Category Archives: Chardonnay

Earth, Wine and Fire Wine Dinner Review


If you don’t have a Fleming’s in your town, or have just not had dinner at this restaurant chain before, bear with me. I will try to provide some reference. Fleming’s is a high-end steakhouse, similar in style to Ruth’s Chris, but not quite as expensive. They have been running a four course wine dinner special (branded as the title of this review) paired with Wagner Family wines (Caymus label) and my wife and I decided to give it a try. There were two options: Earth – vegetarian and Fire – meat. We selected Fire. Our overall experience was one step down from true gourmet, but very enjoyable. This is the full detail.

Salad Course


Wine: 2018 SEA SUN, CHARDONNAY 90 pts. (100 pt. system) or 16 pts. (20 pt. system)

Wine Note: Sweet citrus nose with lemon-lime mousse on the palate. High acidity and a fair amount of oak. If you like stainless chardonnay, this is not your wine. My wife and I prefer Old World style oaked chardonnay, so the very fruit forward profile was a little out of character. Nice mouthfeel. I would guess, the winemaker allowed some extended lees contact. Enjoyable chard for our palates and the acidity paired very well with the burrata. Some aging potential, if you like to lay down your wines.

If you have never had burrata, it is a soft cheese a little like mozzarella in flavor, but creamy and richer. Love the stuff and the fresher, the better. This burrata was excellent, but it was the other components that were a little disappointing. The lobster did not seem really fresh (we ARE in land-locked AZ, I suppose) and needed to be poached in butter. Lobster flavor was a little off and weak. The parmesan cheese crisp flavor (on top) almost over-powered the more delicate burrata below. Still… pretty enjoyable and an excellent pairing with the acidic Chardonnay.

2nd Course


Wine: NV RED SCHOONER, MALBEC 89 pts. (100 pt. system) or 15.5 pts. (20 pt. system)

Wine Note: Fruity nose with a little burn from the alcohol. Palate is filled with red and black fruit – black plum, blackberry and boysenberry. Medium acidity and medium minus tannins. A touch of residual sugar. Lighter, smooth mouthfeel. Very easy drinking red with a bit of structure. Successful for the style of wine it was meant to be. Drink now, don’t hold.

The pork belly was very tasty and the grits were fabulous! Our restaurant added goat cheese, instead of cheddar (on the website) – fantastic idea. The vegetable medley included (not shown below) was seasoned with spicy chiles. I pushed my veggies aside, in order to really enjoy the grits. The fruity, sweet wine was needed to pair with the leftover spiciness from the veggies. Turned out to be a pretty fair wine pairing with the fat from the pork belly and spice.

3rd Course


Wine: 2019 CAYMUS VINEYARDS, CABERNET SAUVIGNON – NAPA VALLEY 87 pts. (100 pt. system) or 15 pts. (20 pt. system)

Wine Note: OK, you Caymus fans out there, I get it. Easy drinking Cali cab, but I just can’t do it. There is so much oak, as the joke goes, I could set the dang wine on fire. Fruity nose, but lacking freshness due to the over-powering oak. Blackberry and black currant on the palate, with some dark chocolate in the middle. Medium minus tannin and medium acidity. Simple wine flavor profile. I am sorry, neither my wife, or I could finish this wine. Just not a good match for our palates.

The filet was seasoned well and perfectly prepared. I have had better bone marrow. It needed to have more of the fat rendered out. Altho I will say, the filet with a bit of bone marrow on top was a pretty tasty bite.

Dessert Course


Wine: NV EMMOLO, SPARKLING – CALIFORNIA 89 pts. (100 pt. system) or 15.5 pts. (20 pt. system)

Wine Note: Citrus fruit on the nose. Palate of primarily lemon with a touch of tropical fruit. This is a cuvee style sparkling with a small amount of residual sugar. High acidity. Nice mouthfeel with a medium length finish to round it out. This could be more interesting with some bottle age. Has enough of a backbone to enjoy in 3-5 years.

If you have not had olive oil cake – no, it does not taste like olive oil, but it IS very moist. I have had the orange version before and this was quite good. The tart lemon coulis drizzled on the plate was a nice addition. The citrus flavor in the cake paired very nicely with the sparkling wine.

Dining Experience and Rating

In general, this was a serious white tablecloth experience. Great service from our waiter, she was friendly and engaging. One of the managers stopped by twice to check in on us. I felt like there was a genuine interest in making sure the experience was enjoyable. I felt a bit rushed tho. This is the kind of meal that takes time to work your way through. I understand they want to turn tables, but for this kind of bill, you expect the time to have an experience. I would score the experience at a 92/100, or a 2 of 3 star equivalent. The meal was very good (especially the steak), but could have been better and the service was really excellent.

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Filed under Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Fine Dining, Food Pairing, Malbec, Napa Valley, Restaurant Review, Wine Tasting, Wine Tasting Notes

2008 Acacia Chardonnay Winery Lake Vineyard

2008 Acacia Chardonnay Winery Lake Vineyard

California Carneros AVA

Wine Tasting Note:

I have to wonder, am I drinking a different wine than the others leaving notes on CellarTracker? Take note: you definitely have to be more of a White Burgundy fan, than a Cali Chard fan to enjoy this wine. Conflicting thoughts on this one… This wine is wound very tight, like a Crus Chablis might, without enough cellaring. On the pop, the nose is all bitter key lime, grapefruit and brine. Let the wine rest for 15 minutes and the nose begins to blossom a bit. Definite honeysuckle and green apple comes to play, in addition to the other aromas. Now, the alcohol comes forward – another Cali producer over-doing a white with 14% alcohol. The palate is complex. After 30 minutes, the sweet honeysuckle moves to the front and lime, grapefruit and brine moves to a well-defined mid-palate. The oak is not subtle here, but it adds interest by exaggerating the mouth-feel coming from stirring the lees. The wine almost feels like heavy cream in the mouth. The acid level is high. This could easily age another five years. How would you feel about a 15 year aged Cali Chardonnay? The finish is very, very long with a lightly sweet-sour flavor that persists. This is like a better White Burgundy, missing the finesse. This should be drunk with specific foods to tame its wildness. The acidity would hold up well to the most buttery of white cream sauces I can think of, in fact, linguine in a rich white clam sauce is coming to mind! Drinking window easily until 2022.

