Staff Favorites - John Downing

John Downing


2015 Treves Petite Arvine Val d'Aosta
Review Date: 08-16-2016
Valle d'Aosta is one of lesser known Italian regions here in the US so we're always excited to offer exceptional wines from this zone. Bordering both France and Switzerland in the Northeast corner of Italy, this narrow Alpine valley is lined with vineyards. The Treves Family has just released this impressive and very aromatic white wine that highlights distinctive alpine minerals, ripe pear and lemon on both nose and palate. Texturally it's smooth, elegant and mouth-filling with a long, lemon fruit finish. A very fine Italian white wine.
Price: $26.99 Add To Cart

2014 Benanti Etna Rosso
Review Date: 08-16-2016
Benanti's Rosso is the perfect introduction to Etna reds. While it's vibrant, juicy and immediately drinkable, there's a deceptive complexity for a wine at this price. Wonderful flavors of cherry, red plum and spice are enhanced by fine grippy tannins, smoky mineral notes from the volcanic soils and just the right amount of acidity. Here's a versatile and intriguing red from Sicily that's definitely worth seeking out.
Price: $18.99 Add To Cart
WE 94

2011 Bersano "Nirvasco" Barolo
Review Date: 08-16-2016
Although Bersano is located in the heart of the Asti zone where Barbera is famous, they also have vineyards in Barolo. Their 2011 Nirvasco has just arrived and it's a wonderful value Barolo for sure. It's made in a more traditional fashion (as it's aged entirely in large casks) and offers classic aromas of red cherries, licorice and minerals while fresh, medium-bodied and elegant on the palate. Enjoy this with cheeses, pastas and meats.
Price: $24.99 Add To Cart
WE 92

2013 Campogiovanni (San Felice) Rosso di Montalcino
Review Date: 08-15-2016
San Felice has been producing the Campogiovanni Rosso for many years now from a six acre parcel of vines on their Montalcino Estate. The 2013 is a classic Sangiovese aged entirely in large barrels for one year and is meant to be consumed on release but will hold nicely in the cellar for up to five years. This is a wonderful food wine with lively acidity and delicious red berry fruit that is accented by pleasant hints of dried floral and woodsy notes. Open this one with your next Italian dinner.
Price: $19.99 Add To Cart

2015 Tormaresca "Calafuria" Salento Rosato
Review Date: 08-15-2016
Antinori has been on a roll lately with the release of some terrific wines. They appear to have stepped up their game as we've been continually impressed with the increased level of quality of their wines across the board. Considering the overwhelming success of the "Neprica," we aren't surprised with how good this Rose is and we're pleased to offer it as part of our summer rosé campaign. It combines delicious red fruit and crisp acidity with a medium-bodied palate and it's a wonderful alternative to the always great French rosés on our sales floor.
Price: $14.99 Add To Cart

2012 Cantina di Ora "Amicone" Rosso Veneto
Review Date: 08-15-2016
"Amicone" is made from 100% Corvina, the primary grape of Valpolicella and Amarone. This value priced powerhouse is bursting with fragrant aromas of violets, spiced plums and blueberries and a rich mouthful of lush dark plum fruit and moderate acidity. Although it's quite good on its own, it's a terrific table red that will accompany a wide variety of foods.
Price: $12.99 Add To Cart

2009 Moulin La Lagune, Haut-Médoc
Review Date: 08-15-2016
This wine reminded me of just how many values abound within our Bordeaux selection. Those looking for outstanding drinkable Bordeaux or customers wanting to get their feet wet in the category should not hesitate to pick up a bottle of this one. It's showing beautifully at the moment and is sure to please.
Price: $24.99 Add To Cart

2014 Neyers "Left Bank Red" Napa Valley Red Blend
Review Date: 07-27-2016
Neyers has really knocked it out of the park with the release of this outstanding red. It is without doubt one of the best Napa blends I've tasted in this price range for some time. "Left Bank" is lush and dense with loads of mouth-coating black currant fruit, fine ripe tannins and an overall complexity that satisfies from start to finish. Take this one to the next dinner party and pick up a couple of bottles for yourself as well.
Price: $29.99 Add To Cart
WS 92

2011 Bava "Pianoalto" Barbera d'Asti Nizza Superiore
Review Date: 07-27-2016
Although I generally prefer Barbera aged in steel tanks or used wood barrels or casks, Roberto Bava convinced me otherwise during our recent visit to his estate in Piemonte. He was kind enough to open a bottle of Pianalto 1998 and we did a double-take. It's still fruit-rich with vibrant acidity and deftly integrated oak from new barrels used in the aging process. We not only had a snapshot of just how good this latest Pianalto will age but also how fantastic it is today after re-tasting it. World class Barbera.
Price: $24.99 Add To Cart
DC 90

