Late last week, Alfio Cavallotto stopped into my shop to pour for me a selection of the current releases from his family’s estate in Castiglione Falletto — the heart of Barolo. Needless to say, I was very excited because the wines of Cavallotto, especially the Baroli, are among my most favorite in the world. For a fan of Piedmont, and those of you who know me know I’m certainly one, there is nothing quite like the understated yet powerful aromas and flavors that dance around a glass of traditionally styled Barolo. It’s an experience that belongs firmly under the ‘Words-Need-Not-Apply’ header.
I’ll never forget my first experience with Cavallotto. Back in 2006, I was opening a few bottles of wine for a tasting I was conducting and one of the wines was the 1999 Barolo Riserva San Giuseppe, the flagship wine of Cavallotto. I had heard of the estate many times, but had no experience with any of their wines. Upon opening it and pouring myself a small taste (quality control, of course), I was instantly on the hook. Here was a Barolo that perfectly blended power and nuance in a way that you rarely see — it was dark and muscular, yet wonderfully lively. It’s powerful flavors led seamlessly to a structured, but supple finish that left me wondering just how amazing a properly aged bottle would ultimately be. I can still taste it now as I type, truly one of the most exciting wines in my tasting memory. I remember finding a seat for a few minutes and zoning out, completely taken by the arresting flavors that still hung on my palate.
As Alfio tasted me through a line-up that included his white Pinot Nero, Dolcetto and three Baroli, we talked about the estate and the various vineyard sights where each wine came from. To be honest with you though, I remember barely any of the technical details he explained, because each wine had me completely captivated. As many close to me can surely attest (especially my girlfriend Emily), when I’m focused on something that intently, spoken words tend to glide right past me.
When it was time for the final bottle, I’m pretty sure I actually rubbed my palms together in anticipation — it was the latest release of the Riserva San Giuseppe, the 2004. As soon as I dove in, I was instantly transported back to that first experience with the ’99 San Giuseppe. This wine was a dead-ringer for it. It was all of the things I mentioned above, but perhaps in an ever-so-slightly more streamlined package. Where the ’99 leaned more to the muscle side, this 2004 perhaps edged over to the elegance side. Make no mistake, though — this is truly breathtaking stuff and I would love nothing more than to watch the two vintages evolve together. Incidentally, that night back in ’06, I found 2 bottles of it for myself which I’ve since locked safely away, so (if I can keep my hands off of them) I might be able to do just that.
As I finished my taste of the ’04 San Giuseppe, Alfio and I discussed the great string of stellar vintages in Piedmont and how they compared to each other and which ones we liked over the others, etc. At one point I said to him, “You know, other than this ’04, my favorite recent vintage the San Giuseppe is ’99.” He simply folded his hands and nodded silently. Words need not apply…
Below is my offering for the current release wines from the Cavallotto stable. If you have any questions or would like to place an order, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or (212) 255-8870. Thanks and enjoy! –matt
Fratelli Cavallotto —
Langhe Bianco Pinot 2009 $26 — 35 years ago, the Cavallottos planted Champagne clones of both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in separate small vineyard sites on the estate and currently produce two whites from them. This is the more interesting of the two in my opinion, a Pinot Noir vinified white. That may seem a bit kooky, I understand, but this is a really unique and delicious wine. Floral and fragrant on the nose, and racy on the palate with an understated intensity, this is a perfect white with which to gear up for the warmer weather that is hopefully not long off. Order
Dolcetto d’Alba Bricco Boschis-Scot 2009 $17 — from the Scot vineyard at the base of Bricco Boschis, this fantastic wine is definitely a burlier version of Dolcetto, due in part to the vintage, but also due to the style as well. It shows big, soft and vibrant red fruits and that wonderful Dolcetto balance. This drinks so beautifully now that you’d be hard-pressed to keep your hands off it, but it definitely could go a few more years as well. Order
Barolo Bricco Boschis 2006 $55 * — the 2006 vintage has been described as big, dark and brooding, especially when speaking of the Baroli produced in the more ‘modern’ fashion. What I’ve noticed from the traditionalists, though, is a sort of bright, round, playful fruit that stays firmly on the red end of the spectrum and actually makes for unexpectedly easy-drinking wines right now. Don’t let that fool you, though — this bottle (made from fruit across the Bricco Boschis Cru) has plenty of backbone lurking underneath the delightful fruit. It’s one to enjoy in 5-7 while you’re still keeping your hands off the Riservas. Order
Barolo Riserva Vignolo 2004 $86 * — the two ’04 Riservas from Cavallotto are flat out spectacular wines. This one, from the lower altitude vineyard of Vignolo, is the slightly more generous and rounder of the two. It shows a wonderfully plush fruit that leans just to the darker side of the Nebbiolo spectrum, but has plenty of graceful structure underneath. As this wine develops over the next 5-7, the aromatics will continue blossom and the fruit should broaden a bit to make for one perfectly expressive Barolo that will continue to drink beautifully for at least 10 years after that. Order
Barolo Riserva Vigna San Giuseppe 2004 $97 *– and now for the racehorse. The 2004 Vigna San Giuseppe is very muscular and firmly structured but unbelievably nimble as well. It is absolutely beautiful and I would venture to say that it’s certainly one of the best young Barolos that I’ve tasted for quite some time. It perhaps doesn’t show quite as much all out muscle as the ’99 I mentioned above, but it is every bit as good and faithfully reflects the classic qualities of the great ’04 vintage. If there is one to have, this is it. Is it one of the very few remaining, truly great sub-$100 Baroli — but not for long I fear. Order
Barolo Riserva Vigna San Giuseppe 1999 — after writing this post (and tasting the 2004) I’ve totally inspired myself to scour the market for some of the 1999 San Giuseppe. If you’re interested in some, please inquire.
*net pricing, no further discount