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Filed under Carneros, Chardonnay, Napa Valley, U.S. Wines by Region, Wine by Varietal, Wine Tasting, Wine Tasting Notes

Two Rhys Chardonnays

Rhys Alpine Vineyard

My wife and I pulled out a couple of stellar California Chardonnays from the cellar last night. Rhys really does stand out as a quality Chardonnay producer. I normally go to French White Burgundy for quality and value in this category, but Rhys has compared well and I do try to support the better quality USA wineries. I must admit, typically I do not enjoy New World white wines under $40/btl. In general, they are produced to accompany food, or as an easy drinking aperitif and have little nuance. The challenge is, moving from Old World Chardonnay to California, you have to be willing to spend $60-100/btl. for similar quality. I usually prefer to stick with comparable French whites and pay 1/2 to 3/4 the price. Unfortunately, even Rhys has been raising their bottle price lately and is approaching a poor value proposition with White Burgundies…

Here are my tasting notes on the two Rhys wines we drank last night:

2013 Rhys Alpine Vineyard Chardonnay

California Central Coast AVA

Tasting Note:

The nose is complex with citrus and tropical fruits… candied lemon, bright fresh lemon, banana and pineapple. There is a tinge of alcohol and a kiss of minerality too. The palate is more straight-forward. Fresh lemon, bitter lemon rind leading to a lemon curd finish that has a touch of sweetness. The main impression here is of an understated wine, the nuances of which will not be experienced with food. I think the mouth-feel is still developing, so with very high acidity, I would let this rest a few more years to achieve the best tasting experience (drinking window 2015-2020). This drinks very well now as a quality Cali Chard, but if you are willing to wait, I think this will mature to add another point or two to the rating.

2012 Rhys Alesia Alder Springs Vineyard Chardonnay

California Central Coast AVA

Tasting Note:

At first pop, nice fruity candied meyer lemon on the nose that blows off after a few minutes. Nose settles down to a typical Cali Chard – lots of citrus, with some alcohol and a touch of concrete minerality. Very high acidity and well integrated alcohol. The palate is all citrus up front, with a mid-palate of bitter lemon rind and medium-long finish with a hint of vanilla. This wine is elevated by the mouth-feel. It has a delicate, silky texture that significantly enhances the drinking experience without food. With food, could be an excellent pairing with a citrus marinated pork loin. This is big enough to handle a few more years in the cellar, but is definitely in its drinking window now (drinking window 2014-2018).

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Filed under Chardonnay, U.S. Wines by Region, Wine by Varietal

Winemaker Interview – David Ramey of Ramey Cellars

Winemaking Aristocracy

Please follow my winemaker interview series! You can find this and other interviews at the following link:

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Filed under Bordeaux/Meritage Blend, Chardonnay, Napa Valley, Sonoma County, U.S. Wines by Region, Wine by Varietal, Wine Education, Wine Tasting, Wine Tasting Notes, Winemaker Interview

2014 Italian Wine Tasting Event

Location: Allesia’s Ristorante Italiano – Mesa, AZ

Tasted Saturday, November 22, 2014


This is really a great little Italian Restaurant that could hold its own if you dropped it almost anywhere in the country. Jon is the friendliest of proprietors and is quite knowledgeable regarding Italian wines. He has a ridiculously good wine selection for such a small location.

For this event, he partnered with a wine distributor (Young’s Market) to offer a really fabulous Italian wine tasting event. Young’s brought two of their sales reps and the importer was present too. I was able to ask questions and take notes, but it was more for the public, than the trade… so, I couldn’t stay seated and evaluate the wines and record my impressions fully.

If you live in the area, enjoy Italian food and wine and haven’t stopped in, you are definitely missing an experience.


Italy, Tuscany, Toscana IGT

Galloni gave this a 91… He must really enjoy big, rich Chardonnay. I enjoyed the nice acidic backbone and the opulent mouth-feel. The aging on the lees added serious texture and body. This wine had a strong red apple nose and palate. The style of winemaking muted the freshness of the fruit. I enjoyed this for what it was, a nice expression of a chardonnay meant to stand on its own. The richness would make food pairings a bit more challenging.

Italy, Tuscany, Toscana IGT

Easy drinking red table wine. Nice balance and mouth-feel for an inexpensive wine. This red is made with a minimum of oak influence and the freshness of the fruit shines through as a result. The structure is just barely enough with medium tannins and medium-high acidity, but for $12 retail, this wine will accompany most all Italian fare without a hitch. The palate is dominated by a fruit-forward presentation of black and red cherry with a relatively short finish.

Italy, Piedmont, Asti, Barbera d’Asti Superiore

This wine continued to reinforce Alba as the premier Barbera producer. Barberas like this from Asti are much simpler and less complex. In Alba, Barbera transcends table wine. In Asti, Barbera table wine is what you get. Even the several Asti DOCG producers I have tasted, just aren’t in the same league. This is a very light and simple wine… to the point of uninteresting. Medium-low tannins and medium acidity for a weak backbone. Drink this now, it won’t last in the bottle more than a year, or two. Black and red cherry flavors on the palate, with a touch of plum. No finish. Works best as a medium quality table wine for pairing with lighter fare…

Italy, Umbria, Lago di Corbara

Slightly sweet, very simple wine, with poor structure. Not acidic enough for a table wine to accompany food. Not tannic enough to bottle-age and not interesting enough to drink on its own…

Italy, Tuscany, Chianti, Chianti Classico DOCG

Actually, a very typical chianti profile with sour red cherry, high tannins and high acidity… but I believe the bottle was flawed. Poor storage, or a leak in the cork. Either way, it was definitely oxidized. I certainly hope the wine was not intended to have that character…

Italy, Tuscany, Chianti, Chianti Rùfina

Nice, but unremarkable traditional Chianti. Slightly sour bright red cherry with black cherry overtones on the palate. High acidity and tannins for good structure, but very rustic. A bit thin. This could handle some bottle-age. Would be a good food wine for pairing with rich red sauces and red meat. If I was a bigger Chianti fan, I would give it another point for being very true to the regional profile.

