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La Ca Nova has quietly been making outstanding, terroir-driven Barbarescos for generations from two of the appellation's top crus, Montestefano, and Montefico. Perhaps the most remarkable aspect is that these polished and compelling wines are made without utilizing modern technology. There is no secret as to why these wines are quintessential expressions of Nebbiolo – it all starts in the vineyards with healthy grapes that are allowed to reach optimal ripeness.
Although La Ca Nova has flown under the radar for decades, they have received a fair share of the spotlight. In 2019 Forbes named them as an honorable mention amongst the top 25 producers in Barbaresco. Wine critic extraordinaire, Antonio Galloni, annually bestows high praise for this little-known gem consistently scoring their wines in the mid to high 90s. But the highest praise this winery has received is through the reputation of Barbaresco's most elite producer, Gaja, when pioneer Angelo Gaja would purchase these grapes to use in production for his own wines. There's no doubt that this wine will continue to outshine many of its counterparts, it's not every day you find a sub $45 bottle of Barbaresco that outperforms many of its $100+ compatriots.
Pietro Rocca, the family's smiling and modest patriarch, is a fourth-generation grape grower. In the early 1970s, he began making and bottling Barbarescos; before that, his family sold their grapes to the Barbaresco behemoth Angelo Gaja. Their single-vineyard bottlings come from two of the most coveted sites in Barbaresco. Montestefano produces some of the most structured Barbarescos, and the Roccas own prime parcels situated at 270 m above sea level with full southern exposures. Motefico, where the Roccas own the Bric Mentina vineyard, has a similar altitude, Southern and southeastern exposure, and marl soil. Local legend has it that Montefico was once owned by Domizio Cavazza, the founding father of Barbaresco.
Today Pietro is joined by his sons Marco, an enologist, and Ivan, an agronomist who tends to the vineyards. The family adopts a strictly hands-off approach in the winery, using only wild and native yeasts for fermentation. This takes place mostly in steel tanks and three wooden conical bats, but with no temperature control. Just before fermentation is complete, the family continues fermentation and maceration with the antique tradition known as steccatura, whereby wooden planks keep the cap submerged in the tank. This time-consuming method gently extracts more color and polyphenols. For La Ca Nova's single-vineyard bottlings, fermentation and maceration generally take twenty-five to thirty days. After fermentation, the Barbarescos are aged in 30 hectoliter casks, but rather than Slovenian oak, Pietro prefers Austrian oak: “They are untoasted and neutral, and are the best-quality barrels I have ever seen. In fourteen years, not one has ever leaked a drop.”
Aging: 18 months in 3000L oak casksTasting Notes: 100% Nebbiolo.
Forest floor, cedar, new leather, and camphor aromas take shape in the glass on this compelling, earthy red. Showing a Barolo-like structure, the full-bodied, savory palate has an alluring wildness and energy to it, delivering dried cherry, blood orange, black olive, and licorice framed against a backbone of tightly knit tannins. Bright acidity keeps it balanced. It's still youthfully austere and needs a few more years to fully develop. Drink 2026–2038. ~96 Wine Enthusiast, Cellar Selection
The 2017 Barbaresco Montestefano is a dark, brooding beauty. Super-ripe black cherry, plum, mocha, cloves, leather, and licorice add to a real sense of gravitas that runs through the 2017. Readers need to be patient with the Montestefano. I suspect it will always remain something of a brute, but it is endowed with tremendous presence and a ton of personality. ~94+ Antonio Galloni (v. 2017)
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