Monthly Archives: September 2015

The Best Brunello di Montalcino!?

Last year I was contacted by Riccardo Gabriele and Elisa Bosca of Rg Pr Vino, a PR company representing a number of Italian wines to speak about their wines at luncheon and meeting of wine journalists. They have an interesting portfolio so I agreed. One of the wines I presented was the Brunello di Montalcino from Il Marroneto owned by Alessandro Mori. For me, it was the wine of the tasting and one of the best Brunellos I have ever had. Riccardo asked me if I wanted to take one of the wines home and this was my choice.

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Alessandro Mori

A few months later, Montcalm Imports was doing a tasting and one of the producers was IL Marroneto. I was introduced to the owner, Alessandro and his son, and for the first time tasted their Brunello di Montalcino “Madonna della Grazie.” It was wonderful.

Fast forward a few months and Alessandro was in New York giving a seminar about his wines featuring Brunello going back to 2006. Alessandro said that wine really makes itself and he only does what is necessary. He has a traditional and minimalist philosophy both in the vineyard and in the cellar.

IL Marroneto is one of the 10 historical wineries of Montalcino and was purchased in 1974 by Giuseppe Mori, Alessandro’s father.

The towers of the city of Siena are the backdrops of the estate’s vineyards located high on the north slope of the hill of Montalcino. The vineyards are between 305 and 400 meters and extend to the walls of the town. This is an area where grapes have been cultivated since the times of the Etruscans.

Alessandro said that they grow only Sangiovese grapes and follow a biodynamic approach to cultivation (although not certified), always abiding by the strict Montalcino regulations.  No herbicides are used on the plants.

The vines were first planted in 1975 near the church of Madonna della Grazie, (which the estates top Brunello comes from). The original building dates back to 1247. The rest of the estates vineyards were planted in 1979 and 1984. The soil is coarse sandy soil rich in minerals There is natural grass planted between the rows of vines with longer time for pollination and pruning takes place in March. The vineyards are planted for low yields and low density. The training system is spurred cordon. Grapes are harvested only when the stalks start to turn to burnt colors, indicating that the seeds have reached optimum maturity.

The estate’s name derives from a central tower that was once used to dry chestnuts (castagne or marroni in Italian), long a source of flour in Italy. The wines are aged in the base of the tower in large Allier and Slovenian oak barrels.

These are very traditional made wines with plenty of pumping over. Alessandro added there are no barriques on the estate!IMG_8643

We tasted 6 Brunellos the 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010 Brunello along with the 2010 Madonna della Grazie.

Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 100% Sangiovese. Fermentation lasts for 11/12 days. The wine is aged in 2,500 liter oak barrels for 39 months and 10 months in the bottle before release. All of the wines will last for 20 years or more. These are complex and elegant wines and have a certain easy feel in the mouth that is very pleasing but hard to describe. They have hints of black and red fruit, spice, and licorice with a touch of tobacco and leather. They will age for a long time.IMG_8640

Brunello di Montalcino “Madonna della Grazie”  2010 DOCG 100% Sangiovese. This wine is made from a selection of grapes from the historical vineyard. The name of the wine comes from the little 12th century Madonna della Grazie church very near the vineyard. Fermentation is in Allier oak vats where it remains untouched for 2 days and the fermentation lasts for 20/22 days. The wine is aged in 2,500 liter oak barrels for 41 months and 10 months in bottle before release. It a complex and elegant wine with aromas and flavors of citrus, cherry, licorice, mineral notes, and that certain something wonderful on the palate that just keeps on lingering. It has an extremely pleasing aftertaste and a long finish. they are excellent food wines and will age for a long time. Wine writer Monica Larner called this wine “The purest and most profound expression of Sangiovese on the market today and gave it 100 points, the Wine Enthusiast gave it 99 points and Vinous (Antonio Galloni) gave it 97points.

I have never done this before, giving other people’s “point scores” but for once I have to agree with all of them and the wine lives up to their praise.

