Specialty Club – October 2014

1989 Guasti Clemente, Barolo Riserva
That’s not a typo; this is in fact a 1989 Barolo, and it was released at the end of last year! Although the Guasti family has been farmers in Piedmont since the late nineteenth century, the winery was founded only in 1946 by Clemente Guasti. Over the years the winery has been better known for its Barbera, sourced mostly from other growers in the Monferrato area, than for the wines made from their small plots in Barolo, which total about 29 hectares. After Clemente’s death, his sons Andrea and Alessandro have continued this emphasis on Barbera, which allows them to pay the bills and keep their little winery going strong. Their wines are imported into the US by the small California firm of 8 Vini. Upon a recent visit to the winery, the importers found in the winery’s cellars 4200 bottles of this Barolo, which had never been released or even labeled and were covered in 25 years of dust and cobwebs. This was an exciting find, since 1989 has proven to be, in the words of New York wine writer Eric Guido, “the best classic vintage of Barolo in the last 35 years.” When we tasted this wine about six months ago it was still pretty closed in, but a recent revisit changed our minds completely. It had the classic violet nose, the backbone of tar, and the earth and spice that Barolo is know for at its best. It’s actually just reaching its peak, and will continue to develop for another five to seven years. Try it with game dishes or smoked lamb, but be sure to decant it first. It’s $70 and we can get more.

2013 Sigalas, Santorini Assyrtiko
For those of you who have been to the volcanic island of Santorini, there’s no need to describe it. It’s the southernmost of the Greek Aegean islands and was formed as the caldera of an ancient volcano, whose eruption is believed to have caused the demise of the Minoan civilization in Crete around 3600 years ago. Tourists flock to Santorini for the beautiful black sand beaches, the great hiking, the historic stone chapels, and the picturesque fishing villages. Traditionally the wines made and consumed there have been simple whites, but several nice wineries have been established on Santorini in the last 25 years, joining Argyros Estate, founded in 1903. Domaine Sigalas was founded in 1991 by Paris Sigalas, Christos Markozane and Yiannis Toundas. Initially, the wines were made at the Sigalas family home but a new modern winery was constructed in 1998. Sigalas owns 14 hectares of organically grown Assyrtiko, an ancient white grape indigenous to Santorini. The winds from the sea and the hot sun are so strong that the vines have to be trained in the shape of a small basket to avoid being uprooted or scorched. Fortunately, the porous volcanic soil of Santorini allows the earth to retain water, giving the vineyards the ability to stay nourished during the high summer temperatures. The vines also retain their original root stocks, since the high sand content of the soil makes them resistant to phylloxera. The vines used for this 100% Assyrtiko are over fifty years old and that helps to preserve the mineral complexity and acidity of the wine. Think of Assyrtiko as a riper version of Sauvignon Blanc grown on volcanic soil and a great match with any fish dish. It could age a bit, as the winery claims on the label, but it’s also quite wonderful now. It’s $27 and in good supply.