You could spend a lifetime exploring the wines of Italy. From Piedmonte to Tuscany to Umbria, from great nebbiolo-based wines (Barolo, Barbaresco, Gattinara), to great sangiovese-based wines (Brunello, Chianti) to new wave critic's darlings that end in 'aia' (Ornellaia, Sassicaia, Gratticiaia), to Amarones, Dolcettos, and endless wonderful little ten dollar bottles that you've never heard of but go great with almost any food.

Aldegheri Rosso Veronese Santambrogio 'Le Pietre' 1999 ($8) (a corvina, rondinella, cabernet blend--doesn't say which cabernet) (Boatloads II): Strawberry-cassis aromatics. Tastes soft, leatherfruity and amiable, some interesting bay leaf/brown herbiness, touch of licorice mingles with cassis on the finish. Medium-lightweight and easygoing, a simple, fleshy little wine, just enough acidity, the merest hint of tannin, just straightforward honest wine, something you'd find in a carafe in an out-of-the-way cafˇ and really like. Pretty good. [Buy again? Yes.] (11/04)

Gianfranco Allesandria Barolo 1962 (Football Fever!): The wine is the color of twenty-year-old white zinfandel, or perhaps pinkish iced tea. Smells very spicy, cinnamon and rhubarb, cedar and crushed brick. A sip, and its surprisingly lively, like an older Cotat rosˇ, pleasantly decayed but still vivid. Rhubarb flavors dominate the midpalate, leather and earth jostle for position underneath. Firm acidity, slightly plush mouthfeel around the hard core. Interesting, a kind of Barolo rosˇ, the vague 1962 fruit having gone the way of all flesh. "You just can't kill Barolo," says Jeff. Damn straight. (1/05)

Gianfranco Allesandria Barolo San Giovanni 1996 ($40)(Horrifying the Newbies): Rather surprisingly aromatic, cherry-eucalyptus, tar and truffles, some toasty wood. Rich, bitingly acidic and puckery-tannic, I have to have a bite of steak for every sip I take so that my mouth is not stripped of flesh. With air a perfumed violet streak emerges. Aggressive and dense, a strong and joyful infant strangling snakes in his crib. (3/3/01)

Castello di Ama Chianti Classico 1995 ($14)(Walt Begs for Mercy): Smells pleasantly stony and cherried, a charming nose. A sip, and there's not a lot of depth or density--after a nice upfront cherry-smoky-tar rush the fruit just goes belly-up and fades into ghostliness. (5/01)

Castello di Ama Chianti Classico 1997 (Football Fever!): Ripe-smelling, truffles and black cherries dosed with spicy smoky-tarry oakiness. Rather plump and velvety-textured, medium acidity, showing the bland ripeness of the California-style vintage, aggressive fine tannins on the finish. Very decent Napa Valley merlot. (1/05)

Castello di Ama Pinot Nero Rosso di Toscana La Chiuso 1995(NEVER Say 'Spit'): Dark garnet, purpling lightly at the rim. I swirl a few good swirls and take a sniff. Not much going on, and I say "This smells like... nothing." With continued swirling, I get a bit of a smoky-meaty hint with a trace of black olive amidst tight minerally red berry fruit. Tastes generically cherry-berried, smoky and rather limpid in the middle. It's not saying much of anything, but since I am obliged by the rules to make a guess I posit that it's mute syrah. It's not syrah, it's Italian pinot noir. If this is Italian pinot noir I'm not entirely devastated that it's a genre that I've heretofore ignored. (4/03)

Castello di Ama Rosso di Toscana l'Apparita 1994(Oddball Grapes): Seems friendly right up front, with a wash of leathery blackberry-raspberry fruit, turns earthy and a bit rough and raspy in the middle, finishes tarry and tannic. A bit of a tease, but the firm acidity and bad-boy charm win me over; it's taut and wiry and it'll never be a goblovers' wine, but it has a good sense of itself as a small-bore tough guy. (7/27/03)

Castello di Ama Vigneto La Casuccia Chianti Classico 1993 (Greg Gets Us Wasted): a vague wine with vague aromatics. I sniff at it quizzically, getting some light traces of red clay, preserved cherries and dried flowers. A little more promising upon first sippage, some dark red fruit with a spicy mulled-wine character, but fades into wateriness in the midpalate and limps into a feebly herby finish. Where have you gone, Chianti Classico? (3/02)

Castello di Ama Vigneto La Casuccia Chianti Classico 1995 (Football Fever!): Medium-dark garnet color, smells toasty-dark and raspberry-cassisfruity. Crisp and rather hard, a firm red wine with a dark berrysmoky core and light cedary-toasty wooding that's turning towards a happy spiciness. Not terribly distinctive, but well-made and firm wine with a bit of an edginess about it. This needs time, but it's showing fairly well tonight, lots of promise. (1/05)

A-Mano Primitivo Puglia 2001 ($8) (Boatloads VIII): Medium dark purply-garnet color. Smells gently ripe, black cherry with a good infusion of blueberry & shoe polish. Tastes soft and fleshy, squishy and fruitbowlish. The low acidity is marginally offset by a matte mouthfeel and a light licorice vein that emerges in the middle and holds out until some light glassy tannins sweep it away. Loose and frooty zin without a touch of complexity or pretension. In other words, passable burger wine. [Buy again? I guess. Nongeeks sure seem to like it, anyway.] (9/06)

D'Angelo Aglianico del Vulture Canneto Basilicata 1993: I looked in vain for the word "Aglianiaco" or "del Vulture" on the label--all it really said was "Canneto" in big letters, but no matter. Started off with a whiff of raisiny (again) and cherry fruit, nice smooth start, but quickly melts away on the palate into a sensation of drymouth. The flavor starts, but then evaporates and all you're left with is a puckering feeling on your tongue. Very odd.

Antinori Sangiovese Toscana 'Santa Cristina' 2004 ($10) (Boatloads VII): Medium garnet color. Cedar-sawdusty hints over simple cherry-cassis, aromatically industrial. Medium weight, medium acidity, medium wood-accented redfruit flavor. Generic red wine, moderately flavored and decently structured but smacking of manufacturing. Bland competence on parade, nothing of interest here. [Buy again? No.] (4/06)

Avignonesi Rosso di Toscana 2002 ($9) (Boatloads III): Ripe black-cherry/raspberry nose, smoky undertones, smells dark and rather generic. Tastes smooth and fleshy, with good focus despite rather medium-low acidity, a nice trick. There's a light purple-plummy quality that rises up in the midpalate to mingle with the dark redfruit, the texture is unusual, slightly glossy on the outside but rather matte at the core. Finishes quietly, with a plum-licorice flicker, then more licorice, then medium-fine tannins. Not bad, fleshy-textured but with decent composure despite the suggestion of shirazziness. [Buy again? Yes, I suppose.] (2/05)

Avignonese Sangiovese 1995 ($10) (Super Bowl): When I tasted this wine upon release it was as tight as a drum, knife-hard and as closed up as a librarian sucking a lemon. Now it seems like a different wine, with a more robust and velvety cherry-iron-leather nose with vanilla highlights and coppery-bloody undertones, and it marries nicely with the pseudo Italian fare. Rather generic but still pleasantly balanced and crisp, it was only $10, so I probably I should've bought more. Drink, but don't hold. Get someone else to hold while you drink, it's more fun that way. (1/01)

Azelia Barolo Bricco Punta 1982 ($23) (I Get the Shakes): Medium ruby color, slightly ambered with a bit of bricking at the rim. Light-smelling, earthy muted redfruit and earth with baked-carrot hints. Lean and tart, leathery and with an incursion of tannins on the finish. Perhaps a bit past its prime. (6/3/00)

Azienda Agraria Bianchi Bardinelli Toscana Rosso "Geggianello" 2001 (Pigfest): Damn, I enjoy saying "Geggionello," and to me that's an important quality in a wine, that the name be fun to say. Every time the bottle goes by me I grab it and hold it up. "Geggianello!" I shout. No one is quite sure what to make of this, and after the second or third time I'm roundly ignored. Bright simple taut cherry flavor, touch of leather, not distinctive but quite decent. (1/06)

Castello Banfi Brunello di Montalcino 1990 ($30)(Bradcave/A>): Hmmm... medium matte garnet... fairly unremarkable color... hints of leatheriness, black raspberry/black cherry and plum on the nose... bit too cold at first... tastes fairly ripe, ever-so-slightly pruney, plenty of fairly simple fruit... very little complexity... not really much here to hang your hat on. Finishes abruptly, with gritty tannins. Everyone looks at each other. No one has a clue. Could really be a lot of things, and there's just not much distinctive character here. I idly consider the possibility of an older zin of some kind, but that doesn't really fit either. "Pinotage!" shouts Oleg, who is feeling a bit puckish. Alas, pinotage it is not, and although .sasha takes off his shoe and waves it around in a vain attempt to drop a hint, we are uniformly clueless. (12/19/99)

Castello Banfi Brunello di Montalcino 1996 ($45) (Winterfest '03): Warm, meaty nose--plum, shoe polish, blackcurrant, toast. Plush and low-acid, an oddly fleshy and soft Brunello that still manages to be pleasant in a sort of characterless style. Lots of pillowy plum-blackberry fruit, just a bit of structure, tarry-toasty wood streak. A strange wine, but enjoyable on its own terms if you don't mind indistinctiveness. (1/22/03)

Castello Banfi Col di Sasso Cabernet Sauvignon-Sangiovese Toscana 2000 ($9) (Winterfest '03): Small nose, light plum-cherry aromatics underlied with toast and a vague minerality. Medium-low acid, shoe-polish hints appear quietly in the middle and linger on the finish along with slightly watery berry flavors. Simple, industrial and straightforward. Drinkable in a pinch, but utterly devoid of distinction or character. (1/22/03)

Castello Banfi Summus Montalcino 1993 ($45)(NYers Go Italian): Another deep, dark wine, this one has a rich but simple nose of redfruit, plum and hints of pruniness. Dense and big, but monolithically fruity, a bit short on complexity and less interesting to me than most of the other wines. Maybe needs time? Dunno. (11/10/99)

Fattoria dei Barbi Brunello di Montalcino Reserva 1990 (15 Fox Place): Sage hints on the nose, sour cherry, dark espresso undertones. Tight, tart and tannic, an austere wine that's a little uptight. Not giving much now, needs time. (3/22/04)

Paolo Bea Sagrantino di Montefalco Passito 1997 (Shanks): Light leatherberry aromatics, hints of earth and black olive. A sip, and it tastes smooth and a bit simpler than it smells: light sweetness, matte cherry fruit, dark licorice streak wells up in the middle and lingers on the finish. There's a pleasant feathery quality to this wine, lightly caressive as it slides down my gullet. My initial impression of insubstantiality gives way to a rather tickled sense of warm earthiness. Pretty nice little wine, subtle and sneaky-smooth. (4/24/04)