Italy, Tuscany, Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino

Every Italian wine tasting reinforces the impression… the best Italian Sangiovese is Brunello. I know purists will argue that Brunello is a sibling to Sangiovese, but genetic testing has shown otherwise. It IS Sangiovese. This area must be the perfect terroir for the grape, for the wines are just spectacular, if rather expensive. Fresh red and black cherry palate with a fantastic full mouth-feel. High acidity and high tannins make for a great backbone. The bigger mouth-feel makes the wine more approachable. This is a good example of a quality Brunello.

Italy, Tuscany, Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino

Brooding black cherry palate, with strong bitter dark chocolate character. The big mouth-feel and more refined tannins of most Brunellos is missing here. The high acidity and rustic tannins do not make the wine very approachable now. Perhaps, this is just made in a more ageable style. I have tasted several similar Brunellos, but this is not my preferred profile.

Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo

Maybe I am just a Barolo purist and should have scored this a little higher. The character is very typical, with a red cherry and leather palate, but the wine is simple, lacking the complexity of higher priced Barolos. Decent QPR for a representative Barolo, but missing the good things I try to find that make it special, namely: a strong floral nose & palate and an herbal mint character. This wine had the typical unique Barolo tannins with high acidity, in keeping with this wine’s fantastic ageability.


Italy, Tuscany, Toscana IGT

Nose of black cherry and brown butter. The palate is fruit-forward and a touch sweet and the Petit Verdot in the blend adds some mouth-feel. The structure is a little weak, with only medium tannins and acidity. Definitely, a wine to drink within the next year, or two. It was a decent everyday drinker, but the touch of sweetness would not be my preference with food.

Italy, Tuscany, Bolgheri

One of those wines that for me, is difficult to score. The flavors were right up my alley, but the structure was missing a tannin backbone. Weak nose with some spice. A fruit forward palate with a mild dark chocolate that starts from the attack and is present through the finish. A lighter wine style with a beautiful cinnamon and clove character to the spice. Good high acidity, but only medium tannins and a nice long finish.

Italy, Tuscany, Toscana IGT

Young’s Market is the distributor in our area and was selling this through Allesia’s at $22/btl retail. For that price, an ageable wine like this is a pretty good deal. Had a typical Super Tuscan profile, with good structure and mouth-feel. High tannins and high acidity with a really nice apple pie spice character. Give this 3-5 years in the bottle and it will make an even bigger impression…

Italy, Tuscany, Toscana IGT

I was told Suckling gave this a 95! Ooops! Where did that come from? Yes, definitely speaks Super Tuscan. Just because it is representative, doesn’t make it a best in class wine. This is fruit-forward with good structure and decent balance. Will age well and improve in a 3-5 year time frame. Black cherry, dark chocolate, a bit thin, but a good finish… all the components of a solid Super Tuscan.

Italy, Tuscany, Maremma, Maremma Toscana

A very nice example of a Super Tuscan with some age on it already. Very similar profile to the Crognolo label from the same producer and vintage year (see my previous tasting note)… but this added a big, elegant mouth-feel. I am sure the five years of bottle age has contributed to the elegance of the wine. This is fruit-forward with good structure and decent balance. Will age well and improve. Has a black cherry and dark chocolate palate with a good finish… all the components of a solid Super Tuscan. Decent QPR for a bottle-aged Super Tuscan for people who aren’t willing to hold and wait.

Italy, Tuscany, Toscana IGT

Past vintages of this wine have been consistently good. This may be a slightly better year than average. Spicy, fruity nose. Fruit-forward palate of black cherry and plum. Medium-high acidity and the tannins were high, but accessible, with a character that fills the mouth. Perhaps a touch too fruity for a top notch food wine, but the great structure and balance will provide a nice experience on its own. This is wine is one of my faves for the price.

Italy, Tuscany, Bolgheri, Bolgheri Sassicaia

One of my absolute favorite wines in the world. This vintage does not disappoint again. A young wine, but it is a touch more accessible than others in the past. I must extol its virtues now… again. Beautiful nose of fruit and spice. The palate is fruit-forward but the fruit is not over-whelming. This has the perfect balance of acidity, tannins, alcohol and texture. A food wine AND excellent on its own. Just a classically elegant wine that can be drunk now, or bottle-aged to add nuance and approachability. Is your mouth watering? Mine is. The retail is listed at $200/btl at the local shop… is the QPR right? Well, what can you compare this to? I am not a fan of spending $200 on a bottle of wine. Although in this case, how do you even put that question in context?


Italy, Sardinia, Isola dei Nuraghi IGT

Another wine that was difficult for me to score. I love Carignan when it is done well. This particular wine is to be experienced, not tasted. The silky mouth-feel is way past its price point. Though, the structure is missing balance. Decent acidity and only medium tannins leave a hole… that I could get past, others may not. I am a sucker for this kind of profile. Fruit forward spicy palate with black cherry, blackberry and plum. A medium long finish of mild dark chocolate. This is definitely better on its own, than with food.

Italy, Sicily, Sicilia IGT

Not your typical Nero d’Avola. I am familiar with this varietal as a dependable, low-cost, straight-forward table wine that consistently delivers good QPR. This wine has complex fruit flavors, with red, blue and black fruits. The backbone was decent, but the wine doesn’t fill your mouth like other examples of this varietal. A lightly spicy, chocolate character complements the entire palate. This wine has both more than I expected… and less. Sorry, I know this does not convey the tasting well. I would like to try this wine again, when I have more time to evaluate it, rather than at a tasting event.

Italy, Sicily, Noto

I was told Suckling gave this a 93. Apparently, his palate and mine are not close on Italian wines. There was significant complexity on the nose and palate, but the wine was too rich. The nose had a beautiful herbal mint undertone that I enjoyed. Either this wine had been oaked too long, or an extended maceration imparted a strong brown butter flavor. The wine has high acidity and only medium tannins. With more structure, it may have stood-up to the richness better. This may be one of those personal preference wines. Either a love it, or hate it kind of experience.

Italy, Sicily, Sicilia IGT

This Syrah is all wrong. No mouth-feel, poor structure, very light and the fruit is all red. It doesn’t work as a cool-climate Syrah either. This doesn’t fit into any category of Syrah I have tasted. I am told Wine Enthusiast gave this a 90. Whoa there, this is so NOT varietally correct for a 100% Syrah.

