Even one of Italy’s most famous wine families can never be certain that they know the best way to do everything. In fact, Gaia Gaja says, doubt plays a key role in her family’s philosophy. She explains why at the 2017 New York Wine Experience.
Gaia Gaja of wine producer Gaja discusses viticulture philosophy and her role in the five-generation-old family business in this video.
“Densely woven with flavors of cherry, plum, earth and spice, this red starts out very tightly wrapped, relaxing and gaining richness with air. A touch dry on the finish, but overall balanced. Decant at least 3 hours now, or better yet, age another 5 years. Best from 2022 through 2038. 200 cases imported. ” – Bruce Sanderson
“Textbook rose, tar and cherry aromas and flavors, with accents of oak, spice, licorice and tobaccom are the hallmarks of this complex red. Powerful yet harmonious, showing fine structure and a lingering finish. Best from 2022 through 2040. 375 cases imported.” – Bruce Sanderson
2014 Barbaresco Sori San Lorenzo – 97 Points
“The 2014 Barbaresco Sori San Lorenzo is certainly one of more structured, masculine 2014s. From more limestone soils and a slightly cooler, south facing hillside, it offers a deeper ruby color to go with beautiful notes of black cherries, currants, wood smoke, white flowers, and an undeniable minerality. Like all the 2014s, it’s incredibly elegant on the palate, with a Burgundian-like texture, fine tannin, and terrific length. As with the Sori Tildin, it unwinds with time in the glass, yet needs 4-5 years of bottle age and is going to cruise in the cellar for 20-25+ years,” – JD
2014 Barbaresco – 95 Points
The 2014 Barbaresco is beautiful and made in a fine elegant style. Its medium ruby color is followed by classic (yet incredibly pure) notes of ripe black cherries and currants, with ample floral nuances, and it hits the palate with medium-bodied depth and richness that carries serious amounts of ripe, polished tannins. With nicely integrated acidity, beautiful purity of fruit, and a big finish, it blossoms with time in the glass yet still needs 4-5 years of bottle age and will keep for 25-30 years,” – JD
2013 Barolo Sperss – 97 Points
“The gem of the 2013s is the 2013 Barolo Sperss which comes from limestone-dominated soils. The 2013 is deep, concentrated, and structured, with a fabulous sense of minerality in its black cherry, leafy herbs, damp earth, and licorice aromas and flavors. From a late, cool vintage, it has awesome purity of fruit, plenty of tannins and a huge finish. It’s a brillant wine any way you look at it. I’d happily drink this elixir today but it deserves at least 3-4 years and will keep for 25+,” – JD
2013 Barolo Conteisa – 95 Points
“The 2013 Barolo Conteisa (which is the first year it’s been classified as a Barolo) is another beautiful, elegant 2013 that has loads of charm. Black cherries, framboise, tobacco, and smoked earth characteristics all emerge from this medium to full-bodied, silky effort that has ripe – even sweet – tannin, no hard edges, and beautiful purity of fruit. It’s far from inaccessible but will be better in 2-3 years and keep for two decades,” – JD
2013 Darmagi – 92 Points
“The 2013 Darmagi is almost all Cabernet Sauvignon (there’s 3% Merlot and 2% Cabernet Franc) and comes from a small 2.8-hectare vineyard. Aged 6-8 months in barrel before being moved to a larger oak cask for a year, it offers a Bordeaux-like character in its ripe dark fruits, tobacco, and damp earth aromas and flavors. Possessing medium-bodied richness, nicely integrated acidity, and an elegant, seamless style on the palate, it’s a beautiful wine to drink over the coming 10-15 years. It’s the most mid-weight of the four vintages reviewed for this report, yet it’s impeccably balanced and a classy wine,” – JD
2012 Darmagi – 94 Points
“The 2012 Darmagi is a ripper, more voluptuous and sexy wine compared to the 2013. Made from 95% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Merlot and 2% Cabernet Franc brought up in barrels and larger oak casks, its deep ruby/purple-tinged color is followed by loads of classic Cabernet dark fruits, damp earth, graphite and obvious minerality. With sweet,polished tannin and plenty of fruit, its a pleasure bent, yet elegant beauty that will keep for 15-20 years,” – JD
