Category Archives: Brunello

Lunch with Barone Ricasoli at IL Gattopardo

One of my favorite Italian restaurants in NYC is Il Gattopardo (The Leopard). Gianfranco Sorrentino is a most gracious host and Chef Vito Gnazzo always prepares a memorable meal.  Recently, I met Barone Francesco Ricasoli for lunch there.IMG_7693

The name Ricasoli has been tied to Chianti from the 19th century when Bettino, known as “the Iron Baron,” developed the blend for Chianti . Francesco is the great grandson of the Iron Baron. The family traces its involvement in wine back to 1141 and theirs is one of the oldest wine estates in the world.

Barone Francesco Ricasoli

Barone Francesco Ricasoli

250 hectares of vineyards surround the castle of the estate which is the largest in Chianti Classico. The 1,200 hectares between the villages of Gaiole and Castelnuovo Berardenga include valleys, oak and chestnut woods, and 26 hectares of olive groves.

Francesco took over the running of the family estate in 1993 when he bought back the Castello di Brolio from the British company that it had been sold to. With the  collaboration of universities and a key scientific research center, he began to look more closely at his estate and what he could do to improve it.

The Soil


The Wines

Brolio Bianco 2013 Made from Chardonnay, Trebbiano and Malvasia. Cold maceration at 5°C for 6-8 hours without oxygen. Fermentation in stainless steel at extremely low temperature 12/16°C. (53.6°-60.8°F). Trebbiano, Malvasia and part of the Chardonnay ages in 500-litre French barrels (first and second use). Sauvignon Blanc and the rest of the Chardonnay are vinified in stainless steel. The bouquet is delicate, fragrant and slightly fruity with floral notes. Dry, smooth taste, pleasantly fruity with an underlying note of almonds. $25IMG_7683

Francesco wanted to find out what the best clones of Sangiovese are, what is the best soil for that specific clone, and what is the best wood for it to be aged in. Beginning in 1995 the ancient Brolio vineyards were gradually being replanted. Francesco started a research project to study and select biotypes of Sangiovese and other typical Chianti varieties. In 2005, 12 were identified, considered to be the best with the most potential for the purpose of selection, and good candidates to become new clones together with those already officially recognized. Three years later, the rootings obtained from these clones were planted.  Francesco told me that there was an independent institute working with the clones and trying to have them certified by the Ministry of Agriculture. He added that all the grapes were picked by hand.

Terroir has a most important role to play. They are making a map containing all the data for each vineyard: physical-chemical composition, elevation, sun exposure and micro-climate to select the most suitable rootstock, the appropriate variety to plant, and the best row orientation. This has become known as the Cru project. Three of the wines involved at the moment are Castello di Brolio Chianti Classico DOCG, Casalferro IGT and Colledila Chianti Classico DOCG.  In 2002 they introduced stainless steel for vinification. Francesco said that because the estate is so large they can have single vineyard cru wines like they do in Piedmont.IMG_7691

Brolio Chianti Classico 2012 Sangiovese and other complementary  grapes from the estates, vineyards in Gaiole in Chianti which are at 280 t0 480 meters. Vinified in stainless steel with 16 days of skin contact and 9 months in large barrels and barriques. The wine has fruity black cherry aromas and flavors with hints of spice and violet. $23 Francesco said the 2012 was a poor vintage for Chianti Classico and as a result almost all of the grapes, even those intended for the cru wines, went into this wine. It has floral notes of violets, with hints of black cherry and spice. $24IMG_7694

This was served with a Tuscan classic caciucco di ceci alla toscanaIMG_7686

Colledila Chianti Classico 2010–100% Sangiovese.  Francesco said  2010 was a great vintage for the Chianti Classico region.  The vineyard is at an elevation of 380 meters and faces southwest. He felt that this was the most beautiful and representative part of the estate. It is a single vineyard which Francesco referred to as a cru because it is the right combination of Sangiovese clone in the right soil which gives you the best grapes. The wine has hints of black cherry and strawberry and a touch of vanilla. N/AIMG_7696

With this we had the pappardella con sugo di lepre

The land is Paleocene-Eocene in origin and forms part of the geological formation “Monte Morello.”  The soil is brown with a fine clay structure, very chalky, with subalkaline pH and little organic material. It is well drained and very stony. The grapes are destemmed and fall by gravity into special fermentation vats with a conical shape that are open at the top. During the alcoholic fermentation and the maceration period, a soft pressing is carried out between 2 and 6 times a day as well as the delestage. The maceration on the skins is between 5-9 days in stainless steel vats. Malolactic fermentation is in stainless steel vats. Francesco went on to say that the wine is aged in new barrels and casks for 18 months.

