Sassicaia, Giacosa, Monfortino
at Della Notte, Baltimore (2/20/2006)

Participants: Tom Maskell (host and coordinator), Ken Vastola, Steve Heymann, Bill Boykin, Bob Hughes, Kelly Walker, Antonio Galloni, and Barry & Amy Pershkow.

All the red wines were decanted between 6 and 6:30pm, except the Sassicaia which was decanted at 4pm.

This was the greatest number of truly great wines that I have had in one evening.

Flight 1: Champagne

1990 C. Heidsieck Blanc des Millénaires
[Brought by Tom.] Gorgeous yeasty nose. Mature on the palate, but crisp, fresh, and complex. Firm acidity. A pleasure to drink. One of the best Champagnes I've had in many years. 96 points.

1990 Bollinger RD Extra Brut
[Brought by Tom.] I'm a big fan of these, but this one was a bit of a let down, at least after the Heidsieck. Muted smoky citrus nose. Much lighter in the mouth. Crisp, lemony and tasty, but not special. 92 points.

Flight 2: 1985 Sassicaia (7pm)
With Porcini and Caramelized Onions Risotto

1985 Tenuta San Guido Sassicaia vdt
7pm: Dense, tannic, intensely ripe nose of plums, cherries, and menthol. Big fruit in the mouth. Youthful, sweet fruit, plenty of tannin. Riveting in the mouth. Not as massive as the previous times I've had this wine, but still a baby.
9pm (after the SSR Flight): Amy Pershkow: Smells like ketchup.
10pm (after the 1978 Flight): Heavenly cherry liqueur nose. Thick, sweet. Great, but so different from any of the Nebbiolo. This is very good, but doesn't have the great structure, intensity, and purity it had 10 years ago. I wonder if it is dumb, even though it has such great fruit? It really is very good, but just so out of place here. If I had tasted it blind, I never would have thought it the same 85 Sassicaia I've had before. I would have guessed a very good California cab from the early 1990s. 96 points.
11pm: If you have to drink cabernet, this isn't bad. ;)
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Flight 3: Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Santo Stefano Riserva (7:30)
With Pappardelle in Beef and Veal Ragu

1982 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Santo Stefano Riserva
[#08855/13,800] Ethereal nose of truffles, fruitcake (characteristic of Giacosa Tom), and white flowers. Big in the mouth (esp. for a Barbaresco), tannic. Sweet cherry fruit expands and explodes through my head. Wow! Could use 5-10 years, but it is so great now. 98–100 points.
9pm: The finish goes on forever! This is as great as any Barbaresco I have ever drunk. After the 78 Barolos, you can appreciate that this is feminine even though it is not that feminine for a Barbaresco. Graceful, complex. An astonishingly good wine. Perfect! 100 points.

1985 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Santo Stefano Riserva
[#11625/13,600] Heavenly nose is sweeter than the 82 nose with more cherry fruit. Sweet in the mouth, you can tell the greater ripeness and less grip characteristic of the vintage (compared to 82). A great wine that would be wonderful to drink any night, but just pales next to the 82. 95 points.

1988 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Santo Stefano Riserva
[#5420/9710] Muted veal nose. Roses in the mouth. Tired and mature. Hard to believe this is a well-stored bottle like the others. Just too mature. Nice to drink, but not nearly the fruit or complexity of the 82 or even the 85. Tasted blind, anyone would assume this is the oldest of these three, the 85 next oldest, and the 82 the youngest. 92 points.

1990 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Santo Stefano Riserva
[#1382/12,156. Second bottle. Opened at 7pm. First bottle was clearly corked and replaced.] Nose is very similar to the 82, but with more beef. The flowers and truffles are there but more muted. Great. Harmonious. Closer to the 82 than the 88 or 85. Very tannic, but in great balance. Hugely expansive. Another great, great SSR. Needs 10 years. 98–100 points.
10pm: Off the charts now. Young, but perfect! 100 points.
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Flight 4: 1978 Giacosa Barolo (8:30)
With Duck Confit in Apricot Brandy Sauce

1978 Bruno Giacosa Le Rocche di Castiglione Falletto (white label)
[#6226/6440] Big beefy nose with white truffles. Rich, complex, tannic. I am reeling from the taste. Fully ready, expansive, terrific! Ready tonight and great tonight! 97 points (with a 100 point nose).

1978 Bruno Giacosa Villero di Castiglione Falletto Riserva Speciale
[#2422/3060] Tight nose of beef and iodine. Big, tannic, with sweet cherry fruit. This is so young now! Sweet and sour cherry. 95–? points.
Open 4 hours: Nose more effusive. Taste more integrated, but still a touch sour. Not sure if this will get better. Still, a pleasure to drink tonight. 95 points.

1978 Bruno Giacosa Collina Rionda di Serralunga d'Alba Riserva Speciale
[#5276/6450] Mind blowing nose of roasted meat, truffles, rose, and red fruits brings tears to my eyes. Huge in the mouth. Great tannin, youthful fruit. This wine will be great for 20–30 years. An amazing wine. Better than perfect. 102 points. WOTN for me.
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Flight 5: G. Conterno Monfortino Riserva (9 pm)
With Osso Bucco

1978 G. Conterno Monfortino Riserva Speciale
Nose of stewed beef and heavenly medicinal red fruit. Huge and tannic in the mouth. Way too young. Younger than any of the 3 bottles I had in 2005. So big. Power, power, power!
10 pm: Opening as we go. Needs 10 years at least. Will last 30–50.
10:30: Something more floral in the nose now. 97–100 points.
The greatness of this wine is unmistakable, but it doesn't move me the way the best Giacosas do. It's like meeting a woman and recognizing her beauty, charm, and intelligence, and at the same time knowing that she is not the one I love.

1982 G. Conterno Monfortino Riserva
Beautiful nose. Great balance. Sweet, ready. Great tonight! 97 points.

1985 G. Conterno Monfortino Riserva
The most floral of these Monfortinos. Great red and black fruit, then comes the wall of tannin. I'm surprised this one seems so young compared to the 82. Not at all typical of the vintage, this is a huge wine with great structure. 96–98 points.
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Dessert Flight
With cheese plate

1979 Quintarelli Recioto della Valpolicella Amarone Classico
[Brought by Barry.] Sweet and complex red wine nose. Weird and wonderful. Pretty dry as dessert wines go. Complex orange fruits, coffee and chocolate. Great stuff! 96 points.

1999 Kracher Scheurebe TBA #5 Zwischen den Seen
[Brought by Kelly.] Gorgeous apricots. Simple and beautiful. 94 points.

Group Votes on the Nebbiolo Wines
Each person listed their top 5 in order (5 points for 1st, 4 points for 2nd, . . .)
  1. 1978 Monfortino (41 points).
  2. 1978 Rionda (26 points).
  3. 1982 SSR (24 points).
  4. 1990 SSR (17 points).
  5. 1978 Rocche (16 points).
  6. 1978 Villero (6 points).
  7. 1985 SSR (1 point).
The rest must have sucked. ;)

People Photos

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Tom, Bill, Kelly, and Bob watch the staff
decant the reds.
The Champagne is poured.
Bob, Bill, and Tom toast.
Bob, Antonio, and Bill chat.
Bill and Steve.
Amy, Barry, and Antonio.
Tom is happy.
Bob is thinking.
Ken is happy.
Ken's sexy look
(according to Antonio).
Group shot taken by Steve.
Group shot taken by Staff.
Group shot taken by Staff.

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All original content © Ken Vastola