Bera Barbera d'Asti Ronco Malo 2001 (Misplaced Weekend II): "Barbera"? What kind of strange wine is this? Good heavens, it's from Italy, of all places. Leave it to Dressner to search out new obscure wine regions; how frightfully novel! Let's see now... pleasantly funky aromatics, dark berry and earth, touch of horsiness, hint of Band-aid. Fleshy edges, tight core, plenty of tannins, an expressive little wine. Might catch on, this barbera stuff. (5/9/04)

Giacomo Borgogno & Figli Barbera d'Alba 2004 ($8) (Boatloads VII): Whoof, stinkypants aromatics--barnyard and lightly smoked meat over dark cherry, some gentle volatility, leather and licorice. Lots of nosefun happening here, although it's a bit freaky-deaky. Tastes crisp and lean, pure and tartly cherryfunky, turning almost fuck-you tart in the middle, then easing back a bit on the poopy-tarry finish. Interestingly offbeat wine, not one for the squeaky-clean crowd, but I dig the funk man, I dig the funk. [Buy again? Are you kidding? For eight bucks it's a no-brainer (that's a YES).] (4/06)

Giacomo Borgogno Barolo Reserva 1961 (Birthday Engorgement): Medium muddy brown, swampwater color. A sniff, and there's a good whiff of sherry, shoyu and the whispery remnants of old dusty redfruit. Firm central acidic spine with the tattered rags of leafy flesh hanging off it. There's a little bit of life here if you look carefully, but the wine is essentially a mummy, Barolohotep XXIII. "The cork failed," explains Greg. Yes, it did. (6/06)

Giacomo Borgogno Barolo Riserva 1990 (NYers Go Italian): Not giving too much on the nose, light hints of earthy brown muted cherryfruit--tastes crisp, but a bit thin. Scads of acidity and tart leathery fruit, finish choked off by some dry tannins. Not my favorite.

Filli Brovia Barbaresco Riosordo 1995 (Football Fever!): Bright cherry-juice aromatics laced with a brown herby bay leaf streak, smells simple but pleasant. Tastes even simpler, bright and red and lacking in mouthgrab, almost tanninless, with medium-wan acidity. A brief tart finish adds nothing, this seems to just not have a lot going on. (1/05)

Brovia Barbera d'Alba Brea 1999 (Pigfest): Fresh cherry-raspberry aromatics, very plain, very straightforward. Fresh-fruitedly bright and quite devoid of character. Still, decently made wine that may be too young or too old or too something else to impress at the moment. (1/06)

Filli Brovia Barolo Monprivato 1990 (Summer Mishmash): Smells lightly cherried and brown-herby, bay leaf, tar and saddle leather. Tastes delicate and cohesive, strangely friendly and accessible for a toddler Barolo. Finishes with a sweet licorice note; very smooth, layered and nimble, a negligée of a wine that is hard to resist. (4/03)

Brusco dei Barbi Toscana 2002 ($13) (Boatloads VIII): Smells juicyfruity, blackcherry, plum, hint of leather, almost nouveauish. Tastes equally soft and juicy, cherrypit and blackberry flavors, simple light and uncomplicated. Cherrypit flavors linger on the finish, which is mediumlength. Pleasant, insubstantial wine, amiably forgettable. [Buy again? Nah.] (9/06)

Caleo Primitivo Salento 2003 ($10) (Boatloads V): Sweetly ripe-smelling--black cherry, vanilla, coconut, tar. Tastes smooth and glossy, quite ripe but with enough structure to get by. Tangy center holds up the fleshy ripeness, sort of borderline blowsy, with some abrasive tannins muscling in at the end, intruding on the party on the finish. There's a rather generic ripe-zin quality here that could be a downer, but the wine has (just barely) enough spine to dodge the no-buy bullet, and is mildly endorsed as a burger wine. [Buy again? Mmmm... okay, maybe one.] (10/05)

Ca'Montini Amarone Classico della Valpolicella 1995 (Birthday Engorgement): Smells like turpentine. Tastes sour, thin and tart. Not good Amarone, not good wine. (6/06)

Candido Salice Salentino Riserva 1998 ($7) (Winterfest '03): Medium to medium-dark garnet. Smells very quiet, light cherry-plum and earth. Tastes cherry-berried, leathery red fruit with a hint of a metallic tang, a medium-bodied wine with a light touch and some bright acidity. Good, crisp quaffer without much of a finish, not much in the way of concentration. Simple, honest wine without complexity or airs. (1/22/03)

Cappellano Barolo Gabutti Otin Fiorin Franco 1994 ($45)(Nonoffensive Notes): Very pale light red. Translucent, insubstantial nose of soft cherry, leather and sage. Doesn't taste like much of anything at first, passes over the midpalate without incident, and segues into a watery finish. Soft and inert Barolo light. Very strange; I am confused by this wine. (3/20/00)

Giuseppe Cappellano Barolo Vecchio Chinato 1947 (Birthday Engorgement): Okay, this is strange stuff. Look, smells and tastes like herb-infused sweet river mud. My notes say "River mud mixed with molasses and herbal teabags?" Chamomile, sphagnum moss, cocoa dust, awfully strange. Kane, for some reason, keeps saying "yes, hmm, cane sugar, cane sugar." As opposed to beet sugar? He's got his authority voice on, he must've read a pamphlet or a press release or something. "But wait, this isn't wine," explains Denyse. "It's an apertif, or a digestif--a liqueur. With herbs and cane sugar mixed in." Oh. Then why am I taking notes on it? I'm not a digestif geek. So um, never mind. (6/06)

Arnaldo Caprai Sagrantino di Montefalco 1993 (Joey): Smells darkly cherry-raspberryish, bright and sharp in my nose, with dark tarry undertones, hints of cedar. Tight, powerful, quite an imposing wine with a spine like Nelson's Column and a good core of leathery red fruit. Brawny, crisp and tasty. (1/6/00)

Arnaldo Caprai Sagrantino di Montefalco 1996 (Iron Winegeeks): Medium-dark garnet; soft and smooth black cherry-raspberry nose, upfront and forwardly fruity, with a tarry background behind the plush fruit. Joe calls it 'Italian zin' and that's pretty darn close (closer, actually, than any primitivo I've had)--in the mouth it tastes just like it smells, tangy black-cherry-berryfruit and tar, ripe and fairly lush, turning tarrier still on the finish. A round, fleshy wine with plenty of meaty forward fruit. An ager? Nah, but fine young drinking for a zinlover like me, even being two or three vertebrae short of a spine.

La Carraia 'Fobiano' Umbria Red Table Wine 1996 ($30): Dense, purply-red in the glass, deeply colored. Rich, earthy nose of spicy, peppery cherry & grapy notes with touches of cedar, vanilla & a nice little burnt-rubber thing going on. In the mouth round & smooth & dense; fairly low acidity, but not flabby. Good forward plummy flavors with a pleasant tarry/licorice tang. Light, fine tannins and almost no finish at all. Gets you going up front, and then kind of runs out of gas there at the end. Two-thirds of a very nice wine. Apparently mostly merlot with a bit of cab sauv.

La Carraia Sangiovese Umbria 1997 ($11): Grapey, slighty pruney nose, medium-bodied, pleasantly fruity, fairly crisp and lightly tannic. Light notes of licorice & prune on the midpalate. Well integrated and smooth. Short finish. Good QPR wine, very nice with my Mother's spaghetti & meatballs, far less overbearing acidity than I have come to expect from lower-end sangiovese, more fruit-forward (dare I say 'Californian?) style. Pleasant quaffer.

La Carraia Sangiovese Umbria 2000 ($10) (McNetta 2002): Smells ripe--plum-berry fruit, hints of shoe polish and fresh-kilned clay. A sip, and it's warm and embracing, simply red, plush and a little vague in the middle. The balance is good, there's decent heft and the diffuseness of the middle isn't much to worry about, nor is the abbreviated gritty finish. Another friendly QPR wine from Umbria that would go well with a range of foods. (6/02)

Cascina Chicco Nebbiolo d'Alba Mompissano 1999 ($20) (McNetta 2002): Medium-dark garnet color. Light whiff of volatility hovers above some fairly plush dark aromatics, plumskin, nettles and tar. A sip, and there's a pleasant rush of forward plummy-dark fruit that moves into a meatily tangy-tarry midpalate, then is swamped by a wave of sandy tannins that stamps out the smoky finish. Good balance and concentration, rather a forward style of Nebbiolo (before the tannins kick in) that veers towards gobbiness but edges daintily away from the precipice. (6/02)

Cascina 'tavijn Grignolino d'Asti 2004 (Pigfest): Medium-pale garnet color, smells interestingly spicy, cherry-talc laced with a gentle rootbeery character, this has a certain pineau d'aunisishness about it, it's a bit hard to figure. The overall impression is of a light earthy-spicy wine that is whispering to me in a language I don't understand, but that sounds cool. What say you, little wine? (1/06)

Castelvecchio Nebbiolo d'Alba 2000 (No Hook): Medium-dark garnet color. Ripe-smelling and robust in my nose, plums and red berries laced with licorice and sprinkled with burnt toast crumbs. This is a very big, meaty young nebbiolo. A sip, and it's got lots of slightly candied espresso-laced, chewy purple-red fruit, fairly low acidity and a fleshy mouthfeel. Friendly, ripe and quite unfocused, this is a Kane nebbiolo if there ever was one. (6/7/03)

Ceretto Barbaresco Asili 1978 (Beaucoin Revisited): Pure stony-cherry fruit, laced lightly with sage and leather, very bright and tartly cherried, a marvel of purity and focus. Really super, precocious and young, with only a light feathering at the edges to belie its years. (3/7/04)

Ceretto Barolo Prapo 1978 (Beaucoin Revisited): More development here, mushroom/brick/muted cherry aromatics, hint of bay leaf and brown sugar. Tastes like it smells, layered and dusty, with a dark gravelly streak welling up in the middle to accompany the earthiness. There's a satiny fleshy quality to the softly-spreading fruit, as well as firm acidity and just a whisper of tannin. More layers than the Barbaresco, but a bit short of its intensely cherried purity. It's a beautiful wine, but the vibrancy of the Barbaresco gives it the slight edge. (3/7/04)

Domenico Clerico Arte Langhe 1996 ($25) (McNetta 2002): Medium muddy red color. Smells of graphite, green herbs and cedar over quiet red and black fruit, rather Bordeauxish. Medium-weight in the piehole, a bit tight and lean, not giving much away, stern glassy tannins dry up the finish. Tangy, good acidity but very little character--although the fruit has tartness it's vague around the spine, which gives the feeling of being clothed in wet tissue paper. It's an underfruited '94 Bordeaux from Italy! Decent, rather severe, not very interesting. (6/02)

