During my Summer 2017 trip to Tuscany no estate garnered the same respect from winemakers and sommeliers quite like Castell'in Villa. From Rome through Florence, top restaurant wine lists all find a space for these age-worthy Chianti Classicos from vintages stretching back to the early 70's. This is where the longevity and transformative capabilities of Sangiovese is best illustrated.
Today, I'm happy to offer the 2010 Castell'in Villa Chianti Classico Riserva for $59 per bottle, and down to $55/btl for any order of 6 bottles or more! Also featured today are late releases direct from the estate: 1971 and 1993.
Castell'in Villa doesn't fall into any easy category, outside of being staunchly traditional in their vinification and aging. The estate's soil in Castelnuovo Berardenga has an unusual makeup of fossilized fragments that conjure Chablis more so than Tuscany (see pictures below). The limestone-based soil is still the mother rock here as it is throughout Chianti Classico, but the ancient artifacts point to a time long ago when this specific vineyard was under a small sea.
As you can imagine, the mineral component endowed to this wine is profound. Met with the structure from these choice old vines dedicated to the Riserva we have a magical combo that's made this arguably the most sought-after aged wine in all of Tuscany. At $59 per bottle from one of greatest vintages of the last 50 years it's no wonder why this disappeared from their importer in a flash.
The Greek Princess, Coralia Pignatelli della Leonessa has overseen the property here for many years, residing in the 13th century tower above the winery. She keeps a healthy stock of back vintages, namely the epic 1971 Chianti Classico Riserva that's still found on top Michelin starred wine lists in Italy and offered here today.
The 2010's from Tuscany have come and gone. Being able to source a late release like this from the most timeless estate in the original Chianti zone was an unexpected surprise. There's no doubt, in 40 years we'll be looking back on the 2010 vintage much like we are now on the revered 1971, but pricing will surely have gone up six-fold.
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’re in the middle of a very extended heat wave 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 since inception conventions have been broken.
Today, I'm very happy to offer the 2010 Stella di Campalto Brunello di Montalcino Riserva, both in 750ml and 1.5L formats, as well as the 2012 Rosso di Montalcino(100% de-classified Brunello di Montalcino). Today's offer is also the only in the entire country for each wine.
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 concentrations of sand and white quartz, and strong breezes come from down from the 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 the grand image of this tiny estate. 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 had been living 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 the 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 prior to blending.
Fermentations are in old open top wood casks, with 45-minute pumpovers 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 very small addition of old barrique.
I’ve never come across another Brunello which showed so well each time it was poured, no matter the vintage, no matter weather decanted or popped-and-poured. To me, this is always the true sign of a great producer.
The wines are unfortunately made is very small 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 after this visit my determination had a new sense of rejuvenation. Again, today's three bottlings are the only offered in the U.S.
If I had to pick one wine to make a case for Sangiovese's greatness it would be Montevertine's Le Pergole Torte. Today, I'm happy to offer the 2015 Le Pergole Torte in 750ml, 1.5L, and 3L formats, along with a deep collection of back-vintages.
2015 at Montevertine, as Antonio Galloni illustrates below, is a very exciting vintage. A warmer year for Tuscany, and in Radda's northern and higher altitude setting the wines have a definition and focus that marries perfectly to the riper crop. When I visited the region for 2 weeks of tastings in July 2017, the 2015's in cask had producers from every corner of Tuscany powerless in containing their child-like enthusiasm. It was, and is, a vintage that gave the opportunity to showcase the very best of their sites.
"Montevertine is one of the most privileged spots for wine anywhere in the world. If I had to choose only one Sangiovese to cellar, it might very well be Montevertine's Le Pergole Torte.""The 2015 Le Pergole Torte is explosive and powerful while showing a remarkable level of precision. Pliant and beautifully resonant, it captures all the best qualities of the year. The oak still needs time to fully assimilate. Even so, the wine's pedigree and potential are very much in evidence today. In a word: superb." (01/18)- Antonio Galloni of Vinous
"Andrea Franchetti continues to make some of the most compelling wines in Italy...The Cupole, the estate's second label, is once again one of the very best wines in its price range."- Antonio Galloni of Vinous (3/16)
An ideal bold red to serve at Thanksgiving that delivers high quality and great value is on ALL our lists. Today I’d like to revisit an offer that’s guaranteed to wow your guests who might not be as enamored with the sans soufre amphora Poulsard from the Jura as you are!
My great fondness for the traditional wines of Tuscany is no secret, but generally I've kept Super Tuscans at arm's length. Dominated by Bordeaux variety blends, the category has overwhelmingly spoken less about place, and more about a luxury-driven, global-capitulating, one-size-fits-all model. Sassicaia is a great example of one that breaks out of this mold and is the definitive Super Tuscan Wine of Place. Finding examples I'm truly passionate about that don't start at $200+ upon release has been a challenge. That all changed with Tenuta di Trinoro's Le Cupole.
Today, I'm very happy to offer the Tenuta di Trinoro "Le Cupole" Rosso Toscana for $33 per bottle, with special 6-pack pricing down to $29.83 per bottle.
Andrea Franchetti's property sits in a remote southeast corner of Tuscany. Le Cupole, the second label of Tenuta di Trinoro, is all about open accessibility with the same sophistication as their top end single vineyard wines. Cupole's blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Petit Verdot is planted on clay and limestone, mirroring Bordeaux's right bank.
