2011 Trip to Boca and Barolo Region - Printable Version

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- TheEngineer - 09-01-2011 07:40 PM

I know that it’s been a few days since my last installment and almost three weeks since I’ve come back but (1) I’ve been crazy busy and (2) it only feels like yesterday for me, especially Italy. The people we meet were SO NICE. If thought the French were crazy nice but the Italians, they really wanted you to have a good time.

We took a short ride from Bordeaux to Milan on Easyjet again. Picked up our rental and went to Boca to meet with the owner/wine maker of Le Piane Christoph Kunzli. First of all, those of you who have never tasted the wines of Le Piane, go and look for them. They are very unique I’ve been fortunate enough to taste though more than my fair share of his wines now and they are all great wines from a very unique location. This man is on a one-man-mission.

Boca use to be one of the largest wine regions in Italy. One generation ago, there were 10,000 Hectares of vines in Boca, now its in the dozens. One generation. Christoph, on tasting the wines of the one gentleman who made serious wines still in the area, felt the strong urge to protect, preserve and bring back heritage to the area. He told me that he went to a school to talk about the vineyards and the children had not idea that they were living in a wine region, one of the largest only a few decades ago. This man is a hero to all of us who are drawn to these types of wines. Wines that are compelling and are of a place and only of that place. You could tell a wine from Boca in a lineup of Barolos without any difficulty, that is how strong this terrior imposes itself on the grapes. The wines are very compelling indeed.

We met Christoph in the middle of town. Christoph told us to follow him to his truck so we could see the vineyard. We told him that we could follow in our minivan but he kindly suggested that might not be a great idea. So off to his truck we go and very quickly we got to see why. Those that have been with him on tours call it a Safari ride. We now understand why. IT IS STEEP and IT IS THICK with vegetation. Our rental minivan would not have lasted 2 minutes in these environments. We got off the truck at one of the older plots. We saw trellising systems that we had never seen before. They would grow a couple of vines together and then trellis them in the form of a square ring and then up almost like fruit trees. I’ve never seen anything like that before, almost as unique as the basket style vines of Santorini.

With this trellising system, Christoph found that it provided some protection against hail damage and that the most damage the hail could do was to 25% of the crop or the side that was facing the hail storm. The trellising also went rather high. This was going to be constant in Italy in the places that we went. In France, the trellising is rather low but in Italy for Nebbiolo and other varietals we saw, the top of the wines went just over 6 feet. Almost everyone said that Nebbiolo needs the additional exuberance of the taller vines to ripen. Chrisptoph also plants fairly dense, at about 5500 plants per acre, which he felt give just enough competition for the grapes. The vines are also planted on extremely steep slopes. 45% and higher grade makes this a difficult task to harvest the wines.

We tasted though the barrel samples of ’08, ’09 and ’10. They were great wines with great structure and clearly were able to see Boca through the wines. That citrusy warmth in the wines. Kracher (yes before he passed on) once spoke of Christoph’s wines as being white wines with a red sweater on it. I could not come up with a better description. We tasted through his ‘07’s ‘06’s, magnum bottle syrahs only, etc, .etc,…. And some bottles with no labels that were bottled by the previous owner. He thinks that they are ’70 and ’71. Both were insanely great bottles. Mature with age but oh delicious and balanced. Great sense of balance in the wines. Calm and serene. Just a joy to be able to try some of these incredibly old bottles. I cannot thank him enough for his time, knowledge and his friendship.

We stayed in Turin, won’t do that again now that we know we can stay in Alba……. Why? Because Alba and Barolo are GORGEOUS! Remember that we had just come from the rolling hills of Champagne, and the valley that is Burgundy, and the cute town of Chablis, etc,… and our mouths dropped. The rolling hills in the Barolo area are truly spectacular. The town are located all at the top of the hills, and the look down into a puzzle of hills and vineyars with different vine orientations. And something about the Italian sun, just looks different…oh I forgot, we never got sun for 14 days in France……

First stop of the day was Sandrone. We got soooo lost trying to get ther it was not funny. We meet with Barbara Sandrone at the front door and she was just so kind to us as we walked in. They showed us around the facility, obviously very proud of the things that they are doing as they should be. The we got to see one of the vineyards up close and personal. It was a 22 mile drive out. I love driving in this area, it is spectacular. The vineyard is a nebbiolo (mostly) vineyard called Valmaggiore. It is super steep and it is just pretty. Barbara hiked up this hill in slippers (we all wearing hiking gear..) and she showed us the soil and the ancient clam shells in the soil.

We tasted through many of Sandrone’s wines:

(1) 2010 Dolcetto: No new oak, just SS for 10 months, very fresh berries, cherries, tight but still showing tones of fruit. Great structure for a little Dolcetto! Delish!

(2) 2009 Babera D’Alba: berries, cherries, very feep fruit, tones of concerntraction. Oaky on the nose, and palate, high toned acidity. Lots of concentration.