Clerico Ciabot Mentin Ginestra Barolo 1985 (Axis Wines): Medium ruby color. Smells of rust and blood, beef broth and old book spine, lean red fruit and cedar hints. A sip, and it's quite tight in the piehole after such an aromatic nosepackage, tight cherry fruit laced with brown herbs, some fine glassy tannins, a little bit of a rough ride. Not bad, a little tired. (11/3/02)

Elvio Cogno Barolo Brunate Marcarini 1974 (Return of the Jeebi): Muddy ruby color. The nose is shy... hints of leather, [brown gravy][bouillon cubes][bay leaves] and dried flowers over faded preserved-cherry fruit. The bracketed distinctive brown note above was quite striking but a bit elusive; several of us conferred in an unsuccessful attempt to pin it down, so I offer you the lucky reader the choice of the three best suggestions. At any rate, the wine is a beauty, delicate to taste but rich and tangy, with layers of soft spice and violets swirling around with dark dried fruit notes, all in an impeccably balanced package. The spiciness lingers prettily along with some glassy-fine tannins. A lovely wine, faded but still going strong, and we get up and go through the shopworn Marcarini motions once more. If Kane were here, as he will soon be, he would hate it. Very, very nice. (10/7/00)

Badia a Coltibuono Cetamura Chianti 2002 ($6) (Boatloads II): Medium to medium-dark garnet. Calm leatherberry nose, touch of licorice, hint of cedar. Tastes cherry-plummy, soft, squishy and undefined, with some unintegrated poky acidity amidst light muu-muu fruit. Finishes with dark licorice-tar notes and a quiet plum-blackberry hum. Simple and rather vapid, very little in the way of focus or cohesion or character, not terrible but nothing of interest either. [Buy again? No.] (11/04)

Badia a Coltibuono Sangioveto Red Table Wine from Tuscany 1990: Medium, slightly translucent red; aromatically light, earthy/cherry/charcoal notes. Tight at first, but slowly opens up a bit. Brighly acidic, with cherry and sourer-cherry notes over a bassline of earth and light tar. With some air a meatier mouthfeel makes its presence known, but on the finish some very hefty tannins come in and choke off the cherry notes. Nice and rich, but sharp. Needs air/time. (7/99)

Badia a Coltibuono Sangioveto Red Table Wine from Tuscany 1990 (Spuds, We Hardly Knew Ye...): "More volatility," says SFJoe. "We may have a theme developing here." Yup, it's got a good whiff of acetone mingling with the cherry-leather-sod aromatics. Tastes sharp and taut, quite crisp and aggressively tannic. Finishes roughly, cherries and tar and drying tannins. Overstructured; the flesh seems to be fading faster than the bones. (12/05)

Compagnoni Rosso di Luna Valcalepio Rosso 1997 (I Get the Shakes): Medium garnet. Funky-barny hints over some dark berry-tomato fruit. Ripe, round and soft, a bit low-acid, but mellow and smooth and rich, easy-drinking, full of easy ripe red fruit. Very decent. (6/6/00)

Consorzio Servizi Agrari Frescobaldi Rosso Toscana 'Rèmole' 2003 ($8) (Boatloads VIII): The label proclaims that this is made mostly of sangiovese, with 'una piccola quantita di cabernet,' although it doesn't specify which cabernet, one has to assume franc I suppose. Simple ripe cherry-black cherry aromatics, simple ripe black cherry-cherry flavors. Cookie-cutter wine, would outshine most coach class airline wines. Fleshy, red and round, a decent generic red with enough acidity to not be ponderous. Nothing to complain about, actually has a pleasant freshness to it, but brings Velveeta to mind. [Buy again? No, I don't think so.] (9/06)

Conterno Barolo Cascina Francia 1967 (Memorial Day): Medium ruby color at the core, ambering well in from the rim. Smells layered and manurey, dung and cinnamon and dried flowers, smoked meat and cedar, along with some very muted tealike redfruit. A delight to sniff at, wonderfully decayed. Tastes quiet and resolved, tart earthiness at the core, rather light-bodied. Turns very rounded in the middle, finishes quietly cedary-earthy without even a hint of tannin. Probably past its best, but what's here is still delicate and beguiling. (5/31/04)

Conterno Barolo Cascina Francia 1988. Hello, here's a vivid wine. Calmly but richly aromatic: cherry juice, anise, leather, along with a fragrant hint of attar. Tastes pure, cherried and taut: an almost aggressively nervy wine with a great deal of presence. Loosens marginally with a few hours of air. A fine, impressive youngster that probably still needs a few years but sure is good tonight. (5/31/04)

Conterno Barolo Cascina Francia 1990 (Memorial Day): Very ripe and primary, pillowy red fruit, dark bakers' chocolate undertones. Crisp acidity and rough tannin support the plushness for now, but complexity is not in the cards, another victim of the damaging levels of ripeness evident in many of these '90s. (5/31/04)

Conterno Barolo Cascina Francia 1994 (Young Turk Meets Old Guard): Vividly aromatic, sage and leather and tar mixed with earthy sour cherry. Tastes surprisingly friendly and layered, loose and easy, seems just about ready to go even at this tender age. A somewhat puzzlingly advanced Barolo, but I can live with it, as it's got some pretty small-scale character and a gentle sense of composure. (12/05)

Conterno Barolo Cascina Francia 1998 (Memorial Day): Smells of ripe black cherries with a hint of barnyard and a distracting plastic/Lucite note ("pleather" says Greg) that hovers taintily over everything else. Tastes dark and hard, impassively taut and ungiving. Seems well stuffed and focused, but infantile and hard to judge. (5/31/04)

Conterno Barolo Monfortino Riserva 1985 (Axis Wines): The most ripe and richly fruited of any of the older wines so far, yet retains a happy liveliness. This seems younger than the other '85s, red and ripe and seamless, with a deep minerally undercurrent and some agressive tannins. The most intensely fruited and focused of the '85s--although it has neither the balance nor the elegance of the Giacosa, it's a fun alternative. This is also the only one of the '85s that I'd bother giving a few more years in the cellar. (11/3/02)

Cantine Due Palme Primitivo Salento 2000 (Axis Wines): Medium dark garnet color. Sweetly fruity nose, ripe black cherry and raspberry underlied with smoke. Tastes quite boisterous and friendly, richly simple gobby red fruit, meaty mouthfeel, juicy espresso-berry finish. A happy young generic red wine. (11/3/02)

Castello di Fonterutoli Chianti Classico 1995 ($17)(St. Andrew): Great nose--rich cherry-leather-cedar notes, expressive, layered and sweet-smelling. Tastes fall more clearly into the too-young chianti zone, though, mouth-puckeringly tart, bracingly acidic and grittily tannic. Check back with this in a few years. Okay, a decade. (1/15/99)

Ceretto Bricco Asili Barbaresco Faset Vineyard 1989 ($44): Nice medium-red, with a very faint orange around the rim. Not getting much on the nose, bit of redfruit, bit of tomato... not much else. Tangily acidic and firmly tannic as well, this is a wine that's all backbone. No clue what it is. When the bottle is revealed, the label reads "Expansive bouquet of violets and spices," which sure sounds nice, but, as with most labels, is really the vinous equivalent of Orwellian disinformation. (9/23/99)

Collalbrigo Rosso di Collalbrigo Cabernet Blend Vaneto 1994: A very distinct green vegetable scent came over right away that first made me think of green peppers, then olives, then maybe moss. The wine wasn't bad, but I was so wrapped up in that very distinct and peculiar odor of slightly cooked vegetables that I didn't really notice much else about it.

Coppo Barbera D'Asti Piemonte 1996: ($21) Very closed, had almost no discernable odor. Very light, where is it? Smooth, silky, quiet, subtle. Not much there, but a pleasant finish.

Daniello Vino da Tavola di Toscana 1990 (Geekfest '99): Medium red, with hints of brownishness; nose of light tomato, cedar, raisin, kind of older Bordeaux-like smells; in the mouth very tight, not giving much. Light & tannic, muted cherry/berry & cedar flavors. Dry gritty tannins kind of overwhelm the fruit.

Girolamo Dorigo Pignolo di Buttrio Colli Orientali del Friuli 1996 (Misplaced Weekend I): Dark berry fruit, almost zinnish, tar and smoke underneath. A sip, and it's a rough, rustic wine with hard red fruit and a mouthful of rough tannin: 'Pignolo' is apparently Italian for 'Madiran.' It manages to remain balanced, though, and the abrasiveness is actually charming in an odd way--it has a certain longshoreman-at-the-ball appeal. I rather like it, although it's certainly not a wine for the faint of heart or the tender of tongue. (5/2/04)

Falesco Rosso Umbria 'Vitiano' 2003 ($9) (Boatloads V): I've bucked the geek trend and enjoyed past vintages of this cookie-cutter burger/pasta wine, but this year's version is plump, devoid of acidity and squishy-graceless. Lays in my mouth like a pool of cherry-plum jam, slides down my throat gelatinously, leaves no impression other than bloppy redfruit and a flash of vodkalike heat. Another casualty of 2003, the annus horribilis of European wine. Maybe Kane would like it, as it's devoid of acidity and unmarred by overoaking? [Buy again? Not until next year.] (10/05)

Felline Primitivo di Manduria 1997 (NJers): Not getting too much on the nose, although that's probably just me... hints of dark cherry and smoke--I swirl some more, but it's not giving much. Tastes tart-cherry-tangy, with some assertive acidity behind the bright fruit. Not lush, a fairly lean wine that turns a bit smoky-tarry on the finish. This doesn't do much for me. Leave zin to the Californians, I say, at least if this is at all representative of the Italian version. (1/23/00)

Fattoria di Felsina Fontalloro 1999 (Chrid Coad Appreciation Week): Medium dark garnet color. Smoky cherry-cassis aromatics, rather slick and new-wave in style, glossily wooded and with enough of that internationalism to give Jay pause. It's really more up my Turleyesque alley, coiled and vividly ripe, smoothly oaked, compactly fruited and nicely contained. Short finish is choked off by dark woody notes, but that's no big deal, it's a baby. Not a great deal of character, but very well built and solid red wine, if you don't mind the shiny/woodiness and all (I don't). (11/04)

Livia Fontana Barolo Villero 1996 (Axis Wines): Medium-dark garnet color. Dark red plum and cherry aromatics laced throughout with creamy toasted wood. Tastes of tar and berries--tight, coiled, ripe and ferociously tannic. There's a lot here, but it's a waste to drink this now. Someone calls it "Woody and strict," which is about right. (11/3/02)

