Staff Favorites - John Downing

John Downing


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
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.

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

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

2011 Castello di Monsanto Chianti Classico Riserva
Review Date: 06-10-2016
Those who've enjoyed the recent vintages of this top-tier Riserva will most certainly want to purchase the wonderful 2011. It's softer and less structured than the 2010, and although it's excellent now, it will certainly hold up nicely in the cellar thanks to its rich fruit and ample acidity. Another outstanding release from Monsanto!

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.

2014 La Monacesca Verdicchio di Matelica
Review Date: 06-07-2016
We couldn't be more pleased to offer the wines of Aldo Cifola whose white wines rank among Italy's finest. Even in a challenging vintage like 2014, his Verdicchio is exceptional. It opens with scents of dried honey, soft citrus fruit and saline, and follows with a round, creamy palate of ripe mineral-driven lemon fruit and a long finish thanks to ample, bright acidity. Cifola harvests later than most other producers (which explains the wine's golden tinted color) yet is able to obtain oenological ripeness while preserving mouthwatering acidity. World-class Verdicchio. Seafood, vegetables, eggs and mild pastas with this one.
Price: $17.99 Add To Cart
W&S 90

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 La Valentina Montepulciano d'Abruzzo
Review Date: 08-30-2015
Although we turn away numerous inexpensive reds lacking the quality standards we expect for our customers, we couldn't pass on this outstanding Montepulciano d'Abruzzo! It raises the bar in the everyday red category with a flavorful mouthful of plummy dark berry fruit, dusty ripe tannins and a bright finish. Here's a versatile daily drinker that we think you'll love as much as we do.
Price: $10.95 Add To Cart
JS 92

2014 Ruggeri Corsini Langhe Bianco
Review Date: 08-11-2015
This unique white blend from the Langhe immediately impresses with an engaging array of apple, pear and gooseberry aromas and a bright palate of layered fruit and crisp acidity. We're quite taken with this one and think you'll be, as well!
Price: $14.99 Add To Cart

2013 Poggio Antico Rosso di Montalcino
Review Date: 08-11-2015
This is a classic Rosso and represents what is commonly referred to as a mini Brunello. Poggio Antico continues to deliver quality Sangiovese year after year and this latest release is no exception. A nose of earthy dark cherry, plum and mineral lead to a lively, plummy palate with a fine tannic spine and lengthy finish. A classic for sure.
Price: $25.99 Add To Cart
WS 91

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.

2010 Tolaini "Valdisanti" Toscana
Review Date: 06-22-2015
Valdisanti was among our top-selling Tuscan reds last year and this wonderful new release from Tolaini is already an instant hit with staff and customers. Packed with a mélange of savory black fruits and solid acidity, this generous, full-bodied Rosso can not only be enjoyed now but also will continue to develop over the next few years.

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