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Staff Favorites - John Downing

John Downing

Reviews

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2015 Rizzi "Pajore" Barbaresco
Review Date: 09-30-2019
The Rizzi family captured the best attributes of the 2015 vintage as their Barbarescos offer expressive fruit in combination with freshness and balance. Their "Pajore' combines red fruits with hints of florals and licorice and weds them with just the right touch of acidity and ripe tannins. This is a very well-priced Nebbiolo and a wonderful introduction to Barbaresco.

2018 Antonelli "Trebium" Trebbiano Spoletino
Review Date: 09-30-2019
Although the first bottle of this wine we opened was unfortunately corked, the second was awesome. Antonelli brings out the best of this ancient varietal with an aromatic array of tropical and citrus fruits with hints of almond and hawthorn blossom and a rounded palate that matches perfectly with appetizers, cured meats, fish, pasta carbonara and mild cheeses. A very impressive white wine.
Price: $17.99 Add To Cart

2016 Antonelli Montefalco Rosso
Review Date: 09-30-2019
Filippo Antonelli was kind enough to drop in on us during a recent visit to LA and share his impressive new releases with us. We've been fans for many years and were reminded why. His Montefalco Rosso was definitely one of the highlights. It's a blend of 70% Sangiovese, 15% Sagrantino and 15% Montepulciano that ages for 12 months in large casks followed by an additional 6 months in stainless steel vats. It's medium bodied with lush berry fruit and perfectly ripe tannins and ideal with red meats, meat pastas and mature cheeses.
Price: $16.99 Add To Cart

2015 Fattoria del Cerro Vino Nobile di Montepulciano
Review Date: 09-30-2019
Considering that the average price of a bottle Vino Nobile is normally over $20, this 2015 from Fattoria del Cerro is a find. Aromas of earthy and pleasantly herbal black cherry fruit and floral meld with a richly flavored palate with rounded tannins and bright acidity. It's a lot of wine at the price and is ideal with roasted and grilled meats as well as firm cheeses.
Price: $11.99 Add To Cart
JS 92

2018 Casa d'Ambra Ischia Bianco
Review Date: 09-30-2019
The island of Ischia is just off the coast of Naples and produces a number of outstanding wines including this Biancolella from Casa d'Ambra. Subtle fruit and floral notes open to a crisp palate with hints of saline and almond on the finish. It's wonderful with seafood, tomatoes, mild cheeses and lighter fare.
Price: $17.99 Add To Cart

2016 Cantina Terlan "Porphyr" Lagrein Riserva
Review Date: 09-09-2019
Cantina Terlano's "Porphyr" is one of the finest examples of Lagrein produced. Its name refers to the local alpine bedrock the vineyards reside upon and the grapes for this wine are carefully selected from three sites with vines nearly one hundred years in age. It's a deeply colored red with aromas of smoky black fruits, violets, earth and dark chocolate. Rich, luxurious black fruit melds with rustic tannins and fresh acidity and forms a long-lasting impression.
Price: $64.99 Add To Cart
JS 96 RP 93

2015 Schiavenza "Prapò" Barolo
Review Date: 09-09-2019
This is a magnificent offering from Schiavenza and among the more impressive 2015 Barolos I've tasted to-date. It not only captures the rich, concentrated fruit of a warm vintage but also retains substantial acidity and vibrant ripe tannins. This will need a couple of years in the cellar to soften and evolve.
Price: $69.99 Add To Cart
RP 94 JS 93

2015 Ambra "Elzana" Carmignano Riserva
Review Date: 09-09-2019
Carmignano is a tiny appellation in Northwest Tuscany near Chianti Classico. The wines of this zone are required to have a minimum of fifty percent Sangiovese along with ten to twenty percent of either Cabernet or Cabernet Franc. Here, Sangiovese is a bit darker in color than in Chianti and the resulting wines are generally a bit fuller in texture as well. Ambra's "Elzana" is a Riserva aged fro three years in wood prior to bottling. While it showcases Sangiovese, Cabernet adds delicious chocolate nuances to this medium-to-full bodied classic. This outstanding wine will especially appeal to fans of red blends.
Price: $29.99 Add To Cart

Wine Club

$24.99

2017 Caggiano "Tauri" Irpina Aglianico
Review Date: 09-09-2019
The Caggiano estate is in the heart of Campania's famed Taurasi zone where some of the finest examples of Aglianico wine are made. The Tauri is full-flavored, concentrated and packed with rich red berry and black plum fruits framed by ample tannins and acidity. It spends a mere 4-6 months in used French barrels and additional time in bottle prior to release. This is a hearty red that is best with meat, heavier pastas, pizza or firm aged cheeses.
Price: $19.99 Add To Cart
JS 92 VN 92

