Category Archives: Brunello

Tasting the Exceptional 2015 Vintage of Brunello

The Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino presented Benvenuto Brunello USA 2020, its annual trade tasting in NYC. This year it showcased the 2015 vintage which has been awarded 5 stars, the highest rating from the Consorzio. The tasting featured Brunello di Montalcino wines from 40 producers. I always enjoy going to this event and having the opportunity to taste the wines and talk with the producers. I tasted 14 wines, all from the 2015 vintage.

The production area is the commune territory of Montalcino. The grape variety is Sangiovese, known as Brunello in the town and territory of Montalcino in Tuscany.

The wine must be aged 2 years in oak casks and 4 months in bottle or 6 for the Riserva. Bottling must take place in the production zone. The wine is available for sale from the 1st of January of the 5th year following the harvest (6th year for the Riserva). Brunello di Montalcino can only be sold in Bordeaux- type bottles.

In my experience Brunello needs to age at least 10 to15 years before (even in a not so great year) I would even think of drinking it. Brunello improves greatly with age. If you want a wine that is “approachable” and ready to drink young, then look for a Rosso di Montalcino because that was why they were produced.

The Wines

Brunello di Montalcino 2015 Caparzo – the grapes come from three different vineyards located in different parts of the estate. There is a manual harvest. During the first two days after fermentation special attention is paid to the seeds, which are eliminated if they are not ripe enough. Primary fermentation is for 7 days at a controlled temperature and is followed by delestages and pump overs. The wine is kept in contact with the skins for 10 to 15 days. Malolactic fermentation is spontaneous, takes place at a controlled temperature and is immediately after racking. The wine is aged in wood for at least 2 years and at least 4 months in bottle. This is a complex wine with hints of wild berries.

Brunello Di Montalcino 2015 DOCG Uccelliera. Production area Castelnovo dell’Abate, southeast of Montalcino, vineyard extension is 15.5 acres at 820 ft. The soil is rich in minerals, medium textured sand and clay with some gravel. The grapes are selected, de-stemmed and crushed. The must is kept for 4 to 5 days at low temperatures. Later the temperature is raised and alcoholic fermentation takes place naturally for 15 days in stainless steel. At the same time, the must macerates on the skins for about 7 days. After drawing off, the wine is kept in steel, malolactic occurs and the wine is placed in Slovenian and French oak barrels for 36 months, then aged in bottle for another 18 months, before release. This wine was a little more international in style.

Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2015 Col D’Orcia. Made from a particular clone of Sangiovese selected by Col d’Orcia. The vineyard is at 300 meters in the hills overlooking the Orcia River with a south/southwest exposure, the soil is from the Eocene period in origin, loose, with little clay and rich in limestone. Fermentation is on the skins form18 to 20 days at a controlled temperature in 150 hl wide and shallow stainless steel tanks, designed in order to extract tannins and color efficiently but delicately. Aging is for 4 years: 3 years in 25, 50 and 75 hl Slavonic and Allier oak casks, followed by at least 12 months of refinement in bottle. Since 2013 Col D’Orcia is the largest wine-producing farm in Tuscany.

Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2015 Franco Pacenti”  made from 100% Sangiovese Grosso. The vineyards are at 300 meters and the exposure is north-east. The soil is medium clay with a low density of vines per hectare, divided into six plots with an average age of 25 years and the training system is spurred cordon. There is a strictly traditional vinification with prolonged maceration on the skins and long refinement in medium to large oak barrels. The wine has hints of cherries and mushrooms with a touch of spice and herbs.

Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 2015 DOCG La Fiorita made from 100% Sangiovese from the 3.1 hectare Pian Bossolino vineyards at 350 meters. The exposure is south east, training system is spurred cordon and there are 7,000 plants per hectare and the soil is galestro. Harvest is at the beginning of October. Fermentation is Slavonian oak casks for 10 days with selected yeasts. During maceration, pumping over and delestage takes place. Type and capacity of aging casks: 12 months in new and second passage French oak; 12 months is Slavonian oak of 80Hl. Aging time: 24 months in wood, 6 months in steel and 30 months in bottle before release. This is a complex wine with hints of red fruit, spice, balsam and a touch of tobacco and chocolate.

Brunello Di Montalcino 2015 DOCG Banfi 100% Sangiovese grown on hillside vineyards at 220 meters in stony, calcareous and well structured soil. There is a meticulous grape selection (yield not exceeding 6 metric tons/ha) is followed by vinification in temperature–controlled Horizon hybrid stainless steel and wood tanks, with skin contact for 10 to 20 days. The wine ages for two years in various sizes oak barrels, 305-liter barriques, 60 and 120 hl barrels; the wine is then aged in bottle for an additional 8 to 12 months. The wine is released 5 years after the harvest.

Bill Whiting of Banfi

Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva “Poggio All’Oro” 2015 Banfi  100% Sangiovese, estate selection. The Poggio all’Oro vineyard is on the southern slopes of the Montalcino hillside at 250 mt. The wine is produced only in excellent vintages based on a meticulous selection of the harvested grapes. Temperature controlled vinification is in Horizon hybrid stainless steel and wood tanks with skin contact for 12 to 14 days. Aged in barriques for 30 months, and at least 12 to 18 months in bottle. The wine is kept for a total of 6 years before release. This is a wine with notes of violet and hints of plum, jam and a touch of coffee.

Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 215 100% Sangiovese Mastrojanni. It is aged 3 years in Allier oak barrels of various sizes – 15, 33 and 54 hectoliters and then for 6/8 months in bottle. The wine has aromas and flavors of ripe black and red berries with a hint of spice and tobacco. The Iily Group now owns the winery.

Brunello di Montalcino 2015 La Fortuna The average age of the vines is 20 to 30 years. Harvest takes place between September 20th to 30th. Type of fermentation is thermoconditioned and unleavened and lasts for 8 days. The wine remains on the skins for 25 days. Aging is for 40 months in 25HL Slavonian oak barrels. The wine remains in the bottle for 9 months before release. The wine has hints of cherry, violet, plum and a touch of liquorice and a note of graphite. This is a traditional Brunello.