2015 Guillaume Clusel Gamay "Traboules" Coteaux du Lyonnais
Review Date: 07-26-2016
This wine really took me by surprise. After having sampled a disappointing string of wines one afternoon, my colleague urged my to try this one. What a terrific Gamay! This is the kind of sub $20 red that I hope to come across in a bistro or café but rarely do. One that exceeds its price with delicious berry and blue fruit and a real sense of place. It's a versatile red that will pair with a wide range of foods (and maybe even seafood). Whether you're looking for a great table red or don't feel like springing for a Cru Beaujolais, try this one.
Price: $15.99 Add To Cart
VN 90 - 91

2013 Einaudi "Vigna Tecc" Dogliani (Dolcetto)
Review Date: 07-26-2016
Dogliani is a geographic region to the South of the Barolo zone that is planted almost exclusively to Dolcetto. It's here that this grape varietal reaches a level of concentration and complexity that many consider to be Dolcetto at its finest. The Einaudi estate is one of the top producers in Dogliani their latest wines have just arrived. Vigna Tecc is produced from their best vines and the 2013 is both fragrant and flavorful offering waves of blue and berry fruit along with ripe tannins and a hint of almond on the finish. Although it's wonderful to drink now, don't hesitate to cellar it for a couple of years. Especially good with meats, pastas, pizza and stews.
Price: $22.99 Add To Cart

2010 Capanna Brunello di Montalcino
Review Date: 07-26-2016
I've always considered Capanna among the most classic style producers as they stick to traditional farming and the use of large barrels during the aging process. In the best vintages their wines are generally well structured with firm tannins and substantial acidity. Well, their 2010 is in a class of it's own as it is blessed with more of everything. Concentrated fruit, bold tannins, impressive acidity and overall freshness that combined, make this one of the most intriguing 2010 Brunellos. Put this one in the cellar for at least a couple of years or give it a good decant if opening it sooner.
Price: $46.99 Add To Cart
JS 94 VN 94

2011 di Majo Norante "Ramitello" Biferno Rosso
Review Date: 07-25-2016
At $12.99, this wine definitely over delivers. It's smooth, velvety and packed with plummy black fruit and surprising concentration and length. Customers are already coming back for second or third purchases so we expect it to sell quickly. We think you'll love it as much as we do.
Price: $12.99 Add To Cart
WS 90

2012 Terre del Palio Vino Nobile di Montepulciano
Review Date: 07-19-2016
Vino Nobile has been a shrinking category in the US for many years mainly due to the competition from Chianti, higher price points and change in style. That being said, we are pleased to offer this new arrival from Montepulciano that's sure to impress. Hats off to my colleague Greg St Clair for sourcing this beauty. The Palio is 90% Sangiovese with the remaining 10% consisting of Cabernet and Merlot. The Bordeaux varietals add just the right depth and texture yet Sangiovese remains front and center. Wonderful aromas of earthy dark fruit are complemented by a round and juicy palate with just the right touch of acidity. This is outstanding Vino Nobile, period.
Price: $24.99 Add To Cart

2013 La Massa "La Massa" Toscana
Review Date: 07-19-2016
This vintage of La Massa strikes me as a benchmark as the wine has moved from a full-bodied international version to a more classic yet full-bodied and savory Tuscan style blend. It's exceptionally balanced with a smoothly textured palate of layered black and red fruits with bright acidity throughout. Giampaolo Motta continues his impressive streak of great "La Massa" wines and this may very well be his best yet.

2013 Trinoro "Le Cupole" Toscana
Review Date: 07-19-2016
We had the pleasure of tasting this new release from Trinoro and were pleasantly surprised as it exceeded our expectations. Although previous vintages have been great, this one just seemed to hit the sweet spot. While it's a great introduction to the Super Tuscan category, it also offers Tuscan wine drinkers outstanding value. "Cupole" combines 62% Cabernet Franc with 24% Merlot,8% Cabernet Sauvignon and 6% Petit Verdot and offers new world flare with a truly Tuscan taste. It's medium-to-full-bodied with savory flavors of blackberry, black currant, chocolate and minerals and mouthwatering acidity. Definitely worth picking up a bottle or two (or more). 6% Petit Verdot
Price: $29.95 Add To Cart
VN 91