Castella di Fonterutoli Ser Lapo Chianti Classico Riserva 1990 (Greg Gets Us Wasted): I smell leathery hints over a base of medium dark cassis-berry fruit. Nice fruity tang on first sippage, the midpalate spreads out loosely, then spreads some more, turning diffuse. Rallies somewhat on the finish with a nice black cherry flourish, but there's nothing in the middle to hang my hat on. Perhaps my expectations are too high because of the quality of the first two '90s, but this is a little tired. (3/02)

Fontodi Vigna del Sorbo Chianti Classico Riserva 1990 (Greg Gets Us Wasted): Friendly, charmingly layered nose, dark leathery red-black fruit dusted with clove, meaty and matte nosality. Rich and velvety in the piehole, the texture is chewy but there is no ponderousness. Perhaps on the soft side, but densely flavored and thrilled to be free of its glass prison. Very nice indeed, a wine that is happy to see me, and vice versa. (3/02)

Fontodi Syrah Case Via Colli della Toscana Centrale 1997 (Scheduling): Dark, purply-garnet color. Smells like manure on toast, a good whiff of barnyard and plenty of high-toast wood, with plum-peppery purply-black fruit underneath. Tastes reduced, like it's been boiled down a little too far, tart smoky-meaty fruit, gritty tannins, quite unpleasant in many ways. Low acidity, overripe and fleshy (even Kane finds it lacking in structure, which ought to tell you something), a malevolent wine. Is someone in Italy convinced that Astralis ought to be the model for Tuscan syrah? (12/8/02)

De Forville Barbaresco 2001 (Young Turk Meets Old Guard): Hard cherry-tarry fruit, crisp, lean and tannic. Ungiving, in need of time. Ouch. Hold. (12/05)

Gaja Barbaresco Costa Russi 1979 (Foodies): A bit faded, brown herbiness and a light tobacco-sawdusty quality hit my nose first, tired red fruit and hints of limestony minerals. A sip, and some leathery stewed-tomato redfruit surfaces in the midpalate, slides away quickly. Nice balace, but this bottle is over the hill. (10/14/01)

Fattoria Galardo Terra di Lavoro 1997 ($40)(Longest Night): Dark garnet. Smells of cedar and dark candied cherry. We taste it, and the taste is very different than the smell--the wine is dominated by a strong brown bay leaf or tobacco leaf taste; tasting this is much like chewing on the end of a cigar, and the rather stern tannins can only distract me for a minute. Very strange, not very tasty at all. (12/31/00)

Genofranco Nero d'Avola Sicilia 2003 ($8) (Boatloads V): Medium-light garnet color. Quiet dusty aromatics, plaster and muted cherry, very shy nose. In the piehole it's light and breezy, there's a cottony quality to the mouthfeel, with a certain plumpness to the pale cherry fruit but an overall sense of insubstantiality. Oddly inconsequential but with a certain straightforward appeal, I'm quite ambivalent about this--it's kind of anti-spoofulated, anti-2003, but there's not a lot to hang your hat on. Finishes with an odd cherry-sagebrush whisper. FAKE PURPLE CORK! [Buy again? Maybe another one or two.] (10/05)

Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco 1985 (Shanks): Medium red color. Lightly aromatic, saddle leather and preserved cherry with some light band-aid brettiness. Tastes light and lively, a supple little wine that comes at you quietly, then impresses with purity and sustain more than complexity or power. (4/24/04)

Bruno Giacosa Barbera d'Alba 2003 (Young Turk Meets Old Guard): Damn, this is a Kane wine all the way; I know that he brought it well before he volunteers the information. A pool of warm strawberry-raspberry compote, with tannins. Structure? We don' need no steenkin' structure! Would do well spread on toast, but as a beverage it's a little, um, bloppy. And yes Brad, we know, at least it has "fruit."

Bruno Giacosa Barolo 1989 (Birthday Engorgement): Hmmm, smells dark and floral-cherried, dirt and rosehips, very earthy smelling, lots of sod mixed with muted cherry. Very earthy, still fairly primary, taut redfruit, perfume and mud, not terribly pleasurable but showing some nice potential. Hold hold. (6/06)

Bruno Giacosa Barolo Riserva 1985 (Axis Wines): Medium ruby color, heavily sedimented. Rich smelling, dark bricky muted berry-cherry fruit, hints of old leather and bay leaf, tobacco and newly-spaded sod. In the piehole it's mellow and full, the fruit has real depth and sustain and isn't falling away. There's good supporting acidity, but the feel of the wine is rather easygoing and meaty. The midpalate is centered and full, the finish mixes muted red fruit and leather in an elegant melange. A rather subtle but sneakily impressive wine whose cohesion, depth and balance are striking. The real deal. (11/3/02)

Bruno Giacosa Barolo Villero 1990 (Memorial Day): Very perfumed nose, sweet dark cherry laced with sandalwood and tar, sweet-smelling and cheerful. This too is a bit loosely wrapped but has better balance and focus than the Grasso, the fruit spreading out leisurely on my tongue. Mediumweight, straightforward enough but very honest and pure, like a really well made roast chicken, a simple pleasure. Takes potentially damaging ripeness and makes a virtue of it; very nice indeed, a pretty, elegant wine without a great deal of complexity but with great self-possession. (5/31/04)

Azienda Agricola Falletto di Bruno Giacosa Dolcetto d'Alba 2004 (Birthday Engorgement): Smoky tar & raspberry aromatics, with a strange funkiness. Tastes shrill, sour and tannic. This is awkward and not very pleasant, but I can't quite put my finger on what's wrong with it. "What's the matter with this wine?" I ask the room. Greg spins some yarn about it needing time, but it's Jay who hits the nail on the head: "It's milky," he says, and so it is, there's a weird lactic quality that's quite offputting, scorched milk mixed with dark berry and toast. (6/06)

Bruno Giacosa Nebbiolo d'Alba 1999 (MartyParty): Smells lightly cherried, bit of leather and earth underneath. Relatively simple, but crisp and possessed of good balance and a respectable directness. A decent enough quaff, marred by some aggressive grainy tannins but pleasant enough if you're not looking for greatness. (2/28/04)

Bruno Giacosa Nebbiolo d'Alba Valmaggiore di Vezza d'Alba 2001 (Subdued Festivization): Medium to medium-light garnet color. Smells young, bright red cherry, cedar and graphite. Tastes young too, taut and hard and thin, a coiled red spring in my mouth. Swarms of rough tannins sweep in on the finish. I suppose it's just in need of time, but tonight it's not far from being actively unpleasant. (6/13/04)

Gorelli Rosso di Montalcino 1997 ($22): Rich medium-dark garnet; velvety nose of plum & cherry with nice earthy/leathery undertones & a hint of menthol. In the mouth rich and balanced, nice crispness, good smoky cherry/plum flavors, some surprising gritty tannins sneak up on the finish. Nice, smooth, flavorful wine that is very pleasant to drink now, yet hints at an interesting future down the road. Excuse the coarse language, but darn me to heck for not grabbing more than two bottles....

Elio Grasso Barolo Ginestra Vigna Casa Maté 1990 (Memorial Day): More overt ripeness here: dark cherry, cocoa and tar, gravel underneath, relatively simple aromas. Tastes a bit plump, silky but lacking mouthgrab; turns plummy at the end, with an alcoholic burn on the finish. Not bad, but a bit blowsy; riper, but lacking in focus and cohesion. I bet myself that this will be a Kane favorite, and I'm right. (5/31/04)

Silvio Grasso Barbera d'Alba 1997 (NYers Go Italian): A dark, rich red; slightly funky hints on the nose, hint of old-leathery funkiness over the rich redfruit. This is a rich, concentrated wine, denser than any we've had yet, and I like it very much, although there are some startling tannins that leap at my tongue and don't let go. Lots of good, tart licorice-tinged blackberry & cherry fruit, lots of oomph, and very young. My favorite so far. (11/10/99)

Guerrieri-Rizzardi Amarone della Valpolicella 1991 ($22): Medium matte garnet with hints of brownishness throughout. Aromatically fairly light--cherry/raisin, touch of menthol, light but very rich & pleasant. Tangy on the palate, medium-rich cherry/tomato flavors, along with some mushroomy earthiness. Crisp, but not tart. Distinctively flavorful wine, lighter in body generally than I would expect from my (fairly limited) experience with Amarones, but crisp, smooth & tangy, a lot of nice light flavors rolled into a smooth package, finishing with some light sandy tannins coming through a sweet finish. Not a killer, but very light and flavorful. (5/99)

Guerrieri-Rizzardi Amarone della Valpolicella 1993 ($25)(Cape May Geeks): Medium-dark garnet. Smells of sweet black raspberry and brown sugar, with a hint of raisin. In the puss there's a bit of petillance at first that quickly dissipates and reveals a rich, flavorful wine with nice balance, much riper and richer than the '91, the only other vintage I've had of this one. Plenty of acidity to hang the ripe red-brown fruit on, and a nice undercurrent of dark earth and light tarriness. Very good. (6/3/00)

Isole e Olena Cepparello 1993 ($32)(Manuel and Josie): Medium-dark garnet color; meaty ripe raspberry-cherryfruity nose with notes of cedar and 2-season baseball glove. Rich, meaty mouthfeel, tangy, big and smoky-fruity. (4/23/00)

Lost Vineyards of Italy Vino da Tavola Rosso ($2) (Boatloads VIII): Medium light garnet color. Simple fruit punchy cherry-plum aromatics. Tastes soft and gently fruity, on the wan side but friendly and simple wine. Medium-low acidity, soft fleshiness, light body, watery middle. A simple, easygoing, innocuous little wine that is bland but not freaky or manipulated. Not too bad, really, kind of decent pizza wine. [Buy again? For TWO BUCKS? Damn straight, I can always cook with 'em.] (9/06)

Fattoria di Lucignano Chianti Colli Fiorentini 2002 ($6) (Boatloads I): Hm, almost no aromatics at all, seems to be stripped, touch of light raspberry and earth, that's about it. In the mouth it's decent and mediocre, a bit watery, a bit dull, but inoffensive and at least it tastes like wine, albeit boring industrial wine. [Buy again? Mmmm... nah.] (8/04)

Lungarotti Rubesco Torgiano Reserva 1980 ($27)(Foodies): Dark and muted red berry fruit, bay leaf and a dark truffley-shoyu streak. The color has a medium ruby-red core, bricking towards amber at the rim. Somewhat rustic and broad, but in a friendly way. Good balance, a bit tired but still kicking. (10/14/01)

Castello di Luzzano 'Romeo' Colli Piacentini Guttornio Riserva 1991 ($20): Dark garnet in the glass, soft fruity nose, light strawberries, whiff of camphor & earthiness. Crisp and tart, can't get a handle on the flavors--scents of leather & robitussin--seems harsh at first, then reveals itself fairly well with dinner (roast chicken). No call here. I'll have to hunt down another bottle or two for further examination.

