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Staff Favorites - John Downing

John Downing

Reviews

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2015 Ca' del Baio "Asili" Barbaresco
Review Date: 04-01-2019
Asili is one of the most revered vineyards in Barbaresco as wines from this fruit tend to possess an immediate appeal when young yet have the ability to age gracefully. Ca'del Baio's 2015 is very expressive, open and drinkable with loads of ripe, delicious fruit and mild tannins. We tasted this recently and recommend enjoying it on the younger side as it's enchanting now.

2013 Enrico Serafino Barolo
Review Date: 04-01-2019
The Serafino 2013 Barolo seems hidden within our Italian section yet is one of the better Barolo values going. It is both wonderful to open now or to place in the cellar a few more years. It's sure to please those looking for a very well-priced Barolo as well as anyone wanting to try Barolo for the first time.
Price: $39.99 Add To Cart
WS 92

2013 Rivetto "Ce Vannin" Barbaresco
Review Date: 04-01-2019
For me, Rivetto's Barbaresco is more "old school" in style in that it's lighter in color with notes of dried fruits, licorice, leather and earth. His "Ca'Vannin" is clean, well-made, and more than fairly priced with a touch of bottle age that makes it ideal to open now at the table. Best with roasted meats and weightier pasta dishes.
Price: $34.99 Add To Cart

2014 Paolo Caciorgna "N'Anticchia" Etna Rosso
Review Date: 04-01-2019
The name of this rare and exceptional red means "a little" in Sicilian dialect and reflects the tiny amount of this wine produced. As good as his Ciauria and Guardoilvento wines are, the N'Anticchia is deeper, richer, earthier and more complex with a wonderful array of black raspberry and cherry fruit, fine grippy tannins and a very long finish. This a truly special wine and certainly among the top old vines Etna Rossos made.
Price: $64.99 Add To Cart
WS 90

2016 Paolo Caciorgna "Guardoilvento" Etna Rosso
Review Date: 04-01-2019
Paolo Caciorgnia is not only one of the nicest people I've met in the wine world but also he's an extremely talented winemaker as reflected by his 2016 Etna Rosso "Guardoilvento" that arrived on our sales floor recently. The afore named vineyard yields grapes from very old/pre-phylloxera vines planted at 2500 feet. This 100% Nerello Mascalese is pristine and fragrant with waves of spiced red fruits, rose petals, licorice and volcanic minerals. It's certainly one of the most pristine examples of Etna Rosso I've come across not to mention one of the finest.
Price: $29.99 Add To Cart

2015 Vietti "Castiglione" Barolo
Review Date: 03-19-2019
I had the privilege of a sneak preview of this wonderful Barolo during a visit to Vietti last year. Luca Currado should be very proud of his Castiglione Barolo as his deft winemaking has matched ripe fruit from a warm vintage with very fresh tannins and bright acidity which is no easy task. It's wonderful to open and drink now yet allowing its youthfulness to round out with a bit of cellaring will only enhance it.
Price: $52.99 Add To Cart
JS 94 VN 91

2015 Castello di Monsanto Chianti Classico Riserva
Review Date: 03-19-2019
This historic estate continues its tradition of producing one of the best Chianti Riservas with the release of their stellar 2015. The signature fruit of a warm vintage is immediate yet there's plenty of underlying structure and freshness in this impressive Chianti. While it's thoroughly enjoyable now, it will certainly improve with a couple of years in the cellar.

2015 Ca' del Baio "Autinbej" Barbaresco
Review Date: 03-18-2019
This wine began production in 2014, so this is only the second vintage and I must confess, I'm quite impressed. The Grasso Family has added this to their already stellar line-up of single vineyard Barbarescos as a tribute to their grandfather as well as an outstanding Nebbiolo that can be consumed when young. Bright cherry fruit and spice abound with plenty of sweet extract and ripe tannins on the palate. This is an exceptional deal at the price and a wonderful Barbaresco that's perfect to drink today and over the next few years.
Price: $32.99 Add To Cart
JS 94 WS 93

