Lunae Bosoni Vermentino “Eticheta Nera” – Multi Tre Bicchieri – You’ve Never Had it so Good

2016 Lunae Bosoni Vermentino “Eticheta Nera”

2016 Lunae Bosoni Vermentino “Eticheta Nera”


Genova, the seaside port city and capital of northwest Italy’s Liguria region, is the best – and for many folks the only – place to find authentic calamari, gambretti, sarago, and delicate bianchetti. As high noon approaches on a given spring day, the maze of streets and narrow alleys of this ancient city are filled with the aroma of hot olive oil – tiny fry shops known as friggitorie sizzling to life. You’re elbow to elbow with crowds of hungry locals and tourists, everyone seemingly addicted to the crispy, tender, juicy – but never greasy – specialties piled high on one counter after another.

This is the city where I discovered the magic of those intoxicating, addictive fritti and it’s also where my adventures with Liguria’s greatest white wine began. As maritime rival to Venice, Genova has a culture – a soul – about it that is unique in so many ways, but it’s only the beginning. It’s when you venture to the rugged Italian coastline, to the centuries-old Cinque Terre – 5 towns where vineyards as well as homes defy gravity, clinging to steep terraces – that you (and your palate) are whisked away.

Pesto was born here. And as you traverse the extremely inhospitable yet dramatic landscapes of the eastern inland foothills and hillsides of Liguria – midway between Cinque Terre and the Tuscan border – you suddenly reach the Colli di Luni DOC. Here, between the hills of Castelnuovo Magra (55 miles southeast of Genova, as removed from coastal city living as you’ll ever be) and the

Lunae Vermentino Vineyard

Lunae Vermentino Vineyard

ancient, walled Roman village of Luni (the easternmost edge of Liguria and its most important, historical commune) are the most important Vermentino vineyards in Italy – perhaps the world.

I cannot recall the first vintage I tasted of Diego Bosoni’s spine tingling Vermentino, but I will assure you that each subsequent vintage has only proved his vast superiority over every other producer of this varietal I have ever encountered. So perfect is this Bosoni Vermentino – I’m speaking specifically of their L’Etichetta Nera (Black Label) – that the estate has now recorded EIGHT (count ‘em: 8) Tre Bicchieri; including for this most recent version, the 2016.

This accomplishment is nothing short of miraculous, especially considering the superhuman feats required to plant, cultivate, tend and harvest in these wild conditions. Moreover, Bosoni’s estate vineyard is small, battling for acreage against the far more easy to cultivate – thus popular with local farmers – olive trees. Yet what this family has achieved at this estate – established from the ground up in 1966 – will blow you away with your first sip.

You’ve never had it so good. Unless folks have tried THIS Vermentino, they’ve never truly had Vermentino.


Brunello di Montalcino 2010 & The “Best Ever” Wines of Mastrojanni

Brunelli 2010 - "Vintage of A Lifetime" JS

Brunelli 2010 – “Vintage of A Lifetime” JS

The Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino hosted the Benvenuto Brunello event this year on January 22 in San Francisco at The Fairmont – an indispensible opportunity to taste (first hand) roughly 40 producers and more than 80 bottlings. The most important offers by far were the 2010 Brunelli, Rossos and older Riservas went virtually unnoticed. With much anticipation, I made my way through the crowd, tasting diligently and critically – determined to build the case for (or against) these much-hyped Sangiovese beauties.

In the end: I was floored! These are quite possibly even better than originally billed. And the top wines? So much perfection… Allocations are going to dwindle; prices will soar… What was the recipe for so many successes?

More than one winemaker I spoke to echoed the sentiments of Francesco Ripaccioli the young winemaker of the historic Canalicchio di Sopra estate:

“2010 is a success as a result of the rare combination of power and elegance, which are two qualities that are seldom found in a single vintage of Brunello.”

Of all those tasted, one of the most sought after, nearly impossible to acquire wines of the 2010 Brunelli campaign, Mastrojanni took my breath away. Offering multiple crus – all stellar – Mastrojanni has long been the darling of classicists. Perfectionists to their core, Mastrojanni will declassify a vintage (sending it to the distillery) if conditions fail to meet their standards. The 2002 vintage, with its universally green tannins and under-ripe conditions is an example. Mastrojanni maintains their enviable placement and reputation, willing to sacrifice harvests in their search for perfection.

Two 2010 crus – unique, individual – topped the charts (professionally and for yours truly) Chez Mastrojanni :

  • Brunello – Traditional barrel aging for 36 months (larger barrels: Allier oak barrels of 16-33-54 hl). Finished in bottle for 6-8 months.
  • Brunello “Vigna Loreto” – Cement fermentation before traditional barrel and bottle aging as with the Brunello. The newest (ca 2007) Cru for Mastrojanni. Built to age.