2016 Gulfi "Nerojbleo" Nero d’Avola Sicilia
Review Date: 09-09-2019
In my opinion, this is one of the finest examples of Nero d'Avola at the sub twenty dollar price point. Gulfi manages to avoid the overt backed fruit and candied aromas common with this varietal and crafts a darker, richer red with sweet, spicy berry fruit and excellent acidity. This versatile red is especially good with grilled meats, bbq dishes and cheeses.
Price: $17.99 Add To Cart

2016 Rocca di Montegrossi Chianti Classico
Review Date: 09-09-2019
This exceptional Chianti stole the show at our recent Italian wine tasting for consumers and reminded us why this estate ranks among the best in the Chianti zone. The combination of its complex perfumed aromatics and richly flavored and textured palate impressed from beginning to end. If you're in search of great Chianti or doubt its existence, look no further.

2018 Rocca di Montegrossi Rosato
Review Date: 09-09-2019
This is our best selling Italian rose and it continues to impress as well as gain new fans. The winery makes this from 100 percent Sangiovese that's held briefly in stainless steel and then bottled. It's crisp and light on its feet yet has just the right balance of flavor and texture. One of Italy's best Rosatos.
Price: $17.99 Add To Cart

2013 La Prevostura "Muntacc" Coste della Sesia Rosso
Review Date: 08-12-2019
This is one of the newer estates within the Northern Piemonte zone of Lessona and "Muntacc" is essentially a declassified Lessona that's mostly Nebbiolo with a fair amount of Vespolina and a dollop of Croatina added. It's medium-bodied with enticing notes of red fruits, forest floor, tar and a hint of balsamic. This is not only an excellent introduction to Nebbiolo but also a steal at $25.
Price: $24.99 Add To Cart

2015 Elio Grasso "Ginestra Casa Matè" Barolo
Review Date: 08-12-2019
Gianluca Grasso's 2015 single vineyard Barolos are certainly must-buys for Nebbiolo fans and his Casa Mate is sensational. It's a stunning combination of dense, perfectly ripe fruit, integrated tannins and bountiful acidity throughout. Although it's very showy today, it deserves time in the cellar to fully integrate.

2015 Elio Grasso "Gavarini Chiniera" Barolo
Review Date: 08-10-2019
Gianluca Grasso's Gavarini Chinieri is generally the more elegant and approachable of his single vineyard Barolo offerings, especially in warm vintages like 2015 (as there is more sand at this site which allows for more drainage and riper, more elegant fruit). It's impressive and accessible now yet will reward with some time in the cellar. Gianluca eschews travel whenever possible as he favors tending his vineyards and the results are more than evident.

2015 Massolino Barolo
Review Date: 08-10-2019
There are multiple generations of the Massolino family working together at the winery and they manage to maintain an impressive consistency from vintage to vintage. Their 2014 Barolo exceeded expectation in a very difficult vintage and was one of our very favorites. That being said, their 2015 is sublime. It melds rich, ripe fruit from a warm year with fresh acidity and tannins which makes it not only ideal for drinking now but also a candidate for the cellar. Another classic from Massolino.

2016 La Massa "La Massa" Toscana
Review Date: 08-10-2019
While the 2015 showcased the resulting ripeness and weightiness of the vintage, the 2016 has a more classic frame that highlights the Sangiovese (that is deftly integrated with Cabernet and Merlot) in a medium-to-full-bodied blend with a touch more acidity and liveliness. This may be my favorite of the recent vintages of La Massa and I'm confident that super Tuscan fans will love it as well.

2016 Cantina Terlano "Vorberg" Pinot Bianco Riserva Alto Adige
Review Date: 07-30-2019
Some of the finest examples of Pinot Blanc come from Italy's Alto Adige zone and Terlano's Vorberg has been my favorite for many years. Even in the toughest of vintages, this wine manages to exceed expectation. The 2016 offers an aromatic array of orchard fruit with jasmine and mineral and a full, round palate with a long, mineral-driven finish. In my opinion this ranks among Italy's finest white wines and is worth every cent.
Price: $39.99 Add To Cart
JS 95 RP 95

