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Staff Favorites - John Downing

John Downing

Reviews

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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
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.
Price: $39.99 Add To Cart
JS 92 VN 91

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

2016 Guido Rivella Barbera d'Alba
Review Date: 05-13-2019
We're very fortunate to have the wines of Guido Rivella on our sales floor as he's certainly one of the more gifted winegrowers in Barbaresco. Moreover, the combination of the outstanding 2016 vintage and his deft touch make this one of the most compelling Barberas we've offered to-date. It's complex, refined and perfectly integrated with layered red fruit flavors and mouthwatering acidity. Not to be missed.
Price: $26.99 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: $34.99 Add To Cart
WE 92

2015 Vecchie Terre di Montefili Chianti Classico
Review Date: 04-29-2019
This is one of the better expressions of Sangiovese I've come across recently. While the fruit is full and concentrated, the wine remains elegant and refined with caressing tannins and fine acidity. If you're not yet convinced by Chianti, I recommend opening a bottle of this very special wine.

2016 Farnetella Chianti Colli Senesi
Review Date: 04-29-2019
Fattoria di Felsina is one of the top producers of Chianti Classico and their's is one of our best selling wines. It's no surprise to us that the wines of Castello di Farnetella are met with the same enthusiasm as the property is owned by Felsina! Their Chianti Colli Senesi is mostly Sangiovese with a small amount of Merlot added to round it out. The 2016 is an ample wine with bold red fruit, bright acidity and a touch of rusticity from a fine layer of tannins. It's a very impressive Chianti especially at this price.
Price: $11.99 Add To Cart
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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: $15.99 Add To Cart

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

2012 Albatreti Brunello di Montalcino
Review Date: 04-26-2019
My colleagues discovered the wines of this producer several years ago and they have remained customer favorites since. We met up with Gaetano Salvioni in 2016 during our Italian travels and were reminded why. His 2012 Brunello hits all the right notes with wonderful savory red fruit, exotic spices and an overall freshness, depth and length not normally found at this price. We re-tasted this wine recently and it's not only maturing nicely but drinking wonderfully now.
Price: $39.99 Add To Cart
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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 Brancaia "Ilatraia" Rosso di Toscana
Review Date: 04-20-2019
Ilatraia captures the unique environs of the Tuscan coastal zone of Maremma affected by sun, sea and soil, and is an exuberant expression of Bordeaux grapes varieties. It's rich in flavor and texture and coats the palate with concentrated black fruit with highlights of French oak. This will especially appeal to those preferring softer and riper style wines that can be enjoyed now or cellared.

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 Enrico Serafino Barolo
Review Date: 04-01-2019
The Serafino 2013 Barolo seems hidden within our Italian section yet is one of the better Barolo values going. It is both wonderful to open now or to place in the cellar a few more years. It's sure to please those looking for a very well-priced Barolo as well as anyone wanting to try Barolo for the first time.
Price: $39.99 Add To Cart
WS 92

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

2014 Paolo Caciorgna "N'Anticchia" Etna Rosso
Review Date: 04-01-2019
The name of this rare and exceptional red means "a little" in Sicilian dialect and reflects the tiny amount of this wine produced. As good as his Ciauria and Guardoilvento wines are, the N'Anticchia is deeper, richer, earthier and more complex with a wonderful array of black raspberry and cherry fruit, fine grippy tannins and a very long finish. This a truly special wine and certainly among the top old vines Etna Rossos made.
Price: $64.99 Add To Cart
WS 90

2016 Paolo Caciorgna "Guardoilvento" Etna Rosso
Review Date: 04-01-2019
Paolo Caciorgnia is not only one of the nicest people I've met in the wine world but also he's an extremely talented winemaker as reflected by his 2016 Etna Rosso "Guardoilvento" that arrived on our sales floor recently. The afore named vineyard yields grapes from very old/pre-phylloxera vines planted at 2500 feet. This 100% Nerello Mascalese is pristine and fragrant with waves of spiced red fruits, rose petals, licorice and volcanic minerals. It's certainly one of the most pristine examples of Etna Rosso I've come across not to mention one of the finest.
Price: $29.99 Add To Cart

2015 Vietti "Castiglione" Barolo
Review Date: 03-19-2019
I had the privilege of a sneak preview of this wonderful Barolo during a visit to Vietti last year. Luca Currado should be very proud of his Castiglione Barolo as his deft winemaking has matched ripe fruit from a warm vintage with very fresh tannins and bright acidity which is no easy task. It's wonderful to open and drink now yet allowing its youthfulness to round out with a bit of cellaring will only enhance it.
Price: $52.99 Add To Cart
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2015 Castello di Monsanto Chianti Classico Riserva
Review Date: 03-19-2019
This historic estate continues its tradition of producing one of the best Chianti Riservas with the release of their stellar 2015. The signature fruit of a warm vintage is immediate yet there's plenty of underlying structure and freshness in this impressive Chianti. While it's thoroughly enjoyable now, it will certainly improve with a couple of years in the cellar.