Tenuta Maggiore Croatina Sentito Provincia di Pavia 2002 ($7) (Boatloads VIII): Smells quietly earthy, brown-herb and sage mingling with hints of redfruit. Tastes thin and austere, with very little in the way of overt fruit and a lot of abrasive tannin. No, A LOT; 'croatina' is apparently Italian for 'tannat.' Medium acidity, light bodied and loosely wrapped, watery in the middle. Odd, but not very pleasant. [Buy again? Nope.] (9/06)

Marchesi di Barolo Barolo 1982: Ruby, with a decided orangy cast around the rim; slightly funky, nose is very muted and soft, velvety old cassis & a hint of pumpkin. Seems like it has some age, but there's a lot of life left. Soft, leathery and a bit coppery in the mouth. Nicely crisp. Oleg says Beaucastel 83, I vote for Ducru 82. Lisa comes back from visiting Rachael and, with her TCA-twitchy nose, pronounces it minutely corked. Consternation. Nobody else quite agrees, but she has a terribly low tolerance for the stuff and can smell it a mile away. I silently thank my parents for my TCA blind spot, which has enabled me to enjoy many a wine at which she gags. (9/23/99)

Maretima Primitivo Puglia 2001 ($10) (Boatloads II): Medium-dark garnet color. Slightly horsey-barney sweaty-saddle funk overlays some dark black cherry-raspberry fruit. Dark and smokey-funky tasting, more like a Rh™ne than a zin, sharp berryfruit and taut acidity, earthy-barney funk, rough and rustic with an abrasive, stuttery-licorice finish that leaves you a bit unsettled. There's a hostility to this wine that I find interesting, a fuck-you quality to the rough dry-tannic streak and the shrill acidity amidst the ripe fruit. A rough-and-tumble Paul B. kind of wine, hard to like but ballsy enough to win my admiration. [Buy again? Yes.] (11/04)

Marziero Rosso Ravenna 1995 (Swillerific): Medium-dark purply-garnet. Slightly mushroom-fungal-funky cherry and leather nose. Tart, tangy, rich & tight, with some hefty tannins clamping down on the finish. There's a lot of richness here, but this wine is so hard and tight and tannic that I can't really tell what's going on. Hold 'em for a decade or so if you got 'em. (3/24/00)

Mascarello Barolo Belvedere 1985 (Axis Wines): Medium-light ruby color, paler. Faded cherry fruit on the nose, along with an unusual combination of metallic and organic aromas that can best be summed up as 'rusty cow carcass.' Tastes thin and brown-herby. Lisa: "Nasty." This sure could've used some of the syrah that Luca mentions is sometimes snuck into Barolo to fill it out. (11/3/02)

Mascarello Barolo Monprivato 1985 (Axis Wines): Another lighter wine, medium-light ruby color. Smells cherried as well, laced with rust and rosebush and dark sod. Much more delicate in the piehole, light red earthy fruit, crisp and nimble, better focus, less angry. A pleasant, light little wine whose small-amplitude decay is charming rather than freaky. Quite decent. (11/3/02)

Mascarello Barolo Monprivato 1985 (Memorial Day): Medium-light ruby color, ambering lightly at the rim Quiet, earthy nose: leather and beef broth and dirt, all mingled with bricky redfruit. A sip, and it's a medium- to medium-light-bodied wine, complex and layered, calm and compact. Small, but very flavorful and interesting. This may not be the equal of some of the other wines on the table, but it's the single Barolo that is firing on all cylinders tonight, overachieving for all it's worth, and I appreciate the effort very much. (5/31/04)

Mascarello Barolo Santo Stefano di Perro 1985 (Axis Wines): Just a shade darker than the last, medium ruby color. Cherry-bloody nose, spicy beef broth and bay leaf hints. Medium bodied, it tastes like briars and cherries, with a narrow core of redness that is fading to brown away from the center. Aggressively tannic, a fading wine with a cruel streak. "Get off my lawn, you damn kids!" it shouts at me, shaking its bony fist. (11/3/02)

Mascarello Barolo Villero 1985 (Axis Wines): Medium-light ruby color, ambering at the rim. Plenty going on in the nose, semi-faded cherry fruit laced with leathery mushroom, rose attar and cedar. Tastes tightly coiled and cherried, younger and less faded than the others. (11/3/02)

Masi Valpolicella 1997 ($10): Medium-light ruby; simple cherry notes on the nose; in the mouth light cherry & charcoally undertones. Light, tangy, tasty, crisp. No real finish, but that's okay. Tiniest shadow of tannins. Simple sipping wine, forgettable but pleasant enough slightly cool on a summer night in the Village.

Marchese di Barolo Barolo Cannubi 1989 (Age-Related Drunkenness): Smells lightly brown-herbal, bay leaf over a leathery sour-cherry base, traces of sod and bookspine. Tastes tight, taut and tough, a coiled spring of a wine. Give it a decade, reassess. (9/17/03)

Marengo Barolo Brunate 1989 (All About the Chicken): It's a medium ruby color, ambering lightly at the rim. Striking, layered aromatics--balsamic hints, brown sugar, bay leaf, streaks of flinty-firecrackeriness, all over a quiet bricky-earthy redfruit base. A light pruniness emerges with air and mingles oddly with the brown-herby notes, defying easy categorization. Tastes closeder than it smells, taut and vivid but rather ungiving, flavoristically-speaking. A curious wine: I like it, then I don't much like it, then I like it again. I suspect it's simply way too young, but I have a hard time pinning this one down. (7/05)

Mastroberardino Lachryma Christi del Vesuvio 1995 ($16) (Misplaced Weekend I): Medium ruby color, browning slightly at the rim. Smells leathery and cherry-bricky, hint of volatility. Tastes pleasantly tart, medium acidity and no tannins, but some sour-berry fruit provides mouthgrab. Relaxed and spreading languidly, it's fading and fairly insubstantial but is in a good place now. Not a wine I'd have expected to have lasted; but that, as they say, is why they play the games. (5/2/04)

Mastroberardino Lacryma Cristi del Vesuvio (Red) 1996 ($18): Nose of jammy strawberry/cherries. Burnt garnet color, lightening around the rim. Medium-bodied, more dark cherry & berry notes in the mouth, as well as a cooked tomato note. Fairly forward fruit, but somewhat muted. Firm tannins stand out and provide a bit of backbone, but they could be a little better integrated. Pleasant finish, calm and quiet but sustained. A good food wine, subtle and pleasant, if slightly indistinct.

Monsanto Il Poggio Chianti Classico Riserva 1990: Okay, that's more like it. Rusty brick-red color. Nose is a bit tight, cherry/menthol hints; in the mouth it makes its presence known--tart & a bit sharp, cherry/cooked tomato notes pass through on the way to a fairly tannic finish. This wine is aggressive, really gets its hooks into your palate. Makes you want to go out onto Bleeker Street and pick a fight.

Montefalco Sagrantino Umbria 1994: Medium garnet; closed nose, very tight, a little light cherry-cassis-raspberry; on the palate, hey, it seems kind of fizzy, what's going on here? Hard to tell what's up, as we're ordering by the glass, but it has a definite kind of odd secondary-fermentation fizz to it. Very acidic & extremely tannic--indeed, Madiranesque. Tarry, licorice notes, bit of red fruit, long, puckery finish. Way sharp & not pleasant at all.

Montevertine Vino da Tavola di Toscana 'Le Pergole Torte' 1979 (MoJoe 2004): Medium ruby, ambering well out from the rim. Smells cedary, cedar and crushed brick, hints of stewed tomato, chestnut and tar. Medium light bodied, a gracefully austere older wine that is now almost tanninless, long and light. A fine, fading beauty, past its best but slipping away in style. (7/10/04)

Montevertine Vino da Tavola di Toscana 'Le Pergole Torte' 1982 (No Hook): Medium ruby color, bricking at the rim. Oh, sweet smellies, pretty layers of preserved cherry and leather, laced with fruitcake and dried bay leaf and just a hint of truffliness, a delight to sniff at. A sip, and it's a bit austere in the piehole, earthy at first, then thin and soft in the middle, diffuse, lacking mouthgrab. Finishes on a more positive note, leather and old wood hints, but then some aggressive glassy tannins charge in and make trouble, so I'm not sure what to think. Smells great, seems past its best days. (6/7/03)

Montevertine Vino da Tavola di Toscana 'Le Pergole Torte' 1996 (Steamed Steaks): Cement dust and taut berry-cassis aromatics, quiet and shy. Tastes coiled and more theoretically interesting than actually pleasurable. The finish is all hard blackfruit and sandy tannins. Hold, hold, hold. It seems like there's a lot going on, but hard to read right now, especially in my Katsmanesque famished state. (10/2/04)

Montevertine Vino da Tavola di Toscana Pian del Ciampolo 1996 ($30)(Return of the Jeebi): Medium ruby. Nice cherries-and-earth nose with light hints of espresso. Quietly tangy cherry flavors, smooth and on the soft side, but very cohesive and smooth, a silky wine, goes down easily and the glass is empty before I know it. Did I say smooth? It was very smooth. Sangiovetoriffic. (10/7/00)

Montevertine Vino da Tavola di Toscana Pian del Ciampolo 1999 (Sedate Evening): Very earthy-smelling, leather and dried cherry and a stack of twigs. Looser, more easygoing than the '98 Riserva, more friendly at this point, more of a drink-me-now wine rather than one built for distance, but wonderfully layered, light bodied and loosely knit. Nice wine, but pales a bit after its elder sibling. Still, very nice as well, in a more open sense. (6/05)

Montevertine Vino da Tavola di Toscana Pian de Ciampolo 2002 (Foodies 3): Smells of cherries and saddle leather, ripe and soft, easygoing and loosely-wrapped, somewhat dilute, but clear and pure and reeking of honesty, with a long, tart finish. Very pretty stuff. Rather primary now, but despite the looseness I'd put a few bottles down to see what happens. (2/26/05)

Montevertine Vino da Tavola di Toscana 'Il Sodaccio di Montevertine' 1986 (Magnum) (Island Life): Medium ruby color, browning lightly at the rim. Smells like a forest pond--wet leaves, cedar and earth, eucalyptus hints up high, maybe a touch of shoyu, gentle decay. Medium lightbodied, the acidity is present but subtle, just enough to enliven the small frame. Shy bricky redfruit is almost an afterthought among the earthy notes, and the flavors take a turn towards old pipe tobacco as they head into the finish. Probably just a quarter-mile over the hill, but has a charmingly decayed composure that wins the crowd over, and the magnum is emptied with alarming speed. (5/06)

