TNs from a blind tasting of 2010/2011 Piedmonts

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Brian G r a f s t r o m
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TNs from a blind tasting of 2010/2011 Piedmonts

#1 Post by Brian G r a f s t r o m » February 8th, 2019, 1:24 pm

Thank you to our gracious host for including me in this fine tasting. I had a great time seeing familiar faces, as well as meeting a couple folks whom I had never met, as well as a couple folks whom I had met only in an online sense. My big takeaway from this tasting, for better or worse, is that I simply don't like (most of) these wines enough to pay the asking prices. Generally, I *did* enjoy the wines, but there's only a couple I would consider forking-out for. I guess I'll just keep throwing money at France ... pileon

(if any fellow attendees notice that I have bottle preparation notes wrong, please point those errors out to me and I will fix accordingly. Thank you!)

1st Flight
It was fairly easy for me to declare the Sandrone as my favorite of this flight. The Bartolo was showing next to nothing, and the Pira was slightly corked, so the Sandrone was a runaway default winner.


2011 E. Pira & Figli (Chiara Boschis) Barolo Cannubi - Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo (1/20/2019)
-- double-decanted approx. 9 hours before tasting --
-- tasted a single pour, blind, over approx. 5 minutes --

NOSE: super minty; spearmint; light TCA

BODY: bricking garnet color of medium depth; medium-light bodied.

TASTE: medium acidity; hints of leather and stony mineral; medium-light drying tannins; 14.5% alc.; low-level TCA. {same bottle as Robert Pavlovich on same date} NR (flawed)

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2011 Luciano Sandrone Barolo Le Vigne - Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo (1/20/2019)
-- popped and poured --
-- tasted a single pour, blind, over approx. 20 minutes --

NOSE: red-fruited; light cranberry-orange mix; a bit fumey; red licorice; fruitier than the preceding 2011 E. Pira – Cannubi; hints of rosemary and mint.

BODY: ruby color of medium depth; medium-light to medium bodied.

TASTE: smoky; medium tannins; good acidity; dark leathery plum-cherry; 14.5% alc.; presents with a "warm" personality, if I were to personify it. I liked it, but would never seek it out. {same bottle as Robert Pavlovich's note of same date}


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2nd Flight
This flight got more interesting, but still yielded a hands-down winner for me: the Vietti, which may be the only Italian we tasted this evening that I would seek-out for my own cellar. The Cogna was my runner-up in this flight. It was lots of fun to see the widely divergent opinions across the table.


2011 Bartolo Mascarello Barolo - Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo (1/20/2019)
-- double-decanted approx. 9 hours before tasting --
-- tasted a single pour, blind, over approx. 20 minutes; revisited later, non-blind --

NOSE: tight; hint of anise; cherry; apple pie.

BODY: medium-light bodied.

TASTE: incredibly tannic; short; medium to medium+ acidity; not much going on. Later, after the astonishing reveal, I re-visited it and it had opened just a touch, but was still left entirely unimpressed. [same bottle as Robert Pavlovich's note on same date and Sh@n A's note of 1/23/19}

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2011 Vietti Barolo Ravera - Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo (1/20/2019)
-- double-decanted approx. 10 hours before tasting --
-- tasted a single pour, blind, over approx. 20 minutes; revisited later, non-blind --

NOSE: fennel seed; cran-orange; medium expressiveness.

BODY: medium-light to medium bodied.

TASTE: young-tasting; hint of oak; medium-fine tannins are quite drying; intense florals; a touch bitter; gently spicy; medium acidity; this seemed to have an energy that others lacked. Re-visited the bottle after we had gone through all the flights and my opinion remained unchanged. Excellent, and my WOTN. {same bottle as Sh@n A's note of 1/23/19}

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2011 Cappellano Barolo Piè Rupestris Otin Fiorin (Gabutti) - Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo (1/20/2019)
-- double-decanted approx. 10 hours before tasting --
-- tasted a single pour, blind, over approx. 20 minutes --

NOSE: very similar to the 2011 Cogno – Bricco Pernice, but a bit tighter and a little more vegetal/oxidized.

BODY: medium-light to medium bodied.

