Friday, August 1, 2014

When in Rome, Drink Tuscan?




When in Rome, do like the Romans do.  Right?  Well,  if a Roman happens to hand you an amazing wine list filled with affordable, cellared wines, then you might be forced to rethink the axiom. 
 
And so I confess.....
 
On our last night in Rome, we dined at the exceptional Roman Trattoria,  Matricianella.  Just a stones throw from the Pantheon,  Matricianella is tucked into a tight alleyway masquerading as a street.  In other words, typical Roman charm.  And just so you don't think we threw all convention away,  in true Roman style,  we had 8PM reservations.  


~ The Wine "List" at Matricianella is almost 3 inches thick and boasts sections dedicated to Solaia & Sassicaia ~

We enjoyed several courses over the evening.  A friend of mine arranged the table for us and he counseled me to "Eat slow and order a lot of food."  Pretty simply advice that we happily observed. 
 
So with Roman Polpetti,  Carbonara,  Cacio e Pepe, and Roasted Lamb with Sage & Potatoes on the way,  we chose a wine that would best compliment them all.   The 2004 Villa Cafaggio San Martino.  


~ Carbonara ~

As I've written before,  Villa Cafaggio is a gorgeous estate.  Situated in the heart of Chianti Classico, near Panzano, the estate is focused on quality wines, crafted predominantly from Sangiovese.  San Martino, not being the exception, is 100% Sangiovese. 

~ Villa Cafaggio: Sangiovese vines extending from the Cellars ~

The 2004 was on the wine list for a fraction of what it costs at retail in the US.   It was a no brainer.  Deep, almost blood red in the glass with black reflections, the wine has effusive aromas of the Tuscan landscape.  Dusty roads,  whiffs of Cypress, crushed red fruits laced with sage, tobacco and spice.  You can visualize the aroma.  The palate of the wine is no less impressive with an ample core of red berry fruit that is both rich and elegant at the same time.  The acids lift the body of the wine beautifully and ancillary flavors of roasted coffee, smoked meat, earth and tobacco are present.  Simply amazing.   Gorgeous with the first two courses - maybe even better by the time the lamb arrived.  This is available in the US  so seek it out.  95 points - a classic wine! 

~ San Martino is 100% Sangiovese ~

It was then time for the evening stroll to "earn" back some of those calories......


~ The Roman Pantheon ~


Arrivederci Roma!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Coevo, Inside Out




Earlier in the week I chronicled our  time with Andrea Cecchi and our evening with the Butcher of Panzano.  As I mentioned,  we spent several hours with Andrea and part of that time was devoted to touring his winery and learning more about a wine that is fast becoming one of my favorites, Coevo. 
 
This photo essay shows us Coevo, from the inside out. 
 
Coevo means "contemporary" in Italian.   The name given to the wine in order to capture the individual spirit of each vintage.  Each year the wine is produced, the blend changes slightly depending upon the characteristics of the grapes.  Coevo is a super tuscan blend comprised of grapes grown on Cecchi's Villa Cerna estate in Castellina in Chianti and his Val del Rose estate in Maremma.

~ Villa Cerna sits high atop a hill in Chianti.  The vines on the slopes give Sangiovese & Cabernet for Coevo ~
 
Adjacent to the Villa Cerna estate lies the Cecchi winery; a state of the art facility that is pristinely maintained.  When Coevo was created, it was conceived in a sense as an "Uber Tuscan" - no expense was spared from fruit selection to equipment to the aging cellars.  It is the dream of Andrea and his brother Cesare. 


~ This Photo hangs in the family conference room within the company headquarters.  It's a reminder to the family that while business is serious, so too can it be fun, passionate.  Cesare Cecchi at left,  Andrea at right, and the Matriarch center - each with a glass of Coevo ~

There have only been 3 vintages of Coevo released to the market thus far:  2006, 2007, 2009 and 2010 which is not yet available in the United States.  2006 and 2010 received the Tre Bicchieri award from Gambero Rosso while 2007 and 2009 received Due Bicchieri.  The wine is made in only the best vintages. 
 
