This is a view of the gently sloped vineyards of the Rabaja cru of Barbaresco, near the town of Neive in Piemonte.  Vineyards descend both on this side of the ridge, as well as the behind me, the shadow man pictured. This type of view shows exactly why the various single parcels of the Barbareschi ‘cru’ offer such variety: the soil types change with their elevation on the ridge, as well as the variety of expositions offered by these winding, taffy-like hills.
The wines of Barbaresco share many qualities with the neighboring Barolo zone.  Nebbiolo is the only variety allowed for the noble wines titled Barbaresco, while Dolcetto and Barbera are also planted.  Generally speaking, the tannin quality of Barbaresco are often suppler and earlier maturing than some of the more masculine villages of Barolo in spite of their mere 10km distance from one another.  It is subtly warmer in Barbaresco, benefitting from a maritime influence that allows the grapes to mature slightly earlier than in Barolo.  The wines aren’t required to be in barrel as long, only one year rather than two. The zone produces only 35% of the quantity that Barolo does, which translates to a proportionally smaller representation in the marketplace.  But these differences aside, Barbaresco wines share the same noble qualities found in Barolo: ageworthy, pale, intensely floral and spiced wines, of acidic drive, tannic thrust, and transparency to their soils and expositions.  At their best, they are the qualitative equals to the noblest wines of Barolo, with singular, site specific personalities.
Time warp to 1975: Maggiore Sottimano (http://www.sottimano.it) purchses a home estate and vineyards in the celebrated Cotta cru in Neive.  In the following years, Rino Sottimano buys land in other celebrated Barbaresco crus: Fausoni, Curra, Pajore, and most recently, Basarin in 2001.  Ahead of their time, the family recognized the primacy of soil health, choosing organic farming for the entire domaine since 1990.  Slowly and surely, the family has passed the torch, each generation improving on the lessons learned by the generation prior.  Today, farming 16 hectares annually, 35 year old son Andrea is at the helm; he has a soft spoken, bright gentleness that belies a certain sensitivity.  He has continued to refine the house style, progessively in a more elegant, burgundian vein; Burgundy is indeed the touchstone reference point for Andrea, the epitome of power combined with finesse.  The world has taken notice, each step along the way……they are perennially, and increasingly so, recognized by Antonio Galloni, Steven Tanzer, and the Wine Spectator among the noblest wines of all of Barbaresco, at prices that embarrass many of their peers.  My choice to work with them directly was a no-brainer.  Here are three quotes from the Wine Advocate’s Antonio Galloni:

“From top to bottom, this is an impressive set of wines from Sottimano, a property that continues its rapid ascent into the top echelon of the region’s finest estates.” -issue #173

“Simply put, there are few, if any, growers in Barbaresco that offer this level of consistency throughout their entire range.”         -issue #179

“This is a stunning set of wines from the Sottimano family. The 2008 Barbareschi are among the wines of the vintage and are not to be missed. The transparency and sheer class of these wines is first-rate.” -issue #197 

Here are the wines:
2010 Dolcetto d’Alba ‘Bric del Salto’– $14
“Year in year out, this is one of the most delicious Dolcetti to emerge from Piemonte.”- Galloni

2009 Langhe Nebbiolo –$20 Essentially a young vine Barbaresco, this offers fantastic value, as well as an ideal intro to Nebbiolo.
“The 2009 Langhe Nebbiolo is a serious wine, which is not surprising as the fruit comes from Basarin, a vineyard several producers use for their Barbaresco. Dark red cherries, flowers, licorice and mint are some of the nuances that waft from the glass.” –90 points Galloni

2009 Barbera d’Alba ‘Pairolero’– $25 Aged in barrique, and vinified like a Barbaresco,
this is serioiusly complete, and plain delicious.

“The 2009 Barbera d’Alba Pairolero is a rich, luscious wine
bursting with dark fruit, licorice, tar and violets. While the French oak is very nicely balanced in this vintage, what comes through most is the intensity and personality of the fruit.” –90 
points Galloni

2009 Barbaresco Pajore – $55 Perhaps my favorite cru in the line, for its combo of sex appeal and limestone driven tension.
“(from a high-altitude, limestone-rich vineyard in Treiso):  Good bright red.  Sexy, elegant nose offers strawberry, raspberry, tobacco and spices.  Juicy and primary for the vintage, with excellent mineral and spicy cut giving precision to the middle palate.  Very Treiso in character, and the highest in acidity of these 2009 Barbarescos (6 grams, vs. 5.5 for the others).  Finishes energetic and long, with chewy, firm tannins and terrific lift.  This really transcends the vintage.” –93 points Tanzer

2009 Barbaresco Fausoni – $49 Perhaps the fleshiest and most open knit of these four cru bottlings…..
“Medium red with an amber edge.  Musky, rather low-pitched aromas of red fruits and earth.  Plush, sweet and mouthfilling, with captivating perfume and surprisingly sound acidity to the red berry and menthol flavors.” –90-93 points Tanzer

2008 Barbaresco Cotta – $49 This has a great balance of flesh and bone, and will cruise in the cellar.
“There is nothing subtle about the 2008 Barbaresco Cotta. Waves of fruit hit the palate in this rich, juicy Barbaresco. Forward fruit is one of the hallmarks of Cotta, and there is no shortage of it in the 2008. Sweet dark plums, cherries, mint and licorice are some of the notes that flesh out in the glass.” –92 points Galloni

2008 Barbaresco Curra– $55 This is the most seriously structured of the quartet; a massive massive wine in all dimension. Along with the Pajore, a personal favorite.
“Sottimano has decided to give the 2008 Barbaresco Curra another year in bottle before releasing the wine. I understand why. The Curra is a huge Barbaresco. An exotic bouquet of tobacco, smoke, tar and incense leads to an intense core of fruit. This is easily one of the most structured wines of the vintage. It shows tremendous depth, detail and thrust from start to finish. The fruit covers every inch of the palate in this dramatic Barbaresco.” 94+ points Galloni

As Galloni has mentioned repeatedly, there may not be a better domaine in Barbaresco that represents such quality top to bottom at unrivaled prices.  If you’d like to check out anything, hit me up at rob@downtoearthwines.net.  Andrea is coming to town at the end of April, so stay tuned for details about the upcoming events to be staged…….Good times!!!  To the health of you and yours! CHEERS!!!