Sunday, November 15, 2015

Four Vintages - Castello di Querceto Chianti Classico

A study in vintage characteristics

Castello di Querceto in Greve
Here is a revealing look at vintage differences in a solid traditional Chianti Classico Riserva.  Castello Querceto produces these wines from grapes grown in a valley near the lovely village of Greve, in the north-eastern part of the Chianti Classico zone. The vineyards are at elevations ranging from 350 to 500 meters, which is very favorable to Sangiovese quality. These wines were composed primarily of Sangiovese, with approximately 5% Canaiolo, and small amounts of other ancient varetals traditional to the region.Castello Di Querceto was one of 33 founding members of the Chianti Classico Consortium, in 1924.
From one vintage to another, there is little variation in the methods employed to produce these Riservas, with the exception of fine tuning that must be made to deal with variations in weather. This consistency in wine making makes these wines an excellent tool to compare vintage impact on wines in the region. I found the differences to be pronounced and very interesting.

2005 Castello Querceto Chianti Classico Riserva, 13.5% ABV, $15

The first impression on the nose is that of organic Earth notes and forest floor, suggesting some age. This was less pronounced as it opened up in the glass. Also on the nose is lean red and black cherry with Asian spice and tobacco underneath. The palate is rustic, with dried black cherry, tobacco, leather, and dried herbs. The finish continues the pleasant theme of rusticity with lingering tobacco notes. 88 Pts
2006 Castello Di Querceto Chianti Classico Riserva, 13.5% ABV $15
The nose starts with firm dark fruit, blackberry and black cherry skins, with a little white pepper and anise. There is also a slight note of sweet vanilla. The palate shows more of the same black fruit which is dense and textured with mineral and tobacco notes, and good complexity. This developed well in the glass and was complete from the classic start to the fairly long finish. Well balanced, and satisfying. 91Pts
2007 Castello Querceto Chianti Classico Riserva, 13.5% ABV, $15
Beautiful aromas of spiced, ripe, black cherry flesh pushes out of the glass to meet you. This is followed by aromatic dried herbs, and some dried flower notes. On the palate, there is ripeness at the core of the black cherry and blackberry fruit, with firm edges supporting it, dried herbs, cardamom, and some mineral. There's a distinct contrast between the plush nose and leaner palate. 89 Pts

2009 Castello Querceto Chianti Classico Riserva, 13.5% ABV, $15
This one is straightforward with firm red cherry and a bit of dried herbs on the nose. The palate has tart red cherry, fresh acidity, and good grip. The elements that form the base of any decent Chianti are here, but not much else. There are no flaws, per se; it just doesn’t go past the basics. Baseline Chianti. 86 Pts

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Producer Focus: La Fiorita

Making Wines with Style and Grace

The lovely floral label, on a bottle of La Fiorita Brunello Di Montalcino, is a fitting allusion to what one will find inside, and to the qualities of the people who make it. Roberto Cipresso and Natalie Oliveros are the team that have blended their individual talents to take La Fiorita to a high standard, and beautiful style. Here is some of the story behind this excellent Brunello producer.

Roberto and Natalie at La Masseria New York

Natalie Oliveros and Her 2006 LaFiorita Riserva

Natalie, Roberto, the Vineyards, and the Wine

I recently spoke with Natalie, as we shared a bottle of her 2006 Riserva Brunello, and enjoyed seeing her love for wine making, and for La Fiorita. Her first venture into wine came when she partnered with Roberto Cipresso, in 2006, producing wines made from grapes grown in the Lazio and Campania regions, under the "Savanna" label. These wines, produced from special ancient varietals, were critically acclaimed, and decidedly flamboyant in their branding. 
Not long after that, Natalie bought-out Roberto's partners at La Fiorita, and teamed with him to produce Brunello Di Montalcino.
Their Brunelli are blended from the fruit of two distinctly different vineyards, adding greater complexity to the final product.The two vineyards of La Fiorita are Poggio al Sole (150 m elev.) and Pian Bossolino (350 m elev.), both located in the Castelnuovo dell'Abate region of the Brunello DOCG zone. The impressive 2006 Riserva that we enjoyed, was composed of Pian Bossolino fruit only, although it's not designated as a single vineyard wine. The '06 normale Brunello was composed of grapes from both vineyards.

