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CASTELLO DELLA PANERETTA
This estate is located a bit off the beaten path, although a couple of neighboring wineries are quite famous and this one is reasonably well-known to Chianti Classico aficionados.

The neighbors are Castello di Monsanto to the south and Isole e Olena to the north...Paneretta is situated on a very minor road and so it's not a property that gets as many casual tourists as easier-to-find Chianti wineries.

The philosophy at Paneretta is one we appreciate: no Merlot and no Cabernet Sauvignon.  They actually have the idea that while Cabernet and Merlot can be cultivated with success around the world, Sangiovese has its home in Tuscany's Chianti region.  

We had, some years ago,  a wonderful 2000 vintage from Paneretta, a relatively modest vintage so they incorporated their top vineyards into their basic Chianti Classico, forgoing the fancy bottlings that year.

The 2006 vintage was a year where if you didn't make a good wine, you should leave the business of making Chianti.  The wine is 90% Sangiovese and 10% Canaiolo.    They mature this in 30 & 50 hectoliter wood tanks...the oak, of course, is not a feature of the wine since the cooperage is neutral.
This shows a medium ruby color and good cherry-like Sangiovese fragrances and flavors.  The wine is dry and mildly tannic, but tastes rather smooth when paired with tomato-sauced pastas or meats.  We suspect this will cellar nicely through 2012-2018, but view it more as something immediately drinkable.

Currently in stock:  2006 CASTELLO DELLA PANERETTA CHIANTI CLASSICO Sold Out


Paneretta has a nice cellar full of these traditional, large wooden tanks.




Un-labeled bottles in the Paneretta cellar, awaiting sale.

 

 


CASTELLO di FONTERUTOLI
jfferson.gif (16835 bytes)Here's a winery with ties to Thomas Jefferson and the other founding fathers of the United States.   Owned by the Mazzei family, it seems Filippo Mazzei was invited/paid by Jefferson to come over from Italy and plant some of the first European vines in America.  These were, of course, at Jefferson's Virginia digs in Monticello.  The Mazzei fonterutoli.gif (7792 bytes)family is still in charge of this estate, located near Castellina in Chianti. 


The family is a leader in Chianti Classico, being involved in the "Gallo Nero Consorzio," so it is incumbent upon them to produce top-quality wines, especially since so many top producers have dropped out of the "Black Rooster" group.  

They used to produce a wine called "Concerto," but have recently dropped that label from the portfolio.   I think this was a clever attempt at attracting buyers of the expensive wine called "Opus One."  The wine may have been noteworthy, but sales were flat.
 


The property comprises something like 79 hectares and they make about half a million bottles of wine annually.  They make a range of wines, from a small, little Sangiovese and Merlot blend called "Badiola" to a couple of bottlings of Chianti Classico and a Super Tuscan blend of Merlot and Sangiovese.

We have their "regular" bottling of Chianti Classico in the shop.  The 2009 is a very good wine, being drinkable now and with the structure to age nicely for another 3-6 years, maybe more.  This is about 90% Sangiovese, with small amounts of Malvasia, Colorino and Merlot.  It sees a bit of French oak and the wine is nicely elegant and balanced.


Siepi is the Super Tuscan blend of Merlot and Sangiovese.  The ratio varies from vintage to vintage.  The importer does not presently offer this wine.  It's usually ridiculously priced, in my view.
 
The Mazzei family owns an estate in the Maremma region of Tuscany and makes wines called Belguardo there.   They make Cabernet, a Sangiovese and a blend of Sangiovese and Alicante.

Another project is situated in Sicily and the wine is called Zisola.  This is a Nero d'Avola red...I found the first vintage we tasted to be a bit over-priced, frankly.
Currently in stock: 2009 Chianti Classico $24.99




CASTELLO DI RAMPOLLA

rampolla.gif (4381 bytes)The "Conca d'Oro" is, for those who study Chianti, sort of a "grand cru" site. Located in Panzano in Chianti, this is a shell-shaped hillside which is bathed in sunshine.

Luca di Napoli is the proprietor, his family having owned the property for a couple of centuries.
The vineyards were planted in 1969 and the first Chianti Classico was made in 1975. Consulting with di Napoli is Giacomo Tachis, former head of winemaking operations with Antinori.