2010 Mastrojanni Brunello di Montalcino

What a tightly knit wine this is with so much fabulous character of dried meat, orange peel, berry and spice. Dried and dusty earth too. Full body, sweet fruit character and ripe tannins but loads of structure and intensity. Structurally intense and dry at the finish. It goes on for minutes. Best ever. Better in 2018. ~ 98 points – James Suckling

2010 Mastrojanni Brunello di Montalcino Vigna Loreto

I love the savory character and silky texture to this wine. Full body, chewy tannins and a juicy and delicious finish. A baby still. Needs three to four years to soften. Better in 2017 ~ 97 points – James Suckling

These are among several darlings of the vintage, their scarcity speaks to the trend for 2010…

Tolaini Valdisanti – Unanimous Critical Acclaim!

Tolaini Valdisanti

What do you get when you take Tolaini’s best fruit from the estate of San Giovanni in Castelnuovo Berardenga and place in under the attentive care of the greatest wine consultant of our generation? If the unanimous critical acclaim for the 2009 version of their Valdisanti is any indication, I’d say the answer is a formidable recipe darn near second to none. Michel Rolland (Owner of Val de Flores, and consultant to more Chateaux than space allows – including Angélus and Pavie) appears to have coaxed something VERY special from the fruit here at Pierluigi Tolaini’s estate.

Together, these two perfectionists – combining Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese and Cabernet Franc – have harnessed luxuriousness in 2009 that I’ve yet to taste from any other producer of this type. There’s not just power here; there’s also this real sense that Pierluigi has come into his own. He’s not just trying to make Bordeaux (or Cabernet); the essence of his Sangiovese is shining through too. And isn’t that what makes us drink Italian wine? When it TASTES like Italian wine? BRAVO!

Rich and voluptuous, the 2009 captures the very best qualities of the year in its resonant, expansive personality. Smoke, tobacco, licorice and melted road tar add an element of darkness on the finish.  ~ Antonio Galloni, Vinous

Buy this masterpiece here

Selvapiana Bucerchiale Riserva, Chianti Rufina – Chart Topping!


Winemaker Extraordinaire Franco Bernabei

Now here’s one which requires virtually zero introduction and even less fanfare – in fact I may have said too much already! In vintages past, Antonio Galloni has asked – when tasting the 2004, for instance – “Why can’t more Chiantis be like this?”  The answer to that seemingly unanswerable question is quite possibly attributable to (at least) two major factors: winemaker extraordinaire Franco Bernabei (known as “Mr. Sangiovese” and the maestro of past treasures such as Flaccianello and Fontalloro from Felsina), as well as the location of Selvapiana:  within the Chianti sub-zone of Rufina.

And I’m here today to posit what may turn out to be THE most substantial declaration regarding not only one of the top vintages for Chianti this past decade, but for the very district itself. Selvapiana’s 2009 Chianti Rufina Riserva Bucerchiale takes my pick as the single greatest Chianti of the 2009 vintage! There. I said it. And the words you’ve just read were somewhat echoed by the guys at Tanzer’s IWC, “The 2009 vintage doesn’t get any better than this. An outstanding wine, and everything a Chianti ought to be.”

No other wine scored higher! A whopping 95 points!

Available here


2008 Brunelli – The Savvy Buyer’s Vintage

montalcino vineyards


This looks to be a great opportunity for savvy buyers to secure carefully selected premium Brunelli for some of the very best prices of any vintages currently available. Why? Consider the words of Antonio Galloni when he informed us

“I am also very optimistic about 2008. Consumers and the trade will focus on 2006 and 2007, which sets up the very real possibility 2008 will be completely overlooked. Based on what I tasted from barrel, it shouldn’t be. The 2008s are beautifully delineated, mid-weight wines that impress for their finesse and exceptional overall balance. My instincts tell me that a number of 2008s are going to turn out better than expected.”  — Antonio Galloni

And it’s precisely this tendency that’s allowing for such a fantastic pre-arrival opportunity as we’re witnessing today.

Here are my notes on a couple of favorites – year in and year out – and in particular from vintage 2008. Now that these selections are being offered at better retailers, consumers are advised to take note. At the prices currently being offered, these top wines will be sold out (at these prices) quite soon.

