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Off The Vine

Some tips on recent test selections

It is time to look at the old tasting notes and give you a heads up on some of the wines I have been reviewing over the last few weeks. There are some lovely wines out there that give a good bang for the buck. Here we go:

Coltibuono Chianti Classico Riserva, 2003 &

$25. I have always liked this Tuscan producer. The Chiantis have always been very sound and sometimes, like the superb 1997 and 2001 vintages, outstanding. The torridly hot 2003 Chianti Classico Riserva is very lovely on many levels. This wine is not a cellar item, it is simply too soft, plush and fruity to stand up to much cellar age, but where it lacks in longevity, it rewards in the mouth. The wine has a very charming bouquet of ripe dark fruit, especially dark, end of the season, black cherry and blackberry. There is a lovely toast also in the nose which once on the palate lingers there for quite some time. The wine lacks acid in the finish but has enough to make the wine thirst-quenching and very seductive on the back palate. Robert Stucchi is the talented winemaker on this 2003 and his deft use of very ripe grapes is well done. This wine earns a solid B.

Corsini Barbera d'Alba Armujan &

$18. Here is a very sound Barbera by any one&

s taste. This very generous mouthful of wine lingers on the palate until next week and has, without a doubt, one of the prettiest bouquets on this ancient grape that I have smelled in a long time. Spicy, long in the mouth and with a very pronounced grip on the palate, this Barbera is just perfect with most red meat and tomato-based pasta dishes tossed with loads of garlic. Corsini Winery is a winery to look for when making a choice on the wines from the Peidmont region of Italy.

Corsini also makes a wonderful Barolo ($45) from the superb 2000 vintage. This wine is a powerhouse Nebbiolo that is not only concentrated and full on the palate but rich in earth tones, wood and layers of well integrated dark fruit flavors and terrific palate weight. Both wines recieve a B+ for wine-making talent with these two releases. Very lovely wines!

Guigal Chateauneuf du Pape, 2003 vintage &

$45. I know these wines are expensive and not everyday drinking wines, but for that very special occassion ... yummy! This is a monster release from famed Rhone producer Guigal. The 2003 vintage was massive in all respects for the Rhone Valley. This release, which is a combination of Syrah Grenache and Mouvedre, is a hallmark for this hot, very ripe, high-alcohol vintage. This wine puts huge amounts of fruit on the palate integrated with heat from the alcohol and rich Asian spices on the finish. I cannot remember a Guigal wine with this much stuff in one wine. I would rate this wine also a B, as being quite good but a bit over the top. The great 2001 vintage of this wine is better balanced, has more nuance and gives the taster all kinds of different, refined flavors from the nose to the very silky and lovely finish. In fact I cannot remember a nicer 2001 Rhone wine. If you find the two wines, side by side, go with the 2001 for elegance and the 2003 for sheer power and weight on the palate. The 2001 rates a solid A for excellence and overall beauty.

Vignamaggio Mona Lisa Chianti Classico Riserva. I am not going to write about a specific vintage from this delightful winery, but sing its praises as a very solid producer of Chianti. Over the years, I have attended trade shows, tastings and wine competitions where this winery has really done well on every level from just about every vintage I can remember. The lovely 1999, 2001 and 2003 vintages, without writing specific commentary on each release, have all been fantastic on so many levels of winemaking. If you are looking for Chianti at its traditional best, this is the place for you!

See you next week.