The "cult wine" made here is called "La Vigna di Alceo," a Cabernet Sauvignon/Petit Verdot blend. It costs a small fortune when you can find it.  We have been able to purchase a couple of bottles from time to time, so stop by to see if we have any.  

"Sammarco" (originally labeled "San Marco") is a Cabernet Sauvignon with about 20% Sangiovese in the style of Antinori's Tignanello or Ruffino's Cabreo.

However, for those of us who enjoy Chianti, Castello dei Rampolla's "normale" bottling is worth a look. This is, I believe, produced entirely of Sangiovese. No Cabernet. No Merlot. It spends some time in small oak, but not so much to add wood elements, but to mature and soften the wine.

Currently in stock: 2006 Chianti Classico Sold Out





CASTIGLION DEL BOSCO

We're totally out of the loop in terms of clothing and shoes, so while we've heard the name "Ferragamo," we think of a old American football player, not fine fashion.

So, the Ferragamo family which hails from Italy (the old man, Salvatore, who died in 1960, was a master shoemaker it seems), not only sells hugely expensive handbags, dresses, sunglasses and shoes, they also own a fancy little place in southern Tuscany where they make Brunello and Rosso di Montalcino.

This, though, is a fairly recent endeavor, while I understand they've been making or repairing shoes for nearly a century.

The family purchased a huge property which had vineyards and an empty, abandoned little town.  They've renovated the town and now there is a sort of hotel which you can buy into (a million bucks for a share and $40,000 dues annually which gets you at least 4 weeks' stay each year).  Until they have a full slate of members (they're offering 120 memberships and have sold nearly one-third of them), you can book a hotel room.  Bring your credit card, though.
 
The winery has been renovated and we think they may be on the right track to becoming a consistently good producer...


We tasted a really good Rosso di Montalcino from these high rollers and now the 2004 is sold out...it was an over-achiever and well-priced, too.

There's a bit of their 2004 vintage Brunello in the shop presently.   The wine, we understand, was matured in those small French oak barrels you see below...yet at this stage the wood has receded into the background and the wine shows a ripe, mildly jammy cherry element with a hint of earthiness.  It's probably close to its peak in terms of development, so we'd expect it to hold nicely for another 5+ years.  


Currently in stock:  2004 CASTIGLION DEL BOSCO Brunello di Montalcino  $47.99

 
 

 
 

SASSICAIA  (Tenuta San Guido)
sassicaia.gif (7844 bytes)This is a legendary wine which put Italy on the world's "Wine Map" back in the 1970s.  

The property was founded by the Marchese Incisa della Rocchetta whose family acquired the estate called Tenuta San Guido back in the 1940s. 
Though vineyards existed in this coastal area of Tuscan, not much attention was paid to the wines produced there.  Italian wine aficionados were critical of the wines from the Livorno area because they often tasted of the salt sea air (blowing inland off the coast). 

So the Marchese decided to plant a hectare of Cabernet on a hill which was about  a thousand feet above sea level, thinking this would prevent the saltiness.

The first wine was made, I suppose, in the late 1940s combining the odd Tuscan tradition of the "governo" process (adding some dried grapes to the already fermenting vat of wine) and the Bordeaux fashion of small oak barrels.   Unfortunately, this "innovation" of using barrels was difficult as the barrels leaked!

Months after the first wine was vinified, a tasting was held and all in attendance decided the wine was a disaster.  Awful. 

The Marchese continued with other affairs, notably raising horses and flowers.   
A few years after this sad tasting, he decided to open a bottle of one of the now-aged bottles.  It seems the wines, from various vintages, showed elements of promise.   Cabernet, of course, makes a more tannic and astringent, rough-and-tumble red wine.   These people were accustomed to easy-drinking, youthfully exuberant Chianti wines which were drinkable just a few months after the harvest. 

The excessively herbal notes of the Cabernet, which they probably found somewhat crude and rude as the wine was first born, took years to evolve into something more balanced and interesting. 

Marchese Incisa invited some friends over for a tasting and many were said to have found the wines to offer some potential. 

Eventually the "governo" technique was eliminated and the Marchese was able to find barrels which were properly coopered and did not leak. 

