I changed my mind about OTBN 8 - on Thursday I promised a Barolo, but I quickly came to the conclusion that the Barolo in question would have no trouble being opened before its time expired. Moreover, there is no good story behind that wine. The Rossj-Bass is entirely different.
This wine is not just a famous, overpriced, Italian white. It is also the wine that began my journey into wine, so it has a special place in my heart. In Spring of 2002 I was on a business trip in Europe, and one evening in Lugano, Switzerland, I was having dinner at an Italian restaurant on Lake Lugano. Based on what we were having that evening, the sommelier suggested an Italian white, the Gaja Rossj-Bass (2001, I believe). At that time I had NO knowledge of wine, so my travelling companions quickly agreed to the suggestion. To quote: "A Peeedmont Chardonnayyy, can you believe that? A Peeedmont Chardonnay!" (in a Western Canadian drawl). The wine, the dinner, and the view over Lake Lugano were spectacular, and all worked perfectly together. From that time forward, I was hooked on Italian wine, Switzerland, and Gaja...
A year and a half ago one of those who accompanied me on the Switzerland trip was retiring from his job. I knew he was a wine nut, so I thought this rare wine would make an ideal gift. I bought two bottles (not easy to find), but the lone bottle for me just sat in my cellar, waiting for an appropriate occasion. As I usually turn to reds for celebratory wine, I was worried that the Rossj-Bass would sit in my cellar, waiting for a special occasion that never came. A perfect selection for OTBN 8!
Gaja is one of Italy's most famous winemakers, and Rossj-Bass is one of their signature whites. The 2004 Rossj-Bass is predominantly chardonnay, with some sauvignon blanc mixed in. It was a deep golden yellow colour, with an amazing, complex nose - lemon, orange, apple, and caramelized pear, oak, truffle, butter, tobacco, toasted bread and some earthy scents. Sublime! (a wine that has definitely seen some oak!) On the palate the wine was rich and luxurious, very flavourful. Medium bodied and well-balanced, the wine had good persistency but light acidity. While weighing in at 14%, the alcohol was not dominant on the nose or palate. Rather California Chardonnay in style, it was very nice winemakeing, but it was not a dry, crisp Chablis. An excellent match for an orange/rosemary roast chicken. Score: 17.5/20. A terrible value at C$53, but...mmmmm.
With guests over we could not finish the evening with just one wine, so I stayed in Piedmont and opened a 2005 Pio Cesare Gavi, a white wine from this famous Barolo house. This wine was made using Cortese grapes from the Gavi region in Northern Italy. Aside from the price, the two wines were very different. Crisp and citrussy on the on the nose, this wine seemed kinda sauvignon blanc meets pinot gris. Lemon and peach with lovely balance, light and crisp, a terrific appertif or a match for a variety of white fish. Score: 16/20, price C$19. I think I have to call this one a "great value".