Typically a blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet, Merlot and Petit Verdot,  the former two grapes are sourced from the Villa Cerna estate while the latter are grown in Maremma and transported to Castellina in Chianti.  Blending, bottling and aging take place in Castellina.


~ Fermentation of Coevo takes place in stainless steel while the barrel aging regimen varies by varietal. The wine is aged in a combination of tonneaux and barrique ~
 
The wood aging regimen for Coevo is monitored carefully.  French oak is used, but as Andrea is quick to mention,  the wood is only partially new. Aging in wood lasts for only 12 months.  "Giovanni, we select only the best grapes for our Coevo, so we want them to maintain their sense of place - they come from Maremma and Chianti and we want that overall vintage expression to be vibrant - to represent the whole of Toscana.  We are very careful because we don't want to make any mistakes."

~ The Cecchi winery is a vast operation. These tanks will hold Sangiovese come harvest. When we visited, they were sparkling clean ~
 
 
~ Vineyards adjacent to the Cecchi winery in Castellina ~

A new buiding was completed adjacent to the winery shortly before the first vintage of Coevo was completed.  The upper floors house the family offices, conference rooms, reception area and ancient china collection. Andrea's mother is an avid collector and has moved dozens of pieces from the family home to the offices so that more people can share them.   Below the offices lie more aging cellars that were designed specifically with Coevo in mind. 

~ Barrique & Tonneaux hold future vintages of Coevo ~


~ The Coevo Room: Dedicated to bottle aging Coevo prior to release & maintaining stocks of library wines, the room is carefully monitored for all environmental factors. With Cinzia & Andrea providing context, note the size of the doors ~

Un Assagio

Recently we fondly reminisced and opened a bottle of the 2007 Coevo.
 
The 2007 Coevo is a blend of 60% Sangiovese, 15% Merlot, 15% Petit Verdot and 10% Cabernet.  In the glass, the wine is a dark, blackish red. It's nearly opaque.  Aromas are redolent of cherries, leather, pipe tobacco and "soft" smoke.  On the palate, the wine exhibits a deep core of ripe wild cherry fruit with fresh herbs, leather and minerals in a supporting role.  The Sangiovese appears to be dominating the blend at the moment, but I sense, texturally a large assertion from the Merlot.  This is smooth and perfectly balanced with acidity and silky tannins.  Showing more personality than the first time I tried this just over a year ago.  Has tons of life left.  92 points.  About $50 in the US.

~  The label of Coevo is designed with embossed words that mimic an hourglass allowing time to progress, but never pass.  The quote is from St. Augustine ~

Cesare expressed the idea of Coevo eloquently.  "Coevo makes no compromises. It is the result of slow and hard work that my brother and I have been pursuing with passion and pride for many years with the aim of creating a wine that speaks of the region and that somehow expresses the 'wisdom' of the contemporaneous agricultural time.  For us, time is circular." 

And so it goes......





Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Sandrone Charms





Founded in 1978, the Sandrone winery has been synonymous with grand Barolo ever since. Now run by brothers Luciano and his younger, winemaking brother Luca, the family farms approximately 27 hectares of vineyards, about 75% of which are owned by them directly.  Since 2001, Sandrone has focused on creating 5 distinct wines; two Barolo, a Nebbolo d'Alba, a Barbera and a Dolcetto. Today's article focuses on the estate's newest release;  the 2012 Dolcetto d'Alba.
 
Ever since being introduced to Italian wine over 25 years ago,  I gravitated toward the ripe, boisterous, almost playful nature of Dolcetto almost immediately.  It's often an "easy" wine;  the perfect wine for drinking every day, which is exactly what the Piedmontese use it for.  Dolcetto comes in many forms, but I've always been partial to the versions from Alba.  They seem more complete, more complex and often times riper than others.  Today's subject is no example.