Francesco made a point of saying that the choice of wood used is the result of experiments using 20 different types of the best French oak from different geographical areas (Vosges, Troncais, Nevers, Allier, and Limousin) with medium and medium-plus toasting levels and standard to tighter grains. He also said that they use many different size barrels.

Because of all of this, he felt that this wine was the top expression of Sangiovese at Brolio and that the aroma is so specific, intense and typical that it could not be confused with any other wine.



Casalferro IGT 2010 100% Merlot.  The vineyard is at 400 meters and faces south. Each small plot in the vineyard is vinified separately. The grapes are vinified in open fermentation tanks. Thermo-regulated fermentation takes about 9 days during which soft pressing and the delestage are carried out. The wine in aged in new oak barrels 90% French and 10% American for 18 months. $65

He said that in this particular terroir the Merlot “is “Sangiovized” meaning that in this harsh but generous territory it takes on sangiovese-like qualities.  Because of this for the first time the wine is 100% Merlot.

Francesco added that he did not consider this wine a Super Tuscan, in fact he felt the time of the Super Tuscans had passed–it was a wine of the 1990’s. I could not have agreed with him more but for me it did not pass soon enough.IMG_7687

Brunello di Montalcino 2009 ” Torre Della Trappola” 100% Sangiovese The wine is vinified in stainless steel tanks at a controlled temperature with 23 to 30 days skin contact. It is aged for 12 month in French oak and 14 months in Slavonian oak. It rests in the bottle for 6 more months before release. This is a Brunello with hints of cherries and spice and a touch of licorice with a nice finish and long aftertaste. $75IMG_7697

With the wine we had the  arista di maiale alla fiorentina con patate al forno

Frencesco said that the wine is named after a property which belonged to the Ricasoli family in 1329. This Brunello di Momtalcino represents their  first concrete example of diversification into other important areas of Tuscany. The wine was made with the cooperation of Castello Romitorio and the direct involvement of their wine maker Carlo Ferrini. The first vintage was 2009.IMG_7688

 Castello di Brolio Chianti Classico 2010 Sangiovese with a small amount of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Grapes come from the best 230 acres of vineyards at 250 to 450 meters and the exposure is south/southwest. Vinification in stainless steel tanks with 7-9 days of skin contact and 18 months in barriques and new casks. The wine has aromas and flavors of black cherry, blueberries and a nice finish and long aftertaste. $65

This was served with an assortimento di formaggio con mostarda di frutta.


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Filed under Barone Ricasoli, Brolio Bianco, Brolio Chianti Classico, Brunello, Brunello Torre della Trappola, Casalferro, Castello di Brolio, Chianti Classico, Colledia, Tuscany

IL Marroneto: Traditional Brunello at its Best

Often when I go to a wine tasting, people will recommend that I taste this or that wine and say, “it is your style.” At a recent tasting of the wines from Montcalm imports, everyone I met seemed to be telling me to taste the wines at table #13. A friend even went so far as to bring the winemaker/owner from table 13 to me to introduce him saying, “you must taste his wine.” Finally, I got to table 13. It was obvious that my friends know the kind of wines I like because it was one of my favorite producers of Brunello, IL Marroneto. At the table were the owner/winemaker, Alessandro Mori and his son Jacopo.

Jacopo and Alessandro

Jacopo and Alessandro

Alessandro told me 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.

The wines are aged in coveted Allier and Slovenian oak casks located in the 13th-century tower, which in past centuries was used for drying chestnuts. Learn more at

The Wines of IL MarronetoIMG_6117

Rosso di Montalcino “Ignaccio” DOC  2010 100% Sangiovese. The vineyard is at 350 meters, the soil is coarse sand mixed with various minerals and the training system is spurred cordon. Fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks with constant stirring for the first two days. Fermentation lasts for 20/22 days. The wine is aged in oak barrels for 8 months and another 6 months in the bottle before release. Alessandro said that this wine was a declassified Brunello but made in the same way and style. $30IMG_6116

Brunello di Momtalcino 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. $65IMG_6115

Brunello di Montalcino “Madonna della Grazie”  2009 DOCG 100% Sangiovese. 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. $85

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.


Filed under Brunello, IL Marroneto, Italian Red Wine, Italian Wine, Rosso di Montalcino

New Discoveries


Speaking about the wine

Riccardo Gabriele introduced me to a group of Italian wines that he represents and asked me to speak about them to a group of wine writers.   The Trattoria dell’Arte was the perfect spot for the luncheon and tasting. Some highlights were a wine made from pre-phylloxera grapes and another made from Tempranillo grapes – both from Tuscany!

