle, at least at first, with a mélange of airy nuts, seeds and leaves only emerging from the oak’s dampening effect after a good deal of aeration. When they do, the wine shows rich, swirling complexities involving dried stone fruits, lightly-buttered whole wheat toast and freshly-ground grain; all silken-textured and ever-emergent. (5/06)

Goracci “Tenuta Roccaccia” 2004 Bianco di Pitigliano “Superiore” (Tuscany) – Light, flighty, slightly bitter and ultimately tilting away from pleasurable towards insipid. The dandelions and lemon are nice, but one would like a little more. Or at least I would I can’t always speak for “one.” (5/06)

Guido Cocci Grifoni “Podere Colle Vecchio” 2000 Marches Bianco (Marches) – Acidic butter. Something went wrong with this particular bottle, according to the person who brought it. (4/06)

Lageder “Tòr Löwengang” 2004 Pinot Bianco Haberlehof (Alto Adige) – Striking red apple skin and dark iron minerality, firm and Teutonic with splashes of crisp and intense ripe fruit. Very, very good. (4/06)

Villa Bucci 2001 Verdicchio dei Castelli dei Jesi “Riserva” (Marches) – Intense seaside stones and salt-kissed greenery with a vivid citrus-melon core, under a softening and lightly spicy gauze (from the oak). An extremely elegant, sophisticated wine, though it is a bit less food-friendly than normal verdicchio as a result. (3/06)

Lageder 2004 Moscato Giallo Vogelmeier (Alto Adige) – Minerals and lime-flavored rocks, with a pristine, rock-formation structure dressed up with a little muscat perfume. (3/06)

Goracci Rossano & Danilo “Tenuta Roccaccia” 2004 Bianco di Pitigliano “Superiore” (Tuscany) – Pretty lemon flower and lightly crystalline structure; there’s light shining through this wine. It hints at, but never entirely achieves, greater weight. (3/06)

Mayr-Nusser “Nusserhof” Blaterle Tafelwein (Alto Adige) – Non-vintage table wine (for what reason I’m not clear, though it appears to have something to do with the “authorities” not wanting to recognize this wine), showing mixed leaves and saline minerality, but a harsh, acrid sort of imbalance. I want to like it, because many of the elements I like in mountain whites are here, but I just don’t. Too many rough edges. (3/06)

Lageder 2004 Moscato Giallo Vogelmeier (Alto Adige) – Brilliant, perfumed muscat with the added complexity of a cool, crystalline mineral core. Faceted and pretty, yet slightly sterner than many muscats, and very, very well done. (1/06)

Bisson “Ü Pastine” 2003 Golfo del Tigullio Bianchetta Genovese (Liguria) – Spring-like stems and bursting white flowers with a pollinated and swamp-rush sort of sun-drenched vegetal fetidity. It’s yummy, but strange, and turns monotone with the wrong food. Something light and retiring is in order here, I think. (1/06)

Bisson 2003 Cinque Terre “Marea” (Liguria) – Rushing mountain waterfalls full of minerality and midsummer bursts of ripe green fruit. 2003 has rendered this wine slightly less unique, but more fun to drink; a fair tradeoff, though I wouldn’t want to make it every year. (12/05)

Lageder “Tòr Löwengang” 2004 Pinot Bianco Haberlehof (Alto Adige) – Stunning, intense and pure. Dried white winter fruit ground to a micropowder, with powerful glacial minerality and a long, vibrant finish. Really amazing. (12/05)

Zaccagnini 2004 Colline Pescaresi “il bianco di Ciccio” (Abruzzi) – Vivid, ripe green leaves and wood-smoked minerality. Intense and somewhat neon, with a powerful backpalate and a forceful, balanced finish. (12/05)

Dama del Rovere 2004 Soave Classico Tremenalto (Veneto) – Fuzzy and indistinct at first glance, but opening up with air and rising temperature to show pulverized dried white flowers and dusty, chalky earth with hints of lightly tart grapefruit and a buzzing texture. The alcohol sticks out a bit, but it’s a nice enough wine. (12/05)

Abbazia di Novacella 2004 Sylvaner Valle Isarco (Alto Adige) – Tomato and cucumber salad, intense and somewhat alcoholic with almost soupy minerals (more positive than it sounds) and liquefied leaves. Actually, despite what appears to be an unappetizing description, this wine is quite striking (aside from the mild heat). (11/05)

Clelia Romano 1997 Fiano di Avellino Colli di Lapio (Campania) – Sweet coconut, creamed hazelnut, and roasted almonds with big, rocky minerality and stones dressed with lemon rind. Turns to dried apple on the finish. Quite nice, if a touch past fully mature; it seems a bit fragile. (4/05)

