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United States

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    Monica Larner works in The Wine Advocate as the Italian reviewer. 

    Monica is an active member of the Ordine dei Giornalisti and much of her social life is linked to Italy's Foreign Press Association community. She is a certified sommelier with the Italian Sommelier Association. The next phase of her career was characterized by intense travel to every forgotten corner of the Italian peninsula for four guidebooks she authored including Living, Studying and Working in Italy(Henry Holt) and In Love in Italy (Rizzoli USA). Monica created a photographic archive of 50,000 images: There is no Italian city, region or island that Monica has not written about or photographed.

    In 1997, her father retired and her parents purchased a beautiful 134-acre ranch in Ballard Canyon, Santa Barbara (California) to fulfill a lifelong dream of making a Larner wine. Monica helped to establish the vineyard, select clones, set cordons, prune, trap gophers and all the rest. Stevan Larner died tragically in a vineyard accident in 2005. Today, Monica's enologist brother Michael manages the family wine venture.

    In 2003, Monica was approached by Wine Enthusiast to be the magazine's first Italy-based correspondent and was formally trained to use the 100-point scoring system by Managing Editor Joe Czerwinski. Over the course of the next ten years, her tasting responsibilities grew to 3,000 wines per year (totaling 16,000 published reviews overall). She set up a tasting bureau near the Colosseum in Rome and continued her intense travel to far-flung wine zones. Her proudest achievement is the 185-page special collector's Wine Enthusiast "Wines of Italy" edition that showcases her decade-long body of work.

    She was awarded the "Best International Journalist" Silver Grape Leaf three times - more than any individual - by the prestigious Comitato Grandi Cru d'Italia, an association of 130 top producers. Gambero Rosso recognized her as a "Leader of Italian Excellence," a rare achievement for a non-Italian, and the Italian Trade Commission acknowledged her distinguished service to Italian wine.

    Monica used her platform as Wine Enthusiast Italian Editor to communicate what she sees as Italy's competitive advantage – its rich patrimony of indigenous grapes, traditions and diverse territories. She firmly believes that the intensifying momentum underway will set the stage for a Golden Age in Italian Wine.

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Monica Larner, Wine Writer (United States)  had a tasting of  29 Wines  from  10 Producers 

The golden touch, that proverbial Gaja magic, is taken to a whole new level in the 2016 Barolo Sperss. Angelo Gaja has taught his children to follow their own path, and now that the generational switch is well underway at the family estate, we can see that Gaia, Rossana and Giovanni have done him proud. Very proud. This stunning expression from the 2016 vintage (with 16,000 bottles released) represents quite a few celebratory milestones. We are now in the fifth generation to protect the Gaja legacy in an unbroken family chain that has endured since 1859. This wine is 100% Nebbiolo, and since the 2013 vintage, it is part of the Barolo DOCG appellation. Winemaking has been tweaked to embrace a more elegant, ethereal and streamlined personality, instead of the bigger extraction we saw in the past. This upgraded identity is distinctly evident in this newest release of Sperss. Starting with appearance, the wine is luminous and bright with shiny ruby and garnet gemstone. Its aromatic reach is three-dimensional with width, height and depth. Delicate berry tones cede to pressed lilac, anise, sandalwood and cardamom spice. I double decanted and left the bottle open for a few hours before my tasting. The results are tight and gentle, and the wine shows beautiful vertical lift and intensity. To achieve this much power without the excess fruit weight is really quite an accomplishment. This is the magic of Nebbiolo, and the magic of Gaja. 100 points

I have almost always tasted new releases of Gaja in person at the winery in the company of Gaia Gaja or someone else from her family. Obviously, these on-site visits offer a better opportunity to report findings, ask questions, make vineyard visits and collect all kinds of interesting news, facts and quotes. Because of COVID-19, I tasted these samples at home under ideal circumstances that allowed for consistency of serving temperatures, stemware and decanting. I was also able to spend more time with each bottle in front of my laptop to muse and reflect, and I returned to many of these wines over multiple days to chart their evolution. Tasting at home allowed me more time to revisit my notes and tweak my comments. This relaxed approach made this year's tasting of Barolo and Barbaresco one of the most enjoyable of my career, and one of the most beautiful wines discovered in this tasting of 900-plus samples is Gaja's 2016 Barolo Sperss.

2m 4d ago

Monica Larner, Wine Writer (United States)  had a tasting of  22 Wines  from  3 Producers 

The Marchesi Antinori 2017 Tignanello (made with Sangiovese and smaller parts Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc) is a dark, exuberant and inviting wine. I tasted my sample after a double decanting and was pleased by the profound nature of the wine and the immediate openness of the aromas. There is a symphony of dark fruit with black cherry, plum, spice and sweet tobacco. I am particularly attracted by a distant hint of medicinal or menthol herb that I also discovered in other wines with fruit from the Tignanello estate in 2017. There's a drying mineral note of crushed chalk as well. The heat and dryness of the vintage has added to the aromatic intensity of the wine (yields were reduced by a third), but the mouthfeel is carefully crafted to maintain its softness and smoothness. Fruit comes from a 57-hectare section of the Tenuta Tignanello from a vineyard that is located 390 meters above sea level with Alberese limestone rock and soils of marine origin. The wine is fermented in conical oak tanks and is aged up to 16 months in a combination of mostly French and some Hungarian oak, both new and neutral. Some 300,000 bottles were released in April 2020 after one year of bottle age.

4m 17d ago

Monica Larner, Wine Writer (United States)  had a tasting of  19 Wines  from  1 Producers 

Sassicaia 2017 / To recap my assessment, and with the memory of the 100-point 2016 vintage so fresh in my mind, I would give this wine a seven out of 10 in terms of aromas, a five out of 10 in terms of mid-palate, and an eight out of 10 in terms of structure. Another way to read those conclusions is as follows: The 2017 Sassicaia was expertly built to withstand a long aging future, yet only time will tell if the beauty of the bouquet will evolve at the same pace. This fascinating wine magically captures the hallmarks of cool-temperature winemaking in one of the hottest vintages in recent years. Vintners, not vintage, won this round.

 

6m 7d ago

Monica Larner, Wine Writer (United States)  had a tasting of  28 Wines  from  9 Producers 

Luciano Sandrone  Barolo le Vigne 2014 / Luciano Sandrone and his daughter Barbara tell me that the 2014 harvest needs explaining. Many are quick to dismiss it given the difficulties of the growing season that saw abundant rain, hail and bombe d'acqua, or "water bombs," which are a dangerous phenomenon with intense rainfall in a very small radius. But hard work does pay off. The Sandrone family employed 38 people for farming, when the average harvest requires only 22 pairs of vineyard hands. Great care was required to keep the leaves and the clusters healthy. The 2014 Barolo le Vigne is bright and fruit-forward. It is perhaps more accessible in the near term compared to past editions. It delivers dark fruit nuances over a mid-weight and compact mouthfeel.

The big news this year from the Sandrone family is the introduction of a new wine: The Barolo Talin that we will see in markets next year. This spectacular new project is 30 years in the making. The Sandrone family noticed a single vine that caught their attention, thanks to the quality fruit it produced. Following a long certification process with professors at the University of Turin, they finally had conformation that their mystery vine was indeed Nebbiolo. Luciano Sandrone is now celebrating 40 long years of winemaking (1978-2018). Congratulations.

1y 3m ago

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