I almost drove by the Oreste Stroppiana winery, well actually I did since I was looking for the Stroppiana Winery, but as with so many small family run operations in Italy, I should have been looking for the Stroppiana house. This small endeavor is run by Dario Stroppiana and his wife Stefania who alone handle every facet of the operation. With only 4.5 hectares it is a task well managed.
The vineyards, about 3 hectares on the La Morra/Verduno border and an additional hectare in Monforte, are well tended with an enlightened modernist philosophy guiding their cultivation. Green harvesting is done on average twice a season to ensure that only the finest fruit is allowed to mature. With this prime fruit Dario crafts a rather broad range of bottlings but none is as impressive, nor as important, than his Barolo Vigna San Giacomo.
Born of fruit from la Morras Frazione Rivalta this wine represents a sort of rebirth of this once famed vineyard. It is a refreshing surprise to find such a distinctive terroir here on the backside of La Morra with its white, heavy clay soils. When one considers that the modernist movement has pushed the terroirs of La Morra ever closer to a singular style it is even more gratifying that Dario has made such a commitment to working such a forgotten parcel of vines.
As I stated early the philosophy here is enlightened modernist with a modicum of oak usage, some barrique, some tonneaux, and some botte. With such a small production the dictates of barrel rotation and simple math often dictate what wine goes into which vessel and Dario tries to limit the impact small barrels have on any particular wine by often passing wine from small barrel to large throughout the ageing process. The results speak for themselves, the meld a purity of fruit with a well balanced structure that is respectful of the vines terroir without an overwhelming winemakers imprint.
Dolcetto d'Alba 2006
From 40 year old plus vines, 10-day maceration with frequent pump over, aged for 6-8 months in Stainless.
This is very youthful on the nose and a bit reduced with spicy, estery tones, a touch of violet and some chalky earthy notes. In the mouth it is big and soft with lots of sweet fruit up front enhanced by the 15% alcohol. It’s pretty well balanced for it’s size with good acidity and while not hot it does have a touch of bitterness that accentuates the mineral character of the wine. The core of small red fruits opens a bit on the midpalate and leads to a tight, mineral tinged finish. An interesting combination of soft friendly texture and extracted flavors. 88pts
Barbera d’Alba 2006
From vines in Rivalta, 10-day maceration with frequent pump over then 1 year in French tonneaux, more second passage than first.
A bit of dark wood greats the nose, this is not particularly open and seems a bit aromatically blocky. It offers a nice combination of acid and fleshiness on the palate that leads to a richly fruited palate with loads of fresh, juicy red plums and red apple skins that are gently accented by some wood spice tones. The finish continues the theme set on the palate and has good length and a nice clean finale with just a squeeze of refreshing acidity. 88pts
Langhe Rosso 2006
A Barrel sample 50% Dolcetto, 25% Barbera/25% Nebbiolo
This has a big fruit nose with great notes of bay leaf, cocoa, mint and mineral adding solid depth. Really opens in the glass adding a touch of roast beef and a very fine, strong rose top note. Big and rich on entry but not weighty with lovely acids. This is friendly if a bit rambunctious with it fruit bowl mélange of cherry, dark plum, green plum and fruit skin tones joined by soft mineral tones and gently cutting minerality that leads to a lovely finish with just a bit of grab to the subtle bitter edge of the Dolcetto buffered by the bright, rich fruit of the Nebbiolo and Barbera. A great and versatile Langhe Rosso 90pts
From 12 year old vineyards in La Morra and Verduno. This +/- 8,000 bottle cuvee sees 7-10 days of maceration then spends 2 years in barrique, 60% of which are new. It is then transferred to botte for a final year of ageing in larger neutral wood.
Tight on the nose with mineral water tones and gentle but well integrated wood spice notes. Absolutely silky in the mouth with beautiful ripe tannins that caress the palate and perfectly integrated acidity. This is drinking superbly right now! Mouth filling melon and wild berry fruits are balanced by classic notes of tar and licorice that leads to a long finish with a strong mineral spine adding verve and a finale of wild berry tones with a hint of porcini. 91pts.
Barolo Vigna San Giacomo 2004
From 45-year-old vines, sees 7-10 days of maceration then 12-15 months in barrique the assembled in a botte of French oak and aged for 1 year before being bottled.
Offers up a nose reminiscent of Ginestra with notes of very ripe, dark fruit, seared cherry notes and an almost fudgy top note.. Dusty and gently woody with an exotic sandalwood edge. This is soft and elegant in the mouth with very well managed tannins that offer a bit of chewiness on the palate. An excellent marriage of power and elegance with intensely balsamic inner-mouth perfume. A touch of vanillin laced wood floats above the candied red fruit and melon tones. The sweet core of fruit turns more toward the cherry end of the spectrum on the backend and builds through the long finish. Underlying mineral and soil tones are embedded in the rich cherry fruit and gentle wood spice tones peak out on the finale. I also tasted this wine blind several months earlier and it performed at the same level but since it had been open for longer was even more complex and giving. 93pts
Barolo Gabutti Bussia 2004
From 15-year-old vines in Monforte, this sees 7-10 days maceration than is aged in botte of Slavonian oak for two years.
Floral and a touch of leafy underbrush on the nose, perhaps a touch hot as well with a touch of confiture to the frutti di bosco notes. With are classic notes of mint, licorice, and a slight medicinal edge emerge. Really big glycerin roundness/sweetness in the mouth makes this feel quite dense but it lacks some of the finesse that makes the other Barolos from this producer so engaging. Good acids keep it in balance and the tannins really build with time. The flavors are dark and brooding with an earthy, tarry feel to them. The licorice and menthol notes on the nose offer up very strong inner mouth notes that lead to a focused finish with great mineral tones that is cut short by the closing tannins. This is a big wine and needs some time to come together and loose some baby fat. Certainly a candidate for improvement in the cellar. Interestingly the first time I tried this several months earlier it was completely disjointed so much progress has already been made. But this is not yet at a sweet spot. 89pts.
Barolo Vigna San Giacomo 2003
This offers up a fresh bouquet on the nose with classic cherry in alcohol notes and subtle touches of mint and herb. It is big and round in the mouth with powerful tannins and fine integrated acidity yielding a palate profile that is a bit tough but there seems to be ample bright fruit behind the structure for medium term ageing. The finish is short and savory. I would recommend giving this an additional 2-4 years cellaring before trying again. 88pts.
Barolo Gabutti Bussia 2003
Open and expressive on the nose with integrated wood, a beefy/meaty tone that recalls salame and an underlay of sweet sage-like herbs. This is almost elegant with bright acidity but the slightly angular and drying tannins add a slight bit of rusticity here. The fruit on the palate is dark and slightly roasted with a touch of coffee grind, incipient bitterness. The flavors have great intensity and have a touch of stemmy freshness that leads to a full throttle finish full of dark fruit notes but also packed with drying tannins. A solid 2003 but the tannins may win out in the cellar with this one. 88pts.
Barolo Vigna San Giacomo 2002
Subtle on the nose with a gentle layered quality to the slight prune notes that are complimented by nutty tones and an underlay of powdery dried clay. The tannins here are surprisingly ripe and this is elegant in the mouth with refreshing acidity but ultimately lacks a bit of volume and follow through on the backend though the very minerally, earthy core has an intriguing orange rind/citron peel tone to it. The finish is admirably fresh but lacks intensity and length though there are subtle tones of bitter cherry that make this perfectly drinkable though uninspiring. 86pts
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