The 2012 from Sandrone Dolcetto d'Alba is a deep violet with purple hues.  The aroma of the wine is open and expressive with little coercion.  Flowers, smokey plum notes, and cake spices are prevalent. On the palate the wine is fruity and vibrant.  It's forward with it's flavors without being cloying or excessively rich.  The balance here is deftly achieved with plenty of acidity to prop up the fruit and refresh the palate.  The finish is tinged with smoke and floral notes.  88 points, and a nice value at just under $20. 
 
Dolcetto is easily paired with food.  From lighter pasta to antipasto, it's versatility is part of it's charm.  Here  we opened it with fresh made soppresatta, Tuscan Pecorino and some crusty bread before a Sunday Gravy dinner. 

~ Balance, versatile and charming: Sandrone Dolcetto ~
E vero!



Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Butcher of Panzano


~ The large clump of Cypress trees on the "White Road" to Castellina in Chianti ~

As I've previously written, Castellina in Chianti is about as picturesque a Tuscan hill town as you will come across.  For us, it holds special meaning as it's home to Andrea Cecchi and his winery.  We met Andrea on the steps of the Church, in the piazza as is the customary gathering place.  We were meeting for dinner and Andrea wished to show us "Chianti through his eyes".....
 
For the next six hours this warm, gracious and generous friend led us on a remarkable excursion that included not only a tour of his estate vineyards and winery, but of every corner of Chianti.  It was, without question,  one of the highlights in a trip filled with wonderful moments. 

~ Part of the Cecchi Wine Cellars ~

We tasted his  2013 Villa Cerna Sangiovese  from barrel.  It's destined to be Chianti Classico but is yet unblended. The 2013 Chianti Classico already shows amazing purity of flavors from the barrel.  It's very aromatic with lots of floral notes, red fruits, and soft wood notes on the nose and palate.  It will be one to watch for once bottled.  We then retrieved a few bottles of wine from his cellar to take to dinner.  

~ Andrea Cecchi retrieving a barrel sample of his 2013 Sangiovese ~

Winding through the roads of Chianti can be hungry work and firmly in his charge, we decided to stop in Panzano to visit the renowned butcher, Dario Cecchini - as Andrea called him, "The Crazy Butcher of Panzano".
 
Larger than life, with the boisterous, energetic personality to match,  Dario has been featured in Food & Wine, The New Yorker, The New York Times, Bon Appetit and scores of other publications in addition to various appearances on gourmet related television shows.  
 
He is an expert at his craft.  After taking over from his Father,  he continues to lovingly butcher only two animals,  cows and pigs.  Nothing more.  He says lovingly because to Cecchini,  it's an honor butcher an animal. It's a privilege and he insists on using every piece of the animals he butchers.  Nothing is wasted.  
 
By day, Cecchini runs his butcher shop.  By night, the counter is closed,  but the foyer is opened to the town, to passersby in what can only be called a roving party.  Crostini lathered with Dario's own lardo,  cured meats, olives, and homemade wine are offered for the price of a smile.  It's a jovial fun atmosphere and when we ran into winemaker Marco Pallanti, from Castello di Ama,  the die was cast.  We were going to visit Dario's restaurant - the "Officina".


~ The Entrance to Dario Cecchini's Shop ~

~ The Counter of Cecchini's Shop ~

~ Cecchini ages his meat with the utmost care ~

You don't meet Dario.  You experience him.   Dressed in a red, white and green Court Jester outfit,  he darts from place to place making certain is "Squadra Manzo di Cecchini"  (Cecchini's Beef Team)  is ready to perform.  Yes, dinner is not served, it's performed outside under welcoming pergolas at long wooden communal tables. 

~ Dario grabbed us:  "To Beef or not to Beef" ~
 
For reasons passing understanding - and I can only attribute it to the great company of the evening - I didn't take a single picture of the menu that was presented.  We were drinking, laughing, and sharing the banter of Marco and Andrea - absorbing the conversation like a sponge and were simply immersed in beef.  
 
The menu is performed like a stage show each night.  Horns announce courses, the dishes are announced in Italian, the Squadra is presented for curtain calls. The Menu........ 
 
