2006 Elvio Cogno Barolo Vigna Elena Riserva
Expert Ratings
JS 96 points
RP 94+ points
(Read the full reviews below)
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Vineyards of Elvio Cogno 96pt Homage to Elvio Cogno

In the early 1980s, a dozen of us met at a restaurant on the Lower East Side (now long gone). We were all waiters or would be wine stewards. No one was earning more than $500/week. Our Monday night tastings were financed with just $180 -- fifteen bucks per person. But back then, $180 could buy more than you'd imagine.

It was on one of those evenings that we were first introduced to single-vineyard Barolo and Barbaresco. While Gaja was already beyond our means, we were able to corral bottles from the likes of Cavallotto, Einaudi, Giacosa and Paitin. We would soon divide the greatest names of Piemonte into two camps. On one side were the hard, muscular, long-living Barolos Monfortino from Giacomo Conterno. On the other were ethereal, floral, almost Burgundian Barolos "La Serra" and "Brunate" from Marcarini -- made by the inimitable Elvio Cogno.

We began collecting Elvio Cogno's Barolos in the 1978 vintage, stashing away a half case each of the luscious '78, '82, the marvelously-structured '85, and the warm vintages of 1989 and 1990. If Monfortino was a study in the vinous side of Nebbiolo -- all pine needles and tart red fruit -- off the clayey soils near La Morra, Cogno's Barolos somehow took a Piemontese page out of a Vosne-Romanee script.

In the late 1990s, when Elvio took his leave from Marcarini, opting to hang up his own shingle with daughter Nadia and her husband, Valter Fissore, we stopped by. Over lunch at Belvedere, we learned two things. First, one of Barolo's most brilliant grandmasters had acquired a property capable of equaling the grandeur of Marcarini. Second, one look at Nadia and we knew the winemaking apple hadn't fallen far the tree.

As we've followed the Cogno Barolos over the last decade -- building a new, far more costly single vineyard Barolo collection -- we can't help but be transported back to those Monday evening tastings on the Lower East Side. Unlike any other estate on the warmer soils of the appellation, Nadia seems to mimic her father's brilliant Nebbiolo interpretation, nursing out lush, juicy, red-fruit high tones, superb crushed red-fruit concentration and the soft tannin finish that so typified Elvio's "Brunate."

But in the monumental 2006 vintage -- one in which many in Barolo put on the same pedestal as the historic 1978, 1982 and 1990 -- with a single 5,000-bottle cuvee called Vigna Elena, the daughter may have finally fought the grandmaster to a draw.

A great Barolo growing season can never be described in one act. The script seems to always contain a half dozen short scenes, replete with Dashiell Hammett plot twists. Such would be the case in 2006, a growing season that began uneventfully, only to see-saw between heat spikes and cooling rain. But as Nadia learned from Elvio when she was just a teenager, the greatest bottles are made in the last weeks before harvest. Never was Cogno's adage more apt than in the last weeks of September during the Indian summer of 2006.

The 2006 Cogno "Vigna Elena" is brilliant dark ruby in color. Rich, dark and aromatically flashy, infused with dark cherry, ripe raspberry, a hint of pine needles, gently spiked with fresh mint. The attack is terrifically plush, yet perfectly poised and restrained, marrying crushed red fruits, black cherry and sweet spices -- all bracketed by the fine, dusty tannins that argue for up to two decades of rest.

Parker's Wine Advocate would come in at a whopping 94+ points -- the highest rating of this monumental Barolo vintage for any bottle at today's WineAccess price. As to James Suckling, the long time Italian wine guru at Wine Spectator, he raised the bar a couple notches, coming in at a sumptuous 96.

Tasting Notes

2006 Elvio Cogno Barolo Vigna Elena Riserva
"Fabulous nose of strawberries, raspberries and flowers. Pure fruits. Full body and very structured, with superfine but powerful tannins. Great length, with fruit and acidity at the finish. Better in 2015 but delicious now."
96 points -- James Suckling

"The 2006 Barolo Riserva Vigna Elena is huge, dark and totally sensual. Black cherries, menthol, tar and spices flow gracefully from this dark, powerful Barolo. Today the Vigna Elena is virile, intense and at times a bit on the austere side. Over time the aromas and flavors emerge from a wall of massive tannins. The huge, implosive finish suggests the wine has a very bright future. Today the 2006 is very, very young, but there is little doubt it has all the qualities to grow into a splendid wine. This is another impressive showing from Cogno. Anticipated maturity: 2016-2026."
94+ points -- Antonio Galloni, Robert Parker's The Wine Advocate

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