It was an exciting opportunity for me to taste and discuss these wines with other wine writers. IMG_5362

Manicardi “Vigna Ca del Fiore” DOC 2013 Lambrusco Grasparossa Castelvetro 100% Grasparossa. There are 2,600 plants per hectare and the training is cordon spurred. Fermentation and maceration is in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. Second fermentation is by the Charmat method–cold maceration is in pressurized temperature controlled tanks and grapes must be stored under pressure and at 0ºC. This is a dry Lambrusco fruity and low in tannin, high in acidity which goes very well with the rich food of the Emilia region, such as cotechino, zampone, bolito misto, Parmigiano-Reggiano and prosciutto di Parma.

In a restaurant outside of Parma I discovered a very simple but excellent end to a meal: a perfect ripe pear, walnuts, a wedge a Parmigiano-Reggiano and a glass of dry Lambrusco. I have been a fan of dry Lambrusco ever since.

Lambrusco is a family of kindred grapes. The three best quality sub-varieties include Grasparossa (red stem), the darkest in color and the most robust.   It comes from the village of Castelvetro, south of Modena, and is the one that I prefer. Sorbara, the most delicate, and pricy comes from the village of the same name. Salamino, meaning little salami, is so called because of the sausage-shaped bunches, comes from the area around the village of Santa Croce. The wine is not imported in to U.S.IMG_5363

Il Marroneto Brunello di Montalcino DOCG “Madonna della Grazie” 2008 named for the church close by the winery. This producer only grows Sangiovese grapes. The winery is just northern of the town of Montalcino. The vineyard is at 400 meters with a northern exposure. Soil is sandy and rich in minerals. The training is spurred cordon. They use biodynamic methods but are not certified. The wine rests on the skins completely still in Allier oak vats for the first two days as the temperature slowly rises naturally to 30 degrees after 5 days. Fermentation takes between 20 and 22 days. The wine remains in oak barrels of 26HL for 41 months (Slovenian and Allier) and is released after 5 years, including 10 months in bottle. This is a traditional Brunello and will last for many years. 2008 was an excellent vintage. $55IMG_5364

Pagani de Marchi “Principe Guerriero” 2009 Montesuadaio DOC 100% Sangiovese. Casale Marittimo, Pisa. The vineyard is 3 hectares and it is 200 meters above sea level. Soil is sedimentary clay, calcareous, and rich in potassium. The training is guyot, age of vines is 15 years and there are 2.2 hectares of Sangiovese. Exposure is south, southeast and southwest. Vinification is in 50Hl stainless steel tanks, traditional pumping over andmalolactic fermentation is in oak barrels. Natural yeast. No chemical weed controlAging is for 12 months in oak barrels 30% new, 12 months in bottle before release. A small Etruscan necropolis on the property and an Etruscan warrior’s tomb gives the wine its name. $35IMG_5365

Colle S. Mustiola “Poggio ai Chiari” 2006 IGT Tuscany. Made from 100% Sangiovese from a four hectare vineyard near Lake Chiusi in Tuscany. The exposure is northeast and the vineyard is at 300 meters. Flood soil with pilocene sand. There are 10,000 vines per hectare. The harvest takes place the second week of October.       Maceration lasts for 40 days with submerged cap fermentation. There is spontaneous malolatic fermentation. The wine spends 36 months in barriques and a small part in Slovenian oak barrels of 20hl, followed by 24 months refinement in bottle before release.

The winery made a selection of 28 different clones of Sagiovese of which five were pre-phylloxera – not grafted on to American rootstock. There is now one vineyard with 10,000 per phylloxera vines. $40  IMG_5366

Podere Boscarelli Vino Noble di Montpulciano Riserva 2009 DOCG. Usually 86% Prugnolo Gentile, 10% Merlot and 4% Colorino. Rolling hills at 300 meters going down to the river Chiana. Soil is silt and clay. The vines are 6 to 35 years old and are selected from clones from their own vineyards. There are 6,000 plants per hectare, selection at harvest by hand into small crates 2/3 of capacity and another selection in the cellar. Fermentation is with the stalks and after a soft pressing the grapes ferment in little vats of steel and oak–only to 3/4 of capacity. Fermentation lasts for one week at 28/30º C. Maceration for 5 to 8 days. Only natural yeasts are used. Aging is in 350/2,000 liter barrels of Slovenian oak or French Allier. A little filtration is carried out before bottling if necessary. $45IMG_5367

Podere La Chiesa “Sabiniano di Casanova” 2008 IGT Tuscany 60% Sangiovese, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Merlot.