Natalie described an additional vineyard that they are adding (Giardinello?) , where they are converting an area that was an olive grove. "It's very beautiful with a staircase down the middle leading away from a pool, with roses, ancient olive trees, and a statue. The vineyard is south-west facing, with sandy soil" Sounds beautiful. 
The winery itself is located about 15 minutes west of the village of Montalcino. There they produce less than 30,000 precious bottles. Another factor that adds to the quality of their wines is the aging time before it is released. The DOCG laws require 24 months in wood and 4 months in bottle before it can be released; La Fiorita ages for 24 months in barrel, 8 months in steel, and another 24 months in bottle. The barrel time is further divided by 12 months in French barrique and 12 months in large Slavonian Botti. This results in an arrival to market slightly later than many of their Montalcinese counterparts, but they believe it is necessary for the best expression.

I asked Natalie if she finds people fail to respect her role at La Fiorita, and discount her value, since she is a woman who did not grow up in the wine business. "Yes, I do get that sometimes. I'll be talking about the wine, and the vineyards, and people will turn to someone else in the middle of a sentence, and I'm like, "Hellooo?" On the subject of respect she says, "I love it when I sense people are discounting my role, and knowledge of wine, and then I see their expression change as they realize I do know what I'm talking about, and I am fully involved in the wine. That gives me some satisfaction."
Natalie has put real effort into learning about wine making, getting involved in the process, and  understanding what makes the La Fiorita wine style.
"I became interested in wine through my ex-husband, and met Roberto [Cipresso] through him, and decided that I wanted to do more with wine, and build on my knowledge."
As a child Natalie had some exposure to wine making, as her father would make wine every year in the cellar of their home in Gouveneur, NY, located in the far north, near Canada. Today, Natalie says of her move into the wine business, "I wanted to do something my family could be proud of....this is who I am today."
Natalie is actively involved in the business decisions for the winery, for example, recently deciding whether to lease or purchase a new tractor and working it out with their accountant. She also contributes her opinions on the blending of the wines, although she says, "It's Roberto Cipresso's baby". 
I asked her about the style of La Fiorita wines, their elegance and the brand. 
Natalie explained, "It's the wine that made me fall in love with Roberto as a winemaker."  "But I never really liked the was kind of masculine." 
 "So you designed a different label?" "Yes, I wanted to keep true to the brand, but added these roses that represent the beauty in the vineyard, and an elegant style. Like a clean slate."

Roberto Cipresso 
Roberto Cipresso 
Roberto began his career with wine in 1985, at  Case Basse, the home of Gianfranco Soldera, and (arguably) the greatest Brunello made. Working along side a master of Sangiovese, such a Soldera, was certainly a great place to build a reservoir of knowledge. From there he moved on to become the Director of Ciacci Piccolomini, in 1987, and then established La Fiorita in 1992. Mixed in with that history are countless affiliations with other winery's and accolades for wine making greatness. Considering Roberto's bio, it is no surprise that the wines of La Fiorita are so beautiful.

Natalie said, "He has a special passion for La Fiorita. He oversees a lot of vineyards, but this one is his very own."

Together, this passionate duo has taken La Fiorita to a place of high quality, and beauty.

Here are my notes on a few La Fiorita Brunelli I have tasted recently.

