Outstanding Traditional Rosso di Montalcino

Today’s Story: Biondi-Santi (Tenuta Greppo)

Biondi-Santi (Tenuta Greppo) traces its roots to the mid-1800s when Clemente Santi realized the immense promise of the land and vineyards in the heart of Montalcino. A writer with a profound knowledge of chemistry, Clemente set about crafting wines built for long-term aging and utilized racking and barrel aging techniques that were much more advanced than neighboring producers. Clemente started gaining admiration for his wines, particularly the 1865 vintage of red wine at the 1867 Universal Expo in Paris. After Clemente passed away, his grandson Ferruccio took over and continued the drive of producing age worthy wines with 100% Sangiovese. Though he passed away in 1917, in 1932 Ferruccio was credited with the invention of Brunello di Montalcino by an interministerial commission studying the area.

Ferruccio’s son Tancredi took over management of the estate following his father’s death, quickly becoming an ambassador for Brunello and bringing the wines to new heights. One of the unique practices Tancredi started is the refilling of old bottles of reserve wines, beginning with the 1888 and 1891 vintages in 1927. With Brunello wines at new heights of quality, particularly those of Biondi-Santi, Tancredi’s son Franco eventually took over the estate and brought them to wider audiences. Franco travelled the world tirelessly to showcase the longevity and beauty of his wines, while also growing the estate from 4 hectares to the current 25. Today, Franco’s sons Jacopo and Alessandra work at the estate and are joined by Jacopo’s son Tancredi who marks the seventh generation of family tradition.

The winemaking practices at Biondi-Santi are very traditional, beginning with manual harvesting of fruit and sorting in the vineyards at the end of each row. The fruit is gently crushed for native yeast fermentation in concrete tanks, with the musk pumped over twice daily. Malolactic fermentation occurs under temperature control, lasting 30 days, before the wine is transferred to large Slavonian oak barrels to age. The Brunellos then spend at least 3 years in these barrels before being bottled, where it sits for at least another 6 months before release.

Today’s Wine: 2015 Rosso di Montalcino

100% Sangiovese; 13.5% ABV

The 2015 Rosso di Montalcino is translucent medium garnet in color. This wine showed its best after two hours in the decanter, with the nose showcasing aromas of cherry, dried strawberry, tomato paste, red rose, licorice, tobacco, dried earth, savory herbs, and mocha. Once on the palate, the wine displays notes of cranberry, tart cherry, raspberry, strawberry, violet, leather, tea leaf, woody spice, crushed rock, and underbrush. This is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium fine-grained tannins, and a medium (+) length finish.

Price: $110 (cheaper in Europe). Certainly not cheap (particularly for Rosso di Montalcino) but an outstanding bottle of wine that lives up to the great Biondi-Santi name. This is a very precise wine drinking beautifully now, but the ageability is certainly there. Pair with meat sauce pasta, lamb with rosemary, or Pecorino cheese.

Incredible QPR From Chianti Classico

Today’s Story: Castello di Monsanto

Castello di Monsanto is a family-owned estate and winery in the Barberino Tavarnelle municipality of Chianti Classico. Aldo Bianchi was born in San Gimignano, however he left before WWII to seek opportunities in northern Italy. When Aldo visited Chianti again, however, he fell in love with Castello di Monsanto and purchased the property. It was Aldo’s son Fabrizio, however, who through a love of wine and entrepreneurial spirit realized the potential of their terroir and produced their first wine in 1962 using fruit from the Il Poggio vineyard. This was a special endeavor, not simply for it being the first Monsanto wine, but because it was the first single-vineyard Chianti Classico Cru. Fabrizio did, however, make a Chianti Classico Riserva in 1962 as well. As time passed Fabrizio augmented the Monsanto portfolio with Fabrizio Bianchi Sangioveto Grosso (100% Sangiovese in 1974), Nemo (100% Cabernet Sauvignon in 1981), Fabrizio Bianchi Chardonnay (in 1990), and more. Today, Fabrizio’s daughter Laura (who joined in 1989) works alongside him at Monsanto to carry the estate onto another generation.