2015 Domaine Begude Pinot Noir
Review Date: 07-19-2016
The wines of Begude seem often overlooked. I'm not sure if it's the simple white labels, but the wines are outstanding values that many are missing out on. The 2015 Pinot Noir is definitely one of their best yet. It's immediately inviting on both nose and palate with fresh and lively aromas and flavors of mixed red berries and blue fruit with grippy acidity and a lingering finish. The wine comes alive with food and is a delight at such an incredible price.
Price: $12.99 Add To Cart

2013 Farnetella Chianti Colli Senesi
Review Date: 07-19-2016
Due to the appellation itself, there is a lot of variance in style and substance between Colli Senesi Chiantis but our friends at Fattoria di Felsina, owners of Castello di Farnetella, produce one of the best. This is a substantial wine for the price that offers up plenty of wild red berry fruit laced with hints of licorice, vanilla and minerals. It's fresh, velvety and round and at $12.99, we imagine this will go quickly.
Price: $12.99 Add To Cart
JS 92 WS 91

2013 Argiolas "Costera" Cannonau di Sardegna
Review Date: 07-17-2016
We regularly receive requests for affordable Cannonau from Sardinia and Argiolas answers the call once again. The Costera is a vibrant red with savory blackberry, black cherry and plum flavors and a freshness not always found with Cannonau. It's a versatile everyday wine that's especially good with grilled meats, cheeses and red sauced dishes.

2012 Cantine Ascheri Barolo
Review Date: 07-17-2016
It's rare that a Langhe winegrower can deliver a high quality Barolo at this price from year to year but Matteo Ascheri manages to do just that. His 2012 offers plenty of delicious fruit,complexity and zippy acidity and although it's ready-to-drink now, it will certainly cellar short-term. The Ascheri 2012 is one of the best Barolo values available.
Price: Hidden View Price
WS 94 JS 92

2010 Villa Poggio Salvi Brunello di Montalcino Riserva
Review Date: 07-12-2016
Some have argued that Brunello Riservas are not the best values and not always as good as the regular bottlings. In some cases that may be true, but we’ve found that the producers we import directly make outstanding Riservas, and this is no exception. This stunner was aged for three-​and-a-half years in large casks and an additional six months in bottle before being released. The result is a full-bodied Sangiovese with polished tannins and juicy acidity imbedded in a mouthful of weighty strawberry fruit. There’s also a hint of the classic Tuscan dust, my colleagues often note, that adds to the overall complexity. There’s nothing not to love, and this is truly a testament to great wine from a great vintage that delivers—and at a price that’s close to most non-riserva Brunellos.

2011 Villa Poggio Salvi Brunello di Montalcino
Review Date: 07-12-2016
This was a very warm vintage from around August 10 until harvest, so our friends at Poggio Salvi picked a bit earlier to preserve the acidity needed to make good Brunello. We were, once again, impressed, as this wine delivers some serious Sangiovese goodness. It’s immediately soft and round, with great extract and a flavor-packed palate of rich cherry fruit along with just the right touch of grippy acidity. We couldn’t ask for more at this price, and we think Sangiovese fans will agree.
Price: $29.99 Add To Cart

Wine Club

WS 90

2014 Villa Poggio Salvi Rosso di Montalcino
Review Date: 07-12-2016
The 2014 vintage was one of the more difficult for vintners in Italy of late, and many in the wine world have been quick to write it off in favor of others. However, after having tasted so many successful wines from this year, we’re looking forward to offering a number of outstanding 2014s. Due to the cool weather, Poggio Salvi took extra steps in the vineyards to ensure that only the best grapes were harvested for their wines, which is why this Rosso is so good. We expected to find a least a touch of herbal or green aromas, but instead were treated to a fragrant bouquet of bright strawberries with a pleasant hint of earthiness. The wine is bright, vibrant and lively, with a nice zip of acidity and plenty of delicious red fruit on the finish. Pair this with pastas, meats and cheeses.
Price: $14.99 Add To Cart

2012 Grattamacco "L'Alberello" Bolgheri Superiore
Review Date: 07-08-2016
This wine immediately impressed us with its perfect balance of powerful fruit combined with finesse and subtlety. It hails from one of the top estates within Italy's Bolgheri region on the Tuscan Coast and is made primarily from Cabernet with a lesser amount of Cabernet Franc and a touch of Petit Verdot to round it out. The result is a beautifully crafted claret style red with layered dark fruit and an elegant underlying structure. We recommend pairing this with meats and firm cheeses.