Now the Marchese purchased a site at a lower elevation called Sassicaia and he planted more Cabernet (both Sauvignon and Franc, apparently).  The wine continued to be good and enough was made to keep the Marchese and his cronies in good supply.
A nephew of the Marchese was getting his feet wet in the wine business, the family having been engaged in that trade for hundred of years...his name is Piero Antinori.  He tasted his uncle's wine and suggested the wine be made available commercially.  The first vintage to hit the market was the 1968. 
I recall being aware of Sassicaia starting with the 1973 vintage.  The wine was, for me, mind-boggling! 

(I should point out that the Italian wines which first gave me -personally- a clue to Italy's potential were a 1967 Bruno Giacosa Barolo, a 1961 Gaja Barbaresco and a Sassicaia from 1975.  "Oh, you mean Italy makes something other than Chianti in a straw-covered bottle?!?!")

There was a small importer named Jerold Jacoby who had some curious French and Italian wines and Sassicaia was amongst his various offerings.  He had a legendary salesman named Bill Cooke working for him. 
Bill was an enthusiastic fellow, to say the least, and a major "character" in the Bay Area wine business.

On my first foray to Italy we had an appointment with the Antinori winery.  The English-speaking woman who showed us around that day (I think she was American) took us to Antinori's main winery.  We inquired about Sassicaia (since Antinori would bottle the wine for his Uncle).  She explained that no Americans were allowed on the estate since the visit of some guy from San Francisco who was speaking an odd combination of Sp-Italian or Ital-ish.  (Bill hailed from Argentina, so his Italian was laced with Spanish!)  We were disappointed, of course.  Knowing Bill Cooke, though, well, anything is/was possible. 

Over the years Sassicaia has gained in fame and prestige (and price!).  It carries "cult" status (long before Araujo, Bryant Family and Screaming Eagle from California's Napa Valley). 
On a visit one year to Milano, the lovely and most attractive Barbara Ferri wanted to treat me (and the rest of Le Crazy Milanese) to a bottle of Sassicaia.  She scoured Milano and finally begged a restaurateur for a bottle.   "Only because you and your business associates dine here frequently will I consider parting with a bottle!" he offered.

The wine is still much sought-after, though its lofty price now keeps the "riff-raff" from being interested in buying some.  Italy's great, fancy restaurants all have Sassicaia on their wine lists.  It's a badge of honor and an indication to patrons that the sommelier knows what he (or, perhaps she) knows wine.
A fair bit of Sassicaia reaches the export market.  The American market has long been important.  

We receive some bottles nearly every vintage.   Sadly, though, in prime vintages those who buy wine only when The Critics proclaim success, get involved and Sassicaia achieves amazing prices.  The 1997 vintage is an example.  Arriving here through its normal channels, the wine costs $150 a bottle.  However, we received offers from gray market importers who had prices twice that!!!

Yet there are few vintages of Sassicaia which do not merit the adjective "excellent." 

The wine has become so hard to get that others outside of the Marchese Incisa della Rocchetta family have started to "make" Sassicaia!   The Italian "fraud squad" recently seized something like 16,000 bottles of fake Sassicaia in Naples.  The counterfeiters had sold the wine in various locales in Italy, claiming the attractive price was because an overseas importer did not take its allocation of Sassicaia!  While news reports claim none of the bogus wine was exported, this cannot be guaranteed! 

Today Nicola Incisa della Rocchetta runs the property.  He now has many neighbors!

I visited the region of Bolgheri a few times.  The region is amazingly similar to the coastline from Half Moon Bay to Santa Cruz!  Bolgheri seems to be a prosperous little village, though aside from a restaurant or two and a gelateria, I'm uncertain of what commerce goes on. 

Numerous new estates have been 'planted' in the neighborhood.  Piemonte's Angelo Gaja has a wonderful winery near Sassicaia.  The Tenuta Ornellaia is down the road, too.  Antinori makes a wonderful wine from grapes in the same neighborhood and their wine is, in my view, worthy of comparison (and sometimes better!).
So, Sassicaia is, no longer, the only game in town, but it still is the "leader" in terms of the price it sells for to consumers.  ((I understand, actually, that it leaves the winery for a modest and sensible price, but that middlemen jack up the price, knowing it's a luxury product.))