2009 La Fiorita Brunello Di Montalcino 14.5% ABV $65

The nose starts off with beautiful, dense, black cherry flesh, subtle smoke, dried aromatic herbs, and some charcoal. The palate is solid, with substantial fruit presence, but good balance. Balckberry and lean black cherry lead the way with some underbrush and anise compliments. The structure is refined, and sufficient, with fine grained tannins, and enough acidity to keep it fresh and energetic. 90 Pts

2008 La Fiorita Brunello Di Montalcino 14.5% ABV $70

The nose is elegant and pure, with fragrant red cherry and Asian spice and a fresh and clean character. The palate is forward with a ripe core of raspberry and red cherry flesh. The fruit is luscious and mouthwatering with dried herbs in the finish. Balanced and easy to drink. 90 Pts

2007 La Fiorita Riserva Brunello Di Montalcino 14% ABV $95

There is beautiful depth on the nose, with rich Asian spice,anise, fragrant red cherry and red cherry skins, a little burnt orange rind, and a faint layer of crushed forest leaves. Later the nose shows subtle dried flowers. The palate continues the theme of aromatic red cherry, with subtle tartness, and mineral underneath. Dried sweet herbs, sweet tannins, and mouthwatering acidity add to the completeness. There is excellent texture and detail in this wine, and good length on the finish. Thoroughly enjoyable. 93 Pts. 

2007 La Fiorita Brunello Di Montalcino 14% ABV $55

Pretty dried floral aromas and subtle pie spice form a layer atop the black cherry flesh on the nose of this lovely wine. Underneath, there is a subtle woodland aroma, with dried violets, and a bit of iodine, providing a nice counterpoint. The palate has delicious spiced black and red cherry flesh, a bit of strawberry, with lingering tobacco and black fruit on the long finish. Well balanced, aromatic, and very drinkable. 91 Pts

2006 La Fiorita Riserva Brunello Di Montalcino 14% ABV $70

Decanted for 1 hour. Wonderfully spiced red and black cherry fruit with strawberry notes as well. Notes of fennel, nutmeg, and other dried herbs overlay the fruit, along with dried flowers and dusty aromatic wood.
The palate is pleasantly chewy, with a fine granularity. More sweet spice and dark cherry extract with strawberry preserves and some plum. Quite dense all around, with a pretty layer as well. The structure features juicy acidty and moderate tannins, both playing an important balancing role to the rest of the characteristics. The finish is long and interesting with spice cake and mineral notes.

This riserva walks the line between modern and traditional very well. There is plenty here for everyone: fruit, texture, structure, and satisfaction. Interestingly, this wine spends time in both new French oak and traditional Slavonian botti, which apparently helps with it's split personality. Also contributing to the traditional side is the altitude of the vineyard from which these grapes are sourced, 320 meters located in the Castelnuovo dell'Abate subzone of the Montalcino DOCG, an area rich in fine Brunello producers. 92 Pts.

2004 La Fiorita Riserva Brunello Di Montalcino 14% ABV $100

Masculine, deep and rich on the nose, with dark red cherry, red currant, some spiced Earth, and dried rose petals. The palate shows lean red cherry fruit, mineral, leather, and aromatic Earth. Lean on the finish, with easy acidity, lingering anise notes, and fine grained tannins. 91 Pts.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

2010 Brunello Vintage Report - Part 1

Benvenuto Brunello 2010

 I very much enjoyed this year's Benvenuto Brunello event, where approximately forty producers gathered to introduce the 2010 vintage. The setting was Gotham Hall, in Manhattan, as it has been for the last three years. It is a wonderful space, and a well run event, but the best part, of course, was the wine. This year was especially wonderful because the current vintage release is 2010.