2008 Casanova di Neri Brunello di Montalcino Tenuta Nuova
Casanova di Neri
A Sangiovese Grosso Dry Red Table wine
Brunello di Montalcino, Tuscany, Italy
94 points
Review by James Suckling

This is very floral with blackberries on the nose. It’s full-bodied, with velvety tannins and a ripe fruit, caramel and berry aftertaste. Delicious for the vintage. One of the wines of the vintage. Better in 2015. — James Suckling

Giacomo Neri’s singular expression of Brunello – based exclusively on the Sangiovese Grosso clone – is one of the most celebrated of the genre. The 2001 was selected as Wine Spectator’s #1 wine of the year in 2006; the 2006 release was crowned a 100 point masterpiece by James Suckling while the 2007 version continues to garner high praise from Antonio Galloni and other professional critics worldwide.

This current release – the 2008 – was selected as the number two highest scoring Brunello of recently reviewed selections by the Wine Spectator and James Suckling has already claimed it to be “one of the wines of the vintage”.

Of all the 94 point (or higher) rated Tenuta Nuova selections, JJ Buckley has THE very best price currently available for ANY of them – they’re offering the 2008 for $64.51. Of all the other releases rating 94 or higher (WS), the average price currently offered is $100 (with the range being $70 to $145).


2008 Altesino Brunello di Montalcino Montosoli
A Sangiovese Grosso Dry Red Table wine from
Brunello di Montalcino, Tuscany, Italy
95 points
Review by Wine Spectator Insider – Hot Wines Designation

“Intense balsamic and mint notes make this red distinctive, along with currant, raspberry and floral touches. Silky, ripe and impressive, this shows elegance and a vibrant structure. Offers terrific length and resonance on the finish. Best from 2016 through 2032.” From Italy. — B.S. “Hot Wines” designation. “Wine Spectator Insider”

There’s no questioning Altesino’s positioning among the elite estates in Montalcino. Claudio Basla has deftly directed this venerable estate since taking the helm in the 1970s when the Palazzo Altesi was first purchased. Along with his assistant director Guido Orzalesi, Basla produces several wines at Altesino – including the Montosoli; only in the best years – and international acclaim has followed their efforts for decades.

The single vineyard cru of Montosoli is a north and northwest facing, small (~ 10 acre) vineyard that – due to its exposure (facing away from the sun) – is harvested later than Basla’s other vineyards. This later harvest, combined with the vineyard’s subsoil of mostly limestone coupled with small amounts of clay contributes to the unique characteristics consistently experienced in the wines born from the Montosoli site. This unique minerality is also the reason the Montosoli parcel is fermented apart from other parcels. Much the same as Grand Cru Burgundy or single vineyard Barolo, Montosoli is truly a pedigreed wine.

Including all offers currently posted in America, JJ Buckley has the best price available on-line for ANY vintage of Montosoli – they’re currently offering it for $68.51.

For more information on JJ Buckley’s offers, visit them on-line and ask to be part of their Private Client Offers (where these prices are part of the program):

Gambero Rosso Tre Bicchieri 2012 – Great Wines lost in a sea of Chaos

Not exactly a photo from the event - but you get the idea...

Having been in the wine business my entire professional career – approaching 30 years now – and having spent those years in many of America’s largest cities (from Dallas to Houston and beyond), one thing has quickly become very obvious to me – now that I’ve landed here in the Bay Area. In all my years as a wine professional, I have never personally experienced one single city that attracts as many high-profile wine events as San Francisco.

To illustrate my point, in February of 2012 alone, I have received invitations to the Italian Wine Master’s tasting, the Frederic Wildman 2010 Burgundy event, the Gambero Rosso Tre Bicchieri USA event, multiple 2010 Burgundy barrel sample events, countless 2007 Brunello events, and now – barely half way through the month – my invitation to the annual Le Paulee de San Francisco 2012 event has arrived (spare $5,000 anyone?). Like I said, San Fran can easily count itself as one of the epicenters for all things vinous.

So it was with this recognition that I loaded a few colleagues into old faithful last week and headed across the Bay Bridge for the annual Gambero Rosso Tre Bicchieri USA event, which was hosted here in San Fran at the Fort Mason Center on February 15th. Perhaps the locals take this for granted, but I’d like to preface this post by mentioning that the Spring-like weather was simply fabulous; the weather actually made the balance of the afternoon practically tolerable.

Upon our arrival to what is unquestionably one of THE wine tasting events of the year – every year – for those who love Italian wine, our collective enthusiasm was quickly dashed. The line outside the event resembled what you come to expect when attending a rock concert (or a ZAP tasting, as one in our group quipped); attendees standing 4-8 people wide stretched for blocks – as if awaiting their opportunity to view a famous person lying in state. What’s more, of the half dozen doors that could have been used to accommodate arriving guests, only 2 were being utilized. The disorganization at the door didn’t bode well for the day’s event.