The wine is typically 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Cabernet Franc.  Yields in the vineyard are restricted to intensify the character of the fruit.  Two years aging in French oak contributes a bit of wood to the fruit of Sassicaia.  While, at one time, Sassicaia was an extraordinary wine from Italy, I can only say recent vintages have been less exciting than the wines I recall tasting some years ago.  

A new wine called Guidalberto is being introduced.  I bought a bottle in Italy and tasted it with some friends.  I was not especially thrilled, frankly.  I recently had a taste over here and my initial impression was confirmed.  I overheard someone from the estate telling an associate at a trade tasting (in Italian) "Don't tell people this is a 'second' wine.  It's not a 'second' wine!"  
Though I understood what he was saying, I could only think "He's right...it's a third or fourth level of quality."  

Most disappointing were the 2002 reds from the estate.  The Guidalberto is a solid, standard quality Tuscan red.  If I did not know it was from such a prestigious place, I'd expect it to retail for $15.  But it cost consumers closer to $50.

The 2002 Sassicaia is from a difficult vintage.  The wine is well-made and of decent quality, but expecting people to fork over a premium price for the wine is simply wrong.  I did not find it to be a great wine.  It probably should have been declassified entirely, since the wine they bottled is not the stuff legends are made of...it will, I suspect, please only those who are drinking more the label and not the wine.  I was shocked to see the Gambero Rosso guide  giving the 2002 its annual Tre Bicchiere award...
It pains me to have to write that.  The Gambero Rosso guide's review of the 2002 reads more like an apology for the wine than an enthusiastic accolade, by the way.  

The 2003, a rather hot vintage, seemed to me to be a rather normal quality bottle of wine.  I tasted this in Italy in the early Spring of 2006.   A winery representative told us the this vintage was being likened to the legendary 1985 Sassicaia.  I wondered who was making such a comparison, as I did not find the wine to be especially grand.  I will have another "look" at the wine at some point to see if my initial assessment was too harsh.

The 2007 is a perfectly nice bottle of wine, but we didn't find it to be a show-stopper.  It's a very good bottle of red wine, comparable, certainly, to good $40-$75 a bottle Napa Cabernets.  Is it worth the premium price one has to pay to acquire this?  

It seems, in our opinion, that "Sassicaia" has become more of a label than it is a wine.  It will always garner high scores and top reviews from various journals who seem obliged to write glowing reviews, no matter what's in the bottle.  I think some of the neighbors, though, are doing a better job.
Currently in stock: 
1999 Sassicaia $219.99 (750ml)
2001 Sassicaia  $219.99 (750ml)





AVIGNONESI

For a few years, many experts had Avignonesi at the top of the list for Vino Nobile wines in the town of Montepulciano.  They did make some extraordinary wines in the 1980s and, since then, have a few high-priced bottlings which may rob the basic wine from being consistently good.  

Many vintners get side-tracked into making special bottlings of rare and costly wines and to do this, sometimes they use fruit which was perhaps the 'foundation' of the normal bottling.  The wines today seem to be a bit more approachable in their youth and they're a tad lighter, too.

When we first got to know the wines, a young fellow named Marco de Grazia was representing the property.  He's not been affiliated for many years and he's now going by the name "Marc."  My how things change! 

 


Owned by the Falvo family for many years, they recently sold the property, retaining a 10 percent ownership stake.  The new owners had been minority stockholders in the firm.  The Falvos will stay involved in running the winery through 2012 or 2013.   

There are about 101 hectares of vineyards scattered amongst some four different parcels.  They're open to experimentation and make a number of curious wines, though Vino Nobile and Vin Santo are the flagships.
 

These little barrels contain the precious Vin Santo.




One wine that's caught our attention a few times is an amazingly concentrated Vino Nobile from the 1999 vintage.  It's called "Grandi Annate," "great vintages."  They don't make this very often: 1990, 1993, 1997 and the new wine from 1999.  The 2003 is nice, but I am not certain it's truly a "grand" vintage.  I bought a bottle and we found the wine perfectly fine, but not as compelling as its predecessor.

The current vintage of Vino Nobile is 2008...perfectly well-made wine.  We can special order it for you.
  