To learn more about Castello di Monsanto and view pictures of the vineyards, cellar, and castello, check out the website here.

Today’s Wine: 2016 Chianti Classico Riserva

90% Sangiovese, 10% Canaiolo and Colorino; 14% ABV

The 2016 Chianti Classico Riserva is mostly opaque medium ruby in color with garnet hues. I decanted this for 2 hours thanks to its youth, and the nose showcases aromas of ripe cherry, cranberry, plum, anise, loamy earth, tar, savory herbs, and light oak. Once on the palate, the wine displays notes of brambleberry, dusty black raspberry, pomegranate, black cherry, tobacco, crushed rocky soil, mild baking spice, coffee bean, and oak. This is medium-bodied with medium acidity, medium (+) dusty tannins, and a long finish.

Price: $25. Outstanding QPR, and one of those wines to buy by the case to stock in your cellar. This is incredibly young but approachable with air, and will drink well for another decade or two at least. Pair with pasta bolognese, ossobucco, or meat lover’s pizza.

Traditional Brunello di Montalcino for a Great Value

Today’s Story: Fattoria dei Barbi

Fattoria dei Barbi is a historic estate in Montalcino, founded in 1790 by the Colombini family who were one of the region’s most influential and noble families. Though they established Barbi in 1790, the family owned land in Montalcino dating back to 1352 and first built Poggio alle Mura (now Castello Banfi) and then Argiano. The Colombini family greatly helped build the prestige and quality of Brunello di Montalcino as one of the original producers, with bottles back to 1870 in their cellars today. Barbi was the first Montalcino estate to ship wine to France (1817), by mail order (1832), and to the United States (1962), England (1969), and Japan (1975). Today the estate spans more than 306 hectares and is under guidance of 20th generation family member Stefano Cinelli Colombini.

To learn more about Stefano, this historic estate, or peruse their portfolio of wines, you can visit the website here.

Today’s Wine: 2015 Brunello di Montalcino

100% Sangiovese; 14.5% ABV

The 2015 Brunello is medium to deep garnet in color and mostly opaque. Given a couple hours to decant, the wine blossoms to showcase a nose of black cherry, redcurrant, dried strawberry, cedar, tobacco leaf, worn leather, loamy earth, gravel, and savory herbs. Once on the palate, the wine displays notes of plum, juicy blackberry, black raspberry, stemmy tomato paste, blue florals, licorice, tobacco, oregano, espresso, and black pepper. This is medium- to full-bodied with medium acidity, medium (+) grippy tannins, and a long finish.

Price: $45. The 2015 Barbi Brunello di Montalcino is a great value for the region and is beautifully traditional. Give this another 5 years of bottle age and drink it over the following decade. Pair with Bistecca alla Fiorentina, herb-roasted leg of lamb, or Pecorino cheese.

Outstanding Value From the Tuscan New Wave

Today’s Story: Montepeloso

Montepeloso is a small, 15 acre estate located in the Tuscan comune of Suvereto. Current owner and winemaker Fabio Chiarelotto purchased the estate in 1998, though Montepeloso was already producing world class wines under original owners Willi and Doris Neukom. When Fabio took the helm, he undertook an immense overhaul of the vineyards, reshaping them over the course of 8 years by retraining, pruning, and regrafting a significant number of vines. Fabio loved the wines of Montepeloso before this drastic feat, however he rightfully assumed that the terroir had so much more to offer in producing elegant and finessed wines rather than concentrated examples easy to make in the hot climate. Fabio’s wines are proclaimed as some of the greatest examples of Tuscany’s “new wave,” characterized as “beautiful, profound, and expressive.” Fabio practices biodynamic viticultural methods, relatively short macerations, fermentation using only native yeasts, and bottles his wines without filtration.