Brunello Di Montalcino 2015 DOC Silvio Nardi 100% Sangiovese Grosso from the Manachiara and Casale Estates. Soil composition is jasper and shale. Grapes come from various vineyards in the municipality of Montalcino with northwest/and south/east exposure at 350 meters. The yield is limited and only the top 70% of the hand-harvested grapes are used in this wine. The grapes were carefully hand picked and sorted. The wine is aged for 12 months in French Allier barriques and 12 months in large Slavonian oak botte. It remains in bottle for 6 months before release. This wine needs many more years in the bottle. There were aromas and flavors of red berries and a hint of leather.

Brunello di Montalcino 2015 Celestino Pecci The vineyard exposure is south/southwest and the vineyards are at 350 meters. The soil is of a mixed consistency with a slight tendency towards clay. The training system is spurred cordon and the harvest is by hand. The wine is aged in 10 and 35 HL wooden barrels for 36/40 months and 6 months in bottle before release.

Brunello di Montalcino 2015 Altesino. Traditional fermentation. The wine is aged for 4 years with a minimum of two years in barrel and 4 months in bottle before release. The wine has hints of wild berries, chocolate and tobacco with a touch of violets and vanilla.

Brunello di Montalcino 2015 Villa Poggio Salvi the exposure is South-West, the soil is Galestro (marl) and the vines are at 350 to 500 meters. The training system is spurred cordon and there are 5,000 plants per hectare. Harvest is by hand the first week of October. There is a pre-maceration for 8 days at a controlled temperature in steel tanks with caps pushed down with automatic hydraulic system. The wine is aged in Slavonian oak barrels of 30-60 to 100 liters for 30 months. The wine then remains in bottle for 4 months before release. This is a full-bodied wine with hints of red fruit, lavender and a touch of spice. This wine will age for 30 years or more.

Brunello di Montalcino 2015 Fattoria dei Barbi 100%  The soil is marl, alberese limestone and the vines are 15 to 20 years old and at 300 to 500 meters. The exposure is South and the training system is Cortina semplice and there are 5,000 vines per hectare. Harvest took place from September 28 to October 7th. Before fermentation the grapes were subjected to a cold fermentation maceration which consists in cooling the grapes at a temperature of 16C in an environment protected by COC. Alcoholic fermentation lasts 16/17 days at a controlled temperature. After racking and malolactic fermentation, the wine is aged in small to medium size oak barrels 2.5 to 15HL for the first months. It then spends two years in larger oak barrels and 4 months in bottle before release. The wine has hints of plum, blueberry with a touch of rhubarb and a note of spice.

I have a long history with this wine and drank it for the first time 40 years age. It might have been the 1971 vintage. The current vintage can be drunk over the next 15 to 50 years will last for 50 years.

Because of the regular and steady maturation of the grapes during the growing season, the 2015 vintage produced grapes with a perfect balance between sugar and acidity.

Brunello di Montalcino is one of Italy’s and the world’s greatest wines. Brunello di Montalcino was among the eight Italian wine producing zones to be designated DOC in 1966 and in 1980 it became the first Italian wine to receive the DOCG. I have to agree that 2015 is an exceptional vintage.

 

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Red Wine and Steak at Restaurant Il Gattopardo NYC

Last week I posted an article on the white wines of Italy represented by Riccardo Gabriele of PR Comunicare Il Vino and Luca Tommasini of WinesCom Global Consulting. This article is about the red wines we tasted at Il Gattopardo.

We had a perfectly prepared steak with the red wines and it was a perfect combination with the red wines.

Castello di Mugazzena “Gargatura” IGT Tuscana 2017 made from 100% Syrah. The soil is clayey sandy terraced alluvial deposits. Training system is unilateral spurred cordon. Manual harvest. Grapes are destemmed and sorted. The grapes are pressed and then pumped into conditioned steel tanks where it ferments at a controlled temperature. There is pumping over, punching down and delestages. At the end of the alcoholic fermentation the wine is left to mature in contact with the skins between 10 and 30 days. The wine is separated from the marc and it is pressed. Malolactic fermentation is complete two weeks after. The course lees are removed and the wine is pumped into into French oak barrels, where it ages on the lees fro 12 to 18 months. The wine has hints of blueberries, black cherry and a note of black pepper.

 

Barone Sergio Sicilia Nero d’Avola Rosato “Luigia” 2018 made from100% Nero d’ Avola the vines are 10 years old and are at 70 meters. Fermentation takes place without the skins. Fermentation is in stainless steel tanks at a controlled temperature. The wine matures in steel for 6 to 7 months and in bottle for 2 months before release. The wine has hints of strawberry and cherry with a touch of raspberry. Next time the red wines

 

I Balzini Black Label Dal Colli Della Tuscana Centrale PGI 2013 (WinesCom) made from Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The soil is of Pilocene orgin, sedimentary formations characterized by the presence of alternating strata of yellow sands and clay with a notable presence of marine fossils. Exposure is southwest with a north to south orientation of the rows. Working of the soil with a cordon de Royat training system. Manual harvest and grape selection. There is two weeks of skin contact and there is a complete malolactic fermentation. Aging is in French oak barrels for 12 to 14 months and 18 months in bottle before release. This is a wine with hints of red and black berries, a hint a spice and a touch of vanilla

Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2015 “Canalicchio,” Franco Pacenti WinesCom made from 100% Sangiovese Grosso. The vineyards are at 300 meters and the exposure is north-east. The soil is medium clay with a low density of vines per hectare, divided into six plots with an average age of 25 years and the training system is spurred cordon. . There is a strictly traditional vinification with prolonged maceration on the skins and long refinement in medium to large oak barrels. The wine has hints of cherries and mushrooms with a touch of spice and a hint of herbs.