TASTE: leather/funky --- a bit of brett; slightly oxidized; hint of brown sugar and a bit spicy. My least favorite of the flight; may have received too much air. {same bottle as Robert Pavlovich's note on same date and Sh@n A's note of 1/22/19}

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2011 Azienda Agricola Elvio Cogno Barolo Bricco Pernice - Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo (1/20/2019)
-- double-decanted approx. 10 hours before tasting --
-- tasted a single pour, blind, over approx. 20 minutes --

NOSE: red licorice; hint of mint; second-favorite Nose of the flight, behind only the Vietti.

BODY: bricking garnet color of medium depth; medium bodied

TASTE: medium-fine tannins are very drying; tight; slight vegetal/oxidized note; hint of sweetness; red-fruited (strawberry); my runner-up of the flight. {same bottle as Robert Pavlovich's note on same date}

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3rd Flight
This flight was noticeably more "serious" than the previous flights, perhaps reflective of the vintage. The Cavallotto was my winner here.


2010 Giacomo Fenocchio Barolo 90 di Riserva Bussia - Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo (1/20/2019)
-- double-decanted approx. 10 hours before tasting --
-- tasted a single pour, blind, over approx. 20 minutes --

NOSE: floral strawberry.

BODY: earthy burgundy color of medium depth.

TASTE: bitter and tight, but nonetheless prefer it to the 2010 Elio Grasso - Runcot. {same bottle as Robert Pavlovich's note on same date}

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2010 Elio Grasso Barolo Riserva Rüncot - Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo (1/20/2019)
-- double-decanted approx. 10 hours before tasting --
-- tasted a single pour, blind, over approx. 20 minutes --

NOSE: oaky – sweet; red licorice; hint of Moroccan spice blend; middle-of-the-fairway.

BODY: bricking garnet color of medium depth; medium-light bodied.

TASTE: oaky; dark-fruited; a touch bitter; hint of leather; way too oaky; sweet oak --- just say, "No." {same bottle as Robert Pavlovich's note on same date}

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2010 Cavallotto Barolo Riserva Bricco Boschis Vigna San Giuseppe - Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo (1/20/2019)
-- double-decanted approx. 10 hours before tasting --
-- tasted a single pour, blind, over approx. 20 minutes --

NOSE: expressive; slight green note; dandelion and black potting soil; hints of jalapeno and grapefruit; my favorite Nose of the flight. Complex.

BODY: medium bodied.

TASTE: leather; plum; dirty/earthy; medium acidity; hint of ruby red grapefruit; liked this one a lot, it was my favorite of the flight. {same bottle as Robert Pavlovich's note on same date and Sh@n A's note of 1/22/19}


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4th Flight
Final Piedmont flight of the evening, and the Gaja took it for me, but I did enjoy all three in this flight.

2010 Fratelli Brovia Barolo Garblèt Sué - Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo (1/20/2019)
-- double-decanted approx. 11 hours before tasting --
-- tasted a single pour, blind, over approx. 20 minutes --

NOSE: red-fruited, with a hint of tar. Anyone who has lived in the Midwest has dealt with their fair share of snow – I grew-up in Minnesota, and using a snow-blower was commonplace in my life; the Nose on this took me back to putting the snow blower back into the garage after clearing the driveway --- so, not sure what that means, other than, perhaps, a mix of gasoline, rubber, mineral, and sweat.

BODY: medium-light bodied.

TASTE: spicy; red-fruited with medium tannins; not funky or oaky; I liked this a lot.{same bottle as Robert Pavlovich's note on same date}

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2010 G.D. Vajra Barolo Bricco delle Viole - Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo (1/20/2019)
-- double-decanted approx. 11 hours before tasting --
-- tasted a single pour, blind, over approx. 20 minutes --

NOSE: RC Cola; root beer; asphalt; hint of cumin.

BODY: medium bodied.

TASTE: purple-fruited; not funky; ripe/big; very different than all other wines tonight; I like it. {same bottle as Robert Pavlovich's note on same date}

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2010 Gaja Barbaresco - Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barbaresco (1/20/2019)
-- double-decanted approx. 11 hours before tasting --
-- tasted a single pour, blind, over approx. 20 minutes; revisited within the hour --

NOSE: red-fruited; very pretty; hints of rubber and flowers.

BODY: medium-light bodied.

