Alfio Cavallotto, with whom I visited last week and whose wines are the subject of the previous post, was back in town the Thursday before the holidays. We met with his importer at Sushi Sasa in downtown Denver for lunch. Funny - my fist meeting with Alfio was several years ago when our mutual friend Silvia Altare decided we were all going to drive to Liguria from Barolo for a dinner of ... drumroll please ... raw fish. In the coastal areas of Italy, fish is often served uncooked, just dressed with a bit of olive oil and salt, and sometimes a bit of lemon juice. The restaurant, Buco di Bacco in Pietre Ligure, was fabulous, not least of which was the amazing list of champagne, as well as the owner, who sized us up the moment we walked in and then brought us, without consulting anyone in the group, the bottle of Champagne he thought we would enjoy the most. It was a great meal - the antipasti of raw and slightly cooked seafood and fish ran to about 15 plates, and so we just split a single pasta afterwards and skipped the secondi entirely. In any case, Alfio was great company at that dinner, and we've kept up contact since. He's a most interesting and really intelligent guy - I like people who, when they decide they are interested in something, dive into the deep end, head first. He's like that.
Interestingly, his red wines went well with the sashimi and sushi. The same wines were poured as at Radda, but this time, the Dolcetto showed much better - brighter fruit, depth and length. Really nice. For the other wines, tasting notes were consistent.
Cavallotto's winemaking is an interesting amalgam of both modern and traditional methods. Walking into the winery the first time several years ago, I was stuck by the big Slavonian chestnut botti, the lack of barrique, and the resulting style of the wines ... until I spied the row of rotofermentors in the vinification room. Mon Dieu! Quelle Surprise! Alfio explained that they still do a 15-35 day maceration for the must, but using rotofermentors allows better control of the pip tannins. As with almost every estate in Piedmont now, the grapes are destemmed to minimize the stalk tannins, which in Nebbiolo are particularly potent and astringent, and rarely, if ever, as ripe as the skin and pip tannins. After the fermentation, the winemaking style is resolutely trad: for the Barolo, 2-4 years in the enormous botti, then bottle ageing for a year or two. The wines are classically styled, with acid and ripe tannin giving a particularly elegant structure to the wines. The fruit is present and in balance but never in a forward or showoffy way. The wines reflect what I consider to be the house style of impeccable structure, good balance and elegance before flash. As such, they are underappreciated in the marketplace and can usually be found at a considerably lower price than many other Barolo. I tasted a barrel sample of the 2004 Barolo Bricco Boschis, Riserva San Giuseppe in November 2009 in La Morra and found it to be lovely, long and sweet, with good cherry and violet aspects, very ripe and long, needing 5-8 years to fully pull together but certain to enjoy a drinking window of a further 15 years (I scored it 4.0+). The 2004 Barolo Bricco Boschis, Riserva Vignolo was slightly tighter and more tannic, with good fruit but extremely closed at this point (3.5+). Both are lovely wines that have a long life ahead of them.
The big surprise with the sushi was the 2005 Barbera Bricco Boschis, Vigna del Cuculo. I would never have thought that a 4 year old Barbera would be this delicious and complementary, especially with the shushi that had a strong umami aspect, like the Uni. This Barbera deserves mention for the layered complexity that really lets the grape shine through - many ambitious Barbera are now aged in new French oak barrels, which layers on flavors of chocolate, vanilla and coffee (delicious, by the way) - but this one lets the earthiness and minerality of the grape shine though. Nice job.