Saturday, February 21, 2015

Report from ... Tasting at Pieve Santa Restituta (Gaja) - February 20, 2015

One of the great things about being in Italy is being so near to some of the greatest wine estates in the world - even better, is being invited to taste at one of them.  This was the case when I was invited to taste the new (and some older) wines with Angelo Gaja's daughter, Gaia Gaja, at the estate in Montalcino (acquired in 1994).

The property is 16 hectares of planted vineyards and 40 hectares of woods and produces only three wines:  Brunello, Rennina and Sugarille (still all Brunellos).  The philosophy is a minimalist approach of less wood so all wines spend 2 years in oak, 2 years in concrete tanks and a year in bottle (on average) before release.  In 2007, the estate holding increased by 9 hectares as a parcel of land to the north in the region of Torrenieri was purchased.

The estate is build around Pieve (church) Santa Restituta, one of the first Christian women martyrs.  Alas she is not as popular a saint as she once was and only 4 churches remain dedicated to remembering her name ... the church was founded in the 4th century A.D.

The Tasting ...
We started our tasting with a snapshot sneak peak at both the 2014 and 2013 vintages, currently works in progress.

2010 Brunello di Montalcino
average annual production: 80,000 bottles
Nose: cherry fruit with lovely simple spice notes
Taste: palate follows the nose fairly closely; fruit is kissed
by touches of cedar and spice - approachable, fresh and ready now (****)

This wine is referred to as a "Baby Brunello" and is the wine made every year,
except in 2002 and 2003 when the estate made nothing at all.
Sugarille ... single vineyard Brunello
average production is 15,000 bottles - but only in good years
oldest vineyards planted (1985) - 5 hectares on limestone and marl
making it very special soil composition for the area
2010 Sugarille, Brunello di Montalcino
Nose: floral, cherry, mineral and other red fruits
Taste: luxurious soft and supple red fruit, gentle spice, sweet tannins,
mineral undertones and a finish that goes on forever; very elegant (**** 1/2)
2006 Sugarille, Brunello di Montalcino
Nose: meaty, earthy and mineral
Taste: pleasant of fruit both red and black with a juicy entry,
nice cedar/oak backing with a mineral-chalkiness; tannins are
definitely present but are not overwhelming

1999 Sugarille, Brunello di Montalcino
label changed to the traditional black/white Gaja in 2000
The Note:  plum, black cherry, nice minerality but it's all in layers;
this wine is at its peak, it's a pure hedonistic pleasure to drink
"Strong, smoky, sweet fruit, long finish." - Gaia
"If you're opening one invite me over." - Grape Guy
Rennina ... a three vineyard blend from all around the property
average production is 20-22,000 bottles - but only in good years
2010 Rennina, Brunello di Montalcino
Nose: earthy, gamey notes abound
Taste: the spice and acidity kick in right away and so do those
tannins, while the fruit joins the fray on the finish (*** 1/2+)

2008 Rennina, Brunello di Montalcino
Nose: floral, meaty and slightly peppery
Taste: a little balsamic slips in on the taste, some floral,
simple cedar, good spice/tannins/acidity mix; elegance and
longevity to spare
1997 Rennina, Brunello di Montalcino
The Note:  this is very Barolo-esque, not surprising considering where the Gaja's
made their mark:  leather, licorice, touch of oak with fruit in the background
with layers of various tertiary flavours sneak in one after the other

Report from ... Tenute Silvio Nardi Dinner - February 19, 2015

While in Italy, for the Tuscan Taste Anteprima, I was invited to Tenute Silvio Nardi (a Brunello producer) for a dinner put on by owner Emilia Nardi who invited Michelin-star chef Roy Caceres (he came to Rome via Columbia some 25 years ago) to take charge in the kitchen.  Dinner was not a fusion of cuisines but seemed to exist on its own plateau from the Swiss chard taco opener to the blue cheese wrapped in white chocolate morsel that "just appeared" from the kitchen near the end of the meal.  It truly was an evening to remember for both it's exquisite food and the wines that accompanied it.

Kicking things off with this Ferrari 2007 Perle Rosee
so vibrant and fresh - it was a great starter with the appetizers
The array of appetizers went from a meatball on a stick with a bloody mary sauce;
Swiss chard fresh taco with a lime gel; and a fresh baked multi-seed bread with butter
The line-up of wines to go with the dinner, highlighting the 5-star 2010 vintage ...
full notes to follow as the wines are served with dinner
Plus a special taste of how the 1997 Brunello is doing
Some things presented were not on the formal menu, like this bonus opener:
a fresh free-run egg with a cheese sauce (and other accoutrement in the sauce) ...
then a pork crisp was added for some crunch ...
cracking of the delicate egg ...
Just look at the vibrant colour of that yolk.  Outstanding beginning.