Cupole succeeds in grasping my attention due to a remarkable sense of balance, freshness, and crazy deliciousness still rooted in the variety's tell-tale characteristics.There's an abundance of black cherries, dark chocolate, tobacco, and a tarry scorched earth note - the most fascinating trait I find myself reaching for again and again. The finish persists with the sort of lingering minerality that is commonly achieved in Bordeaux, but where Super Tuscans often fall short.
2015 is the best vintage of this wine I've tasted to date, with an ideal growing season that produced luscious, concentrated ripe fruit. The early hot conditions completely fell away here in August and the rest of the growing season through November harvest was quite cool. These unusual conditions made for an opulent Super Tuscan still with all of the cool-fruit tones and earthy inflections I relish in those cooler vintages.
Of all the 2,000+ wines in stock, the 2015 Le Cupole will appeal to the widest range of palates imaginable, still deeply rooted in its sense of place. With perfect conditions in Tuscany for this blend of varieties, this is the time to stock up.
Making the case for why pockets of Chianti warrant the same attention as Brunello di Montalicino, or even Burgundy, is a challenge for me. Have I lost you yet? The blame can fall squarely at the feet of those infamous straw-covered fiasco bottles, or even with higher priced examples where sharp acidity may mesh with the marinara, but not much else.
If I have one opportunity to prove to you that Sangioves from Chianti Classico can show a grace and pristine fruit quality akin to red Burgundy I will use Giovanna Morganti's "Le Trame" as my first example. I implore you to trust that this will be your moment of clarity for Sangiovese.
Today, I'm very happy to offer the 2015 Podere Le Boncie "Le Trame", with special E-mail pricing on 4-packs.
Importer Neal Rosenthal's Montevertine, and its Le Pergole Torte is a benchmark for the region. But, in many aspects his other discovery, "Le Trame", is better suited to illustrate how Sangiovese's sometimes illusive fruit-forward profile and silken tannins can lead the charge in calling to mind those traits I personally adore about red Burgundy.
A visit last summer with Giovanna Morganti was one of the most memorable I've had along the wine route. Ever. The mentality of this estate exemplifies so much of what gravitates me toward the artisanal approach. One where we can talk ad nauseam about what happens in the cellar, but it's the fastidious vineyard work giving the raw materials responsible for showcasing greatness under cork.
You can read more below the offer to go down the rabbit hole on fermentation and aging specifics. But, I'd like to cut this one short here and say this is a profound wine that's simply a joy to drink. The number of times I've used this bottling to convince friends that Sangiovese can be fun, approachable, and dead serious all at the same time is innumerable. I recommend you take the dive to see what this small gem of an estate in Chianti Classico is all about!
2015 Podere Le Boncie "Le Trame" Toscana Rosso
$53 per bottle.
2014 Podere Le Boncie "Le Trame" Toscana Rosso
$53 per bottle.
In 1990 Giovanna Morganti, the daughter of a famed oenologist, embarked on her own project - a 5 hectare parcel she planted in Chianti Classico's southern zone, Castelnuovo Berardenga. 27 years later her wines stand out as some of the most soulful, perfumed, and elegant in all of Tuscany. Her approach differs somewhat dramatically from many of her contemporaries, but one thing is very clear after my visit: Every aspect of her process is with eyes firmly fixed on quality with a detailed focus. This is the best of Sangiovese that you've never tasted.
My love affair with these wines goes back a little ways. Drinking them I was always taken aback by how silken they were without conveying any sense of new oak influence or modernized quick-fix methods. These are natural wines, and learning about the process from the vines to the cellar offered some new surprises.
Growing up in a home where winemaking was in her blood, Giovanna knew there was an alternative approach that she would take when her time finally came. Her first two choices were to plant ancient native varieties to supplement the Sangiovese that would be the overwhelming dominant variety in her Chianti Classico. Planting at a very tight 8,000 vines per hectare (to promote competition of vines and concentration of fruit) she introduced Ciliegiolo, Colorino, Foglia tonda Mammolo, and Prugnolo with the Sangiovese. Most had a history in the region dating back centuries, but aside from Colorino they've nearly vanished from the limestone soils here in Castelnuovo Berardenga's border with Gaiole.
She also felt the wire systems from guyot and cordon vine training restricted the natural inclination of the vine to grow vertical, with this on her mind she introduced gobelet training which allowed the vine and its shoots to freely travel upward - a stake is planted and vine shoots are tied several times during their upward trajectory, a very labor intensive process. Giovanna sees these vines as living in 3D vs. the 2 dimensional plane created by a wire system.
In the cellar the divergence from the norm continues with fermentation taking place in small 500L open top barrels, and an ancient tradition of a wooden pole (pictured below) used for daily punchdowns - an extremely gentle process that was an ah-ha moment for me as I recalled the delicate structure and unique tannin profile of her gorgeous wines. Aging is done in traditional Slavonian botte, with now a move toward Austrian Stockinger large format because she's found the quality to be on another level.
All the technical information may clearly outline how Giovanna's Chianti Classico is one-of-a-kind, but it doesn't do a fair job of referencing what will end up in your glass. Some wines you just have to try for your self. With 5 hectares and organic and biodynamic principles followed you know the raw material is going to be pristine, but what stands out for me is that each vintage, no matter how challenging, the wines are just perfectly composed. Purity of fruit is always what I look for above all, and Giovanna is making a strong case now as the prime address for the best value Sangiovese in all of Tuscany.
As always, if you have any questions please don't hesitate to reach me by phone or email.