Thursday Vinopolpick-Thanksgiving

November 28, 2013
Beautiful Monforte D’Alba vineyards, where the Conterno story began
The story of  Conterno wines is one of a long established family history, and of two brothers who elevated Barolo to what it is today; but, each in their very own way. In 1969, Aldo and Giovanni Conterno changed Barolo’s future when these two sons of Giacomo Conterno decided to go their separate ways, creating two domaines when before there had been one. Both of the brothers are gone from the world now, Giovanni passing away in 2004, and Aldo more recently in 2012, but the impressions they made on the world of Barolo are unmatched. 

Conterno Family Tree

The Conternos have a long history of winemaking in Italy, going farther back than can be recorded and spanning many locales. Our story starts in the 19th century when the forefather of today’s Conterno family returned to Italy, after a generation spent in Argentina. It was then that Giovanni Conterno brought his family back to the small winemaking farm of his father Giuseppe in Monforte d’Alba and started helping him in the production of local wine. With his return to the business, Conterno increased the production of wine, to be sold in casks not only in the Piedmont area but also as far afield as America. Giovanni Conterno died in 1934 and his son, Giacomo Conterno, continued his father’s tradition with commitment and foresight, and taking advantage of the prestige that Barolo was gathering, established his own label, Giacomo Conterno.
Giacomo, coming from this family with centuries of viticultural roots in the region, is considered one of the first small Barolo producers to bottle his own wine. The Conterno crown jewel, Monfortino, is not only arguably the greatest of all Barolo; it was also the first Barolo made in what has come to be known as the classic style. It began after Giacomo returned from Word War I. The Conternos, father and son, felt the need to create a superior Barolo, to be produced exclusively from the best vintages, with a long vinification period and capable of lasting over time. Beginning in the 1920s, during a time when Barolo was normally sold in casks and intended for early drinking, Giacomo began bottling the first reserve Barolo. For 54 years, Giacomo Conterno produced two Barolos, a normale and riserva, then produced from purchased grapes.
It was during these years, while Barolo began to grow in international recognition, that Giacomo’s sons Giovanni and Aldo began to assist and follow their father in running the business. In the mid-’50s, while Giovanni continued to study under their father, Aldo decided to set out for America, with the ambition of creating a vine-growing and winemaking business with the help of an uncle already living in California. There were many struggles to reach this goal, including Aldo getting drafted into the Korean War and a family member’s death, and though the experience made an undeniable impression upon Aldo, his dream of a winery in America never came to fruition. In 1959, Aldo returned home to Italy and resumed assisting at the family estate.
While the older brother, Giovanni, had already been responsible for winemaking since the 1959 vintage, Giacomo handed over the thriving and prestigious winery to both his sons in 1961. Aldo and Giovanni worked together to produce their father’s wines, but they held entirely different orientations regarding the future direction of their family winery. Both sons had been trained as winemakers but had very different wine ideologies. While Giovanni wanted to honor tradition, within Aldo the five-year experience in the United States had kindled a desire to establish a business of his own. After almost a decade working alongside his brother, Aldo established Poderi Aldo Conterno just down the road in 1969 and began buying top vineyards, working to carry out his own dream which had been interrupted in America.
Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, even into the early 1990s, Aldo and Giovanni vied for top honors in Barolo. Traditionalists saw Giovanni as the source of ‘true’  Barolo, while many admired the fine Barolos produced by Aldo’s ‘enlightened traditionalism.’ Both men achieved major success in their own right and their wines are revered as amazing expressions of Barolo.
Aldo Conterno
By the late 1980s, Poderi Aldo Conterno had already become a house of formidable reputation and Aldo’s style became the inspiration for a new style of Barolo with his ‘modern traditionalist’ form of winemaking. With better fruit, Aldo believed he could shorten maceration times and create less tannic, more elegant Nebbiolos. Aldo Conterno’s wines garnered much international attention, several years before a younger group of winemakers made more radical changes in their winemaking as well.
