Rinaldi was trying desperately to finish a major cellar addition before the beginning of the 2004 harvest when I stopped by to taste. Rinaldi continues to make Barolo in thoroughly traditional fashion; the wines are normally tough in the early going but have a history of aging extremely well. Happily, the unprecedented run of warm vintages since the mid-'90s has resulted in numerous wines that are fuller and less austere than some past vintages here. I was quite taken with Rinaldi's young 2001s, which will not be bottled until next year. Rinaldi describes this vintage as an ideal year for nebbiolo:"Not too hot, and with gradual ripening; much better than a year in which the nebbiolo ripens too quickly. "The wines boast very good flesh to buffer their substantial nebbiolo tannins. Rinaldi has a single 2002 foudre from Le Coste fruit, which he may yet bottle as Barolo. This sample displayed an exotic dried-grape character and some botrytis notes; I thought I was drinking a dry port. (Vinifera Imports, Ronkonkoma, NY)
($75) Clear medium red. Perfumed, liqueur-like aromas of redcurrant, brown spices and rose petal. Highly concentrated, with strong fruit but also a lovely light touch, thanks to strong acidity. Complex inner-mouth flavors of flowers, tobacco and mocha. Finishes with firm tannins and lovely grip. Offers very strong potential.
Good bright dark red. Less exuberant on the nose than the Brunate. Then serious and powerful in the mouth, with sappy red fruit and tobacco flavors. Gives the impression of a strong extraction, and less refinement, than the Brunate. Finishes rich and long. The Cannubi, with its sandier soil, produces fruit with low acidity, notes Rinaldi, who adds the Ravera juice to give the wine verve and balance.
($75) Good full medium red. Aromas of plum, raspberry, tobacco, smoke and earth; suggestions of both liqueur-like warmth and herbal coolness. Sweet, fat and strong, but without quite the inner-mouth perfume of the 2001. In fact, this comes across as a bit burly today. Finishes with broad, faintly dry-edged tannins and less sweetness than the 2001.
Medium red. Rather rustic, dusty aromas of red berries and tar. Sweet on entry, then soft and smooth in the middle, with more fat and better early balance than the Brunate bottling. Finishes with nicely ripe tannins and less dryness than the Brunate. In the heat of 2000, says Rinaldi, the Ravera vines, which had greater reserves of water and thus suffered little hydric stress, produced outstanding fruit of more thorough ripeness than in most years.
($75) Good deep red. Superripe, complex aromas of blackberry, cherry pie, marzipan, underbrush and leather, in a distinctly rustic style. Sappy, juicy and very firmly built, with strong dark berry flavors framed by bright acids. Offers considerably more lift and intensity than the 2000 Brunate; seems more than one year younger. Finishes with firm, youthfully tough tannins and a note of tobacco. Classic Barolo, in the severe style preferred by this very traditional winemaker.