Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Report from ... Luce Dinner “The 10 Year Vertical” - October 23, 2012

It’s hard to imagine 30 generations of anything – but the Frescobaldi family can count that many in their native Italy.  Tonight we enjoyed 10 years of Luce wines with the 30th generation of the Frescobaldi family:  Marchese Lamberto Frescobaldi.

Lamberto has a Toronto connection, which is why he always enjoys coming back – it dates back to 1974 when he was just 11 … 23 years later Luce made its first appearance in the province.

The history of Luce dates back to 1993 when California winemaking icon Robert Mondavi wanted to return to his Italian roots … the idea was to blend an Italian grape (Sangiovese) with something that signified the wines of the west coast (Merlot) – grown in Montalcino, Italy – the name “Luce” came later … as told by Lamberto, just before the first bottling.

The blend of Luce is usually a 50/50 mix of the two grapes, or at most a 55/45 break down; there has only been one vintage (2002) when the Merlot far outweighed the Sangiovese to the tune of 75/25 … Merlot is the earlier ripening grape and is picked 20 days before Sangiovese.

In 2004 Constellation bought Mondavi and Frescobaldi decided to take over the Luce line they had developed, instead of running it like a partnership with Constellation – the reasoning seems to be that it was no longer two proud families running the operation, therefore it was up to the one remaining to carry on the name.
All 10 bottles lined up and ready for tasting
Tonight’s tasting spanned the vintages of 1999 thru to 2009 (Luce first vintage was 1993) with commentary by Lamberto himself – I highlight my favourite 5 below along with some of the more interesting comments:

The Wines …

2006 LUCE …
Commentary –
“There are lots of good wines in the world, but an exceptional wine is about location and experience.”
“I like to play with wines in the glass, so I’m not so keen on decanting because it speeds up the ageing.”
“I’m very bad, I’m spitting backwards instead of forwards.”

Notes on the 2006 wine – wine has a juiciness to the palate but also manages to keep the tannin grip; licorice and blueberry pop from the glass into the mouth with a chalky/fine sediment finish.

2004 LUCE …
Commentary –
One of the lowest alcohols in the Luce line, usually 14.5%, this one is 13.5%.
The Mondavis stepped away this vintage.
Generous harvest with more fruit than expected.
“One glass is not enough, two might not be either.”

Notes on the 2004 wine – soft and pretty wine, easy drinking with nice balance; smooth and supple, lovely cherry, anise and gentle spice.

2003 LUCE …
Commentary –
Lamberto remembers this as a hot/dry vintage.
“I have cried like an animal when it rains too much, but I have never cried for too much sun.”

Notes on the 2003 wine – a very pretty nose of mocha, licorice, blueberry and herbal notes; rich fruit with big, ballsy tannins along with chocolate and raspberry all with a grippy, dry finish – there’s also wild cherry and licorice notes that appear there too.

1999 LUCE …
Commentary – 
Frescobaldi’s have been in Florence since 1000.
Merlot vines were planted in 1976 – the Sangiovese between 1975 and 1982.
Less fruit in the 1999 vintage due to an April frost.

Notes on the 1999 wine – herbal and sour cherry aromas and the colour is still very much intact.  Shows flare and elegance on the palate with nice tannin grip and a mix of dried and fresh red and dark fruits with a cocoa powder finish.  For a 13 year old wine it is in amazing shape.

2001 LUCE …
Commentary – 
The only wine that was decanted, Lamberto likes wines to develop naturally in the glass but this one needed some help.
An April frost during this growing season stopped the vines dead in their tracks.
“This is a vintage where you go to church a lot in the summer to pray for a good October.”

Notes on the 2001 wine – aromas of mocha, chocolate and blackberry, palate is a dichotomy of smooth yet firm with some sour cherry bite and great front to mid-palate fruit, a big finish and lots of tannin grip but balanced by nice acidity … this wine was not spittable, it required each sip to find the back of the throat.  The wine has presence both in the glass (aromas) and on the palate (flavours).

With dinner we were poured the 2010 Lucente … the second wine of Luce, which comes out 6 months before Luce … it’s a three vineyard selection and is made to be fruitier from the get go – and more accessible.  It was initially a majority of Sangiovese (~95%) but as of 2009 it’s become more Merlot dominant (~65%).

Baked mushrooms, grilled polenta, parmesan
Chianti wine Risotto, grilled figs, sheep's milk cheese

Grilled striploin, olive oil infused with crisp sage, garlic and red chilli
Vanilla gelato over warm apple crostata

1 comment:

Dean Tudor said...

Don't bother photographing risottos anymore...they all look like dog's breakfasts...