A Bergamo evening
Dinner at La Cantina
Luca Mazzoleni (right) opens a bottle at the Bergamo "offline." To his right on the far side of the table are Robin Garr's wife Mary Johnson and Eric Ifune; visible at the left are Angelo Ghiroli and Gigi Brozzoni.
Still rubbing our eyes from midafternoon naps that only partially shifted our internal clocks onto European time after an overnight flight from the U.S. to Milan, Mary and I received a warm welcome from old and new Italian friends in a Thursday night gathering at La Cantina, a well-known wine bar in Bergamo.

Our friend Luca Mazzoleni, a member of the Wine Lovers' Discussion Group (WLDG) arranged the evening, and by a happy coincidence, WLDG participant Eric Ifune (who's stationed in Northern Italy with the U.S. Air Force) and his parents, Ben and Lydia Ifune, were also in Bergamo for the occasion. Joining us were Luca's friends Alverado Cattano, a prominent wine distributor in Lombardy; Angelo Ghiroli, winemaker of La Cornasella winery; Gigi Brozzoni, a major Italian wine critic and journalist; and Eugenio Monzio Compagnoni, a Franciacorta wine maker and brother of the owner of La Cantine.

The wines of the evening fell into two categories: Unusual and exceptionally interesting Italian wines; and a rare selection of California treats brought by Eric and his parents. Here's the tasting report, with my usual caveat that notes on wines enjoyed with food in a social setting may be less than scientifically analytical, but I hope you'll enjoy them with that grain of salt attached.

Monzio Compagnoni (1997, disgorged 1999) Franciacorta Saten - Pale gold, lasting fountain of bubbles. Excellent aromas, apples and subtle milk chocolate. Full and rich, creamy mouthfeel; excellent.

Monzio Compagnoni (1997, disgorged 1999) Franciacorta Extra Brut - Clear gold, very persistent bubbles. Apples and yeast, austere; structured acid, crisp and long.

Giulio Ferrari 1990 Riserva del Fondatore Trento Metodo classico - Very pale straw, soft but persistent bubbles. Rich, almost sweet, toast and apple jelly, Evolved, very fine.

Le Due Torre 1998 Sacmisassi Vino da Tavola (Bianco) - Tocai, Sauvignon, Ribollagialla. Pale gold. Remarkably fruity, Tocai aromatics, Nothing shy about this wine.

Brunori 1998 Lacrima di Morro d'Alba - Dark garnet, earthy and floral,. Very fruity, a prickly touch of petillance on the tongue. Very appealing wine.

Michele Satta 1997 Cavaliere Toscana - Inky dark garnet, Big black-cherry fruit and restrained "barnyard" on the nose and palate. Outstanding.

Le Due Torre 1996 Sacmisassi Vino da Tavola (Rosso) - Schioppettino and Refosco. Green and herbaceous, but plenty of floral and fragrant peppery notes hold it in balance.

Barone Riccati 1997 Dolcetto delle Langhe Monregalesi - Inky blackish-purple. Big and bold, beautiful floral, brawny but balanced.

Valentini 1992 Montepulciano d'Abruzzo - Dark ruby, toasty blackberry fruit. Amazing wine, full-bodicd but refined. Showing maturity but still in great shape.

Girolamo Dorigo 1996 Colli Orientali del Friuli Vigneto Ronc di Juri Pignolo di Buttrio - Clear garnet. Aromatic and ripe, black cherries and smoky-toasty notes. Blacl fruit and a huge slug of tannins. Ripe but Mmature, needs time.

Ravenswood 1996 Monte Rosso Vineyard Sonoma Valley Zinfandel - Full brambly blackberries and raspberries, classic Zin. Big, jammy and strong, alcoholic heat and ripe fruit.

Ridge 1980 Picchetti Vineyard Santa Cruz Mountains Zinfandel - Hazy dark ruby. Black coffee and vegetal aromas, Sweet candied fruit flavors, converging with old California Cabernet.

Mount Veeder Winery 1978 Mt. Veeder Napa County Bernstein Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon - Very dark ruby, clear edge. Mature but very much alive, sweet candied fruit and the pleasant Asian spices that show up in older California reds.

Chateau Cos d'Estournel 1983 Saint Estephe - Clear dark garnet, Earthy barnyard, reminds me of the evening's cheese tray. Good fruit remains, too; holding up well.

Magoni 1997 "Joya" Valle de Guadalupe Baja California (Mexico) Cabernet Sauvignon-Nebbiolo - Dark ruby, perfumed vegetal scents; simple, hot and harsh. Dump.

Monzio Compagnoni 1997 "Don Quijote Moscato di Scanzo Vino da Tavola Dolce da Uve Passite - Dark ruby. Ripe, perfumed blackberries and floral black pepper. Sweet but not cloying, with a pleasant bitterness in the finish.

Valcepio 1995 Rubente Moscato Passito di Grumello del Monte - Clear ruby, sweet blackberry nose and palate.

Monzio Compagnoni 1991 Moscato di Scanzo Vino da Tavola Dolce - Clear light garnet, fading a little, perhaps. Blackberries and juicy raisin aromas. Flavors consistent,sweet burnt-sugar and raisin notes.

Valcepio 1998 Rubente Moscato Passito di Grumello del Monte - Unreleased, still on the lees. Inky garnet, huge blackberry and white pepper, delicious. Similar to '96 in style but even bigger and more "outrageous" - in the best sense.

Ridge 1978 Late Harvest California Zinfandel - (residual sugar 10.5%). Cloudy garnet, sediment in the glass. Green, coffee aromas; very sweet.

Have you tasted these wines?
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All my wine-tasting reports are consumer-oriented. In order to maintain objectivity and avoid conflicts of interest, I purchase all the wines I rate at my own expense in retail stores.

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