2007 Renato Ratti Marcenasco Barolo

This wine is sourced from vineyards situated near the Annunziata Abbey (in the township of La Morra). It was aged in the tradition style in large Slovenian oak casks and old smaller barriques.

On the nose I get intoxicating aromas of stewed cherry, red currant, tea leaf, sandalwood, semi-sweet coco powder, and cedar spice.  It's an amazing bouquet that develops with time in the glass and even becomes floral and penetrates the room.

On the palate the wine is explosive and intense with it's firm and super-ripe tannins and sharp acidity. I get flavors reminiscent of cherry, red currant, cranberry, tobacco, coco, tea berry, leather, mineral, and just a faint hint of orange peel. The finish is long and dry and leaves the mouth watering with flavors of tea leaf and ripe plum.

To be completely honest it's hard to imagine a more superb effort coming from a young Barolo in this price category. The wine is ultra-classy and has complexity for days........93+ points

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2006 Da Vinci Brunello Di Montalcino

Cantine Leonardo da Vinci's vineyards are located in the breathtaking Val di Cava, one of Montalcino's most beautiful areas. The wine (as with all Brunello) is made with 100% Sangiovese, and was aged for a period of three years in both small barriques and large casks.

 On the nose I get incredible aromas of cherry, chocolate, earth, fresh black raspberry, and hints of leather, cedar, and spice. The nose is incredibly aromatic and has actually filled my whole office with it's beautiful bouquet. It's a very intoxicating and complex wine on the nose and well it's fully open and in full form, the bouquet is completely hedonistic.

On the palate the wine continues to display it's stunning fruit-purity and shows complex flavors of sour cherry, coco, ripe cranberry, and a touch of earth and leather. The finish is medium in length. 92 Points

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2006 Nozzole Chianti Classico Riserva

The Nozzole estate consists of just over 70 hectares of vineyards that date back to the 1300's. The estate is located within the Chianti Classico region at Passo dei Pecorai, Greve in Chianti at the very heart of the Classico zone; which lies in a ruggedly beautiful valley throughout which are numerous hillside microclimates supporting vineyards planted to the classic red Tuscan vines.

The 2006 Nozzole Chianti Classico Riserva is composed of 100% Sangiovese and was aged for 12 months in large Slavonian oak caks.

On the nose I get aromas of black cherry, cranberry, cinnamon, leather, oak, and spice. There are just secondary hints of earth and chocolate that develop when the wine opens up in the glass.

On the palate the wine expresses flavors of cranberry, black cherry, leather, and spice. It's a classic Chianti Classico that is rather simple in it's complexities, but shows great balance and is stylistically representative of the region. The perfect pasta wine indeed.....88+ points

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2009 La Spinetta Toscana Vermentino

La Spinetta is a fabulous winery and they actually have three different wineries; two of which are located in Piedmont and the other in Tuscany. This Vermentino is a 100% Vermentino from the winery in Terricciola, Tuscany. The wine is aged for only four months in steel tanks on the lees.

On the nose I get a very savory and salty flavors of lemon oil, mineral, crushed rocks, tangerine blossom, and just a hint of rubber band. I smells very Italian or "old world" in the sense that it doesn't have big luscious fruit character and is predominantly soil driven.

On the palate the wine comes across with a nice round texture, but contains a very sharp acidity that cleans it up on the finish. I get flavors that remind me of mineral, lemon grass, tangerine, wet stone, and a hint of nutmeg and spice.

The wine is actually quite simple in nature, even though I did throw quite a bit of descriptors down. The honest truth is the wine isn't overly complex in nature, but delivers a solid effort that would be quite exceptional with seafood. 88 points

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2007 Ricasoli Guicciarda Chianti Classico Riserva

The Ricasoli winery is widely thought to be the world's oldest winery still in existence. It has been producing wines sine 1141 and had a huge role in the establishment of the region of Chianti. Baron Bettino Ricasoli also developed the Sangiovese-based formula that came to be known as the official blend for Chianti.

I have always really enjoy the wines from this producer and especially their higher tier wines like the Castello di Brolio Chianti, which is some of the very best Chianti in the whole region. This wine has a very deep purple color and shows it youthful vibrancy in the glass. On the nose I get exciting aromas of dark fruits such as black cherry and blackberry. There are some very nice secondary notes as well like tobacco, licorice, spice, forest floor, and leather. It's a very complex and unique bouquet that expresses it's sense of place very convincingly.