Italy, Sicily, Sicilia IGT

Probably another year, or two left in the drinking window for this one. This has a touch too much oak for my taste, but nevertheless a very good wine.  A big black cherry palate with lots of spicy character. Nice structure with medium-high acidity & tannins and is well balanced. This flavor profile leans toward cherry too much for this kind of blend, but still an enjoyable wine.

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Filed under Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Italian Wine, Nebbiolo, Piedmonte, Restaurant, Restaurant Review, Sangiovese, Super Tuscan Blend, Syrah/Shiraz, Toscana, Wine Education, Wine Tasting, Wine Tasting Notes

Chappellet Vineyards and Sonoma Loeb Tasting Streamed to 45 Total Wine Stores

Chappellet Live! A Virtual Tasting from Napa Valley’s Pritchard Hill

Saturday, April 19, 2014
Tempe, AZ

Featured Wines:
Sonoma Loeb Chardonnay Reserve – $29.99
Sonoma Loeb Chardonnay Envoy – $39.99
Sonoma Loeb Sonoma Pinot Noir – $24.99
Sonoma Loeb Pinot Noir Russian River Valley Reserve – $39.99
Chappellet Napa Chardonnay – $34.99
Chappellet Cervantes Mountain Cuvee – $34.99
Chappellet Napa Signature Cabernet – $49.99
2008 Chappellet Pritchard Hill Cabernet – $119.99


Fabulous idea! This is a great way for a medium size winery (under 40K cases?) to reach a broad audience. Technology provides opportunities, if we know how to leverage it. Unfortunately, the technology had its challenges. The audio had a terrible echo, which could have been eliminated by muting all the sites other than the point of origin. The message was a bit scattered, but the mother of the host family was awesome! She was interesting enough to host her own wine talk show… all in all, for a first effort at internet marketing – a gallant one, and they will get better over time. Keep it up guys! Good Luck!


I liked the lower cost Sonoma Loeb on its own, but the Chappellet chard would be best accompanying food.

  • 2012 Chappellet Vineyard Chardonnay

USA, California, Napa Valley

This was a VERY traditional Napa style chardonnay specifically made for accompanying food. The color was a very pale straw and extremely clear. The nose was very weak, but bright, with notes of grapefruit, lemon curd and oak. The palate was a touch sweet, light-bodied with very high acidity. The flavors on the palate matched the nose with a short finish. This is not an easy drinking aperitif. It would be much better with a nice seafood, or pork dish.

  • 2012 Sonoma-Loeb Chardonnay Private Reserve Carneros

USA, California, Napa / Sonoma, Carneros

This is an attempt at a classic Burgundian oaked chardonnay. Very weak nose, showing nail polish initially, then aromas of lemon curd, vanilla and oak. Medium bodied and very dry with high acidity. Palate was soft, but had a minimum of depth to the flavors. I sort of enjoyed this for an easy drinking chard at a wine bar kind of beverage. It resides somewhere between a food wine and an aperitif. Over-priced at $30/btl, but decent enough.

  • 2011 Sonoma-Loeb Chardonnay Envoy

USA, California, Napa / Sonoma, Russian River Valley

The winemaker tried so hard here, but missed the mark. I guess if you were looking for a Rombauer chard you might find this appealing, but they do over-the-top chards much better. Big nose of lemon curd, butterscotch and pineapple with a strong presence of oak. There is some minerality, but it does not come through to the palate. The wine coats the mouth with rich textures. The palate simply brings the nose through with no mid-palate and there is a medium finish of pineapple. Only medium acidity… so food pairing options would be limited. There is too much oak and the freshness is lost because of it. I didn’t care for this wine.


Regarding the Pinot Noir, the lower priced Sonoma Loeb again was superior to the higher-priced wine. Of Cab Sauv and blends, the Pritchard Hill Cab stood out by far as superior, but at $120/btl… my goodness!

  • 2011 Sonoma-Loeb Pinot Noir

USA, California, Sonoma County

The nose is full of cherry cough syrup, browned butter, oak and medicinal overtones. High acidity and medium tannins provide a fair amount of structure. The texture is very light. The palate is full of red cherry and oak. It also has a smokey flavor with a light spice character. This is too fruity and the oak is not integrated. There is enough structure and complexity present to elevate it a bit.

  • 2012 Sonoma-Loeb Pinot Noir

USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley

A strong oak character. The nose is full of sweet red cherry, butter and oak. The acidity is very high with low tannins. Not very well balanced. The texture is very light. This could have been very good with more freshness to the fruit. On its own, the acidity bites… but paired with the right foods, this wine would be awesome. The flavor profile is a bit simple.

  • 2011 Chappellet Vineyard Cervantes Mountain Cuvee

USA, California, Napa Valley

Powerful nose of alcohol that did not blow off dominates. This is a light bodied wine, with high acidity and high tannins. Good structure with reasonable balance. The palate is fruit forward with sweet cherry and black raspberry moving to a mid-palate of bitter dark chocolate and a long slightly bitter finish with earthy undertones. This would be a very good table wine, pairing well with richer food dishes, but I would expect it to cost under $30/btl.

  • 2011 Chappellet Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Signature Reserve

USA, California, Napa Valley

Very dark extracted looking wine with an intense nose of alcohol, plum and blackberry. High acidity and high tannins – very young. This has a light mouth-feel, offering more of a food wine approach. The palate is fruit forward with sweet plum, blackberry and white pepper. The fruit is very concentrated. The mid-palate brings in oak and toffee and then finishes with vanilla. A middle of the road Napa cab.

  • 2008 Chappellet Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Pritchard Hill Estate Vineyard

USA, California, Napa Valley

A beautiful wine. The nose is full of rich black plum with a pretty floral character, moving to menthol and alcohol. High acidity and high tannins with a nice mouth-feel. The palate is fruit forward with extracted plum and blackberry with a mid-palate of tobacco, tar, oak and vanilla. The finish is long with a mildly bitter dark chocolate flavor. This wine is balanced and has good structure, but it is still young and would benefit from another 3-5 years in the bottle.