La Regola Costa Tuscana Riserva IGT La Regola made from 100% Cabernet Franc. Red Mediterranean soil with an abundance of stones. The vineyards are at 150 to 200 meters. Hand havesting of grapes with a careful selection. Manual selection of the grapes and of the berries, medium maceration and alcoholic fermentation is in natural concrete vats at a controlled temperature. After malolactic fermentation the wine spends 18 months in new French barriques made in Burgundy and at least 12 months in bottle before release.This is a fruit forward wine characteristic of Cabernet Franc with a hint of spice and vanilla.

Barolo DOCG “Ravera” 2013 Giovanni Abrigo made from 100% Nebbiolo. The soil is Tortonian in origin, made up of laminated Saint’Agata fossil marl, with clay at 400 meters. The exposure is southeast and there are 4,500 plants per hectare. The training system is espalier in the vineyards with guyot pruning. The age of the vines is between 20 and 30 years. Harvest is by hand in mid October. Separate processing of grapes picked in different parts of the vineyard. Destemming and temperature controlled alcoholic fermentation in steel tanks, pumping over and toward the end of the fermentation-delestage. The duration of the submerged cap depends of on the quality of the vintage. Drawing off and spontaneous malolactic fermentation in stainless steel tanks. The wine is aged for 38 months of which at least 18 months is in French oak barrels of varying capacity. Blending is in stainless steel tanks and the wine is bottled in the summer and released for sale in January four years from the harvest. This is a classic Barolo with hints of cherry, tar and licorice.

Beconcini “IXE  The name is the Tuscan pronunciation for the letter X. The letter X stands for unknown vines. In the early 1950’s, 213 vines of unknown species were found in the vineyard which were called X vines. With help from the Ministry of Agriculture these vines were declared to be Tempranillo a few years ago. In June of 2009, Tempranillo was enrolled in the Tuscan register. As far as I know Tempranillo was never cultivated before in Italy.

The IGT is Tuscany Tempranillo. This wine is made from 99.9% of Tempranillo and a touch of Sangiovese. The winery is located in the town of San Miniato. The vineyard is 3.5 hectares and the grapes are all from the new vineyards planted in 1997 using a massal selection from buds taken from the century old vines of Tempranillo from the Vigna alle Nicchie. The training is spurred cordon. Soil is sandstone with marine fossil formation, well integrated with abundant clay. 100/150 meters above sea level and there are 7,000 vines per hectare. Harvest the first 10 days of September. The grapes are dried for 4 weeks and they obtain a total yield of 70%. Fermentation takes place in temperature controlled glass lined cement vats, maceration is for 3 weeks. Aging lasts for 14 months in 70% French barriques and 30% American oak barriques of second passage. 6 months in bottle before release. First passage in barriques is for the wine from the grapes of the historical vineyard Vigna alle Nicchie that goes into the wine of the same name.

This origin of this grape variety is not known for certain. Via Franchigena was an old Roman road, which was used by pilgrims in the 17th century to make the pilgrimage to and from Santiago de Compostela (Rioja) in Spain to Rome. This road passed close to the town of San Miniato near where the winery is now located. Spanish pilgrims may have carried the Tempranillo seeds and actually sowed them in the vicinity of San Miniato as was the custom of the time. Scientists have determined that the vines were from seeds, not cuttings. Legend has it that a local priest tended the vines not knowing their origin. Not imported.

Montefalco Sagrantino 2015 Bocale made from 100% Sagrantino. The vineyard is treated with natural grass regeneration techniques (land planting), using only organic and mineral fertilizers without the use of chemical products or herbicides. Fermentation is with natural yeasts and the wine is produced without microfiltration and thermal stabilization. Manual harvest takes place the second half of October. Vinification: maceration for at least 40 days with natural enzymes. Stabilization and filtration do not take place. The wine is aged in 1,000 liter French oak barrels for 24 months and in bottle for 12 months before release. The wine has hints of blackberries and currants with a touch of spice. I was very impressed with this wine.

Tommasi Amarone Classico 2009 made from 50% Corvina, 20% Corvinone, 25% Rondinella and 5% Molinara. The vines are on hillside terraces; the training system is high-density guyot. The Groletta and Conca d’Oro vineyards are located in the area of classic historical Valpolicella. The grapes are hand harvested and placed in plastic boxes which hold 5/6 kg. Then they are put on wooden racks to dry where cooling breezes in the autumn and winter until January dry them. This drying period is known as the appassimento. Annalisa said that this is an active period where the grapes lose about 50% of their weight and there is a concentration of the natural sugar. The wine is aged for 3 years in large Slavonian oak barrels. Residual sugar is 8g/l and the alcohol is 15.50%. This is a elegant, complex and full-bodied wine that has aromas of ripe fruit with hints of cherries, dries figs, prunes and a touch of hazelnut.

 

 

 

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Thanksgiving with Friends

For the past few years we have had Thanksgiving and we invite the same two couples. We start at 4:00 and it lasts well into the evening because of the amount of food and the number of wines.

We began with a simple appetizer of potato chips topped with sour cream, smoked salmon and chives. With it we had:

Champagne Alfred Gratien Cuveè Passation Brut NV in magnum, made from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc. This is great Champagne and it could not have been drinking better.

Then we moved to the table where we enjoyed a warm Leek and Mascarpone Tart prepared by our friend, Diane. With it we drank:

Cerasuolo made from 100% Montepulciano d’Abruzza 1996 Valentini Aged in large botti of Slavonia oak for 12 months. There was just a touch of strawberry but the wine was showing its age.