TASTE: medium-fine tannin; "clean"; purple-fruited; nice energy; seemed to be nicely-proportioned, and I could see this developing quite nicely over the next couple decades. Easily my favorite of the flight. {same bottle as Robert Pavlovich's note on same date and Sh@n A's note of 1/23/19}


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Bonus Burgundy
This wine, in conjunction with all the Piedmonts that preceded it, made a couple things crystal clear to me: I have a strong preference for Pinot Noir over Nebbiolo, and Nebbiolo is no substitute for Pinot Noir.


2014 Domaine Robert Arnoux / Arnoux-Lachaux Echezeaux - France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Echezeaux Grand Cru (1/20/2019)
-- pretty sure this was popped and poured --
-- tasted a single pour, blind, over approx. 20 minutes --

NOSE: red-fruited; a bit oaky; obviously Pinot Noir

BODY: medium-light bodied.

TASTE: red-fruited; cigar/spicy; velvety; cranberry; smooth, with medium acidity. Very nice. Tasty now, but a waste to do anything but Hold.
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Re: TNs from a blind tasting of 2010/2011 Piedmonts

#2 Post by Doug Schulman » February 8th, 2019, 3:32 pm

It's highly possible that this group has more experience than I do with Barolo/Barbaresco of similar age, but I would think this is a difficult time to get a read on these wines. I'd open them younger or wait longer. I am interested to know what other people think about that. I also suspect that, as these wines are still quite youthful, all of that air might have shut them down a bit.
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Re: TNs from a blind tasting of 2010/2011 Piedmonts

#3 Post by Brian G r a f s t r o m » February 8th, 2019, 3:59 pm

Doug,

I *promise* you have more experience with Piedmonts than I do, as I have very little. I believe the tasting was largely 2011-centric in hopes that they would be more open/accessible. The general consensus was that at least some of these wines shut-down as a result of extended air. I recommend reading Robert's notes in CT, as he was the one who prepped the wines, he had a small taste of each upon opening, and also revisited some the following day. He also has far more experience with these wines than I do. Left to my own devices, I typically avoid opening ageable wines at this point in their lifetimes, but I wasn't the one calling the shots, and I do believe the tasting nonetheless had helpful stuff to offer. Plus, it was lots of fun. :)
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Re: TNs from a blind tasting of 2010/2011 Piedmonts

#4 Post by john stimson » February 8th, 2019, 4:11 pm

Nice to get a report, Brian. I would second Doug's comments--this is a tough time for assessing these wines--Some that have a little more modernity or mellowness may show well (Vietti and Sandrone), but others may totally flop--short, dull, tannic, bitter, etc, and yet in another 5 years be a dramatically different wine. My tasting group routinely does these wines at about 10 years (we just did 2008 a little late).. Some of the real eventual stars can just flunk out (G. Conterno CF has done this on a couple of occasions). Nonetheless it can be a fun exercise.

The other factor might be the 2011 vintage. I didn't buy much so I can't claim much experience, and they have been mentioned as an early drinking year, but when tasting the Vajra's, I asked Giuseppe Vajra what he thought would happen with the wines, and he felt they would shut down like most other vintages.

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Re: TNs from a blind tasting of 2010/2011 Piedmonts

#5 Post by Y U R A N S » February 8th, 2019, 8:38 pm

I am quite suprised by the tasting notes of cappellano 2011, I tried two bottles of 2011 last year PNP and they all promising and showed great potential and no signs of shut down. So I think you are right, perhaps the bottle received too much air. But nonetheless, I think cappellano's 2011 is a brilliant bottle.

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Re: TNs from a blind tasting of 2010/2011 Piedmonts

#6 Post by Andrew Hamilton » February 10th, 2019, 11:48 pm

Hi Brian,

Whilst I understand the logic in the wine service conceptually in application I think it was a bit short of the mark. When it comes to Barolo my service methodology is as follows.

1-2 years from bottling - pop and pour. Be prepared for the wine to shut down in 1-2 hours and plan accordingly. Always leave enough wine in bottle to look at it on day 2.
2+ years or older - open, decant, and sample it. Unless it's singing leave it till day 2.

That said there will always be outliers that don't show well with the above format but overall I find traditionalist Baroli don't show well in adolescence and improve, often drastically, with extended air contact.

There will always be exceptions to the rule. A good aged example I can provide revolves around two 1978 Barolo I opened last year for my 40th. One was a 1978 Fontanafredda Barolo, the other was a 1978 Massolino Vigna Rionda Riserva Barolo. Both were opened on the early evening the night before service. Both were gently double decanted off sediment and left in decanters. The next day they were poured back into their bottles post sediment removal and served.