Today’s Wine: 2016 Eneo

45% Sangiovese, 35% Montepulciano, 15% Alicante, 5% Marselan; 14.5% ABV

The 2016 Eneo is opaque medium ruby in color with some purple hues. This needs at least 1-2 hours to really open up, but once it does the nose showcases aromas of plum, blueberry, black cherry, anise, lavender, cigar box, dry chalky soil, dried green herbs, light baking spice, milk chocolate, and light oak. Once in the mouth, this beauty displays notes of brambleberry, black raspberry, black plum, mild tobacco, scorched earth, slate, savory herbs, black pepper, and espresso. This is full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, fine-grained medium (+) tannins, and a long finish dominated by black fruit and purple/blue florals.

Price: $45. This is an outstanding value, and certainly one of the greatest out of Tuscany I’ve had in a long, long time. The finesse and depth this shows at such a young age is breathtaking, and I would love to stick this into a blind tasting lineup with wines twice it’s price. Pair with Bistecca alla Fiorentina, hearty red sauce pastas, or charcuterie and Parmigiano Reggiano.

Chianti Classico Built for the Long Haul

Today’s Story: Fontodi

Fontodi is a historical wine estate located in Panzano in the heart of Chianti Classico. Though vines have been cultivated there dating to the Roman Empire and vinification history at the estate traces its roots to at least the 16th century, the Manetti family who currently operates the estate acquired it more recently in 1968. Prior to purchasing Fontodi, the Manettis produced terracotta tiles for several centuries which, alongside winemaking, is another activity the Chianti region is famous for. The Manetti family poured a large amount of resources into the estate, which today consists of around 130 hectares with 70 hectares planted to vine and certified organic. The great quality of their tiles crossed over into the wines, which come from vineyards that are sustainably-farmed where the family eschews chemical use. Vinification takes place in Fontodi’s incredibly modern cellar built across multiple levels to make use of gravity flow and the wines age in French oak barrels.

Today’s Wine: 2015 Chianti Classico

100% Sangiovese; 15% ABV

The 2015 Chianti Classico is opaque deep ruby in color. I decanted this for 3 hours and drank it over the following hour. The nose showcases aromas of black cherry, blackcurrant, black plum, red licorice, rose and violet, tobacco, truffle, scorched earth, mocha, white pepper, and sage. There is also some heat which throws off the balance and needs time to integrate. Once in the mouth, the wine displays notes of blackberry, jammy blueberry, rich black plum, black cherry, cigar box, graphite, dried chalky soil, ground green herbs, black pepper, and espresso. This is medium- to full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, grippy medium (+) tannins, and a long finish dominated by black and blue fruit. Needs at minimum another 5 years, as it’s kind of a kick in the teeth right now, but the quality is certainly there.

Price: $42. A very solid QPR with this one, but there are other Chianti Classicos that are cheaper, more approachable now, offer similar complexity, AND have the structure to go the distance like this bottle. But don’t get me wrong, this is certainly worth a try if it’s in your price range and you have the patience to lay it down. Pair this with lasagna, chicken parm, or pizza.

Outstanding Value from Chianti Classico

Today’s Story: Castello di Volpaia

Castello di Volpaia is a historic winery situated in the fortified medieval village of Volpaia in the heart of Chianti Classico. Drenched in winemaking history, Volpaia’s viticultural roots trace to 1172 and they were a founding member of the Lega del Chianti (Chianti League) in 1250. In 1966, a printer and bookbinder named Raffaello Stianti purchased the Volpaia estate and 2/3 of the village, later giving it to his daughter Giovannella and her newlywed husband Carlo Mascheroni as a wedding gift in 1972. Carlo and Giovannella instituted a major renovation project to modernize the winery and convert historical buildings into cellars, all while instituting an underground “wineduct” that carries wine from their fermentation tanks to the cellar by gravity. Castello di Volpaia is the highest elevation winery in Chianti Classico with 114 acres of vineyards situated between 1,300-2,100 feet above sea level. All viticultural practices at the estate are certified organic by Q Certificazioni srl.