The Aldo Conterno winery operates from Bussia, in the village Monforte d’Alba, at the heart of the Barolo region. Aldo was aided by and trained his three sons Franco, Stefano and Giacomo, who now tend the 25 hectares of vines that surround the family home. Their vineyard sits at an altitude of around 400 m, with a terroir of calcareous marl alternating with layers of sand. There are also three cru vineyards on the famed Bussia slope in Monforte d’Alba; Romirasco, Cicala and Colonnello, south and southwest facing slopes on clay-calcareous soils, peppered with elements of iron, and the fruit harvested here gives rise to these three single-vineyard flagship wines, although they may also be blended into a single bottling depending on the nature of the vintage.
In his later years, Aldo remained a force at the winery and in the community, training his three sons to follow in his footsteps. Franco, Stefano, and Giacomo are now entirely responsible for Poderi Aldo Conterno, taking over full control when Aldo passed away in 2012 at the age of 81. They have maintained their father’s ideology of producing only the highest quality wines while blending tradition with innovation.
Giovanni Conterno
Since taking over management of his father’s winery in 1961, Giovanni made many changes to improve upon his father’s wines, while remaining a staunch traditionalist. In 1974 Giovanni purchased the Cascina Francia vineyard in Serralunga, bringing to an end the purchasing of fruit for Conterno wines. With its fabulous exposure, and predominately calcareous soil, the site was perfect for the powerful Conterno style, and soon Cascina Francia became the sole source of their wines with the first vintage bottled in 1978. Since then, both Barolos — Monfortino and Cascina Francia — have been sourced exclusively from Cascina Francia, the main distinction between the wines being fermentation technique and time in cask. Monfortino, the flagship of the winery since his father began producing it in the 1920’s, represents a selection of the best grapes in the greatest years and is also made differently, first undergoing an uncontrolled fermentation at relatively high temperatures and cellaring an additional three years in oak casks. Monfortino’s extra aging in cask, fitting with Giacomo Conterno’s philosophy of long oak aging, is the source of the extraordinary structure, power and concentration of the wine.
Both Giovanni, who forged a reputation as one of the greatest Barolo producers, and now his gifted son, Roberto, have continued the important work of patriarch Giacomo. Giovanni died at 75 in February 2004, and Roberto has continued the family industry in the strict traditionalist fashion. Roberto Conterno is quick to say that the wines he makes belong to his father and grandfather and that his biggest benefit is the wisdom of both Giacomo and Giovanni. Roberto has shown that he shares not only their genius, but also their devotion to tradition and history.
In 2008, Roberto purchased a prime three-hectare section of Ceretta, the famed cru in Serralunga, only the second time in the estate’s history that the family had purchased vineyard land. Serralunga is a terroir that Roberto and his father knew intimately, as it is the heart of Cascina Francia, where they have been making their wines for generations. Beginning in the 2008 vintage, Roberto has made both Nebbiolo d’Alba and Barbera d’Alba from Ceretta. In the 2010 vintage we look forward to the inaugural G. Conterno Ceretta Barolo.
 There was a strong contrast between the two Conterno men; Giovanni staunchly traditionalist, working hard to turn out benchmark Barolo under the Giacomo Conterno label. Aldo, changed through experiences in his life but still strongly loyal to Barolo, was known for his innovations and became an inspiration to a younger generation of winemakers that followed him. However, there are many similarities; both men always remained true to their love of their homeland of Barolo, elevating the wine and their vineyards with worldwide acclaim. Giovanni and Aldo both enjoyed a degree of reverence that was unique for winemakers of their time, and are both known as two men who left an undeniable mark on the world of Barolo.  They also both left behind a new generation in their families, both certain to continue their traditions of fabulous Barolo. We offer up selections from both wineries today, and will leave it to you to decide which beautiful Barolo fits you better.