On opening the Fontanafredda was very pretty, elegant, and showing well. Conversely the Massolino was a bit muddled and closed. Fast forward to service and the Fontanafredda had completely fallen over and wasn't near the wine on the day before. Conversely the Massolino was a stunner with 24 hours of air. It had everything I look for in aged Barolo. It ended up being my WOTY in 2018.

Obviously YMMV and there will always be exceptions to any rule but if I were to open a traditionalist 2011 Barolo I'd do so a day in advance. And I wouldn't go anywhere near a traditionalist 2010 Barolo for at least another decade. At least.

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Re: TNs from a blind tasting of 2010/2011 Piedmonts

#7 Post by Brian G r a f s t r o m » February 11th, 2019, 7:43 am

Cool. I appreciate that, Andrew. Thank you for chiming in. [cheers.gif]
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Re: TNs from a blind tasting of 2010/2011 Piedmonts

#8 Post by Robert Pavlovich » February 11th, 2019, 8:09 am

That was a good time Brian, thanks for putting em' out there.

Bottle Prep: Having opened most of the wines, it was pretty clear that the Bartolo Mascarello suffered from the bottle prep (at least on the nose), and Shan thought the same about the Cappellano. However, I still don't think it's a good sign for the wines (Both 11's too) the way they went south while the others showed potential. The rest of the wines as a whole benefitted from the air time. Lots of negative feedback on the service, but we ended up with some great data points and showings. The idea was to try and get some air in to the wines to get closer to that often great, "day 2" experience. I've also tasted plenty of hard, super tight young Barolo and thankfully we had none of that on the night.

Was quite a night for that Gaja though, it was really on fire and I could tell much of the crowd was biased against Gaja, and I get it, as a wine geek you don't want, or just aren't comfortable with one of the top wines of Piedmont or the wine world to be found in a grocery store. Plus the price.

Day 2 and Food Wines. The Vajra had an excellent, traditional showing on day 2. We complained that there weren't many "food wines" among the group, but this certainly was. I'd put the Vietti in that camp as well, and possibly the Pira. The Brovia and Fenocchio were more on the line, showing versatility.

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Re: TNs from a blind tasting of 2010/2011 Piedmonts

#9 Post by Justin S » February 11th, 2019, 9:57 am

As a data point, the 2011 Vajra Bricco delle Viole was drinking really well in the last quarter of 2017 (had two bottles a few months apart). If you guys think the 2011s are starting to shut down, that is disappointing. Maybe I'll open the next one in 2021.
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Re: TNs from a blind tasting of 2010/2011 Piedmonts

#10 Post by Markus S » February 11th, 2019, 11:12 am

Don't hear mention of RC Cola much these days. They lost out in the cola wars.

You thought the Cappellano got too much air; I'm sure there will be a chorus saying "you should have opened it exactly 45 hours prior to drinking" to show well. Can never please people with nebbiolo.

I'm hoping the oak will get absorbed in the Grasso by the time I get to drink it, as I think I have a bottle of it. Drinking a Conterno-Fantino from 2001 recently showed me it is possible to make peace with heavily oaked nebbiolo, but you have to have an open mind (and pretend you're drinking Rioja).
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Re: TNs from a blind tasting of 2010/2011 Piedmonts

#11 Post by Brian G r a f s t r o m » February 11th, 2019, 4:25 pm

LOL! Hey, Rioja can be good!!
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Re: TNs from a blind tasting of 2010/2011 Piedmonts

#12 Post by Greg K » February 11th, 2019, 4:33 pm

I love the 2011 Cappellano, but 10 hours is a long time for it. I've had it as PnP and with about an hour decant and it has been fantastic each time.
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Re: TNs from a blind tasting of 2010/2011 Piedmonts

#13 Post by m. ristev » February 11th, 2019, 5:07 pm

two summers ago the 2011 bartolo was incredibly open on the pop and pour with super lifted florals and a lot of fruit. a little less than a year ago, also on pop and pour it seemed quite closed down and stern.
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Re: TNs from a blind tasting of 2010/2011 Piedmonts

#14 Post by Sh@n A » February 12th, 2019, 12:03 pm

Love the Burgundy after tasting so much Nebbiolo. Why not? As my 3 year old says, "Because yes!".
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