With the red wines we enjoyed the main course, a classic turkey dinner. Michele doesn’t make turkey every year but this year she felt like doing the traditional menu with a hint of an Italian accent. Roasted turkey seasoned with prosciutto and rosemary, turkey gravy, sausage and cornbread stuffing, mashed sweet potatoes with maple syrup, and broccoli with Parmigiano Reggiano.

and my  favorite  Mostarda standing  in  for  the  cranberry  sauce

Dolcetto d’Alba 1971 Bruno Giacosa – made from 100% Dolcettto. This was amazing — a Dolcetto almost 50 years old. It was in very good condition with subtle hints of red and black fruit.

Beaujolais Morgan 2005 made from 100% Gamay from 60 year old vines. Marcel Lapierre. The vineyard is 10 ha and the soil is granitic gravel. The winery is certified organic. There is a manual harvest and then a rigorous sorting of the grapes. Only indigenous yeasts are used. Whole cluster fermentation takes place a l’ancienne ( old style), and maintained at a low temperatures for 10 to 20 days. The wine is aged on the fine lees in old Burgundy barrels-from 3rd to thirteenth passage and the wines are bottled unfiltered.

Beaujolais Morgan Cuvee Marcel Lapierre MMIX 2009 made from 100-year-old vines. The vineyard is 1.5 hectares and the soil is granitic gravel.

Both these wines are not ordinary Beaujolais and will last for a number of years. They have hints of blackberry, cassis, strawberry and touch of spice.

Brunello di Montalcino 2001 Fattoria Poggio di Sotto made from 100% Sangiovese. This is an elegant complex wine with hints of black cherry, violets and herbs with a very long finish and very pleasing after taste. It will last for many years. I had the wine for the first time a few weeks ago at San Domenico Restaurant in Imola not far from Bologna.

A bite of cheese – 30 month old Mountain Parmigiano-Reggiano that we brought home from Parma was next.

Recioto Valpolicella Valpantena Riserva Spumonte Naturale 1978 Bertani made from 80% Corvina Veronese and 20% Rondinella The wine was still in good condition but most of the bubbles were gone. It is a fragrant wine with hints of plum, cherry and raspberry and went very well with the cheese course. This is only the second time that I have had this wine and I do not know if Bertani makes it any more.

An apple cream tart, also supplied by Diane (Diane Darrow-Another Year in Recipes), finished the meal.

 

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An Extraordinary Wine Dinner

A wine collector friend decided to have a party in order to share some of his best wines so he arranged a dinner at Gramercy Tavern.  There were 16 of us in the private dining room.

The Wines

Champagne “ Grand Dame” 1990 Double Magnum Veuve Clicquot made with 62% Pinot Noir and 38% Chardonnay from the estate’s 100 percent rated Grand Cru vineyards. This is refined, elegant champagne with a hint of brioche and a smooth silky finish.

All of the following wines are Magnums

Batard Montrachet 2004 Joseph Drouhin made from 100% Chardonnay purchased from regular supplies. Hand harvest and a very slow pressing. Juice from the last pressings is not used. The wine is decanted directly into barrels. The wine is aged in French oak, 25% new for 12 to 15 months. The wine has hints of honey, almond, ripe fruit and a touch of wood. It has a great feel in the mouth with a long finish and very pleasing aftertaste.

Chambertin 1989 Domaine A Rousseau P&F Made from 100% Pinot Noir. The soil is limestone and clay and the vineyard is 5.3 acres making them the largest landowner in Chambertin. Following a cold maceration the must travels by gravity into barrels where it will stay for the entire vinification process lasting from 18 to 24 months. The wine is blended unfiltered. This is a structured, dense, powerful wine but it is not heavy and is a joy to drink. One on the two best Burgundies I have had the pleasure to enjoy. The other I also had with this same generous friend.

PommardLes Rugiens Bas” 1988 De’Montille made from 100% Pinot Noir from Les Rugiens Bas, a Premier Cru composed of 5.83 hectares. With 1.02 hectares, they are the largest owners. The soil is clay with the presence of iron. The wines are certified organic by Ecocert and they use biodynamic practices. This wine is balanced and elegant with nice fruit and will age for a number of years.

Ornellaia 1988 Marchese Lodovico Antinori made from 80% Cabernet Sauvignon,16% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc.  The grapes are hand harvested. The grapes were de-stemmed and gently crushed and put into wooden fermenters and stainless steel tanks. Fermentation maceration lasted for 15 to 20 days. After fermentation the wine completed malolactic fermentation in French oak barrels.  The wine was aged for 11 months in French barriques 40% new and 60% once used. The wine was aged for 16 months in bottle before release. This is a full-bodied wine with with hints of dark fruit, violets and a touch of vanilla.

Brunello di Montalcino “Montosoli” 1990 Altesino made from 100% Sangiovese. Traditional fermentation. The wine is aged for 4 years with a minimum of two years in barrel and 4 months in bottle before release. The wine has hints of wild berries, chocolate and tobacco with a touch of violets and vanilla.

Hermitage “La Chapelle” 1988 Paul Jaboulet Aine 100% Syrah planted in a diversity of terroir. The age of the vines is 40 to 60 years. The grapes come down from the slopes of l’Hermitage on small sledges and then are sorted manually and vinified traditionally in the cellars. The final assembly is made during aging in the cellars in wood for 15 to 18 months. During this time the wines are also racked. This is a complex and elegant wine with hints of black fruit, black cherries, spice and leather. It has a long finish and very pleasing aftertaste. A very impressive wine.

Chateauneuf –du- Pape Cuvee Reserve 1995 Pegau made from 80% Grenache, 6% Syrah 4% Mourvèdre and 10% other grape varieties allowed  by the AOP. There is a strict selection of carefully hand picked grapes. No de-stemming and the blend of 13 grape varieties are gently crushed before fermentation takes place for ten days in a cement vat. No added yeasts and no temperature control in this natural process. An absolute minimum amount of tartaric acid and sulphites are added. After pressing, the wine is aged for 2 years in select large oak barrels. The wine has hints of cherries, raspberries and plums with a touch of leather and spice.

