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Staff Favorites - John Downing

John Downing

Reviews

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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

2016 Domaine de Verquière Rasteau
Review Date: 01-28-2019
This unexpectedly good Rhone red combines an outstanding vintage with substantial Grenache and Syrah fruit which results in a wine priced far lower than one would guess. It's certainly close to Chateauneuf in density and complexity and represents one of the best values in our Rhone department. Best with lamb, beef and firm cheeses.
Price: $14.99 Add To Cart
RP 91 JD 90

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.

2017 Fratelli Barale "Le Rose" Dolcetto d'Alba
Review Date: 01-21-2019
Because 2017 was such a warm year in Piemonte, we expected this wine to be a bit riper and higher in alcohol than usual yet Barale was able to deliver another exceptional Dolcetto at 13.5% with unexpected weight and concentration. It's rich and round with a touch of tannins and loads of fruit on the finish. This impressive dry red is a huge hit with customers and staff alike. Great for everyday evening fare.
Price: $13.99 Add To Cart

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

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

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

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 Caravaglio "Occhio di Terra" Malvasia di Salina Bianco Secco Sicilia
Review Date: 11-12-2018
Salina is one of the lesser known islands near Sicily formed by volcanic activity where grape cultivation has transpired for over five hundred years. Antonio Caravaglio produces both red and white wines and this Malvasia is truly special. It is crafted in the style of orange wines as it spends ten days on the skins and is finished in stainless steel tanks. "Occhio di Terra" is Antonio's old vines cuvee made almost entirely from Malvasia and a step up from his highly impressive "Salina". Deep golden in color, it boasts intriguing floral aromas along with whiffs of minerals and sea breeze. The palate is round, spicy and complex with lasting flavors and saline on the finish. A wonderful partner for seafood and vegetable dishes.
Price: $25.99 Add To Cart

2016 Farnetella Lucilla Toscano Rosso
Review Date: 11-05-2018
The owners of Felsina purchased this Chianti Colli Senesi property in 1980 and have developed it into one of the finest in this zone located Southeast of Chianti Classico. The 2016 Lucilla is a blend of Cabernet, Merlot and Sangiovese with aromas and flavors of bright and earthy red fruit and a core of juicy acidity that makes it ideal at the table. Try this with pasta with red sauce, pizza, meats and everyday fare. A steal at $10.99.
Price: $10.99 Add To Cart
JS 91

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 Fèlsina Chianti Classico
Review Date: 11-05-2018
Felsina always ranks among my very favorite Chianti producers and their 2016 is exceptional. This pure expression of Sangiovese highlights bold aromas and lasting cherry fruit flavors with mouthwatering acidity and an overall complexity that makes it one of the best Chianti Classicos of the vintage.
Price: $19.99 Add To Cart
JS 93 RP 92

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 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 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.

2016 Paitin "Starda" Langhe 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
JS 91

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

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
JS 90 WS 90

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
WE 92

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.

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: Hidden View Price

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: Hidden View Price

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
JS 90

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
WE 93 JS 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
JS 91 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: $9.99 Add To Cart

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