Filed under Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Napa Valley, Pinot Noir, Sonoma County, U.S. Wines by Region, Wine Tasting, Wine Tasting Notes

Italian Wine Ramblings with 47 Tasting Notes

Italy Wine Adventure – Alto-Adige, Valpolicella, Soave, Bolgheri, Barbaresco & Barolo

General Comments on Italian Wine

Spent two weeks in Northern Italy visiting wineries. Used my Sommelier certification and wine consulting activities to arrange trade tastings at many wineries along the way. A few significant thoughts about the trip:

1) Pergola is starting to go away here and guyot is taking its place. Along with it, the practice of dropping fruit to improve concentration is becoming common. Very glad to see!
2) Every red wine producer I visited fermented in stainless steel, with automated pump-over. The wines were easily noticeable as less manipulated, more vintage character coming through each year and the tannins were finer than I am used to in the U.S.
3) NO AGING IN AMERICAN OAK! Generally, even limited contact with new French oak. I found myself missing the oak from these wines and having to adjust my palate. Although, the wines all clearly had a fresher fruit characteristic because of it.
4) All red wine producers worked with varietals and winemaking technique that tended to focus the wine away from texture. IMHO, the best wines here were those that focused on taking the local style and move it towards an emphasis on mouth-feel in the final product.
5) The red wines I enjoyed most, all seemed to have an element of mushroom, or wet earth on the nose. Not sure why that was, but consistently true for me on this trip. VERY STRANGE.
6) Also, a bitter dark chocolate finish of varying length and power was a characteristic of most red wines I tasted. When it was missing, the wines tasted incomplete.
7) FOOD – Don’t miss Piemonte… It is hard to describe how special this area is for a wonderful dining experience. No other region we visited was even close.
8) Barbera d’Alba is one of the best wine values in Italy and while it is a completely different wine, does not get enough respect in comparison to the Barolo and Barbaresco produced in the same region.
9) Almost all of the wine we drank in Italy was pretty good, even at $10Eur/btl. In my small sampling on this trip, it could be the Italian wine industry has a much better grasp of how to make reasonably good, value priced daily drinkers. The premium end of the fine wines was another story. I felt like there were only a few wineries that stood-out, but of course nowhere else is Nebbiolo like this.

I was very disappointed to have lost my Conterno Fantino and Cigliuti tasting notes. Great people and very good wine. I will limit the flights to the more notable visits. Too much content to bore you all with. For perspective on my tasting notes – I do not enjoy white wine, unless there is minerality. Start off with my impressions by region:


The clear winner here is Terlan. Simply fantastic white wines. The minerality is so heavy here, that they have to chip out precipitated minerals at the bottom of their large Hungarian Oak barrels every 8-10 years. They call it wine rock! The winery popped some 20 year old pinot bianco for us. These white wines age VERY WELL! So glad to have found this winery. It is something special in the world of white wines.


This is the one area I wish I would have planned more time with. My life experience with Valpolicella Classico has not impressed me over much, but I have not really spent the money to explore Amarone, Ripasso and Recioto… my loss. These are truly exceptional wines. What I have been missing all these years…. aaaaah, lost opportunity.


Again, another area that has under-impressed over the years. In my experience, limited to lower priced wines selected by importers. I found a VERY SPECIAL producer here: Pieropan. I will seek out their white wine in the U.S.


The wines tasted here generally were disappointing, with some notable exceptions. Very much, French Bordeaux style wines, but missing the fine wine making tradition to make the wine special. One of the very notable exceptions was Tenuta San Guido. Sassicaia was a truly amazing wine and so far beyond the other wine there, it was tragic.


I fell in love with the Nebbiolo wines from this area. It is a pity the area is geographically so tiny and has such small production.


This area was hit or miss for me. The better wineries here seemed to zero-in on making these massive tannins as fine as possible. When accomplished – FANTASTIC! When not, wines that will take 20 years before you can touch.


Terlan was amazing. Producing Chardonnay and Pinot Bianco (among other varietals) that handle age very well. Maybe not like Riesling, but certainly for a dry white… as interesting as White Burgundy. Their terroir produces wines with so much minerality that they have to chip out the precipitated minerals from the barrels every 8-10 years. They call it wine stone! Also, barrel aging (in lieu of bottle aging) of whites is very common here. They showed us a 1996 Chardonnay still in the barrel! Visited Foradori… very disappointed after reading some of the CellarTracker notes and professional reviews. Very old style vineyard management. Many of their vineyards were still arranged in the Pergola style and with this varietal, the harvest looked enormous. No dropping of fruit here to add concentration. Wines were all thin and undrinkable young.

2000 Cantina Terlan Chardonnay 93 Points

Italy, Trentino-Alto Adige, Alto Adige, Alto Adige – Südtirol

This winery has changed my perception of Italian white wine. Chardonnay with dimension and complexity! This terroir produces Burgundy quality Chardonnay suitable for aging. 13 year-old Chardonnay with a powerful nose of lemon curd, red apple and a floral aspect. This follows through to a fruit forward palate with nice stoney minerality. Medium high acidity. The time in the bottle has crafted a beautifully balanced wine.

2010 Cantina Terlan Nova Domus Riserva 90 Points

Italy, Trentino-Alto Adige, Alto Adige, Terlano

White blend. Nose of citrus and mown grass. Palate of citrus at front and then carmelized butter from mid-palate through to a long finish. As typical of Terlan – mineral overtones. They have really coaxed the lees into providing extracted flavors and texture. Only neutral oak.

2011 Cantina Terlan Sauvignon Blanc Quarz 88 Points

Italy, Trentino-Alto Adige, Alto Adige, Terlano

Grassy on the nose. Palate of citrus and fresh mown grass, finishing with very noticeable minerality. I was aware of more alcohol than I would prefer. Very strong acidity with a refreshing bite. The nice structure moved the score higher to offset some of the other characteristics.

2011 Cantina Terlan Gewürztraminer Lunare 88 Points

Italy, Trentino-Alto Adige, Alto Adige, Alto Adige – Südtirol

Nose of red roses that carries through to the palate. Very interesting, but too floral on the palate to be really enjoyable. Typical Gewurtz spice on the finish. Very strong acidity. Score reflects the unusual predominance of the rich red rose aroma. I could get lost in the nose on this wine.