Ansitz Waldgries 2003 Weissburgunder di Terlano “Riol” (Alto Adige) – A fun choice, showing hefty water-over-stone qualities with a sweetly ripe apple aroma. Short, but enjoyable. (4/05)

St. Michel-Eppan 2003 “Sanct Valentin” Sauvignon (Alto Adige) – While the previous wine was marked, but not ruined, by an overly hot vintage, this wine has been destroyed by…I don’t know what. A failed attempt to avoid overripeness by picking early, maybe? Cat pee and ripe peas, hot and steamy minerals (like a natural spa without all the sulfur), and shockingly goopy. What an amazing disappointment from this usually-terrific wine! (4/05)

Bastianich 2001 “Vespa Bianco” (Friuli) – Crushed seashells on a windy salt beach, graceful and intense and ever-expanding on the finish. Quite impressive. (4/05)

Donnafugata 2003 “Anthìlia” (Sicily) – A blend of ansonica and catarratto. Turned on yet? It’s got clumsy green grass and hot, alcoholic aromatics. Still turned on? (8/04)

r o s é

Cusamano 2005 Sicilia Rosato (Sicily) – Made from nerello mascalese. Big, broad-shouldered raspberry and maraschino cherry fruit with a keening, fresh flower aroma. It’s simple alone, but with food it almost explodes with additional complexities. (9/06)

r e d

Borgo Scopeto 2001 “Borgonero” (Tuscany) – Quite modern in intention, though with a fair balance between crisp crushed berries and firmer, more insistent cabernet-based darkness. There’s a mild smoky/leathery element as well, mostly expressed on the finish. The wine isn’t overdone for the genre, but it is showing some signs of weakness, especially on the finish. That’s a little surprising. (7/07)

Casanova di Neri 2001 Brunello di Montalcino “Tenuta Nuova” (Tuscany) – Served blind, and my guess is that it could really be just about anything from just about anywhere. Hugely concentrated – perhaps overly so – with graphite-textured tannin, very low acidity, and lush waves of rich, ripe blueberry and dark black cherry. Incredibly thick. This sort of wine has an obvious sensory appeal, but the charm doesn’t extend any farther. There’s too much stuffing, not enough form, and the wine says absolutely nothing; it just hums (very loudly) to itself. One learns everything there is to know about this wine in the very first sip. (6/07)

Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona 1990 Brunello di Montalcino (Tuscany) – Finely structured with mixed powdered peppercorns, dried black cherry and some ash. This may be a touch on the fruitless side, but then it’s poured immediately after a fruit bomb, so it’s hard to tell. Really nice, otherwise. (6/07)

Quintarelli 1994 Valpolicella Classico “Superiore” (Veneto) – Smoky, showing midpalate fatness and a texture that billows between leather and satin. There’s quartz at the core. Concentrated, beautiful and long. I’m not sure there’s much Valpolicella character here anymore, however. (6/07)

Nervi 1990 Gattinara Vigneto Molsino (Piedmont) – Crushed soy flakes, smashed roses, and blackened, crunchy cereal. A little crusty. This is sort of an angry old man, and yet somehow it’s compelling as well. Strange. (6/07)

Allegrini 2001 Veronese “Palazzo della Torre” (Veneto) – Big and obvious, with highly-structured skins and char, but very little that’s appealing. (6/07)

Fèlsina “Berardenga” 1995 Chianti Classico Riserva “Rancia” (Tuscany) – Whipped strawberries squeezed into granite. Very structured, with thick, barky tannin, but of a texturally appealing kind…coarse-grained satin, perhaps. This is a beautiful wine showing signs of both primary fruit and developing maturity, and I don’t think it’s anywhere near done aging. It’s on the more muscular side, certainly, but gives up nothing essential for it. (6/07)

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)

Allegrini 2004 Valpolicella Classico (Veneto) – Raw, whip-slash fruit, angry and unaccommodating, showing a fierce, acid-soured midpalate and greenish tannin scars on the finish. This used to be a pleasant little wine, but it appears to have undergone a stay at Hotel Abu Ghraib. (5/07)

Gibellini “Tenuta Pederzana” 2005 Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro (Emilia-Romagna) – Dark plum residue with a dried berry, slightly tar-like aggression. The bubbles have coalesced to a rough, choppy roll, and this wine is a little fierce in a very small way. Interesting. (4/07)

cascina ‘tavijn 2004 Ruchè di Castagnole Monferrato (Piedmont) – I’ve had problematic experiences with this wine, but here’s one of the good ones: lurid red fruit with exotic spice and candy aromas intertwined, tuna jerky and an acid-to-the-fore finish. Pleasurable with food, a little bizarre without. (4/07)

