Work--"the curse of the drinking class"--kept me from visiting WLDG for much of the last four months. So I have a backlog of tasting notes, and this is the first group of several I hope to post.
Wines from a Busy Winter: Tuscany
Vasco Sassetti Brunello di Montalcino 1998
Dark ruby, nearly opaque, lightly bricking at the rim. Washed dark cherries on the nose, with notes of smoke, underbrush, and worn leather. Cherry liqueur emerges with time. Full-bodied. Rich, ripe flavors follow the nose with added hints of baked plum and charcoal around the edges. Good acidity lends structure. Soft tannins on the finish. Really benefits from an hour or two of air. Pretty decent Brunello for the money--’97 and ’99 get the hype, but I’ve enjoyed the approachable ‘98s plenty. $30. 13.5% alcohol.
Casisano-Colombaio Brunello di Montalcino 1999
Medium dark, dusky ruby, lightly browning at the rim. Some initial mustiness blows off, leaving lots of earth, berries, leather, and tar. Light- to medium-bodied, with dark cherries and blackberry jam shaded with tobacco and licorise. Good intensity. Nicely balanced acidic profile with fine-grained tannins on the long finish. At first, I was surprised this seems so ready, but after three days in the fridge, the tannins are firmer (!) and the palate is taking on new dimensions. I’ll hold my remaining bottles for another couple of years. In the same price range, but classier than the Sassetti. $33 (but I’ve seen for $27). 13.5% alcohol.
Nottola “Vigna del Fattore” Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 1999
Nearly opaque, worn purple velvet with a watery rim. Saddle leather, potpourri, spice, and sweet earth aromas, with a hint of dried cherry and chocolate. Medium-bodied and light on its feet, with pretty red fruit flavor carried by tangy acidity. Medium tannins on the long, spiced-apple scented finish. Still a favorite Vino Nobile of mine, but I think I preferred the purity of the ’98. (Price is up $6, too.) $25. 13%.
Redi “Argo et Non Briareo” Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2001
Semi-clear, medium ruby. Soft fragrance of sour and sweet cherries, rose garden, new leather, and red meat. Warm and savory black fruit with hints of chocolate and mint on the medium-bodied palate. Firm acidity and sweet tannins. A bit short on the finish. If I understand correctly, the straight “Briareo” is the top of the line from the Vecchia Cantina coop in Montepulciano, and this bottling is one step down. $20. 13.5% alcohol.
Isola e Olena Chianti Classico 2003
Clear, light-medium ruby with a violet cast. At first sniff, my fears about the dreaded ’03 vintage seem confirmed: forest-floor funk, overripe decay, pleather. After a good bit of swirling and breathing, something much prettier happens: dark cherries touched with spice and vanilla, tea, and only a whiff of the ghastliness above. Light- to medium-bodied, with red plum, red berries, and tea leaves. The finish actually tastes of tea tannins. Not a great wine, but respectable—and what a rebound! $17. 13.5% alcohol.
Castello di Tavolese “Rubicondo” 2000 (Toscana IGT)
Light-medium, semi-dusky ruby. An opening dankness resolves into wet earth, dark cherries, and sweet oak. Medium-bodied, with sweet spiced fruit and red licorise. Acidic enough, but the wood tannins are a bit overbearing. Decent, but too oaky for my taste. A Cabernet Sauvignon / Sangio blend in unstated proportion. $13. 13.5% alcohol.
FEAR THE TURTLE ! ! !