2010 Cantina Terlan Lagrein Porphyr Riserva 88 Points

Italy, Trentino-Alto Adige, Alto Adige, Alto Adige – Südtirol

Nose of red fruit with a buttery aspect. Fruit forward, lighter textured wine with raspberry and red cherry on the palate finishing with a medium short finish of dark chocolate. Medium tannins and acidity. Seemed like a cross between Sangiovese and Pinot Noir profiles. Good structure for a lighter style red.

1996 Cantina Terlan Pinot Bianco Classico 92 Points

Italy, Trentino-Alto Adige, Alto Adige, Terlano

Wow, another beautiful aged white at Terlan! Nose of carmelized butter and honey that carries through to the palate. Completely dry though. Fruit is almost gone, but the structure is there. Very, very soft on the palate with mouth-watering high acidity. Mineral overtones that come through at the finish. Whole different experience than the aged Chardonnay, but almost as profound!

2011 Cantina Terlan Chardonnay Kreuth 91 Points

Italy, Trentino-Alto Adige, Alto Adige, Alto Adige – Südtirol

This winery knows how to handle Chardonnay in a Burgundy style. The nose is full of butter with a palate of fruit forward red apple and quince. Has a long buttery finish. High acidity gives this very good structure and the usual Terlan mineral overtones are there too. Very nice mouth-coating texture. Good structure and balance and very enjoyable. If the other aged Chardonnays we tasted are any indication, this will age well too. Terlan ages many of their white wines in the barrel, rather than the bottle. Maybe a contributing factor to how well some vintages hold-up over time? Their sales agent showed us a 1996 Chardonnay still in the barrel!

2005 Cantina Terlan Sauvignon Winkl 90 Points

Italy, Trentino-Alto Adige, Alto Adige, Terlano

Northern Italy can really pull New World flavors out of Sauv Blanc! This wine had a very strong honeysuckle and orange blossom nose that carried through to the palate with a long salted butter finish. Texture was a bit heavier, but I enjoyed the weight. Very soft, but off-setting high acidity. A very pretty Sauv Blanc. Putting some age on it, really developed the wine.

2012 Cantina Terlan Terlaner Classico 88 Points

Italy, Trentino-Alto Adige, Alto Adige, Terlano

White blend. Nose of honeysuckle. The alcohol is a too prevalent for my liking in a white wine. The palate is full of honey and fruit-forward pineapple with mineral overtones. Very viscous texture. Medium high acidity. Interesting flavor profile for an Italian white, but a bit disjointed and the alcohol was immediately obvious.

2012 Cantina Terlan Pinot Bianco Classico 87 Points

Italy, Trentino-Alto Adige, Alto Adige, Terlano

This would be a good food wine for white meats… Very acidic. Citrus on the nose, but very little fruit on the palate. Very crisp, fresh profile with a mineral edge, but all very subtle. After having tasted the 1996 Pinot Bianco, this may have enough structure to age and improve. It would be interesting to try this again in another 5 years. This whole aging white wine approach is new to me. I have tasted the result at Terlan and it works, but I do not have enough experience tasting aged whites to have a good feel. Wine… a lifetime of learning.

2012 Cantina Terlan Pinot Grigio 88 Points

Italy, Trentino-Alto Adige, Alto Adige, Alto Adige – Südtirol

Nose of citrus and flowers. Fresh lemon on the palate with a medium long finish of honeydew melon. Nice, medium texture to add interest. More substantial than many lighter, less tasty Italian Pinot Grigios I have had.

2012 Cantina Terlan Chardonnay 87 Points

Italy, Trentino-Alto Adige, Alto Adige, Alto Adige – Südtirol

A touch frizzante. Heavy mineral nose of wet rocks. The lemon zest on the nose carries through to a palate of subdued lemon with minerality… that continues in the mouth to a medium long finish. Very acidic. Medium texture. Would be better with food than as an aperitif.


Oh, I wish we had more time here. Allegrini was outstanding. Very experimental with wines produced from dried grapes, beyond Amarone and Ripasso.

2012 Pieropan Soave Classico Superiore 90 Points

Italy, Veneto, Soave

Drank a bottle with my wife at a restaurant in Soave with a beautiful garden patio at sunset with prosciutto, assorted cheese and crusty bread. This wine is not vineyard designate, but had the “Superiore” “reserve” designation printed on the label. No specific tasting notes, but this white wine made an impression, for both its profile AND its value. The first impression is of the texture… beautifully soft and silky, coats the mouth, (no oak) but with very high acidity. Very balanced. Fully integrated profile. Great nose of candied lemon peel and mineral. The nose carries through to the palate. Very fruit forward, but also completely dry and very acidic. I know the Soave available in the U.S. has a reputation for variable quality, but this wine truly surprised me and is the best Soave I have tasted!

2011 Allegrini Ripasso della Valpolicella 88 Points

Italy, Veneto, Valpolicella

Smokey nose. Fruit forward palate of black cherry and black pepper. Medium short finish of lingering smoke. Lighter texture with a minimum of mouth feel.

2009 Allegrini Recioto della Valpolicella Classico Giovanni 89 Points

Italy, Veneto, Valpolicella

First Recioto for me and I like it! Nose was very much like port, it had me fooled. The palate was full of bright red fresh cherries. Nice texture that fit the overall impression. A medium finish of sweet prune. Good acidity. This was nice! They do not stop the fermentation short to leave residual sugar, but add to the mixture for sweetness. The sweetness was not overpowering and the fruit was fresher than port.

2010 Allegrini La Grola Veronese IGT 92 Points

Italy, Veneto

I really enjoyed this wine. Put a few years on it and the score will be higher. I was told some of the assemblage came from apassiemento style fruit. I like the way it added to the texture of the wine. The blend of Corvina and Syrah provided a nice cross-section of black cherry and plum flavors with some spice. Fruit stays with you for a nice long finish. Strong tannins and medium acidity. I think this wine will come together in the bottle and improve. I hope I can find it in the U.S.

2010 Allegrini Palazzo della Torre Veronese IGT 89 Points

Italy, Veneto

Blend. Nose of black cherry and plum that carries through to the palate. The blend adds more interest to the Corvina alone. Strong tannins and acidity. Very light texture, but with good structure and backbone.

2011 Allegrini Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 86 Points

Italy, Veneto, Valpolicella

Plum and prune on the palate with a good amount of black pepper. Tannins are strong and sharp. Long bitter finish. I didn’t care for this style of Amarone.

