Sunday, November 23, 2014

Sagrantino Di Montefalco

A Big Beautiful Red for Those Crisp Autumn Nights

Montefalco and Its Beautiful Surroundings

Located about 2 hours south of Siena, in Umbria, Montefalco is the namesake village of a DOCG dedicated to a unique, and excellent, Italian veriatal. The Sagrantino Di Montefalco DOCG was awarded in 1992, establishing a set of rules intended to preserve and promote the quality of wines made from Sagrantino.
The Consorzio Tutela Vini Montefalco requires that only Sagrantino grapes be used, and that thirty months of aging occur before the wine is released. The aging must be for a minimum of twelve months in oak barrels, and at least four months in bottle before release.

Sagrantino is its own grape, not resembling any other, and is only found in the Montefalco region, thus making it rather special and worth investigating.
The thick skins of this red varietal are the main contributor to the longevity of these wines, which are able to age for years, and develop further complexity.

After tasting through a number of samples, a few consistent characteristics became apparent.  These wines are quite solid, and well structured.They have good acidity, and deep, dark fruit profiles, that work in conjunction with the consistently present tannins, thus resulting in balance.The thick skins that fuel this structure, also provide aromatic notes that lay on top of many example, and add complexity.
All of these qualities make Sagrantino from Montefalco an excellent choice for cooler nights, and hearty winter foods. Below are three fine examples, from the more than fifty producers of this wine that you should get to know.

2008 Arnaldo-Caprai "Collepiano" Sagrantini Di Montefalco DOCG 14.5%ABV , $50

Dark black cherry and dusty mineral Earth on the nose, with subtle vanilla bean and aromatic blackberry. The palate is quite chewy with dried, blackberry notes, black cherry skins, char-grilled meat and violet incense. There's a pleasant bitterness on the finish, and a little bite. Big and burly, but it seems to have what it needs to come together into something more after a few years in the cellar. 89Pts

2008 Scacciadiavoli Sagrantino Di Montefalco DOCG 15% ABV $39

Popped and poured, dark ruby in color. The nose is a bit reserved, with the dense, dried, black cherry fruit that is solid, but not round, with faint vanilla, and a hint of cocoa dust. There are also notes of dusty underbrush supporting. The palate is well structured and perfumed with blackberry, black cherry, a pleasant bitterness, a hint of forest floor and a tart juicy finish. Firm, dusty, tannins a present throughout, and drive the character of this wine. Although a bit awkward at this stage, there is a general character of firmness, density, and masculinity. 89Pts

2009 Perticaia Sagrantino Di Montefalco DOCG 14.5% ABV $44

The nose is finessed and lovely showing pretty blackberry scents with underlying cedar, subtle Asian spice, and dried flowers. The fruit is pure and fresh in nature; very appealing.The palate starts off with a soft attack, aromatic black cherry, a little menthol and savory notes trailing. The balance is very good with chewy tannins, easy acidity and depth of fruit. Lean, dark, a little savory, and easy to drink, with fine tannins and a little bite on the finish. A complete pleasure.91Pts.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Fontodi Vigna Del Sorbo 2007

Top Chianti Classico

If you've never tried Fontodi's outstanding single vineyard riserva, you should put it on your short list. This is a wine that displays the character of Sangiovese, in a wonderful way, and in every vintage. On paper this sounds like a overblown, crowd-pleaser, with lots of oak and alcohol, but in the glass it's a whole other story.

