This month's battle consisted of one of the most impressive selections of wine that we can remember. Every bottle wowed us with excellent concentration, structure, and pleasure, with each entry receiving at least a few points. None were weak or at all disappointing, and all bottles spoke of their origin. Exclamations such as "gorgeous", "all-star line-up", and "master class" were common.

This was also one of the times that the scoring format of these tastings really didn't do justice to how outstanding the wines were. Our last place bottle received only 8 points, but viewed as a stand-alone offering, it was far better than its score would suggest.

Ali's first place bottle was also the best value of the night, especially important for an appellation that's not known for low price tags.

First Place:  La Colombina Brunello di Montalcino 2012. Inky, dark color. Tasters found complex smells of roses, cola, orange rind, dried herbs, dark cherry, cassis, and cocoa powder. Andy found "All the things I love."  Dark, and really pretty. Bright acidity. The palate exhibited cherry and blueberry notes, with balanced acidity and a very long finish, offering a honey and bitter dark chocolate quality. Rich texture. Holly announced that "I'm not getting any bitterness, I'm just getting happiness." Fantastic wine. Everyone gave this some points, and was Andy, Kristin, David's favorite of the night. Received 26 total points. Ali's bottle. About $33.

Second Place:  Poggio Antico Brunello di Montalcino Altero 2012. Showed scents of black cherry, cola, toasty oak, campfire, vanilla, walnuts, circus peanuts, eucalyptus, and black tea. Comforting. Just a hint of acetone, plus something dried and leafy, like tobacco. Less fruit and more smoky type flavors. In the mouth, this was gorgeous, with really pretty bright and dark cherries, blueberry, meat, and minerality notes. Wow. Delicious. Ali's favorite. Received 21 points. Andy's bottle. About $50.

Third Place:  Castiglion del Bosco Brunello di Montalcino 2012. More red than brown in color, with brighter aromas reminiscent of eucalyptus, rose petal, dust, pencil eraser, baby powder, Red Hots, and a subtle sweetness. Bright acidity on the palate reminded us of cranberries, but there was also a darkness to it, like prunes, rare steak, raisins, cola, leather, and black licorice. More tannic that some of the others. Plenty of dark fruit, powerful and dense. Holly's favorite. David's bottle. Received 11 points. About $50.

Villa Poggio Salvi Brunello di Montalcino 2013. Dusty on the nose, along with black licorice, tar, baby powder, and cough syrup. A little bit of basement, or something a bit funky, like rotted leaves. The dried leafy component reminded us of English breakfast tea or seaweed. Holly found "a room that's been closed up for a long time", while Andy noted "a new leather shoe that you wore all day". Violets on the attack, then some cranberry juice cocktail notes, along with spicy, peppery flavors, and slightly thinner in texture than the others. Good acidity. Pretty. Feminine. Holly described it as "pleasantly tart." Received 9 points. Michael's bottle. About $35.

Terre Nere Brunello di Montalcino 2012. Burnt garnet in color, with scents of smoke and plastic, like a new Barbie, plus dried herbs, squid ink, and blueberries. Ali decided on "imitation Barbie -- cheap plastic toy." Darker in flavor, though not as complex as some others, showing chocolate, Dr. Pepper, and fig notes. Softer and rounded in texture. Cough medicine on the finish. Silky. Received 9 points. Holly's bottle. About $45.

Lisini Brunello di Montalcino 2012. Black olives, latex, dried blueberries, and a little funk on the nose. Notions of Play Doh, markers, and crayons led Michael to decide that "Kids would love this wine!" The palate was generous, offering flavors of coffee, cherries, and oak. Licorice on the finish. Excellent balance, and good texture. Delicious, and the only real negative is its nose. Received 8 points. Kristin's bottle. About $60.

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