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Rush and Barolo in Milano

Posted: Oct 23, 2007 12:55pm ET

I went last night to the Bulgari Hotel in Milan with my children, Jack and Isabel, for dinner with Geddy Lee and Charlene and Alex Lifeson, and their friend Andy (whose surname I didn't catch). The band Rush is in Milan, doing a concert as they are near the end of a successful tour in Europe. (It's my children's first rock concert!) A lot of the show will be from their new album, Snakes and Arrows, which I think may be their best ever. The band gets better with age, like great bottles of Bordeaux or Barolo.
We actually had a number of old bottles of Barolo with dinner, as Luca Currado joined us, bringing a vertical of his Vietti Barolo Villero Riserva, including 1982, 1985, 1989, 1990, 1996, 1997, 2001 and 2004. (If you get the chance to go, the food at the Bulgari is excellent, super-refined Italian and the venue itself is one of my favorites on earth -- ­super chic modern Milanese.) Anyway, I noticed in our database that we don't have notes for many of the Vietti Villero wines. Check out my mini-video of the evening. Sorry it's a little dark, but there wasn't much light in the dining room at the Bulgari.

If I remember correctly, Villero's land used for Barolo equals about 15 acres in total, and the Vietti winery has about one third of that. Vietti's Villeros are always a "riserva," so they are well-structured and long-lived. They come out on the market a couple of years after most Barolos.
What was really interesting was that we tasted the eight wines in flights of four. Luca Currado produced the first flight ­(2004, 2001, 1997, and 1996), and his father made the second flight. I have to say that Luca's flight was superior. They were cleaner, more refined, and better, but not by that much
"It not fair to compare them," said Luca. "They are a different world. They were made in a different way."
Alex and Geddy preferred Luca's wines on a whole, but they also loved the 1989, which was super clean, rich and fresh, with layers of beautiful strawberry fruit and ripe tannins. What a wine.
Here are my tasting notes and non-blind scores of the Villero Riserva:
2004: This wine will not be released for another two years, and it was the first time it had been tasted outside the winery. This has a wonderful nose of fresh flowers, strawberries, raspberries and spices. Full body, with silky, refined tannins and a long, long finish. This shows the superb quality of 2004 vintage. Outstanding.
2001: The wood dominates the wine a bit right now, with lots of balsamic and ripe fruit aromas that turn to vanilla. Full and velvety with a firm finish. Needs to come together still. Best after 2011. Outstanding quality.
1997: This was actually fresher and more structured than the 1996. It showed fabulous aromas of the plum, raspberry and vanilla with hints of earth. Full and very velvety textured. Long, long finish. Still needs time. Best after 2010. 96 points, non-blind.

1996: Full and very jammy for a 1996. Super rich and ripe. Plums and strawberries galore. Full body, velvety and very long. Now. 95 points, non-blind.
1990: This seems a bit funky and maderized but there was so much rich, ripe fruit underneath. Strawberries and violets galore. Full and velvety. Long finish. I just wish it was cleaner. Two bottles were the same. Drink now. 86, non-blind.
1989: What a fabulous wine. It was so bright and fruity, with raspberry and prune and plum character galore and just a hint of chocolate. Full body, very velvety and very long. Love it. Now. 96 points, non-blind.
1985: I really enjoyed this wine too. It had such a unique tawny Port and chocolate character, with lots of ripe berries. Full and very round and soft. Funky but very, very enjoyable. Drink now. 94 points, non-blind.
1982: Very buttery and a little funky, but very interesting ripe fruit from plums and strawberries. Full and round with velvety tannins. Long finish. 92, non-blind.
I loved Luca's comments on the 2004. It is such an exciting young wine, and I think there are going to be many more 2004 Barolos like this next year when I taste them.
"It is a bit like a beautiful dumb blonde right now," he said. "She is beautiful, but she needs to go to school for a while."
Alex, Geddy and I all wanted to know what was wrong with beautiful dumb blondes? We certainly enjoyed drinking the 2004 Villero now. You won't be disappointed when it comes out.

Michael Haley
Eugene, OR —  October 23, 2007 8:27pm ET
ARGHHHHH - you suck! No seriously, Rush and Vietti Barolo?!?! Damn, I think I would have died and gone to heaven.......It was a no brainer that you would SOMEHOW manage to find your way to Milano on the Snakes and Arrows tour. Rush was my second concert ever, on the Signals tour in OK City in 1983. It was a no brainer that you would SOMEHOW manage to find your way to Milano. Enjoy the show as they pull out stuff not heard since I was your kid's age! Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose!
Dan Liguori
West Palm Beach, Fl —  October 23, 2007 9:25pm ET
Luca is the best! He truly represents the next generation of winemakers who understand the balance amongst deep rooted traditions, the importance of family history, and the need to continue to improve on technique and quality.Those are some killer wines, and we look forward to the release of the 04' so it can sit in our cellars and perhaps read a book or two!Ciao Ragazzo!
Robert Renner
Silver Spring, MD —  October 23, 2007 10:56pm ET
Just got back to the states from seeing Rush with a buddy in Oberhausen, Germany. My fourth show of the tour. I hope you enjoyed the one you saw. You're definitely right about Rush. They only get better with age. You can't say that about most bands. Those guys are a cut above the rest. Thanks for the quick video and the tasting notes. You are one lucky dog. The friend, Andy, is probably Andrew McNaughton, who does photography and film for those guys.
Steven Balavender
Tampa, Fl —  October 24, 2007 9:33am ET
James....I am glad to see my wife and I am not the only ones who takes our kids(9 and 13) out to nice restaurants. I am sssssssssssssoooooooooooooo tired of people saying that you shouldn't take kids to good restaurants. As far as I am concerned if they are not welcome then neither am I. Now if you have NO controll over your kids and let them run wild.....well thats another thing.....but one more to blame on the parents IMO than the kids.
John Miller
Windsor, CA —  October 24, 2007 6:23pm ET
JamesThat is shameless plugging of Rush's new album. But I guess if I was buddies with Alex and Geddy I would do the same. Do they plug WS at their shows?
James Suckling
 —  October 25, 2007 10:59am ET
Steven. I never thought about it. I guess I have been living in Europe too long! But my kids go to three star restaurants to simple trattorias, as well as In and Out in LA. They have good palates too! but thanks for the message!
Christopher Ogorman
St. Helena, CA —  October 26, 2007 12:32pm ET
Great blog, James.Love Rush. By the way if you think their newest is their best you might check out their run of albums from 2112 through Moving Pictures. Magnificent stuff, like the Barolos you were enjoying with Geddy and Alex.

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