Vin Santo is a particular "show piece" at Avignonesi.  They make two different bottlings and each is matured for about a decade in small wood.
The 'regular' bottling is made from Grechetto, Malvasia and Trebbiano, while the Occhio di Pernice is made of Prugnolo Gentile.
Both are hugely sweet and impressive wines.
These are not for simply dipping biscotti.  They are grand expressions of Vin Santo and will impress those who drink nothing but Chateau d'Yquem.




Currently in stock: 2006 Grandi Annate --Special order...about $55
1997 Vin Santo Occhio di Pernice  SALE $219.99 (375ml)
2008 Vino Nobile $29.99 (750ml) Special Order




 

BRANCAIA
The Brancaia estate is located in Poppi, a small village near Radda in Chianti.  It's owned by a Swiss couple, Brigette and Bruno Widmer.  They bought the place in the early 1980s and the first wines were made by their friends at Castello di Fonterutoli.  

Now they have their own winemaking facility and since the 1998 vintage, the wines are made under their own roof.  Their daughter Barbara holds the title of winemaker, assisted by consultant Carlo Ferrini. 

Signor Ferrini has a bunch of famous wineries in his stable, including Brolio, Riecine, La Massa, Fonterutoli, Tenuta di Terriccio, Poliziano and Casanova di Neri, so it's not surprising his fingerprints are visible on the Brancaia wine.  

There are about 20 hectares comprising the estate, 10 in Castellina and 10 in Radda.  Chianti Classico and the IGT wine "Brancaia" are the wines produced at this estate, though I understand the Widmers have purchased some land on the Tuscan coast near the famous estates that produce Sassicaia, Ornellaia and Sassigaja (that's my name for Angelo Gaja's Bolgheri project).  

Brancaia is predominantly Sangiovese, with about 30% Merlot and 5% Cabernet.  The wine spends about 18 months in French oak, two-thirds of the barrels being new.  
We had a great bottle of the 1998 vintage courtesy of Carlo Perini of Crazy Milanese fame.  The wine has the lovely sweet, cedary notes of other Ferrini wines.  It is beautifully balanced and drinkable now, though several years of bottle aging are not out of the question.  

Too bad they don't make more of this!  Something like 40,000 bottles are produced annually.  As a result, world-wide demand makes this somewhat of a scarce commodity.  

Their Chianti 2003 was exceptional.  The wine has the same sort of cedary oak as their "blue label" Brancaia wine.  Very fine, having nice cherryish fruit and a really polished oak treatment.  While some have noted that 2003 is a challenging vintage due to the heat, obviously the Brancaia folks were "up" for the challenge.  It's 95% Sangiovese, by the way, with 5% Merlot.

Ilatraia is their Cabernet, Sangiovese, Petit Verdot blend from the Maremma.  The wine is a lovely, modern-styled red showing nice wood, good fruit and soft tannins.



The winery is well off the beaten path, being in the Località Poppi, not too far from Radda in Chianti.  They do accept visitors, but apparently ask guests to pay something like ten Euros for a tour and tasting.  It seems Napa has arrived in Tuscany!  

We visited a few years ago, having tried to arrange an appointment.  I suppose since we had not "signed up" for an official tour & tasting, we were shown the facility, but not offered a taste of Brancaia's wines!  ((My two Italian friends were shocked by this.  Having visited a few wineries without being offered even a sip, I was amused, but disappointed.  
I did receive an apology from Martin Kronenberg, one of the owners...


Brancaia offers a more modestly priced wine called "Tre."   A recent book came out in Italy (published in April of 2010 and written by Andrea Scanzi) which quotes a Tuscan vintner who cites a government investigation of some shady practices which are said to be commonplace in Tuscany. 
(We would say "not only Tuscany, but numerous other places in the world of wine, from here in California to virtually every corner of the wine world.)

The folks at Brancaia were "outted," a vintner claiming Brancaia's wine had been impounded.  In responding, the Widmers assert that for their top wines, all the fruit is from their own vineyards.
"Our easy-drinking wine, Brancaia TRE (IGT), is made from grapes that we have not selected for our top wines.

Because of the success of and demand for Brancaia TRE, in addition to the grapes we grow ourselves, we have been buying grapes and bulk wine — both Toscana IGT — for some time now. This is no secret and it is by no means a crime."


