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.