The vineyards are located in Podere la Chiesa in Cassanova.       The vineyards face southeast and southwest growing on a clay soil rich in fossil shells, typical of the area.

Each grape variety is vinified separately. There are 2 to 3 pumpovers a day which protects the cap from oxidation. The training is cordon spur and there are 4,500 per hectare, which are hand harvested. Natural yeast is used and temperature controlled fermentation takes place in stainless steel. Maceration is for 12/15 days, 12 months in French barriques and 18 months in the bottle before release. Not imported.IMG_5368

Beconcini “IXE” is the Tuscan pronunciation for the letter X. The letter X stands for unknown vines which turned out to be Tempranillo. 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.

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 N nero was enrolled in the Tuscan register. As far as I know Tempranillo was never cultivated before in Italy.

The 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 sewed 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.




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Filed under Brunello, Italian Red Wine, Italian Wine, IXE, Uncategorized, Vino Nobile di Montepulicano

The 2009 Brunello Di Montalcino

Every year the Brunello Consortium holds a grand tasting and seminar featuring the current release.  This year it was the 2009 vintage.  A panel of three speakers included the moderator, Gloria Maroti Frazee from the Wine Spectator, Francesco Ripaccioli representing the Brunello Cossortium, and Jeff Porter from restaurant Del Posto in NYC.  The panel members began by speaking about the Brunello area and the laws that govern the wine.

The production area is the commune territory of Montalcino. The grape variety is Sangiovese, known as  Brunello in Montalcino. It is interesting to note that at the seminar they did not refer to the grape as Sangiovese Grosso, but only Sangiovese. IMG_4715

The wine must be aged 2 years in oak casks and 4 months in bottle–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.

The panelists agreed that 2009 was a changeling vintage for Brunello because of the weather. There was less production because of more vine growth due to the heavy rainfall. There were very hot summer days so there was more sugar and they spoke of less tannin, sweeter tannins and a sweet sensation in the wine. It was a good vintage, not a great one and received four stars. The panelists agreed 2009 was a very approachable vintage, it can be drunk sooner, and Mr. Porter pointed out that it would therefore be a good restaurant wine.

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

The Panel

The Panel

There were 7 wines from the 2009 vintage in the tasting from different zones in the Montalcino area and the panelists out pointed how these wines differed according to their geography. The higher the altitude, the cooler it will be and the grapes will ripen later. Gloria pointed out that there is a 10 to 2 week difference between when the grapes are harvested in the northern part of the zone than in the Southern. There are also many different types of soil adding to the differences.

When the representative of the consortium was asked if there was any chance that they would rate the different zones and producers, his answer was “no.” He made the case that all of the zone was a limited cru and had many characteristics in common. After tasting the wines I could not see the difference between north, south, east and west and wondered if the panelists could have picked them out if it was a blind tasting!

 The Wines


Collosorbo- South of Castelnuovo Del Abate. The soil is a medium texture. The harvest is by hand and then there is a sorting of the grapes, also by hand. Alcoholic fermentation is temperature controlled and there is a testing of the wine twice a day before racking. The wine is aged for 36 months in medium and large French and Slovenian oak barrels. It remains in bottle for at least 6 months before release. $50IMG_4726

IL Poggione- near Sant’Angelo in Colle. The altitude of the vineyards is 492 to 1,475 ft. and it is mixed soil with a lot of rocks. The vines are estate grown and are at least 20 years old. Alcoholic fermentation takes place with the submerged cap technique for 15 to 20 days. The wine spends 3 years in 50 HL French oak barrels and in bottle for 12 months before release. This was my favorite wine of the tasting.  It is classic traditional Brunello and will last for at least 20 more years. At $85 it was the most expensive but in my opinion worth the money.IMG_4727

La Togata- South of Tavernella The vineyards average 250 ft. and the soil is clay tuff rich in fossils and the vines are 20 years old. The vineyards are at 250 meters and there are 5,500 vines/hectare. Intense extracting initiates the stages of fermentation followed by a long quiescent maceration on the skins. The wine is aged for 6 months in French barriques and then for 24 more in Slovenian oak barrels. It remains in bottle for another 6 months before release.  This is a very up front wine with more than a hint of cherry.IMG_4728

Ridolfi –Northeast of Montalcino  This was the producer with the smallest production – only 4,900 bottles. The soil is clay and sand with many large stones and the altitude if the vineyard is 300 meters. The training system is spurred cordon. Fermentation is in truncated-conical oak vats and in temperature controlled steel vats. Maceration time depends on the vintage and can last up to 20 days. The wine is aged in large oak barrels observing the Montalcino tradition. The wine has very nice fruit with tart wild berry aromas and flavors, a hint of black cherry and a touch of spice. This wine is a very good buy at $36.IMG_4723