Sella & Mosca 2003 Cannonau di Sardegna “Riserva” (Sardinia) – Bright, soda-splash red fruit with stripes of light coconut toast and a friendly, obvious appeal. Surprisingly light for an ’03, and while it’s somewhat commercial and simplistic, it can’t really be criticized for its inherent qualities. (4/07)

Feudo Monaci 2003 Salice Salentino (Apulia) – Thudding, dead and twisted into itself, showing baked fruit, overheated alcohol and a completely absent sense of self. Actively unpleasant. (5/07)

Tenuta Migliavacca 2005 Monferatto Freisa (Piedmont) – Fabulously aromatic, with bursts of ripe summer berries and their spring flowers, dustings of freshly-ground pink and white peppercorns, and hints of mincemeat on the finish. Insistent acidity brings the wine into completely harmony with food. A delicious wine, with plenty of structure, and though I’d like to age some, it’s going to be hard to stay away from it in the interim. (4/07)

Conterno Fantino 1989 Barolo Sorì Ginestra (Piedmont) – Baked rose hips over a foundation of granite and iron. Moderately tannic at the edge, with an apple (core and seed) tinge to the acidity and tar on the finish. With more air, the hips turn to crushed roses and the tannin dusts to mixed powdered peppercorns. Just gorgeous, and fully mature. (3/07)

COS 2004 Cerasuolo di Vittoria (Sicily) – Warm, enveloping old spice-cabinet aromas, old cedar, sun-dried red cherry and strawberry. There’s fine acidity (especially for a Sicilian wine), an inviting Old World balance, and surprising persistence despite a fairly light approach (“light” is contextual). Beautiful stuff. (3/07)

Librandi 1999 Val di Neto “Gravello” (Calabria) – Gaglioppo and cabernet sauvignon. The only sign that this isn’t all cabernet is the juicy, tongue-poking acidity. It’s tightly screwed and a little squinched, and deserves a good decant, but for a fierce, sun-baked southern wine it shows more authenticity than artifice. The cabernet somewhat counter-intuitively runs towards the herb/pepper spectrum, but behind that is a sharp, black cherry and raspberry acidic throb. I’m prepared to be suspicious, but end up liking it a good deal. It still needs plenty of time, however, as the tannin and tightness are still somewhat dominant. (3/07)

2002 Taurasi (Campania) – I didn’t forget to indicate a producer; this was hand-bottled (under a plug-shaped plastic doodad) and labeled with pen on a sticky label by a relative of a relative, then gifted to us a few years ago during a visit to Rome. I’ve since waited for a good time to open it, feeling that the closure wouldn’t allow any sort of typical Taurasi aging curve, and a few expressions of enthusiasm for aglianico from guests gives me the opportunity. At first whiff, some of the classic homebrew flaws are in evidence – brett, some volatile acidity – but as the wine airs, these are subsumed into the wine’s classic, typicité-revelatory qualities. There’s the blackest fruit well-laden with dark tannin, wild backcountry acidity, and a spicy, mineral-driven core swirling with razor-edged iron shards. (The next day, the flaws are gone, leaving only the blackberry-dominated fruit, tannin, and all that aforementioned ferric goodness.) One guest hesitantly jokes that it might be the wine of the night, but even given the stiff competition (and acknowledging a likely reduction in objectivity, given the source) I’ll state it with full confidence. This is a remarkable achievement, and without question the best true amateur wine I’ve ever tasted. (2/07)

Torrepalino 1995 Etna Rosso Solicchiata (Sicily) – Soft, ash-drenched red fruit. Mostly, but not entirely, dead, with spiky acidity poking through the well-worn holes. I find a certain decrepit charm, our group’s one avowed necrophiliac likes it, and most of the rest of the room pronounces it undrinkable. But the terroir does most definitely show. A few years ago, this might have been really interesting. But what the hell…it was only $2. (2/07)

Sant’ Agata “’Na Vota” 2004 Ruchè di Castagnole Monferrato (Piedmont) – Neon-fragrant redness with mild but scraping tannin and aggressive (though not at all high) acidity, plus a dark, almost tarry note. As boisterous as the wine is, it cowers a bit in the presence of food, yet it needs something to counteract the structural rough edges. A strange wine. But then, it’s a ruchè, from which one learns to expect such things. (2/07)