2015 Ca' del Baio "Autinbej" Barbaresco
Review Date: 03-18-2019
This wine began production in 2014, so this is only the second vintage and I must confess, I'm quite impressed. The Grasso Family has added this to their already stellar line-up of single vineyard Barbarescos as a tribute to their grandfather as well as an outstanding Nebbiolo that can be consumed when young. Bright cherry fruit and spice abound with plenty of sweet extract and ripe tannins on the palate. This is an exceptional deal at the price and a wonderful Barbaresco that's perfect to drink today and over the next few years.
Price: $32.99 Add To Cart
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2016 Schiavenza Nebbiolo delle Langhe
Review Date: 03-18-2019
Schiavenza is one of my favorite wineries in the Serralunga zone of Barolo and their Langhe Nebbiolo is top tier in both depth and quality. The fruit is sourced entirely from their Serralunga vineyards and is really Barolo lite. It's a bit bigger in stature and structure than the typical young vines Nebbiolo and offers concentrated fruit with plenty of tannic grip and good length. This classic will certainly cellar for the next few years but is terrific now with a bit of aeration.
Price: $29.99 Add To Cart

2017 G.D. Vajra Langhe Nebbiolo
Review Date: 03-18-2019
The Vajra Family not only cultivates first rate Nebbiolo throughout their vineyards but also crafts wines with great depth and refinement. Their latest Langhe Nebbiolo highlights vibrant red fruits enhanced by notes of plum, florals and mineral. It's quite accessible due to the warmth of the 2017 vintage yet retains impressive acidity and structure as well. This is one of my personal favorites every year.
Price: $26.99 Add To Cart

2013 Rivetto Langhe Nebbiolo
Review Date: 03-18-2019
This charming, light-on-its-feet, old-school Nebbiolo reflects its character with scents of licorice, mineral and cherry fruit along with a medium-bodied palate of juicy red fruit supported by fine firm tannins. It comes alive with food and is best with meats, firm cheeses and egg pastas.
Price: $19.99 Add To Cart

2016 Tenuta Sette Ponti "Oreno" Toscana
Review Date: 03-11-2019
2016 is one of the finest Orenos and among the best of Italy's Bordeaux style reds. It showcases deep and rich fruit that possesses an international flair combined with unmistakable Tuscan flavors and character. Although it's quite accessible now, it's sure to improve with time in the cellar. Steak with this one!

2015 Poggerino Chianti Classico
Review Date: 03-04-2019
The warmth of the 2015 vintage elevates this normally leaner style Chianti to a higher level. Although it possesses its expected nervy acidity and freshness, this wine has greater weight and complexity of fruit making it one of our favorite Chianti Classicos of the vintage. Not to be missed.
Price: $22.99 Add To Cart
WS 92 RP 90

2017 Iovine Gragnano Rosso Frizzante
Review Date: 03-04-2019
While many are familiar with Lambrusco, few know of a similar style frizzante red from Southern Italy named Gragnano. It's produced from Aglianico, Piedirosso and Sciascinoso and is deep purple in color, pleasantly sweet and grapy in flavor and finishes with a hint of smokiness. This delicious and refreshing red is the ideal match with pizza and is best served with a slight chill. Unlike with salad, you'll make a few friends with this wine.
Price: $15.99 Add To Cart
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2016 Colombaio di Santa Chiara "Campo Pieve" Vernaccia di San Gimignano
Review Date: 03-04-2019
Most of what passes for Vernaccia is rarely met with any fanfare and the wines are often overlooked for more substantial options. This producer, however, takes Vernaccia to another level and this is one of the best examples you're likely to come across. Although it opens with a pleasant nose of floral and mineral it truly shines on the palate where it expands with richness, density and flavor from beginning to end. It was a huge customer favorite at our LA Italian tasting and is worth every cent. Impressive.
Price: $27.99 Add To Cart

