Monday, January 31, 2011

An Unsung Underdog From An Underrated Region - Albeno Munari

Since last year's coverage of Albeno Munari's releases, statements about this winery have surfaced a number of times on this site.  They include:
  • "An unsung underdog from an underrated region."
  • "[A wine to get your hands on ] if you want to be on the cutting edge of discovery this year..."
  • "More than fairly priced for wines bordering on profound."
  • Winner of the Best of 2010 tasting (2006 Cabernet)
  • "By far, the most consideration you ought to be giving to a winery..."
  • "...an insane value."


In contrast to the releases we reviewed last year, which all shared a common x factor (seamless vanillin theme and romantic, swooning aromatics), these releases are unique to their respective varieties and terroir.  Each is a faithful rendition of its grape and an honest expression of where they're grown - not a small feat for any winemaker.  In this extremely challenging market climate, it'll be very interesting to see how whether the market recognizes what's happening at Albeno Munari.  On the one hand, the market is saturated with product that isn't moving.  But on the other, 95% of it isn't of the caliber and value these wines represent...

These are all from the 2007 vintage, which is being heralded as the best vintage since 2006 (ha!) and they are all sourced from the Santo Domingo Valley in Calaveras County.  Prices are off the website, but you should contact Al directly if you want to place an order.  Bravo to the team for making another impressive showing with this lineup of winners. 
Tempranillo $22 - Any wine that can coerce you into closing you eyes and then transport you to another place possesses an enviable power of influence.  Sharing Riojas' elegance and balance, this Tempranillo sends you to the edge of a vineyard surrounded by tall , heavily barked conifers, swaying eucalyptus, and bending river banks.  Take a deep breath of this and close your eyes.  There you are.  Sinking into the Adirondack, relaxing, wondering why you didn't come out here sooner.  Enjoy.

Merlot $20 - With all the appeal that French Merlot can, on occasion, brings forth, this endearing example exhibits lean, integrated acids early on, which mellow and give way to warmth as it opens up.  Medium-bodied and certainly Californian in its character, this wine shares the Munari thumbprint: place, essence, authenticity, and enjoyment.  Lay some down and celebrate some milestones down the road.

Barbera $18 - Monique, oh Monique...winemaker Monique Vongehr scores a direct hit with this one.  After only a couple of hours open, this clean, efficient juice starts you down its path of devious seduction.  Bordering on subtle caramel lures you into the fruit by your nose.  After that, you're cooked.  Crisp tannins fit this wine like the teeth of a zipper.  Like the 06 vintage, it pays homage to the variety's motherland without sacrificing the vineyard's identity.  Yes, an Italian grape grown in Gold Rush country can taste both authentically Italian and genuinely Californian without coming off like the Olive Garden.  Bravo, bravo, bravo!

Petite Sirah $26- A flavor juggernaut the color of dragon's blood.  Decanting this beast gives you a front row seat to what outer space must've looked like to the Apollo crew.  Massive, dense, very well structured, and full of nuanced layers, this Petite is more than just brawn - it's beauty, too.  Possessing all the characteristics of classic Petite Sirah, but overflowing with grace, it causes pauses.  If you know anyone who had a baby in 2007, this would be a good wine to get a case of for their 21st-33rd birthdays.

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