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Filed under Alessandro Mori, Brunello, IL Marroneto, Italian Red Wine, Madonna della Grazie Brunello, Uncategorized

Dinner with Lars and Karen

Dinner at Lars and Karen’s house always begins the same way.IMG_8533

Lars takes a large silver sword from its box, holds a bottle of Cuvee Aurora Rose sparkling wine in his other hand, and with one fell swoop slices the cork and the top off the bottle.IMG_8534

We watch in amazement while they fly across the yard.

Lars Leicht is the head of the Cru Artisan division of Banfi. Here are the wines he served that night. He also did most of the cooking!IMG_8540

Cuvee Aurora Rose Alta Lange 2011 DOC 100% Pinot Noir Banfi Piemonte. The grapes are grown in the hilltop vineyards of the Alta Langa, south of Alba in Piemonte, in a mix of clay and calcareous soil. There is one hour of skin contact and cold maceration, which prepares the grapes for soft crushing. The must is clarified and fermentation is at a controlled temperature. The final cuvee consists of 90% clear wine and 10% of the previous vintage wine. The wine is aged in French oak barriques. Fermentation takes place in the bottle (Classic Method). Yeast contact is extended for at least 24 months followed by a traditional hand riddling (remuage) on pupitres and degorgement a la glace. A period of brief aging follows. The wine is pink in color, with small bubbles and hints of strawberry and apple.IMG_8543

Lars served this wine with an assortment of appetizers including sauteed eggplant with cherry tomatoes, a Neapolitan dish.IMG_8541

Pecorino “Cortalato” Colli Aprutini IGT 2014 100% Pecorino Cerulli Spinozzi. The vineyards are in the Colli Aprutini in Abruzzo. The soil is clay and sand. Fermentation is in stainless steel, prior to malolactic fermentation and it is aged on its lees fro 5 months prior to bottling. The wine has hints of citrus and peach with notes of apricot and orange and a touch of bitter almond on the lingering finish. I recommend this wine often and it is a true bargain at less than $18 a bottle. Enrico Cerulli has taken over the management Cerulli Spinozzi his ancestral property. I have met Enrico a number of times and am always impressed by his knowledge and passion for his wine. The consulting winemaker is Franco Bernabei, who I consider to be one of the best.IMG_8548

With it, we ate hand rolled pici pasta (like thick spaghetti) with clams and herbs.IMG_8546

Montepulciano D’Abruzzo “Torre Migliore” 2009 Cerulli Spinozzi made from 100% Montepulciano D’Abruzzo in the Colli Teramane DOCG area. The soil consists of compact layers of shale and is rich in nutrients. Selected grapes are hand harvested in small boxes. The juice is fermented on the skins for 15/18 days in oak for at least 16 months. The wine is aged for 6 months in the bottle before release. This is a complex intense wine with hints of ripe cherries, blackberries and a touch of clove. This wine will age and is a bargain at about $18IMG_8556

With the red wines, we ate an assortment of grilled sausages and lamb chops.

The next three red wines are from Palari owned by Salvatore Geraci.IMG_8564

Santa.Ne 2008 100% A Francisa. I asked Lars about this unusual grape and he said “As Salvatore Geraci explains it to me, a century ago they planted a French varietal in that vineyard but no longer recall what it is. The farmers simply refer to it as “the French one,” or ‘a Francisa‘ in local dialect. Some hypothesize that it could be Malbec or Petite Verdot, but in any case over the decades it has morphed into something unique to its conditions.”