Winemaker Emanuele Nardi ...
spoke briefly about the wines, allowing our hostess Emilia Nardi to address her guests
and the wines; Emanuele preferred to let the wines speak for themselves as the 2010
was such a great vintage all he had to do was allow the fruit to express itself.
Our hostess and winery owner ... Emilia Nardi
The Assembled Guests ...
which included politicians, dignitaries, winery principals and other wine media
my place was at the far end of the table, left hand side beside Emanuele 
And now ... onto the wines and dinner:

Wine #1 - 2013 Turan, Sant'Antimo Rosso
a special bottling made only since 2010 and only 6000 annually
Sangiovese, Colorino, Syrah and Petit Verdot went together to create this
fruit forward wine that had hints of white pepper backing it up (****)
Wine #2 - 2010 Brunello di Montalcino (150,000 bottles produced)
blending the Sangiovese from both the South-East and North-West vineyards.
Aromas are floral and red fruit dominated, followed on the palate with delicate
spice and lots of red fruit; soft and elegant. (****)

"Risotto rosso cremoso, blu del Monviso, manzo & pistacchio"
Looks as good as it sounds:  Risotto, cheese, meat and pistachios
Wine #3 - 2010 Vigneto Manachiara, Brunello di Montalcino (~10,000 bottles produced)
the south-east single vineyard offering planted back in the 1960's
Manachiara means "Bright Morning"
lovely fruit, spice and floral with a long cherry finish. (****+)
Wine #4 - 2010 Vigneto Poggio Doria, Brunello di Montalcino (~3500 bottles produced)
this is the north-west vineyard single offering from vines planted in 1998
Poggio Doria means "Golden Top"
grown in volcanic soil which imparts a chalky-mineral quality but also a
deep plum, cherry and lushness of fruit (**** 1/2)
"Manzo Wagyu, cime di rape e cardoncelli"
The chef, Roy Caceres, comes out for a glass of wine and his curtain call;
posing here with Emilia Nardi ... but he isn't done yet
But first a little palate cleanser of cheese and fruit compotes
The aforementioned white chocolate coating blue cheese and a port reduction sauce
Wine #5 - 1997 Brunello di Montalcino
nice mature Brunello with a long finish of dried fruits and delicate oak
Wine #6 - 2009 Vin Santo San'Antimo, Occhio di Pernice
marmalade, nutty-caramel and apricot
"Castagne, cachi e alloro"
Our last little bonus
A big thank you to Emilia Nardi for hosting this very special dinner and also a big congratulations and thank you to Chef Roy Caceres for creating such a memorable dinner.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Report from ... Badia A Passignano Older Vintage Tasting and Tour - February 16, 2015

Arrival @ Badia A Passignano
one of the properties of Antinori in Chianti Classico
Looking out over one of the vineyards surrounding the Monastery,
the center of the property - planting is 90% Sangiovese
A miniature recreation of the Monastery
After centuries of being in other people's hands, in 1986 Antinori bought the property,
reverting the Monastery back to the monks and using the surrounding lands for vineyards
The wines made from the property are aged in the cellar of the Monastery
Which are cavernous and perfect for the aging of wine
Badia A Passignano "Vertical": 1997 / 1999 / 2004 / 2005 / 2009
The "Top Expression of Chianti Classico of Antinori"
and represents the best 20-25 hectares

Badia A Passignano wines...
Vineyards were planted in the late 80's and 90's on both sides of the monastery, totaling 55 hectares.  Average production is approximately 100,000 bottles (less in years like 2008 and 2011).  Deep colour with high acidity are typical of the Sangiovese from this area and these vineyards ...

Badia A Passignano 1997
100% Sangiovese - mostly French oak aged
Nose: leathery, earthy and a touch vegetal
Taste:  lacks fruit right out of the bottle though it is smooth and has decent
licorice, cedar and smoky notes; still has good sweet tannins and acidity
With Time:  turns quite oaky

Badia A Passignano 1999
100% Sangiovese - mostly French oak aged
Nose: cedar, herb and vegetal
Taste:  forget the nose this one is made on the palate.  Sweet black fruit with mineral,
full fruited with dried blackberry taking lead - a real intensity of flavour - long
medium-spiced finish with hints of cedar, dried vanilla-cassis lingers ... elegant and inviting
With Time:  still holds up and has lots more to give - this one is a pure delight

Badia A Passignano 2004
100% Sangiovese - Hungarian oak starts to show its influence
Nose: chocolate, coffee, mocha, blackberry and vanilla - very alluring
Taste:  coffee, mocha, smoke, dark chocolate, spice; though there seems to be a definite
heat to the wine and gives one a real cheek flush within a few sips (declared: 13.5%???);
rich, robust, but shows a clunkiness and lacks finesse
With Time:  total turn around, it develops finesse, structure and balance - heat backs off

Badia A Passignano 2005
100% Sangiovese - Hungarian oak (70%) first year it overtakes French
Nose: blackberry, cassis, mineral/saltiness and cedar
Taste:  mineral, quite cedary, high acidity and tannins; it shows a certain elegance
yet there are those wood tannins that seem to get in the way
With Time:  fuzzy tannins with plenty of smoke and cedar

Badia A Passignano 2009
100% Sangiovese - 95% Hungarian oak, only 5% French
First year declared as a Gran Selezione

Nose: lots of lush dark fruit - blueberry, blackberry, black cherry, vanilla,
mocha - intense and truly inviting
Taste:  sweet dark fruit, lush/soft tannins, good balancing acidity, vanilla oak,
really pleasant, full with cassis and blackberry linger
With Time:  pure hedonist drinking experience