2017 Marisa Cuomo "Ravello" Costa d'Amalfi Bianco
Review Date: 03-04-2019
Marisa Cuomo is one of Southern Italy's most talented vignerons and a champion of both white and red varietals of Campania. This perennial favorite white blend of 60% Falanghina and 40% Biancolella boasts aromas of lemon, florals and seabreeze and a very pleasing palate with hints of almond on the finish. There's plenty of acidity which makes this ideal with seafood dishes and shellfish.
Price: $22.99 Add To Cart
VN 90

2015 Salcheto Vino Nobile di Montepulciano
Review Date: 01-29-2019
Vino Nobile has maintained far less of a presence in the US market than its better known neighbor Chianti but some of its finer producers are making every effort to reverse that. The 2015 Salcheto Vino Nobile is one of their finest to-date and a wonderful expression of Sangiovese from the hillside of Montepulciano. Its expressive aromas of red berries, wild herb, earth and leather are joined by a polished palate of bright berry fruit with slightly dusty tannins on the finish. The winery ages this in large botte and smaller French oak barrels that refine what would normally be a more structured and firmer wine. This classic Tuscan shines at the dinner table.
Price: $22.99 Add To Cart
WE 94 WS 94

2016 Fuligni "Ginestreto" Rosso di Montalcino
Review Date: 01-28-2019
Personally, I think Fuligni ranks among the very best Brunello producers and his Rosso di Montalcino never disappoints. It's nearly Brunello in taste yet is wonderful to open and drink today. This flavor-rich Sangiovese is smooth, delicious and a testament to great winemaking from one of Montalcino's greats.
Price: Hidden View Price
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2017 Blason Pinot Grigio Isonzo del Friuli
Review Date: 01-28-2019
Blason has always made good Pinot Grigio but this is by far his best yet. It offers his signature depth and texture yet with greater acidity and freshness. There's a lot of solid Pinot Grigio in the market but it's pretty tough to find a great one at this price and Blason's certainly rises to the top. Wonderful on its own and ideal with fish and lighter fare.
Price: $10.99 Add To Cart

Wine Club

$8.99

2015 Felsina "Rancia" Chianti Classico Riserva (1.5L)
Review Date: 01-28-2019
Personally, I've long held that Felsina's Chianti Classico Riserva "Rancia" rarely, if ever, shows its stuffing on release. It normally needs a bit of cellaring to come together yet the 2015 is blessed with such ample richness that it's really sensational from the outset. It's smooth, silky and concentrated today but deceptive underlying structure is sure to emerge with age. Since far fewer large format bottles are produced, I highly recommend this exceptional wine to those looking to age top tier Italian wine.

2015 Gulfi "Nerojbleo" Nero d’Avola Sicilia
Review Date: 01-21-2019
Nero d'Avola is the most widely planted red grape across the island of Sicily (excluding Mt Etna) and Gulfi offers some of the finest expressions of it. This benchmark wine is cultivated from vines planted just below 1500 feet in the Chiaramonte zone of Ragusa. Prominent and pleasing aromas and flavors of savory, sun baked plum and blackberry fruit abound in conjunction with sweet tannins and lively acidity that keeps the wine fresh and vibrant. It's ideal with soups, vegetables, meats, cheeses and red sauced dishes. And, it will certainly pair well with BBQ and burgers.
Price: $17.99 Add To Cart
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2016 Musella Valpolicella Superiore
Review Date: 01-21-2019
I had the good fortune of meeting Maddalena Pasqua Di Bisceglie twenty years ago while tasting her wines at the Vinitaly Fair in Verona. They were quite good then but are sensational today. She and her family practice biodynamic farming and the results speak for themselves. This is definitely one of the finer Valpolicellas made and it combines richness and elegance along with stunning complexity. A wonderful wine at the table that's versatile with a wide variety of dishes.
Price: $17.99 Add To Cart

2015 Poderi Colla Nebbiolo d'Alba
Review Date: 01-21-2019
Sadly, Beppe Colla, one of the greatest of Barolo producers, passed on recently. His legacy remains, however, through his family and this outstanding Nebbiolo is certainly a reflection of it. Although it's approachable now it posses the depth and complexity to age as well. A nose of plum, red berries, roses and spice leads a medium-bodied palate with ample fruit and persistence and a fine layer of tannins. Pair this with meats, hearty pastas and firm cheeses.
Price: $29.99 Add To Cart

Wine Club

$22.99
JG 90

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
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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
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