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

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