2016 Schiavenza Nebbiolo delle Langhe
Review Date: 03-18-2019
Schiavenza is one of my favorite wineries in the Serralunga zone of Barolo and their Langhe Nebbiolo is top tier in both depth and quality. The fruit is sourced entirely from their Serralunga vineyards and is really Barolo lite. It's a bit bigger in stature and structure than the typical young vines Nebbiolo and offers concentrated fruit with plenty of tannic grip and good length. This classic will certainly cellar for the next few years but is terrific now with a bit of aeration.
Price: $29.99 Add To Cart

2017 G.D. Vajra Langhe Nebbiolo
Review Date: 03-18-2019
The Vajra Family not only cultivates first rate Nebbiolo throughout their vineyards but also crafts wines with great depth and refinement. Their latest Langhe Nebbiolo highlights vibrant red fruits enhanced by notes of plum, florals and mineral. It's quite accessible due to the warmth of the 2017 vintage yet retains impressive acidity and structure as well. This is one of my personal favorites every year.
Price: $26.99 Add To Cart

2013 Rivetto Langhe Nebbiolo
Review Date: 03-18-2019
This charming, light-on-its-feet, old-school Nebbiolo reflects its character with scents of licorice, mineral and cherry fruit along with a medium-bodied palate of juicy red fruit supported by fine firm tannins. It comes alive with food and is best with meats, firm cheeses and egg pastas.
Price: $19.99 Add To Cart

2016 Argiano Rosso di Montalcino
Review Date: 03-18-2019
A recent tasting reminded me how good this Rosso is so I'm a bit surprised that we still have the wine on our sales floor. Since the sale of the winery some time ago, I think the wines of Argiano have improved and their 2016 Rosso is in keeping with the trend. It's immediate, open, bright and expressive with delicious red fruit flavors, moderate acidity and plenty of finish. Open today and enjoy with a wide variety of dishes.
Price: Hidden View Price
WS 90

2016 Tenuta Sette Ponti "Oreno" Toscana
Review Date: 03-11-2019
2016 is one of the finest Orenos and among the best of Italy's Bordeaux style reds. It showcases deep and rich fruit that possesses an international flair combined with unmistakable Tuscan flavors and character. Although it's quite accessible now, it's sure to improve with time in the cellar. Steak with this one!

2015 Poggerino Chianti Classico
Review Date: 03-04-2019
The warmth of the 2015 vintage elevates this normally leaner style Chianti to a higher level. Although it possesses its expected nervy acidity and freshness, this wine has greater weight and complexity of fruit making it one of our favorite Chianti Classicos of the vintage. Not to be missed.
Price: $22.99 Add To Cart
WS 92 RP 90

2017 Iovine Gragnano Rosso Frizzante
Review Date: 03-04-2019
While many are familiar with Lambrusco, few know of a similar style frizzante red from Southern Italy named Gragnano. It's produced from Aglianico, Piedirosso and Sciascinoso and is deep purple in color, pleasantly sweet and grapy in flavor and finishes with a hint of smokiness. This delicious and refreshing red is the ideal match with pizza and is best served with a slight chill. Unlike with salad, you'll make a few friends with this wine.
Price: $15.99 Add To Cart
VN 92

2016 Colombaio di Santa Chiara "Campo Pieve" Vernaccia di San Gimignano
Review Date: 03-04-2019
Most of what passes for Vernaccia is rarely met with any fanfare and the wines are often overlooked for more substantial options. This producer, however, takes Vernaccia to another level and this is one of the best examples you're likely to come across. Although it opens with a pleasant nose of floral and mineral it truly shines on the palate where it expands with richness, density and flavor from beginning to end. It was a huge customer favorite at our LA Italian tasting and is worth every cent. Impressive.
Price: $27.99 Add To Cart

2017 Marisa Cuomo "Ravello" Costa d'Amalfi Bianco
Review Date: 03-04-2019
Marisa Cuomo is one of Southern Italy's most talented vignerons and a champion of both white and red varietals of Campania. This perennial favorite white blend of 60% Falanghina and 40% Biancolella boasts aromas of lemon, florals and seabreeze and a very pleasing palate with hints of almond on the finish. There's plenty of acidity which makes this ideal with seafood dishes and shellfish.
Price: $22.99 Add To Cart
VN 90

