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Aldo Conterno is one of those storied names among what many consider to be the greatest grape in all of Italy, Nebbiolo. It invokes such a rich and visceral response, it transforms in the glass, and it belongs to Italy. Long one of my favorite producers is Aldo Conterno, a producer with one foot in a storied past and the other heading towards the future.

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The three sons of Aldo, Franco, Giacomo and Stefano now control the Piedmonte estate and the wines are remarkable different in style, expression and youth – regardless of what the vintage on the bottles states. Nebbiolo is a grape that gets everyone excited; just mention the name Barolo and and you will be hard pressed not to find the Italian Wine Geek enjoying a glass.

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We started with a fun wine that began as an enology school project, the 2006 Erpacrife, a sparkling nebbiolo with no dosage (added sugar to further fermentation and creation of bubbles). This wine has a marvelous color and is surprisingly vivacious – these are exactly the kind of wines that highlight the versatility of Nebbiolo. I tend to prefer sparkling wines made from higher percentages of darker skinned grapes; Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier in high percentages in Champagnes, for example. At least in my case it would seem that the darker the berry the better the juice.

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The 2006 Barolo with the classic label is a blend of three sites, averaging 35 year old vines. This is the wine targeted at restaurants with twenty six months in large slavonian oak, the 2006 is what could be a called a ‘classic’ vintage; more austere, and more Piedmontese.

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Terroni Downtown Los Angeles is one of the epicenters of Italian wine culture in Los Angeles and the private room, with it’s walls adorned with bottles of vino both esoteric and storied made a perfect setting for a grand tasting.

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Starting with some fried zucchini flowers and arancini (deep fried rice balls) as well as a simple panini, we moved into a fantastic black truffle pasta.

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Located in Bussia by the scenic town of Monforte D’Alba, the Barolo of Aldo Conterno are some of the most expressive to be found. The 5th generation winery with 10 employees produces nearly eighty thousand bottles of wine born of myth and fog. The harvests are all done manually.

We were given an opportunity to try a few of the other wines from Conterno, beginning with the the 2011 Langhe Nebbiolo as well, with a grape I always find interesting, Fresia. Though the total finesse of Fresia will never rival Nebbiolo, it still makes for some very interesting wines. Composed of 20% Fresia and the remaining 80% Merlot this was certainly an interesting bottling. This was my first time trying the 2011 ‘Conca Tre Pile” Barbera which I found to be a bit to modern; very rich in concentration as well as acidity but lacking adequate tannins.

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The discussion on Barolo with wine professionals nearly always reaches the topic of vintages. The general consensus was that the warmer year 07’s were a bit more open in their youth, more silky in body – and the 2011’s will follow suit. My notes highlighted the 2009 Barolo as ready to drink now, with better integration of oak. The 2010 I felt was tight and not quite ready. The next few wines were perfect with a steak dripping with blood and flavor (as a side note, I often love to mention to people that the flavor in meat comes from blood).

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I am more of a traditionalist when it comes to Barolo, which I liken to an orchestra; I tend to prefer the long macerations and blends of Barolo ( I’m reversed when it comes to Barbaresco, in which I think the cru’s show much better, ceteris paribus) The single vintages from the superb site vigna Colonnello featuring 40 year old vines are really excellent from Conterno, like a fantastic soloist singing in perfect key. The 2009 was ready to drink, with a rich velvet texture, I think the 2010 will be even better but needs more time.

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The 2009 Conterno ‘Ciacalla’ was one of my favorites of the cru’s with extremely spicy tannins and a layered texture you would expect from a blend. The wine that took the breath was the 2006 Gran Bussia Reserva, a blend of grapes harvested only in the best years from the Romirasco, Cicala and Colonnello vineyards. This wine waits nearly 8 years before seeing a public glass and is extremely limited.

Drink Barolo, the wine of Kings and eat bloody meat.

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