2011 Allegrini Valpolicella Classico 87 Points

Italy, Veneto, Valpolicella

Nose of black cherry and pepper with unresolved alcohol. Palate of sour black cherry and spice. Very light texture with medium tannins and acidity. Basic flavor profile and alcohol is too prevalent.


Overall, disappointed with the wine here. If wine is made in a lighter style, there needs to be SOME mouth-feel, otherwise the wine just seems like alcoholic flavored water. When most wines are produced in re-used French Oak barriques… the neutral oak doesn’t add anything to the wine. Sassicaia had it all though. A lighter French Bordeaux style blend… but with very fine tannins, a silky mouth-feel and EXTREMELY well integrated and balanced. The only way to describe is – perfectly harmonious. VERY well made!

2011 Castello di Bolgheri Varvàra 89 Points

Italy, Tuscany, Bolgheri

Nose of blackberry and graphite. Fruit forward on the palate with blackberry and plum and a long dark chocolate finish. Nice easy drinking Super-Tuscan blend.

2010 Castello di Bolgheri Superiore 91 Points

Italy, Tuscany, Bolgheri

Nose of black cherry and flowers and hint of tobacco. Good balance between acidity and tannins. Accessible now, but could put 10 years of age on this in your cellar. Fruit on the front of blackberry and plum, with a light tobacco flavor on the mid-palate and a medium length dark chocolate finish. Nice effort at a reasonable price.

2010 Michele Satta Giovin Re 88 Points

Italy, Tuscany, Bolgheri

Big Viognier. Nose of citrus and pineapple that follows through to the palate. Nice viscous texture with off-setting high acidity.

2011 Michele Satta Rosso 87 Points

Italy, Tuscany, Bolgheri

Simple red blend. Nose of fresh red cherry. Palate of red and black cherry. Light acidity with strong tannins. Thinner texture with long slightly bitter finish.

2010 Michele Satta Piastraia 86 Points

Italy, Tuscany, Bolgheri

Simple red blend. Almost no nose. Sangiovese driven palate of sour red cherry. Short finish of a touch of dark chocolate. Table wine meant for food.

2009 Michele Satta Syrah IGT 89 Points

Italy, Tuscany

Nose of plum and black cherry. Fruit forward on the palate with black cherry and raspberry flavors. Decent backbone of tannins and acidity and a medium long dark chocolate finish. More red fruit than I am used to in a syrah.

2006 Michele Satta Cavaliere IGT 88 Points

Italy, Tuscany

Nose of bright red cherry and earth. Very soft on the palate with bright red cherry and a light cream sensation, but an unusual short bitter finish. Fairly enjoyable, but a bit of a disjointed experience.

2006 Michele Satta Superiore I Castagni 89 Points

Italy, Tuscany, Bolgheri

Nose of bright red cherry. Fruit forward on the palate carrying the fresh red cherry in front with a mid-palate moving to black cherry flavors and a long finish of fresh cream moving to a dark chocolate at the end. Strong tannins and acidity. Interesting wine.

2012 Poggio al Tesoro Vermentino Solosole IGT 87 Points

Italy, Tuscany

Vermentino. Lemon rind and curdled milk nose. Light frizzante style with a distinct flavor of prepared lemonade. Medium acidity. Simple, straight-forward flavor profile.

2007 Poggio San Polo 88 Points

Italy, Tuscany, Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino

Nose and palate of bright red fresh cherries. Very light texture with strong tannins. Medium high acidity. Flavor profile was very one dimensional, but pleasant enough.

2009 Poggio al Tesoro Sondraia 87 Points

Italy, Tuscany, Bolgheri

Nose of earthy mushroom and alcohol. Palate of black cherry with a long bitter dark chocolate finish. Strong tannins and medium acidity. Alcohol was not integrated and overpowered the perception of the wine. Flavor profile not balanced. Not sure this will come together.

2008 Poggio al Tesoro Dedicato a Walter IGT 88 Points

Italy, Tuscany

100% Cab Franc. Earthy mushroom nose. Fruit forward palate of bright red fresh cherries. Very light texture. Very high tannins and acidity. Clean, clear red fruit. A tad simple in its approach.

2011 Campo alla Sughera Arioso IGT 87 Points

Italy, Tuscany

Nose of lemon zest and steel. The palate was very clean and fresh, fruit forward and exactly like a lemon drop. Dry, with medium acidity. The fruit had a bit too much of a candied flavor for my taste.

2011 Campo alla Sughera Achenio 87 Points

Italy, Tuscany, Bolgheri

Blend. Nose of lemon and oak. Palate of fresh lemon and oak. Good acidity and some structure. Viscous mouth-coating texture. Many of these Italian wineries seem to have mastered affecting the wines by aging on the lees. I think the oak may mask the sauv blanc notes (would have added some complexity). Lemon has been the consistent fruit theme for Tuscan white wine… ready for something different.

2010 Campo alla Sughera Adèo 88 Points

Italy, Tuscany, Bolgheri

Super Tuscan blend. Nose of mushroom and black cherry. Palate of plum and black cherry in front with a long bitter dark chocolate finish. Not much of a mid-palate. Medium tannins and medium acidity. Very one-dimensional, but drinks reasonably well.

2008 Campo alla Sughera Arnione 88 Points

Italy, Tuscany, Bolgheri

Nose of wet earth and black cherry. Texture is light, but the bit of Petit Verdot adds some substance. The palate has plum and black cherry in front with a short bit of dark chocolate on the finish. Tannins are strong and dusty with medium high acidity. Probably will mature and bring the tannins and acidity into balance, but needs to have more mid-palate, complexity and finish to be really interesting and elevate it.

2008 Campo alla Sughera Grappa Di Arnione 92 Points

Italy, Tuscany, Bolgheri

I really enjoyed this. My favorite product from this winery. Grappa is not usually for my palate, but this had exceptional flavor and texture. Very nutty on the nose… loved the aroma. There was a little fruit in front with a long finish of hazelnut. Very smooth. The alcohol had some bite, as you would expect and the acidity added some structure. This stuff is dangerous! I could have sat on that couch picked up a good book and sipped it all day…


Oh my gosh! Nebbiolo heaven. No other region in the world can come close to doing this with the Nebbiolo grape. Cigliutti was the stand-out for me here. My gosh, in a lighter style, no more beautiful wine on the planet. Visited Paolo Scavino also. Good Barolo and Barolo cru, but nothing particularly notable.