2007 Fontodi Vigna Del Sorbo, Chianti Classico Riserva, 15% ABV $65

 Aromatic black fruit, covered in distinct scents of rose petals, is the first impression on the nose, followed by black cherry flesh, some raspberry, sandalwood, and tobacco. Deep and alluring. The palate is masculine and elegant at the same time with black cherry skins, dried blackberry dust, espresso grounds, and some aromatic herbs. There is no indication there of the surprising alcohol level, no doubt due to the warm vintage. I love to see how good wine making can offset high alcohol. While it is not fully integrated, it is perfectly balanced, with fresh acidity, ripe tannins, and a solid stock of fruit to feed years of aging. The texture is varied, showing some silk on the attack, but a fine chewiness on the finish. Complex and satisfying. Aged in French oak (specifically from Troncais and Allier), 50% new, for 24 months.  30,000 bottles produced.
90% Sangiovese, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon 94 Pts


Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Poggio Scalette

Wonderful Sangiovese Manifestations

Located in Greve, in the heart of Tuscany's Chianti Classico zone, Poggio Scallete consistently produces wines that show the finest character of Sangiovese. These wines, especially the Il Carbonaione, are made with great structure and balance so that their aging potential is assured. With vineyards at an average elevation of 450 meters, these vines see conditions that help develop intensity, elegance, and structure, which is all you can ask for from any varietal. Below are two notes from recent samples, and one (2005) from a couple of years ago. The wines of Il Carbonaione are a must try / have for any Sangiovese lover.

Poggio Scalette Il Carbonaione IGT 2011 13.5% ABV $60

Pure, deep, dark fruit aromas are noteworthy on the nose. Black cherry flesh and blackberry along with some tobacco, and a subtle layer of cut flower scents on top. The dark fruit continues on the palate, with some Asian spice, and sage. There is solid acidity carrying it all from mid-palate to the moderately long finish that shows firm grip and green tobacco. Excellent balance. Lovely, easy to drink now and built to last as well. 92 Pts


Poggio Scalette Il Carbonaione IGT 2005  13.5% ABV $50

 Quite solid and structure-centric. Leather, earth, violets, and dried cherry on the nose. The palate has a great texture with a pleasing, fine, granularity, like ground-up, dried, black cherry skins and scorched earth. Despite the finessed fruit, it still comes across as well balanced and complete. There is a wonderful finish, with fine grained grip and excellent aromatics of sandalwood, grilled meat, and leather lingering. Improved steadily over two hours drinking, and was going strong on the last sip. Great structure and balance, with the impression of being built for the long haul.92Pts. 



Chianti Classico DOCG 2012  13% ABV $23

Deep, serious black cherry flesh and black current form the foundation on the nose with tobacco, and sandalwood compliments. The palate has solid structure showing blackberry, mineral Earth, some forest floor, and fine grained tannins. Good acidity adds energy and life to balance things out. The lean fruit takes a primary role here, and makes for this approachable.  90Pts.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Le Pupille, Poggio Valente Riserva

 2009 Fattoria Le Pupille, Poggio Valente Riserva  Morellino di Scansano 14.5% ABV, $35

From the single vineyard, Poggio Valente, at 280m elevation, the Poggio Valente is yet another great example of the quality and value that can be found in Morellino Di Scansano. The nose has a lot to offer with aromatic blackberry and black cherry, Earthy Asian spice, and savory aromas under the fruit. There is a restrained ripeness at the core that adds depth and takes this wine to the next level of enjoyability. The palate starts with a smooth attack and more black fruit that is firm, and nicely chewy. The savory component is present on the palate too, with seasoned, mixed grill flavors supported by flinty Earth, and some tobacco. The finish is long, aromatic and savory. Quite satisfying. 40,000 bottles produced. Aged 15 months in French barriques, 40% new / 60% second passage. 97% Sangiovese, 3% Merlot 94Pts

Monday, September 22, 2014

Marquis De Grinon, Caliza

Excellent Syrah Value From DO de Dominio de Pago Valdepusa

Xandra Falco, Director General, CEO
 All of the wines from this top Spanish producer are solid and even outstanding as you move up the line. The property has been in the Falco family since 1292 (yes, that's a year), and has a rich history of influencing the Spanish wine industry.
I especially like the Caliza for its value, and variety. You don't typically think of Spain, when you think of Syrah; and I love what this varietal can do in the hands of good winemakers in atypical locations. This is a prime example. The name Caliza is a reference to the limestone soil, in which these vines are planted, that significantly influences the wine's character.
Other Marquis De Grinon wines include a 100% Syrah, and the "Emeritus", their top cuvee which is a blend of 63% Cabernet Sauvignon, 32% Petit Verdot and 5% Syrah. I tasted both, but did not makes specific notes. They were both excellent and complex, with the Emeritus having a structure clearly built for longevity.
Caliza, with the Image of a Limestone on the Label

