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:
2002 Rossj-Bass
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.
Original Post
he mentioned Bruno Giacosca first as a favorite wine, and was really impressed with the Rochioli Pinots he's tried while in the US.

I am always heartened when great winemakers -- ones that needn't compare anyone to themselves, really -- go out of their way to sing praise upon their chief competitors. Incidentally, I have found this somewhat common in Italy. I have routinely read quotes of Guiseppe Quinarelli proclaiming Dal Forno as the greatest winemaker he knows and suggesting that Tomasso Bussola is his heir-apparent in winemaking history. I know I've come across quotes of others, though I cannot place them at the moment. In any event, I am glad that Angelo Gaja treats his competitors as comrades in an effort to produce great wine, rather than adversaries.

I graple with how much Sandrone and La Spinetta to buy in good vintages, so the high end Gajas really are out of my league, but it is nice to hear good things about the men whose wines fetch so much money.


"What contemptible scoundrel stole the cork from my lunch?" -- W.C. Fields
Thanks for the great notes R2, really sounds like a classy evening! Cool
I only met Gaja once at a tasting and also thought he was quite a nice and passionate winemaker.
I'm a bit astonished about the bad showing of the Darmagi. It is usually quite a great, elegant Cabernet.

Anche dio è di-vino
I went to this tasting on the 2nd night with Otis. My wife decided she did not want to go (Otis told me to thank her). Angelo Gaja poured the same wines last night. The event Otis and I attended was sponsered by Sams Wine and Paterno Imports and was invitation only (I don't think they sold tickets for the 2nd night). I was fortunate enough to be give 2 free tickets by an employee at Sams.

The comments about Mr. Gaja being "cold and souless" were made by Danielle Cernelli, Editor of Gambero Rosso. I read an article about it at Decanter online but cannot link get access to it today. In any event, he certainly was passionate about his wines and seemed very amiable. Robert Parker seems to think highly of him and insinuated that there may be some unspoken reasons for the attack. Does he have an ego? Perhaps. But if I were consistently heaped with praise about being the greatest living winemaker in Italy, I would too.

Before I post my notes on the wines, I'd like to make an observation about one of the comments made by Angelo Gaja last night. He seemed to dislike the trend toward single vineyard Barolo and Barbaresco because it made blended wines (like his Barbaresco appear lesser quality when they were not in his opinion). I did not mention this to him; but, did he forget that he makes 3 single vineyard Barbaresco's of his own (Sori San Lorenzo, Sori Tilden and Costa Russi). Lets not even mention the 2 single vineyard Barolo's he makes.

Here are my notes (I looked up the WS and WA scores I could find today and included them):

White Wines
2002 Rossj-Bass- This had a Chardonnay profile to my palate and I mentioned to Otis that it was not my style. This was a walking around wine at the reception before the tasting so I did not take notes. 87 points.

2000 Alteni di Brassica(WS89)- I thought this Sauvignon Blanc was more Chardonnaylike than either of the Chards poured (at least the nose was). Petrol nose. Notes of spice, pineapple and a bit of oak on the finnish. An austere wine. Gaja claimed this could age for 10 years. Otis and I thought it did not have the stuffing although he would know better than us. Light to medium bodied. 86 points.

2001 Gaia & Rey(WA91)- This vineyard was planted in 1979. My favorite white of the night. More like a Chablis than a Meursault or Cal Chard. Stunning nose of bright fruit and white flowers. Notes of vanilla, peach and coconut (Otis pointed this last one out). Rather gripping and tart on the midpalate. 89-90 points.

Red Wines
1999 Sito Moresco- This blended (Nebbiolo, Cab and Merlot) wine comes from vineyards in Barolo and Barbareso. Violet and cherry nose. Dry tannins with notes of red fruit and dried mushrooms. Well rounded. 90 points.

1999 Darmagi(WS88,WA91)- This vineyard was planted in 1978. A California Cabernet styled wine with an Italian bent. Tannic and somewhat closed in my opinion. It did show plenty of forward fruit with notes of leather, blackberry and cassis. Will age well. 89-90 points.

1998 Sperss(WA94)- The wine of the night for me. A declassified single vineyard Barolo. Long thin legs and darker than the Barbarescos. A bit higher in acidity than the other wines. Notes of berry, anise, spice box and wet earth. A well integrated, seemless wine with great depth. This wine just flowed. Needs time though. 96-97 points.

1999 Sori Tildin(WS94,WA93)- This was a fantastic wine also; but, I did not think it was in the same league as the Sperss. Soft aromas of saddle leather and red fruit. Good complexity but a little softer than the Sperss. Notes of ****ake mushroom, resin and black cherry. Needs time. 93 points.

2000 Barbaresco(WS95,WA90)- I reversed the order when we got to the Barbaresco's and tried them youngest to oldest. A nose of cereal and oatmeal. Big and tannic with notes of coffee and tight black fruit. Rather dense. This wine is wide open now and needs time to come together and will improve. It was interesting to compare the scores of James Suckling and Daniel Thomases (of WA) to my own on this wine since they were 5 points apart. I think WA missed the boat on this one. 93+ points.

1999 Barbaresco- This was the least impressive of the Barbaresco. A wet earth and slightly sweet nose. Gripping tannins with slightly sour notes of black cherry and plum. A young wine but I'm not sure how much this will improve. Dry finnish. 91? points.

1989 Barbaresco- A nose of wet potting soil. A mature profile but the tannins are still firm. Dry. Notes of blackberry and cassis with some nice secondary flavors showing up on the finish. 93-94 points.