Today’s Wine: 2016 Chianti Classico Riserva

100% Sangiovese; 13.5% ABV

The 2016 Chianti Classico Riserva is mostly opaque and medium garnet in color with ruby hues. This needs to decant for an hour or two, but once it does the nose blossoms to showcase aromas of black cherry, blackcurrant, anise, lavender, smoked game, tobacco leaf, damp gravel, dark chocolate, sage, and oak. Once on the palate, this wine delivers notes of blackberry compote, spiced black plum, brambleberry, black cherry, violet, licorice, crushed rock, wet volcanic soil, smoke, savory green herbs, and blood. This is full-bodied with high acidity, medium (+) tannins, and a very long finish. The wine is beautifully complex for how young it is, and based on its structure I would give this another 7-10 years to develop in the bottle.

Price: $35. This is one of the greatest value Italian wines I’ve had, and every time I find either this vintage or the 2015 I stock up. Pair this with chicken parmigiana, ossobuco, or lamb chops.

An Italian Great

Today’s Story: Marchesi Antinori and Tenuta Tignanello

Marchesi Antinori traces its roots to 1385 when Giovanni di Piero Antinori joined the Arte Fiorentina dei Vinattieri (Florentine Winemakers’ Guild) and the family has been making wine since through 26 generations. I recently reviewed one of the family’s other wines, the 2016 Chianti Classico Riserva Tenuta Tignanello in Chianti Classico for a Remarkable Value. Interestingly, that Chianti Classico is made using fruit from Tenuta Tignanello, one of the great estates owned and operated by the Antinori family. Tenuta Tignanello is located between the Greve and Pesa river valleys in Tuscany on 319 hectares with 127 hectares planted to vine in calcareous rocky soils with alberese and marl. Though some of the Tignanello fruit goes into the Chianti, Tignanello’s prized vineyards and signature wines of Tignanello and Solaia are some of the most influential and important wines in Tuscan winemaking history.

Today’s Wine: 2012 Tignanello

85% Sangiovese, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cabernet Franc; 13.5% ABV

The 2012 Tignanello is deep ruby red in color and almost entirely opaque. This wine requires at least an hour in the decanter to truly blossom, but once it opens up the nose is characterized by aromas of blackcurrant, blueberry, red cherry, strawberry, violet, blue florals, graphite, smokey earth, crushed rock, savory green herbs, and tar. On the palate, this wine showcases notes of plum, black cherry, wild raspberry, licorice, rosemary, dried tobacco, red and blue florals, dried and dusty rocky soil, white pepper, and clove. This wine is full-bodied with moderate acidity, medium dusty tannins, and a long finish while being elegant and supple in mouthfeel and supremely classy overall.

Price: $100. Tignanello is always worthy of its price tag and even though it is not cheap provides great value for high quality Italian wine. Pair this with bistecca alla fiorentina, herb-roasted lamb, or assorted cheese and charcuterie.

Chianti Classico for a Remarkable Value

Today’s Story: Marchesi Antinori

Marchesi Antinori traces its roots to 1385 when Giovanni di Piero Antinori joined the Arte Fiorentina dei Vinattieri (Florentine Winemakers’ Guild) and the family has been making wine since through 26 generations. While the historic epicenter of the Antinori “empire” rests in Tuscany and Umbria, over time the family purchased vineyards in various regions throughout Italy and the world to bolster their portfolio and live a consistent goal of exploration and experimentation. Not only is Marchesi Antinori one of the largest wine companies in Italy, they are also one of the oldest family operated companies in the world. Today, Albiera Antinori is President of Marchesi Antinori and is supported by her sisters Allegra and Alessia, while their father Marchese Piero Antinori acts as the Honorary President.

Though the Antinori family owns what I’d say are too many estates for me to justify listing here, their website has great maps and lists of their properties here and it is worth checking out. Further, there is a really cool timeline tracing the family back to 1179 here, which I could not do any justice to in trying to reproduce myself.

Today’s Wine: 2016 Chianti Classico Riserva Tenuta Tignanello

90% Sangiovese, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon; 14% ABV

The 2016 Chianti Classico Riserva is medium ruby in color and slightly transparent. Once this opens up, the nose showcases aromas of blackberry, cherry, cranberry, black licorice, chocolate, purple florals and rose, crushed rock, green herbs, and dried earth. On the palate, this wine displays notes of blackberry, blueberry, plum, forest floor, mocha, sweet tobacco, spice, savory herbs, and slight vanilla. This is full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium dusty tannins, and a long elegant finish.

