Two from GD Vajra

Hello friends. The main thrust of today’s offer is going to be the new vintage of a well-loved Langhe Rosso from GD Vajra, but at the bottom we’ll also include a chance to dip into Vajra’s summertime delight of a Moscato d’Asti.

Now then, one of the surprise hits of last summer was GD Vajra’s dazzling little 2010 Langhe Rosso. That one has been sold out for some time now, and today we’re onto the new vintage:

2011 G.D. Vajra Langhe Rosso

We’ve previously published this piece of praise from Antonio Galloni (Vinous): “I am sure one day the Vajras will receive the broader recognition they so richly deserve. In the meantime, savvy readers know the exceptional quality these wines deliver for what remain very modest prices.”

More recently (Jan 2014), Galloni added the following, saying that the current crop of Vajra wines “easily confirm Vajra’s position in the top echelon of Barolo producers today. I can’t say enough about the Vajra family and all they have accomplished, especially over the last decade. When I stopped by on a late Saturday afternoon, the tasting room was occupied by a large group. How many world-class wineries can you visit on a Saturday afternoon with a group? The answer is not many. In a world that is increasingly about noise and hype, the Vajras work out of a very functional, simple winery just outside Barolo, driven by the values of family, faith and the strong work ethic that is at the heart of the Piedmontese culture.”

Vajra had disappeared from the Seattle market for several years but returned in 2013 courtesy of our direct-import partners (that direct-import model also allows us to shave a little off the normal release price of $16). This Langhe Rosso is a gateway drug into the greater Vajra lineup, and more generally into the red wines of the Piedmont.

Langhe Rosso as a category is fantastic if you can pry them away from the Italian countryside. As I’ve mentioned previously, these are not wines that show up too frequently outside of the Langhe itself. We get plenty of exports of Nebbiolo, Barbera, and Dolcetto, bottled varietally. But the declassified blends of the three grapes, the ones that are vinified unfussily and well-loved by the locals for their food-friendly rusticity and early-drinking character and easy-on-the-wallet price? Those stay home. Mostly.

Because we’re smack in the middle of a World Cup, I have to include Isidoro Vajra’s own tasting note, which is heavy with soccer references: “The most exciting soccer game is when every player contributes, with their own skills and talents. This is why I think of a soccer team when I think of Langhe Rosso! Nebbiolo, like the captain, stands out for its structure and persuasive elegance. Barbera (left wing) brings freshness and personality to the blend, while Dolcetto supports the team on the defence, with its reliable structure. Freisa, like the striker, never gives up and always makes his statement on the the field. Finally we have Albarossa, the goalkeeper, who sometimes goes unnoticed but is one we couldn’t do without. And then the Pinot, attacking midfielder: agile and quick, the true expert of dribbling, brings the adrenaline to the game with class. Together they form the perfect blend.”

Love it! And yes, this blend is extra exciting, extra complex, because in addition to containing the big three of the Piedmont (Neb, Barb, and Dolc), there are also small amounts of more obscure Piemontese varieties like Freisa and Albarossa, and even a little Pinot Noir. The whole thing is aged in a combination of neutral barrels and stainless steel for about a year and a half before bottling, and it just comes soaring out of the glass: rose petals, kirsch, black cherry, smoky peat notes, citrus pith; wildly complex. On the palate, the ripeness of the fruit and suppleness of the texture surprise for this category, which can often offer hard-edged, Nebbiolo-dominated blends. There’s a terrific spine of blood-orange acids, and just the right dash of grown-up bitters. The tannins are fine-grained and tea-leafy, someplace between rustic and polished. It’s such a glorious food wine, especially for all manner of Italian cuisine.

Like last year’s version, this is a joyful concoction, a killer summer-into-autumn wine, an approachable weekday-evening choice. First come first served up to 36 bottles, and the wine should arrive in about a week, at which point it will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.

2012 G.D. Vajra Moscato d’Asti

Summertime in a glass, with just 5.5% alc (plenty an IPA headier than that) and plenty of residual sugar balanced by bright, bright acid and scrubbing bubbles. This has all the tropical fruit and floral notes we look for in good Moscato – pineapple and grapefruit and mango and lily – and then a lovely herbal minty-ness to add lift and complexity. Clean on entry, creamy in the middle, and sweetly kissed on the finish, this is one to chill to tooth-rattling temps and glug straight from the bottle.

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