2016 Caggiano "Tauri" Irpina Aglianico
Review Date: 03-04-2019
There's a lot of demand for well made, fairly priced Aglianico and the Caggiano "Tauri" certainly fits the bill. It's soft and plush with delicious flavors of dark plums and wild berries along with a hint of black pepper on the finish. Perfect to open and drink now with grilled Italian saugages or your favorite meats along with red sauced pastas.
Price: $19.99 Add To Cart
VN 91

2017 Caggiano "Devon" Greco di Tufo
Review Date: 03-04-2019
Caggiano produces one of the finer examples of Greco di Tufo from Italy's Campania region and we are very pleased to offer this outstanding and limited wine. Greco flourished in 2017 and the "Devon" delivers bright scents of white peach, white floral and mineral and a substantial palate of citrus and orchard fruit with crisp acidity throughout. Greco di Tufo at its best.

2015 Salcheto Vino Nobile di Montepulciano
Review Date: 01-29-2019
Vino Nobile has maintained far less of a presence in the US market than its better known neighbor Chianti but some of its finer producers are making every effort to reverse that. The 2015 Salcheto Vino Nobile is one of their finest to-date and a wonderful expression of Sangiovese from the hillside of Montepulciano. Its expressive aromas of red berries, wild herb, earth and leather are joined by a polished palate of bright berry fruit with slightly dusty tannins on the finish. The winery ages this in large botte and smaller French oak barrels that refine what would normally be a more structured and firmer wine. This classic Tuscan shines at the dinner table.
Price: $22.99 Add To Cart
WE 94 WS 94

2016 Fuligni "Ginestreto" Rosso di Montalcino
Review Date: 01-28-2019
Personally, I think Fuligni ranks among the very best Brunello producers and his Rosso di Montalcino never disappoints. It's nearly Brunello in taste yet is wonderful to open and drink today. This flavor-rich Sangiovese is smooth, delicious and a testament to great winemaking from one of Montalcino's greats.
Price: Hidden View Price
JS 91

2017 Blason Pinot Grigio Isonzo del Friuli
Review Date: 01-28-2019
Blason has always made good Pinot Grigio but this is by far his best yet. It offers his signature depth and texture yet with greater acidity and freshness. There's a lot of solid Pinot Grigio in the market but it's pretty tough to find a great one at this price and Blason's certainly rises to the top. Wonderful on its own and ideal with fish and lighter fare.
Price: $10.99 Add To Cart

Wine Club

$8.99

2015 Felsina "Rancia" Chianti Classico Riserva (1.5L)
Review Date: 01-28-2019
Personally, I've long held that Felsina's Chianti Classico Riserva "Rancia" rarely, if ever, shows its stuffing on release. It normally needs a bit of cellaring to come together yet the 2015 is blessed with such ample richness that it's really sensational from the outset. It's smooth, silky and concentrated today but deceptive underlying structure is sure to emerge with age. Since far fewer large format bottles are produced, I highly recommend this exceptional wine to those looking to age top tier Italian wine.

2016 Musella Valpolicella Superiore
Review Date: 01-21-2019
I had the good fortune of meeting Maddalena Pasqua Di Bisceglie twenty years ago while tasting her wines at the Vinitaly Fair in Verona. They were quite good then but are sensational today. She and her family practice biodynamic farming and the results speak for themselves. This is definitely one of the finer Valpolicellas made and it combines richness and elegance along with stunning complexity. A wonderful wine at the table that's versatile with a wide variety of dishes.
Price: $17.99 Add To Cart

2015 Poderi Colla Nebbiolo d'Alba
Review Date: 01-21-2019
Sadly, Beppe Colla, one of the greatest of Barolo producers, passed on recently. His legacy remains, however, through his family and this outstanding Nebbiolo is certainly a reflection of it. Although it's approachable now it posses the depth and complexity to age as well. A nose of plum, red berries, roses and spice leads a medium-bodied palate with ample fruit and persistence and a fine layer of tannins. Pair this with meats, hearty pastas and firm cheeses.
Price: $29.99 Add To Cart