Montevertine Vina da Tavola di Toscana Il Sodaccio 1995 (Eve of Chenin/Day of Satan): Muted cherry-leather hints, quiet but clear. Tastes taut and hard, there's a firm vein of nice dark fruit in there, but it's rather ungiving now. Give it time. (12/31/03)

Montevertine Vina da Tavola di Toscana Il Sodaccio 1997 ($15) (Age-Related Drunkenness): Shy aromatics, light tart cherry, hints of leather and walnut. A sip, and it's a whippet of a wine, taut and racy and compact. It's rather primary at the moment, but it has great focus and a pleasingly lean purity. Finishes long and bracingly cherried. Give it time. (9/17/03)

Montevertine Vino da Tavola di Toscana Il Sodaccio 1998 (Liberation Celebration): Breezy aromatics, cherry-leather and rainwater, tobacco and gravel. Light bodied wine, loosely cherried and minerally in the middle. Tastes smooth, honest and earthily elegant, a fine supple complement to my duck frites, which, it turns out, is just French for 'duck with french fries.' (11/6/05)

Montevertine Toscana Riserva 1998 ($34) (Sedate Evening): Smells stonyfruity--pure dark cherrypit aromas, a bit shy on the nose but impressive focus and balance, taut and gravelly-stony at the core, but with a wonderful lightness. Rather tannic, sinewy wine, with a dancer's strength. Here's one to lay down for a decade or so. Jay does a figurative backflip over this one, which (even figuratively) is very impressive--the man is awfully flexible, figuratively speaking. Anyway, it's young and tight now, but a lovely zygote. (6/05)

Cordero de Montezumolo Barolo 'Enrico VI' 1985 (Axis Wines): Medium-light ruby color, ambering at the rim. Smells of baked bricks and dried cherries, hints of fruitcake and a whiny high note of VA. Light and loosely-knit, it seems older and lighter than the other wines, more faded. Perhaps a damaged bottle? Not a favorite, it is quickly dubbed 'Montezumolo's Revenge.' (11/3/02)

Nando Nebbiolo d'Alba 1988 ($8): Medium to light reddish-brown. Sharp, slightly nutty nose of dried-out cherry, leather & faded Robitussin. Crisp, but acidity is more balanced than in the '91. Not much at all in the way of tannins. Fairly light-bodied, slight nutty taste in the midpalate. Old & faded, but showed friendlier than the younger '91.

Nando Nebbiolo d'Alba 1991 ($8): Seemed odd at first, somewhat closed, with only a slight nose of cherry accents and a somewhat overly acidic, slightly bitter, fruitless taste that made me wonder if it had gone off. But it opened up, albeit somewhat grudgingly, with a little time, to reveal a merely very acidic, almost fruitless body with some light traces of dusty cherry/berry and earth notes and no discernable tannins (interesting to find a red that seemed to depend entirely on acidity for backbone). Very happy that we were having this with acidic tomato sauce--the combination of highly acidic food and a very acidic wine actually worked very well. Very much a food wine; it would not afford much sipping pleasure.

Tenuta Oliveto Rosso di Montalcino Il Roccolo 1997 (NYers Go Italian): Very unusual raw-meat/zinberry nose, with some hints of leather. Andrew, seated across from me, is hypnotized, peering into his glass and saying "blood... blood" over and over again. There is indeed a coppery-bloody aroma, and this is quickly dubbed The Blood Wine at our end of the table. In the mouth, it's very fleshy and meaty, soft and velvety-fruity-rich with a finish like a side-impact collision. Another strange wine. (11/10/99)

Tenuta Oliveto Rosso di Montalcino Il Roccolo 1997 (Thoresa): A sniff reveals little of the coppery-corpuscular character that had this dubbed "The Blood Wine" the last time we tasted it. Now the black-cherry/cassis fruit is more dominant, smoky and ripe. The finish is crashingly short, but I find the wine likeably zinlike and quite decent, if a little generic. (10/7/01)

Paitin Barbaresco Sorì Paitin 1993 (Backlash!): Smells of dried cherries, leather and a dab of tarriness down deep. Tastes taut and well-honed with an almost niggardly angularity, a medium-light bodied wine with a vivid stony-cherry presence. A gravelly streak makes itself known in the middle, the finish turns towards Li Hing Cherry, with a snappy licorice flickertang at the last. Very nice, on the lean side but racy, pure and long. (9/05)

Emidio Pepe Montepulciano d'Abruzzo 1978 (All About the Chicken): Medium ruby color, touch of amber at the rim. Bright whiff of volatility, but there's leather and dirty crushed brick underneath, muted fruitcakey-cherry fruit. Medium-light-bodied wine, taut at the core, feathering out earthily from the center. Not the most complex wine in the world--there's a certain vagueness in the center, but pretty and really charming, a wine that keeps drawing me back in to whisper sweet nothings in my ear. I enjoy it more with every sip, it has so much to say! (7/05)

Peppino Colombo Primitivo di Manduria Zinfandel Primo Sole 2003 ($11) (Boatloads VII): Yep, this is zinfanel all right--big black cherry candy aromatics, touch of barnyard, hint of volatility. Ripe cherry-berry fruit, one-dimensional blowsiness, ripe and squishy-soft. I guess if you're looking for simple ripe zin in the Three Thieves mold it's okay, but, I mean, why? [Buy again? Nope.] (4/06)

Peppino Colombo Salento Rosso 2003 ($9) (Boatloads VII): Dark garnet color, purpling lightly at the rim. Black cherry and licorice smellies, loose and plump and squishy little wine, one step over the line, with a strange lemony-crisp streak in there as well. Some rough tannins on the finish give it a bit of abrasive mouthgrab, but it's an invertebrate wine, jellyfishing along squishily in a semi-amiable way. I like it a bit more with a step back, but there's no structure to speak of. [Buy again? No.] (4/06)

Enrico Pierrazzuoli/Tenuta Le Farnete Barco Reale di Carmignano 2003 ($8) (Boatloads VIII): Dark cherry-plum aromatics, hints of anise, some quiet gravelly stoniness down deep. Tastes a bit chunky, there's a wateriness in the middle and a simplicity to the flavors. On the other hand, it's pleasantly crisp, actually has some decent focus. There are some rough tannins on the finish, but the roughness actually adds to the simple-country-wine feel. It's close, but it's kind of oddly amiable, and remarkably full of chunks of sediment. [Buy again? Yes, just barely.] (9/06)

Podere Poggio Scalette Il Carbonaione 1995 ($55)(NYers Go Italian): This wine has some nice cran-cherry aromas, but it's encased in a layer or two of buttery, smoky oakiness. Not bad, there's some good dark tart fruit flavor, nice body and good crispness, but unexceptional to my tastes. (11/10/99)

Poggio Antico Brunello di Montalcino 1986 ($40)(Journey to Queens): Slightly browning in the glass; there is a mushroomy quality that has a couple of folks wondering about corkiness. I turn to Lisa, my TCA-canary, and she shakes her head, saying it's just a quality of the wine. Here we have to catch Peter and Mary up on her use of 'the finger' and the repercussions on all those who engender its wrath. So it is written. At any rate, it's a very interesting wine to smell--that mushroominess hovers over a by-the-numbers cherry/leather body, and there is also a dark, almost burnt note that has Mike and I coming up with "soy sauce" in unison. The flavors of the wine are very brown, very earthy-tart cherry, nicely faded and muted, but still fairly vivid. I like this--it has some character. (10/30/99)

Poggio Il Pino Zinfandel Puglia 'Anfora' 2000 ($12) (Winterfest '03): Very ripe smells, lush black cherry mingles with a light pruniness. Lightly volatile, there's a whiff of skatewheel urethane in there. Tastes soft and plush, fleshily ripe and darkly jammy with just enough acidity. It's a one or two-note wine that has some friendly zin character, a sort of Tiny Turley style, amiably two dimensional. (1/22/03)

Principe Corsini Chianti Classico 'Le Corti' 2002 ($10) (Boatloads VI): Quiet black cherry, shoe polish, not much else, very aromatically sterile. Tastes kind of hard and barren, there's acidity but also wateriness and diffusion in the middle. Nothing obviously wrong, but nothing much right, either. Finishes short and whimpery, a wine without mouthprint. [Buy again? No.] (12/05)

Prunaio 1990 (Swillerific): Medium to medium-dark garnet. Cherry-smoky-leathery fruit smells bright and sharp. Good rich dark cherry fruit starts off very tight, fleshes out minutely with air, but remains coy and hard. There's good balance here, but this is another wine that needs a lot of time. (3/24/00)

Quintarelli Amarone della Valpolicella 1986 (Party House): Whoof, here's a big ripe raisiny nose, red bricky berry fruit suffused with brown sugar. Tastes large and bossy, raisined red fruit with a cocoa-powder streak that emerges in the middle and dominates the finish. A big fun wine, still monolithic and primary and attention-grabbing. Give it another decade in its room. (1/5/02)

Quintarelli Valpolicella 1990 ($28)(Return of the Jeebi): Medium ruby. Tobacco and hay hints over a base of dried cherries and cranberries. There is a whiff of vinegary volatility, but not enough to put me off. With a bit of air, the hay hints turn more complex, towards a dried-flowers sort of thing. Medium bodied, crisp, a bit short but layered and interesting within a fairly narrow framework. A quiet wine that rewards attention. (10/7/00)

Quintarelli Valpolicella 1993 (Hot Wet Summertime Action): Ooh, me likee; smells charmingly layered and complex, crushed brick and leathery hints, whiteflowers and earth, all mingling in a muted cherry-cassis base, happy nosedancing aromatics. A pretty wine, with a hint of a pressed-flower quality to the fruit but wonderful layers of flavor, just so much going on; a feathery, suggestive wine to dream on. Quintarelli is the perennial winner of the 'Best Wine with Worst Label' category at the WIWPie Awards dinner, this one is no exception, the graphic design equivalent of unintelligible NYC subway announcements--you have to know what they're going to say before they say it in order to decipher them. (6/05)

Quintarelli Valpolicella 1996 (Bury My Heart at 360 Van Brunt): Smells warm and welcoming, like a well-used hearth. Crushed bricks and dried flowers over a base of dried cherry-cassis, quietly fragrant. A sip, and it's a subtle wine, medium-light bodied, tartly taut at the core and feathering lightly at the edges. Striking; really pure and fine and light and robust and flavorful and dancing, a joy. Have I ever had a bad wine from Quintarelli? Maybe one or two of the weird whites, and the Alzero will throw you for a loop if your guard isn't up, but I dunno, I think this guy may be the Huet of Italy. Now if he could just get a label that wasn't such a design trainwreck... where's Andrew Scott when you need him? (1/05)