This statement, posted above in blue, was made in response to the book in April of 2010.

As of June 1, 2012, though, here's what they wrote on their own web site of their "Tre."  (Much like what they had posted in June of 2010, actually.)

"Tre" is a blend of Sangiovese, Merlot and Cabernet. The grapes are carefully selected from our three estates Brancaia (Castellina), Poppi (Radda) and Brancaia in Maremma (Morellino di Scansano). 

The wine ages 12 months in French tonneaux.

Apparently, there is an allowable percentage of purchased fruit or bulk wine.  On the other hand, perhaps the winery should not mislead customers saying the wine is made from fruit grown in their own vineyards?
Just sayin'....as they say.

The Brancaia wines had been imported by the Hess folks for a number of years and in March of 2012 they announced a change.  
Can you imagine Gallo now importing the wines of Brancaia?!?!
Hard to believe!


Currently in stock: 2005 Brancaia (Blue Label) Sold Out
2003 Chianti Classico Sold Out
2003 Ilatraia $59.99





BADIA di MORRONA
In America, we think of some building or place as being "old" when it's 50 to 100 years of age.

This abbey was built, we understand, back in 1089.  Historical documents indicate the place was operated by monastic orders of various types...Benedictine monks, at one point and  Camaldolites at another.  I suppose the former drank a French liqueur and the latter smoked some sort of cigarettes made by R.J. Reynolds wrapped in the sleeves of their monastic robes.
 

Today the property is owned by the Gaslini family and it's a short drive from the shadows of the tower in Pisa.  We've had various wines from the property off-and-on over the years.  The property encompasses something like 500 hectares, with 80 of them being devoted to vineyards.  It's not a huge winery, but it's not a tiny cellar, either.


 
We've been fans of their basic, simple Chianti wine.  Since the vineyards are located in the Pisa region, it's outside the "Classico" zone and takes simple the name Chianti.  This is good news, for the word "classico" adds a few bucks to the pricing of any Chianti wine, whether the quality justifies the premium or not.

Savvy buyers know to explore off the "beaten path" and so wines such as this estate's can be good values.  

 
The 2009 vintage Chianti is one of our best buys.  It's called "I Sodi del Paretaio" since calling this merely "Chianti" takes all the mystery out of life.   The wine is about 85% Sangiovese with the balance being split between Cabernet, Merlot and now Syrah.  Despite the presence of the Bordeaux varieties, the Sangiovese really sings in this wine.  

It's a cherryish, medium-bodied red wine.  This is a totally dry wine and it's a far cry from internationally-styled, oaky reds which litter the enological landscape these days.  When you taste this wine, you'll understand they were trying to appeal to someone seated in a restaurant with a savory pasta dish before them, not some wine critic locked in a tasting room who's evaluating a flight of 50 or a hundred wines.

California does not make this sort of wine.  First, ten bucks is not enough to cover the tour and tasting fee at many wineries.  Secondly, the average consumer of California wines is not looking for a wine with 'snap' or tangy acidity;  the sort of balance that acts as a palate cleanser when paired with food.  
 
Anyway, we're fans.  You might be too if you've got a big bowl of steaming hot pasta with a slowly-simmered tomato sauce.
 
The winery also makes some other offerings.



We can order Badia di Morrona's other wines for you.  They have a special bottling of Sangiovese called "VignAalta," as well as a mid-level Cabernet/Sangiovese/Merlot blend called Taneto.  Vin Santo here is quite good, too.

The estate also has a number of "agriturismo" apartments.  It looks like a nice place to stay.
Badia di Morrona Agriturismo info:
Tel. +39 0587 656013 - 658505
Fax +39 0587 655162
email: agriturismo@badiadimorrona.it

Currently in stock:  2009 BADIA DI MORRONA CHIANTI "I Sodi di Paretaio"  SALE $10.99

 



LA FIORITA

The La Fiorita venture was founded in 1992 by three partners.

One was winemaker Roberto Cipresso.  Another was Lucio Gomiero who owns Vignalta in the Colli Euganei near Padova and the third fellow is race car driver Tiziano Siviero.

But things have changed and now Roberto Cipresso remains at the helm and the other two have been bought out.

