Staff Favorites - John Downing

John Downing

Reviews

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2013 Il Valentiano "Campo di Marzo" Brunello di Montalcino
Review Date: 10-08-2018
This one really surprised us at our recent staff tasting. It's not that we didn't think it would be good but it exceeded expectation. This relatively young producer has managed to deliver a rich and supple expression of Sangiovese that exudes delicious red fruit flavors with a savory quality that lingers on the finish. It drinks wonderfully now and will certainly continue to for the next few years.
Price: $32.99 Add To Cart
JS 91 RP 90

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

2013 Sesta di Sopra Brunello di Montalcino
Review Date: 10-08-2018
Our friends at Sesta di Sopra know how to produce great Sangiovese every vintage regardless of the vagaries of nature and the ever-changing vintage conditions. The Spina Family crafts Brunello that ranks among the best in the zone and their 2013 is sublime. It's one of the sleeper picks of the vintage and will certainly reward with a couple of years in the cellar.

2013 La Fortuna Brunello di Montalcino
Review Date: 10-01-2018
At our recent Italian tasting for consumers, this wine was definitely among the favorites. It's a showy, soft and concentrated Brunello with an immediate appeal that will also cellar nicely for a few more years. The wine's fine structure is somewhat hidden under the concentrated fruit and as good as the 2012 was, this one is definitely a step up.
Price: $34.99 Add To Cart
JS 93 WS 92

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 Baricci Rosso di Montalcino
Review Date: 10-01-2018
In my opinion Baricci is ground zero for the Montosoli zone of Montalcino and their wines have never been better. They deftly balance aromatic and savory red fruit with excellent structure and offer as pure an expression of Sangiovese you're likely to find from the zone. Truly a staff and customer favorite every vintage.
Price: $24.99 Add To Cart

2016 Il Valentiano Rosso di Montalcino
Review Date: 10-01-2018
The owners of this estate warned us in advance of how great this wine was and how much we would love it. In our business that could be a positive spin on a mediocre wine or an authentic accolade. Fortunately the producers we import directly are not only outstanding but also honest about their work and our friends at La Fortuna were 100 percent correct on this wine. It's packed with flavor and personality and offers a depth of fruit we don't expect at $15. Outstanding.
Price: $14.99 Add To Cart

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: $49.99 Add To Cart

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: $49.99 Add To Cart

2017 Cantina Terlano "Terlaner Classico" White Blend Alto Adige
Review Date: 09-24-2018
I've had the pleasure of selling this wine since 1999 and the 2017 is one of the best in recent memory. Appealing aromas of elderflower, mineral and gooseberry are surpassed by a bright, zesty palate with ample texture and acidity. This is an exceptionally good white that reminds of the consistently high quality of the wines emanating from Italy's Alto Adige region.
Price: $23.99 Add To Cart
RP 90

2015 Blason Bruma Bianco Friuli
Review Date: 09-24-2018
After a good deal of thought and attention to detail, Giovanni Blason has succeeded in producing a first-class oak aged white blend. This impressive combination of Malvasia and Friulano is golden in color with expressive floral and herb aromas along with spicy and savory flavors and a touch of saline on the finish. An opulent palate is offset by just the right amount of acidity.
Price: $16.99 Add To Cart
DC 96

2016 Baracchi "O'Lillo!" Toscana
Review Date: 08-27-2018
Baracchi's "O'Lillo" continues to surprise as it delivers far more than most expect from a Super Tuscan at this price. Their unique blend of equal parts Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet and Sangiovese is fermented in large conical wood vats and finished in steel tanks so the oak influence is very limited. It's an irresistible red with a smooth texture and ample black fruit flavors that we love to recommend to our customers.
Price: $16.99 Add To Cart
JS 91

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.

2016 Paitin "Starda" Nebbiolo
Review Date: 08-20-2018
Paitin's "Starda" is produced from younger vines Nebbiolo located in a cooler position where the resulting wines are generally more delicate and elegant. Their's is the exception as they manage to coax a depth and weight from their grapes resulting in a more brooding Nebbiolo with rich dark fruit and slightly more muscular tannins. It's a substantial and impressive Langhe red that deserves a place at the dinner table with meats and heartier fare. Made from Biodynamic vineyards.
Price: $19.99 Add To Cart

2015 Poderi Colla "Roncaglie" Barbaresco
Review Date: 08-20-2018
I had the pleasure of catching up with Tino Colla this past January during a brief stay in the Langhe. He and his family are among my favorite wine producers there and their 2015 Barbaresco really stood out. It's not only a great vintage for Nebbiolo but also the Roncaglie vineyard yields some of the finest fruit in all of Barbaresco. The Colla's produce very classic style wines and this one will need a few years in the cellar to really reveal its potential. If you are looking for one of the top, lesser known Barbarescos from one of the best in the zone, I highly recommend this one from Poderi Colla.

