Siro Pacenti Rosso di Montalcino 2008

Siro Pacenti Rosso di Montalcino 2008

When discussing Rosso di Montalcino wines, I am not especially fond of the term “baby Brunello”. The two are different wines, really, wines of differing intent, in fact. One is not simply a pint-sized version of the other.

That said, in the case of Siro Pacenti Rosso di Montalcino 2008, well, I am willing to make an exception.

After a one hour decant, Pacenti’s Rosso exhibited enough scaled-down, Brunello-like character, that “baby Brunello” seems a rather accurate description.

siro-pacenti-rosso-di-montalcino-2008-aGiancarlo Pacenti (Siro was the estate’s founding elder) has often been described as an innovator within the Montalcino zone, a modernist producer, seeking more color and structure from Sangiovese, choosing French barrique over traditional Slavonian oak for aging his wines, playing to the preferences of an international consumer.


When the music is well-played, I am not so sure the source of artistic inspiration matters.

In any case, Pacenti strikes me as a producer possessing a deep understanding of Montalcino terroir married with precision production methods who creates Sangiovese wines not to be missed by anyone interested in the Montalcino appellation.

Tasting Notes / Impressions:

The initial decant released a plume of bright cherry, strawberry, and red currant. As the wine opened up, hints of violets, earth and smoke came and went, adding complexity. Black cherry tones filled out the wine’s lower register. Muscular and supple on the palate with firm, velvety tannins, acidity balanced with just the right degree of ripeness.

Sangiovese grapes for Pacenti’s wines are hand-harvested and undergo rigorous hand-selection. The Rosso di Montalcino undergoes a wood regimen of new (30%) and year old (70%) barrique, though avoids overt wood attributes. About 3,000 cases made per year.


Benvenuto Brunello 2014, New York

Benvenuto Brunello 2014, New York

If, like me, impatience has driven you to pop a Brunello cork prematurely, you may be interested to know that the 2009 vintage of Brunello di Montalcino will require no personal improvement in self-discipline 😉

benvenuto-brunello-2014-2aBrunello wines from the four-star 2009 vintage previewed January 27th at Benvenuto Brunello in New York. I found the wines to be generally open, opulent, with many …dare I say it … ready to drink early.

Accordingly, the vintage should be a great one not only for the restaurant market but also for the private consumer who wants pleasure in the short term from his Brunello spend. For collectors seeking cellaring potential, however, the five-star 2006 and 2007 vintages remain better options.

A seminar and guided tasting segment featuring eight Brunello di Montalcino wines was presented by Gloria Maroti Frazee, of Wine Spectator School. Maroti Frazee, to her credit, took attendees on a rather Socratic tour of Brunello wines and Montalcino terroir, teaching through astute questioning along the way. The seminar-tasting proved a great roadmap to delineate and distinguish differences between Brunello’s north and south growing zones.

At one point during the seminar, speaking of Sangiovese, the grape varietal responsible for Brunello di Montalcino, Maroti Frazee noted that, “Sangiovese whispers, not shouts, of its tipicita.” I so appreciate that statement as it does hint, I think, at one of the true beauties of Brunello, that being Brunello is so subtly reflective of variations in Montalcino’s altitude, soil, and temperature.

benvenuto-brunello-2014-1aOn the main tasting floor, I encountered many wonderfully open, plush Brunello wines from 2009 as well as stellar normale and riserva examples from the ’08, ’07 and ’06 vintages.

Yet, even in that context, it was obvious that Rosso di Montalcino wines from 2011 and 2012 being shown by producers alongside their Brunello entries were drinking spectacularly well, showing outstanding quality. Not to be too surprised, however: as noted during the seminar, approximately 50% of Rosso di Montalcino is produced from reclassified Brunello grapes. Discerning lovers of Sangiovese will do well to keep Rosso di Montalcino wines on their buying radar especially where a solid fix of good Sangiovese is required at times when the wallet is perhaps too thin to endure the pricier Brunello spend.

In summary, the Brunello and Rosso di Montalcino wines I tasted at Benvenuto Brunello 2014 NYC give continued testimony to the exceptional quality and terroir of Montalcino.

Memorable among the show’s exhibiter producers:
Canalicchio di Sopra
Cappane Ricci
La Fiorita
Le Ragnaie
Tenute Silvio Nardi
Paradisone – Colle degli Angeli
Santa Giulia

Special shout out to the IEEM team for hosting the event in a space offering a measure of elegance befitting Brunello wines. Gotham Hall was a gorgeous venue for this event!

Related Post, from my 2012 media trip to Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino – A Reflection

Weiser Kunstler Riesling Spatlese 2010

Weiser Kunstler Riesling Spatlese 2010

Riding the open flats past local corn fields is always a windy proposition during autumn. The wind that, when at my back, earlier made me to feel like a better cyclist than I really am, now bears down hard on my forward motion.