Bordeaux 1983 Pomerol Chateau Lafleur made from almost equal parts of Merlot and Cabernet Franc. The vineyard is planted on 3 different soils: northwest there is sandy clay gravel, to the south and east clay gravel and in the heart of the vineyard gravelly sand. Vinification takes place in traditional cement vats. The vats go from 30 hl to 8o hl. The wine ages in French oak barrels and a portion of them are new where the wine remains for about 15 months. The wine has hints of cherry, blackberry, plum and spice. 1983 was a very good year for the Chateau and it is one of the best Pomerols.

Bordeaux 1983 St Julien Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot. There are 10,000 vines per hectare. Vinification is in stainless steel vats of different sizes and malolactic fermentation takes place in concrete vats. Over 50% of the wine is aged in new French oak barrels for 18 to 20 months. The wine has hints of cherry and raspberry and a touch of tobacco and spice.

With dessert, we drank two 750’s.

Ruby Port 1963 Graham a fortified wine that is aged for 2 years in wood. 1963 was a memorable vintage for port. This is a full-bodied wine with hints of caramelized fruit, notes of plum, raspberry, blackberry and dried figs.

Madeira Verdelho 1966 D’Oliveira, a fortified wine made from the white Verdelho grape. It is drier then Bual but not as dry as Sercial. This is a lush and balanced wine with hints of roasted nuts and a very long finish and a lingering after taste.

 

In all, we enjoyed one double magnum of Champagne, one magnum of white wine, eight magnums of red wine, one 750 bottle of Port and another of Madeira.

 

 

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A Banfi 40 Year Anniversary Celebration

There are  not many wine  companies that can celebrate a 40 year anniversary and still look forward to a continuing story of success for many years to come. One such company is Banfi. I  have always enjoyed their wines. In 1985 Michele and I visited the winery in Montalcino for  the first time. When I am at the Vinitaly wine fair in Verona, I always make sure to visit the Banfi stand and in NYC I attend their wine tastings. Over the years I have come to know the people at Banfi and they are some of the nicest people in the wine business. Michele and I have become friends with many of them. When I was invited to a celebration of their 40th anniversary I was more than happy to attend.


Lars Leicht, Director of Trade Development, greeted me.  Lars has been with Banfi for 33 years and he went along with me as I tasted the wines. All the wines that Banfi produced between 1978 and 2018 were available at the event. Lars said that when we finished tasting the wines in the upstairs room we would go downstairs where there were wines from the 1990’s.

Christina

I spoke with Cristina Mariani-May, President and CEO of Banfi Vintners and Family Proprietor of Castello Banfi, about the last 40 years. Here are some of the highlights:

1978 Villa Banfi was born in Montalcino

1979 Acquisition of Cantina Bruzzone in Strevi, Piemonte

1982 Initiation of the clonal research project on Sangiovese

1983 Acquisition of Castello di Poggio alla Mura which became a symbol of the estate

1984 Inauguration of the winery in Montalcino–a milestone for modern winemaking

1990 The vintage that changed the history of Montalcino

1992 Inauguration of the Glass and Bottle Museum

1997 First Vintage of “Poggio alle Mura” Brunello, result of 20 years of Sangiovese research.

2007 Publication of the “ The Pursuit of Excellence” study

2009 The use of the “light bottle” becomes reality

2014 Tuscan Estates: conclusion of the first phase of acquisition

2017 Birth of Sanguis Jovis–Sangiovese School

2018 40 years and the story continues.

The Wines: 1978/2018

1978/1988 Principessa Gavia, San Angelo Pinot Grigio, Fontanella Chardonnay, Rosso di Montalcino, Brunello, Summas, Florus, Poggio all’Oro Brunello

1988-1998: Chianti Classico Rsv, Centine Rosso, Le Rime, L’Ardi, ExcelsuS, Rosa Regale

1998-2008: Cuvée Aurora Rose, Poggio alla Mura Brunello, Chianti Superiore, Cum Laude BelnerO, La Lus

2008 to 2018; Rosso di Montalcino PAM, La Pettegola Vermentino, Brunello Riserva PAM Fonte alla Selva Gran Selezione, Stilnova, L’Altra, Cosi e Rose, Aska Bolgheri Rosso.

I asked Lars what the letters PAM stood for next to the Brunello and Rosso. He said it stands for Poggio alle Mura (the walled hilltop) the historical name of the Castello

Lars

I went with Lars  downstairs to taste the older wines and the “Quaranta”

Poggio all’ Oro Brunello di Montalcino 1999

Brunello di Montalcino 1998–This has always been one of my favorite Brunellos

ExcelsuS 1997

The three wines above are drinking well now and could still last for a number of years.

“40” Quaranta-Celebration Wine Limited Edition. Lars said this is a wine which expresses Banfi’s 40-year history in Montalcino. Lars said it is a cuvee of red varietals  selected from the best estate vineyards, from different yet complementary vintages and made from Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah.

When I told Lars it was drinking very nicely, he said it was not for sale!

Happy Holidays

 

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Pizza at Sottocasa

I first met Luca Arrigini when he was with the master pizzaiolo Roberto Caporuscio at Kestè on Bleecker Street.

Luca opened Pizzeria Sottocasa in Brooklyn and Michele and I tried it several years ago. We really liked the pizza but somehow we did not have the opportunity to return.

Two weeks ago friends that live in Harlem said they have been ordering pizza from their local branch of Sottocasa and invited us to join them there. We were glad to go.

Luca is from Milan and now lives in Brooklyn where he normally works, but he told me he would meet me at the Harlem location when I came. His partner Matteo Prospiti and his wife Elena live in Harlem so they are typically at that location.

The Brooklyn Sottocasa is located at 298 Atlantic Ave (718) 852-8758. The Harlem branch is at 227 Lenox Ave (646) 928-2870. Both locations are on the ground floor of a brownstone, which is where the name comes from.

We started with gluten free focaccia because one in our party is on a gluten free diet. It crisp, tasty and very good.

