ADVERTISING: Advertorial — GEORGE BALLING: A retrospective tasting of great Antinori bottlings

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We just completed a weekend of events with Riccardo Cugini from Antinori Estates in Italy. As we normally do with such a prestigious visitor, we held a winemaker dinner at Fleur de Sel in Post Falls on Thursday, followed up by a tasting here at the shop on Friday. The events were very well attended as you might guess, and as these events go, they were exceptional!

We have been working with Fleur de Sel for six years now on our winemaker dinners, and as always, they delivered a top-notch product with extraordinary service and professionalism. These dinners are where Laurent, chef and co-owner, really gets to let his creativity flow. Combined with his obvious skill, it is no wonder he is a James Beard Award semi-finalist. In working with Antinori on this dinner though, he stepped things up even further, tapping both his French and Italian heritage for some really spectacular food that paired perfectly with the wines from Antinori. If you have never attended any of these events and would like to they are all listed on our website www.thedinnerpartyshop.com.

The best recent vintages across Europe have been 2010, 2011 and 2015. While vintage is important across the wine world, I find it is even more crucial with European reds. We were fortunate with this set of events to be able to taste an Antinori red from each of these epic years. Here is my review of these three wines, of which we are fortunate to have in the shop for sale, although a couple are in small numbers.

The 2015 La Braccesca Sabazio Rosso di Montepulciano is truly an extraordinary value. The wine received a 90-point rating from the Wine Spectator and is a top 100 value selection in Wine Enthusiast, and while I don’t employ a number rating system, I will tell you the wine is flat out delicious! This is the way great vintages are in Italy- you end up with extraordinary wine priced at $16 ($14.40 if you are in our wine club). The wine is largely Sangiovese with some other varietals blended in small percentages. The nose shows lovely berry notes, mild earthiness and savory coffee notes. The palate is silky with perfect palate weight and is a “berry bomb” of flavor focused on raspberry and blackberry. Of the three wines reviewed here we have secured the best supply on this gem.

The 2011 Antinori Badia a Passignano Chianti Classico is the wine that is in the tightest supply of these three and was my personal favorite from the lineup. This is the wine that gets “wine geeks” really fired up. Great Chianti with the added benefit of some age on it just doesn’t get any better. At $70, ($63 if you are in our wine club) we know it will be reserved for special occasions, but every time you have it we predict you will be pleased. The wine is 100 percent Sangiovese Grosso, and shows aromatics of spice box and ripe raspberries. The palate follows up with more ripe berry notes and other red fruit flavors framed by firm tannins that make for a long, elegant finish.

The 2010 Prunotto Barolo is a lovely example of what Barolo can be in a warm vintage. Nebbiolo is the grape used in the tiny DOCG of Barolo, and is a bit of a fooler. The wine is a light ruby color in the glass, leading one to think the wine will be lighter in body. It is anything but. Barolo is typically highly tannic and needs not only long cellar age to come around, but also a fair amount of time to aerate. But when you have a long warm summer like 2010, you end up with a Barolo that can be drunk in its youth, making the $70 ($63 if you are in our wine club) investment a bit easier to wrap your mind around. The wine shows pipe tobacco, oregano and a touch of licorice, along with blue fruit aromas. The palate exhibits ample and appropriate tannin for Barolo surrounding the core of plum, dark-berry and cherry fruit flavors.

We always work to find unusual and hard to come by varietals and vintages for our events and our shelves in the shop. It is a treat when they come together so well like these with Riccardo and the wines from Antinori.

• • •

George Balling is co-owner with his wife, Mary Lancaster, of the dinner party, a wine and gift shop in Coeur d’Alene by Costco. The dinner party has won the award for best wine shop in North Idaho twice, including for 2018. George is also published in several other publications around the country. After working in wineries in California and judging many wine competitions, he moved to Coeur d’Alene with Mary more than 10 years ago to open the shop. You can also follow us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/#!/dinnerpartyshop.

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