Tall, dry corn stalks look on with disapproval as I ride by. “Better riders than you have been by here today” they crackle, their dehydrated whisper chasing me row across row.

Across the road, sunflowers bow their heads politely down so as not to stare as I struggle past.

The breakfast of champions was apparently not on my morning table today.

weiser-kunstler-riesling-spatlese-2010-aTo distract you now from this tale of lackluster pedaling, I shall draw your attention instead to the more winning performance of Weiser Kunstler Riesling Spatlese 2010:

Unlike the flatlands around our local cornfields, Weiser Kunstler vineyards are located upon steeply terraced slopes of weathered slate in Germany’s Mosel region. According to the company website, Enkircher Ellergrub vineyard is the “heart of” Weiser Kunstler’s wine growing estate. The vineyard’s ungrafted vines – up to 100 years old – and terraces of Devon slate leave their mark on this concentrated, sophisticated 100% Riesling beauty.

Core nose of subtly ripe apple, peach, pear with a stony mineral focal point. Petrol, honey, and herb influence changing aromatics. Some residual sugar, yes – it is a Spatlese, afterall – but not overtly sweet. Rich, yet lean on the palate, with great mineral purity and the depth of an alpine crevasse. Hope to make my way back to this wine closer to 2018 that I might receive its full message.


Oddero Barolo 1998

Oddero Barolo 1998

Psychologists tell us that most people live in the past with their regrets or in the future with their worries.

Confession: I am, on occasion, guilty of both.

oddero-barolo-1998-2There is an art to living in the moment. In fact, my virtuosity in that pursuit has recently improved somewhat thanks to a bottle of Oddero Barolo 1998 😉

Brilliant garnet in color, the wine showed brooding dark cherries, tobacco and faded roses dominating the nose during the first hour. Smoke, mushroom and tar made their appearances during hour 2. Majestic, fine, silky tannins are totally the main event and lead us to a satisfying finish with notes of dried fruit and licorice.

This Barolo kept me riveted with sheer pleasure to the here and now, transfixed in a moment that lasted an entire evening.

100% Nebbiolo, selected manually. Fermentation / maceration carried out in stainless steel over 20 days. Aged in Slavonian and Austrian oak for 30 months. 6 additional months in bottle.

A great expression of Piedmont terroir from an historic producer.


JL Chave St. Joseph Blanc ‘Celeste’ 2009

A quick pull of the chainsaw’s start-cord and the engine sputters to life. Set on the ground to warm up, it sits at my feet purring like some metaphorical cat.

It takes some finesse to fell a tree. The angles of the face and back cuts must work together to create a hinge of sorts, allowing the tree to fall safely to the ground. Hopefully, in the spot where you aimed it.

jl-chave-st-joseph-blanc-celeste-2009-3I squeeze the throttle and the saw growls, biting hard into the tree. From two different angles I open the face cut to 70 degrees. Then, an intersecting back cut. I move away to let the hinge do its work. Cracking. Volumes of air move, tree canopy whooshing past. A massive, dense thud and the ground shivers.

That evening, with tree on the ground, limbed and cut into rounds for firewood, it’s JL Chave’s St. Joseph Blanc ‘Celeste’ 2009 that is talking to me about finesse: supple, soft, gutsy, intense, the wine drinks with good weight on the palate. Elegantly perfumed, unctuous in the mouth. Citrus marmalade, honey-butter, notes of peach and ginger. Vivacious personality with tasty acid and minerality. Big length on the finish.

Primarily Marsanne with (according to sources) a splash of Roussanne grown on granite soils, this Rhone white is a stellar value.

NOTE: I found the wine more open when served on the warm side of chilled.


Mirafiore Barolo 2007

Tobacco hangs in the curing barns now. Great fields of corn have been cut down to brown stalks returning an expansive feel to the local landscape. Thousands of jack-o’-lantern-orange orbs peek out from among the pumpkin vines.

mirafiore-barolo-2007Fall is rolling into my neck of New England. Today, the world outside seems composed in shades of brown accompanied by a sleepy, rainy day’s soundtrack. But inside, overhead lighting and the sizzling sound of shitake, portobello, porcini mushrooms and shallots hitting the pan turn the kitchen into a lively space. We’ll simmer these in a cream sauce and serve over fettuccine, washing it all down with a bottle of Barolo.

There are professional wine critics who loved Mirafiore’s Barolo 2007. And there are non-professional, but informed palates that have spread the word otherwise. The wine didn’t flex much muscle, frankly, and seemed somewhat contrived at times. Impressions of dried leaves and faded roses for which nebbiolo is famous lacked volume in comparison to other Baroli at similar price points. Nonetheless, the wine was lovely with dinner, showing a gentle firmness of structure and an alluringly soft texture that worked well enough with the mushrooms and cream.


A Visit with Corey Beck of Francis Ford Coppola Winery

That the list of celebrity winemakers grows ever longer rattles the cages of many wine folks I know, causing skeptics to wonder if the trend is one born more of marketing than serious wine.