 Solaria -East and slightly South of Montalcino The average vineyard altitude is 1000ft. The soil is clay, sandstone and gravel. There are 4,000 vines per hectare. The training is balanced spurred cordon. There is a long maceration of the skins and frequent pumping over. -The wine spends 24 months in medium sized Slovenian and Allier oak barrels and is then 6 months in bottle before release. $75IMG_4730

 Talenti– In the south by Sant’Angelo in Colle. The soil is clay and very stony. Temperature controlled fermentation for 20 days in steel tanks with daily pressing? The wine is aged for 30 months in 60% Slavonia oak barrels and 40% Allier Tonneaux. Bright cherry aromas and cherry candy on the palate.  Jeff said it is approachable and would make a good restaurant wine. $70


 Uccelliera south-east of Montalcino near Castelnuovo dell’Abate. The vines are at 820ft. and the soil is mineral-rich, medium textured sand and clay with some gravel.

The grapes are selected, destemmed, crushed and the must is kept for 4 to 5 days at a low temperature. Alcoholic fermentation takes place naturally in temperature controlled steel tanks and it lasts for 15 days. The must remains on the skins for about 7 days depending on the vintage. Malolactic fermentation takes place in steel. The wine is aged in oak barrels for 36 months and another 10 months in bottle before release.  Mr. Porter said that this was a wine he would give to his customers as a transition wine for those that liked California Cabernet Sauvignon. He said the wine was complex, big, bold and beautiful with a texture of sweet fruit. The only thing that I agree with him on was that the wine was complex.  $60


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Filed under Brunello, Italian Red Wine, Italian Wine

The Return of “Grifi”

Avignonesi has always been one of the top wine producers in Montepulciano with their Vino Noble di Montepulciano Grandi Annate, the Vin Santo di Montepuciano and the Occhio di Pernice Vin Santo di Montepulciano.  I recently attended a tasting of the wines from Avignonesi and one of the reasons I went was to find out what had happened to a wine that they used to produce called Grifi .


The speaker was Giuseppe Santarelli, North American Manger for Avignonesi.  He said that the winery was founded in 1974 and remained in the same family until 2009 when Virginie Saverys purchased it.  Ms. Saverys is a believer in organic and biodynamic viticulture and hopes to get organic certification for the winery by 2016.  She also wants the wines to express the terroir and is using fewer new barriques.  This was evident when I tasted the wines.  All the grapes are estate grown.

The Wines


Rosso di Montepulciano DOC 2011  made from 90% Sangiovese and 6% local red varieties. The grapes come from five different vineyards. The soil is sub-alkaline to alkaline, with layers of clay, sand and silt.  The vineyards are at 279 to 330 meters. The vines are bush and cordon-spur trained and are between 10 and 35 years old. In the older vineyards there are 3,300 vines per hectare and in the younger ones 7,158. Harvesting took place between September 10 and 20. The grapes were selected berry by berry by use of the optical technology of Vistalys (sorting the grapes by machine). The grapes were lightly crushed and transferred to temperature controlled stainless steel tanks for a 3-day-prefermentation maceration. The alcoholic fermentation proceeds naturally with indigenous yeast.  A combination of delestrage (two step rack and return process) and remontage (pumping over) is used to manage extraction from the cap.  Malolactic fermentation takes place in oak. The wine was aged for 6 months in barriques (second and third passage) and large oak casks of 150hl. This is an easy drinking wine with a nutty character and hints of cherries and violets. It is a good food wine.   $19


Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2011 DOCG made from 100% Sangiovese. The fermentation is like the Rosso but with longer skin contact. The wine spends 18 months in oak, 70% in barriques (30% new) and the rest in large oak casks 150hl. The wine is aged in bottle for a minimum of 7 months before release. Giuseppe said that up to 30% of other grape varieties can be used in Vino Nobile but they chose not to do so. This is a wine with hints of wild cherries red currants, rosemary and a touch of spice. $30


Merlot “Desiderio” DOC 2010 made from 85% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon. The Merlot comes from the Paggino vineyard of La Selva estate and the Cabernet from the Selva Nuova and Selva Vecchia of the La Selva estate, which is located in the Cortona DOC appellation.  Giuseppe said that the soil is different here than in Montepulciano. In Cortona there is more clay and limestone, and is better for Merlot and Cabernet. The vines are at 250 to 300 meters and the exposure is south, southwest. The vines are 12 to 22 years old, they are bush trained and there are 7,158 vines per hectare. The Merlot was picked on September 27th and the Cabernet on October 10 and 11. There is four weeks of temperature controlled alcoholic fermentation with maceration on the skins in stainless steel tanks.  Malolactic fermentation was completed in French barriques. The wine is aged for 16 months in French barriques, 35% new and 65% second passage. This is a complex full bodied wine with hints of blueberries and strawberries and nice acidity.  $57