Chris Cree M.W. “The producer Giacomo Conterno is clearly one of the greatest names in all of Piemonte), and each and every wine that bears the Conterno label is a profound example of its varietal and underlying terroir. While Monfortino is justifiably celebrated as one of the world’s very greatest red wines, the Barolo “Cascina Francia” is often very close to the quality of the Riserva, and is also one of the finest bottlings in all of Barolo. The Conterno uncompromising commitment to quality does not stop with Barolo, as their Barbera is one of the most age-worthy and brilliant examples of this underrated grape to be found in Piemonte. And on the rare occasions when one can find a bottle of Conterno Nebbiolo d’Alba, rest assured that it is a lovely bottle of lighter styled and complex nebbiolo that would outclass many another producer’s Barolo.”Giacomo Conterno Wines

In stock today:
Giacomo Conterno Barbera Casina Francia 2008 1.5L ($99.95) $79 special 5 available
Wine Advocate 92 points “The 2008 Barbera d’Alba Cascina Francia is a classic Conterno Barbera. Layers of dark, brooding fruit come forth gradually, along with exotic scents of new leather, licorice, tar and soy that add complexity. This is a decidedly reserved, mineral-driven Barbera that will appeal most to readers who appreciate the focused side of Barbera as opposed to more opulent vintages such as 2007 where the fruit is decidedly forward. The Cascina Francia shows greater richness and density than the Ceretta, suggesting the direction that wine is likely to take in coming years. Anticipated maturity: 2012-2023.”
Giacomo Conterno Barbera Francia 2010 1.5L ($119.95) $89 special 18 available
Wine Advocate 92 points“The 2010 Barbera d’Alba Cascina Francia is dark and brooding in this vintage. Melted road tar, incense and black fruit flesh out on this intense, powerful Barbera. The Cascina Francia can sometimes offer plenty of early appeal, but not in 2010. This is a wine that needs time. A fleshy, creamy finish backed up by serious structure suggests the best is still several years away at a minimum. The Cascina Francia is slightly rounder in style, while the Ceretta is a decidedly more linear, focused Barbera. In 2010, the Cascina Francia was picked first. Anticipated maturity: 2016-2030”
Giacomo Conterno Barolo Casina Francia 2003 1.5L ($239.95) $199 special 2 available 
Wine Advocate 94 points  “The 2003 Barolo Cascina Francia is a remarkable wine for the vintage. This deep, powerful Barolo reveals awesome richness and an almost liqueur-like quality to its fruit that is balanced by the chalky mineral notes that provide freshness on the finish and help convey an impression of notable balance. In 2003 there is no Monfortino, and the Cascina Francia surely benefits from the addition of that juice which is mostly felt in the wine’s depth. Resisting the temptation to harvest too early, Roberto Conterno waited until October 8 to start picking in his Cascina Francia vineyard, long after most producers had already brought the fruit in. He had the benefit of the late September rains that helped restore at least a little freshness to the fruit, and as a result his 2003 Cascina Francia doesn’t have the aggressive tannins that plague so many wines. Simply put, this is a stunning Barolo made all the more notable by the challenging conditions the vintage presented. Anticipated maturity: 2009-2023.”
Giacomo Conterno Barolo Cascina Francia 2007 ($149.95) $129 special 19 available
Giacomo Conterno Barolo Cascina Francia 2007 1.5L ($379.95) $299 special 2 available
Wine Advocate 96+ points “The 2007 Barolo Cascina Francia is an unusual version of this benchmark wine. In 2007 Conterno decided against bottling his Monfortino. Conterno believes Nebbiolo can handle rain and humidity (hence his decision to make Monfortino in rainy years such as 1987 and 2002), but not drought. The result is a Cascina Francia that is unusually dark, rich and powerful. The floral, herbal notes that are typical in young Cascina Francia have been replaced by deeper notes of tar, smoke and licorice to match the layers of intense dark fruit. The 2007 is powerful and imposing from start to finish. It is going to be a fascinating Barolo to follow over the coming years and decade.”
Giacomo Conterno Barolo Cascina Francia 2008 ($149.95) $129 special 3+ cases available
Giacomo Conterno Barolo Cascina Francia 2008 1.5L ($379.95) $319 special 9 available
Antonio Galloni 95+ points “The 2008 Barolo Cascina Francia possesses gorgeous inner perfume, layers of sublime fruit and fabulous overall balance. Plums, dark cherries and licorice are followed by darker notes of graphite and tar as the wine opens up in the glass. Today, the 2008 is much less expressive than it has been the many times I have tasted it from barrel. It will be interesting to see how the 2008 develops and whether it puts on weight or remains more of a mid-weight, gracious Barolo. Either way, it is fabulous.”