Li Veli 2003 Salento “Passamante” (Apulia) – Blueberry fruit concentrate. But in a fun way, not in an overdriven all-the-life-sucked-out-of-it modern/internationalized fashion. There’s even a bit of acid, which is striking given the vintage and the other aspects of the wine, and some black streaks of tar sweating in the hot summer sun, but mostly this wine is about the truly exuberant fruit. It’s a single-note wine, but it’s a pure one. (1/07)

COS 2004 Cerasuolo di Vittoria (Sicily) – Heady, dark fruit aromas richly redolent of Mediterranean herbs and slightly exotic North African spices roasting over an open fire. It’s a big, luscious wine that never crosses the line into ponderousness or stewed characteristics, and part of that is the smoky undertone of dark, almost charred minerality. Really, really good. (1/07)

Mumelter “Griesbauerhof” 2004 Lagrein (Alto Adige) – It’s light, it’s heavy, it’s light, it’s heavy. This wine pulses with a dark energy, a blood-stained metal bar reaching back for another blow to the head, then a friendly, fresh-faced basket of fruit and red, summery flowers. It’s a disturbing juxtaposition, frankly, but the wine somehow works. There’s a bit of brett, but just a complexing accent rather than a palate-wearying slathering. I’d let it age. (1/07)

Fèlsina “Berardenga” 2000 Chianti Classico “Riserva” (Tuscany) – Tightening and closing. Strawberry and a rough, grey-toned earth with raspberry-leaf acidity are lent substance by a long, lingering finish that darts and swirls, not quite alighting. There’s more here, but I think one will have to wait for it. (12/06)

Mumelter “Griesbauerhof” 2004 Lagrein (Alto Adige) – Dark metal tubing, structured and iron-driven around the edges but a little hollow and windy at the core. The iron elements actually verge on bloody, as there’s a significant brett component, and the dark fruit residue doesn’t quite match up to it. It’s good, in a peculiar sort of way, but it’s definitely not a crowd-pleaser, and I’m not sure that age will improve things; it would in the absence of brett, but… (12/06)

J. Hofstätter 2004 Pinot Nero Meczan (Alto Adige) – Corked. (11/06)

Aurelia “Corte Marzago” 2005 Bardolino Vigna La Morara (Veneto) – Grapey and very wine-like, with a fresh berry component dominating, and a thirst-enhancing vivacity enhanced by acid and the wine’s overall lightness. Which is not to say that the flavors are reticent – rather, they’re sharp and clear – only that the wine is not overwhelmed with alcohol or weight. Yummy stuff. (11/06)

St. Michael-Eppan “Sanct Valentin” 1995 Cabernet (Alto Adige) – Cedar, herbs and very slightly green cassis with the paired bites of acid and tannin poking at the edges. Perhaps only halfway to maturity, though I wonder if the fruit is sufficient to outcomplex the slightly hard, green notes. And for those interested in sly blind tasting adventures, this could pass for a Bordeaux with effortless ease. Not a great Bordeaux, but Bordeaux nonetheless. (9/06)

casina ‘tavijn 2004 Ruchè di Castagnole Monferrato (Piedmont) – Exotic, Thai-influenced red fruit with wild aromas darting from jarred cherry to makrut lime to rose jam, with juicy acidity and light, sandpapery tannin lurking in the background. Difficult to embrace without preparation, but lots of fun. (9/06)

casina ‘tavijn 2004 Ruchè di Castagnole Monferrato (Piedmont) – Crushed fruit with its blossoms intact and a dusty morel understructure. More restrained than previous bottles (those that weren’t corked, anyway), and thus not as interesting, but still a fun drink. (9/06)

Ceuso 2004 “Scurati” (Sicily) – Dusty, fire-blackened blackberries, black pepper and asphalt-like rigidity that takes a jarring turn towards the sour on the palate; the acid and the black tannin then combine to dry out the finish. I want to like this unoaked nero d’avola for it’s relatively unspoofulated nature, but I just can’t. It’s as if these grapes have been pushed far past their endurance, only to collapse in exhaustion in the bottle. Proving, I guess, that over-oaking isn’t the only way to ruin nero d’avola. (9/06)

Forsoni “Poderi Sanguineto I e II” 2004 Rosso di Montepulciano (Tuscany) – Strawberries and old roses with a gentle, enticing earthiness and a nice little nip of acidity. This wine is the opposite of explosive or concentrated, and yet in its own soft-spoken way it is very nearly perfect. (9/06)