After tasting approximately 40 examples of 2010 Brunello, it is safe to say this is an outstanding and classic vintage; a fact that is fairly well known thanks to the abundant press to that effect. Perhaps the most pronounced common thread among these examples is the freshness of fruit; not a "new wine" kind of fruit, but rather a freshly cut black and red fruit style. This freshness supports a finesse that I saw in many examples. By finesse, I mean an elegance despite the firm power and structure that comes with well made Brunello.
In a word, 2010 Brunello Di Montalcino is versatile. So many of them are drinking well now, but are still showing great composition, balance, and depth that indicates they will last and improve with age.
You won't find very many highly extracted "fruit bombs" in this year's class, except for those producers who have that style as a deliberate goal, but the fruit is completely ripe, and well supported by the acidity essential to the Brunello experience. The tannins are there as well, and in some cases they are pronounced, but that only speaks to the longevity of the vintage, which should be significant. Add to that the prevalence of great balance, and you have a vintage made for the classic Brunello lover.
Is this the vintage of the century or of a lifetime? I hope not, since this is the way Brunello should be every year, weather permitting. Should you run out and buy 2010 Brunello? Of course, but don't forget the other vintages which will be available at a lower price. Personally, I'm shopping for 2004 and 2006, in addition to the '10s. Enjoy!

Here are my notes on a few representatives and favorites from the event, and elsewhere.*

2010 Le Ragnaie "Fornace"  Brunello Di Montalcino $14% ABV $120

  There's a "wow" factor as the aromas push their way out of the glass making an immediate impression with dark, warm, red cherry blended with cardamom, turmeric, and cloves.The palate has a savory character, with sweet charred meats, anise, dark Earth, dried basil, and wonderful aromatic action. Quite complex, and hard to pin down, which is what I love about well made Sangiovese wines. Very well balanced and complete, with plenty of stuffing and a long finish. 96 Pts




   2010 Il Poggione  Brunello Di Montalcino 14.5% ABV $65

The nose is solid and finessed at the same time, showing dense, firm black cherry fruit and skins,  with some warm spice, rose petals, and lanolin. The palate has a dignified character with plenty of detail, but expressed in a reserved way, letting out a little at a time. There is delicious spiced red cherry with fresh acidity, and a firm streak. In addition there are layers of tobacco, aromatic dried herbs, and a faint dairy note. Clearly poised for a long life and improvement with integration, it can easily be enjoyed now too. Il Poggione consistently produces excellent, traditional Brunello at a price point that is very good for this level of quality and the 2010 is a prime example. 95 Pts


2010 Le Chiuse  Brunello Di Montalcino 13.5% ABV $57

The nose is full and firm with minerally black fruit richness at the core, faint vanilla bean, dates, sweet grilled meats, a little dark chocolate, and a layer of dried flowers.There's a pleasant, slightly chewy texture to the palate, with baked red cherry fruit that combines rusticity with subtle sweetness. The grilled meat carries through on the palate as well. Finishes with savory notes, and good balance. 89-90 Pts



  2010 Castello Banfi "Poggio lle Mura" Brunello Di Montalcino 14.4% ABV, $75

Straight forward with pronounced fruit, on the nose and palate, making up the primary component of its personality. The nose starts with some floral notes atop the solid black cherry, and woodsy brambles. There is a hint of caramel present there as well. The palate is full of tart black cherry and blackberry with some sandalwood and fine grained tannins. The mid-palate falls off a bit, but this is a relatively easy-drinking style that is ready to go now. 89 Pts




  2010 Il Palazzone Brunello Di Montalcino 14.4% ABV $85

The nose is firm, and a bit closed at the moment, but reveals more with coaxing. Pretty dried black cherry skins with a lovely floral layer, some charred Earth, and aromatic dried herbs all unfold with a little time. Later, some pie spice and tobacco evolve on the nose. The palate starts with fresh red cherry and blackberry flesh that are underscored by clean mineral Earth, turmeric, and more dried herbs. The structure is serious and finessed, with good acidity that blends into the fruit, and fine grained tannins underneath. Good length, and a elegant finish. Probably the most classic and best Brunello I've tasted from Il Palazzone. Outstanding. 95 Pts