Beef Tartare (simply the best I've ever eaten)
Beef Carpaccio
Thin Sliced Flank Steak
White Beans with Oil & Herbs
Raw Vegetables & Oil for dipping
Fiorentina Steak
Fiorentina Steak
Baked Potatoes w/ "Chianti Butter"
Fiorentina Steak
Lemon Cake & Italian Military Spirts for digestion
 

~ This I found!  Baked potatoes with Dario's "Chianti Butter" - Lardo mixed with fennel pollen, garlic, pepper and rosemary.  It's otherwordly - but a little goes a long cholesterol rising way ~
 
It was an homage to cows.  It was the most flavorful, tender, succulent steak I've ever eaten.  It was more than I could ever eat and served with no end in sight.  You must beg to be finished. 

~ Cecchini at Right, Presenting the first two Fiorentina of the Evening ~

And we had wine.   Marco Pallanti had brought some of the 2012 San Giusto Chianti Classico.  The wine is a pretty ruby color from a wonderful vintage.  It was spectacular with the tartare and the white beans.  Floral, earthy and medium bodied, this 100% Sangiovese is reminiscent of it's pricier sibling, Percarlo.  Long, lovely, dusty herb like finish.  Juicy and fresh.  90 points. 

~ San Giusto A Rentennano 2012 ~
 
 
~ Marco Pallanti of Castello di Ama, & Andrea Cecchi ~
 
As I mentioned, Andrea had retrieved several bottles of wine from his cellar to bring for dinner.  Each one was seemingly better than the next.  Quality is quickly on the rise at Cecchi.  With Andrea at the helm along with his brother Cesare,  the pair are propelling Cecchi forward.   
 
The 2010 Villa Cerna Chianti Classico Riserva was everything I've come to expect from this wine.  A blend of 90% Sangiovese and 10% Colorino from estate vineyards in Castellina,  this wine harmoniously combines power and elegance. It's deep ruby in the glass with almost black reflections.  Redolent aromas of crushed berry, herbs and new leather fan from the glass.  The flavors follow the aromas and the wine is medium to full bodied with ripe, dusty tannins - like the white road that runs directly past the vineyard.  I've had this wine a few times now and it consistently impresses. 92 points, about $25 in the US.  Find it! 

~ The Villa Cerna CCR will soon bear the new "Gran Selezione" designation ~
 
As the Fiorentina started rolling out of the kitchen,  we upped the ante with the Tre Bicchieri wine, Coevo.   The 2010 Cecchi Coevo is Andrea's contemporary vision of that year's Tuscan harvest.  The blend for Coevo changes each year, as vintage dictates.  The 2010 is 60% Sangiovese, 20% Petit Verdot, 10% Merlot and 10% Cabernet.  The Sangiovese & Cabernet come from Castellina in Chianti while the Merlot and Petit Verdot come from Cecchi's estate in Maremma.  This is a massive wine. It has an absolutely huge core of wild red and black fruits, with cocoa, espresso, licorice, smoke and cured meat on the nose and palate.  It's more approachable than it was at Gambero Rosso - but frankly, I'm thinking thats an "Italy" thing. This will be a 15 year wine and was amazing with the meat.  94 points. Simply wonderful.
 
~ 2010 Cecchi Coevo alongside the 1995 Spargolo - sadly corked ~
 
Cecchini may well have the ultimate Italian Steak House.  His legend precedes him.  It is well deserved.  His restaurant and his Maccelleria are absolute must visits for those in Panzano. 
 
~ The Maestro ~
So much more to come.....









Thursday, July 24, 2014

Reprising Avvoltore


~ The long Cypress lined white road to Moris Farms ~

Maremma is a special place.  Although it's unquestionably part of Tuscany,  it's untamed Tuscany and unlike the hilly central area of the province,  the Mediterranean Sea exerts it's influence notably here.  The air is perfumed with the sweet, briny aroma of salinity.  Cool breezes from the ocean lower night time temperatures and carry the smells of the scrub brush that is ubiquitous in this area.  My friend Emiliano Falsini crafts beautiful wines here at the estate of Moris Farms. 