2011 Darmagi – 94 Points
“From a warmer vintage, the 2011 Darmagi saw a slightly different elevage, spending two years in 20% new oak barrels. It’s a more evolved, upfront, perfumed wine and boasts lots of red and black currant fruits, smoked herbs and dried earth aromas and flavors. Already drinking nicely, with chewy tannin, it lacks the elegance and purity found in the 2010 but makes up for it with sheer exuberance and character. Drink it over the coming 10-15 years,” – JD
2010 Darmagi – 95+ Points
“The gem of the lineup is the 2010 Darmagi which is the most pure, seamless, and elegant of the vintages reviewed in this report, all while not losing a beat with regards to depth and concentration. Blackcurrants, tobacco leaf, chocolate, and a touch of rocky minerality all flow to a medium to full-bodied, elegant, yet concentrated beauty that does everything right. With good acidity, fine, polished tannin, perfect balance and a great finish, this spectacular Cabernet Sauvignon will benefit from another 2-3 years of bottle age and will keep for 15+ years,” – JD
1982 Barbaresco 95 Points
“While working on this report, I had lunch with Gaia Gaja while she was visiting Denver, Colorado, and she brought a bottle of 1982 Barbaresco. Showing how beautifully these wines age, this gorgeous Barbaresco was still ruby to the rim and offers a classic, mature bouquet of dried cherries, leafy herbs, tobacco and spice. Medium-bodied, seamless, and elegant, yet still packed with sweet fruit, it’s a glorious Barbaresco drinking at point. It should have no issues keeping for another decade, but there’s no need to delay gratification,” JD
What was the first wine? There’s no way to know, though the oldest evidence of winemaking dates back 8,000 years, to Stone Age villages in the mountains south of Tbilisi, Georgia. But whoever made that first wine, man or woman, priest or peasant, we owe them a big debt. Some wines are good, some are bad, and some—a very few, like that first one—are significant. Maybe they shatter preconceptions about the potential of a grape or region; maybe they shock us with a new flavor or set of tastes; maybe they even leave us taken aback by the fact that they’re packaged in cans. Here are 40 that made a difference.
The message was clear: In the hands of an unparalleled winemaker like Angelo Gaja, Barbaresco’s greatest vineyards could be as fully distinctive and terroir-expressive as those of Burgundy. The original 1967 vintage of this wine was his first single-vineyard Barbaresco and one of the first in the region; the current 2013 Gaja Sorì San Lorenzo ($475) is thrillingly aromatic, powerfully structured, and still revelatory, 51 years later.
Click here to read the entire article.
Restaurateurs Brian Brossa (left) and Michael May (right) of Enoteca Rossa share a laugh with Gaia Gaja Photo by Kate McLean
“We’re going.” Brian said as he flicked the promotion card at me excitedly while I polished stemware. “I need to check my schedule, but…” I inspected the flyer more closely, “…oh, we’re going.”
Gaia Gaja, eldest daughter of legendary Italian winemaker Angelo Gaja, was in Houston Tuesday and kept a tight schedule. Hosted by the Terlato Wine Group, she did a training in the morning, a sommelier lunch at Pappas Bros. Steakhouse, an afternoon wine tasting at Da Marco Cucina E Vino, and a wine dinner at Potente. For Italian wine lovers, attending either of these events is the equivalent of front row seats to Beyoncé.
It’s nothing new that Houston lures reputable winemakers from around the world. We’re an attractive, thriving market of wine drinkers after all. Industry people who are sometimes too busy to break away from work certainly find a reason when iconic wine houses like Gaja come to town. Her stay in the United States, a brief one, includes stops in Dallas, Houston, New Orleans, and Florida.
