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Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz

In memoriam: Teobald Cappellano

Posted by Gregory Dal Piaz, Feb 21, 2009.

If ever a visit with a man would make me more inclined to enjoy his wines it would certainly be at Cappellano. I was fortunate to not only tour the vineyards with this endearing, inventive, open-minded philosopher but also saw the projects he has completed and planned in his workshop.

During the tour of the vines we spoke of his enthusiasm for bio-diversity. The wild nut and oak trees that fringe the top of the vineyard. The pea and fava beans that are planted among the vines for their nitrogen fixing properties then plowed under to enrich the soil.

This quite steep little Gabutti vineyard is home to both of Cappellano’s Barolo bottling, the American rootstock Rupestris and the ungrafted Pie Franco. The idea to try ungrafted roots was one of whimsy that Teobaldo undertook with an open mind. “If it failed so be it but if it succeeded that what could be the possibilities?” he asked rhetorically.

The act of creating a vineyard on it’s own rootstock was a fairly simple act done traditionally by simply training canes of existing vines under the ground and allowing them to root. In the past whole vineyards were propagated this way.

Relying on wider aisles than one normally encounters today each row of vines would have canes trained under the soil and when they rooted and started producing fruit the old vines would be removed and the trellising systems would move half a row over to support the newly producing vines. Whole vineyards would thus creep forward without losing a years production!

Even in the Rupestris portion of the vineyards Teolbaldo employs a similar method by replacing vines with new plantings placed within a row yet between exisiting vines. When the time is right the old vines can be removed and the newer vines fill out the row and come online with the following vintage.

Teobaldo's vineyard is kept with a deep respect for the land. Not only does he eschew the use of herbicide and unnecessary vineyard treatments but, in a further effort to maintain bio-diversity and the positive influence it has on the land, he is currently planting a group of heirloom fruit trees and the base of the vineyard. He is currently finishing a project that married the cutting blade of an older, wheeled grass cutter to a tracked motor that will allow for greater control over cutting height and prevents the soil from being compacted. One gets the impression that he is always thinking of ways to improve his products without putting undue strain on either the land or the environment.

Teolbaldo questions everyone and everything. He asks “why” and “why not” over and over and is willing to push beyond preconceived notions to get to the bottom of things. He is an example of one who practices what he preaches whether that means installing solar panels on his house to help reduce energy costs, design his house/cantina to allow for the natural cooling influences of air circulation, use and reuse things until they can no longer perform the functions that they were intended for, or allow his wines to essentially make themselves, gently guiding along a process that relies more on clean fruit, indigenous yeasts, and time in clean barrels to create exceptional, unique bottles of Barolo.

2007 Dolcetto from Botte - Still undergoing malo but the texture is elegant and lithe and very un Dolcetto like while the fruit is deep and pure. This should be excellent

2004 Barbera from botte - A fine blend of aged meats and violets greet the nose while the palate retains the bracing acids of traditional Barbera that frames lovely fruit in a light weight package. Everything I want in a Barbera

2004 Rupestris from botte - What a huge nose, redolent of frutti di bosco with violets hint and a feral, earthy, animal driven character. Bright with acids in the mouth, packed with dense fruit and grippy, angular tannins. While very fruit driven the midpalate is full of crisp, black mineral tones. Excellent concentration and balance. Finishes with grippy tannins and power to spare, very pure and clean. Exceptional wine.

2004 Pie Franco from botte - More sudbued on the nose than the Rupestris yet sharing it’s feral quality with a more autumnal quality to the aromatics leaning towards tobacco and earth note before blooming into a full on sottobosco array. Elegant in the mouth but with excellent concentration of fruit, tons of fine grained tannins with sweet fruit just peaking out from the wall of tannin. Bright acidity supports almond skin/amaretto tinged wild berry fruit that finishes with strong minerality and grace notes of tobacco and cocoa. The finish is full and long and strikes a fine baloance between sweet fruit and aggressive and refreshing minerality. Exceptional wine.

* Cappellano Vertical (10/2007)

* 1952 Cappellano Barolo - Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo
pale, clear bronze color. This has a very fine sherry nose with caramel, anise, angelica root, cola, glue, and celery seed, even some buttery toffee with time but in the mouth it is lean, acid driven, and hot and verging on dead.

* 1955 Cappellano Barolo - Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo
Lovely rosey color with light bronzing. The nose immeadiately offers up lovely savory notes of prosciutto with a touch of smoke and pepper turning tarrier with air and revealing a touch of green olive. Fresh and light in the mouth with lovely resolved structure yet fading fruit. the mid palate still offers up intriguing medicinall tinged cherry fruit with great purity but the finish, though long, shows signs of the wines cracking up. Drink em today.

* 1957 Cappellano Barolo - Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo
Very clear bright red. The nose here was funky and too bretty for me to get much more though it did add a noticable black olive essence to the leather wit thime. The mouth offers up a cool and fresh feel with clean fruit and good power and while the midpalate offers great integration and a really wonderful resolved texture the finish is short and attenuated.

* 1958 Cappellano Barolo - Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo
A much darker wine, somewahat cloudy since the faux antique gattinara bottle made decanting a challenge. This offers up deep aromatics, tarry and filled with strawberry jam, tight at first with emerging notes of menthol, smoke, and mineral. A decidely richer palate impression with a dark, muscular chacter that offers up a deep, chewy core of burnt orange tinged fruit. This is such a treat and a testament to the vintage.

* 1974 Cappellano Barolo - Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo
Beautiful youthful color, this is young looking. Very minty and packed with medicinal licorice and a significant oxidized edge, even a bit of wool but still some fruit and caraway. Very high toned in the mouth with coarse tannins and fading fruit recalling unripe strawberry. The finish is astringent and offers echoes of amarena cherry fruit but the structure here really is very aggressive. If you like licorice though you could smell this all night long, very pure and intense nose which bumps this up a bit in my book but still not a great success.

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