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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Wines of Elio Grasso, Monforte d’Alba, Italy

Bob Miller - Wine Director for Joe Canal's, and Winemaker, Gianluca Grasso (June, 2015)

There are a few winemakers that I would consider to be heavy hitters. Gianluca Grasso, and before him, his Father, Elio Grasso were pretty high up on that list. They make some of the finest single varietal wines in Piedmont, Italy, and I'm very proud to say that we've got at least some of them on the shelves here at Joe Canal's. The wines of Elio Grasso were some of the first wines in this style that I tried, and they made such an impression on me, that I'm not sure if I would feel entirely comfortable working at a store that didn't have at least a couple of their wines available. Lucky for me, I'm the guy that orders them, so no worries, other than there are times that they're simply not available. All great wines are made in finite quantities, and sometimes the wait for the next vintage can be a long one.

I had the privilege of meeting Gianluca on one of his visits to the states about 2 years ago, and for me, it was like meeting a rock star. There's nothing like tasting wines with the winemaker standing in front of you. I'm not really known for pulling any punches when critiquing wines, but I already loved these wines, so having him there to describe more in depth about each particular wine, each different vintage, to share his thoughts, was an absolute treat.

Let's talk about the wines, shall we?

Langhe Chardonnay Educato 2015

This new vintage just arrived at our Fire Road store this afternoon, and we weren't sure until just yesterday if it wouldn't be pushed back until next week, as it just landed in New York on Monday. I already have a few regular customers hooked on this one, and I ordered a few extra cases just to be sure we don't run out for a while.
The reason for the name "Educato" is that Chardonnay isn't originally indigenous to northern Italy, but they thought it would work very well in their terroir, and it turns out, they were absolutely right. This one is a winner!



Municipality of production: Monforte d’Alba
Grape: Chardonnay
First vintage: 1990
Number of bottles produced each year: 7,000
Vineyard area under vine: one hectare
Aspect and height above sea level: southeast-facing, 400-450 meters
Soil type: moderately loose-packed, slightly sandy, limestone-based
Vine training system and planting density: Modified Casarsa-trained at 4,500 vines per hectare
Average age of productive vines: 30 years
Harvest period and method: first 10 days of September, manual harvest

The vinification procedure for Langhe Chardonnay "Educato" involves alcoholic fermentation in french oak barriques. After completing malolactic fermentation, the Chardonnay "Educato", mature in barriques of french oak for 7 months. Bottling takes place in April-May.

Dolcetto d’Alba dei Grassi 2015

We just tasted the new vintage of this one a few weeks ago, and we're happy that it's back on the shelves at our Fire Road location.



Municipality of production: Monforte d’Alba
Grape: Dolcetto
First vintage: 1980
Number of bottles produced each year: 20,000
Vineyard area under vine: 3.2 hectares
Aspect and height above sea level: southeast-facing, 280 meters
Soil type: moderately loose-packed, clay and limestone-based
Vine training system and planting density: Guyot-trained at 4,500 vines per hectare
Average age of productive vines: 30 years
Harvest period and method: second and third 10 days of September, manual harvest

The vinification procedure for Dolcetto d'Alba dei Grassi involves alcoholic fermentation in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks, with daily pumping over. After malolactic fermentation, the wine stays in stainless steel untill bottling in April-May

Barolo Gavarini Chiniera 2010

Don't be in a rush to drink this one. Although it's very approachable now, according to the winemaker, the 2010 vintage can handle laying down for a few more years. We actually sold out of the 2011 vintage a while ago, and that was the "drink it now" vintage, according to Gianluca Grasso.



Municipality of production: Monforte d’Alba
Grape: Nebbiolo
First vintage: 1978
Number of bottles produced each year: 14,000
Vineyard area under vine: 3 hectares
Aspect and height above sea level: south-facing, 350-400 meters
Soil type: moderately loose-packed, slightly sandy, limestone-based
Vine training system and planting density: Guyot-trained at 4,500 vines per hectare
Average age of productive vines: 30 years
Harvest period and method: second 10 days of October, manual harvest

The vinification procedure for Barolo Gavarini Chiniera involves alcoholic fermentation in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks, with daily pumping over. After completing malolactic fermentation, the wine matures in 25-hectolitre barrels of Slavonian oak. Bottling normally takes place in August. The Barolo Gavarini Chiniera then stays in the binning cellar for 8-10 months before release.

Barolo Ginestra Casa Maté

Same deal as the Chiniera as far a how long you can hold onto it, but slightly different expression from the micro-climate in a different single vineyard. I still can't make up my mind which one is my favorite, but it's a great lesson in terroir drinking these side by side. Their old world, almost Burgundian approach is very evident in all of their wines.



Municipality of production: Monforte d’Alba
Grape: Nebbiolo
First vintage: 1978
Number of bottles produced each year: 14,000
Vineyard area under vine: 3 hectares
Aspect and height above sea level: south-facing, 300-350 meters
Soil type: moderately loose-packed, slightly clayey, limestone-based
Vine training system and planting density: Guyot-trained at 4,500 vines per hectare
Average age of productive vines: 40 years
Harvest period and method: second 10 days of October, manual harvest

The vinification procedure for Barolo Ginestra Casa Maté involves alcoholic fermentation in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks, with daily pumping over. After completing malolactic fermentation, the wine matures in 25-hectolitre barrels of Slavonian oak. Bottling normally takes place in August. The Barolo Ginestra Casa Maté then stays in the binning cellar for 8-10 months before release.
As if these wines don't already make you feel good enough already, you'll feel better knowing that the Grasso estate adheres to very strict organic farming practices. Stop in to grab your bottles. These won't disappoint you one bit.

Cheers! -Bob

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