The vineyards of Gaja are located in the Piedmont and Tuscany regions of Italy; the land of Barolo, Barbaresco, and super Tuscans. Gaja bottles have a simple lable; because all they really need to sell their wine are those four letters linked with over 150 years of practice and good decision making.
Angelo Gaja, who began working the family business in 1961 modernized their technique in addition to adding new grape varietals into the fold. While Gaja was always good, once Angelo got his hands on the vines they became great. In reference to side-stepping a deal with Napa Valley’s Robert Mondavi, this legend is reputed to have compared it to, “a mosquito having sex with an elephant: very dangerous and not much pleasure.”
Wine representatives, sommeliers, restaurant owners and chefs milled about, interacting with Gaia Gaja herself while tasting a generous selection of vintages. If you’re interested in tasting Gaja she recommends these:
Brunello di Montalcino (Tuscany region): 2001, 2004, 2006, 2010, 2013, and she’s excited about 2016.
Piedmont region: 1999, 2001, 2013, and 2014.
Around the time we tasted the 2012 Brunello di Montalcino (5 minutes in) we all got a little giddy. It’s common at daytime wine tastings to spit, but when you’re sipping Gaja on a beautiful afternoon in Houston, TX, you don’t spit gold.
She likes visiting Houston though. “The people in Texas are very welcoming and I always have a lot of fun when I come here, that’s the real reason.” Behind New York, Texas imports the most Gaja in the United States. Go team. Click here for this article.
– Kate McLean
“When you talk about the character of a wine, you are talking about the character of the vintage,” said Gaia. “In the easy vintages, the grapes keep memories of the easy child hood they had, and the wines are easy and friendly. In 2014, the wines are not like that.” They had a tough childhood, and that gave them tension and complexity on top of the depth that comes from the Nebbiolo grape.
“Nebbiolo is not an open book. You have to investigate it,” she said. Sanderson described the Gaja Barbaresco 2014, a blend of 14 different parcels, as firmly structured, needing time to open, with a complex finish.
Angelo’s father, Giovanni, was a vintner, a surveyor and mayor of the town of Barbaresco. These roles helped him find some of the best vineyards, including Costa Russi, at the bottom of one slope, and Sorì Tildin, at the top of the same. While tasting the Gaja Barbaresco Costa Russi 2014 and Sorì Tildin 2014, Gaia explained that the lower slope receives less sun shine and yields a more floral, elegant wine. Sorì Tildin, exposed to more constant sun offers riper fruit flavors.
The Gaja Sorì San Lorenzo 2014, from another prime Barbaresco vineyard, is known for structure over fruit or floral elements, Gaia said. As Sanderson noted, this is a Nebbiolo to age, with muscular tannins and earthy notes.
Now it’s my turn. For the people in the back, I’m the older one,” joked Angelo, now semi-retired . He spoke of a lesson his grandmother Clotilde Rey, who helped manage the winery for years, taught him as a young boy. She explained that in order to be a true artisan, he needed to do, to know how, to teach how, and to transmit knowledge.
To do means to devote yourself to a craft, then learn to truly understand it, Angelo explained. Next you must teach the next generation, and finally, transmit your knowledge to the world. Gaja has done all those things.
But even as he has handed control to his daughters, Gaia and Rossana (now the wine maker), and his son Giovanni, he has new projects . In April, he announced that he has invested on Sicily’s Mt. Etna, forming a joint venture with local producer Alberto Graci to grow Carricante and Nerello Mascalese and eventually build a winery.
Artisans never stop creating. “My father,” said Gaia, “is always looking to the future.”
– Mitch Frank
By Dan Dunn
When it comes to communal celebratory meals, lamb is fitting for these festive final weeks of the nothing-if-not-extraordinarily interesting year that was 2017. There are many different ways to prepare lamb — from grilling to braising to roasting — but no matter how it’s cooked, that rich, savory meat demands robust red wine at its side, most often Bordeaux, Burgundy, or Cabernet Sauvignon. We asked five of America’s most sagacious sommeliers to name their ideal sheep sidekicks.