Quintarelli Veneto Alzero 1993 ($150) (Cab Franc Blowout+): Crikey! Extraordinarily different wine--lush, ripe nose of raisin, brown sugar & a whiff of acetone. Port-like/amarone taste--amarone port cab franc? Sweetish--seems to have some sugar. Really really really good, but a whole different ballpark. Nicely balanced, plenty of acidity to balance the sweetness; sweet, raisiny finish. Wild wine, but??? (6/8/99)

Quintarelli Rosso Ca del Merlo 1991 ($24)(NYers Go Italian): Here's a nice open nose--dark fresh cherry with hints of sweet ripe strawberry, richly aromatic and friendly. Tastes good, too, really nicely balanced and vividly flavored, tangy fruit, but sweet not sour. Delicious, and in a good place to meet its destiny. Another favorite. (11/10/99)

Castello dei Rampolla Sammarco 1995 ($65)(NYers Go Italian): Okay, backing away a bit from the big bruisers, back to a more interesting profile--a well-balanced wine, smaller in scale but with some pretty dark red fruit, hints of earth and smoke, nothing outrageous, not trying too hard, just a pleasant, well-made wine that goes down smoothly and works well with my mozzarella-draped chicken. (11/10/99)

Barone Ricasoli Casalferra Toscana 1997 (Longest Night): Dark garnet with a purple rim. Smoky-toasty nose, slightly candied raspberry aromas. Tastes ripe and fairly generic--piles of smoky oak, forward berry-cassis fruit, some fine strong tannins. Undistinctive, until it falls apart with a bit of air, and the cherry fruit, alcohol and astringent wood tannins emerge to brawl feverishly with one another. (12/31/00)

Luigi Righetti Capitel de Roari Amarone della Valpolicella 1990($20): Medium ruby-red, richly colored, but not dense; smooth, velvety nose--cherry/berry, menthol and chalky earth. Bright and crisp but not nearly as acidic as the first two wines, a lighter style of Amarone without a lot of bass notes, but there's a lot of flavor and complexity here, and this is the one I linger with as the Monday angst drains slowly away.

Rinaldi Barolo Riserva Selezionata 1985 (Axis Wines): Muddy medium ruby color, quite cloudy. Bright, simple aromatics, cranberries and bay leaf laced with truffle. Tastes clean and well-honed, honest forthright fruit, crisp acidity, very nice but not very complex. A straightforwardly fruity, unchallenging wine that someone calls "Kane Barolo." (11/3/02)

Rocca di Montgrossi Vigneto San Marcellino Chianti Classico Riserva 1995(Rejeebus): Smells simply black-cherried, ripe and sharp-smelling. Tastes dark and tight and closed, with puckery acidity and enamel-stripping tannins. Brutal. An abusive wine with a habit, a ruler and a scowl. Hold, for the love of god, hold! (7/21/02)

Rocca di Montegrossi Vigneto San Marcellino Chianti Classico Reserva 1995 (Bastard): Lightly earthy black cherry aromatics. Taut, hard and rather characterless, although somewhat less aggressive than I remember. Either closed or just boring. (11/23/03)

Rubino della Palazzola Umbria 1994 (I Get the Shakes): Dark garnet. Yet another fairly rich, ripe nose--smells leathery-raspberry-smoky, meaty and rich-smelling, with a beguiling hint of coppery blood. Plenty of ripe fruit, plenty of acidity, a smooth, exceptionally well-balanced wine that I keep going back to. Very nice, very interesting, lots going on. (6/6/00)

San Giusto a Rentennano Percarlo 1986 (Greg Gets Us Wasted): Medium ruby color. Light and layered aromatics--smoky leather, dried cherry and iron filings, smooth and friendly to smell. A sip, and it's a fairly light-bodied, loosely-knit wine, fleshy and red at first, bit faded in the middle where hints of tea and bay leaf surface, easy light finish. Nice balance, good layering, crisp and complex. It's pleasantly developed but it's a lovely lightweight and it's time to drink up. (3/02)

San Giusto a Rentennano Percarlo 1989 (Greg Gets Us Wasted): Not as aromatically open as the '86, quieter red fruit laced with a light stoniness. First sippage gives me some warm cherry-plum fruit, but the midpalate turns watery, leaving the hard spine somewhat naked, and the finish dissolves in sandy tannins. There is some interesting character, but the wine is hard and prickly, not very friendly. (3/02)

San Giusto a Rentennano Percarlo 1990 (Greg Gets Us Wasted): This wine seems to have many of the good qualities of the others and few of the problems--ripe and dark, it's in a very good place right now although still a young pup. Rich yet restrained smellies, dark cherry-berry, leather, smoke and gravel. Impressive concentration through the midpalate, a wine with real sustain and all the rough edges either smoothed out or wrinkled into beguiling complexity and clothed with velvety fruit that turns towards tarriness on the finish. The most complete package of the bunch--a winner, and the only Percarlo that everyone pretty much agrees on. There's enough fruit for the goblovers and enough grab and complexity for the sodsuckers. (3/02)

San Giusto a Rentennano Percarlo 1997 (Greg Gets Us Wasted): Ye gods, is this the same wine? Low acid, monolithically ripe and richly berryfruited, generously suffused with toasty-vanilla new oak aromas and flavors. Were I tasting blind I might very well mistake this for a California zinfandel. The ripe black cherry-raspberry fruit is not quite jammy, but the combination of low acidity and plenty of new wood washes out any potential character. Jay stands, clears his throat, says "It tastes just like a thousand other wines," bows deeply, then sits. Silky, rich, simple, oaky, generic. (3/02)

San Giusto a Rentennano Percarlo 1998 (Greg Gets Us Wasted): Subtle dark aromatics--violets, plumskin, smoke and licorice. Back on track here; has more mouthgrab and character than the 1997. Young and slightly awkward, there's a good core of plum-cherry fruit suffused with some smoky oak, not too much to integrate nicely in time. Finishes with tannins akimbo, but most of the parts seem to be in good working order and I'd bet on it coming together down the road a piece. (3/02)

Feudo di San Nicola Negroamaro Puglia 2003 ($13) (Boatloads V): Ripe and dark-smelling, plum and black cherry fruit laced with dark tarry tones. Tastes plump and juicy, medium-low acidity and some pillowy-fleshy redfruit in the middle that resolves with a flash of heat and licorice on the finish. It's ripe and meaty but also light on its feet, a bit of dilution in the center seems to be to its advantage, strangely enough. Not bad, but just another broad plump thing, not much of interest here. [Buy again? I don't think so.] (10/05)

Santa Lucia Castel del Monte 2000 ($10) (McNetta 2002): Smells like a slightly redder, less plummy version of the La Carraia--ripe and warm, simple friendly raspberry aromas. Tastes much as it smells, friendly-fruity at first, fading away quickly into wateriness. Nothing very interesting going on here. (6/02)

San Valentino (La Cadalora) Vallagarina 2004 ($13) (Boatloads V): Smells very earthy, quiet redfruit and mud, lots of mud. Tastes kind of soft and light, but wonderfully muddy, just a mudfest in a glass. Seems almost gamayish, lightbodied and rather softhearted, but pure and happily dirty, a real honest dirtfest, Andew Scott wine. Relatively low acidity, kind of light and plush, I'm repeating myself but I can't think of better ways to pin it down. Good stuff, you can taste the mud. [Buy again? Yup.] (10/05)

Livio Sassetti Pertimali Brunello di Montalcino 1997 ($40) (Jeebus Vouvennièrrois): Medium-dark garnet color. Rich velvety nose, ripe and darkly smoky, plenty of dark berry fruit, bomber jacket and toasty oak. Tastes big and dense and ripe, well balanced for such a robust wine, but quite monolithic, just a big ripe red oaky thing. Swarms of sandy tannins on the finish are really the only distinguishing feature. Pretty decent, quite routine. (7/14/02)

Livio Sassetti Pertimali Rosso di Montalcino 2000 ($20) (McNetta 2002): Tart berry fruit tinged with red cherry, plush and soft mouthfeel. There's acidity that is lent a helping hand by the tartness of the fruit, but it's a fleshy, easygoing wine. Somewhat generic, but still pleasant and unmarred by anything weird. Some very fine tannins emerge on the finish, get a little raspy after the pillowy midpalate, but that's a quibble. (6/02)

Scavino Bric del Fiasc Barolo Riserva 1978 (Swillerific): Medium muddy ruby, turning towards amber at the rim. Pretty, velvety nose, notes of cooked tomato, cherry, leather, clove and baked yam mingle beguilingly in a delicate earthy base. Some decent acidity gives nice balance, but the wine is soft and feathery-shroomy-earthy around the edges with a core of tart muted cherry fruit still alive and kicking. This is a wine that divides the company, with Fredrik driven to colorful metaphors about older wines being like women who have acquired just exactly the right kind of amatory experience and Kane saying it tastes like "graveyard dirt." I'm with Fredrik on this one. It's certainly funky-earthy and faded, but in a good way, and we shout down Kane's bleats of "Swill! Swill!" as best we can. (3/24/00)

Scavino 'Vigneto del Fiasc' Dolcetto D'Alba 1997 ($19)(Geekfest '99): Bright purply-red; aromatically light, cranberry/raspberry, maybe a light cabbagey note. Lots of acidity, bit mouth-puckering, dark redfruit notes, tangy, with dry tannins. TIGHT. (6/5/99)

Castel Schwanburg Sudtirol Cabernet dell'Alto Adige 1989 (Culling Me Softly): Smells very brown-herby, tobacco and bay leaf, rocks and muted redfruit. Tastes lean and bright but with a nervy, humming intensity that tingles going down. Interesting wine, on the narrow side but with a supple strength at the core. The long finish brings out the brown-herb character again after it had receded into the bricky middle. (9/03)

Sofia Amarone della Valpolicella 1990: Smelled almost like a burgundy with a dash of raisins tossed into it--leathery, bitter notes on the tongue, with a nice tangy finish. Subtler than I expected, frankly.

