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FrontRunners: From the Robb Cellar

Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve and Castello di Nipozzano 2007 Mormoreto

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Booker Noe, grandson of Jim Beam, first introduced Knob Creek Kentucky whiskey to the world in 1992. This February, nearly 20 years later, the small-batch bourbon brand named after Abraham Lincoln’s boyhood home finally followed up on its successful debut—with an even more honest expression of the local elixir. Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve is a limited-edition 9-year-old, single-cask bourbon bottled at a potent 120 proof. The finished product is implausibly smooth and sweet for such a high-octane spirit, migrating through tastes of honey, vanilla, tree nuts, and red apple. Poured over a single cube of ice, Single Barrel Reserve is the perfect summer sipper. And that’s the honest truth. ($40)

After Tenuta dell’Ornellaia, Castel­Giocondo in Montalcino is perhaps the best known of all the Frescobaldi family’s estates. But the weatherworn Castello di Nipozzano in the Chianti Rufina region is in fact the oldest viticultural property owned by the noble Florentine house, which has been making wine for more than 700 years. CastelGiocondo, which the family acquired in 1989, dates to about 1100, while Castello di Nipozzano, owned by the Frescobaldis since the mid-19th century, was built around 1000. The castle’s 590-plus acres of vineyards yield a classically styled Chianti Rufina Riserva and a single-vineyard Chianti called Mon­tesodi; yet its most striking red comes from the Mormoreto vineyard, which is planted with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, and Cabernet Franc. The Castello di Nipozzano 2007 Mormoreto—the 25th vintage thus far—has an intoxicating nose of blackberry, plum, and wildflowers. The palate broods with chocolate, espresso, black truffle, and charred bread that evaporate on the finish in a crescendo of acid and satiny tannins. ($65)