Wine Club

$22.99
JG 90

2015 Petra Zingari Toscana
Review Date: 12-16-2018
Vittorio Moretti is best known for his Franciacorta wineries Bellavista and Contadi Castaldi but he purchased land in the Tuscan Coast area of Val di Cornia many years ago and his daughter Francesca has been at the helm crafting outstanding red and white wines. Her approach of late has been to produce elegant wines with finesse that capture the essence of the grapes and their environs. This shift away from the oakier style reds popular in the 1990s and early 2000s has taken her wines to a new level. The Zingari is a wonderful medium-bodied Tuscan red that combines rich red fruit flavors supported by fresh acidity. Hats off to Francesca Moretti. Bravo!
Price: $14.99 Add To Cart
JS 94 WS 92

2015 Hyot, Côtes de Castillon
Review Date: 11-26-2018
I'm convinced that sales of this wine will pick up dramatically once customers begin to open bottles and taste this sleeper. It's made predominantly from Merlot so there's plenty of fruit richness and concentration as well as freshness from some youthful acidity and ripe, sweet tannins. Hyot is an outstanding Bordeaux buy that's certain to impress.
Price: $13.99 Add To Cart
JS 90

2013 Giacomo Fenocchio "Bussia" Barolo
Review Date: 11-26-2018
This estate is really hitting stride and making very impressive wines of late. Claudio Fenocchio was kind enough to drop by the Hollywood store during a brief yet busy trip to Southern California and we had the good pleasure of tasting his outstanding wines. The 2013 Barolo Bussia was especially memorable. It's aged in stainless steel (40 days on the skins!) and then rests for three years in large Botte. Although the vineyard is positioned with ample sunlight and yields ripe, forward fruit, this Barolo is richly textured, complex and built for cellaring.

2017 Reynon Blanc, Bordeaux
Review Date: 11-26-2018
I've enjoyed many vintages of Reynon Blanc but definitely underestimated their impressive 2017. Aromas of gooseberry and lime burst from the glass while the palate is nicely textured with a core of bright acidity and plenty of lime flavors on the finish. This really over delivers at $15.

2015 Petit Soutard, St-Emilion
Review Date: 11-26-2018
For California Cabernet drinkers looking to try Bordeaux for the first time or for those who prefer richer, riper style reds, Soutard is an ideal choice. It's packed with concentrated chocolaty dark fruit with just the right touch of French oak and great structure and balance throughout. Steak or lamb with this one.
Price: $19.99 Add To Cart

2015 Le Temple, Haut-Médoc
Review Date: 11-26-2018
This is certainly one of the better value 2015 Bordeaux I've tasted of late and I'm pleased we have a good amount on-hand to offer. I've heard on numerous occasions that there aren't many Bordeaux values but I beg to differ. Le Temple is primarily Cabernet with a classic medium-bodied palate of delicious red fruit and mild acidity. It's an ideal week night Cabernet at a terrific price.
Price: $16.99 Add To Cart
RP 90 WE 90

2013 Ronchi "Ronchi" Barbaresco
Review Date: 11-13-2018
The combination of a pedigree vineyard, great vintage, thoughtful farming and winemaking along with an exceptional price make this a truly wonderful Barbaresco. This is one of the finest wines we've tasted to-date from the Rocca Family and it comes with our highest recommendation. Whether you're new to the category and looking to experience Barbaresco (Nebbiolo) for the first time or an experienced Nebbiolo fan in search of a sleeper pick, this one is for you. Great now but ideal for cellaring.
Price: $39.99 Add To Cart
VN 93

2015 Domaine l'Oiselet Vacqueyras
Review Date: 11-12-2018
As much as I love Italian wine, I'm always on the hunt for great Rhone reds and this is certainly a find! This outstanding Grenache Syrah blend captures the richness and power of fruit of 2015 and combines it with classic Rhone characters of garrigue, pepper, dried tobacco and licorice. Although the fruit takes center stage, it's neither overripe nor alcoholic and the wine is sensational to drink now. Lamb or braised ribs with this one.
Price: $17.99 Add To Cart

