2003 Casanova di Neri, Brunello di Montalcino
Brunello fans will certainly recognize the estate Casanova di Neri, particularly since their 2001 “Tenuta Nuova” Brunello was named wine of the year in 2006 by the Wine Spectator magazine. Founded in 1971, when Montalcino was something of a backwater, the rise of this winery in international esteem has paralleled the phenomenal ascent of Brunello to the highest ranks of the wine world. Neri owns four of the most esteemed vineyard sites in Montalcino, but they have never exported any wine to the United States from their oldest and highest-altitude vineyard, Fiesole, planted originally in 1873. Until now. This wine is made from 100% Sangiovese Grosso grapes from the Fiesole Vineyard, and aged in large French and Slavonian oak casks for 3 years. Unlike the powerhouse “Tenuta Nuova,” this Brunello emphasizes elegance and finesse, balance and complexity. We agree with the expert consensus that the wine is drinkable early (say in 2 or 3 years) but will still age beautifully over the next ten years. It was only $55 (the 2003 Tenuta Nuova is $80!), and we were able to get a few extra bottles for club members.
2004 Domaine Michel Juillot, Mercurey 1er Cru “Clos des Barraults”
Just the other day, Bear was commenting on how beautifully the 2004 white Burgundies are showing these days. This wine is a stellar example, a premier cru Chardonnay from the much overlooked Côte Chalonnais region, just to the south of the famous Côte d’Or and north of the better known Maconnais. Laurent Juillot is the current winemaker for the oldest estate in Mercurey, founded in 1404. Mercurey whites are known to be quite robust and full-bodied, and this one is no exception. The floral nose complements the ripe pear and peach flavors, and a touch of vanilla and a hint of hazelnut from the oak gives the wine a nice round mouth feel. As for food pairing suggestions, the Juillot family recently served it with a nice plate of sausage and pâté for a visiting American wine critic. It could also match very well with shellfish, white meats, and dry cheeses. There’s a bit more available at $45.