On the palate the wine is concentrated and displays flavors of dark cherry, red currant, earth, spice/oak, and some leathery tones. It's a dry wine and is definitely made in the "old world" style, which is very much my style of wine. I can see this wine pair wonderfully with many Italian dishes, but also with a number of other meat or game based entrees. It's a wine with focused acidity and plenty of Tuscan terroir. 90 points 

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2007 Tenuta di Trinoro Le Cupole

I recently had the chance to taste this wine at and pretty impressive Italian wine tasting and I have to say it was among the best of the night. In fact, many people at the tasting were raving about it's quality for the price tag ($27). It's a IGT wine from Tuscany's Maremma subregion and is a blend of 40% Cabernet Franc, 22% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, and 8% Petit Verdot.

On the nose I found aromas of ripe black cherry, raspberry, leather, wild flowers, and hints of soil. It's a very opulent and fruit driven style, and while there is a high percentage of Cab Franc in the blend the wine doesn't display any traces of an herbal or vegetal nature.

On the palate this wine is smooth and sexy and reveals flavors of black raspberry, boysenberry, milk chocolate, and hints of earth. It's a fantastically ripe wine that is silky on the palate, but has plenty of strength and tannin on the finish.

For a wine in this price range this is an absolute stunner in terms of quality. To get this density of fruit and silkiness on the palate you'd easily spend upwards of sixty dollars. 93 points

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2003 Castellare S. Niccolo Vin Santo del Chianti Classico

Vin Santo or "holy wine" is named as such because priests have been drinking it during Mass for centuries. It's also a wine that has held a place in the Tuscan tradition as an after dinner dessert wine for generations. Most vin santo tends to be quite sweet, but can very in it's sugar levels depending on the producer and is often less sweet than Sauternes.

Usually these rare gems are quite expensive to purchase because of the limited supply and the labor intensive way in which they are produced. Malvasia and Trebbiano grapes must be dried for three to six months before they can be made into vin santo. This is usually accomplished by hanging the grapes from rafters in a well ventilated attic or room. During this drying out period the grapes lose most their water and become ultra-concentrated in both flavor and sugars. The yield of actual juice is therefore very limited.

The 46 acre estate of Castellare is located in Tuscany’s Castellina in Chianti, and is one of the best examples of tradition in Chianti. Castellare's vineyards are at 1,200 feet in elevation and only a few Chianti Classico vineyards are located much higher. At Castellare, the yields per acre are extremely low, far lower than the maximum level allowed by Chianti Classico DOCG rules, which enhances the concentration of aromas and flavors in their wines.

The 2003 Castellare S. Niccolo Vin Santo is made from a blend of 60% Malvasia Toscana and 40% Trebbiano Toscano harvested from various estate vineyards in Castellina in Chianti. After harvest, the grapes were crushed and fermented in small French oak barrels where they were aged for four to five years.

The first thing to note with this wine is it's brilliant golden orange color. It almost looks like some kind of apricot tea or a flat IPA beer!!

On the nose I get the most amazing aromas of fresh figs, orange marmalade, mineral, sage, nuts, and just the slightest hint of fresh mint leaf. It's an intoxicating bouquet and one that you could analyze for quite some time. It has this oxidized-sherry type thing too that is really quite intriguing. I've smelt PX an white Port that are similar to this, but the complexity of this wine is stunning.

On the palate the wine is very intense and delivers powerful flavors of honey, hazelnut, orange marmalade, spice, fig, and a nutty-date character that lingers on the finish. The wine is quite sweet, but it has some real spiciness and 16% alcohol which actually helps to make the wine appear to be quite balanced. I can see it being an amazing pairing with certain blue cheeses, as well as the traditional biscotti or cantucci. 92 points

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Learn how to make Italian risotto

This is a great video about how to make Italian Risotto:


2006 Rocca delle Macie Chianti Classico Riserva

I recently attended an amazing wine tasting with 50 of the top Italian wine producers present. Amongst all the big name stuff such as Sassicaia, Bertani, Caparzo, Chiarlo, Renato Ratti, ect… was this little gem. I have tasted the wines of Rocca delle Macie in the past and have always enjoyed them, however this Chianti Reserva stood out to me as one of the best wines in the line up. What's even more incredible is that it was one of the least expensive red wines at the show.

The 2006 Rocca delle Macie Chianti Classico Riserva is composed of 90% Sangiovese, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 5% Merlot. It was aged for 24 months in French oak barrels.

On the nose there are some really pretty aromas of black cherry, chocolate, leather, tea leaf, and hints of tobacco. It has that quite distinct Italian terroir expression on the nose that is displayed in the form of a loamy soil characteristic and hints of ripe cherry and saddle leather. Very nice...