The property consists of two, Poggio al Sole and a larger piece at Pian Bossolino and the vineyards are all mature, as the youngest vines are more than 15 years of age.

Cipresso spends much of his time making wine for other brands and wineries..  He's a consultant for nearly two dozen producers today and he's worked with several dozen more in the past, helping them establish their winemaking regimens.  He's even been affiliated with overseas wineries!

He recently took over a nice facility in the Montalcino area, not far from Frescobaldi's Castelgiocondo. The place is owned by some Swiss investor and it houses perhaps a half a dozen of Cipresso's winemaking projects.

Cipresso is also famed for collaborating with an American woman named Natalie Oliveros.

 
Ms. Oliveros has a stage name, too, going by Savanna Samson and she's made more than a couple of dozen sexually explicit movies.  We don't carry her "Sogno" wines, so if you're looking for those, you'll have to try the X-Rated Wine store down the block.
 
We do have Cipresso's wonderful 2006 vintage of Brunello di Montalcino, a wine which sees about a year in French oak puncheons before being racked into large cooperage.  What makes this fellow's wine approachable in its youth is that he strives to produce wines with a softer profile of tannin.  

We understand he's a bit of a stickler in monitoring the ripening of the fruit in the vineyards so as to hit just the right moment before the grapes start to dehydrate and become over-ripe.  On top of that, he keeps a watchful eye on the fermentation and the skin contact, looking for a moderate level of tannin, but not a hugely astringent or coarse wine.  

The 2006 Brunello hits what we imagine to be Cipresso's target right on the bull's-eye.
The wine has a bright cherry note of Sangiovese along with a nicely woodsy bouquet and flavor.  The oak is fairly prominent at this stage and we expect it will diminish somewhat with several more years of bottle aging.  It's the sort of wine which pairs handsomely in its youth with grilled or roasted red meats.  It has sufficient tannin to last another ten years, we expect, but it's wonderfully showy now.

Currently in stock:  2006 LA FIORITA BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO  $59.99

 
 
 
 
 


 

ORNELLAIA

The Tenuta dell'Ornellaia was founded in 1981.  

It's undergone a series of changes in ownership and this week it's the property of the Frescobaldi clan.

When it was founded, Ornellaia was the work of Ludovico Antinori, who's older brother Piero is somewhat famed for some Tuscan wines, including something called Chianti Classico. Piero also makes a wine called Solaia, his entry in the Bolgheri wine derby.  Ludovico's cousin Nicolò Incisa della Rochetta owns the cellar next door, a property known as Tenuta San Guido which makes the famed red wine called Sassicaia.   

Robert Mondavi was a shareholder in the winery as of 1999 and became the sole proprietor a few years later.  Mondavi also had a partnership with the Frescobaldi family to produce "Luce" in Montalcino.  The Frescobaldis took control of Ornellaia in 2005.

The early vintages of Ornellaia were perfectly pleasant wines with the typical tax assessment of royal wine families incorporated into the price.  

Ornellaia is their main red wine, though now they make a second wine called Le Serre Nuove.  There's a remarkably fine and hugely expensive Merlot called Masseto and a Sangiovese blend called Le Volte.
There was, once upon a time, a Sauvignon Blanc which has since been discontinued.

Ornellaia, for our tastes, was a modest copy of Sassicaia at the outset.  Since the 1980s, it seems to us that Ornellaia has pulled ahead in this horse race and having tasted the 2007s from both properties side-by-side, we much preferred the Ornellaia.  We will admit to having a preference for Cabernet-based wines rather than those made of Merlot, so our choice of Ornellaia is curious since its percentage of Cabernet has been reduced to somewhere between 50%-60% of the blend.

If you're able to afford such a luxury, do splurge and treat yourself (and perhaps a few friends if they're worthy) to a bottle of the 2007 Ornellaia.  It's a totally charming bottle of wine, being beautifully balanced and drinkable at this early stage and yet with some potential for further development in the cellar.

Our Milanese pal Carlo Perini has treated us to an older vintage of Ornellaia which had aged very handsomely.  I was stunned, in fact, to find the wine had blossomed so magnificently.   In May of 2010 we enjoyed a nice bottle of Masseto, another strikingly fine Tuscan red.  


Currently in stock:  2007 ORNELLAIA  (List $200) SALE $179.99











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