We also tasted the three nebbiolo based wines (two Barolos) but we did this over a lunch that Barbara brought us to a restaurant for. Great food, we got go talk to Barbara a bit more and appreciate her time and knowledge on the subject. Lunch as FANTASTIC and the three Barolos were wonderful. We thank them for the wonderful hospitality.

2009 Sandrone Nebbiolo Valmaggiore: This is a rather feminine wine for me, very pretty, floral, perfumed and elegant. Nose of of strawberry, berries, and minerals. Wonderful focus in the mouth, very eleant., better than many's barolo's. And yet in it, almost....a hint of citrus, a la BOCA which is actually not too far away from it.....

2007 Barolo Le Vigne is one big step up. This bottle is very good and frankly I'm not sure what I prefer more, this or the Cannubi. Big on the nose, ripe berries and cherries, but with an elegance that makes it so nice to try, Minerals all around this puppy.

2007 Barolo Cannubi: An even more compact and powerful wine than the LE Vigne, but losing none of that elegance, this wine is also extremely good. Berries an dcherries, a bit of oak, but really elegant with this power, impressive to drink even now and I know I'm missing most of this wine.

In the afternoon we went to Conterno Fantino. We meet with the brother sister team and again, just great people to meet. Very open with their time. Our meeting occurred during a large storm and hail that knocked power out more than once to the region. We tasted through a few bottles.
2009 Bastia Chardonnay: a bit heavy on the oak, butterscotch, with a bit of pineapples, a bit off dry? Ripe.

2010 Dolcetto D’Alba: done in stainless steel tanks, berries, plums, blueberries, a bit of detergent a first but not sure if it was not the glass itself, good tartness, a bit short

2009 Nebbiolo Ginestra: 10 months for the nebbiolo in oak, musted nose but go nebbiolo typicity on palate, structured and tannic, lacks some elegance but has some power. Tough to do now but will be fine with some time, if but a bit simple.

2008 Monpra: very tight at the moment, not open at all, tannic and closed for business but it appear to have sufficient stuffing! Would look forward to tasting this again when it opens up.

2007 Barolo Sori Ginestra: nose of leather, tobacco, a bit reserved, a bit oaky, dried fruits, strucutured, and tannic, a bit closed as well but long with muscles.

2007 Barolo Mosconi: more dense more muscular, but still very reserved right now. Tight, bits of cedar, and tobacco.

2007 Barolo Vigna del Gris: similar nose, a bit more elegant than mosconi, dried fruits, leather, big structure, rose, very reserved again, hide this in the cellar

2006 Barolo Vigna del gris: better nose, more floral than either 05 or 07, a bit more softer and more approachable now but still tight and tannic.

2005 Barolo Vigna del gris: more open but still sense that it is tight, floral, dried fruits, a bit of a nice Chinese medicinal herb on nose, a bit simple but structured. Tannins are still definitely out front.

Final visit was to Renato Ratti. Beautiful new winery, with a green roof, can’t miss this place. Malo in Stainless Steel, barrels are all 225L in French oak with some Slovanian in the mix.

2010 Barbara d’Alba: probably the most ready to drink Barbara of them all, lush, nose of berries and plum, good flavor density but not overblown. Nicely restrained.

2007 Barolo: Marcenasco: Smoother, more fruit than the others coming up, cherries, more approachable now, good length and refined.

2007 Barolo: Conca: much more focused, more density, minerally especially in the finish, more serious if that is possible to convey, while reserved and still tight. A bit of meat, bacon, a more elegant Barolo than the others, tannins are there but do not beat you up as much.

2007 Barolo: Rocche, bigger nose still, great fruit, plums, cherries, dried cherries, slighty meaty, a bit austere in the mid palate, pretty for a Barolo.

- winoweenie - 09-01-2011 10:27 PM

Would you kindly take a definate stand. All this waffling is making me woosy. WW :lol: :-T

- Kcwhippet - 09-01-2011 11:58 PM

Mike - Two things, both of which I think we discussed previously. First, if you look quickly, Christoph looks a lot like Eric Clapton - don't you think (we've met a few times before)??? Second, which I think we also discussed, my favorite Boca is the 1985.

- TheEngineer - 09-02-2011 03:31 AM

WW, you mean between France and Italy? That's a matter of the soul more than the heart and definitely not for the head...

KC, (1) You are right and if he walked downtown with shades into a bar, they'd ask for his autograph. (2) you would not be saying that after trying his 70 and 71.............and I agree, I loved his 85.

- Kcwhippet - 09-02-2011 11:53 PM

Mike, The oldest Boca I've had is the 85. Sure would like to try the 70 and 71. Do you have any??????

- TheEngineer - 09-03-2011 02:55 AM

Thomas, no I didn't. I had planned to but at the last minute cancelled the visits as it would have just not been enough time. It will give me something else to go back for though. I'm truly looking forward to that. I'm not going to forget the view from La Morra any time soon......

KC, I wish I did, these were not labelled stock. They were in just any old bottles the previous owner could find. IN fact the 71 looked like a champagne bottle.......but the wines were splendid.


RE: 2011 Trip to Boca and Barolo Region - TheEngineer - 12-15-2013 09:38 PM

I can't believe its been two years!.....