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

2015 Graci Etna Rosso
Review Date: 08-13-2018
This was certainly a standout at our recent staff Italian tasting and Graci continues to produce some of our favorite wines from Mt Etna. It's especially impressive as 2015 is considered a lesser vintage than 2014 on Etna yet Graci has over-delivered. This wonderful Rosso combines earthy dark fruit with fine prominent tannins and grippy acidity and lingering fruit on the finish.
Price: $25.99 Add To Cart
RP 91 WS 91

2015 Felsina "Fontalloro" Toscana
Review Date: 08-13-2018
For Felsina, Fontalloro represents their finest expression of Sangiovese. It's great even in the weakest of vintages which makes their 2015 a real show stopper. Although this exceptional Tuscan red has loads of fruit and can be appreciated today, it is sure to blossom with ample cellaring. Definitely one of the best Tuscan buys of the 2015 vintage.

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.

2017 Elio Grasso Dolcetto d'Alba dei Grassi
Review Date: 08-06-2018
Gianluca Grasso is one of my very favorite producers of Dolcetto and his 2017 not only highlights riper fruit from a warmer vintage but also retains complexity and freshness. It's juicy and vibrant with delicious black cherry and berry fruit flavors and a distinct minerality throughout. Open this with pastas, cheese, meats and poultry.
Price: $16.99 Add To Cart

2013 Negretti Barolo
Review Date: 08-06-2018
Negretti's 2013 Barolo is a terrific introduction to the category and is one that can be enjoyed today and over the next few years. It's loaded with rounded cherry fruit enhanced by notes of licorice and vanilla oak spicing and an overall freshness and depth. Open and enjoy with grilled meats, bbq and heartier dishes.
Price: $34.99 Add To Cart
JS 94

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

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

2015 Felsina "Rancia" Chianti Classico Riserva
Review Date: 07-23-2018
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. Simply outstanding.

2013 Villa Poggio Salvi Brunello di Montalcino
Review Date: 07-23-2018
The Poggio Salvi 2013 Brunello is a medium-bodied beauty with subtle red fruit and fine ripe tannins that really drinks nicely now. That's not to say it won't continue to do so for several years but it's delicious now and an impressive value at this price.
Price: $32.99 Add To Cart
JS 93 WE 91

2016 Villa Poggio Salvi Rosso di Montalcino
Review Date: 07-23-2018
We have no shortage of requests for good, sub $20 Rosso di Montalcinos and we're always pleased when we can recommend one of this quality. Salvi's latest offers a high-toned expression of Sangiovese with bright cherry fruit and supporting acidity that lifts the wine across the palate. It's a pure expression of this noble grape that is best at the dinner table.
Price: $14.99 Add To Cart

2017 Villa Poggio Salvi "Caspagnolo" Chianti Colli Senesi
Review Date: 07-23-2018
We're so glad that we have the privilege of importing this impressive Chianti from Poggio Salvi. It's a lot of wine that definitely exceeds its price and this 2017 is really delicious. Expressive earthy plum and cherry fruit aromas with a hint of cedar join a round palate with bright flavors and plenty of acidity. It outshines the typical bistro red and pairs with a wide variety of meats and stews.
Price: $11.99 Add To Cart

2015 Nozzole Chianti Classico Riserva
Review Date: 07-09-2018
The 2015 Nozzole Chianti Riserva is soft and concentrated with lots of warm red fruit flavors and bright acidity that livens it on the palate. It's surprisingly approachable, ready to be opened at the dinner table and especially good with meats, poultry and cheeses.
Price: $19.99 Add To Cart
JS 94 WS 93

2015 Calera "40th Anniversary Vintage" Central Coast Pinot Noir
Review Date: 06-25-2018
Josh Jensen's Calera Pinot Noir has long been one of my favorites in the price range and his 2015 is really impressive. Thanks to very low yields, this is an especially rich and complex wine with loads of spiced red fruit flavors, ample weight and acidity that drinks nicely but will cellars for a few years as well. This is an outstanding pick for Pinot Noir lovers.

2015 Graci "Arcuria" Etna Bianco
Review Date: 06-19-2018
This stunner is sure to turn a few heads and certainly gives white Burgundy a run for the money. It offers up an aromatic mix of orchard fruit, peach and mineral as well as a full and round palate with great acidity and length on the finish. This is one of the finer white wines of Mount Etna for sure.

