2010 Casanova di Neri, Brunello di Montalcino
Brunello fans will be pleased to see another appearance of this wine in the club. Casanova di Neri was founded in 1971, back when Montalcino was still a bit of a backwater. But the winery quickly rose in international esteem, in parallel with the meteoric ascent of Brunello to the highest ranks of the wine world. It didn’t hurt that their 2001 “Tenuta Nuovo” Brunello was named wine of the year for 2006 by the Wine Spectator. We put their 2003 Brunello in the club back in 2008 and this month we’re thrilled to include the current release, from what is being hailed as the “vintage of a lifetime” in this Tuscan region, producing wines of unmatched character and intensity. Giacomo Neri (owner of Casanova di Neri) calls it the best vintage he has experienced in his winemaking career. It doesn’t hurt that he owns some of the most esteemed sites in Montalcino. Made from 100% Sangiovese Grosso grapes and aged in Slavonian oak barrels for about three years, this stunning Brunello is seamless, with a perfect balance of elegance and intensity. From the initial aromas of Morello cherries, spice, and chocolate, to the long, persistent finish, this is an incredible value at only $60. You could think about opening in the next year or two, but it will, of course, reward a decade or more in the cellar, when it would pair beautifully with braised meat or game.
2011 Domaine Julien Masquin, Montplaisir Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc
This estate dates back to 1936 when Julien Masquin’s grandfather purchased vineyards in Courthézon, just northeast of Châteauneuf-du-Papa. At the time, he was preoccupied with starting a brush factory, so he rented the vineyards to other winegrowers. His son Paul, Julien’s father, was also more interested in the brush factory so it wasn’t until Julien came along that a family member chose to take an active role in the family’s vineyards. To that end, he studied in Avignon and trained at the iconic Châteauneuf-du-Pape domaine of Vieux Télégraphe. Julien continued to sell fruit to cooperatives for a while but since 2009, he has been making and bottling wines under his own name. Along the way, his father’s health problems required him to get involved in the family brush business, so he had to bring on some help in the winery. But he has enough time to travel to promote his wines: in May he visited the shop to pour some of them for us and we were especially taken with this lovely white Châteauneuf-du-Pape, a blend of 70% Grenache Blanc and 30% late harvest Bourboulenc, aged in used Sauternes barrels from Château d’Yquem. Perhaps that is what gives this beguiling wine its amazing richness and depth, balanced by a food-friendly stony minerality. It is $36 and is drinking beautifully now. Enjoy it with seafood (lobster comes to mind) or roast chicken or pork dishes.