Speri Recioto di Valpolicella Amarone 1985 (Greg Gets Us Wasted): Sweet? Dry? Dry, by cracky. Nice hit of funky earthiness is the first thing to hit my nose, followed by cinammon-laced red fruit, raspberries and cherries, traces of cocoa and toast. Matte mouthfeel, easygoing and fleshy. There is a sense of fraying at the edges, it seems curiously mature for such a young Amarone, but it's quite tasty. If this is a representative bottle, drink up. (3/02)

Taurasi Terradora 1996(September 15, 2001): Plenty of smoky oak here, along with dark tangy red fruit, ripe berries and cassis. Big upfront smoky-fruity rush, hollow in the midpalate, finishes with rough tannins. Ripe, oaky, undistinguished. (9/15/01)

Terredora Aglianico Irpinia 2002 ($10) (Boatloads III): Ooh, smells quite oaky--sawdust and toast over dark red raspberry fruit, kind of generic smelling. Whoops, that impression is confirmed upon first sippage--very new-wave in style, medium acidity, fleshy red berry fruit with a cough-syrupy sheen, lots of toasty carpentry. This seems like focus-group wine, and as such it's just fine, plenty drinkable if you don't demand anything other than 'this should taste like the wines the pointy guys like to drink.' [Buy again? No.] (2/05)

Tommasi Amarone della Valpolicella 1981 (Swillerific): Tranlucent medium ruby. Soft nose of muted red fruit shot through with traces of brown sugar and raisin. This wine is a bit soft and low-acid, but layered, complex and enjoyable to sip. A small, soft Amarone. Drink 'em up if you got 'em. (3/24/00)

Tommasi Amarone della Valpolicella 1986 ($38) (Heat): Darkly berryfruity and plush-smelling, brown sugar and raspberry-currant. Tastes big and almost zinny, dark ripe berry fruit, concentrated and still quite primary, with a smoky-licorice spine. A happy wine, but a fairly simple one that needs time. (6/16/01)

Travaglini Gattinara 1968 (Hot Wet Summertime Action): Medium ruby color, browning inwards from the rim. Mmm, here's a sweetly decayed earthy nose--shoyu-soaked cherry, sandalwood, leather and bay leaf hints. With a bit of air a mushroomy forest-floor streak arises and mingles with the rest, soothingly layered and complex. Tastes firm and lean at the core, feathering out with proscuitto-thin layers of earthy/brown herbal flavors. Lovely, medium-light bodied wine, heading towards a senior citizens discount, but charming and vivid in its early dotage. Lovely old nebbiolo for those such as I who favor a bit of decay in their glass. (6/05)

Travaglini Gattinara 1994 ($25)(Quiz Show I): Medium garnet. Smells of cherries and leather with hints of violets. Tastes fairly nondescript, a bit thin and tinny but some crisp acidity and decent if lean cherry-berry fruit make it passable. (4/7/00)

Travaglini Gattinara 1997 ($20) (Winterfest '03): Smells of plum, cherry, bay leaf and chestnut. The first thing you get when you taste is a knife-hard dive of acidity rushing under your tongue, but it fleshes out and fills up in the middle admirably. Tightly wrapped and a little on the severe side, it's a pleasing wine for acid lovers, as there's good blackberry-plum-cherry flesh wrapped around the core of acidity. Medium-length plum-chestnut finish. Travaglini's wines are often too shrill for me, but this one has enough ripeness to please. Still, some age would surely help. (1/22/03)

Triacca Prestigio Veltellina 1996(Horrifying the Newbies): The word 'Prestigio' is certainly very impressive, I must say, and as a result the wine is very nice, smelling lightly of tomato-cherry, leather and violets. Slightly feathered in the gob, this is a well balanced wine, lightly brambly and nimble, on the lean and racy side, with a good sustained hum of a finish. Very nice, a pretty nebbiolo without delusions of grandeur. (3/3/01)

Tuarita Giusto di Nervi 1995 (Greg Gets Us Wasted): Smells of flinty cassis, earth and saddle leather. A sip, and warm soft red fruit flows onto my tongue and sets up camp. Flavorful, but deficient in spine and rather generically redfruity-cocoaed to taste--the complexity promised by the aromatics is not forthcoming. (3/02)

Umani Ronchi 'San Lorenzo' Rosso Conero 1996 ($10) (McNetta 2002): Black cherry smellies, smoke and a bay leaf brown-herby streak. Tastes warm, tangy plum-leathery, ripe and fleshy, with a rounded mouthfeel but enough acidity to make do. Not a whole lot of grab in the piehole, but it's satiny and smooth and fairly meaty-ripe. There is a sense of looseness, not very concentrated, but the wine is amiable and has some complexity so what the hell. A good quaffer. (6/02)

Vadossi Chianti 2003 ($8) (Boatloads V): Ripely fruity aromatics, plum and cherryjuice, along with an odd Pine-Sol kind of thing, a hint of resinous cleanser that's not offputting, just out of place. On the plush side, with decent acidity, but hollow in the middle and abrasively tannic and bitter on the finish. Kind of bland, kind of weird, nothing special. [Buy again? No.] (10/05)

Vallana Gattinara 1997 ($20) (Eve of Chenin/Day of Satan): Strange-smelling--plaster, plum and cherry with an odd truffley-mushroomy funkiness. No one is quite sure if something's wrong, or exactly what's going on with this wine. Tastes loose and slightly watery, with more dark fungus on the finish, as well as some fine glassy tannins. Odd, and not very pleasant. (12/31/03)

Vallana Spanna 1968 (Island Life): Smells delightfully complex and layered, balsamic hints over leathery muted cherry, crushed brick and balsa wood. Tastes softly expressive, light bodied but impressively taut and vivid. Frankly, this seems younger than the Montevertine, pure and wonderfully focused, on the lean side but with a lively cherry-brick fruitcushion. Turns lightly tarry on the finish, with some fine glassy tannins. Really pretty wine, youthful but happily developed as well. At the end of the evening, this is the only empty bottle. (5/06)

Vallone Graticciaia Puglia 1992 ($30) Gave me a bit of a start because it smelled like a nice, soft zin... Brian said I had been hitting the Turley too hard, but I smelled zin-like black cherry fruit mixed in with a hint of raisin and a touch of earth and toast. Very interesting nose on this puppy. Apparently it's made from the negroamaro (sp?) grape. Smooth on the palate, velvety texture, with a very light finish. Very nice. The proprietor mentioned that this wine is made with a similar dried-grape procedure as amarone is. Tasty. (9/98)

Vallone Graticciaia Puglia 1992 ($30)(Return of the Jeebi): This one is finally starting to hit its stride, putting out a silkily ripe nose with dark berry fruit, a slight raisiny/brown sugar undertone belying its origins, and a dark shoe-polishy streak that showed a few years ago as less-integrated toastiness. Almost completely dry and quite structured, the polar opposite of the flabbier, sweeter, far more overblown '93. There is a dark edge to the berry fruit that flows smoothly into a licoricey finish. Fairly fruit-forward, a big wine but one with a sense of restraint: a class act with some youthful exuberance. A fine specimen of one of my favorite negroamarones. (10/7/00)

Vallone Graticciaia Puglia 1993 ($30): Rich, sweet almost zinlike black cherry nose, lush and fruit city--disorientingly different from its predecessors. In the mouth round and flabby and slightly sweet, with Robitussiny flavors and cough-syrup mouthfeel, with low, low acidity & some very light sandy tannins eventually emerging from under a wash of black cherry fruit. A jellyfish of a wine, bloppy and shapeless. Big comedown from the '92.

Castello di Verrazzano Cinquecentenario di Verrazzano Chianti Classico Riserva 1985 (NJers): I admire the portrait on the bottle of (I think) Mandy Patinkin as Georges Seurat, and am surprised by the youthfulness of this wine--no sign of age at all, still a young translucent red color. Tastes of slightly medicinal sour-cherry with a smoky undertone--still primary and tart, with some sneaky light gritty tannins. A racy, lean and tart wine that needs time and/or air. (1/23/00)

Vietti Barolo 1982 (Swillerific): Medium muddy ruby. Small, soft earthy-dark nose, muted fruit, some fuzzy tannins, comes and goes too quickly for me to get a good read on. (3/24/00)

Vietti Barolo Brunate 1988 (Trilateral Offline): Medium ruby, bricking slightly at the rim. Leathery, earthy muted cherry fruit , nice layered mix of flavors, crisp acidity buoys up the tangy red fruit that has an interesting rhubarb note in the midpalate. Tangy, crisp & long, my favorite of the reds so far. Oh, wait, we're out of reds. My favorite red of the night, then. (3/14/00)

Vietti Barolo Rocche 1990 (Memorial Day): Smells funky, manure and caramel, hint of shoyu. Actually, it seems rather well cooked. Bummer. (5/31/04)

Enrico Villania Rosso Colli Bolognese Cabernet Sauvignon 1990 (NYers Go Italian): Smoky, graphitey nose, with herby hints over a quiet soft redfruity base. A soft wine, muted and mellow and fleshy, with fairly low acidity, round and soft and quietly flavorful. Pleasant. (11/10/99)

Villa Pillo Borgoforte Toscana 2003 ($10) (Boatloads IX): Smells ripe and chocolatey, dark berry and cocoa powder, maybe a hint of raisin in the mix. Fleshy, low acidity, gruff tannins, seems like a pointy international-style wannabee type of wine. Could be central coast merlot, really. That said, it's friendly and plush and velvety-rich, cocoaberried milkshakey kind of wine. Shrug. [Buy again? Nah.] (11/06)

Villa Puccini Twelve Months Oak Aged Tuscan Red Wine 2000 ($8) (Boatloads II): Well, that's quite a promising name, hm? Seems to be a sangiovese-merlot blend. Comes off as a sort of soft, watery merlot, tangy initial cherry-berry flavors, then quiet generic redfruit that quickly turns diffuse and wan in the middle and dissipates more than finishes. Uninteresting but relatively inoffensive. [Buy again? No.] (11/04)

Fattoria Viticcio Dolce Arianna Vin Santo 1995 (Greg Gets Us Wasted): Medium amber color, smells of toasted orange rind drizzled with honey and cloves. With air a light figgy-nutty streak emerges. Medium sweet. Richly flavored. Plenty of acidity. Bit of a burn on the finish. Rather weighty texture. Sentence fragments. Pretty good stuff. (3/02)

Voerzio Barolo Brunate 1993 (Scheduling): Tight, thin nose: sour cherry, rose petals and roast chestnut. Tastes tangy and hard--sharp cran-cherry fruit with gland-squeezing tartness, a tense, hostile wine that others enjoy far more than I. The emotion palpable in the air makes me confess a lack of sympathy for surly Barolo and in fact an antipathy for Barolo in general. Jayson hisses at me like an angry goose, but I refuse to recant my heresy. (12/8/02)

Zenato Amarone Classico 1988 ($30) (Waiting for Callahan): "[A] nice medium-dark color, has some velvety cherry-raspberry-raisiny-brown sugar aromas, but tastes a bit monolithic and simple, very little complexity here." (9/12/99)

Zenato Amarone Classico 1990 ($40) (NJers): Slightly translucent medium garnet all the way through. Nose is a bit tight, a bit closed up, surrendering light berry-cassis notes with some swirling. Tastes silky and smoothly fruity, hints of brown sugar in the midpalate, plenty of primary redfruit to go around, plenty of potential, but this needs more time to develop. (1/23/00)

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