Once finally inside, the chaos reached an entirely new level. The Fort Mason Center is a massive location – a place where events the size of rock concerts can be held. Visitors to this enormous mini-city know full well what to expect – as did I – but the sheer mass of people encountered at the Tre Bicchieri event was nonetheless overwhelming.

There were literally hundreds of tables erected, which were each adorned with dozens of wines. Spit buckets were conspicuously placed to aid the professionals, but with the mass of humanity it was very often necessary to hold a mouthful of jammy Corvina until you could elbow your way to an overflowing spittoon. And the note-books? To say that note-taking was an afterthought for the organizers of this event is the understatement of the year. I literally had to borrow hot pink note paper from the media booth to facilitate note-taking for this report.

I will say however that once I settled in at a couple of the more famous importer’s tables (flatly refusing to budge once I found a square foot to secure myself to) that I did discover about 30 fairly serious wines worth seeking. And while I’m quite certain that there were far more than merely 3 dozen great wines to be discovered – especially considering the hundreds of wines being liberally poured for seemingly thousands of eager “tasters” – at some point during the chaos I simply had had enough.

After all, considering how many great wine events are scheduled for San Fran this quarter alone, I’m certain I’ll discover plenty more wine worth writing about – as well as buying.

Tasting notes:

Organized according to the importers who presented these wines, I hope you’ll find something new to explore and seek out from the 2012 Tre Bicchieri event that I’m reporting on (as attended this year in San Fran) –




2010 Mastroberardino Greco di Tufo

A fresh, fruity, bright, white-grape, clean, crisp, and very focused aromatic profile gives way to similar palate nuances that are tightly wound and supported by crisp acidity. The flavors include lemon zest and the finish is persistent. This is quite good.

89 points


2007 Mastroberardino Taurasi Radici

An intense aromatic profile offers up nuances of spicy white and black pepper combined with copious dark fruits, which lead to a robust palate that is tightly wound and focused by gripping acidity. Overall, this balanced, while being quite structured and powerful.

91 points


2009 Librandi Ciro Rosso Duca Sanfelice Riserva

Pale rose in color. Quite fragrant. Interesting aromatic profile recalls morello cherry and cherry skins. Quite floral as well. On the palate there are the cherry notes, combined with stone fruits, a touch of cocoa and a delicious flavor profile that recalls northern Italian Pinot Noirs from producers such as Terlano. This finishes with clove, brown spice and a deliciousness that is a joy to discover.

90 points


2009 Librandi Gravello

Similar, pale rose color here as with the Duca Sanfelice (the color in the Librandi wines is attributable to the Gaglioppo grape these are based on). The aromas here are more intense and offer nuances of cranberry, sweet spices and pomegranate. The palate too is a bit more intense and offers full red fruits, and a warm, delicious finish. Nice discoveries here.

90 points


2009 Di Majo Norante Molise Aglianico Contado Riserva

Nearly opaque in color. Wonderfully sappy aromatic profile. Quite jammy on the nose. Here we have a serious palate presence: buckets of red fruits are proportionately buffered by the grippy tannins, and a spicy, powerhouse finish wraps around the palate to suggest some cellar time might be warranted.

90 points


2007 Tasca D’Almerita Contea di Sclafani Rosso del Conte

Approaching opaque in color. Aromatically, this is quite complex, offering tar, tobacco leaf and buckets of assorted fruits. The palate is jammy and packed with fruits, offering a delicious combination of New and Old World where the jammy fruit notes and nuances of expensive saddle leather are well balanced against each other.

92 points


2008 Zenato Lugana Sergio Zenato

Pale gold in color. Very intense, exotic, tropical fruit aromatics give way to a full bodied, wonderfully spice-filled, toasted, slightly oaky palate. The oak influence on this Trebbiano-based wine is persistent yet well integrated. This is a serious, toasted, world class effort and would impress most White Burgundy enthusiasts.

91 points


2008 Valle Reale Montepulciano d’Abruzzo

Medium opaque in color with a pronounced dark cherry fruit aromatic profile. Expensive saddle leather nuance to the aromatics, as well. On the palate, there is good sweetness to the fruit, adequate acidity, and a good purity to the ripe fruit. Quite good.

89 points


2008 Valle Reale Montepulciano d’Abruzzo San Calisto

Opaque, black-purple in color. There is extreme concentration here. The aromatics are extremely dark fruited and packed with cocoa, dark chocolate and espresso – this is an intense aroma. On the palate, the intensity continues and includes sweet, lush black cherry, that cocoa/chocolate nuance from the nose, and a roasted component to the dark and very serious fruits. What a wine.