Vajra 2004 Dolcetto d’Alba Coste & Fossati (Piedmont) – Delicious. Sneaks up quietly at first, with light blackberry dust and a slightly exuberant structure, but soon fills out with gorgeous mixed bouquets of freshly-picked wildflowers and an earthy, morel-infused bottom end. Very, very agile with food. (9/06)

Forsoni “Poderi Sanguineto I e II” 2004 Rosso di Montepulciano (Tuscany) – Strawberries and old roses with a gentle, enticing earthiness and a nice little nip of acidity. This wine is the opposite of explosive or concentrated, and yet in its own soft-spoken way it is very nearly perfect. (9/06)

Sella & Mosca 2002 Cannonau di Sardegna “Riserva” (Sardinia) – Boisterous strawberry bubblegum fruit, with an exploding tapioca texture and lots of obvious but fun spice…some of it wooded. (9/06)

Cane 2004 Dolceacqua “Superiore” Vigneto Arcagna (Liguria) – Compelling but slightly harsh red fruit, tarted up by sour cherry acid and wet bark, but stuffed with fruit dust aromatics. It’s a particular, almost dying sort of style that might not find purchase in our modern world…but with higher acid food, it really shines. People tend to decry the existence of “food wines,” but this – properly paired – is the sort of thing that makes them look foolish. (8/06)

Vezzola “Costaripa” 1999 Garda Classico “Campo della Starne” (Lombardy) – Long-aged red cherries and orange squeezings with suggestions of a once-bright acidity, but now settling slowly into a caramelized, old-oak miasma. Probably better a few years ago, it’s quite tasty for the first half-hour, then fades inexorably away. (8/06)

Sella & Mosca 2002 Cannonau di Sardegna Riserva (Sardinia) – Pure island fun, showing walnuts, roasted pecans, bright strawberry bubblegum fruit (though not in a candied way), judicious oak spice, and a nice, crisp acidity supporting everything. (8/06)

Fèlsina “Berardenga” 2000 Chianti Classico Riserva (Tuscany) – Sweet wild cherries and wind-blown organic soil, lightening and then firming up again on the finish to show structure and balance. Not everything is in sync – the fruit is a little too forward, the tannin is a little too hard – but it’s a worthy and expressive wine. (8/06)

Ruffino 2001 Chianti Classico Riserva “Ducale Oro” (Tuscany) – Roasted strawberry-encrusted game and white-peppered earth, but overly restrained, as if tasted through gauze. Very matter-of-fact, with a simplistic finish. (7/06)

Viticoltori de Concillis 2003 Paestum “Naima” (Campania) – 100% aglianico. Dense, thick, and slightly woody, showing slow-braised blackberry, boysenberry and blackberry that turn to chocolate-covered jam on the finish. Again, probably yummy to some, but it tastes like a caricature to me. And where’s the aglianico? For that matter, where’s the Campania? (7/06)

Argiolas 2002 Isola dei Nuraghi “Korem” (Sardinia) – A blend of bovale sardo, carignano (carignane) and cannonau (grenache), showing roasted walnuts, roasted berries, red cherry and some earthy/loamy undertones. The wine is unquestionably thick, but balanced and nicely softened on the finish. It’s a bit internationalized, to be sure, but not in an offputting way. (7/06)

Bucci “Pongelli” 2002 Rosso Piceno (Marches) – Rough strawberry and porcini notes with a dusting of grey earth and little flecks of rosemary hanging about. The fruit seems to be approaching maturity, though the structure is still quite firm, and its possible that a few more years will resolve this…or possibly the fruit will dry out before that happens. In either case, this is a nice, traditionally-styled Italian wine for those who are seeking such things. (7/06)

Brigaldara 2000 Amarone della Valpolicella Classico (Veneto) – Sapid prune and dried fig with a soda-like texture. Softer than most Amarone, with a gentle yet persistent flavor that builds and recedes like lapping evening waves. Really lovely, though I suspect that many fans of Amarone are going to want “more” of everything, in which case they should avoid this wine. (6/06)

Zenato 2002 Valpolicella Superiore (Veneto) – Restrained, violet-tinged rhubarb and olive with bitter strawberry and a fine dusting of drying tannin. There are good elements here, but there seems to be some sort of internal struggle going on with this wine, for they emerge and retreat seemingly at random. A little overworked in the cellar, I think, and it fades a bit with food, but it’s decent enough as a slightly angry cocktail wine. (6/06)

Banti 2000 Morellino di Scansano Riserva “Ciabatta” (Tuscany) – Dying under the weight of its wood, which is a bit surprising as there’s not that much of it. But sangiovese doesn’t always handle wood that well, and here’s an example of what happens: nasty toast and char aromas dominate some rather harsh black fruit. Better at release, pretty unpleasant now. (5/06)

