Wines of the Week: Arnot-Roberts & Il Poggione

Arnot-Roberts 2013 Syrah Que Syrah Vineyard Sonoma Coast California  94
Il Poggione 2010 Rosso di Montalcino 94
by Ian D’Agata

Arnot-Roberts 2013 Syrah Que Syrah Vineyard Sonoma Coast California                  94

Bright ruby-purple, with very little garnet at the rim, even after eleven years from the vintage. Perfumed aromas of blackberry, violet and lavender are strikingly pure and very Syrah, in a northern Rhône but also cooler climate kind of way. So more Côte-Rôtie than Cornas; even better, this is a clearcut example of California coastal Syrah wine that is fairly easy to recognize already when tasting blind. Then fresh and tapered in the mouth, with vibrant acidity and salinity lifting the floral dark berry, smoke, game, licorice and black pepper flavours. Not especially large, fleshy or expansive (despite what you may read elsewhere) this pretty wine’s strength lies primarily its purity, cut, clarity and focus. Almost better, truly well-defined Syrah-accurate aromas and flavours deliver the drinking experience one expects (albeit in a cool climate manner) when reading the label stating  “Syrah” (being so true-to-type is a note of merit in and of itself for any wine). The finish is long and lively, boasting noteworthy precision to its nicely lingering floral flavours. I would also add the Arnot-Roberts 2013 Syrah Que Syrah Vineyard has put on a bit of flesh and is way more expressive than when I last had it a few years ago, showcasing how this wine really benefits from an appropriate amount of cellaring before getting its neck, er cork, cork pulled. Drinking window: 2024-2033.

Childhood friends Duncan Arnot Meyers and Nathan Lee Roberts founded Arnot-Roberts in 2001 when they made their first barrel of wine in a basement. They have since gone on to make many stunning, much-acclaimed wines from some of California’s premier vineyards. Since 2013, they became the lucky stewards of the Que Syrah site the farming of which they now have complete control with the care of Greg Adams and his crew. The vines themselves were planted on Goldridge Series soils (sedimentary schist, shale, and fractured mudstone) just above the town of Occidental in 1994 by Al and Virginia Rago (some say 1993), just inland of and so very close to the Pacific Ocean. Of note, it is the oldest Syrah vineyard of the Sonoma Coast: planting it in such a cold area explains the vineyard’s name, (“que sera, sera” translates to “whatever will be, will be”; and though this doesn’t have anything to do with wine, allow me to add that there’s a pretty great Hitchcock movie in which that song -sung by Doris Day- plays a vital role).

Il Poggione 2010 Rosso di Montalcino                       94

There are practically only a handful of wines I can think of by which to showcase the potential greatness of Rosso di Montalcino: perhaps a few made over the years by Stella di Campalto, anything by Poggio di Sotto (a Rosso that is better than about 80% of all Brunellos made), and this wine right here. Big, structured and layered, the Il Poggione 2010 Rosso di Montalcino is really something to write home about, in its own way a liquid work of art. Clearly, it lacks the complexity of a truly great Brunello di Montalcino, but it doesn’t miss that mark by much. Tasted blind, my educated guess (one that I am absolutely sure of) is that 80% (easily) of those tasting will be fooled into thinking it is a Brunello. This Rosso is just that good a wine.

Deep ruby-red with a pale hint of garnet translucency in the background. Brooding aromas and flavours of red berries, dark plum, flint, forest floor, porcini, licorice and dark tobacco are deep yet concentrated. Very tactile but smooth, this big, strapping Brunello-wannabe doesn’t limit itself at offering just Brunello’s size (which is the calling card of many “Baby Brunello” Rossos made from declassified Brunello gapes and wines) but also manages to offer Rosso’s exclusive charms, such as an easy drinking quality and a smooth approachability. Utterly irresistible right now, it is capable of aging another eight years (and probably more, if stored in a good cellar) without any problem whatsoever. The 2010 Il Poggione Rosso di Montalcino is a stunningly serious, truly impressive Rosso that showcases how Rosso di Montalcino, when from a great vintage and an ultra-talented producer such as Il Poggione, can be a world-class wine in its own right. I am willing to wager that less than 10% of my readers have ever had a Rosso di Montalcino wine that is this good: it’s really knockout stuff. Drinking window: 2024-2032.

Ian D'Agata

Editor-in-Chief of Terroir Sense Wine Review
President of Terroir Sense Academy
Vice President of Association Internationale des Terroirs
Chief Scientific Officer of TasteSpirit

Ian D’Agata has been writing and educating about wines for over thirty years. Internationally recognized as an distinguished expert, critic and writer on many wine regions, his two most recent, award winning books Native Wine Grapes of Italy and Italy's Native Wine Grape Terroirs (both published by University of California Press) are widely viewed as the "state of the art" textbooks on the subject. The former book won the Louis Roederer International Wine Awards Book of the Year in 2015 and was ranked as the top wine books of the year for the Los Angeles Times, the Financial Times and the New York Times, while the latter was named among the best wine books of the year by Food & Wine Magazine and the NY Times.

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Ian D'Agata