A Magical Evening of Great Barolos at Cru

An evening at Cru is always a memorable experience, and this night was no exception as we were treated to an amazing dinner featuring great food, wine, and most important of all, the company of close friends.  Readers who love older wines owe it to themselves to pay a visit to Cru and to explore its breathtaking wine list, which offers a rich treasure trove of selections.  I think it is fair to say that every major producer of note is well represented in an astonishing range of vintages.  On this occasion the focus was on Bruno Giacosa’s Red Label Riservas from the mid-1980s although we did have a chance to taste some other great wines as well.  The four of us had no problem polishing off these fine bottles…quite an achievement especially given that my wife does not drink much.

Service at Cru was impeccable.  Wine Director Robert Bohr and his staff did a great job serving the wines throughout the course of the dinner.  The almost-fanatical attention to the details of wine service, including the temperature of the wines, decanting, stemware and the labeling of multiple glasses on the table showed the highest level of professionalism and made for a very enjoyable evening.  Between the four of us I think we tried most, if not all of the dishes on Chef Shea Gallante’s tasting menu.  Highlights included the Toro tuna, white polenta soup, confit rabbit, Maine lobster and a lovely perfectly cooked sliced squab breast.  We started with the outrageous 1996 Dom Pérignon and then moved into the following wines.

2001 Di Poli Sauvignon Voglar – Peter Di Poli is the outspoken vigneron behind one of Italy’s most intriguing Sauvignons.  Di Poli’s Voglar is a wine that screams Trentino terroir and varietal, with plenty of ripe fruit, wet stone, smoke, mint and tomato leaf notes.  This wine does not undergo malolactic fermentation and is aged in cask, giving it a somewhat lean, crisp personality that was perfect with our raw seafood starters.  A few years of bottle age have also added more body, richness, and complexity than when last tasted two years ago.  A great effort.  90/drink now-2009, 10/05

1971 Cantina (Bartolo) Mascarello Barolo – Medium faded red.   The 1971 shows advanced aromas of tobacco and leather along with a persistent note of barnyard that does not blow off.  It is a soft-spoken, hushed wine without much fruit, but with a lovely open and delicate texture on the palate.   Predictably this was more evolved than when last tasted from 1.9 liter magnum (see Piedmont Report Issue 1) and did not improve once opened.  It appears to be a wine to drink sooner rather than later. 

Perhaps overly seduced by the romantic notions of ‘terroir’ and ‘tradition’ I used to think that it was acceptable for wines like this to have dirty aromas and flavors.  I now believe that these qualities are serious defects that mar what could have been - and should have been - unforgettably great Barolos.  While the 1971 is not a wine for the uninitiated, it will appeal to those who enjoy this producer’s unique expression of Barolo, with both its prized qualities and flaws on display.  Personally I wish this wine was cleaner, especially on the nose. I place Mascarello’s 1971 behind the great 1978, 1982, and 1985 vintages.  89/drink now-, 10/05

1985 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Riserva Santo Stefano – Medium ruby.  The 1985 Santo Stefano is an outrageous, decadent wine.  It offers an ethereal, perfumed nose along with layers of dark fruit in soft, seductive style, closing with a blast of tar on the finish.  The Santo Stefano is the more open of these 1985 Giacosas.  It is an irresistible wine to drink today and I would choose to drink my remaining bottles over the next five or so years while the fruit and vibrancy are still present.  97/drink now-, 10/05

1985 Bruno Giacosa Barolo Riserva Falletto – Medium evolved ruby.    The Falletto is another great wine for current drinking.  It shows an alcoholic nose and plenty of lush, sweet fruit with notes of dark macerated cherries, spices and menthol that gradually reveal themselves as the wine sits in the glass.  Although the Falletto is a wine of greater overall structure, it is softer and more advanced in its flavors than the Santo Stefano, and ideally it too should be consumed over the next few years.  96/drink now-, 10/05

1986 Bruno Giacosa Barolo Riserva Falletto – Dark ruby.  The revelation of the night, Giacosa’s 1986 Falletto Riserva is also one of my all-time favorites from this producer.  It is a stunning Barolo, displaying a classic, deep nose of roses, tar, and smoke followed by massive amounts of dark, sweet fruit wrapped around a tight core of iron-like minerality, with tremendous structure, length, and freshness on the finish.  This superb, multi-dimensional Barolo appears to still be a few years away from its peak, and should offer profound drinking until at least age 30 and probably beyond.  An awesome effort.  97/drink now-, 10/05

Editor’s note: Cru has closed since this article was first published.

—Antonio Galloni