• Baby Brunello Bullseye

    Baby Brunello Bullseye

    Summer 2017's extensive visits to Tuscany left so many indelible marks. One of the highlights was the in-depth visit atop Montalcino with La Gerla's winemaker, Alberto Passeri. While Passeri's Brunello and Brunello Riserva fetch the most attention by critics and collectors alike, they aren't necessarily the estate's true crown jewel.

    Today, I'm happy to offer the 2018 La Gerla Rosso di Montalcino and 2015 Brunello.

    Much like de-classification in Burgundy, where you can buy Grand Cru bottlings labeled with a more humbled appellation, a similar practice is done here. If there's one wine in Montalcino that delivers the greatest value it's certain to be La Gerla's Rosso di Montalcino, sourced exclusively from vines in the official Brunello zone. In 2018, with its warm growing season, the moniker Baby Brunello couldn't be more fitting. At $29 per bottle this is the best deal in traditional Montalcino.

    At La Gerla, wines in botti that show more approachability in their youth are bottled as Rosso di Montalcino. These come from the same organic, estate-farmed vineyards that supply the two Brunello bottlings, but are released much earlier. When I sat down for lunch over and over again in Montalcino it was a 2015 La Gerla served by the glass that I kept coming back to each day. I did my best to taste through a range of producers and styles, but nothing came close to delivering the total package like the La Gerla Rosso.

    On Montalcino's north side, La Gerla was originally owned by the pioneering Biondi-Santi winery, who created the first "Brunello di Montalcino." The story behind the sale is an amusing one, with Franco Biond-Santi's disgruntled sister selling this small slice to Sergio Rosso in 1976. Sergio made immediate changes to the farming and cellar practices to upgrade everything and two years later, in 1978, the first commercial La Gerla Brunello di Montalcino was released. Today the estate encompasses 12 hectares, all of which are organically farmed. Aging takes place in botti for the Rosso and the Brunello.

    *The name La Gerla refers to the historic small wooden picking bins that vineyard workers would wear on their backs. The name is an hommage to the sacrifice made by the men and the women in the vineyards who worked tirelessly to ensure the best raw materials were brought into the cuverie. It's this warm reflection on the efforts in viticulture that became abundantly clear visiting with winemaker, Alberto Passeri.

    Posted by Max Kogod
  • Southside Montalcino Love

    Southside Montalcino Love

    Arriving at Stella di Campalto was a curious moment as I stepped out of the car and felt the intense blast of heat; something didn’t seem quite right. We were in the middle of a very extended heatwave here in Tuscany, but I had just left the north side of Montalcino, where the weather had been substantially cooler. How was it that I was about to enter the home of arguably the most featherweight and famously dubbed “Burgundian” estate in all of Montalcino? But as all things go with Stella di Campalto, this is a winery where conventions have been broken since inception.

    Today, I'm happy to offer a mix of Stella di Campalto Rosso and Brunello di Montalcino, including large formats.

    The moment you taste a Stella di Campalto wine, you realize these defy any preconceived notions you may have of the rich Sangiovese Grosso varietal in Montalcino. I learned there are many keys to the surprisingly fine and lifted personality of Stella’s wines. Many of these parcels contain high sand and white quartz concentrations, and strong breezes come from down from Mount Amiata, a former volcano. A river in very close proximity to the estate also plays a role, especially helping temperatures dip quite low at night, preserving the much-needed acidity. 

    We tasted parcel by parcel (a rare opportunity) and could see how these elements from various soils worked together to create this tiny estate's grand image. Some showed high toned with white pepper spice, and others darker and more savory. But, each had a common thread of weightlessness and a beautiful sense of agility. 

    The very young Stella lived in Milan with her family and began to fall in love with traditional wines. Serendipitously, she was gifted by her father-in-law, an un-planted property on the southern side of Montalcino. After exploring the rundown former farmhouse and finding the quiet setting very comfortable, she made a move to plant vines. Her heart was adamant about 100% Sangiovese and farming the land with organic and biodynamic principles - now certified.

    The birth of Podere San Giuseppe Stella di Campalto dates back to 1910 when Giuseppe Martelli had a sharecropping estate. It was abandoned in 1940 and then acquired by Stella’s family in 1992. Today, 6 parcels of vines comprise these 6.7 hectares, each being fermented on its own before blending. 

    Fermentations are in old open-top wood casks, with 45-minute pump-overs 4 times per day, surely an element to the soft tannins. The wines follow traditional methods of long, slow ferments (30+ days) and are aged in botti with a tiny addition of old barrique. 

    I’ve never come across another Brunello that showed so well each time it was poured, no matter the vintage, whether decanted or popped-and-poured. To me, this is always the true sign of a great producer. 

    Unfortunately, the wines come in minimal quantities, and allocations are usually counted in bottles, not cases. I’m always working to acquire more even with the challenges due to quantity, but my determination had a new sense of rejuvenation after this visit.


    Posted by Max Kogod