93 points


Dalla Terra


2010 Chiarli Lambrusco di Sorbara Vecchia Modena Premium

Pale pink in color. Along with the effervescence in this utterly fascinating semi-sparkler, one will experience a gorgeously fragrant aroma of crushed fruits and wild flowers. This is frothy on the palate, yet remains serious in its off-dry character with flavors of strawberry kept bracing by bright acidity. Whether as an aperitif of with appetizers, this is one of the best discoveries of the year. Wonderful.

90 points


Chiarli Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro Vigna Enrico Cialdini Secco Rosso

Deep red in color. As intriguing as the Modena is from Chiarli, this is in another class altogether. A nose of blackberry offers a serious aromatic profile to a semi-sparkling wine that recalls Barbaresco more than Lambrusco. On the palate, this is equally serious, offering ripe, lush, juicy blackberry and red currant fruit flavors inside the semi-frothy, effervescent personality of this individual offering. A serious food wine that stands on its own just as easily, this too is one of the “finds” of the year.

91 points


2007 La Valentina Montepulciano d’Abruzzo “Spelt”

Opaque, black-purple in color. Positively penetrating aromatics of black fruits of every description, expensive leather, pipe tobacco and blood orange. Rich, decadent, palate coating flavors are dense and include cocoa, dark chocolate, chicory and multiple other torrefaction nuances. An amazing texture grips the palate and this wine is very sweetly fruited; it all combines for great clarity, focus and power. Fantastic wine.

93 points

2007 Tenuta Sant’ Antonio Amarone della Valpolicella Campo dei Gigli

Beautiful in so many ways. A sexy, alluring, perfumed bouquet sets this up as the “anti-Amarone”; offering no sense of over-blown or cooked fruits, this is not the typical “over the top” Amarone – and it’s all the better for it. Offering a gorgeous mouth-feel and amazingly balanced yet penetrating fruit, this is a real one-of-kind Amarone. Buckets of fruit are evident, yet this steers clear of the pruney category. This is lush, packed and balanced. An Amarone for grown-ups.

94 points


Banville & Jones

2008 Cantina Terlano Nova Domus Riserva

Pale straw yellow in color. Striking aromas combine white peach, apricot and an almost Gewurztraminer-like zestiness. On the palate, this is ripe and exotic and that spiciness from the nose carries through to offer a complex and unique flavor profile. There’s a creamy texture and even a Viognier-like nuance on the finish. Very unique.

91 points


2007 Cottanera Etna Rosso

Medium deep in color. Aromas of crushed bing cherries. This has a fresh, fragrant, ripe, sun-kissed fruity nose. On the palate, this is lush, jam packed with fruit and sweetly powerful. Just delicious. While softly tannic – just enough to grip the palate – this is really all about the fruit. A delicious effort.

91 points


2008 Tolaini Valdisanti

Medium opaque in color. A tightly wound aromatic profile takes time to unwind, eventually (with coaxing) opening up to reveal Bordeaux-like nuances of cassis, truffle and barrique. On the palate, this has a sweet attack, with a broad mid-palate of sweet oak, vanillin and a sense of caramel. This is a serious, world-class, modern effort that resembles (in all the best ways) the finest wines of Bordeaux. But the tannic structure demands time in the cellar.

92+ points


2008 Tolaini Picconero

Also deeply colored (as is the Valdisanti), this is more forward than its stable mate. Notes of ripe dates, prunes and plums are immediately discernible in this forward wine’s aromatics. Good tannins on the palate support otherwise jammy fruit nuances, as this wine is powerful and already fully drinkable. Quite palate staining with the acidity to keep it all focused, this is overall quite good if not just a bit 1-dimentional.

90 points


Bedford International

2009 Umani Ronchi Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore “Vecchie Vigne”

Very pale in color. Serious minerality in the nose. Loaded with stones, flint, sea shells, and richness from the lees that carries over to the palate. The flavors mirror the aromatic profile and include richness on the round, pure, focused, almost creamy palate that is very well textured and quite serious. This has buckets of style and loads of flavor that keep on coming. Focused, crystal clear acidity and a finish brimming with flowers, stones, and that leesy character throughout. Serious stuff.

91 points


2007 Umani Ronchi Conero Cumaro Riserva

Medium ruby in color. Subdued aromatics offer red fruits of various descriptions that are more laid-back when compared to others today. On the palate, this is sweet, subtle, juicy, red fruited and held together well by a nice zip of grippy acidity. A lush, juicy, warm and friendly wine. There’s a nice fruit to acid balance here and the finish is delicious.

90 points

— Christopher Massie