Capri Ristorante – McLean, VA

By Megan Mallen – Flickr: Piemonte, Italy, CC BY 2.0,


The objective of these tasting is to assess and compare three Nebiolo-based wines from Piedmont, Italy and assess one Cortese white from the same region.

TYPE : Blind

  1. 2018 Principessa Gavia, Cortese, Gavi, Piedmont 
  2. 2015 Mauro Veglio, Barolo, DOGC, Piedmont 
  3. 2014 Giribaldi, Barolo, DOCG, Piedmont 
  4. 2016 Travaglini, Gattinara, DOCG, Piedmont


  1. Mixed greens salad with raisins and vinaigrette
  2. Butternut squash ravioli
  3. Wild mushrooms risotto
  4. Lamb with roasted vegetables and potatoes
  5. Dessert and/or coffee

PRESENTERS: Orlando Mason and Ricardo Santiago

PARTICIPANTS: Orlando Mason, Orlando Reos, Alfonso Sanchez, Jairo Sanchez, Ricardo Santiago


(All information obtained and condensed from several Internet articles.)

2018 Principessa Gavia, Cortese, Gavi, Piedmont 

The Wine: (WE) This has a subdued nose offering whiffs of honeydew. The simple palate offers green apple and lemon zest alongside vigorous acidity.

Winemaker Notes: Brilliant straw yellow color. The bouquet is intense, floral and fruity. In the mouth, the roundness is well balanced by a touch of acidity. Good persistence.  An aperitif wine, excellent with hors d’oeuvres and seafood.

The Winery: ( In 1979, John and Harry Mariani, owners of Banfi Vintners, established the the Principessa Gavia estate. Just a few kilometers from the town of Strevi in Italy’s Piedmont region, this vineyard estate is dedicated exclusively to the cultivation of the Cortese di Gavi grape, the sole white grape used to make Principessa Gavia Gavi and the light frizzante Principessa Perlante.

Among Piedmont’s most historical and respected white wine producing zones, Gavi—also known as Gavi di Gavi and Cortese di Gavi—comes from Piedmont’s southeast, in the province of Alessandria. Gavi is the main town of the area; Cortese is the grape. Cortese for Gavi is grown in any of 11 communes in the area where the soils are abundant in chalky, white, limestone-rich clay. The best Gavi from these locations are delicately floral, with stone fruit and citrus characters and a crisp, mineral-laden finish.

While typically made in a fresh and unoaked style, by law Gavi can come in many forms: frizzante, spumante, metodo classico and méthode ancestrale. But most producers maintain a conventional winemaking practice of temperature-controlled fermentation in stainless steel and make fresh, still whites. However, there are several barrique-aged examples, which can be interesting. The biodynamic wines of Gavi, fermented with ambient yeasts can be the most expressive.

Read More about the winery here:


2015 Mauro Veglio, Barolo, DOCG, Piedmont  

The Wine: Winemaker Notes: Ruby red of medium intensity and garnet red hues. Aromas are intense, harmonic, with ethereal and captivating nuances and a final note of red fruit. Balanced, with good persistence; already drinking well. Finishes with polished tannins and a delicate vanilla aftertaste. 

Wines and Spirits: This combines fruit from plots in the La Morra and Monforte d’Alba communes to make a fruit-forward, juicy Barolo laced with notes of licorice and vanilla bean. Ample acidity and supple tannins make it approachable in its youth. 

( Responsible for some of the most elegant and age-worthy wines in the world, Nebbiolo, named for the ubiquitous autumnal fog (called nebbia in Italian), is the star variety of northern Italy’s Piedmont region. Grown throughout the area, as well as in the neighboring Valle d’Aosta and Valtellina, it reaches its highest potential in the Piedmontese villages of Barolo, Barbaresco and Roero. Outside of Italy, growers are still very much in the experimentation stage but some success has been achieved in parts of California. Somm Secret—If you’re new to Nebbiolo, start with a charming, wallet-friendly, early-drinking Langhe Nebbiolo or Nebbiolo d’Alba.

The Winery: ( Their families were farmers for many generations, like many other families in the Langhe. In 1992, Mauro began to drastically reduce the number of grapes per hectare and started to vinify on his own in his new cantina. He utilized shorter macerations with temperature controlled rotary-fermenters and aging in small oak barrels, and he started to produce, little by little, wines that were more elegant with higher quality grapes.