Next we had a regular Margherita made with tomatoes, mozzarella and basil. The crust was flavorful and well risen and a light dusting of semolina underneath gave it a subtle crunch. The toppings were good, too. The tomatoes were sweet and the mozzarella fresh tasting.

After that we tried the Napoli made with tomatoes, mozzarella, anchovies, oregano and basil which we also enjoyed.

Our friend ordered a gluten free Margherita, which was very good for gluten free.

The last pizza was a Laura, named after Luca’s wife. It was topped with tomatoes, mozzarella, mascarpone, speck and rosemary.

Luca said they make Neapolitan style pizza because he believes it is the best pizza of all.

The dough is made with Caputo 00 flour and rests in different stages for 48 hours, though it is usually never used before 60.

They use only Italian organic tomatoes for their sauce, freshly crashed and with just a little salt added. Fior di Latte mozzarella from Wisconsin is the cheese they use. They break the cheese by hand everyday to insure the right texture. The extra virgin olive oil is from Sicily, labeled directly for Sottocasa.

We also enjoyed the generous salads, which were lightly dressed and a good complement to the pizzas.

The wines 

Brunello di Montalcino 1990 from Livio Sassetti made from 100% Brunelllo. The wine was drinking very nicely, showing no signs of age and should last for a number of years.

Barbaresco 1971 from Produttori del Barbaresco made from 100% Nebbiolo. This has developed into a classic mature Barbaresco and is a pleasure to drink.

Both wines were a perfect complement to the pizza.

The cappuccino.

Matteo offered us two amaros and said because they were across from a school they did not have a liquor license and only could serve wine. The two Amaros were wine based.

The first was Pasubio Vino Amaro from G Cappelletti which was very nice but a bit too fruity.

The second, Cardamaro Bosca, was stronger and with more herb and spice flavors. We all really liked it.

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Italian Wine and Cardoncelli Mushrooms

Riccardo Gabriele of Pr-vino, an Italian PR company that represents European wineries, invited me to taste some of his line of Italian wines. I know Riccardo for a number of years and he represents some of the best wineries in Italy. The tasting and lunch was at Il Cardoncello NYC, a restaurant not far from where I live. The restaurant is named for the cardoncelli mushrooms that grow in Puglia.  I ordered  the cardoncelli and I really enjoyed them.. The earthy flavor of the mushrooms were a perfect compliment for the wine.

 Cardoncelli Mushrooms

Pratum” DOC Alto Adige Terlano Pinot Bianco 2015 Castel Sallegg made from 100% Pinot Bianco from the “Pratum” selection of grapes from the Prey vineyards’ oldest vines at 550 meters. The soil is porphyry and gardeno sandstone and the training system is guyot. After pressing the wine undergoes low-temperature must clarification and subsequent controlled cool fermentation at 15-18C. 2/3 of the wine is aged in stainless steel and 1/3 in French tonneaux casks (500 liters). This was a full-bodied white wine with hints of peach, tropical fruit, and a touch of vanilla. It has a nice mineral quality, well-balanced acidity and a long lingering finish and pleasant aftertaste.

Chianti Classico 2015 DOCG Quercia Al Poggio Made from 80% Sangiovese and 20% Ciliegiolo, Canaiolo and Colorino, all indigenous Tuscan grapes which are certified organic. The soil is limestone, clay, schist and calcareous clay galestro. The vines are Cordon trained and spur-pruned guyot. Harvest is manual. Traditional red winemaking in temperature controlled stainless steel and cement. The wine is aged in 500 liter old French oak barrels for 24 months and 6 months in bottle before release.The winery is located in Barberino Val d’Elsa which is between Florence and Siena. They use organic farming methods. This is a very drinkable Chianti with hints of blackberry and violets.

Montefalco Rosso DOC 2016 Di Filippo made from 60% Sangiovese, 20% Barbera and 10% Sagrantino. The grapes are grown on hillside vineyards and the soil is clayey-calcareous. The training system is spur cordon, there are 5,00 plants per hectare. Traditional red wine vinification in stainless steel tanks and maturation is in stainless steel tanks. This is a medium bodied easy drinking wine with good fruit and hints of red berries, with cherry notes and a touch of spice. It is an excellent food wine. The Di Filippo winery is 30-hectares and overlooks Assisi on the hills between Torgiano and Montefalco in the heart of Umbria.

Barolo “Ravera” 2013 DOCG Giovanni Abrigo made from 100% Nebbiolo. The winery is located in Diano d’Alba, province of Cuneo in southern Piedmont. It is family owned and run. The vineyards are at 400 to 500 meters and the grapes are picked by hand. The training system is guyot and the average age of the vines is 30 years. The Ravera vineyard is two hectares and is one of the major crus in the Novello area. The soil is composed of Saint’Agata marls with thick calcareous strata which alternate with strips of sand. Aging takes place in Slavonian casks. Riccardo said the distinctive character of wines from the Ravera vineyard are balsamic aromas of mint and eucalyptus.

Brunello di Montalcino “Madonna della Grazie” 2013 DOCG 100% Sangiovese. Il Marroneto 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. This is an excellent food wines and will age for a long time. It may be the best Brunello!

Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico 2013 DOC Tommasi made from 50% Corvina Veronese, 15% Corvinone, 30% Rondinella and 5% Oselta from grapes grown on hillside vineyards in Conca d’Oro. The traditional pergola veronese and the modern guyot methods of training the vines are used and only the best and most mature clusters are selected by hand for the Amarone. The grapes are dried for 4 months before they are pressed, and then the wine is aged for 30 months in Slavonian oak casks of 35 HL It remains in the bottle for at least another year before release. This is a full bodied complex wine with hints, of cherry, plum and blackberry. It is an Amarone that is food friendly and will age.