When I saw the Grifi being poured I said to Giuseppe, “I thought that they stopped producing this wine.”  He said yes, they had stopped producing it in 1997 because the demand for the Sangiovese for the Vino Nobile was so great that had to use it there. However, with the recent purchase of new vineyards they were able to bring it back into production and the 2010 is the first vintage.


Toscana IGT “GRIFI” 2010. Made from 60% Sagiovese and 40% Cabernet Sauvignon. The Sangiovese comes from the vineyard parcel “Poggetto di Sopra” of I Poggetti Estate and the Cabernet from the parcels “Selva Nova” and “Selva Vecchia” of the La Selva Estate. The La Selva has a north-south exposure and the I Poggetti Estate western. There are fluial origin clay and sand layers at the La Selva Estate and a matrix of clay sand and silt at the I Pggetti Estate.  The vines are 8 to 12 years old and bush trained (7,158 vines/hectare) at the La Selva Estate and 39 years old and guyot trained (2,564 vines /hectare) at I Poggetti. The vines are at 270 to 300 meters. The Sangiovese is hand harvested on September 29 and 30 and the Cabernet is machine harvested on October 10 and 11. Separate fermentation for each in stainless steel tanks with indigenous yeasts. Alcoholic fermentation and maceration on the skins lasts from 20 to 24 days, depending on the vintage. The malolactic fermentation was completed in French barriques. The wine is aged for 16 months in French barriques, new oak for the Cabernet and second and third passage for the Sangiovese. The wine has aromas of fresh red fruit, a hints of cherry, raspberry and spice with a long finish and pleasing aftertaste- it was as good as I remembered it! $57

Giuseppe said that the La Stella parcel of one of the vineyards is in front of the old Le Capezzine winery and is very unique. What makes this parcel unique is that the bush trained (alberello) vines are planted in the settonce system, hexagon shaped. Ancient Roman military engineers invented this system to give the vines maximum exposure to the sun and circulation of air.  Each vine is in the center of a hexagon surrounded by six other plants, equidistant from each other. None of the vines cast a shadow on another vine. I have seen the settocne system in Southern Italy but never in Tuscany. Giuseppe said that they are the only producer to use this system in Tuscany.

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Filed under Avignonesi, Brunello, Desiderio, Grifi, Italian Red Wine, Italian Wine, Uncategorized, Vino Nobile di Montepulicano

Barolo and Pizza at La Pizza Fresca

One of my favorite Barolo and pizza memories is from 1985.  Michele and I visited Alfredo and Luciana Currado, owners of the Vietti winery with Mary Ewing Mulligan MW and Ed McCarthy. A Neapolitan man had opened a pizzeria a few doors away from their winery and they wanted us to try it.  Their whole family joined us.  The pizza was very good especially the one made with Fontina Val D’Aosta cheese and porcini mushrooms.  Alfredo brought a magnum of 1961 Barolo and he very proudly told us that this was the first wine that he had made.  The wine was great with the pizza.  From then on, I was hooked on pizza and Barolo.IMG_4540

Just before Christmas, Brad Bonnewell, owner of La Pizza Fresca in NYC, inviting me to a Barolo and pizza dinner a few days after Christmas and I had to accept. IMG_4543

With the pizza there were two flights of Barolo, five from the 1997 vintage and five from the 1998 vintage.  It was a blind tasting.

The Vintage

Some wine writers called the 1997 vintage Barolo “The Vintage of the Century”.  It was given ratings in the high 90’s by the better- know wine writers. It was also rated a five star vintage.

1998 did not get the same recognition or hype, though some rated it 4 stars. The 1997’s that we tasted were more fruit forward, riper, and richer with less acidity.  It seemed that they should be drunk before the 1998.

The 1998’s were subtler and with more of the tar, leather, tea and faded rose aromas that I like, so we drank the 1997’s first.

On another vintage note I would drink the 1997’s and 1998’s before the 1996’s, which I believe, is a great vintage like 1989.