2016 Azelia Langhe Nebbiolo
Review Date: 07-30-2019
Since the outstanding Barale Nebbiolo sold out, we've had numerous requests for additional ones at a sub $20 price point, so the Azelia has arrived at the perfect time. Lorenzo Scavino's Langhe Nebbiolo is sourced from mature vines in his Serralunga and Castiglione Falletto vineyards and it's a stunner. Bright cherry fruit, licorice and mineral soar from the glass while the palate is intense and flavorful with youthful acidity and a prominent tannic spine. Open with heartier dishes and be prepared to be impressed.
Price: $17.99 Add To Cart
RP 91

2016 Paitin di Pasquero "Serra" Barbera d'Alba
Review Date: 07-22-2019
The Pasquero-Elia family has long made excellent wines but they have elevated their line-up since enlisting the expertise of famed winemaker (Bruno Giacosa) Dante Scaglione. Barbera lovers will not want to miss this latest release from Paitin. "Serra" is medium-bodied with juicy, high-toned red berry fruit, bright acidity and good length. It's an outstanding Barbera d'Alba that's incredibly versatile at the dinner table.
Price: $19.99 Add To Cart
JS 90

2017 La Capranera Aglianico Campania
Review Date: 07-22-2019
One of our latest Italian arrivals is this impressive un-oaked Aglianico that delivers far more than it's price might suggest. It's a substantial red that offers up concentrated, classic blackberry and black cherry fruit intertwined with ample tannins and solid acidity. Perfect for a wide variety of meats, pastas and cheeses and great with pizza.
Price: $12.99 Add To Cart

2016 Musso "Pora" Barbaresco
Review Date: 07-15-2019
Musso is a very small winery that has been producing outstanding Barbaresco for decades. Their approach is very traditional in style as they age their Barbarescos in large Slavonian oak casks. The Pora vineyard sits below the town of Barbaresco and although it is warm very early in the morning it is primarily breezy and humid throughout most days due to its proximity to the Tanaro river. Musso's "Pora" offers ample fruit with soft tannins and very open aromas of red berry fruits and dried florals. As a result it can be enjoyed when young but will also age gracefully.
Price: $44.99 Add To Cart
DC 97 WE 97

2016 Ferrero "Pepita" Rosso di Toscana
Review Date: 07-15-2019
This vintage of Pepita was a huge customer favorite at our consumer tasting and it has been, deservedly, selling quickly. The 2015 is bold and concentrated with waves of black fruit, ample tannins and length. The Montepulciano really shows through and adds weight structure to this outstanding value Tuscan blend.
Price: $15.99 Add To Cart

2017 Ferrero Rosso di Montalcino
Review Date: 07-08-2019
Ferrero's Rosso di Montalcino offers some really delicious Sangiovese at a very affordable price. It's bright, juicy, loaded with fresh cherry fruit flavors and represents one of the best values in our current Italian line-up.
Price: $16.99 Add To Cart

2016 Graci "Arcuria" Etna Bianco
Review Date: 07-08-2019
Graci's Etna Bianco "Arcuria" is a very special white wine that often displays Chablis-like characteristics. Their 2016 is a bit broader and rounder than the previous vintage with moderate acidity and subtle notes of orchard fruits, saline and volcanic minerals. It's an exciting wine that is wonderful with fish, seafood pastas and white meats.

2016 Domaine Grand Veneur "Champauvins" Côtes du Rhône-Villages
Review Date: 07-08-2019
Those who love Chateauneuf-du-Pape will definitely want to purchase this tremendous new release from Grand Veneur. It's brimming with deftly integrated flavors of raspberries, black fruit, garrigue and spice and is seamless across the palate. At $20 this offers the richness and complexity of pricier Rhone reds. A steal.
Price: $19.99 Add To Cart
JD 94 RP 92

2017 Domaine de Verquière Côtes-du-Rhône
Review Date: 07-08-2019
This outstanding Rhone red just seems to improve with each successive vintage and the 2017 is my favorite to-date. It offers up plenty of spicy red Grenache fruit flavors enveloped by am ample dollop of Syrah that broadens the palate and weight and delicious dark fruit. It's a lot of wine at a very modest price and one of our finest Rhone values.
Price: $10.99 Add To Cart

2018 Graci Etna Rosato
Review Date: 07-08-2019
This is one of the very best Italian roses we feature every year and the 2018 does not disappoint. It's vibrant and flavorful with just the right balance of palate weight and crisp acidity. Delicious red fruits with a pleasant touch of mineral make this a very compelling wine. Great alone or with food.
Price: $21.99 Add To Cart