2010 Bottega S.p.A. "Il Vino Dei Poetti" Brunello Di Montalcino 14.5% ABV Not Yet Imported

This wine offers the complete experience from start to finish. The nose shows dark black cherry that is tart, fresh and pure, followed by warm Earth, orange rind and dried herbs. The palate has a lovely light weight and soft texture, with more clean dark cherry, mouthwatering acidity, savory herbs, and a very fine grained grip. There are no week spots here, and the structure and balance bode well for a long life. 94Pts

2010 Caparzo Brunello Di Montalcino 14% A.B.V. $50

Rich blackberry fruit and a little sweet vanilla bean are notable on the nose, with some mineral notes as well. The palate has fresh blackberry, flinty Earth, and a dusty finish. Well balanced with a nice freshness. 90 Pts

2010 Col Di Lamo Brunello Di Montalcino 14% A.B.V. $60

This was a very pleasant standout in the class of 2010 that showed great complexity and finesse. The elegant nose starts off with dried black cherry skins, with subtle black cherry flesh and cranberry at the core, underscored by mineral Earth, dried basil, and a faint dairy note.Quite fragrant. The palate has a nice medium weight with tangy black plum, other firm, dark, aromatic fruits, grilled beef, and more mineral Earth. The structure is solid, and well balanced, with fine grained tannins that coat the mouth on the finish. Complete and satisfying, with good length on the finish. 95 Pts

2010 Ferrero Brunello Di Montalcino  15% ABV, $65 

Needed a few minutes to blow off at first, but opened up into a complex and solid wine with a distinct personality. The nose has notes of decomposed forest floor, charred meat, tobacco, lean blackberry, and dried black cherries, The palate shows full, firm fruit, with blackberry that is dark and serious. There are notes of anise, and aromatic wood with mineral Earth and dried cherry skins. Masculine, with big structural components and good balance, the development of this wine over time should be enjoyable. 93 Pts

*Watch for updates to this post in the future as I add notes from other producers.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Cortona Syrah - In The Right Place

Tienimenti Luigi d'Alessandro

Syrah is a wonderful grape that has found a home in many places around the globe, manifesting itself in a variety of styles as a result. One such place is Cortona, in Eastern Tuscany, where Syrah has been made into some particularly excellent wines. I spoke with Gaetano Soccoccio, Export Manager for Tienimenti Luigi d'Alessandro, and he enlightened me to a bit of history surrounding Syrah in the Cortona region. As it turns out, the d'Alessandro family pioneered the growing of Syrah in the region. Moving there from Rome in 1968, their goal was not to grow the grape that they wanted to grow, but rather to grow the grape that was best suited to the place.Over a five year period, they experimented with plantings of different varietals on various plots until they determined that Syrah was the best fit. Eventually other producers started growing Syrah as well, and in 1999 DOC status was granted to Cortona Syrah.
Gaetano Saccoccio, Export Manger and Great Syrah Ambassador

I have to agree that the pairing of Cortona terrior and Syrah is a good one. I've tasted quite a number of them, from various producers, and they are generally quite enchanting. Here are my notes on examples from the d'Alessandro family.

2011 Tenimenti Luigi d'Alessandro Borgo Syrah, Cortona DOC 13% ABV, $19                                            

Fresh blackberry and strawberry fruit, with a dark, dense heart, overlaid with dried violets, aromatic herbs, and coffee notes. The palate has chewy blackberry and raspberry, with char-grilled meats, some tobacco, espresso, and a little sweet vanilla. The balance is excellent with plenty of acidity to carry the density, and tannins that add a delicate grip. The finish is solid, with lingering tobacco notes to complete the experience. Alluring and satisfying. 90Pts


2009 Tenimenti Luigi d'Alessandro Il Bosco Cortona DOC 14% ABV, $48

Deep, dark, black fruit. Blackberry, black current, and some blueberry, with notes of melba toast, aromatic smoke,and grilled meat. The palate has wonderful texture, aromatic roasted black cherry and blackberry skins, charred Earth, and sandalwood. Great structure and balance. The finish is long and vigorous with nice aromatics, lively tannins, solid acidity, and flinty Earth. Plenty of stuffing and balance to support longevity. 92 pts.

