Canonica Barolo 2008

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You may have noticed that we very rarely use outside sources for notes about wine; our egos are so gigantic that we think our own opinions count for more. At any rate, if you’ve bought from us based on something you’ve read here, at least you know who to blame! However, even gigantic egos have their fragile aspects, and it’s always gratifying to have a dearly-held opinion confirmed by someone you respect. I had this happy experience a couple of weeks ago when I went to visit Gianni Canonica with Gregory Dal Piaz and Levi Dalton, two wine tasters for whom I have the highest esteem.

Gregory (editor of Snooth.com) has been a serious devotee of traditional Nebbiolo for over 30 years; he’s an independent and intelligent taster who’s not easily impressed, even when he’s supposed to be.  I love his tasting notes (you can see a great many on Snooth) which far transcend the run-of-the-mill note we are usually subjected to. Snooth recently published Gregory’s “top 12 List” of Nebbiolo producers; if you like the best traditional wines then you can probably guess at least 8 of those names, but I was glad to see Canonica at #12: “So here’s a new producer for me. I’ve tasted a grand total of one wine from Gianni, but it was a doozy. His 2008 Barolo from the Paiagallo vineyard, which overlooks the village of Barolo, was all purity and finesse. It was a singular expression of Barolo like none I’ve had before, making Canonica a producer to follow.
This is organic wine; pure and joyous in its expression of soft wild cherry fruit. It’s possible that 2008 just happened to be a particularly good year for Gianni, but I’m betting his two and a half decades of experience, in minute quantities I might add, probably also have something to do with it.”

Levi is a sommelier with many years’ experience at some of our best restaurants. I don’t know if he has any of the sommelier ‘degrees’ or ‘diplomas’ that seem to be so sought after now, but if you have enjoyed his wine service, or better yet tasted with him, it’s quickly very clear that this is someone who really knows his stuff; he’s the kind of taster who remembers everything he tastes, and who has a reasoned opinion about it – sometimes ferocious, always astute. He’s also one of my favorite writers; you can read his thoughtful (and often funny and touching) posts here, from which I have extracted a bit about Canonica:  “I've had exactly one example of a Canonica wine, this one, the 2008 Barolo, and let me tell you, I Loved it. That kind of clarity to the fruit on the palate, well, I'm not sure if I know of another example that would be similar. At least not in Barolo, which is where Giovanni Canonica lives and has long worked. If you were to tell me that you have liked Occhipinti in Sicily or Lapierre in Morgon, then I would tell you not to hesitate in finding yourself a bottle of Canonica, because it is fabulous”.

So. I can’t really top that. I love Canonica – and I have done so all the way back to… 2005. That’s the oldest Canonica I’ve tasted (although Gianni first bottled his own wine in 1982). Each vintage since 2005 has been stellar. A lot of wine here slips through my hands, so to speak, but this is one I don’t let get away - I buy some for my own cellar, for what that’s worth. Until last year Canonica didn’t sell in the US, but Kevin McKenna of Louis/Dressner was – no big surprise here – smart enough to persuade Gianni to sell him some wine, and now we can offer it to you.

There’s only one vineyard, called Paiagallo, which sits on the hill above Barolo; there’s a bit of Barbera planted in a total of just 3.5 acres of vines (there are very few wines that make it to the market from such small properties, and the Barbera is ‘just for the family’). Everything is traditional in the vines and cellar: no herbicides, pesticides, or fertilizers; vine treatments with copper and sulfur only; destemming, 30-40 day macerations, no manipulations, aging in botte with no fining or filtration. The result, as my honored friends say above, is wine of great purity and finesse, and in my opinion wine on a level that only the very best achieve.

This is a PRE-ARRIVAL offer; we expect the wine in the first week of July, and we can hold it here in our 55-degree cellar until you are ready to ship. It’s commonplace wine sales ‘technique’ to say that “quantities are very limited”, but this time it’s really true.

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