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Dinner with Massimo Bottura on Ellis Island

Massimo Bottura is the chef owner of the Michelin 3-starred Osteria Francescana in Modena, Italy. The restaurant was voted the #1 spot on the World’s 50 Best Restaurant list in 2016, and this year was named #2.

He was in New York recently to prepare a meal to benefit God’s Love We Deliver featuring some of his signature dishes which were matched with wines by master wine maker Roberto Cipresso.

Roberto Cipresso and Natalie Oliveros

Michele and I were fortunate enough to be invited to this event by Natalie Oliveros, owner of La Fiorita Winery in Tuscany.

The event was held at Ellis Island. About 100 guests boarded the ferry at Battery Park and cruised past the Statue of Liberty to the museum where the event was held.

Mike De Simone. Gianna and Chazz Palminteri and Charles Scicolone

Actor Chazz Palmentieri was the host and entertained us with charming stories of his life and career.

Bottura also spoke about his approach to cooking.

We can’t do any better to describe the spectacular dishes that were served that night than to quote Bottura’s own poetic descriptions which follow along with the wines that accompanied them.

Baccala Mare Nostrum

An Emilian chef dreams of the Mediterranean Sea in the form of a baccala filet floating in a verdant broth of Vesuvian tomatoes and green olives infused with Sorrento lemons, wild oregano and extra virgin olive oil. 

Falaghina Del Sannino 2016 DOC Lorenzo Nifo Sarrapochiello made from 100% Falaghina made from organic grapes. The soil is clay and calcareous marl, The vines are 10 to 15 years old, there are 4,000 vines per hectare and the training system is espalier, guyot. Harvest is by hand the third week of September. The grapes are crushed and then fermented for 18 to 20 days, followed by 2 months in stainless steel and 2 months in bottle before release. The wine has hints of pear and pineapple with a touch of spice

Polenta and Rice in Praise of a Pizza

This is not a pizza. When the northern Italian Vialone Nano rice and polenta tradition encounter the southern Italian flavors of tomato, anchovy and oregano even a serious risotto can become sunny. The rice is simmered in buffalo mozzarella milk, the polenta is crisped in the oven like pizza crust and the classic pizza toppings are hidden from view.

Pinot Grigio 2016 IGT 100% from vineyards in the Dolomiti  Casata Monfort made from 100% Pinot Grigio. The vineyard is at 300 meters, sandy soil and the training system is pergola trentina. Grapes are pressed in a completely sealed environment and then the wine making process takes place. Fermentation at a controlled temperature with selected yeast strains. The wine was pile yellow with copper highlights. This is a distinctive fruity wine with hints of ripe pear.

The Crunchy Part of Lasagne

Chef Bottura mischievously re-invents the classic Italian recipe while remaining faithful to his childhood memory of stealing he burned corners from his grandmother Ancella’s labor of love. A sheet of crunchy tri-color pasta balances on a hand chopped meat ragu and airy béchamel like a bird about to take flight.

Beautiful, Psychedelic, Spin-Painted Veal, Not Flame Grilled

A tribute to English artist Damien Hirst’s spin-painted canvases, this beef filet takes on the Tuscan tradition of grilled meat without lighting a flame. The meat is marinated in milk as if it were veal, brushed with vegetable charcoal for a fax-grill effect then cooked at a low temperature to preserve essential proteins. It is dressed with creamy potatoes, puree of orange and yellow peppers, a red beet reduction and extra old Villa Manodori Artigianale balsamic vinegar from Modena.

Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 2006 DOCG La Fiorita made from 100% Sangiovese from the 3.1 hectare Pian Bossolino vineyards at 350 meters. The exposure is south east, training system is spurred cordon and there are 7,000 plants per hectare and the soil is galestro. Harvest is at the beginning of October. Fermentation is Slavonian oak casks for 10 days with selected yeasts. During maceration pumping over and delestage takes place. Type and capacity of aging casks: 12 months in new and second passage French oak; 12 months is Slavonian oak of 80Hl. Aging time: 24 months in wood, 6 months in steel and 30 months in bottle before release. This is a complex wine with hints of red fruit, spice, balsam and a touch of tobacco and chocolate.

Since 2011 the winery has been owned by Natalie Oliveros. Natalie was sitting at the same table as Michele and I. I had met her when I was the wine director of i-Trulli and was the first one to buy her wines.

Caesar Salad in Bloom

The evergreen and stoic Caesar softens into an ornamental garden of late summer fragrances and colors. Chrysantheum petals, elderflower vinegar, dried cherries, and chamomile honey dressings reminds us of nature’s bounty as we safeguard our memories for the long winter to come.

Oops! I Dropped the Lemon Tart

This dessert calls attention the poetry of imperfection. Lemon zabaglione, verbena sorbet and fragmented pie crust meet candied bergamot, savory capers, dried oregano and hop pepper oil in praise of southern Italy, a place that is broken but never without emotion.

Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Brut Natural Grand Cuvée Del Fondator, Motus Vital Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Brut Natural- Millesimato 2015 Rive San Pietro Barbozza Bortolomiol made from 100% Glera. Elvira, Maria Elena, Giuliana and Luisa Bortolomio run the winery. This wine was created to honor Giuliano Bortolomio the founder of the winery in the 1940’s and the first to produce a Prosecco brut.  Training system is capuccina modificata. Harvest is at the middle of September. There is a gentle pressing after the skins have been removed. Fermentation at a controlled temperature with selected yeasts. The sparkling wine method used is the Martinotti-Charmat. The wine is left on the lee for ten months. Residual sugar 0 g/l: dosage zero. This is complex and dry Prosecco with nice white fruit and a perfect way to end this wonderful evening.

 

 

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My Favorite Brunello at La Pizza Fresca

I first discovered Il Marroneto when I was doing a portfolio tasting of the wines represented by Riccardo Gabiele and Elisa Bosco from Pr VIno. One of the wines was the Brunello di Montalcino of Il Marroneto “Madonna della Grazie”, owned by Alessandro Mori. It was the best wine of the tasting and one of the best Brunellos I have ever had.

