2004 Brunello di Montalcino Sugarille, Pieve Santa Restituta (Gaja), Italy ($160)
I was lucky enough to be at a table Saturday night where a friend ordered this incredible wine. The restaurant was the utterly charming, super-chic, very expensive Cipriani at the base of the Sherry Netherland hotel at the northeast corner of Central Park in NYC. I’d scoped out the list, recommended some Italian reds around $150…but my generous friend/host opted for this, at $550 lira (I wish!) a bottle. But it was worth the cash. The mega-star Angelo Gaja, famous for his Piemonte wines, bought into Tuscany just over a decade ago when he acquired the Pieve Santa Restituta estate in Montalcino. At first, he made single-vineyard wines, like this Sugarille. Starting in 2005, he began combining his top vineyards into one wine. I haven’t tasted those combos, though they are some of the world’s most sought-after Brunellos…but I don’t know how they can top this 2004 Sugarille! Dark garnet, very mid-life looking. The nose offers one of my favorite aroma combos in the world of aged red wine: raspberry jam with white truffles. Those aromas come roaring through as seductive flavors on the rich but elegant palate, now quite gentle in the finish. The wine reeks of expensive treatment and care.
We drank lustily with exquisite Osso Buco…and the otherworldly Risotto Milanese liked the wine too. I was concerned that this Gaja Brunello might be too rich for my Venice-style calves’ liver (a dish that makes me think aged red Burgundy)…but the wine performed a circus trick, and tightened up for the fegato. I came away thinking…this is delicious, complex, world-shaking wine…that can also match a LOT of red-wine foods!