The grapes are grown in soil that consists of clay (argilla) in vineyards located in Santo Briga in Messina, Sicily. The wine is aged for 14 months in new barrels of Troncais oak. The wine is then bottled and allowed to rest, unfiltered for at least two more years before release. It has hints of tobacco, leather, red berries and a touch of spice.IMG_8557

Rosso Del Soprano 2011 made from 60% Nerello, 15% Nocera, 20% Nerello Capuccio, 2% Acitana, 2% Jacche and 1% Coe’e Palumba. After a soft pressing and fermentation with native yeast in temperature controlled stainless steel, the wine ages in one-year-old barrels of Troncais and Allier oak. It is then bottled and rests, unfiltered, for about another year before release. It has hints of ripe red berries and undertones of spice with a persistent finish.IMG_8566

Faro 2009 Like the Rosso Del Soprano above, this wine is made from the same indigenous grapes but with a different selection. Salvatore Geraci the owner of Palari saved the Faro DOC from extinction by taking over the 6 hectare vineyard and producing the wine. The wine is aged in new barrels of Troncais and Allier oak for at least 12 months. The wine is then bottled and allowed to rest unfilited for an additional year before release. This is an elegant and complex wine with notes of ripe red fruit, spice and a touch of vanilla. It has a very long finish and pleasing aftertaste. Faro means lighthouse in Italian.IMG_8568

Brunello di Montalcino 1982  Villa Banfi 100% Sangiovese, select clones from estate vineyards on the southern hills of Montalcino. The grapes are grown in stony, calcareous and well-structured soil at an altitude of 720 ft. A careful grape selection is followed by vinification with skin contact for 10-12 days. The wines are released the 5th year after the harvest. Current vintages of this wine are aged a minimum of 4 years, 2 years in oak barrels of various sizes, mainly French oak barriques and partly in Slavonian oak casks.

I do not believe the 1982 was aged in barriques and I do not believe the “clone selection” was the same back then. This is an elegant and complex wine with hints of red fruit, violets, and a touch of licorice and spice. It is showing no sign of age. A delightful Brunello.IMG_8574

Malvasia Delle Lipari 2011 100% Malvasia, Florio. The wine is produced in Malfa, on the island of Salina, archipelago of the Aeolian Islands. The soil is of volcanic origin and sandy. The vineyards are planted on the coast less the 50 meters above sea level. The grapes are hand harvested then laid on reed mats to dry in the sun for about 20 days.

The raisined grapes are gently pressed and left briefly with skin contact. The must is then drained and fermented slowly at controlled temperatures and fermentation stops naturally. The wine is aged a minimum of 5 months in 25 liter fine oak barrels. The wine has hints of raisins, dried apricots and a touch of honey

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Filed under Abruzzo, Banfi Brunello, Brunello, Cerulli Spinozzi, Cuvee Aurora Rose, Faro, Italian Red Wine, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Malvasia delle Lipari-Florio, Rosso del Soprano, Santa.Ne, Sparkling wine, Uncategorized

Lunch with Tom and Diane

Tom Maresca and Diane Darrow are food and wine writers and bloggers. It is always a pleasure to be invited to their home for lunch or dinner. Diane does the cooking assisted by Tom and Tom chooses the wine assisted by Diane.  On a recent occasion, they prepared a 5 course meal paired with a excellent array of wines.Bolly 04

Bollinger “La Grande Anee” Brut 2004 blend of 70 % Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay from 13 crus: mainly Ay and Verzenay for the Pinot Noir and Chouilly and Mesnil-sur-Oger for the Chardonnay-95% grand crus and 5% premier crus. There is a moderate dosage of 6 grams per liter. It remains in the cellar for twice the time required by the appellation. This is mature complex Champagne with hints of dried fruit, hazelnuts and pastry. It has a creamy effervescence, subtle acidity and a long finish. Produced only when the harvest reaches a perfect balance.