2016 Biondi "Pianta" Etna Bianco
Review Date: 06-19-2018
We're big fans of Ciro Biondi both personally and professionally and his "Pianta" is a strong testament to the outstanding results he's getting from his vineyards. This old vines white is a blend of mostly Carricante with Cataratto and Minella that spends a total of nine months aging in older French barrels. It's deep, complex and refined and will appeal especially to those who love white Burgundy. Although stunning on its own, it shines at the table with seafood and white meat dishes.
Price: $44.99 Add To Cart

2016 Graci Etna Bianco
Review Date: 06-19-2018
This outstanding Etna Bianco also happens to be produced by one of our favorite producers and it always flies off the shelves. There's great demand for Etna wines at the moment and we are glad Graci's 2016 Bianco has finally landed. It's a mix of minerals, almond and yellow fruit on the nose and is round and citrusy on the palate with fresh, grippy acidity on the finish. If you haven't yet tried white wine from the slopes of Mount Etna, this is a great place to start.
Price: $26.99 Add To Cart
RP 91 WS 90

2016 Cantina Valle Isarco "Aristos" Pinot Grigio
Review Date: 06-11-2018
Pinot Grigio is widely available and often justifiably maligned for lacking complexity and depth but Valle Isarco's "Aristos" is a testament to how exceptional it can be. This special alpine white makes a powerful statement with its aromas and flavors of mineral, apple skin and red fruit notes and its round and layered palate that leaves a lengthy finish and lasting impression. Those hesitant to purchase Pinot Grigio will want to give this one a go.
Price: $26.99 Add To Cart
DC 97

2014 Pranzegg "Laurenc" Lagrein
Review Date: 06-11-2018
We love Lagrein and Pranzegg is one of the best we've tasted of late. Not only for its nose of black fruit, florals, earth, smoke and herb but also for its mouth-coating and fleshy black fruit. There's not much of this impressive Lagrein available so fans of this varietal will definitely want to pick up a bottle or two while it's in stock.
Price: $38.99 Add To Cart

2012 Alfio Mozzi "Grisone" Sassella
Review Date: 06-11-2018
This alpine Nebbiolo from Italy's Valtellina zone captures a gentler and more subtle side of this noble grape. It highlights scents of earthy cherry and mint and juicy dark red fruit flavors with a great mid-palate presence and finish. Try this one with braised meats, poultry and cheese based dishes.
Price: $34.99 Add To Cart

Wine Club

$27.99

2017 Pra "Morandina" Valpolicella Superiore
Review Date: 06-11-2018
This was an immediate staff favorite at a recent tasting here at the store and it made a number of us rethink Valpolicella. The best Valpolicella fruit goes to making Amarone and because so much of the remaining fruit is used to make Ripasso, its been a challenge to source great Valpolicella of late. Thankfully Pra is back in our market. This enchanting wine is an intoxicating combination of spiced red fruit aromas and a juicy palate of the same with a deceptively long finish. It's medium-bodied and shows best with a slight chill. This makes it and ideal Summer red for sure.
Price: $24.99 Add To Cart

2016 Quintodecimo "Jaune d'Arles" Greco di Tufo
Review Date: 06-11-2018
Professor Luigi Moio and his wife began their winery in 2001 and have taken Campania's red and white winemaking to another level. Moio's painstaking work has resulted in some of the finest wines of the region. We were especially captivated by his 2016 Greco di Tufo. This stunning white combines the classic mineral character of Greco and a layered palate of orchard fruit with a very long finish. It's certainly among the best white wines of Southern Italy.
Price: Hidden View Price
WE 92

2015 La Monacesca "Mirum" Verdicchio di Matelica Riserva
Review Date: 06-11-2018
With its combination of late picked fruit and high acidity, Aldo Cifola's "Mirum" is a rare delight. While most of his contemporaries in the Matelica zone produce crisper versions of Verdicchio, Cifola gives his grapes extended hang time prior to harvesting and the result is a richer, weightier and more complex white that pairs well with a wide variety of foods. We drank this wine with heavier pasta dishes and white meats and were pleasantly surprised. Verdicchio at its best.
Price: $26.99 Add To Cart
VN 91

2017 Pra Soave Classico "Otto"
Review Date: 06-11-2018
Pra has always been one of my favorite Soave producers and since we're currently out of the stellar Le Battistelle wines, I'm glad we can offer their 2017 "Otto". It's rich and round with delicious apple and melon fruit and excellent acidity throughout. We're not surprised that our first drop sold out almost as fast as it arrived but there's more on the way. This is Soave at its best.
Price: $16.99 Add To Cart
WS 90