Price: $35. One of the greatest Chianti Classicos I’ve enjoyed and consistently incredible value after Antinori switched exclusively to Tenuta Tignanello grapes in 2011. Pair this with red sauce meat pasta, pizza, veal marsala, or chicken parm.

Santa Ynez Sangiovese

Today’s Story: Jonata

Short and sweet again today, as I wrote about Jonata and a different wine in my post Why Wait for Screaming Eagle? back on October 16.

Long story short, if you haven’t read my prior post, Jonata is owned by Stan Kroenke who also owns the LA Rams and Screaming Eagle. Kroenke bought 586 acres of property, though only 84 acres are planted under vine, and like many wineries in the area Jonata found success planting Rhône varietals such as Syrah but also grows Sangiovese and Bordeaux varietals. For more I’d steer you to my prior post.

Today’s Wine: 2010 Tierra

95% Sangiovese, 5% Syrah; 14.9% ABV

This Sangiovese is medium to deep ruby in color. Once this opened up in the decanter, I got aromas of blackberry, blueberry, redcurrant, mocha, smoked game, leather, and black tea leaf. In the mouth, the wine showcases notes of black cherry, blackcurrant, anise, charred earth, smoke, dark chocolate, and espresso. Overall this doesn’t have as much red fruit as I imagined it might, with the wine drinking very dark. This is medium-bodied with high acidity, medium (+) tannins, and a long, inky finish with notes of ground coffee.

Price: $90. I’d love to see this closer to the $75 mark, but I do believe it is fairly priced given its rarity, library release status from the winery, and quality. Pair this with roasted game, a rare steak, or pasta with a beef and tomato sauce.

Pasta Night? Look No Further

Today’s Story: Santa Margherita

Santa Margherita was founded in 1935 by Count Gaetano Marzotto, a pioneering vintner who helped revitalize a portion of the Venetian countryside in both farming and winemaking. With a goal of producing authentic Italian wines full of regional character and tradition, Marzotto expanded the Santa Margherita brand to vineyards in Alto Adige and Tuscany. Famous for their Pinot Grigio, Santa Margherita also makes Chianti Classico Riserva, Prosecco Superiore, and Sparkling Rosé.

Since its beginning, Santa Margherita put a major emphasis on preserving the environment through sustainability efforts. For example, during the winemaking process they use natural products and compost to feed the soil, organic land management in terms of in-ground irrigation, use no chemical pesticides for their Chianti, and hand-harvest 90% of their grapes in Veneto. Further, Santa Margherita stopped using animal byproducts and uses yeast-derived and vegetable-derived products during filtration so their wines are vegan-friendly. Lastly, Santa Margherita is powered completely by renewable resources including 6,500 square feet of solar panels at their winery in Portogruaro.

Fun fact: Santa Margherita manufactures their own wine bottles in a factory adjacent to their fermentation cellars. They do this to reduce carbon emissions related to storage and transportation of bottles from outside producers.

Today’s Wine: 2015 Chianti Classico Riserva

100% Sangiovese; 13.5% ABV

For spaghetti night, I knew I needed to run to the store to grab a bottle of Chianti Classico. As expected, this bottle filled its role for the pairing beautifully. Our wine today is a clear, medium ruby color with a variation of pink hues toward the edges of the glass. I briefly decanted this before drinking, as these are known to have high tannin, but letting this slow ox in the glass would do just fine. On the nose are aromas of cherry, cranberry, barnyard, forest floor, shoe leather, and a hint of bitter chocolate. Once in the mouth, we get flavors of sweet cherry, cranberry, strawberry, dried earth, mushroom, and mineral. True to form, this is medium- to full-bodied with high acidity, medium (+) tannins, and a long finish dominated by notes of red fruit and berries.

Price: $27, a nice price-point. I recommend trying this for its solid quality compared to many other options you will find on the shelf, even if they are slightly cheaper. Pair this with red/meat sauce pastas, lamb, or veal.