Unlike the tendency of contemporary philosophy production which means the same as manipulating nature, they believe in natural systems of cultivation and vinification: they reject the use of chemical fertilizers or pesticides in their vineyards. Any chemical process is refused in the winemaking as well as any artificial concentration or aromatization: this means that the quality of the wine is the result of the natural character of the vineyards, their soil composition and microclimatic differences determining the maturity of the individual vintages. The result is the authentic essence of their “terroir” in a glass.

Read more here:

2014 Giribaldi, Barolo, DOCG, Piedmont 

The Wine: (WE) Dark berry, vanilla and toasted oak sensations lead the nose. The linear palate delivers black plum, mocha and clove alongside grainy tannins that lead to a mouth-puckering the finish. Drink after 2022.

A ruby red colour with garnet reflexes. On the nose wild roses, raspberries and cinnamon. In the mouth it is dry and warm with sensations of vanilla, tobacco, leather and green tea leaves.

The Winery: The Giribaldi winery began at the beginning of the 20th century and has been producing wines for three generations. In those days, times were hard, and agriculture was not only a means of income but also a real pride for those who loved their land even though it made them suffer so much. It was normal for them to make sacrifices for the land they brought up on. Giribaldi produces organic wines. “Today, “organic” may seem like a market trend. However, for our winery “organic” means something very different. We started our organic grape growing back in 2001, and we obtained our first organic certification in 2004. This makes us one of the first organic wine producers.”

Read more about this winery here:

2016 Travaglini, Gattinara, DOCG, Piedmont 

The Wine:The Gattinara best expresses the classic qualities of the appellation; it is a wine with marked minerality and complexity.Deep ruby red in color with garnet reflections. On the nose, aromas of red fruit, blackberry, plum and licorice with hints of vanilla and leather. Full-bodied palate, with intense flavors of cherry, raspberry and spice culminating in a long and smooth finish. Outstanding with red meat, game, and hard cheeses. Recommended aging from 3 to 10 years, but this wine will easily maintain its integrity for years following.

The Winery: (from The Travaglini family has been producing remarkable, limited-production wines from their estate in Gattinara for four generations. Gattinara plays an important role in Italian viticulture, but until a couple decades after the turn of the century, this beautiful region of Alto Piemonte was nearly forgotten. A winemaking region older than Barolo, Gattinara covered almost 600 hectares by the end of the 1800’s, making it one of the largest in Northern Europe. The phylloxera plague, coupled with a devastating hail storm in 1905, completely destroyed the region and wine production in Gattinara was abandoned.

The Travaglini family has owned land in Gattinara since the beginning of the 19th century. They farmed a few hectares of land and produced wine for local consumption. The small winery started with Clemente Travaglini, who was succeeded by his son Arturo. It was not until 1958 however, when Arturo’s son, Giancarlo, established the Travaglini Estate Winery. It was Giancarlo who recognized a greater potential in Gattinara and executed groundbreaking changes in his vineyards and cellar, unseen before in the appellation. For example, he pioneered research into improving viticultural methods, such as high density planting (up to 5,000/HA), 100% hand-harvesting and Guyot vine training; today commonly practiced throughout the Appellation. His passion for Nebbiolo helped raise the profile of Gattinara, a commitment that has been carried on through the generations.

The Travaglini family owns 59 hectares of vineyards; 52 of which are dedicated to vines, primarily Nebbiolo, which covers roughly 50% of the total Gattinara DOCG. A small portion of old vines, is planted to native varieties Vespolina and Bonarda.

This small appellation lies in the rocky foothills of the Monte Rosa range, where ventilating winds blow down from the nearby Alps. Soils are rocky and rich in porphyry, granit and iron, imparting a reddish color in the soil. Similar in composition to the Alps, Monte Rosa’s sedimentary rocks is highly acidic, due to low levels of calcium carbonate and magnesium, and an absence of calcium. Vines grown in this rare soil produce grapes with a unique flavor profile, as well high acidity and tannins. Its northern, mountainous location experiences a continental climate, with very cold winters, warm, sunny summers, and a strong diurnal temperature shift.