1978 Barbaresco- The only wine which came close to the Sperss; but then I have a soft spot for aged wines. Good red color and showing very little bricking in my opinion. Very unique nose (the type of nose that usually only appears with age). Classic notes of almond, cherry and truffles. Complex and surprisingly fresh with noticeable tannins. A testament to the aging ability of Angelo Gaja's wines. This wine does not show signs of fading yet. Perhaps blending is the way to go afterall. 95 points.

Nice recap, R2D2.

VM: thanks so much for inviting me to this tasting as a last-minute wing man (or more perhaps more appropriately, thanks Lady VM)! It was an outstanding event.

Angelo Gaja came across as passionate and proud of his family's heritage as the premier Barbaresco producer in the world. I also enjoyed his slide show, especially when he compared cab sauvignon to John Wayne ("an open book" and "a grape that does its duty"), while comparing nebbiolo to Marcelo Mastroanni ("you have to seek him out to become close to him" and "sarcastic, ironic").

Here are my impressions, which are for the most part, similar to VM's:

2000 Rossj-Bass ($40)
Round and fruity. A nice apertif. 87P.

2000 Alteni di Brassica ($40)
Pale straw color. Aromas of split peas, smoke, and asparagus. Some faint papaya flavor. Watery and light-bodied, with a diluted finish. I thought it lacked acidity and was in disagreement with Angelo's suggestion that it would be best opened in 7-8 years. I think that was his way of acknowledging that it wasn't showing well last night. 81P.

2001 Gaia & Rey Chardonnay ($109)
Aromatic nose of cradamom, pear, and coconut. Creamy and rich. Immediate burst of tropical fruit sweetness that trails off into a bitter citrus pith finish. Screams for shellfish. 88P.

1999 Sito Moresco ($40)
Mr. Gaja noted that the cab and merlot grown in the Piedmont is less rich and fat and more vegetal than the California versions. That certainly was the case with this wine. Lots of leather and black cherries on the nose. A narrowly focused wine that came across as somewhat simple and green. Mouth-puckering tannins on the finish. Needs lots of time. Apparently, this is a poular restaurant wine and is one of his higher production lots. 86P.

1999 Darmagi ($NA)
Mr. Gaja said that this was one of the best wintages of Darmagi since 1988. The darkest wine of the night. Great Napa-like cab nose of berries, mint, and cedar. Very intense, and old-world on the palate, with flavors of plum, tobacco, and espresso. Long tannic finish. 93P.

1998 Sperss ($180)
This one was really special and my WOTN. The nose was slightly muted, with some rose petal and wild strawberry coning through. Incredible length and intensity, with pure red fruit mingling with echoes of the terroir. Subtle mushroom and Indian spice flavors in the background. A huge wine with a velvety mouthfeel. 95-96P.

1998 Sori Tildin ($270)
Tantalizing bouquet of orange peel, violets, and red raspberries. Had to search a bit for the fruit, flavors were more in the category of cocoa, tar, and leather. A very interesting mouthfeel, like the wine was melting into your tongue and coating it with vinyl. An excellent wine, but what a price tag! 93P.

1978 Barbaresco ($NA)
Good color for a 26-year old wine. Only slight bricking. Sweaty, cheesy, barnyard nose. This one still has lots left in the gas tank. The anise, dried citrus, and dusty plum flavors build steadily to a crescendo and surge on the finish with finesse and power. A real statement about the longevity of Gaja's barbs. Grossie/BirD - you guys would have loved this one. 94P.

1989 Barbaresco ($NA)
A hawker's stall nose of licorice, soy, and ginger. Lovely light and floral passion fruit flavors, with interesting grassy undertones. Perhaps even some sun-dried tomato. Silky texture. Abrupt and tannic finish. 92P.

1999 Barbaresco ($150)
Straightforward fruity berry aromas. Did not seem as intense as the other barbs. Seems like a step below in class, but its young, full-bodied and tight. Needs time. 89P.

2000 Barbaresco ($NA)
Gorgeous nose of spring blossoms, plum, and fudge chocolate. Satiny texture, with serious weight. Smooth, plush, opulent, decadent...in other words one for the American palate (especially Suckling's). Real flashy stuff. I loved it. 94P.

A terrific experience, but these wines are seriously pushing the insanity level price-wise. I guarantee that VM and I were the only ones there who ever snagged a bottle from the Sam's bargain bin. Thanks again, VM!


Wow, it sounds like you folks in Chicago had a chance to participate in a great event.

There was a Gaja structured tasting put on by the LCBO in Toronto earlier this month which I wanted to attend - until they announced the $375Cdn (~$280US) per person price tag. (It did include a dinner.) That price tag blew my desire right out of the water. But at $50 you really got a great value.
This was being poured last weekend at a free Italian wine tasting. It was being offerred for $38. This wine is made with 55% Merlot (I can't recal the rest of the cepage). A very nice wine albeit on the youthful side. It's tightness and youth were most pronounced on the finish. On the palate, it was an earthy wine with a high glycerin level. Notes of blackberry and leather. 90 points.


Eamus Catuli!!
R2 D2, et al who attended – what a lovely night in the company of one of the Piedmont’s great wine makers. If ever the was a justification for ”grazing” at the end of the tasting this would be it! Those pour “soul-less” folks who didn’t show really missed out big time, but their loss was your gain! Seriously though, the “cold and soul less” quote is pitiful, just big unruly wine ego’s getting in the way of common decency and respect, but what’s new? Nothing like jealousy to bring out the critics. His success has been so extraordinary that it makes for an easy target.

Vino me – the only DOCG wine he makes is his Barbareco. The Sori Tilden, Costa Russi, San Lorenzo, Sperss and Contiesa all contain about 5%-6% Barbera, so technically they are neither Barbaresco’s or Barolo’s, and are designated under the Langhe DOC. I don’t know about the others, but the last year Sperss was made as a DOCG Barolo was 1995.

ciao, rico

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