Wine Club

$14.99
RP 88 - 90

2012 Musella Amarone della Valpolicella
Review Date: 11-12-2018
We've had the good pleasure of offering the wines of this wonderful estate for the past few years and are especially taken with their latest Amarone. The Di Bisceglie family is not only committed to biodynamic farming but also to crafting wines that best express the elegance of Valpolicella. This inchanting red opens with a fragrant bouquet of spiced cherries and is long on the palate with a hint of licorice on the finish. So much flavor and personality. Ideal with roasts, stews, aged cheeses or simply on its own.
Price: $49.99 Add To Cart
W&S 92

2013 Tenimenti Luigi d'Alessandro "Il Bosco" Syrah Cortona
Review Date: 11-12-2018
Although Italy is not known for producing much Syrah, this estate has lead the way for many years with one of the country's best. There's plenty of rich, velvety and mineral-driven black fruit with fine tannins and a long finish. It's a very fine example of Syrah that's not to be missed.
Price: $39.99 Add To Cart
JS 96 VN 93

2016 Trinoro "Le Cupole" Toscana
Review Date: 11-12-2018
While the 2015 showcased the opulence and power of the 2015 vintage, Trinoro's 2016 "Le Cupole" takes this wine to the next level as it's a bit more focused, juicy and complex. Velvety black fruit flavors abound in this seamless Cabernet blend.
Price: $29.99 Add To Cart

Wine Club

$24.99

2011 Vigneti Massa "Monleale" Barbera
Review Date: 11-12-2018
Although Walter Massa is best known for his Timorasso wines, he's also making impressive reds including this Barbera. His 2011 Monleale reflects the warmth of the vintage with delicious berry fruit, mild acidity and prominent ripe tannins that add an attractive rusticity. It's a mature Barbera from a warmer year that's drinking perfectly now. A rare treat.
Price: $28.99 Add To Cart

2017 Tenuta Roveglia "Limne" Lugana
Review Date: 11-06-2018
The 2016 "Limne" was a huge hit with customers and staff alike and the 2017 is already flying out of the store. It's slightly drier than the 2016 with lively acidity and delicious honey and mineral notes on the palate. At this price it certainly ranks among the best white wine values in the store.
Price: $12.99 Add To Cart
WE 90

2012 Baricci "Nello" Brunello di Montalcino Riserva
Review Date: 11-05-2018
This is only the second time Baricci has released a Riserva and we are priviledged to have a very limited amount available. It's named for the patriarch of the winery who, unfortunately, passed a couple of years ago at 94. "Nello" is both powerful and refined and in need of considerable cellaring to ultimately express its complexity and depth. It's a very traditional style Brunello and a rare gem.

2016 Domaine de Verquière Vacqueyras
Review Date: 10-08-2018
I would never have guessed this for a sub $20 wine. Verquiere's Vacqueyras offers the complexity, depth and weight of a pricier wine and reinforces why we stand behind our direct imports! Having offered the wines of this estate for several vintages and experienced their consistency and quality, we're smitten with this intoxicating blend of Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault. Although it shines with meats, cheeses and the like, I found it outstanding on its own. Serious juice.
Price: $17.99 Add To Cart
JD 89 - 92

2015 Domaine de l'Amandine Côtes du Rhône-Villages Seguret
Review Date: 10-08-2018
Southern Rhone wines have come a long way over the past twenty-five years thanks to improvements in farming practices, winemaking and overall hygiene in the cellars. More recently we've become accustomed to opulence and richness of fruit from this zone yet there are those like this estate that manage to produce finer and slightly firmer style reds. That's not to say their wines lack concentration and fruit, but rather that they have less flesh and alcohol and a touch more acidity. Their vineyards are at higher elevation than most in this area of Southern Rhone which explains the elegance and savory characters of their wines. This is a charming Rhone red that blossoms with aeration and elevates a wide variety of meats and heartier dishes.
Price: $13.99 Add To Cart
RP 90

2015 La Massa "La Massa" Toscana
Review Date: 10-01-2018
Each successive vintage of La Massa seems to outshine the previous and as good as the 2014 managed to be (from a very challenging vintage)Giampaolo Motta has done it again. It's a blend of 60% Sangiovese, 30% Cabernet and equal parts Merlot and Alicante that fills the palate with ample berry fruit, dark chocolate and savory herbs. It's a bright light from a sun-filled vintage that's wonderful to drink now and will certainly continue to do so for several years to come.