1997 Vintage


Barolo – Bartolo Mascarello 100% Nebbiolo from 3 hectares of vineyards: Cannubi 1.5, Lorenzo 0.3, Rue 0.5 in the commune of Barolo and Rocche 1.2 in the commune of La Morra. The vineyards are between 3 and 50 years old. This is the most traditional producer of Barolo and it is a classic old style wine. The Barolo is a blend of all the vineyards, the way it was done in the past before the other producers took up the “French Cru” designation. I have had these wines a number of times and they are usually among my favorites, however this night they were not showing well. The two bottles we opened might have been slightly corked, hiding the aroma and flavors of the wine. Brad said he had a case of the wine and the others he had opened had the same problem.


Langhe Nebbiolo ConteisaAngelo Gaja.   Mostly Nebbiolo with a little Barbera. Fermentation is on the skins in stainless steel tanks for 3 weeks. The wine is aged in barriques for 12 months followed by 12 months in large oak barrels. This is a well-made wine with less vanilla, oak aromas and flavors then I remember. Still, it is a little too modern for me.


Barolo Grand Bussia Riserva – Aldo Conterno Nebbiolo: Michel and Lampia varieties. Grapes come from 3 different vineyards (Bussia, Monforte d’Alba). The grapes are hand harvested. The must remains in contact with the skins for 60 days, during which the alcoholic fermentation is fully completed. The wine is aged in large Slavonian oak casks for 32 months. The wine remains in the cellar for at least 8 years before release. Only in the best vintages is this wine made. I have not tasted this wine in a long time and it was showing very well with all the true Nebbiolo characteristics.

Barolo Cascina Francia – Giacomo Conterno 100% Nebbiolo from Serralunga’s Cascina Francia vineyard. The exposure is south/southwest and the soil is calcareous limestone. They use wooden vats with regular breaking-up of the cap. The wine is aged for 4 years in large oak barrels. This is classic, traditional Barolo at its best.

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Barolo – Parussi 100% Nebbiolo.  The grapes come from Monforte d’Alba and Castiglione Falletto. There are 5,000 plants/hectare, with south/southeast and southwest exposure and the grapes are hand harvested. Destemming of the grapes and then maceration on the skins. Alcoholic fermentation occurs spontaneously with indigenous yeasts without the use of sulfites. The wine is aged in oak barrels for 24 months in contact with its native yeast and 6 months in bottle before release.

1998 Vintage


Barolo Azienda Agricola Falletto of Bruno Giacosa, 100% Nebbiolo. The grapes for the Falletto wines are all estate grown. He uses traditional wine making methods. This is a wine with hints of liquorice, spice and tea. I like Giacosa’s Barolo but  would rather drink his Barbaresco.


Barolo Ciabot Mentin Ginestra – Domenico Clerico 100% Nebbiolo The vineyard is at 400 meters and the exposure is south/southwest. Maceration on the skins in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks for 12/14 days. Aged in French oak barriques, 90% new for 22/24 months and 6/8 months in bottle before release. This was the most modern style wine in the tasting with a lot of vanilla and oak.


 Barolo Cereqiuo- Roberto Voerzio 100% Nebbiolo There are 4,000 to 5,000 plants per hectare and the vineyard faces south/southeast. Fermentation is in stainless steel. The wine is aged for 24 months in used barriques and 20hl casks. Then 8 months in stainless steel and 8 months in bottle before release.This is another wine that I have not tasted in a long time but it was less modern then I expected.


 Barolo Bric del Fiasc cru: Castiglione Falletto (Fiasco) – Paolo Scavino 100% Nebbiolo. Destemming and light crushing takes place and maceration and fermentation is in stainless steel tanks. Indigenous yeast is used and malolactic fermentation takes place in oak for 10 months. The wine is aged in oak barrels for 10 to14 months in large casks, 1 year in stainless steel and 10 months in bottle before release. This was the second most modern wine.


 Barolo Cascina Francia – Giacomo  Conterno 100% Nebbiolo from Serralunga’s Cascina Francia vineyard. The exposure is south/southwest and the soil is calcareous limestone. They use wooden vats with regular breaking-up of the cap. The wine is aged for 4 years in large oak barrels. This is classic, traditional Barolo at its best. The 1998 was my number one wine and the 1997 was my number two wine. They also went the best with the pizza.

 Brunello di Montalcino 1997Mastrojanni. This has always been one of my favorite producers and when Brad asked what else he could open, this was my suggestion. Made from 100% Sangiovese Grosso. It is aged 3 years in Allier oak barrels of various sizes – 15, 33 and 54 hectoliters and then aged for 6/8 months in bottle before release. The wine has aromas and flavors of ripe black and red berries with a hint of spice and tobacco. There was even more hype for the 1997 vintage for Brunello than for the Barolo.