With it we enjoyed Felino salame, Niçoise and Castelvetrano Olives, and Marcona almonds.IMG_8498

Fiano di Avellino 2012 DOCG Ciro Piariello made from 100% Fiano. The vineyards are in Sunnonte and Monteferdane in the province of Avellino at 500 to 600 meters. The exposure is south-southwest, soil is clay-loam sandstone and the average age of the vineyards is 18 years. Hand harvest in the second or third week of October and the grapes are carefully sorted. Grapes are pressed slowly with only the first press fraction going into this wine. Fermentation for 60 days in stainless steel tanks using indigenous yeasts. The wine spends time on the lees. 12 months in stainless steel and 3 to 6 months in bottle before release. The wine has hints of citrus and peaches and plums with a touch of smoke.IMG_8497

Caprese Salad with Mozzarella di Bufala and heirloom tomatoes. Perfect tomatoes and fresh, tender mozzarella simply dressed with good olive oil.IMG_8501

Barbera d’Alba Pre–Phylloxera DOC 2011 Elvio Cogno Made from 100% Barbera. When I visited this winery Valter Fissore the wine maker said that this unique wine comes from a vineyard that is over 120 years old. He rents the vineyard, which is situated in Berri close to La Morra. The vineyard is only 3,400 square meters. The vines are vertically trellised and Guyot pruned and the vineyard is at 520 meters. The grapes are harvested in the beginning of October. The wine is fermented in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks with automatic pumpover. Aging takes place for 12 months in large Slavonia oak casks and another 6 months of bottle age before release. Only 1,800 bottles are produced. This is an elegant well-balanced wine with hints of raspberry, strawberry and cherry and a touch of spice. It is a Barbera that will age. I have had this wine a few times before and I am always impressed by it.

Valter explained that the vines come from pre-grafted plants propagated by cuttings that have been maintained over many years and therefore they have the original Barbera characteristics. The terrain is sandy-chalk, which is a natural protection for the vines from phylloxera. Valter said that this wine was something he always wanted to make and it is also a tribute to his father-in-law, Elvio Cogno, who made a pre-phylloxera Dolcetto d’Alba “Boschi di Berri” when he was at the Marcarini Winery.IMG_8504

Anna Dente is a renowned chef and Diane used her recipe to make Pasta alla Carbonara, bucatini pasta tossed with eggs, cheese and crisp guanciale.IMG_8502

Taurasi Riserva 2006 Guastaferro 100% Aglianico. This wine will be imported for the first time into this country starting this month. The wine is aged in large barrels (botti) for more then 4 years. It is a classic Taurasi that will age for many years.IMG_8510

Balthazar’s Braised Short Ribs, Duchess Potatoes, Spinach. The succulent ribs were fall off the bone tender and the potatoes were a perfect foil for the brown sauce. Fresh spinach was a nice counterpoint.  IMG_8506

 Barolo Granbussia Riserva 2006 100% Nebbiolo Aldo Conterno made from Michet and Lampia varieties of Nebbiolo. Harvest is manual with grape selection in the vineyard and it takes place in mid-October. Vinification is in wood with maceration of the skins in large Slavonia oak casks. The must remains in contact with the skin for 60 days, during which alcohol fermentation is fully completed. The wine is then placed in large Slavonia oak casks for 32 months. The grapes for the Granbussia Riserva are from the oldest vineyards: Romirasco 70%, Cicala 15% and Colonello 15% depending on the vintage. The wine remains in the cellar for 8 years before release and is only produced in the best vintages.IMG_8516

An interesting selection of cheeses included Chabichou, Cremant, Fiacco di Capra, Occelli la Gran Riserva, Tumbleweed.IMG_8523

Moscato di Piemonte 2010 Gabbiano 100% Moscato It has hints of apricots, peaches and honey.IMG_8524

Michele’s Polenta Cake with Peaches from her book “The Italian Vegetable Cookbook” was the dessert, though Diane put her own spin on it by using corn flour instead of corn meal and peaches instead of the original berries. It was a great cake.IMG_8527

After dinner Tom always serves grappa, Cognac, brandy and assorted spirits. Tom brought back from Campania a brandy made from 100% Fiano, Don Vittorio Brandy from Di Meo aged for 25 years. Classic brandy distillation, discontinuous method in a brain-marie. Smooth with hints of spice, vanilla, coffee and a touch of honey. It was the perfect way to end a lovely meal.

 

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