Gaja Tasting Notes

Reception: 1996 Gaja Chardonay Gaja & Ray
Buttery, viscous, and balanced, not too sweet, not bad for a Chardonnay, but not something I'd buy more of.

Flight One - "There are no great vintages when wines are that old, only the great bottles"
(- Andrew Lampsone, WineWatch Owner)

1) 1964 Gaja Barbaresco
First year that all grapes were sourced from Gaja vineyards. ***WOW...what a beauty! Fresh, with nice integrated tannins and fruit, fully alive and youthful in the mouth. Pale rim and lighter color with a hint of brick were the only indications of age.

2) Surprise
Dark purple color, slightest pale around the rim, layers of dark fruit flavors, berry/cherry/vanilla/spice on a concentrated base of raisin with slight green pepper undertones, a decidedly vigorous impression in the mouth and long finish left us confused but certain this was a YOUNG wine.

Big surprise! It was a 1954 Piedmont Vallana Spanna, Vino da Tavola (red table wine). Spanna is also known as Nebbiolo. What a gorgeous wine, and how amazing at 52 years old. I could swear it had baby fat still.

3) 1970 Gaja Barbaresco
Very assertive, strong minerals and acidity, and burned through an aromatic blue cheese like it was a double creme Brie. My least favorite of the group.

4) 1974 Gaja Barbaresco Sori Tildin
Not particularly spectacular on the first sip after the others in this flight but this wine came alive and danced on the table when paired with cheese and beef tartare. Nice acidity.

Flight Two

5) 1978 Gaja Coasta Russi
Earliest maturing of the Gaia vineyard...."Costi" means 'facing the sun'. Intense dried flower nose, violets, dark fruit, French oak, slight barrel sourness, powdery and soft in the mouth, just a gorgeous wine and my favorite of the flight.

6) 1978 Gaja Sori Tildin
Raisin, dried plum, cooked fruit flavors, zingy, unbalanced - not my favorite.

7) 1978 Gaja Sori San Lorenzo
Smallest production of any Gaia vineyards, a balanced and not that remarkable wine until shared with food....paired with lamb and cheese an aria of berry/cherry and warm dried flower flavors blossomed.

Flight Three which I can describe like...imagine you are a boxer (I once was) and in the third round you get an uppercut, lose your breath and drop on the canvas for the 1,2,3,4,...,8,9 count before you regain your composure. That was the impression flight left on me.

(****Susanne here....same impression of this flight....!)

8) 1990 Gaja Coasta Russi
I only wrote...."BABY FAT! TANNINS!"....and then was caught up in the pure enjoyment of it, so I'll quote the tasting note provided: "The 1990 Costa Russi displays the tell-tale Nebbiolo character in its thick, rich, jammy, black-cherry-scented nose, complimented by wonderfully fragrant aromas of grilled vegetables and sweet vannilin from new oak. Deep and full-bodied with chewy, unctuous, concentrated flavors, this is another awesome Barbaresco...." Amen!

9) 1990 Gaja Sori Tildin
My notes: "Too much, too fast, too tannic, too aciditic". My least favorite of this flight. Imagine my surprise when I read this Wine Spectator 1993 review: "(100 pts) Absolutely ranks with the finest wines in the world. Spicy, rich and concentrated, a laser beam of berry, plum flvor arcing through the smooth-textured tannins, shooting off sparks of anise, toasty vanilla and tar. An electric wine with power, polish, subtlety and grace. ...".

I kept coming back to this wine, and in fact it was the last drop I finished and it was still too over the top for my taste.

10) 1990 Gaja Sori San Lorenzo
"(96 pts) Elegant, ripe and polished, positively glowing with violet-tinged blackberry, currant and black cherry aromas and flavors, many-layered, complex and utterly seductive, a seamless wine that just melts across the palate... WS, 1993).

WS said it as well as I can....just a lovely lovely wine, and my second favorite of this '90ies.

11) 1990 Gaja Barbaresco
Very enjoyable, very concentrated, spicy, breathtaking thoroughbred of a wine.

12) 1990 Gaja Barolo Spress
This particular wine always made me choke a little....the alcohol was quite forward with additional vapors of tar/asphalt and smoke, on top of a dense, layered, intensely rich purple wine. Roses on the nose. Too young to enjoy now....I suspect in another 20 years it will be stunning.

13) 1990 Gaja Dramagi Cabernet Sauvignon pepper flavors and oddly lightweight compared to the others in the flight.

Flight Four - "Love for Sale"

14) 2001 Gaja Barbaresco
Not ready yet....alarming disjointed off-notes, very deep purple, very concentrated,

15) 2001 Gaja Coasta Russi
This was one of my favorite wines of the night....WS 2005 says it all: "(96 pts) A silky, beautiful wine, with plum and berry character. Full-bodied, with fine tannins and a caressing texture. Seductive, with layers of fruit and tannins...." The finish was a good minute long.....the extended pleasure from this wine was orgasmic.

16) 2001 Gaja Sori Tildin
Shows a similar sense of breeding and class as the wine above. Almost as lovely....

17) 2001 Gaja Sori San Lorenzo
Berry, smoke and lots of cedar with a strong impression of minerals, and the longest finish I've almost ever experienced. A very saucy, impertinent wine, more like a Rachmaninoff than a Mozart....should be amazing in another 15 years. .

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By Serge Birbrair