Vajra 2016 - Three Variations on Barolo

The Vajra family has farmed Bricco delle Viole, the highest stretch of vineyards in the commune of Barolo, since the 1880s.  These high elevation vineyards are a key distinguishing factor of all Vajra wines, allowing them to express finesse and complexity over simple power.  Another distinguishing factor is Aldo Vajra (pronounced va-ra), who as a teenager pursued an ambition to re-invigorate his winemaking family legacy. Displaying vision and commitment belying his young age, he took over the estate in 1968. 

A child of the 60s, Aldo acquired the first organic certification in the region in 1971 (he also pioneered the revival of Freisa, a wonderful yet almost forgotten local grape).Vineyards have been nurtured and soil preserved by grassing and cover crop for almost 50 years now.  With a high ratio of manual work per hectare, the estate focuses on maintaining optimal biodiversity of plant and animal ecosystems in the vineyards and in the surrounding property.  Aldo and wife Milena are now joined by their children Giuseppe, Francesca and Isidoro, as well as a team of young professionals.

Ravera is the star vineyard in the Barolo commune of Novello. The subsoil is a complex mix of clay and sandstone and the wines display bright aromatics and power on the palate. Coste di Rose is in Comune di Barolo and its particular terroir typically delivers wine with tell-tale notes of cherry, mint and sweat spices.  And, among the historical vineyards of Barolo, Bricco delle Viole is the highest and the closest to the Alps and produces profound wines of complex aromatics, sculptured tannins and subtle minerality.  All three have the power and breadth one expects from great Barolo, yet the Ravera is perhaps distinguished by early approachability, the Coste de Rose by finesse and the Bricco delle Viole by complexity.

2016 was a classic vintage. The locals called it “a farmer’s year” for what is a rare combination of uniform grape quality and abundant crop. After a mild winter, spring had lots of rain that enriched the water reserves and with temperate weather overall the wine making year shaped into one of lift and energy over fruit concentration.  The wines will age well for the next 20 years. 

G.D. Vajra Ravera Barolo 2016
Retail Price: $88.99
Sale Price: $83.97

Wine Enthusiast, 96 pts. – “Focused and vibrant, this chiseled red has enticing scents of small red berry, rose, menthol and culinary spice. On the taut, youthfully austere palate, a backbone of firm, fine-grained tannins supports juicy red cherry, strawberry and licorice while fresh acidity keeps it balanced. Give it time to unwind and come together.” (7/2020)

Vinous, 96 pts. - “The 2016 Barolo Ravera is tough as nails today, but it has striking inner sweetness and remarkable persistence.  Bright red cherry, mint, white pepper, blood orange and dried flowers give the 2016 brilliant top notes to match its finely sculpted feel. Veins of acidity and tannin add razor-sharp precision throughout. I can’t wait to taste this in another few years’ time.” (2/2020)

G.D. Vajra Coste di Rose Barolo 2016
Retail Price: $75.99
Sale Price: $68.97

James Suckling, 96 pts. – “This has some very attractive rose perfume and anise spice with raspberry, redcurrant and red-cherry aromas. Blueberry pastry, too. So perfumed. The palate has very fine, almost crystalline tannins and such intense, juicy and vivaciously delivered flavors of essence-like red fruit. So precise. Drinkable now, but with potential for long-term cellaring.” (8/2020)

Vinous, 94 pts. - “The 2016 Barolo Coste di Rose is plump, juicy and forward - all qualities that make it one of the more approachable wines in the Vajra range. Plump dark cherry, plum, licorice, spice and menthol all flesh out in a racy, juicy Barolo that will drink well right out of the gate. Plush fruit and silky tannins add to the wine’s voluptuous feel and early accessibility.” (2/2020)

G.D. Vajra Bricco Viole Barolo 2016
Retail Price: $89.99
Sale Price: $84.97
Wine Advocate, 98pts. – “From the Bricco delle Viole cru, or the vineyard most strongly associated with this historic estate, this is a versatile or "evergreen" wine that always delivers consistent results. The G.D. Vajra 2016 Barolo Bricco delle Viole sees fruit from a seven-hectare vineyard with high exposures positioned at 400 to 480 meters above sea level . . . In a word, the profile here is classic. You get delicate fruit tones and wild rose with camphor ash, licorice and tar. The wine is beautifully harmonious and ethereal.” (7/2020)

Vinous, 97 pts. - “The 2016 Barolo Bricco delle Viole is going to need a few years to emerge, but it has all the qualities to develop into a truly special wine. Dark red/purplish fruit, hard candy, mint, lavender and sweet spice give the 2016 striking inner perfume. On the palate, the 2016 is a tightly wound, classically austere Barolo that will especially delight readers with traditionally leaning palates. In this late-ripening vintage, there is a great balance of structure, aromatics and mid-palate sweetness. I absolutely loved it.” (2/2020)

Past Cellar Selections:
Beaucastel 2006 - A Chateauneuf You Don’t Have To Wait For
Montevertine – Chianti for Wine Geeks
La Rioja Alta “890” Gran Reserva Rioja 2004
MeixFoulotMercurey 2017 – Burgundy for Bargain Hunters
Giuseppe Mascarello Nebbiolo 2018
Domaine Huët 2019 – Grand Cru from the Loire Valley
Brunello di Montalcino 2015 – Selected Bottles
Shafer Vineyards – Relentless, One Point Five and Chardonnay
Paul Jaboulet – Majestic Wines from the Northern Rhone
Alion and Pintia – The Other Vega Sicilias
Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey – Magic in Burgundy
Domaine A. et P. de Villaine – Budget DRC?
Three Oderros: for the Picnic Table, the Dinner Table and the Cellar
Castilla Ygay 2010 – at 98 pts a ‘First Growth’ Rioja
Burgundy with age from Jean Chauvenet
Cornas and Côtes-du-Rhone from Franck Balthazar
Quintessa 2016 – 98pt Bordeaux Blend from Napa

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