2011 Riecine "Riecine" Toscana
Review Date: 07-08-2016
Riecine's "Riecine di Riecine" is meant to be the finest possible expression of Sangiovese from the best of the estate's vineyards. Long-time winemaker Sean O'Callahan has masterfully crafted this flavor packed gem that offers up mouth-filling spiced cherry fruit with soft tannins, mild acidity and a hint of oak spicing. It's wonderful now and won't last long in the cellar once you've had the opportunity to taste it.
Price: $49.99 Add To Cart
JS 97

2012 Fontodi "Flaccianello della Pieve" Toscana
Review Date: 07-08-2016
Flaccianello remains one of the greatest Tuscan Sangioveses and the 2012 is regal. The Manetti family reduced the yields by twenty percent and carefully selected the grapes from five of their parcels to make this stunning wine. The fruit is dark, rich and aromatic and the wine is full-bodied with deftly integrated tannins and oak and the ability to age many years. Open now with proper aeration or allow it to develop in the cellar. Outstanding.

2010 Poggio Antico "Altero" Brunello di Montalcino
Review Date: 07-04-2016
Altero is Poggio Antico's answer to the demand for a more modern style Brunello and the 2010 is without doubt one of their best ever. The wine is aged for two years in French oak Tonneaux barrels as opposed to three years in large casks like the classic style Brunello. Altero is rich, round and flavorful with exceptional balance and length and perfectly integrated oak. Although it's delicious now, it will only improve with time in the cellar. Definitely one of the top 2010s.
Price: $74.99 Add To Cart
JS 96 WS 90

2014 Sesta di Sopra Sangiovese Toscana
Review Date: 06-28-2016
The vines for this wine are grown in prime soils, so it's no surprise just how good this wine is for the price. It's always among our best-selling Sangioveses, and any and all looking for a perennial Tuscan sleeper will want to purchase a few bottles before we run out. This delicious and affordable red definitely raises the bar.
Price: $13.99 Add To Cart

2015 Domaine Lafage "Miraflors" Côtes du Roussillon Rosé
Review Date: 06-20-2016
Considering the high quality of the Lafage red wines it's no surprise just how good the Roussillon rose is. This top rate 2015, offers a delicious mélange of red berries and currants and a lively freshness and zip across the palate. There's also an unmistakable minerality that so many of our customers seek out. Impressive rose.
Price: $12.99 Add To Cart
RP 90

2013 La Monacesca "Mirum" Verdicchio di Matelica Riserva
Review Date: 06-10-2016
As fine as the regular bottling from this estate is, the Mirum takes Verdicchio to another level. It's a substantial white with very primary aromas of honey, acacia flowers and minerals, and a richly fruited and textured mouthful balanced with impressive acidity. There's more of everything, as Mirum is complex, impeccably integrated and long on finish and personality.
Price: $26.99 Add To Cart
W&S 92 WE 91

2014 Valle dell'Acate "Il Frappato" Vittoria
Review Date: 06-07-2016
We've long been fans of this winery and simply love their Frappato, a grape that is native to Sicily and produces lighter, less tannic reds. This one combines perfumed aromas of red berries, violets and sage and flavors of bright red fruit that make it ideally suited for cheeses, salami and seafood dishes. It's fresh and lively and we recommend giving it a brief chill prior to pouring. A perfect warm weather red.

2013 Luce Della Vite "Lucente" Toscana
Review Date: 06-06-2016
Lucente is the second wine to Lamberto Frescobaldi's Luce, the acclaimed blend of Sangiovese and Merlot produced at the family's Montalcino estate. It represents a more modern interpretation of Tuscan reds with vibrant dark and wild berry fruits and plenty of tasty French oak to round it out. Open this now or give it some time in the cellar.
Price: $19.95 Add To Cart
JS 92

2010 Tassi Brunello di Montalcino
Review Date: 05-31-2016
Customers routinely ask us to recommend 2010 Brunellos that offer earlier drinkability yet are equally impressive. Tassi's 2010 is definitely one of our go to selections in this regard. This intriguing Sangiovese is medium to full-bodied, juicy and flavorful with wonderful minerally plum and cherry fruit that flows seamlessly across the palate. It's big on personality and a decadent treat at the price.

2010 Tassi "Franci" Brunello di Montalcino
Review Date: 05-31-2016
This is Fabio Tassi's more classically styled Brunello as it ages in large casks for three years and truly expresses the complex characteristics of serious Sangiovese from Montalcino. It's an ethereal, medium weight gem with savory black fruit flavors enhanced by hints of minerals and florals along with plenty of stuffing from start to finish. A classic 2010 not to be missed.

