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FrontRunners: From the Robb Cellar

After the physical and economic devastation of World War II, the majority of Italian wineries emphasized quantity over quality, turning out often-troubled wines in high volume. Only in the 1970s did these producers begin to recognize the error of their ways, as Italy’s reputation for frustratingly inconsistent wines spread worldwide. A handful of families, however, refused to compromise their standards and traditions—none more steadfastly than the Gaja family. Founded in 1859 by Giovanni Gaja, the Gaja Winery in the Barbaresco region of Piedmont has remained committed to making fine wines that express the unique character of the vineyards’ varied soils. Yet if tradition drove previous generations, an innovative spirit inspires the present patriarch, Angelo Gaja. Since first joining the business in 1961, Angelo has introduced a number of groundbreaking practices, including the use of French oak barriques for aging and the production of single-vineyard wines. He also expanded the family’s winemaking operations outside of its native region, acquiring Ca’Marcanda of Castagneto Carducci in Bolgheri and Pieve Santa Restituta in Montalcino. The latter property yields two exquisite examples of Brunello di Montalcino, Rennina and Sugarille. The Rennina 2004 ($155), of which 2,200 cases were made, is a dark-red Sangiovese redolent of violets, rosemary, spiced wood, and wild berries; its flavor profile is an opulent amalgam of black cherry, vanilla, licorice, and a touch of wild game. Sugarille 2004 ($170), of which approximately 1,800 cases were made, is even darker than its sister wine. The seductive, smoky nose gives way on the palate to dark plum, blueberry, juniper berry, and cocoa essences. www.terlatowines.com

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