If my recent visit with Corey Beck, Director of Winemaking and General Manager at Francis Ford Coppola Winery in Geyserville, California (Sonoma) is any barometer, I can assure you: No cause for alarm.

director-of-winemaking-and-general-manager-corey-beckChatting with Corey about the winery and its programs, I came to understand that 5-time Oscar winning director / writer / producer Coppola maintains a high level of involvement with the winery and wines, from vision to detail. In fact, from what I can determine, Coppola approaches wine with the same passion and artistic creativity as he would a feature film.

Listening to Corey, it became clear to me that to create an environment where family members of all ages can enjoy a celebration of life is as important to the winery as the wines themselves. As a destination, Francis Ford Coppola Winery is a family-friendly facility remarkably featuring wine tasting bars, two restaurants, a full bar, a swimming pool, a movie gallery, a performing arts Pavilion and a park area with game tables and bocce courts.

I liked what I was hearing from Corey. But, the wines would still need to speak for themselves. And speak they did. In the tasting segment of our get-together, Corey presented three wines, impressive, French inspired, yet distinctly Californian in character:

entrance_-photo-chad-keigCoppola Director’s Cut Chardonnay 2010
Produced from 100% Chardonnay aged in French oak, the wine shows floral aromas wound around scents of pear, honey and citrus. Grace notes of caramel–vanilla. Delicious key lime pie on the palate delivered with cleansing acidity that shouts “bring on the appetizers!” Super as an aperitif. A great crossover wine for lovers of Italian whites.

Coppola Diamond Claret 2010
This flagship wine of Coppola’s Diamond Collection is a sophisticated Bordeaux blend that drinks with both elegance and intensity. Layers of dark fruit are brightened by licks of raspberry; hints of baker’s chocolate. Luscious in the mouth, the wine finishes with trails of chocolate and raisin. Right up the alley of Bordeaux or Maremma fans.

Coppola “Eleanor” 2009
Named in honor of Coppola’s wife, this Syrah / Cabernet blend is still young with plenty of time ahead of it for cellaring. The wine emerges from 2 years in French oak with a personality intense, deep and complex like so many artists I’ve known. Dense in the mouth with great initial attack and a mid-palate full of delicious, raisin-y dark fruit. Assertive, nicely integrated tannins and a big mineral finish. Lovers of big Bordeaux, muscular Cabs, or massive Super Tuscans will totally appreciate this one.

The gauntlet has been thrown down! IMHO, if other celebrity winemakers can meet the bar set by Coppola … things are gonna be real fine 🙂

PS Learn more about Francis Ford Coppola Winery or Corey Beck

PSS Find a rather good and interesting list of celebrity winemakers here on Wikipedia

2 Wines from Luce Della Vite

Note: Luce Della Vite “Luce” and “Lucente” were provided to me as tasting samples. If interested, see Vintrospective policy about wine samples here.

To set the mood, allow me a moment to share what are, IMHO, a couple of great collaborations:

Lennon / McCartney
DeNiro / Scorsese
Pasta / Fagioli 😉

luce-della-vite-luce-lucenteAfter tasting Luce Della Vite’s “Luce” and “Lucente”, I am inclined to add the names Frescobaldi / Mondavi to that brief list of names linked together in successful alliance.

Responsible for Tenuta Luce Della Vite, the collaborative project resulting in Luce and Lucente, the families Frescobaldi and Mondavi need no introduction to anyone interested enough in wine to be reading this blog. Suffice it to say only that these families have been leading forces in the world of winemaking.

(If you truly are unaware of the Frescobaldi / Mondavi histories, consider performing 30 minutes penitential research which you are hereby given.)

Luce Della Vite “Luce” 2008

Opaque, deep ruby color radiates warmth and vitality. Polished, rich scents of berry jelly, cherry tobacco, mint and black pepper. Suggestions of dark chocolate. Round and soft in the mouth underscored with exhilarating minerality / acidity. Excellent suite of sophisticated tannins come on like the stick attack of NYC bucket drummers. Long, meditative finish that seems to take you to tomorrow.

Luce is produced from Sangiovese (45%) and Merlot (55%) with long maceration on skins, aged in hand-split oak barrique (90% new, 10% used once) for 24 months.

Luce Della Vite “Lucente” 2009

Dense, clear ruby with amaranth reflections. Aromatic mélange of cherries, red berries, and strawberries, showing, as in Luce, suggestions of black pepper, chocolate. Red fruits transfer to a round, elegant palate. Deliciously silky, fine-grained tannins. Long, flavorful fruit-driven finish with hints of anise.

It is Merlot (75%) and Sangiovese (25%) that go into Lucente, fermented in stainless steel and aged for 12 months in 55% new French oak, 5% American oak, 40% French oak used once.

Luce and Lucente are stylish art wines that bring something of interest to the table for lovers of either traditional or international styles. Especially easy entry points into Italian wine for Cali lovers and vice-versa.