2013 Brancaia "Tre" Toscana
Review Date: 04-11-2016
Brancaia has turned the corner stylistically with the release of their 2013 "Tre." As opposed to the oakier, heavier wines of previous vintages, this delicious Rosso is medium-bodied, smooth and juicy with vibrant red and black berry fruits and a bright finish. This is the ideal Tuscan red to open now with a variety of meats, pastas and cheeses.
Price: $16.95 Add To Cart
JS 92

2011 Agostino Bosco "Neirane" Barolo
Review Date: 04-04-2016
Bosco's 2011 Neirane is made from Nebbiolo planted in Barolo's lesser known commune of Verduno where the soils are quite sandy and the resulting wines are generally more elegant and perfumed. This wine opens with an attractive array of red fruits, dried florals, minerals and a touch of oak spicing and delivers unexpected power and weight considering its origins. It's delicious now and will drink nicely over the next few years.

2011 Agostino Bosco "La Serra" Barolo
Review Date: 04-04-2016
The La Serra Vineyard inhabits a windy hillside location with soils comprised primarily of limestone and clay and the result is an elegant Barolo with ample underlying structure and longevity. The 2011 Bosco La Serra surprises with it's depth, complexity and freshness considering it hails from a very warm vintage. It's blessed with an expansive palate of delicious spiced cherry fruit along with a fine spine of tannins and acidity, and although approachable now, it will improve with time in the cellar. Having been initially aged in smaller French barrels and then transferred to larger casks, the wood influence is nicely integrated.
Price: $54.99 Add To Cart
JS 93 VN 92

2011 Fratelli Barale Barolo "Cannubi"
Review Date: 04-03-2016
Barale's Cannubi is definitely a bit bigger and richer than their DOC and Castellero Barolos with its darker fruit, firmer tannins and weightier palate. Thanks to the warmer weather in 2011, it's approachable now yet retains bright fruit and fresh acidity throughout. There's less of this special Barolo available so don't miss out!
Price: $59.99 Add To Cart
JS 91

2006 Taittinger "Comtes de Champagne" Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne
Review Date: 03-11-2016
One of the true pleasures of our profession is the opportunity to taste extraordinary wines. Today afforded us just that. The 2006 Comtes de Champagne from Taittinger arrived and we were smitten. It offers an impressive combination of richness and freshness along with certain longevity. A mélange of captivating green apple and citrus aromas and a sumptuous and seamless palate make this wonderful today yet are only hints of its underlying complexity. Definitely one of the best value tete de cuvees made that is certain to reward with refinement.

2013 Tasca d'Almerita "Lamùri" Nero d'Avola Sicilia
Review Date: 03-02-2016
Lamuri is not only a terrific introduction to Nero d'Avola but also a wonderful Southern Italian red. The winery manages to produce a Nero d'Avola brimming with fresh plum and berry flavors along with hints of dried herbs, mineral and spice while avoiding the overripe fruit so often found in wines of this varietal. Lamuri is medium-to-full bodied, round, flavorful and ideal with a wide variety of meats, pastas and cheeses. This is an outstanding value red that definitely exceeds expectation.
Price: $17.95 Add To Cart
RP 92 JS 91

2012 Riecine Chianti Classico
Review Date: 08-11-2015
Regardless of a couple of ownership changes over the past two decades, Riecine remains among the top tier estates in Tuscany. Their 2012 Chianti is juicy and medium-bodied with intensely flavored spiced red fruit, mild tannins and a lengthy finish. It's terrific to drink now or over the next few years. Delicious.

2013 Uccelliera Rosso di Montalcino
Review Date: 08-11-2015
Andrea Cortonesi is a talented winemaker dedicated to crafting notable reds from Montalcino, and his 2012 Rosso is definitely one to take seriously. This is a bigger, denser and more darkly fruited Sangiovese that takes a bit of time to open up before it struts its stuff. Put this one down for a few months if possible or enjoy with aeration. Meats, heavier pastas and hard cheeses with this one.
Price: $22.99 Add To Cart
VN 91 JS 90

2010 Collemattoni Brunello di Montalcino
Review Date: 07-07-2015
This is classic Brunello! Sensational aromas of dark berry fruits, dried florals, sandalwood and spice open up to a rich, luxurious mouthful of concentrated fruit. The acidity and tannins are in perfect balance with the fruit and although you can enjoy it today, it will only improve with a bit of age. A real sleeper pick.

2009 La Fortuna Brunello di Montalcino
Review Date: 07-07-2014
We enjoyed sampling this latest release from La Fortuna not only because it's so darn tasty but also due to the fact that we know so many of our customers will simply love it. Thanks to some flavorful concentrated fruit, mild acidity and rounded tannins, this silky smooth Brunello is ready to open and drink. Delicious.
Price: $29.99 Add To Cart