Dinner last evening provided a good excuse for nebbiolo - not that excuses are required. Portland's (OR) Caffe Mingo offers particularly satisfying Italian inspired comfort food -- just the thing required for the cutting edge provided by traditionally-styled nebbiolo wines. Owner Michael Cronin has assembled a short, but well chosen wine list to accompany his flavorful fare and the moderately priced 1996 Produttori dei Barbaresco Riserva Montestefano immediately tingled my palate. These Produttori Riservas are not only a great value, they are a time machine, as they take you back to the way Baroli and Barbaresci tasted decades ago. While many claim the "traditional" description, the Produttori are one of the few who actually practice it authentically. These are wines full of cutting edges and modern-day descriptors of ripe cherries/blueberries/blackberries do not come to mind. The 96 Montestefano on its own was still lean, tight and unyielding (it needs another 5 or 6 years), but Cronin's food and an hour of decanter time created a true symbiosis as the edges of the Montestefano balanced complexity brought alive the richly warm cuisine.
These days the attention always seems to be on a wine's front, while ignoring its edges. However on the edges is often where the real complexity hides. The Produttori dei Barbaresco wines may have little front, but they have dramatically satisfying edges.