On the palate the wine is rich and savory, showing flavors reminiscent of blackberry, cherry, leather, spice, tobacco, black plum, and oak. There is real concentration here, and I love when Sangiovese is dense in structure and not flimsy, as it definitely is with some of the producers in this region. 91 points

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2009 Di Majo Norante Sangiovese

This 100% Sangiovese comes from a very renowned 212 acre estate located in Italy's Molise region. It was sourced from the Ramitello and Martarosa vineyards which were planted in 1972. The wine was aged in stainless steel and large oak barrels for six months.

On the nose I get aromas of black cherry, smoke, Asian spice, wild flowers, black plum, and brown sugar. It's a very pretty bouquet that evolves in the glass and unfolds various layers of complexity. There are some black pepper and hints of anise that show up in the glass as well.

On the palate I get flavors of chocolate, ripened plum, black tea, leather, black cherry, spice, and scorched earth. The mouthfeel is quite round and there are very sweet tannins that form the structure of the wine.

I really like how rich and full this wine is even though it's 100% Sangiovese. It reminds me a lot of Brunello di Montalcino and how rich and complex those wines can get. I love to see the full potential of this varietal and I sometimes get let down by many of the Sangiovese based reds from the Chianti region in Tuscany. This however, is fantastic wine for and fantastic price. 91 points

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2005 Caposaldo Chianti

As far as I know this Chianti is bottled under this label "Caposaldo" and is actually not a winery of it's own. I know that the fruit they source is not estate fruit, however I'm not sure if it's just a negociant type situation or if they have their own crush facility. It is a wine imported by Kobrand and their website doesn't get into the specifics of where the wine is made and who owns the label.

The 2005 Caposaldo is made from 75% Sangiovese, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, and 5% Malvasia. Seventy percent is aged in wood (large, 25hl casks) for eight months and 30% rests in cement tanks before blending.

It's very interesting to be tasting a Chianti that is already 6 years old. Most basic Chianti that I taste is 2 years old at max. In fact, I'm not sure I've ever tasted a basic Chianti D.O.C.G. wine this old in my wine career. This should be interesting.......

First of all the color is still quite ruby in color in the center of the glass. Actually, the color is doesn't give too many clues about the vintage.

On the nose I get some rusty stewed tomato notes that combine with hints of tobacco, plum, and leather. There are some dry cherry notes too, and hints of cedar wood as well.

On the palate I get a very dry cherry and leather flavor, as well as some black tea and earthy tones. It's a nice bloody, rusty, and "tomatoey" tasting wine that would be perfect with a big plate of spaghetti and meatballs. Actually the word "Sangiovese" is derived from sanguis Jovis, which means "the blood of Jove"....It's a bloody wine!! 85 points

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2009 Cusumano Nero d'Avola

The wines of Sicily have always been a favorite of mine because of their enormous value. Whenever I come across expensive Californian wine or even some of these so-called value plays from Argentina, I always say go grab me a bottle from Sicily for around $10-15 and I'll show you value.

Cusumano's wines are sourced from premium vineyard sites all over Sicily, and are produced at the Partinico (west of Palermo) based family winery by third generation winemakers and brothers Diego and Alberto Cusumano.

On the nose of this wine I get aromas of black cherry, strawberry jam, leather, soil, and subtle hints of juniper berry. It's got a pretty distinct Italian wine smell and really expresses a sense of place.

On the palate this wine is driven by the same red fruit character that is expresses on the bouquet, cherry, red currant, hints of cranberry, and a touch of vanilla and spice. The finish is creamy and medium in length. Great QPR at only $10. 88+ points  

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2007 Tenuta Sette Ponti Oreno

The estate of Sette Ponti lies in the heart of the Chianti zone, fifteen miles northwest of the city of Arezzo just past the village of San Giustino Valdarno.

The 2007 Oreno is classic Super Tuscan blend composed of 50% Sangiovese, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot.

On the nose I get generous and perfumed notes of cassis, black plum, flowers, dried herb, and a touch of vanilla. When the wine opens up it reveals some really nice black cherry notes as well.

It's a densely structured wine that offers up rich flavors of ripe black cherry, currant, mineral, smoked meat,  and touches of sweet oak and spice on the finish. This wine is still very much a baby and the presence of oak at this stage in the game is still very much prevalent in it's drinking experience. However, I see this wine aging quite nicely because it has such generous fruit to match the intensity of the tannin and acid. Very nice wine.....Very nice indeed. 92+ points

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Piero Antinori on Tignanello