Following traditional red wine fermentation in stainless steel tanks at controlled temperature, the wine is aged for 3 years: 2 years in used Slavonian oak casks of different sizes. The wine then rests for 3 months in bottle.


Read more here:


The quality of all the reds was found from very good to excellent.  There was consensus that the best wine was the Mauro Veglio in terms of overall elegance, structure and balance.  All the reds have good potential to improve over time. The Gavia Cortese turned out surprisingly good for the price.  Good acidity, minerals and fruit, refreshing and easy to drink.

View full evaluation here: 69 Summary of Tasting Scores


Barolo: ( The center of the production of the world’s most exclusive and age-worthy red wines made from Nebbiolo, the Barolo region includes five core townships: La Morra, Monforte d’Alba, Serralunga d’Alba, Castiglione Falletto and the Barolo village itself, as well as a few outlying villages. The landscape of Barolo, characterized by prominent and castle-topped hills, is full of history and romance centered on the Nebbiolo grape. Its wines, with the signature “tar and roses” aromas, have a deceptively light garnet color but full presence on the palate and plenty of tannins and acidity. In a well-made Barolo, one can expect to find complexity and good evolution with notes of, for example, strawberry, cherry, plum, leather, truffle, anise, fresh and dried herbs, tobacco and violets.

There are two predominant soil types here, which distinguish Barolo from the lesser surrounding areas. Compact and fertile Tortonian sandy marls define the vineyards farthest west and at higher elevations. Typically the Barolo wines coming from this side, from La Morra and Barolo, can be approachable relatively early on in their evolution and represent the “feminine” side of Barolo, often closer in style to Barbaresco with elegant perfume and fresh fruit.

On the eastern side of the region, Helvetian soils of compressed sandstone and chalks are less fertile, producing wines with intense body, power and structured tannins. This more “masculine” style comes from Monforte d’Alba and Serralunga d’Alba. The township of Castiglione Falletto covers a spine with both soils types.

Nebiolo is a black grape with high levels of acidity and tannins but little color. In the Barolo wine region, the grapes ripen slowly in the steep south-facing slopes developing perfumed aromas of sour cherries, herbs and sometimes dried flowers. In the best years, the wines are full-bodied with high acidity and tannins and they have the ability to develop in the bottle. Today, improvements in vineyard management and gentler methods of extraction results in wines with smoother, riper tannins, and mean that many producers now choose to mature their wines for shorter periods of time. [WSET, Understanding wines: Explaining style and quality.]

The name Nebbiolo drives from nebbia, Italian for ‘fog’, probably referring to the thick, natural bloom covering the ripe berries, as if they were covered in a layer of fog. … in very general terms unadulterated Nebbiolo tends to be light in colour, turning orange with bottle age rather faster than most other red wine varieties, to be high in both acid and (especially) tannin, and to exhibit a haunting array of aromas which might include tar, cordite, leaf mould, dried cherries, liquorice, violets and rose. [Jancis Robinson et al., Wine Grapes.]

Cortese (Wine Searcher) is a white grape variety that is most famous for its role in the crisp, lime-scented wines of Gavi. The variety is known for its bracingly high acidity and its ability to retain freshness, even when grown in hot environments. Apple, peach and honeydew flavors are commonly associated with Cortese wine, with lime, almond and light herbal or grassy aromas.

In the Gavi wine region, the vines are grown in hills where the altitude and sea breezes result in long, slow ripening of Cortese grapes, emphasizing its natural high acidity and floral character. The wines are pale and light-bodied, with high acidity and aromas, and flavours of citrus, green apples and pears.

Cortese must be watched carefully in the vineyard to ensure success: it is a vigorous, productive vine and if yields are not kept in check then the wines can be bland and lacking in character. Ripeness is another key issue – while it does well in Gavi’s warm environs, it can struggle to ripen fully in other parts of Piedmont. This leads to wines with almost unmanageably high acidity, which is why Cortese is used more often as a minor blending grape outside of its home town.

Some producers use malolactic fermentation to mitigate the variety’s high acidity, but it is usually produced in a crisp, dry style. High acidity can be useful to growers as well. Cortese is sometimes used to make sparkling wines.