I few months later I went to a seminar conducted by Alessandro and tasted a number of different vintages of his Brunello and liked them all.

I remember Alessandro saying that the 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 at 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.

A few weeks ago Brad Bonnewell, owner of La Pizza Fresca, invited me to join him at a tasting of the wines of Il Marroneto. I would have the opportunity not only to taste the wines but also drink them with food.

There were six of us tasting and drinking the wine and we had a number of different pizzas, a pasta, and steak to accompany it.

The Wines

Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 100%. We drank the 2002, 2007,2009,2010, 2011 and 2012 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.

The 2007 and 2010 were that the favorites of the evening. 2002 was a poor vintage in Tuscany yet this wine was showing no sings of age and could last for a number of years. The 2011 was a bad bottle.

Brunello di Montalcino “Madonna della Grazie” 100% Sangiovese. We drank the 2011 and 2012 This wine is made from a selection of grapes from the historical vineyards that surround the house. The name of the wine comes from the little 12th century church very near the vineyard, Madonna della Grazie. 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.

These are complex wines with aromas and flavors of citrus, cherry, licorice and mineral notes. They have a wonderful aftertaste and a long finish. They are excellent food wines and will age for a long time.

The vines were first planted in 1975 near the church of Madonna della Grazie, (which the estate’s top Brunello comes from). The original building dates back to 1247. The rest of the estate’s 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. 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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Dinner Party in Rome

Daniele Cernilli, aka “Doctor Wine,” and his wife,  Marina Thompson invited us to dinner at their lovely apartment in one of the most fashionable neighborhoods in Rome.

There were 3 other guests, including a professor from John Cabot University in Rome.

Daniele greeted us with glasses of Champagne Clos des Goisses Brut 2002 made from 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay. The grapes are grown on a pure chalk hillside with a 45 degree slope facing due south in Mareuil- sur-Ay. Goisse, in the old Champagne dialect, means steep slope. It has a very low dosage. Vinification is mainly in wooden casks and malolactic fermentation does not take place. This is a full-bodied wine with hints of pears and apricots, floral notes, a touch of toast and an exceptional long finish. Daniele said 2002 was a great vintage in Champagne.

With the Champagne we had caviar. You can’t go wrong with Champagne and caviar, and Marina enhanced the combination by serving it with burrata, a tender, fresh cheese from Puglia. Slightly firm like mozzarella on the outside, it is sweet and creamy within. Though it might seem like a strange combination, not only did it work, it was wonderful.

Daniele also served another wine with the caviar and burrata that he believed was a better combination than with the champagne. Pinot Bianco Colli Orientali del Friuli “Zuc di Volpe 2008 Volpe Pasini made from 100% Pinot Bianco from the Togliano “Zuc” Vineyard. Fermentation is in stainless steel and the wine spends some time in bottle before release. This is a full-bodied white wine with hints of white peaches, citrus and almonds. It was showing very little sign of age.

Though I liked the Pinot Bianco, I preferred the combination of the Champagne with the caviar and burrata.

Grignolino of the Monferrato Casalese “ Bricco del BoscoVigne Vecchie2011 Giulio Accornero & Figli made from 100% Grignolino from the Bricco del Bosco vineyard. Maceration is on the skins for 20 days. The wine is aged for 30 months in oak barrels (tonneau) and 24 months in bottle before release.

Daniele Cernilli

Every other Grignolino I have tasted was meant to be drunk young. By the time this one is released all the others would be too old to drink. Here is how Daniele describes this wine in his book The Ultimate Guide to Italian Wine 2017  Intense and lively red. One of the best versions of the last years. Complex smokey and spicy notes, raspberries, pomegranate and rhubarb. Strong, intense, warm, enveloping flavor with tannic hints and extraordinary persistence.” We discussed this wine for some time.

With this wine we had pasta prepared by Daniele. He told Michele that the recipe had been given to him by the late Paola di Mauro, a great winemaker and legendary cook. Daniele roasted sweet cherry tomatoes with olive oil, capers and breadcrumbs then tossed them mezze maniche, a short wide tubular pasta, before serving. It’s a great way to make the most of out of season fresh tomatoes.

Brunello di Montalcino 1995 100% Sangiovese Donatella Cinelli Colombini. I looked at the label and told Daniele that I have the 1995 at home but the label is different. He said this was a special bottling made in honor of a wedding that took place in 1995. I am not sure how this wine was made or aged and I know they have changed their production methods over the years. This wine is a classic Brunello.

We had the Brunello with braised veal.

Vin Santo del Chianti Classico 2005 Rocco di Montegrossi made from 95% Malvasia Bianco di Toscana and 5% Canaiolo Nero. The soil is calcareous loamy. The harvest is the first week of October. During the drying phase the bunches of grapes are hung one by one on nets in a well– ventilated area under the rafters. All of the nets are hung from rails and are affected by noble rot–botrytis. The rails allow the nets to be shifted so that deteriorated grapes can be removed. Pressing takes place in January. The must goes into small casks of 50 and 100 liters of cherry, oak and mulberry wood. The wine ferments and ages for 6 to 7 years, only indigenous yeast is used. This is a complex intense velvety dessert wine with hints of apricot, dried fig, toasted almond and caramel.The grapes are pressed between the 13 and 20th of December. Only organic farming methods are used and there is no filtering or fining. The wine spends 6 years and 4 months in small barrels called caratelli made of cherry, mulberry and oak wood, then one year in bottle before release.

With the Vin Santo we had cheese then finished with coffee and artisan chocolates.

 

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Filed under Accornero Winery, Brunello, Champagne, Clos des Goisses, Clos des Goisses Brut, Daniele Cernilli Doctor Wine, Donatella Cinelli Colombibi, Grignolino, Pinot Bianco, Rocca di Montegrossi, Vin Santo, Volpe Pasini winery