2010 Marquis De Grinon "Caliza" D.O. de Pago Valdepusa, Spain 14.5% ABV $17

The nose starts off with dark roasted cherry and strawberry preserves, with notes of espresso beans, and a fresh, clean, mineral note underneath. The palate is meaty, and full flavored with charred strawberry, and black cherry, a little smoke, flinty Earth, and textured minerality. There's good length on the firm finish and a pleasant chewiness. With the additional presence of moderate acidity, the Caliza is complete, and well balanced.  65% Syrah, 35% Petit Verdot  90Pts

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Terralsole Brunello Di Montalcino 2004

2004 Terralsole, Mario Bollag, Brunello Di Montalcino 14% ABV, $55

Decanted 1 hour prior with plenty of sediment present. Firm, dark, dense black fruit,  is the primary feature to start on the nose. Overlaid on that foundation is dried flowers, subtle dried mint leaves, some green tobacco, and savory herbs. The palate has aromatic black cherry, and more savory notes, with a ripe core, but still giving an impression of rusticity with it firm grip and flinty undertones. Later, notes of coffee emerge. Tertiary notes are present, but hard to pin down. Masculine at its heart with long finish, and a little salinity at the end. 90 Pts

Terralsole is located in the south-eastern section of the the Brunello DOCG, near Castelnuovo dell'Abate. Grapes for this Brunello are grown at an altitude of 250m in classic marl. While not officially certified organic, their practices follow the principles of organic farming. The wine spent 28 months in large French tonneaux , and six months in bottle before release.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

2009 Brunello - Vintage Report

  Welcoming the 2009 vintage

Gotham Hall NYC - Seminar on the 2009 Brunello Vintage
January 27th saw the arrival of the Benvenuto Brunello road show, from The Fortezza in Montalcino, to Gotham Hall in Manhattan. The purpose of the event was to showcase (and welcome) the 2009 vintage of Brunello Di Montalcino, being as it was, the January five years after the harvest year.

Approximately thirty producers were present to pour the wines of Montalcino: 2009 Brunello, 2008 Brunello Riserva, various Rosso Di Montalcino (Mostly 2012), Sant' Antimo DOC.

Many bottles have now found their way to store shelves, so I thought it a good time to share my thoughts on the vintage.

The 2009 Brunello Vintage

Officially rated at four stars, out of a possible five, 2009 was a season that provided challenges for producers, but seemed to have a relatively happy ending.
 Here is the official description of the vintage from the Corsorzio Del Vino Brunello Di Montalcino:
"During the first phase, there were many rainy days which resulted in a large accumulation of water reserves in the land. This was in the Spring, at the beginning of the vegetative development of the vines. This mainly rainy phase lasted longer than normal, until the middle of July. During the second phase, the summer season, the weather was very dry and hot. The water reserves, accumulated during the first phase, proved very useful. The ripening speeded up from the second half of the month of August and followed a steady rhythm, as is clear also from the analytical data collected by the Consorzio. The potential alcohol contents of the grapes are quite high, but with excellent levels of total acidity and extracts. The amounts of polyphenols are both substantial and well balanced."

My General Impressions of the Wines Tasted
Lovely fruit was a frequent characteristic, with many showing especially rich spiced cherry that lends itself to early drinking. Many wines ended up with slightly higher alcohol levels as well. That said, there is still good balance and structure in many of the wines that I tasted, which bodes well for some aging potential. One pitfall of the vintage was the heat that lingered into late summer. Poor timing during harvest could result in poor balance, and weak structure. As always, these generalities are subject to the practices of individual producers. Sadly, some producers never quite meet the mark of this noble wine, for one reason or another, but there are many fine examples in the class of 2009.