2009 Tenimenti Luigi d'Alessandro Migliara Syrah, Cortona DOC 14,5% ABV, $80

Dried violets lay atop black cherry dust, and blackberry compote with a vein of savory aromas. The palate is serious and firm with fresh, lean, black cherry, baked strawberry, bitter chocolate, charred meats, and scorched sandalwood. The balance is excellent, with plenty of textured grip, juicy acidity, and animal character. The finish is long, solid, and aromatic. 92 Pts

Friday, May 1, 2015

Aia Vecchia - Quality and Value from Coastal Toscana

 As I've said before, one of the great joys of wine loving is discovering wines you can enjoy without having to spend a large sum. Aia Vecchia is a great source for exactly that sort of wine.

Aia Vecchia is a Tuscan producer with estates in Bolgheri and Maremma.  I met up with Elia Pellegrini to taste their wines and discuss his family's business. The Pellegrini family has been in the wine industry for generations, but did not found Aia Vecchia until 1996, when they set out to make quality super Tuscan blends at a good price. In addition to their Bordeaux blend I.G.T. wines, they produce two wines made from classic Italian varietals, a Vermentino, and a Morellino di Scansano (Sangiovese).

Elia, who recently took over global marketing for Aia Vecchia after his professional soccer career was ended by injury, told me that one of their most important goals is to make wine with great QPR (quality to price ratio). Having tasted there wines, on multiple occasions, I believe that are meeting that goal.
Elia Pellegrini of Aia Vecchia
A big factor in getting these to the American consumer, at such reasonable prices, is the role of  Dalla Terra Direct, who's business model minimizes middle men and mark-ups. These wines make their way to the consumer without taking on too much price baggage, typically reducing mark-ups by 20%or more. Aia Vecchia is one of eighteen wineries currently imported by Dalla Terra.

Aia Vecchia's production is fairly modest, at 250k bottles per year, which allows this family run enterprise to focus on quality. Fifty percent of that production goes to the American market.
Here are my notes on a few examples.


2011 Sor Ugo Bolgheri D.O.C. Superior 15% ABV, $35

Starts off with a beautiful nose of perfumed black cherry flesh and black currant with a rich core and nice complexity. Dark chocolate, tobacco, dried blackberry, and violets all intermingle and provide plenty of nuance. The palate is firm and dark with black cherry skins, and dried herbs with subtle underlying savory notes. The structure is solid, but finessed with nice juicey acidity and a fine coating of tannins. Nicely balanced and satisfying. 30 days maceration and 18 months in French barrique. 91Pts
50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 15% Cab Franc, 5% Petit Verdot

2012 Aia Vecchia Lagone IGT 14.5% ABV, $15

Named for a small stream the passes through the estate, the Lagone is a wonderful value that straddles the worlds of "modern" and "traditional" wine making. There is solid extraction and ripeness here, but it is balanced and well structured. The nose is rich, and serious in its first impression, with dark plum, blackberry, and pomegranate fruit, brambles, dried floral notes, mint leaves, and faint green pepper. The palate has a soft attack, and is medium-weight, with more dark plum, a little charred sandalwood and nice aromatic action on the back of the palate. The acidity is present in good measure and lends energy to the large profile, while the tannins are fine grained, but sufficiently pronounced to complete the impression of quality. I would not be surprised to see it age gracefully for 5 years, which is saying something for a bottle at this price point. 60% Merlot / 30% Cabernet Sauvignon / 10% Cab Franc
90 Pts

