Saturday, January 24, 2009

Cellar Report: 2000 Vignalta "Gemola" Cab Franc-Merlot

Northern Italy isn't the first place I think of when I want a Cabernet Franc-Merlot blend. I'm more of a Bordeaux kind of guy. Maybe the occasional domestic bottle, but when you can drink Euro wines that are just as good or better for less then why bother? But I've never been crazy about cab-based wines from northern Italy. They more often than not have this off-putting green pepper/dill character. Vignalta's "Gemola" has always been the exception. This is a meticulously run family estate in the Veneto, where along with delicious Valpolicella's and other whites and reds, they also produce various other food related products like olive oil and an awesome sea salt (pic at lower right) with dry herbs that if you try it once you'll be seriously hooked (if you want some, I stock it here at the wine shack. It'll jump to the top of your seasoning list, I promise). Anyway, a few years ago I stuck a bottle of the 2000 Gemola in the basement and forgot about it. We popped it out at dinner the other night during our unfortunate Sel Gris dinner, and without question it was the high point. The cabernet franc and merlot had mellowed out, blending with the tannins seamlessly. Plum, blackberry, cocoa, and earthy aromas and flavors rolled out of the glass. It had a fabulous texture, like dragging a piece of velvet across your palate (I know, sounds disturbing, but in this case it was a good thing). The finish was this long, lush caress of fruit that was really amazing. It reminded me of a well aged Bordeaux, and was easily the best cab-based red I've ever had from Italy. Great stuff, and a pretty damn good value when you consider the current (also delicious) 2004 vintage goes for about $30. These wines at this price will absolutely kick to the curb most domestic wines that cost twice as much, especially given a little time in a cool, dark corner of your house!

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