 
~ We made Fiorentina with garlic spinach for the pairing ~

Moris Farms' Avvoltore has always seemed under the radar as far as Super Tuscans as concerned.  That's good for my readers as this is a superb bottle of wine and the price has remained stable over many vintages.  We recently enjoyed the 2009.  A comparable note on the 2007 is here.
 
Falsini ferments the wine in neutral cement tanks and then transfers the blend to French barrique for 12 months.  After 6 months bottle aging the wine is released to the market.  Although a blend,  Avvoltore is mainly Sangiovese, with 20% Cabernet and 5% Syrah rounding out the mix.  

~ Guarded Avvoltore, quietly resting ~

In the glass, the wine is a dark ruby with shimmering purple highlights.  Aromas are bountiful, with ripe, rich black cherry, Mediterranean herbs, smoke and fresh leather eminating from the glass.  On the palate, the wine is intense with black fruit flavors tinged with smokey meat notes.  The piney, sagey, rosemary underbrush traces are notable and the finish is ripe, long and tannic but balanced well with acidity.  Drinkable now, I see no reason to cellar this long term. It was delicious with the char on the meat and is quite a good value.  93 points, about $40. 

~ Avvoltore is 75% Sangiovese, 20% Cabernet and 5% Syrah ~

Salute!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Pasta con Piselli e Prosciutto



~ Chiesa in Castellina ~

Castellina in Chianti is a beautiful hill town perfectly situated in the heart of Chianti Classico.  As I wrote earlier, we fell in love with this place and visited it often during our stay in Tuscany.  We had several excellent meals there and one of them involved an ethereal pasta that I was determined to replicate once we returned home. 
 
See, my wife® loves peas.  In almost any form.  So it wasn't surprising when she gravitated toward this primi on Trattoria La Torre's menu.  But pasta, like many other things,  is different in Italy.  I've made pasta with peas and prosciutto before,  but never had I seen it presented like this.  This was different and is now the new standard.  So what's the key?  Read on.....
 
 
 
Pasta con Piselli e Prosciutto 
 
There are two keys to this recipe that set it apart.  First, the prosciutto used in Castellina was well rendered and almost caramelized to the point where it had a crunchy exterior and a soft, tender, melty interior.  Second, the peas.
 
In addition to being tossed into the final dish,  the sauce for the pasta clearly contained pureed peas.  This was an idea I simply had never thought of.  It increased the pea flavor of the dish exponentially.  Plus, and this cannot be overstated, it contributed to the balance of the dish.  Here you get the sweetness of the peas, the saltiness of the prosciutto and the savory component from grated cheese - you have a masterpiece! 
 
1/2 cup frozen peas, plus more for plating
1 pint light cream
Extra virgin olive oil
4 oz. prosciutto, diced
1 pound (500g) Fettucine or Tagliatelle
Salt, Pepper, Grated Reggiano
 
Start by rendering the prosciutto.  I was determined to do this slowly in order to develop that level of crunch to the exterior but frankly,  I failed.  I think the result will be better achieved if the pieces are cut larger,  almost like strips so that there is more surface area touching the pan.  I used pre-packaged diced prosciutto and the result was ok,  but not ideal.

~ Diced Prosciutto.  Take your time rendering it ~

Next combine the peas in a food processor or blender.  Season with salt and pepper and add just a touch of cream and oil.  Pulse slightly to break up the peas.  As they start to come together, begin drizzling the cream until the peas take on the consistency of melted ice cream.  I used about 1/2 the cream.   Taste for seasoning and adjust.  Set aside.  You will thin the pea sauce with some of the pasta water before serving. 


~  This is the pureed frozen peas combined with salt, pepper, cream & a drizzle of olive oil.  Note the consistency ~

Cook the pasta until just short of al dente and drain to the pan where you've been rendering the prosciutto.  Reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking liquid to thin the pea puree.  Combine the pasta, the pea puree and a handful or two of whole peas to the pot and stir to coat.  Drizzle the pasta cooking water a little at a time so that the dish doesn't become watery.  Toss the pasta thoroughly and allow to finish cooking a minute or two to absorb the flavor of the sauce. 