Giacomo Conterno Barolo Monfortino 2005 1.5L ($1099.95) $899 special 2 available
James Suckling 98 points “Incredibly polished Monfortino. The tannins caress your palate. Aromas of marzipan and dark fruits with orange peel and cedar. Dried fruits. Extremely floral as well. Full-bodied, with super fine tannins and a great elegance. You can drink now but will age for ages…98”
Arriving December 05
Giacomo Conterno Barbera Cascina Francia 2011 ($59.95) $49 special 2+ cases available
Giacomo Conterno Barbera Cascina Francia 2011 1.5L ($129.95) $109 special 12 available
Antonio Galloni- Vinous 93 points “Conterno’s 2011 Barbera d’Alba Cascina Francia emerges from the glass with an exciting mélange of savory herbs, rose petals, wild flowers and dark red fruit. Here the expression of fruit is broad, ample and generous, with layers of fruit that cover every inch of the palate. The Cascina Francia is expansive, while the Cerretta is a bit more focused. Both are fabulous.”
Giacomo Conterno Barolo Cascina Francia 2009 750ml ($179.95) $149 special 4+ cases available
Giacomo Conterno Barolo Cascina Francia 2009 1.5L ($399.95) $319 special 6 available
Wine Advocate 94-96 points “The 2009 Barolo Cascina Francia is a stunning wine. Roberto did not make Monfortino in 2009, therefore that wine was declassified and added here. The results are truly spectacular. The wine shows the soft fullness that is characteristic of the vintage, backed by tight tannins that pull the wine together. Dark fruit, licorice, chopped herb, white truffle, tar and pressed rose form a united aromatic front. Anticipated maturity: 2018-2035.”
Antonio Galloni- Vinous 95 points “Conterno’s 2009 Barolo Cascina Francia wraps around the palate with gorgeous depth. A wine of volume and breadth, the 2009 fleshes out beautifully on the palate with layers of harmonious, silky fruit. Sweet tobacco, mint, flowers, spices and the most beautiful pure fruit all flesh out on the voluptuous, inviting finish. All the elements are in place for the 2009 to develop into a superb Barolo, but readers will have to be patient as the wine was just bottled. I remember what happened the last time Conterno bottled a Cascina Francia, but no Monfortino. The vintage was 2007, and I deeply regretted not having purchased that wine.”
Giacomo Conterno Barolo Monfortino 2006 ($799.95) $519 special 9 bottles available
Antonio Galloni- Vinous 98 points “Sweet tobacco, mint, pine, mocha, wild flowers and leather are just some of the many notes that emerge from the stunning 2006 Barolo Riserva Monfortino. Exotic and aromatically expressive to the core, the 2006 finds superb depth and richness on the palate, all backed up by considerable structure. The 2006 is a huge, towering Barolo. As always, I suggest tasting the wine over the next few months or after age ten at the earliest, as it is likely to shut down hard sometime over the coming months. The 2006 is one of the most tannic Monfortinos in recent memory, right up there with the 1999 and 2002. Conterno fans will not want to miss this riveting, Barolo, a wine with few peers, some of them sitting in the Conterno cellar still unbottled.”

Jancis Robinson M.W, in writing an obituary of Aldo Conterno: “…it would not be correct to call Aldo Conterno a modernist. His wines remained subject to long ageing in large oak, although he did substantially reduce the total time his Barolos stayed on the skin. It was his open-mindedness that prevented him from becoming entangled in the sometimes open conflict between the two different camps. Perhaps this is why he was seen as a teacher and father figure to traditionalists and modernists alike. This great gentleman will be dearly missed, but some consolation is to be had from the fact that his life’s work, Favot, will continue in the solid hands of his sons.” Aldo Conterno Wines

In stock today:
Aldo Conterno Barolo 2005 ($89.95) $59 special 3+ cases available
Wine Advocate 91 points “The 2005 Barolo offers up gorgeous aromas that literally fill the room with intense perfume. This finessed, mid-weight wine reveals superb purity to its primary, fresh fruit in an ethereal style. Finessed tannins round out this complete Barolo. The wine clamped up quickly in the glass, but it should be beautiful in another year or so. Beginning with the 2004, Conterno’s Barolo contains 20% fruit from the Barolo commune in addition to the Bussia fruit that made up the wine in previous vintages. Anticipated maturity: 2010-2020.”