Notes on several 2009's tasted, at Benvenuto Brunello and elsewhere.

2009 Le Ragnaie V.V. Brunello Di Montalcino 14% ABV
Aromatic and rich with solid depth to the dark spice red cherry fruit.Notes of espresso beans are pronounced on the nose with delicate dried flowers on top. Soft textured, and elegant in weight in the mouth. More aromatic action energizes the red cherry fruit with dried herbs and dusty charred Earth. The finish has good length, more espresso, and a very fine grained texture. At over 600 meters elevation, the Le Ragnaie vineyard is the highest in the Montalcino zone, which seems to have helped in the high temperatures of the 2009 summer.. Only 2200 bottles produced. 92Pts

2009 Le Ragnaie Brunello di Montalcino14% ABV, $60

Rich Earth and aromatic red cherry skins with underlying minerality and notes of dried herbs (thyme?). Later green tobacco and sandalwood appear on the nose. The palate is delicious being somehow rich and lean at the same time.Spiced red cherry leads the way with nice freshness and juicy acidity. The finish is long and finely textured. Satisfying, and complete. 91 Pts


2009 Pinino Brunello Di Montalcino 14% ABV $50
Iron, dried herbs, tobacco, red cherry skins, and some vanilla bean on the nose. The palate consists of tart red cherry fruit that is a bit lean, accented by sparse Asian spice. The brief finish is firm and rustic. 87 Pts



 2009 Col D'Orcia Brunello Di Montalcino 14.5% ABV $55

First out on the nose is warm, spiced, dark cherry with a bit of tangerine rind, clay earth,
and pretty floral notes. The palate has an elegant weight, and is a bit subdued, showing subtle flavors of spiced red cherry, dried herbs, tobacco, and mineral Earth. Perhaps a bit shut down at this time, and likely to open and improve with time. 3 years in Slavonian oak and a year in bottle. An organic producer since 2013. 200,00 bottles produced. 88-90 Pts





2009 Tenuta Brunelli Brunello Di Montalcino 13% 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. The heat in the summer was substantial, and carried through into September, harvesting too early in September had to be avoided; Luca harvested late in the month. 91 Pts

2009 Loacker Corte Pavone Brunello Di Montalcino 15% ABV  $75

Rich spiced red cherry is dominent on the nose. The palate shows brite acidity, lots of rich cherry,
with a hint of sweetness, all supported by a subtle firmness. Easy drinking. 89 Pts






2009 Livio Sassetti Pertimali Brunello Di Montalcino 13.5% $50

Here is a wine that is consistently solid, ready to drink, and well balanced. The 2009 is no exception. Starting with a core of dark, spiced, black cherry flesh and skins, the nose draws you in. The presence of mineral and bramble notes provides added complexity as dried flowers float over it all to punctuate things. The palate has nicely aromatic fruit, black cherry skins and a bit of strawberry, with some anise, and dried herbs. Well balanced, with plenty of acidity to carry things, and medium grained tannins framing it out. Complete and easy to drink now, and likely to improve in the short term. 90 Pts.


2009 Castello Romitorio Brunello Di Montalcino 14% ABV $50

 The nose is understated, with Earthy notes and some fragrant wood and fine red cherry skins. The palate is much more pronounced with tart red cherry, and bright acidity with sandalwood and subtle dried herbs. Most enjoyable was a fine green tobacco aroma late on the nose and also in the long, finessed finish. Perhaps a bit closed, I think it needs to be revisited in a year or two to see how it settles out. 12 months in French oak, and 14 months in Slavonian. Only 24,000 bottles produced.


