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Tuscany, A Tasting in Three Parts

As a journalist, I have lived and worked overseas and traveled hundreds of thousands of miles. My passport is crammed with dozens of visas from faraway places, with each visa a trigger for memories: some good, some bad, some even horrific.
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2008 Castello Vicchiomaggio “Vigna La Prima” Chianti Classico Riserva

A wine so rich, and so expressive of the essence of the region I told John Matta it should be called “Eaux de Tuscany” (the French not withstanding). Deep, dark purpose, almost opaque, with a nose of smoke and truffles. Highly concentrated flavors of ripe blackberries with soft tannins. Absolutely luscious and the star of the trip as far as everyone was concerned. Certainly the finest expression of a great Chianti I have ever tasted. Drink with pasta with meat ragù or grilled T-bone. Very highly recommended. GT
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2007 Aglieta “Pomo”

Again, we tasted a slightly younger wine at the estate than the vintage currently available (2006). This is a bright, youthful wine but with plenty of weight nevertheless. Cherry, pepper, and earth come through on the nose. Chocolate and berry flavors flow across the palate, and the finish is long. Very pleasant now but could still benefit from some more time. Let it breathe a bit. Highly recommended. GT
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2007/2009 Volpaiole Classico

The ’09 is not yet released, but is an absolute stunner. Tasted at a lunch with several of Olivier’s wines, so used the ’07 (an exceptional year in many regions of Italy) as a comparison benchmark. The ’07 was made just before Olivier took over, but the ’09 is wholly his own. The 2009 exhibited a youthful nose, but undertones of forest and mushrooms. Silken on the palate, it is a teaser of what may come as the fruit remains somewhat hidden. Luxurious finish. Can’t wait for this to be released. The ’07 is more developed and more complex at this stage than its younger brother, with a less perfumed nose but great blackberry and peppery notes on the end. I highly recommend both, but that ’09 strikes me as a potential classic. (The ’06, also lovely, is available through its importer, Lyaeus Imports in Washington D.C.) GT
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NV Sean Thackrey Pleiades XIX Old Vines

This particular Pleiades (XX has also been released) is a symphonic, multilayered blend that keeps changing at every sip, with spices jumping over red fruit, richness competing with acid, eucalyptus rolling in over earthy, gamey notes. It’s unlike anything else, for sure, an unidentifiable drinking object that defies definition and expands the possibilities of what wine can be. Highly recommended. RC
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2009 Wargin Solano County Red

A blend of 50% Montepulciano, 25% Aglianico and 25% Sangiovese, the first two from Suisun Valley. Mikael Wargin fermented the three varieties as separate lots using different yeast strains. He then blended and aged them a total of 8 months in 20% new Hungarian oak. This wine opened with aromas of pepper and jammy briary red fruit. Initially present dill dissipated fairly quickly. In the mouth, cherry flavors were backed by hibiscus and oak notes. Supple smooth tannins, good acids, punctuated this well-balanced upper medium-bodied wine. The finish offered briary fruit and some heat. On the second day, the wine settled into aromas of black cherry, licorice notes and hints of hibiscus. Cherry flavors and hibiscus and oak notes persisted unchanged. A plush texture, supple, slight, dusty but finely grained, tannins led into a slightly drying finish focused around cherry and ending in some warmth. This wine was a pleasant companion to the mushroom pizza and went surprisingly well with the blackened salmon. (15% ABV, 2 bottles tasted, production volume unavailable)
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2007 Mahoney Vineyards Montepulciano

Grown in Carneros and blended with about 10% Sangiovese, started with aromas of pepper, a mélange of oak and dill with briary, jammy fruit. Lighter in the mouth, the flavors were dominated by oak. The wine finished with light red fruit and some heat. On the second day, the wine fleshed out and displayed spicy, licorice notes above all. In the mouth, black cherry flavors were most distinct. Medium bodied the wine had good acids and supple, fine, slightly drying tannins. It was an unobtrusive food companion and did not compete with the mushroom pizza or the blackened salmon. (13.7% ABV, 2 bottles tasted, production volume unavailable)