Vitivinicola “Dessilani” 2001 Colline Novaresi Spanna “Riserva” (Piedmont) – Very tight at first. After about a half-hour of air, strong dark fruit and somewhat heady floral notes emerge, with a biting layer of thick (but ripe) tannin that carries a lot of palate impact. Oak plays a supporting role, but it’s definitely noticeable, and ultimately this wine exhibits something of a fight between the traditional and modern styles, but it would seem to have the stuffing to age in either case. (5/06)

Orlando Abrigo 2004 Barbera d’Alba Vigna Roreto (Piedmont) – Raspberry, red cherry and strawberry dressed up in ill-fitting finery and dragged against their will to some ultra-formal event, where they’re completely overwhelmed by their environment. The stink of toasty, caramelized mushrooms and vanilla fills the air as well, though I don’t know if this is from oak or just invasive winemaking. Worse, there’s nary an indication that this wine ever had much acid, which would seem to be a tragedy for a barbera, and while it’s perfectly acceptable as an anonymous anything-from-anywhere wine, it’s not much use as a barbera d’Alba. (5/06)

Terrabianca 1990 “Campaccio” (Tuscany) – Red and green bell peppers, thick, dark cherries and herbs. The wood isn’t at all apparent, and this appears to be resolving towards something reminiscent of an urban Saumur-Champigny, though the finish is a bit more acrid than one would like. Still, for a super-anything, it’s fairly unspoofulated. (4/06)

Gaja 1985 Barbaresco Costa Russi (Piedmont) – Murky, silky and sultry all at the same time, with spiced dried fruit, spicy plum, red cherry and strawberry seed over a steaming bed of hay…a strange wine, seemingly dominated by its spice (from which one makes inevitable deductions about wood), with a lot going for it, but not a lot of coherence. However, after an hour everything has snapped into focus, with exotic floral notes and a rich complexity coming fully to the fore. The first version of the wine is good but odd, the second is inspired. I recommend drinking the second. (4/06)

Aldo Conterno 1985 Barolo Bricco Bussia Vigna Cicala (Piedmont) – Sexy, but a bit rough, showing S&M strawberries and a succulent, balanced finish. This may suffer in comparison to the bigger, richer and more “worked” Gaja (above)…but it also definitely improves with time and distance from its regional counterpart. This is a wine that deserves a little more quiet contemplation that it probably receives here. (4/06)

Anselma 1993 Barolo (Piedmont) – Bitter tannin overwhelms fully-resolved fruit, leaving some dried rose petals and rough, sun-baked red cherries in its wake. Hanging on, but only just, and not that interesting of a wine. (4/06)

Redondèl di Paolo Zanini 2003 Teroldego Rotaliano (Trentino) – Huge purple grape fruit with ripe mint juice. Completely lurid. (4/06)

Marcarini 1998 Barolo La Serra (Piedmont) – Stunning from the first moment, showing the classic tar and roses alongside tart blackberry leaves and beautifully-textured graphite-like tannin. Still not entirely integrated, but promising much. (4/06)

Giacomo Conterno 1994 Barolo Cascina Francia (Piedmont) – Corked. (4/06)

Internaz “Barone Cornacchia” 2003 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo (Abruzzi) – Blocks of light black and dark red fruit hewn from an earthy quarry, with refreshing acidity and light notes of game and pepper. Good, simple, Old World fun. (3/06)

cascina ‘tavijn 2004 Ruchè di Castagnole Monferrato (Piedmont) – The ripest possible cherries crushed right under one’s nose; an explosion of multicolored juice carrying with it a mélange of aromatic flower petals, hints of graphite-like tannin, and that succulent, sexed-up fruit smell one gets from the most exquisite black truffles. This is an absolutely amazing wine. (3/06)

Lageder 2001 Lagrein (Alto Adige) – Heady and forceful, with red and black fruit dust in the soprano register and somewhat strident mineral-driven structure. Yet the whole thing holds together nicely, and a fine future seems in store. (3/06)

cascina ‘tavijn 2004 Grignolino d’Asti (Piedmont) – Gorgeous, faded color, and slightly better with a brief chill. However, this is a wine that wants to be more than it actually is; there’s a mild overdose of structure around pale red, orange and yellow fruit with earthy dustings of dried peppercorns, and the whole thing comes off as a “serious” rosé more than a light-styled red…and even then, it’s not quite as light as one would think. I’m conflicted about this wine; I think I like it, but I’m unsure whether the actual feeling is more or less positive than that. Another bottle might help clarify matters. (3/06)