2016 La Fortuna "Fortunello" Rosso di Toscano
Review Date: 09-24-2018
Based upon its track record, we always expect this to be good but the 2016 is definitely La Fortuna's best to-date. The fruit is exceptional with rich black cherry and berry flavors that fill the palate and keep on going. This is truly a steal at $15 and a Sangiovese lover's delight.
Price: $14.99 Add To Cart

2015 Vigneti Massa "Costa del Vento" Timorasso
Review Date: 09-24-2018
This is the most immediate of Massa's three single vineyard Timorassos as it's rounder and creamier than its counterparts and yet it remains mouthwatering and fresh with driving acidity and earthy mineral and saline notes throughout. An impressive contrast to Premier Cru Burgundy and an outstanding pour.
Price: Hidden View Price

2015 Vigneti Massa "Montecitorio" Timorasso Cru
Review Date: 09-24-2018
"Montecitorio" is one of Walter Massa's three single vineyard Timorassos. It's located in a cooler site and while it's a bit more minerally than the "Costa del Vento", it's certainly more opulent and giving on the palate than the "Sterpi". This wine sees 2 1/2 days of skin contact and possesses a complex palate of honey and mineral and a lengthy finish. Pair this with fish, poultry and cheeses dishes.
Price: Hidden View Price

2015 San Guido "Le Difese" Bolgheri
Review Date: 08-27-2018
Tenuta San Guido remains one of the jewels of Tuscany and although they are known for their world-famous Sassicaia and Guidalberto reds, they've also been making an impressive value-priced wine for many years called Le Difese. It's a blend of 70% Cabernet and 30% Sangiovese with a savory, medium-bodied palate of red and black fruits that is meant for earlier drinking. It's a real steal at $20.

2017 Torti Pinot Noir Pavia
Review Date: 08-14-2018
Anyone looking for an outstanding Pinot Noir value will definitely want to purchase this latest release from the Torti Family. While there are a handful of top tier Italian Pinot Noirs, they are pricey and can't deliver the bang-for-the-buck that this one does. It's packed with a rounded palate of rich and savory red fruit flavors and a nice touch of acidity that keeps it fresh and lively.
Price: $14.99 Add To Cart

2013 San Polino Brunello di Montalcino
Review Date: 08-13-2018
San Polino is one of my favorite wineries in Montalcino and their 2013 Brunello is sublime. It's both immensely fragrant and deeply flavorful and framed by fine ripe tannins and mouthwatering acidity. It showcases just how dense and complex Sangiovese can be. This dynamic couple are certified organic growers and age their wines in Slavonian oak casks. No chemicals or pesticides have ever been used on their estate. An outstanding 2013 Brunello.

2016 Silvano Follador "Cartizze" Prosecco Superiore Brut Nature
Review Date: 08-06-2018
In my opinion, Silvano Follador is the finest producer of Prosecco. That's a bold statement but after having tasted hundreds over the past 22 years, I think his expertise with the Glera grape is unparalleled. The vineyards of Cartizze are considerd the finest within the Prosecco DOCG and Follador's latest (produced from his vineyards there) is stunning. It's fresh and complex with a persitent perlage and long finish. And, it's hard to believe just how much complexity exists in this bone-dry sparkler. The pinnacle of Prosecco.
Price: $26.99 Add To Cart
JS 92

2017 Tenuta Roveglia Chiaretto Rosé
Review Date: 08-06-2018
Roveglia's whites are among our favorite of late from Italy and we think their rose will be met with the same level of enthusiasm. There's so much going on here as the wine combines bold floral and red fruit aromas with a dry, crisp yet fruit-laden palate. There's just the right amount of richness and weight for more substantial cuisine yet the wine remains light on its feet.
Price: $12.99 Add To Cart
VN 90

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