Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Report from … Meeting Angelo Gaja and Tasting his wines – October 15, 2012

When you meet an icon winemaker like Angelo Gaja you expect him to want to talk about his wines, their makeup, his vineyards … but instead we were treated to an hour long dissertation about what he has seen in his life and his 51 years in the wine business, from communism to Robert Mondavi, from artisanal winemaking to Bernie Madoff and many more topics in-between – Angelo seem to bring them all together with wit, humour, and interesting insight into his, and this, world of wine making and beyond … all-in-all it was an enjoyable hour that kept your ears on their toes (if that is even possible) – and asking yourself “where is he going with this?” But sooner or later, as the old saying goes, “the train came back to the station". 

When it was over we got to try 6 Gaja wines while Angelo stood by to answer any questions we might have.

Highlights of Angelo’s Talk …
-    He is 72 years old and has spent 51 years in the wine business.
-    Gaja is a Spanish name but the winery is located in Italy’s Piedmont region.
-    The winery was started by his grandfather in 1859.
-    Communism and deregulation: neither system works for wine production because extremes stymie creativity
-    Spoke highly of Robert Mondavi as being the most important wine man in the last 45 years: Mondavi showed that volume AND high quality was possible.  He named things by varietal, created different levels of quality and, most importantly, he introduced wine tourism in Oakville, California (1966) – this idea found its way to Europe.
-    Gaja and Mondavi once spoke about a partnership, but Angelo was worried his company was too small: “It was like an elephant having sex with a mosquito, no pleasure for the elephant and dangerous for the mosquito.”  1.5 years later Mondavi partnered with Frescobaldi and created LUCE.
-    Comparing the grapes of Piedmont versus International or more specifically California:  Nebbiolo has been planted in Piedmont for 800+ years, and it is not a common tasting wine, it will never reach the popularity of Cabernet or Merlot, but it does appeal to adventurous wine consumers.
-    He derided the manipulation of wine in particular opulence in Cabernet Sauvignon and the search for the “perfect wine” and the manipulation to create such a beast.  Elegance does not need perfection.
-    Climate Change:  the first hot vintage was in 1997 which was loved by US writers, but it was the first sign it was afoot … downside: parasites are being introduced, grass is changing and old knowledge has to be integrated with the new reality.
-    Sees a trend of people moving back to an agricultural based lifestyle.
-    He has a gentleman’s agreement with his children: they will not force him to retire and he will not fire them.
The six wines tasted

The Wines …
The famous two tone label (black and white) was finally demystified: black represents the past, you can’t re-write the past or write new stuff upon it.  The white is the future, a clean slate to be written upon:  “Excellence in wine takes courage, vision and dedication.” – Angelo Gaja

6 wines were tried.  4 of the wine were rated (4+) stars including:
2009 Ca’Marcanda ‘Magari’ – Tuscany (Merlot, Cab Sauv, Cab Franc) - $69.95
2010 Sito Moresco – Piedmont (Nebbiolo, Merlot, Cab Sauv - $54.95
2007 Gaja “Dagromis’ Barolo – Piedmont (100% Nebbiolo) - $79.95
2008 Gaja Barbaresco – Piedmont (100% Nebbiolo) - $159.95

(**** 1/2)
Top Two Wines …

2007 Pieve S. Restituta ‘Sugarille’, Brunello di Montalcino – Tuscany (100% Sangiovese) - $159.95 … nose is pencil shavings with cherry and white pepper, while the palate doles out cherry, herbal intensity and great acidity. (**** ½)

2005 Gaja ‘Sperss’ – Piedmont (94% Nebbiolo, 6% Barbera) – N/A … this vineyard is a nostalgic one for Angelo’s father and finally was purchased by the Gaja family.,  The nose is plum, cherry with a touch of herbs and spices.  Palet is elegant and earthy with big acidity, bing cherry, black and white pepper with great spiciness. (**** ½)

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