Aldo Conterno Barolo Cicala 2005 ($149.95) $119 special 1 bottle available
Wine Spectator 95 points “Strawberry pie and cream aromas lead to a full-bodied palate. Very thick and powerful, with big, velvety tannins and masses of fruit. A blockbuster style. Best after 2013. 750 cases made.”
Aldo Conterno Barolo Colonnello 2005 ($149.95) $119 special 6 bottles available
Wine Spectator 95 points “Enticing aromas of plum tart and vanilla bean aromas follow through to a full body, with a beautiful concentration of ripe fruit and supersilky tannins. A wine with beautiful balance and finesse that’s also concentrated and rich. Best after 2013. 600 cases made”
Aldo Conterno Barolo Romirasco 2005 ($219.95) $159 special 4 bottles available
Wine Advocate 94 points “The 2005 Barolo Romirasco is a regal, aristocratic wine that embodies everything a great Barolo should be. The wine reveals awesome density and richness in layers of deeply spiced, mentholated dark fruit, flowers and minerals that continue to emerge from the glass in a never-ending display of sheer elegance and class. This is one of the few truly complete, multi-dimensional wines of the vintage. Today the wine comes across as exceedingly young, and some bottle age is essential in order to enjoy the wine at its very finest. This is a gem from Aldo Conterno. Based on the well-deserved success of the 2004 the estate has decided to bottle a small amount of the Romirasco in each vintage, something Barolo lovers should be thrilled about. Anticipated maturity: 2012-2030.”
Aldo Conterno Barolo Cicala 2006 ($169.95) $119 special 14 bottles available 
Wine Advocate 94 points “The 2006 Barolo Cicala is another serious, austere Barolo that is tightly wound at this stage. Here the fruit is darker and more intense than in the Colonnello, while the aromatics tend towards menthol, pine, spices and all things balsamic. Sweet, powerful and layered, the 2006 Cicala finishes with a blast of roasted coffee beans, licorice and mint. This is an absolutely wonderful, complete Barolo from Aldo Conterno. Anticipated maturity: 2016-2031.”
Aldo Conterno Barolo Colonnelo 2006 ($169.95) $119 special 20 bottles available
Wine Spectator 94 points “A rich, sumptuous Barolo, with bass tones providing a full range of plum, earth and spice to match its more elevated floral and mineral notes. Firm, but not stiff, with a fine lingering aftertaste of tobacco and spice. Best from 2013 through 2030.”
Aldo Conterno Barolo Romirasco 2006 ($249.95) $149 special 20 bottles available
Wine Spectator 97 points “Rich and round, this lush style is both supple and intense, displaying a strong mineral and iron edge to its plum and black cherry flavors. A cascade of sweet spice and fruit takes it out as the structure and fruit intertwine. Best from 2013 through 2035.”
Arriving November 29:
Aldo Conterno Barolo Bussia 2009 ($59.95) $55 pre-arrival special 5+ cases available
Wine Advocate 93 points “The 2009 Barolo Bussia is a magnificent wine that makes a bold opening statement thanks to the high caliber and intensity of its bouquet. Power and sheer determination set the wine on course smoothly over the palate and the quality of the tannin is firm and tense. The wine presents fruit characteristics of dried cherry and cassis that are not too obvious but are soon followed by delicate tobacco, Indian spice, cola, tar and licorice. It’s a picture-perfect young Barolo for 2009. Anticipated maturity: 2015-2025.”
Vinopolnote- This wine closes a circle of sorts. With the 2005 Barolo at the beginning of this offer list we noted that what had heretofore been a Bussia sole bottling had the inclusion of 20% ‘outside’ fruit. That practice continued through three more vintages, but 2009 marks the return to a 100% Bussia bottling.