“A good friend of mine taught me many years ago to love something for what it is, not what you want it to be,” says Chris Struck. It’s a lesson he revisits often on the job as a sommelier at Union Square Café in New York City. “You can’t ask or expect a wine producer who unapologetically makes a modern style to make a traditional style, nor can you compare the two in the same category. They’re like apples and oranges.” For an ideal wine to pair with a rack of lamb, Struck suggests the former (modern, not apples). Gaja is a legendary Piedmontese producer that has been making big, bold and brooding Nebbiolos like this Gaja Langhe Sperss 2011 ($250) in Italy’s Langhe region for 150 years.
“Nebbiolo offers an ideal tannic structure for red meat prepared on the rarer side,” says Struck. “With this particular wine, the myriad aromas—roses, leather, cherry, mushroom, and anise— are fun to play around with against the gaminess, herb, and mustard components often employed in the preparation of lamb dishes.” You’ll want to double decant this wine hours in advance. One could argue this wine needs time—and it does—so buy a case instead of a bottle.
To read the entire article, click here.
The Gaja family’s 2014 Barbarescos are more than worthy follow ups to the stellar 2013s. The 2014s also show a bit more stylistic cohesion throughout the range than was the case with the 2013s. Overall, the 2014s are defined by their energy, tension and brilliant personalities. As good as Gaja’s cru wines are, the straight Barbaresco – which is a blend of many top sites – is as good or nearly as good as those wines. It is also much more accessibly priced, even if none of these wines can be defined as inexpensive. Sadly, yields are down 35% across the board for the 2014s.
Barbaresco 2014: 96 Points
Gaja’s 2014 Barbaresco is rich, super-dense, and inviting, with serious underpinnings of structure and the same classicism that made the 2013 so compelling. Dense and powerful in the glass, with explosive energy and tons of tannin, the 2014 is built for extended cellaring. Expressive floral and savory notes hover out of the glass in this super-expressive Barbaresco. This is one of the most tightly wound, intense versions of Gaja’sBarbaresco I can remember tasting. Don’t miss it. Drink: 2024 – 2044
Barbaresco Costa Russi 2014: 96 Points
Soft contours, silky tannins and sweet, perfumed fruit are some of the signatures in the 2014 Costa Russi. As always, Costa Russi is the most polished and open-knit of these wines in its youth. Succulent fruit, hard candy and lifted, perfumed aromatics give the 2014 considerable early appeal, but I expect time in bottle will work its usual magic. Today, the 2014 is showing only the barest hint of its potential. Even in the early going, though, the Costa Russi is a totally sexy wine. Drinking window: 2024 – 2044
Barbaresco Sori Tildin 2014: 97 Points
Sweet rose petal, mint, chiseled red-toned fruit and chalk give the 2014 Barbaresco Sorì Tildìn its sculpted, brilliant personality. All the elements are in the right place. A wine of translucent energy and weightless elegance, the Sorì Tildìn is hauntingly beautiful today. A host of floral notes and red berry fruit infuse the persistent, chiseled finish in this fabulous Barbaresco. As it so often is, the Barbaresco Sorì Tildìn is a wine of pure charm and seduction. Drinking window: 2025 – 2044.
Barbaresco Sori San Lorenzo 2014: 97+ Points
The 2014 Barbaresco Sorì San Lorenzo is the most virile and explosive of Gaja’s Barbarescos. Dark, brooding and powerful, with a huge spine of tannin, the San Lorenzo is utterly regal in the glass. Gravel, smoke, menthol, tar, licorice and a host of sepia-toned fruits build into a crescendo of aromas and flavors that is truly compelling. What a gorgeous wine this is. Drinking window: 2024-2054.