2016 Mothia "Mosaikon" Nero d'Avola
Review Date: 06-24-2019
While there is a lot of demand for Nero d'Avola, we're decidedly selective as so many of them are average at best. This, however, is an impressive expression and a welcome addition to our cellar. The vineyards of Mothia abut the Western Sicilian coastline which adds savory notes of saline to an already delicious palate of concentrated plum and red fruit with a bright finish. This is a very versatile red that will pair nicely with bbq, grilled meats, burgers and Mexican food.
Price: $19.99 Add To Cart

Rosset "Trasor" 750 Valle d'Aosta
Review Date: 06-24-2019
The red wines of Valle d'Aosta have been a bit hit and miss for us over the years but this one is certainly a find. It's smooth and round with plenty of richly flavored and slightly smoky red and black fruit and seamless on the palate. Don't miss this unique and delicious alpine red.
Price: $19.99 Add To Cart

2018 Ciu Ciu "Merlettaie" Pecorino
Review Date: 06-24-2019
While Verdicchio garners most of the attention when it comes to white wines of Le Marche, Pecorino is all to often overlooked or even forgotten. We've been fortunate to have offered several excellent ones over the years but this is the best I've tasted in recent memory. It combines substantial mouth weight with ample acidity that shines through along with delicious tree fruit flavors and a pleasant hint of sea salt. This is an outstanding bottle of white wine that showcases the uniqueness and versatility found among Italian white wines.
Price: $19.99 Add To Cart

2015 Filodivino "Filotto" Verdicchio Castello di Jesi Superiore
Review Date: 06-24-2019
Verdicchio is known as one of the longer aging white wines of Italy and this latest arrival affirms that reputation. With some time in the bottle, the 2015 Filodivino has developed attractive brioche and golden fruit aromas and a layered palate with a pleasant hint of saltiness on the finish. It's an outstanding, ready-to-open white that's ideal with seafood, white meats, vegetables, soups and mild cheeses.
Price: $19.99 Add To Cart

2017 d'Antiche Terre Fiano d'Avellino
Review Date: 06-24-2019
This is a wonderful expression of Fiano from Italy's Campania region. The winery manages to coax the best characteristics of this ancient white varietal such as mineral, dried honey, saline and hints of beeswax. Some texture and moderate acidity make this especially good with fish and light pastas.
Price: $19.99 Add To Cart

Bisol Prosecco Jeio
Review Date: 06-24-2019
Bisol is one of the best of the larger producers of Prosecco and has a long track record of excellence. This current release is crisp and lively with bright green apple and pear flavors, zippy acidity and a pleasant creamy finish. It's an ideal sipper for our Southern California climate and perfect for Aperol spritzs as well.
Price: $14.99 Add To Cart
JS 91

2015 Poggerino Bugialla Chianti Classico Riserva
Review Date: 06-24-2019
This was one of the surprise customer favorites at our June Italian consumer tasting and it also made quite an impression upon the staff. It's a classic Sangiovese aged in large casks that is especially inviting now as the warmth of 2015 brought riper than normal fruit and a subsequent approachability. The richness and purity may very well win over those reluctant to embrace Chianti Classico.
Price: $44.99 Add To Cart
WS 96

2014 Zenato Alanera Rosso Veronese
Review Date: 05-28-2019
While most Italian red wines are best with food, Zenato's Alanera is wonderful on its own yet remains excellent at the dinner table. It's packed with rich fruit flavors and is smooth in texture with a very long finish. This very modestly priced Veronese red blend is a great everyday red that's perfect for parties, bbqs and evening meals.
Price: $13.99 Add To Cart
JS 93

2015 Produttori del Barbaresco Barbaresco
Review Date: 05-14-2019
This remains one of the best value wines in the Langhe and the 2015 is terrific. Although the fruit is bright and fresh it's also quite rich and concentrated which makes it ideal for earlier consumption as opposed to the usual necessary extended aging time in most vintages. This will drink nicely over the next several years.

2015 Castello di Verduno Barbaresco
Review Date: 05-13-2019
This historic estate makes wines in the traditional style, meaning they receive long maceration times and extended aging in large barrels. Castello di Verduno's Barbaresco is produced from Nebbiolo selected from the Faset and Rabaja vineyards and this one is quite open and approachable young thanks to the warmth of the 2015 vintage. Wonderful aromatics of red fruits, dried florals, camphor and mineral and juicy, rich fruit make this wine irresistible now.

2015 Gianfranco Alessandria Barolo
Review Date: 05-13-2019
I've tasted many vintages of Barolo from this estate but this may be their best yet. Although Alessandria takes a more modern approach in the winery with shorter fermentation time and aging in small French barrels, the oak remains in the background and the fruit truly shines. His 2015 Barolo combines elegant, refined Nebbiolo fruit with a substantial tannic backbone and fine acidity. The wines of this estate are known for their longevity and we recommend cellaring this one for at least 2-3 years prior to opening.