2012 Azienda Monsordo Bernardina (Ceretto) Arneis Blangé 87 Points

Italy, Piedmont, Langhe

Very little color in the glass. Nose of citrus and pear. Light frizzante style. Soft texture, medium acidity, with pear and lemon on the palate. Missing the structure and minerality I prefer in a white.

2009 Azienda Bricco Rocche (Ceretto) Prapò 88 Points

Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo

Nose was completely absent. Fresh red cherry on the palate, medium tannins and acidity. Short caramel finish. Perhaps too early for the wine to come together, but this will not be a vintage for extended aging.

2010 Azienda Monsordo Bernardina (Ceretto) Monsordo 88 Points

Italy, Piedmont, Langhe

A bordeaux style blend for the international market. Nose of brown sugar, blackberry, earth and green bell pepper. Soft in the mouth with plum and blackberry fruit, black pepper moving to green bell pepper on the mid-palate and a medium length finish of dark chocolate. Strong tannins, but light acidity. The under-ripe cab sauv was evident in the mid-palate, but not over-powering. Not very complex, easy drinking red blend.

2010 Azienda Bricco Asili (Ceretto) Bernardot 89 Points

Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barbaresco

Nose of earthy mushroom and flowers. Beautiful silky texture. Red cherry in front moving to black cherry in the mid-palate. Strong tannins and medium acidity with a medium length dark chocolate finish. Wine struck me as lacking some structure and balance, but a very nice wine. 89+… It may come around after some time in the bottle.

2009 Azienda Bricco Rocche (Ceretto) Brunate 86 Points

Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo

Nose of earth, mushroom and black cherry. After about 10 mins., adds a strong caramel note. On the palate the texture was very thin, tannins were not bold like typical Barolo and only medium acidity (perhaps the vintage?). Red cherry flavors with a mid-palate of loamy earth and a short finish of caramel. This wine was too watery in the mouth.

2011 Conterno Fantino Monprà 90 Points

Italy, Piedmont, Langhe

Very nice new world style blend of Barbera and Nebbiolo. Medium tannins and medium acidity. Mouth-coating texture with a fruit-forward palate of red and black fruit. Hint of dark chocolate on the finish. 50/50 mix of Langhe Barbera and Nebbiolo and you can recognize the two distinct varietals easily here. Step above your typical Italian Barbera table wine at a nice price.

2009 Conterno Fantino Riserva Sorì Ginestra 94 Points

Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo

I thought, the best Barolo Cru of the trip. Nose of cherry and earthy mushroom. Non-traditional 2009 warm vintage puts the fruit out front with red and black cherry and a long finish of dark chocolate. Strong tannins and acidity for a fine backbone. Approachable now, but you could easily put 10 years on this. I don’t think this will take decades of aging like some Barolos. This is a wonderful example of of everything good about Barolo, with a new world influence. Great structure and balance.

2009 G.D. Vajra Barbera d’Alba Superiore 92 Points

Italy, Piedmont, Alba

Holy cow! The richest Barbera I have tasted hands down! Drank at a restaurant in the Langhe area, no notes. Complex palate of red and black fruit and a mouth-coating texture. Long finish of fruit and dark chocolate. Medium high acidity and medium tannins. So different from the Barbera d’Alba we have been drinking here. Great for an aperitif! Not a refined, pretty wine, just a big bruiser. I hope I can find this in the U.S.

2009 Cigliuti Serraboella 96 Points

Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barbaresco

My favorite wine of the two weeks tasting in Italy and a great value for a quality Barbaresco! Interesting vintage. Warmest year of several warm years in the last decade and producers know this fruit-forward style matches the new world export market better, but the old guard will not call these vintages “typical” Barbaresco. I was very disappointed to have lost my notes from this winery. Two sisters run the vineyards/winery with their father and they were wonderfully accommodating. All the wines were of high quality, but this Barbaresco was special. Everything that makes Barbaresco beautiful and more of it. Super soft in the mouth, but with strong tannins and acidity – sexy, without being too plush. Little funk on the nose and minerality on the palate with a long, lingering finish. Just great structure and balance. Very accessible for such a recent vintage. Couldn’t help myself… bought a half case to lug back to the U.S.! More tasting notes in years to come!


The original Super Tuscan smack-down! Stopped in at Enoteca Tognoni and tasted everything on tap! We also tasted Le Macchiole, Ca’Marcanda, Sapaio, Guado al Tasso and Grattamacco, but the Sassicaia and Ornellaia was so much more enjoyable than the others.

2009 Tenuta San Guido Sassicaia 95 Points

Italy, Tuscany, Bolgheri

Sassicaia vs. Ornellaia Smack-Down – Tasted with a plate of prosciutto, cheese, olive oil and bread. No notes. This wine was the single outstanding bright spot in Bolgheri on this trip. Started as a typical Super Tuscan… light texture, subdued alcohol, red and black cherry fruit with a dark chocolate finish… then, at the end it hits you. This wine is so well made, everything just is as it should be. All flavors show themselves without overpowering. The texture is light, but silky and coats the mouth. Strong tannins and acidity, but neither is too much to prevent the wine from coming together. This wine presents a beautifully balanced, structured and harmonious profile.

2009 Tenuta dell’Ornellaia Ornellaia 92 Points

Italy, Tuscany, Bolgheri

Sassicaia vs. Ornellaia Smack-Down – Tasted with a plate of prosciutto, cheese, olive oil and bread. No notes. Typical Super Tuscan… light texture, subdued alcohol, red and black cherry fruit with a dark chocolate finish. Well made, but doesn’t leave you with that “wow” factor. For the same rough price point, the Sassicaia bowled me over, whereas the Ornellaia just had me thinking this is “pretty darn good”. Maybe a little too thin in comparison? Strong tannins and acidity. Perhaps the comparison was unfair and it was simply that particular vintage, but the difference seemed to be in the vinification, rather than the quality of the fruit. Of course, it could just be a personal preference and my palate matches the Sassicaia better…

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