Maculan 1990 Dindarello La Pizza Fresca Ristorante NYC 12-27-13

 We ended with the dessert wine, Dindarello 1990 from Maculan. 100% Moscato from the 6 acre Dindarello vineyard on the estate.The grapes are dried for about a month, then fermented in stainless steel and aged another three months in bottle before release. This is an excellent dessert wine with hints of honey, tropical fruit and good acidity.Barolo 1997 & 1998 Dinner La Pizza Fresca Ristorante NYC 12-27-13

In all, there were 16 wines at the tasting, but the 12  listed were the ones I remember drinking.  I enjoyed Brad’s hospitality and the wine and pizza.  I also enjoyed remembering my friend and a great winemaker, Alfredo Currado.


Filed under Aldo Conterno, Barolo, Bartolo Mascarello, Brunello, Bruno Giacosa, Dindarello, Domenico Clerico, Gaja, Giacomo Conterno, Italian Red Wine, Italian Wine, Maculan, Mastrojanni Brunello, Paolo Scavino, Parusso, Roberto Voerzio

Caprili: Traditional Brunello at its Best

As co-chair of the Wine Media Guild I go to Felidia Restaurant often because we hold our monthly lunches and tastings there. This time however I was invited by the Wine Director of the restaurant, Giuseppe Rosati, for a tasting and lunch featuring the wines of the Carpili winery in Montalcino in Tuscany. The speaker was  Giacomo Bartolommei   a member of the family that owns the winery and the sales manager.

Giacomo Bartolommei

Giacomo Bartolommei

Giacomo told us a little of the history of the winery that was established in 1965 and their philosophy of making wine.  The Carpili estate is located in the southwest part of the municipality of Montalcino.  Because of this location and the clones that they first planted in1965, the vines show great resistance to heat and disease. They only use grapes from their own vineyards and the only treatments used are copper or sulphur based. The natural yeasts, found on the grapes themselves, is favored. Terroir is very important and the use of natural yeasts contributes to a more precise territorial identity. Vinification follows a natural process avoiding the addition of yeast and other exogenous correctors. The Rosso and the Brunello are all aged in large 22 to 63 HL Slovenian oak barrels.IMG_3887

After 15 years of age the vines that make the Rosso can be used for Brunello.  In response to a question about vintages, Giacomo said that 08,06,04,01, 99,95 90,88 and 85 were all great vintages for his wines. Of the vintages that we tasted I believe his favorite was the 2004.

The wines were paired with dishes prepare by the executive chef of Felidia restaurant, Fortunato Nicotra, and each was a perfect match.IMG_3840

Rosso di Montalcino 2011 100% Sangiovese Grosso. The grapes come from the Testucchiaia vineyard, which was planted in 2001. The vineyard is at 335 meters, there are 4,000 vines per hectare and the training system is runner and guyot. Vilification is with natural yeasts, followed by maceration for about 25 days, with automatic temperature checks. The wine is aged in large Slavonia oak barrels (botti) for a short period of time and in bottle before release. $28. This was served with a rabbit and vegetable terrine with Castelluccio lentils.IMG_3841

Brunello Brunello Di Montalcino 2008 100% Sangiovese Grosso from 4 different vineyards that are between 15 and 25 years of age. The training system is the runner. The wine is aged for at least 3 years is Slavonia oak barrels and a minimum of 4 months in bottle before release.


The Risotto

Brunello di Montalcino 2006 same vinification as the above wine. $60

The two Brunellos were paired creamy risotto with mushrooms, hazelnuts and black truffle pesto.

Brunello di Montalcino 2006 Riserva 100% Sangiovese Grosso from two different vineyards.  The vines are 25 to 40 years old. The training system is runner and guyot.$75

The wine is aged in Slavonian oak barrels for at least 4 years and in bottle for a minimum of 6 months before release. This wine was served with steak tagliata, summer beans, corn and red quinoa.

The Steak

The Steak

The chef explained that he cooked the  steak   in three separate steps to preserve the juices. This was perfection! When in Tuscany do what the Tuscans do – drink Sangiovese with steak- the perfect combination.

Brunello di Montalcino 2004 Riserva same as aboveIMG_3844

Brunello di Montalcino 2001 Riserva same as above.

The last two wines were served with an assortment of Tuscan cheeses.

All of the wines had very nice fruit with a characteristic hint of cherry. These are traditional, classic, wines that need time to develop. The 2004 Riserva still needs more time but the 2001 Riserva was just starting to come around.


Filed under Brunello, Caprili Winery, Felidia Restaurant NYC, Giacomo Bartolommei, Italian Red Wine, Italian Wine, Montalcino