2015 Ca' del Baio "Vallegrande" Barbaresco
Review Date: 05-13-2019
This was one of the highlights of our recent Hollywood consumer tasting of Italian wines and was a huge customer favorite. Vallegrande is the most traditional in style of this winery's Barbarescos and aged in large barrels for two years. It's deep in color with an earthy nose of red fruits and licorice and a full and expressive palate of black cherry fruit with smooth tannins. Although it can be enjoyed now, it will certainly age gracefully over the next several years.

2015 Fratelli Barale Barolo
Review Date: 05-13-2019
All of the offerings from the Barale winery offer high quality at exceptional prices and the demand for their wines continues to increase. We recently received their 2015 Barolo and it's tough to beat. As good as the 2014 was, this even more impressive latest arrival is a pure expression of Nebbiolo with expressive red fruit, ripe tannins and just the right touch of acidity to round it out. It's definitely worth picking up several bottles of this one.
Price: $34.99 Add To Cart

2014 Proprietà Sperino "Uvaggio" Coste della Sesia
Review Date: 04-29-2019
Although 2014 was a difficult vintage for most of Italy, Paolo de Marchi managed to deliver a very impressive wine from his northern Piemonte estate. This fragrant red highlights notes of tea, red fruit, dried florals and earth and a fine, seamless palate with good length and no rough edges. A real gem from a very tough year.
Price: Hidden View Price
WE 92

2017 Ermacora Pinot Grigio Colli Orientali del Friuli
Review Date: 04-29-2019
The Friulians may be far more interested in their native Tocai Friulano and Ribolla Gialla and reluctant to promote their Pinot Grigio but we love it here in the US for its versatility and wonderful flavors and Ermacora's is outstanding. This very affordable white is full and layered with no shortage of subtle tree fruit flavors and length. Perfect on its own and especially good with white meats.
Price: $15.99 Add To Cart
JS 92

2017 Ermacora Ribolla Gialla Colli Orientali del Friuli
Review Date: 04-29-2019
We've imported the wines of Ermacora for many years and they've never been better. Especially this bright and lively Ribolla Gialla with its array of florals, lemon-citrus and spice a nicely textured palate with crisp acidity. This is the ideal wine for charcuterie and appetizers or as an aperitif on a warm afternoon.
Price: Hidden View Price

2015 Tenuta Roveglia "Vigne di Catullo" Lugana Riserva
Review Date: 04-29-2019
Roveglia's "Vigne di Catullo" is one of the most intriguing and impressive Italian white wines on our sales floor. The grapes come from 55 (plus) year old vines late harvested in early October, a couple of weeks post normal harvest. It's round and creamy with rich fruit and a core of persistent acidity and mineral that make it outstanding alone and wonderful when paired with seafood pastas, fish and risotto. Although it's more than suitable to drink now, it will continue to develop in the cellar over the next couple of years.
Price: $17.99 Add To Cart
WE 92

2017 Domaine Lafage "Novellum" Chardonnay
Review Date: 04-23-2019
This well-priced Chardonnay is beloved by a wide cross-section of customers as it sees only a kiss of new oak and delivers a round, creamy texture, sumptuous fruit and perfectly integrated acidity. It's great on its own or with food and the flavors and freshness keep you coming back for more. An impressive and affordable white that exceeds expectation.
Price: $10.99 Add To Cart
JD 92

2014 Château Haute-Serre Cahors
Review Date: 04-23-2019
Malbec hails from France although it has gained acclaim of late as one of the best known red wines of Argentina. When asked if we have Malbec from places other than Argentina, we're always pleased to direct them to Cahors (France)where Malbec thrives. This latest arrival is one of the more traditional wines of the zone as it's fermented in stainless and aged in used barrels. There's excellent depth of fruit and overall complexity combined with a touch of firmness and structure from the wine's acidity. Although excellent today with aeration, it will certainly drink well over the next few years.

2015 Giuseppe Cortese "Rabaja" Barbaresco
Review Date: 04-20-2019
Cortese has long been among the top producers in the Barbaresco zone yet has remained seemingly under the radar by comparison to many of their contemporaries. They are also one of the few to own a portion of the famed Rabaja vineyard and their 2015 from this site is sublime. It captures the warmth of the vintage with sweet, forward fruit and ripe tannins yet retains plenty of acidity that allows for aging. Whether you open the wine today or stash it away for a later date, it's certain to impress.

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 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

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