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Staff Favorites - John Downing

John Downing

Reviews

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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.

2010 Fattoria Paradiso Sangiovese Riserva "Vigna delle Lepri"
Review Date: 11-26-2018
Although Tuscany is thought of as the home of Sangiovese,this particular wine was the first of its kind to be produced in Emilia Romagna (1970) and remains one of the best in the zone. It's aged first in stainless steel and then transferred to large oak barrels where it remains for up to four years. It's known for its flavorful black fruits, cherries, forest floor and chocolate notes and is an intriguing diversion from its better know counterparts in Tuscany.
Price: $24.99 Add To Cart

Wine Club

$19.99

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

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

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

2013 Sesta di Sopra Brunello di Montalcino
Review Date: 11-12-2018
Our friends at Sesta di Sopra know how to produce great Sangiovese every year 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.

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

2015 Querciabella Chianti Classico
Review Date: 11-05-2018
Querciabella spares no expense in their effort to produce world-class Chianti Classico and they have truly captured the best aspects of the 2015 vintage. This substantial Sangiovese combines fresh, powerful fruit with ample ripe tannins and perfectly balanced acidity and manages to finish with elegance and length. One of the best of the vintage for sure.

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.
Price: $129.99 Add To Cart
WS 95 VN 94

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 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

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

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

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

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.
Price: $24.99 Add To Cart
RP 92 WE 91

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.
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 90

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

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