Even though I paid $50 to attend a special tasting of Gaja's Barbarescos, I consider myself a lucky man. Angelo's wines fall a tad bit outside my comfort price point and that's a shame. I thoroughly enjoyed listening and talking to Angelo, and the wines he presented to us were just marvelous.
Angelo walked us through 10 of his wines. Along the way he cracked jokes about infidelity, John Wayne, and Opus One. He was very thorough in the Gaja (pronounced GUY-ya) family history (Spanish origin) and the history and future of his vineyards. He's a man full of pride, but by no means do I find his attitude "cold and soulless", as the editor-in-chief of Gombrero Rosso has recently described.
Ok, ok, the wines:
The is nealy 100% Chardonnay and was served during a reception before the tasting. I was completely unaware that it was Chardonnay when someone asked me what it was and I replied "I'm not sure, it tastes like a Chard though." No notes, but it was very minerally, full of lemon zest, buttercream, and balanced. 90
2000 Alteni di Brassica ($66.99)
100% Sauvignon Blanc. Lots of buttercream, citrus, and lemon rind on the nose. Fruity, citrus, mellon, with a solid acidic structure and lingering spicey finish. A look alike for a Bordeaux Blanc. 91
2001 Gaia & Rey ($115)
Almost 100% Chardonnay. Interesting nose of perfume, peppermint and lime. Very clean and crisp feel to the palate. Fruity and sweet, a liquid version of a lemon lifesaver. 92
1999 Sito Moresco ($40.99)
35% Nebbiolo, 35% Merlot, 30% Cab Sauvignon. This is fairly unspectacular, but well balanced wine full of black cherries, tar, cedar, earth, and a slight metallic taste. 88
1999 Darmagi ($235)
95% Cab Sauvignon, 3% Merlot, 2% Cab Franc all from a Piedmont vineyard that was converted from Nebbiolo in 1978. Darmagi means "What a Pity" in Italian. This was the darkest wine of the event, granted though, it was the only cab. Lots of Napa-like cassis, oak, vanilla, underbrush and blackberries. Graphite, wet stones shine through on the finish, but it feels lacking in tannic structure and complexity to improve much over time. 89+?
1998 Sperss ($175)
94% Nebbiolo, 6% Barbera. This very dark wine puts you in a headlock with it's dark fruit and rich young acidic structure. Truffles, tar, and blackberries really excel on the finish, but this is only a hint of what it will be in 10 years. 93+
1999 Sori Tildin ($270)
95% Nebbiolo, 5% Barbera and my favorite of the event. If the Sperss was about power, this wine is about elegance. Beautiful overflowing nose of perfume, tar, licorice, green tea, and bing cherries. Mouthfilling cherry licorice and coca sensations with terricly balanced acidity and a Pinot-esque echoing finish. 95
1978 Barbaresco (not available)
Obvious bricking going on in this wine, but color still looks good. Mint, bay leaf, and cherry aromas. Mature tobacco, green tea, and cherries hold up on the fairly acidic finish. Certainly mature, if not past it's prime. Angelo considers this the second best Gaja wine of the 70's ('71 the best and considered one of his greatest). 89
1989 Barbaresco (not available)
Wow! Did this wine evolve over the course of the night ... I should know, I had two glasses (I'll explain later). The nose moved from sweet dark cherries, to evolved aromas of tar, melted black licorice, truffles, and roasted game. Mouthcoating dark fruits, rasberries, cocoa, underbrush ... but a tad bit short to be outstanding. 93
1999 Barbaresco ($150)
Quite frankly this just comes across as being really really young. 90-91
2000 Barbaresco (Not yet available)
Contrary to the '99, the '00 comes across as nicely balanced and open. Sweet notes of rasberries, cherry, tar, cocoa on a silky internationally styled framework. 93
I ended up sitting next to one of the WCWN posters, Matthew. We both pretty much had the same impressions on the wines and voted the Sori Tilden WOTN. Also, after the tasting we went around scavenging undrank glasses of wine. I guess some folks no-showed, but the wines were poured for them anyway. Angelo autographed our classy tasting programs and answered a few of our questions. 2002 Barbaresco is spotty for him, Barolo was disasterous because of the hail, he mentioned Bruno Giacosca first as a favorite wine, and was really impressed with the Rochioli Pinots he's tried while in the US.
Generally, it was a really nice classy evening and I'd highly recommend meeting him if given the opportunity.