~ This is the pasta in a serving platter.  The sauce clinged to the noodles very well and was a lot greener than this picture shows.  ~

This is very easy to make and essentially is a four ingredient dish if you count the cream.  The key is to drizzle the liquid into the pea puree slowly.  It was the first time I replicated this and it was trial and error but it came out very well.   The chef's plate....


~ In this close up, you can see the color of the sauce a bit more clearly ~

This dish was a hit - even among the kids who don't count peas among their favorite vegetables.  The prosciutto, and I suspect in Castellina they really used Guanciale which probably contributes to the difference,  needs some improvement but my wife gave this a hearty thumbs up, albeit with the caveat that it wasn't quite as good as in Italy.  
 
Well, duh. 


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A Day at Monteraponi




It's a short, winding, dusty strada bianca that leads from Vagliagli center to Radda in Chianti,  but it's a lovely ride for it's untamed, serene landscapes that have seemingly remained unchanged for hundreds of years.  The backroads of Chianti lead to many a treasure and just outside Radda lies the beautiful estate of Monteraponi.   Although just a few minutes from the center of Radda,  Monteraponi is isolated in natural beauty.  Winemaker Michele Braganti sums it up nicely: 
 
"Monteraponi is an independant ecosystem, it's a village surrounded by the forest on all sides, like a monopole in France. The property is about 200 hectares stretching through a valley over passed by the Arbia river, with oak trees, and over 1,200 olive trees. Of the total area of land, only 10 hectares are vineyards and the rest semi-native and wild. There is a lake, where I go to fish from time by time...to relax."



I arrived shortly after lunch, on a glorius Tuscan day - cool enough to enjoy being outdoors,  but warm enough to appreciate the nurturing dampness of the Monteraponi cellars.  Alessandra Deiana provided a brief orientation of the estate and then we headed to the cellars to barrel taste some of Monteraponi's recent vintages. 
 

~ In addition to a wonderful Chianti Classico,  Monteraponi produces two single vineyard Riservas.  In the picture above, centered just underneath the power lines, lies the Il Campitello Vineyard.  Some 40+ years old, Il Campitello is surrounded by forest on all sides ~

~ The top wine of the estate is widely considered to be the Riserva Baron Ugo.  Although difficult to tell,  this vineyard is among the steepest you will ever come across.  The vines spread across the hillside and harvest is only possible by hand ~

Off to the cellars to taste..........

~ Cement fermenters at Monteraponi.  Briganti prefers the inert aspects of cement for his Sangiovese ~


~ Large casks for Aging.  It's hard to tell, but these barrels are oval as opposed to the more traditional circular shape. Alessandra explained that the oval barrels take up less space in the cellar, and they increase the surface area of wine to barrel which further reduces the impact of the oak ~  

The first wine we tasted was the 2013 Chianti Classico.   The 2013 is a deep ruby in the glass.  Clear and vibrant, it's got vibrant fruit flavors and aromas of mouth watering tart cherry, minerality and spice. 
 
Next was the 2012 Il Campitello Chianti Classico Riserva.  This lovely wine, resting in barrel,  is glorius.  Absolutely glorius.  It's full of flowers, minerals and crushed vibrant fruit on the nose and palate.  It's amazingly pure.  It's my favorite wine from Monteraponi and will be my benchmark for the estate.  Seek this out when it's released. 

~ Alessandra drawing samples of the 2012 Il Campitello Chianti Classico Riserva ~

We then made our way to a pair of the Baron Ugo.  If  Il Campitello is the elegant, graceful Queen, then Baron Ugo is the more muscular, erudite King.  Alessandra explained that 2011 was a difficult vintage for Monteraponi because of the varying conditions which led to almost a 40% reduction in the grapes they used. However, this selectivity appears to have paid off. 
 