2016 Andrea Felici Verdicchio Castelli di Jesi Superiore
Review Date: 05-28-2018
Having had the good fortune to travel through Le Marche on several occasions, I've long had an affection for great Verdicchio. There are a number of excellent ones that certainly stand out and Andrea Felici produces one of them for sure. His latest combines pear, lemon and mineral in a bright racy palate with wonderful texture and crisp acidity. Pair this with vegetable dishes, seafood, lighter pastas and white meats.
Price: $19.99 Add To Cart
DC 94

2017 Leone de Castris "Five Roses" Rosato
Review Date: 05-28-2018
The "Five Roses" comes to us from one of the best producers in Italy's well known Salento region (Puglia).Although Leone di Castris is best known for their impressive Salice Salentino Riserva, their rose shines as well. This tasty and flavorful Summer delight highlights delicious cherry flavors that cross the palate in a medium-bodied and somewhat textured quaff with mild acidity and lingering fruit on the finish. It's a bit broader and fruitier than the typical Provencal versions and is great on its own or with lighter fare.
Price: $14.99 Add To Cart

2014 Planeta Nero d'Avola "Santa Cecilia"
Review Date: 05-22-2018
"Santa Cecilia" has long been one of the reference points for Nero d'Avola in Sicily. It's a substantial red that is deceptively complex yet immediately drinkable and produced from vineyards planted in the South Eastern corner of Sicily below Syracuse where Nero d'Avola finds its best expression. There's an overall freshness that, like the best Neros, sets it apart from some of its ultra ripe, sun baked contemporaries. We think you'll especially love the impressive spiced red fruit this wine is famous for. Open with heartier foods.
Price: $37.99 Add To Cart

2016 Planeta Etna Bianco
Review Date: 05-22-2018
From the slopes of Mt Etna comes this expressive white wine (Carricante)with inviting scents of honeyed citrus, almond and florals and subtle flavors of yellow fruit and prickly pear enveloped in a creamy palate with good acidity and a touch of saline on the finish. It's an intriguing white with a true sense of place that's a refreshing alternative to Chardonnay.
Price: $26.99 Add To Cart
JS 93 WE 92

2015 Planeta "La Segreta" Nero d'Avola Sicilia
Review Date: 05-21-2018
La Segreta Nero d'Avola is Planeta's outstanding versatile and value-priced wine that is always a welcome addition to our Italian section. Their 2016 offers surprising depth and freshness with plenty of concentration and length. Flavors of black cherry and blackberry abound in this ready-to-drink Southern Italian red. Pairs well with a wide variety of foods.
Price: $12.99 Add To Cart

2013 Castello di Bossi "Berardo" Chianti Classico Riserva
Review Date: 05-14-2018
One thing I greatly appreciate about Castello di Bossi (along with a number of other highly regarded estates)is that their Chianti Riserva is exactly what it should be. Meaning, rather than being more concentrated and obscured by new oak, the fruit from their older vines truly shines. Their 2013 Berardo highlights intoxicating aromas and flavors of blackberry and cherry fruit and ranks among the best of the vintage from Berardegna. And, while ripe tannins add a bit of backbone to the palate, they're hidden under some very impressive primary fruit. Open now and enjoy this one.
Price: $29.99 Add To Cart
JS 93

Mederfil Lambrusco Reggiano Rosso Dolce
Review Date: 05-08-2018
Thanks to an increase in the number of high quality Lambruscos being imported of late, the demand for this classic frizzante wine has risen substantially. Since we have several outstanding dry versions in stock, we added this delightful off-dry one to our cellar. It's fairly concentrated with sweet blackberry and black cherry flavors and a pleasant effervescence that livens the palate. This is especially good with spicier and saltier dishes or simply on its own.
Price: $9.99 Add To Cart

2015 Felsina Chianti Classico Riserva
Review Date: 05-07-2018
Felsina's latest Chianti Riserva has finally arrived and since we could barely keep the prior release in stock, we anticipate their impressive 2015 will be met with similar fanfare. Although it's beginning to open a bit from its adolescent slumber, it's certain to fill out and gain stature with ample cellaring. This wonderful 100 percent Sangiovese opens with scents of dark wild berry fruit, minerals and polished leather notes and continues on to a smoothly textured palate of berry fruit, ripe tannins and perfectly integrated oak. Give this one plenty of aeration after opening or let it cellar for a couple of years.

2015 Arnaldo Caprai Montefalco Rosso
Review Date: 04-30-2018
Caprai's 2015 Rosso really shows the strength of the vintage and is one of his best in years. It's a classic blend Sangiovese, Merlot and Sagrantino that highlights delicious plum and black fruit flavors with a hint of minerals and fine ripe tannins that add to the wine's overall depth and texture. And, it's priced under $20 which makes it not only one of the best deals in our Italian section currently but also a wonderful alternative to its value priced Tuscan contemporaries.
Price: $17.99 Add To Cart
JS 92 RP 90

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