2010 Aia Vecchia Lagone IGT 14.5% ABV, $15

Big, pure, dark plum fruit wafts out of the glass on first pour, with dark berries, blueberries. Rich, ripe, and pretty with off-setting notes of aromatic underbrush, dark chocolate, sweet tobacco, and coffee. The palate has solid energy, with more dark plum and blackberry, juicy tannins, great dark acidity, dried herbs and underbrush, a dusty grip and plenty of backbone to offset the ripe fruit. Plenty of enjoyment for the low price. 90 Pts

2014 Aia Vecchia Vermentino Toscana 13% ABV, $12

 Fresh citrus and stone fruit comprise the nose, with some white peach, and lemon rind, underscored by subtle salinity. The palate is mouth-watering and clean, with a bit of weight, pleasant fruitiness, and nice balanced. The same fruit elements found on the nose, come through in the palate, with fresh acidity, subtle structure, and fine minerality underneath. A lovely white for everyday enjoyment, but still showing solid quality. 88 Pts

Friday, April 24, 2015

Il Vino Dei Poeti 2010 Brunello

This 2010 Brunello was a pleasant highlight of my Benvenuto Brunello experience this year.
S.p.A. Bottega has a large portfolio of wines and spirits, with a significant presence in the grappa market, but this Brunello struck me as more artisinal in character. It is not currently imported to the US, but that situation is likely to change soon, given the quality found in this bottle.

2010 Bottega S.p.A. "Il Vino Dei Poeti" Brunello Di Montalcino 14.5% ABV 

Not Yet Imported to the US

This wine offers a complete experience from start to finish. The nose shows dark black cherry that is dense, tart, fresh, and pure, followed by warm Earth, orange rind and dried herbs. The palate has a lovely elegant weight and soft texture, with more clean dark cherry, mouthwatering acidity, savory herbs, and a very fine grained grip. There are no weak spots here, and the structure and balance bode well for a long life. 94Pts

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Producer Focus: Tenuta Brunelli

Luca Brunelli

 Luca Brunelli is steeped in Montalcino wine making experience, and that experience is evident in the wine he and his family produces. I recently enjoyed a conversation, and several of his wines, with him and got to learn the background of this fine Brunello label.


Luca chose to pursue farming at a relatively early age, after being inspired by AGIA, Italy's Association of Young Agricultural Entrepreneurs.
Eventually he became president of AGIA, and took the lead in supporting young agronomists across Italy. Recently, he literally outgrew that position, as he turned 40 years of age (he doesn't look it!), and is now president of CIA, a similar organization for technical and political support of small-scale agricultural concerns. 

As I spoke with him about this, and about his wine making, I recalled why I so enjoy interacting with wine makers; they have a love of the work first and foremost, and their desire for financial success is a necessary second concern. Truly, in view of the disasters that nature can sometimes dish out, you would have to love the work of wine making in order to persevere and succeed. In this world where integrity, and quality of character is becoming so scarce, it's refreshing to find heartfelt people, like Luca, who put quality first.

Family - Roots

Luca seems to have a connection to most of the producers in Montalcino, one way or another, which is natural considering his lifetime of involvement with the wine making industry in Montalcino. His first pursuits were in the development of new vineyards at various estates around Montalcino. In this work, he interacted with numerous Brunello producers. Listening to him describe it, I got a clear impression of the family like unity among many in the Montalcino agricultural community.
Gianni Brunelli is his uncle and is the namesake of the Gianni Brunelli winery, which produces excellent organic Brunello's. His parents, Mauro and Anna, are the owners of the Brunelli estate, which they founded, and then expanded in 1998. Today, Luca has taken a lead role in the winery, and is an ambassador of the label around the world.

The Farm
Located just south-west of the village of Montalcino, Tenuta Brunelli cultivates 5 hectares certified to Brunello production, and another 10 for Rosso, IGT, and oil production. The average elevation of the vineyards is 250 meters, with a general south-west facing disposition. These factors, combined with the efforts of the Brunelli wine making team, result in consistently excellent Brunello that is elegant and full of character.