The 2011 Baron Ugo Chianti Classico Riserva  has lots of concentration and power behind its black cherry flavors. There's lots of minerality here and already a tiny trace of leather. Medium to full bodied and although I was impressed with this wine, the 2013 Baron Ugo will be even better. Vibrant and pure, with lots of power, tannin, acids and crushed fruit, everything is elevated with this wine. Full body and a long, long finish. When you taste this wine and stare at the vineyard, you can see the flavors.  This is beautiful Chianti. 

~ Larger circular barrels in Monteraponi's Cellars ~  


We then left the cellar and headed over to the office for a tasting of bottled wines.  
~ Monteraponi is as beautiful as the wine is good ~

Finished Wines
 
 The first wine we tried was the 2013 Trebbiano.   Michele explained that Trebbiano can not be a DOC when grown in Chianti so the wine bears the Toscana Centrale designation.   There's lots of wonderful extraction here.   Aromas are clean and classic with white stone fruit, lemongrass and citrus notes.  On the palate, the medium gold wine is viscous, with a solid medium body and crisp acidity.  Flavors for the nose and the finish is dotted with grapefruit.  Delicate and refreshing.  I brought a bottle of this home to the Villa and we enjoyed it poolside with some antipasto.  I can't imagine a better setting for it.  87 points. 

~ Monteraponi Trebbiano Toscana Centrale ~

One hallmark of Briganti's reds is clearly the minerality that is central to each wine he produces.  His winemaking methods allow this quality to speak,  but it's the soil that imparts this wonderful complexity to the wine.  Using the phrase a picture is worth a thousand words; voila! 


~ On the left is Galestro.  Galestro is all over Tuscany and makes up the soil of the Il Campitello vineyard.  It's delicate, and if you will, feminine.  Briganti grabbed a piece and snapped it in half with his fingers.  It's covered in powder.  To the right is Albarese.  This is harder and rounder.  Whereas Galestro extends into the ground like layers, Albarese appears to cover the surface of the ground like strewn river stones.  Albarese makes up the soil in the Baron Ugo vineyard ~

2012 Chianti Classico:
 
This wine is simply the soul of this estate and Chianti Classico in a bottle.  90% Sangiovese and 10% Canaiolo, it's full of vibrant ripe berry fruit, minerality, sweet tobacco and spice.  Front to back, top to bottom, this is a must buy vintage after vintage for lovers of Chianti.  88 points and fairly priced at about $20. 
 
2011 Il Campitello Chianti Classico Riserva:  I love this vineyard.  I've not had a wine from it yet that I did not think was spectacular.  The deep ruby color is sexy and alluring.   The aromas are redolent of flowers, bright red fruits,  and mineral.  The flavors follow the nose and add a savory, tart mouth watering sensation that compels another sip.  It stands among my favorite Chianti wines and a must purchase each vintage.  94 points. 
 
I took a bottle home to the villa and a few nights later we opened it with Penne tossed with boar sausage, basil and local fresh tomatoes.  Dined al fresco under the pergola and listened to the dogs barking below in the valley.  They were no doubt chasing some of the cinghiale that was on our plate.  A match made in heaven.  




2010 Baron Ugo Chianti Classico Riserva: 
 
A great vintage in the hands of a talented winemaker who gets great grapes from amazing terroir is about as close to a guarantee as you'll get.  Baron Ugo is Michele Braganti's child.  The blackish red Sangiovese has pronouced aromas of flowers, crushed red fruit, sage, and meat.  The full bodied wine is tannic, with masses of fruit on a large frame supported by mouth watering acids.  Long, savory, ripe finish.  Among the best 2010's I've had.  94 points. 


~  The Tasting Lineup ~

It's difficult to say more about Michele and his beautiful partner Alessandra.  They are humble, passionate people.  Alessandra and I clearly prefer Il Campitello to Baron Ugo,  but it's splitting hairs.  She jokingly patted him on the back for making the 2011 Il Campitello and Michele jokingly patted himself on the back for Baron Ugo!  They are friendly and graciously opened their home and cellars to me.  I can't wait to see them again.  Great people making great wine.  But don't take my word for it, try the wines for yourself!





~ Michele & Me ~
 Spero ci vediamo presto amici!