Conti Sertoli Salis 1999 Valtellina “Canua Sforzato” (Lombardy) – Lightly sweet prunes and rose hips with graphite-like structure. It’s an odd combination of aromas and sweetness, but it works somehow. (1/06)

Cantina Tramin 2001 Lagrein (Alto Adige) – So aromatically deadened that I worry about TCA for a few minutes after uncorking. But, not so. Just another wine completely muffled by an ill-advised vacation in barrique-land. There’s nothing here but the winemaking. (1/06)

Les Crêtes 2002 Torrette “vignes les toules” (Vallée d’Aoste) – Begins stale and cranky, but develops into an individualistic stunner, with raw iron blocks and vividly floral mixed berries. Fragrant and seductive, but not particularly feminine, this is a wine that takes some time to get to know, but rewards the effort a hundredfold. (12/05)

Fanti 1998 Brunello di Montalcino (Tuscany) – Luscious, clove-spiced baked berries with not-insignificant oak and a relatively balanced finish. There could be less technology and wood thrown at this, and it would improve, but it’s a nice drink in its present form. (12/05)

Brancaia 2003 “Il Blu” IGT Toscana (Tuscany) – The sangiovese is, as usual, overwhelmed by cabernet and merlot, but that said there’s merit to the wine; internationalized it is, indeed, but there’s plenty of juicy and fun fruit here. (12/05)

Gaja 2001 “Magari” IGT Toscana (Tuscany) – Weedy bell pepper and seed pepper dust. There are interestingly floral aromatics, but the palate is disappointing, and a long finish doesn’t mean much when the flavors aren’t that pleasant. (12/05)

Pio Cesare 1993 Barolo (Piedmont) – Very old, showing burnt dill and a slight red cherry note. Oxidized and very nearly dead. (11/05)

Produttori del Barbaresco 1999 Barbaresco (Piedmont) – Sweaty and rough, showing high acidity, light tar and red cherries. A bit angry and unpleasurable. (11/05)

Griesbauerhof 2004 Südtirol St. Magdalener (Alto Adige) – What a delicious wine! It tastes “violet” like many a gamay, but with a lot more cool and fine-grained minerality than any Beaujolais. Plus, there’s plenty of lip-smacking purple fruit, and uplifting acidity. Likely not for the long haul, but awfully tasty now. (11/05)

Ruffino 1990 Chianti Classico “Riserva Ducale” (Tuscany) – Strawberry and roasted duck skin with Maraschino cherry, succulent acidity, and lingering traces of perfume. Too bad the wine’s not this good anymore. (4/05)

Franceschi “Il Poggione” 1990 Brunello di Montalcino “Riserva” (Tuscany) – Roasted strawberry and game spiced with faded clove and pepper dust form an evocative nose, and are followed by masculine dark cherry and tar on the palate. The acidity is balanced and the tannin firm enough to harden up on the medium-long finish, yet there’s unquestioned subtlety within. Maturing nicely, yet I don’t think there’s any real hurry. (2/05)

Eugenio Collavini 2000 Colli Orientali del Friuli Schiopettino “Turian” (Friuli-Venezia Giulia) – Strawberry and graphite, lighter than any wine I’ve ever tasted that possessed that latter characteristic, and brightened by terrific acidity. Just gorgeous. (8/04)

s w e e t  ,  f o r t i f i e d  &  u n u s u a l

Neirano Brachetto d’Acqui (Piedmont) – Simple strawberry and powdered sugar froth. More basic than these (already typically basic) wines tend to be, but with the vague sensation of something mineralistic underneath. If they could only bring out this character, they’d have a beauty on their hands. (6/07)

de Bartoli Marsala Superiore “Oro 5 Anni” Vigna La Miccia (Sicily) – Stunning. The creamiest, most delicate saltwater taffy in a lithe, utterly seductive liquid form. It kisses and caresses, then lingers to a point of almost painful beauty. Majestic. Pure. Flawless. (1/07)

Marcarini 2005 Moscato d’Asti (Piedmont) – Yet another perfume truck crashed through the window of a florist, though in this case both are carrying a higher-quality cargo than is the norm. There’s a little bit of translucent fruit flesh underneath, but despite the aromatics and/or the fruit I’ve come to experience these wines as frothy, delightful expressions of fermented light. (1/07)

Pieropan 2001 Recioto di Soave Classico Le Colombare (Veneto) – Pecan, orange rind and sweet apple cider with tons of nutmeg-and-clove spice, plus fantastic acidity. A wine so delicious one wants to laugh out loud, just for the sheer joy of it. (12/06)