Paolo Vaganini is the consulting oenologist for Brunelli, as he is for many of Montalcino's best producers, and he is highly regarded, even being called "Mr. Sangiovese" by some.Certainly, his influence is a big part of why Brunelli's wines are so solid.
Low yields that are well below the maximum permitted by the DOCG laws, help promote concentration of energy and character in these wines, albeit at the sacrifice of quantity. Luca said this sacrifice must occur in order to produce wines of high quality.
Brunelli has multiple vineyards, with varied dispositions, which help offset the impact of vintage variation. In hot vintages, the western facing slopes off-set the heat, in cooler vintages, the eastern facing slopes collect added heat to support ripening. In perfect vintages, there is an abundance of quality from all the vineyards.
Regarding vineyards, Luca explained, "When I have a little money, I try to purchase more land for vineyards, but it has become very difficult to find good vineyard land that is available"
I asked him if his wines were organic and he told me, "They are organic in practice, but not certified" and added, "I drink my wine", to emphasize his preference for grape growing that is free from unwanted chemicals.
He will not produce a Riserva Brunello unless the vintage is outstanding. One reason for this is to protect the quality of his normale bottling. Unless there is an abundance of perfect grapes to support both, he will only make the normale. In 2010, the Riserva production totaled only 1,400 bottles, in 2007 it was 2,100, both minuscule quantities. The normale is typically around 10,000-15,000 bottles.
In the cellar, a combination of large 80% Slovonian botti, and 20% French barrique, are used for the barrel aging, drawing from the qualities of each approach.

The net result of these elements is consistently solid Sangiovese character that is easy to appreciate. Elegance is a characteristic that comes through repeatedly, along with a style that balances old and new world style elements. Below are my notes on three examples.
Luca Brunelli's Lovely Bottles, Luca in the  Background

2009 Tenuta Brunelli Brunello Di Montalcino 14% ABV $60 

The nose is dark and firm, with black cherry skins, mineral Earth, and serious floral notes on top and a suggestion of spearmint. The palate is finessed, with great strength underneath, showing elegant red cherry, and raspberry, with Asian spice, and fine texture. Notes of charred Earth accent the structure, which is complete and balanced, albeit a bit disjointed at this young age. The finish has good length and a fine grained grip. There is a depth to this wine that draws you in to focus your attention. No riserva was made in 2009, so all of the Brunello grape production went into this wine, and it shows. Luca told me that the challenge in 2009 was deciding when to harvest. According to Luca Brunelli,the heat in the summer was substantial, and carried through into September. Harvesting too early in September had to be avoided; he harvested late in the month. 91 Pts

2008 Tenuta Brunelli Brunello Di Montalcino 13% ABV $60

Clean and straightforward with red currant, raspberry, anise, dried herbs, and a sprinkle of fragrant incense. There's a pleasant lightness on the palate, elegant in style, with pomegranite, and lean red cherry, shale, and some brambles. It does fall off just a bit on the mid palate, but comes back nicely in the moderately long finish. Well balanced and finessed. 89 Pts

2007 Tenuta Brunelli Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva 14% ABV $100

Lovely perfume, dried flowers, clean, red cherry flesh, and a bit of spiced strawberry make up the initial impression on the nose. Also present are notes of underbrush, and forest floor, lending a rustic undertone. The palate is elegant and light weight with lean red cherry, pomegranite, black tea, and dried herbs. Theres solid structure, despite the elegant style, with brisk acidity and firm tannins that are well balanced with the fruit profile. The finish is long, and aromatic. 91Pts

2011 Tenuta Brunelli Rosso di Montalcino 13% ABV $20

The finessed nose shows dried red cherry skins, sweet spice, flinty Earth, grilled meat, and some clay. The palate has a soft texture with subtle cardamom and nutmeg spice added to the firm red cherry, mineral Earth and mouthwatering acidity. Elegant and easy drinking with a judicious touch of grip and nice length on the finish. 89 Pts