Winemakers (and their products) from near and far

May 6, 2023

Most who enjoy Barolo are familiar with the highly rated DOCG Paolo Scavino (not Enrico, who also provides delightful Barolo) labels and their $200-$300 reserve prices for wines that do not mature for 10 years. Prices are reflective of quality, 10-year aging before release, and high critical scores. Follow the winemaker. 2020 Paolo Scavino Barbera d'Alba Affinato in Carati, under $30, gets 93 McD points. The generic Barolo DOCG formerly labeled P. Scavino Priocca d’Alba Barolo 2018, selling under $40, 93 McD, is stealing. Smooth, full-bodied, it opens to raspberry, graphite and floral bouquet which develops to more raspberry, some cherry and barrel notes of anise and white pepper, riding a faintly salted mineral acidity and already-integrating tannic frame. The Affinato 2020 is their best Barbera release recently. Normally, past eight years, they have been rated 90 by many critics and were in the $25 range. Vinified Barbera grape provides a bit softer, more fruit forward, fresh wine requiring less aging time. At 15.5% ABV, it finishes a bit hot but not offensive; these are made for ready-to-drink purchasers. Stainless steel fermentation and neutral barrel, 1-year aging. The great reviews caused a price escalation, but diligent searchers can find it under $30. Many Barolos need cellar time. While these will improve, they are already in their 2022 window. Those new to Barolo can find P. Scavino Ravera Barolo 2016, ready 2024, around $100. Rated Falstaff 98, RP 97, WS 95. I wrote of it in 2020 on release at $74, 96 points, needs several years and will last into the late 2030s. I have not sampled any since.

I Zoomed into a very enjoyable presentation by Anne and Rodrigo, the owner and winemaker, of a tasting by Domaine Bousquet for their Virgen lineup, which is USDA Regenerative Organic certified, no sulfites added. Included were some pictures of the Argentina side of the Andes and clips of their property from Gualtallary in the Uco Valley. They are currently the largest shipper of Argentina’s organically grown wines. The products are designated Virgen because they were planted in untrammeled soil. It was unnecessary to remediate, to rid of pest/herbicides and chemical fertilizers, as has been the case for many others wishing to gain these certifications. Domaine Bousquet Virgen Natural Malbec 2021, $13, 90 McD, opens to red fruit, herbal spice and floral aromas. Fresh on the palate with firm acid/tannin frame. The 2019 Gran Malbec is from the estate’s oldest vines. 100% Malbec, juicy red fruit, herbal and best of all for some, vegan, no egg white fining, a 92 McD for $20. The Reserva Cab 2018 or 2020 are fine buys under $15, also vegan and not manipulated, 90 McD. It is rare to find Cabernet Sauvignon of this quality at this price. Bousquet Ameri single-vineyard Bordeaux blend 2019 is another quality wine, under $28, 93 McD; it won gold at Global Masters and Silver IWC. They were robbed. I think if it were in the over-$50 category it would have received at least one more point.

Keep your eyes peeled for Erica Stancliff. She has all the excitement of an Elon rocket shot without the explosions. Currently the winemaker at Pfendler and family owned Trombetta Family Wines, she is also president of the Petaluma Gap Winegrowers Alliance. Her wine lineage comes from Paul Hobbs. Her mom was one of Hobbs’ first hires, and he took the young daughter under his wine wing, providing the impetus to pursue a wine career. Following a Fresno State enology degree, Erica pursued experience in Argentina, delving deeply into the Bordeaux grapes before deciding her heart was home and she continued working the Cab, Merlot, Cab Franc, Bordeaux connection in Napa until the light came on for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Recognizing the U.S. has a three-tier distribution system that tends to price small producers out of the market, she has opted for direct-to-consumer as the best, most price-competitive way to get these producers’ wine into consumers’ hands. Try to locate eStCru Overt Chardonnay 2019 around $45,  excellent, or any of the six labels from Trombetta. Their lowest McD rating in the past two years was an 89, but most were 92 or 93 McD and fine QPR.


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