2009 Palazzo Brunello Di Montalcino 14.5% ABV $70

Subtle smoke and incense overlay dusty dried red cherry skins on the nose, with a pleasant little note of smokey candle wax.
Nicely structured and well balanced, the palate shows red cherry skins, dark Earth, and flinty stones, with
dried herbs and a fine mouthcoating finish that lingers. Elegant and solid at the same time. 92 Pts












2009 Ciacci Piccolomini Brunello Di Montalcino 14.5% ABV $50

 Fine, black cherry, and black berry fruit, with elegant dried floral notes are the focus on the nose, along with burnt orange, iron, and a subtle richness. The palate has a fine grain, and elegant weight, with flavors of black cherry skins, anise, and some dried herbs. A bit awkward at this young age, with plenty of upside. 90Pts





2009 Siro Pacenti  "Pelagrilli" Brunello Di Montalcino 15% ABV $40

Beautifully rustic on the nose with cedar, forest floor, warm Earth, dried herbs, and firm black cherry fruit and skins. The palate has firm black fruit, more forest floor, and acidity in good measure that melds into the firm, fine tannins. The finish is long and interesting with some funk, and fine, mouth-coating tannins. 90Pts





2009 Siro Pacenti  Brunello Di Montalcino 15% ABV $75

The nose first shows firm masculine black cherry and black berry fruit with aromatic wood and some incense. On the palate, solid black cherry, some sweet tobacco and Earthy underbrush lead into a long, mouthwatering finish that has fine grip, and lingering tobacco notes. 91Pts







2009 Tenute Silvio Nardi Brunello Di Montalcino 14.5% ABV, $70

Forward, warm and toasty, spiced cherry leads the way on the nose.
Like a roasted cherry cobbler, with aromatic herbs, dried flowers, and forest floor. Very nice complexity. The palate has firm, fresh,  black cherry,with solid tannins, some espresso notes (which also develop later on the nose) and a long clean finish. Quite a nice ride. A blend of grapes sourced from twenty different vineyards, with an average vine age of 20 years. 12 months in barrique (new & used) followed by 18 months in botti. 150,000 bottles produced. Yummy and serious at the same time. 91Pts

2009 Il Grappolo - Fortius Brunello Di Montalcino 14.5% ABV

  The first impression on the nose is of beautiful spiced, red cherry fruit, followed by tobacco, some forest floor notes, orange rind, molasses, and dried flowers. The palate has lean red cherry, with more spice, mineral, dried herbs, and a moderately long finish. Well balanced, with good structure. 37,000 bottles produced. 90 Pts







2009 Capanne Ricci Brunello Di Montalcino 14.5% ABV $55

Quite Earthy on the nose, with roasted black cherry flesh and a grilled meats.
The Earthy quality continues on the palate along with spiced black cherry, the acidity is a bit
understated, being upstaged by the solid fruit and pronounced,but fine tannins. 89 Pts.



2009 Mocali Brunello Di Montalcino 

Fresh red cherry and red cherry skins, with smokiness, and Earth. On the palate, lean red cherry, some green herbs, and  good structure. Straightforward and ready to drink now. 87 Pts


2009 Gianni Brunelli Brunello Di Montalcino 14.5% ABV $60

Red cherry skins, and dried flowers lead the way on the nose with some clay Earth, mineral, and meatiness. The palate is nicely balanced, with finesse, showing more firm red cherry and floral notes, followed by a long, dusty finish. This is the full package, complete, satisfying, and likely to last in the cellar for a while.  91 Pts






2009 Uccelliera Brunello Di Montalcino 14% ABV $45

Fragrant, dried black cherry, with Asian spice notes, flinty Earth, and a subtle dairy notes, comprise the nose on this welcoming wine. The palate shows fresh, red cherry, some anise, with mouth coating dusty tannins and long, mouthwatering finish. Well built, and really easy to drink. An excellent value. 91 Pts



2009 Tenuta San Giorgio Brunello Di Montalcino 14.5% ABV $55

Sweet wood notes on the nose with cranberry, dried herbs, black pepper, and some cinnamon candy. The palate is fresh, and light in weight with clean red cherry, moderate acidity, and fine grained tannins. 87 Pts