Maculan 1998 Breganze “Torcolato” (Veneto) – 375 ml. A beautiful, inspiring mélange of cinnamon, nutmeg, pineapple, clove, blood orange, caramel and butterscotch with just the right amount of brightening acidity. My mouth is watering just writing this tasting note. One of the truly great sweet wines of the world, calling to mind all the classic elements of Sauternes-style wines, but with its own unique palette of aromas and characteristics. (9/06)

Fèlsina “Berardenga” 1997 Chianti Classico “Vin Santo” (Tuscany) – Sweet strawberry, lime, mostarda, cider and pomegranate in a wine that, despite its heady richness, comes across as delightfully light and breezy. Yet there’s plenty of seriousness and complexity underneath. What really makes this work, however, is its exquisitely beautiful balance. (9/06)

Pieropan 2001 Recioto di Soave Classico Le Colombare (Veneto) – A stunning wine, full of concentrated peach, orange rind and iron shot through with flowers and perfumes from some mythical Orient. Powerfully sweet, but with flawless balancing acidity, and as long as one would ever wish a wine to be. Majestic. (9/06)

Garitina 2005 Brachetto d’Acqui “Niades” (Piedmont) – The usual bright red fruit, frothed (though so lightly as to be almost unnoticeably effervescent) and given just a touch of late-palate bitterness. Simple fun. (9/06)

Gaetano Pichierre “Vinicola Savese” 1994 Primitivo di Manduria (Apulia) – Bizarrely authentic and untouched by modern convention, this is dark red cherry and strawberry syrup with a gorgeous Mediterranean sweat character (better than it sounds, I suppose). It’s sweet, alcoholic and thick, with a short finish, but is fascinating enough in its uniqueness that other faults can be overlooked. Or not; it’s not particularly popular among my dining companions. (7/06)

Mustela 2004 Moscato d’Asti (Piedmont) – Fresh, floral and succulently sweet, with that wonderful, fruity lightness that one expects from this wine. Plus, of course, bubbles. Too many moscatos d’Asti seem, these days, to strive overmuch for perfume and power; the wines are much better without such exertions. (7/06)

ca’Rugate 2002 Recioto di Soave “La Perlara” (Veneto) – Stunning. Heavily-spiced white fruit with preserved lemon and an utterly flawless, bright and crisp structure for balance. The finish lingers with perfect poise, and unlike many dessert wines you’ll find yourself going back for glass after glass. Or maybe that’s just me. (6/06)

Bologna “Braida” 2005 Brachetto d’Acqui (Piedmont) – Easygoing strawberry and red plum froth, with hints and suggestions of graphite powder and a better, more serious structure than this fun and delicious little number probably require. Just hints and suggestions, though; the essential joy of this wine remains intact. (5/06)

Contini 1996 Vernaccia di Oristano Riserva (Sardinia) – Like dry oloroso Sherry, flat and austere with dark molasses residue. Very, very different. I’m initially repelled, but by the last sip it starts to grow on me. (4/06)

Donnafugata 2003 Passito di Pantelleria “Ben Ryé” (Sicily) – Sweet banana, mango, and spice-infused passionfruit; a dark ultra-sweet syrup with the necessary acidity to turn it into wine…and an extraordinary one at that. Just beautiful. (4/05)

S. Stefano 2004 Moscato d’Asti (Piedmont) – The usual perfume truck crashed into the usual flower shop, but this time there was a fruit stand in the way. This is decidedly on the fruitier side of moscato d’Asti, and also decidedly less lithe; it’s thick and sweet enough that one could easily confuse it for a higher-alcohol muscat were it not for the sudsy bubbles. It’s tasty enough, if perhaps a bit lurid, but I’m not sure this is the correct goal for moscato d’Asti. (12/05)

Pieropan 1993 Recioto di Soave (Veneto) – The best, and the last, of a half-case, showing spiced pear and a very slight oxidation in a rich, yet light medium. Just past mature. I can’t help but think that, though recioto di Soave only “ages” in the theoretical sense, I’ve found I prefer it young, fresh and lively. (8/04)

s p i r i t s

Bertagnolli Grappa di Teroldego (Trentino) – Strikingly aromatic; a full chorus of floral and fruit notes with deep, chewy basso profundo beneath and lilting counterpoints atop. Delicious. (1/07)

b e e r

Le Baladin “Wayan” Saison Style Ale with Spices (Italy) – Hoppy and crisp, with unintegrated spice notes and a firm, monotone core that feels more like a Trappist than a saison. Despite being a little odd, it’s reasonably tasty. (3/07)

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