Gaja Rossj-Bass Chardonnay (375ML half-bottle) 2014
Perched atop a steep hill in the Langhe sits the small village of Barbaresco, home of the GAJA winery. The story of the GAJA Winery can be traced to a singular, founding purpose: to produce original wines with a sense of place which reflect the tradition and culture of those who made it. This philosophy has inspired five generations of impeccable winemaking. It started over 150 years ago when Giovanni Gaja opened a small restaurant in Barbaresco, making wine to complement the food he served. In 1859, he founded the Gaja Winery, producing some of the first wine from Piedmont to be bottled and sold outside the region. Since that time, the winery has been shaped by each generation’s hand, notably that of Clotilde Rey, Angelo Gaja’s grandmother. Her passion for uncompromising quality influenced and informed Angelo Gaja. Through Angelo, these values have become the cornerstone of the GAJA philosophy and are engrained in every aspect of wine production
In 1961, Angelo Gaja began his mission of bringing this great winery to an even higher level. He was the first to use barriques, 225-liter French oak barrels. Under his direction, GAJA pioneered the production of single-vineyard designated wines and was the first to plant Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc varietals in Piedmont. He was also instrumental in elevating the native Nebbiolo grape to world-class esteem.
Angelo Gaja is joined by the fifth generation of the GAJA family – his daughters Gaia and Rossana and his son Giovanni. Together they continue to advance the winery’s legacy. To fully realize their vision, all GAJA wines are produced exclusively from grapes grown in estate-owned vineyards, including 250 acres in Piedmont’s Barbaresco and Barolo districts as well as estates in Pieve Santa Restituta (Montalcino) and Ca’Marcanda (Bolgheri). It is from these storied vineyards, and their terroir – the combination of soil, weather and vines that grow upon them, that GAJA wines reveal their true heart and soul.
Set upon a backdrop of the visually stunning Alps, the enchanting and rolling hills of Piedmont are the source of some of the country’s longest-lived and most sought-after red wines. Vineyards cover a great majority of the land area—especially in Barolo—with the most prized sites at the top hilltops or on south-facing slopes where sunlight exposure is maximized. Piedmont has a continental climate with hot, humid summers leading to cold winters and precipitation year-round. The reliable autumnal fog provides a cooling effect, especially beneficial for Nebbiolo, Piedmont’s most prestigious variety.
In fact, Nebbiolo is named exactly for the arrival of this pre-harvest fog (called “nebbia” in Italian), which prolongs cluster hang time and allows full phenolic balance and ripeness. Harvest of Nebbiolo is last among Piedmont's wine varieties, occurring sometime in October. This grape is responsible for the exalted Piedmont wines of Barbaresco and Barolo, known for their ageability, firm tannins and hallmark aromas of tar and roses. Nebbiolo wines, despite their pale hue, pack a pleasing punch of flavor and structure; the best examples can require about a decade’s wait before they become approachable. Barbaresco tends to be more elegant in style while Barolo is more powerful. Across the Tanaro River, the Roero region, and farther north, the regions of Gattinara and Ghemme, also produce excellent quality Nebbiolo.
Easy-going Barbera is the most planted grape in Piedmont, beloved for its trademark high acidity, low tannin and juicy red fruit. Dolcetto, Piedmont’s other important red grape, is usually ready within a couple of years of release.
White wines, while less ubiquitous here, should not be missed. Key Piedmont wine varieties include Arneis, Cortese, Timorasso, Erbaluce and the sweet, charming Muscat, responsible for the brilliantly recognizable, Moscato d'Asti.
One of the most popular and versatile white wine grapes, Chardonnay offers a wide range of flavors and styles depending on where it is grown and how it is made. While it tends to flourish in most environments, Chardonnay from its Burgundian homeland produces some of the most remarkable and longest lived examples. California produces both oaky, buttery styles and leaner, European-inspired wines. Somm Secret—The Burgundian subregion of Chablis, while typically using older oak barrels, produces a bright style similar to the unoaked style. Anyone who doesn't like oaky Chardonnay would likely enjoy Chablis.