Thursday, June 11, 2015

Washington Nebbiolo vs. Barolo

The Giro d' Italia just completed this past weekend.  This year's route started and finished in Northern Italy with plenty of action in the first and last week of the race.  Alberto Contador took the overall victory after building a lead in the individual time trial and withstanding some fireworks in the final mountain stages.

The Italian favorite, Fabio Aru, finished with style by winning the final two mountain top finishes in the race.  Those were good enough to cement his second place finish and to win the Best Young Rider award.

All the action in Northern Italy spills over into this week's Lucha Vino challenge with a Washington Nebiolo taking on a mighty Barolo challenger.

2012 Cotes de Ciel Nebbiolo v. 2011 Vietti Barolo Castiglione

Tale of the Tape

2012 Cotes de Ciel Nebbiolo

100% Nebbiolo from the Ciel du Cheval Vineyard on Red Mountain

Aged for 22 months in neutral oak barrels

Provided as a sample by the winery.  Available for sale through their website and other wine retailers for $50.

2011 Vietti Barolo Castiglione 

100% Nebbiolo

Aged for 24 months in casks and 8 months in stainless steel before bottling

Purchased at Esquin Wine & Spirits for $52.99.

Round 1.  First Opening

The Cotes de Ciel Luchador enters the ring with a bold swagger.  The nose is showing dusty cherries, candle wax and subtle earthy funky notes of coffee with some menthol spice lurking in the background.  The palate starts out juicy with notes of blackberry that give way to dry darker berries, white pepper, clove and baking spices backed up with great acidity and a finish of red berries, black cherry and white pepper.

Vietti from Barolo has a more cerebral approach to wrestling strategy, unleashing a variety of counter attacks that come at the Washington Luchador in waves.  The nose leads with floral character that is followed by dried cherries, subtle earthy mineral Asian spices and a hint of savoriness.  The palate continues the kung fu moves with dried cherries, herbal white pepper and leather notes rounded out with a spinning back kick of acidity and a finish that primarily features cherries and light spices.

Vietti showed a staggering array of moves in round 1.  However, the Cotes de Ciel Nebbiolo dominated the action and took the points.

Round 2.  One Hour after Opening

Cotes de Ciel is still going strong with a nose of dark cherries, dusty spices, rich dark leather  and dried flowers.  The palate continues the trend with dark dried cherry, clove and Asian spices with some cracked pepper that follows on the finish along with a mean streak of acidity.

Vietti is bobbing and weaving, looking for signs of weakness.  The nose is evolving with notes of dried herbal dusty baking spices, flower petals and dried cherries.  The palate doubles down with dried cherries, tart menthol spices, potent acidity and a finish that has a uniquely creamy character.

The Cotes de Ciel fended off the aggressive attacks from our Barolo luchador to take round two and a commanding 2-0 lead in the match.

Round 3.  One Day after Opening

Vietti is throwing caution to the wind.  The luchador from Barolo needs to go for the knock out in order to win this bout.  Launching off the top ropes with surprising stealth and quickness the nose is showing light herbal dried cherry and flower petals followed by candle wax and Asian spices.  The palate is showing layers of complexity with dried cherries, tart cedar floral notes and slight white pepper that repeats on a dry finish with plenty of acidity to boot.

The Nebbiolo luchador from Cotes de Ciel stands its ground and delivers a knock out blow of its own.  The nose is dark, brooding and spicy with dusty dark dried cherries, leather and menthol spices.  The palate is showing more of the Dark Side with dark spices, cracked pepper, black cherries and  some savory and subtle coffee notes that are followed by a dry spicy pepper and cherry finish.

The Cotes de Ciel took no chances in the final round, withstanding the complex attacks from Barolo and ultimately sealing the victory with the power that is evident in most Washington Luchadors that call Red Mountain home!

Wrap up and overall observations

Both of these wines were excellent.  I tasted them over about 10 days and they both remained strong, continuing to unwind with more layers of flavor and character.

The Barolo showed a medium bodied range of complexity, while the Cotes de Ciel featured the more robust earthy character that I associate with the Red Mountain AVA.  The Holmes family started the Cotes de Ciel label as a way to test and explore the terroir of their Ciel du Cheval vineyard.  2012 was their first commercial vintage and I think they are on to something!

If you like Nebbiolo, or are curious about this grape that is most commonly associated with Northern Italy, I would strongly recommend both of these wines. 

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