ONE OF A KIND BARBERA SOURCE

Our subject here is the Cantine Valpane Barbera del Monferrato Perlydia 2012.  What’s special about it?  Well, we have presented wines from Valpane before and they are delicious examples of the breed.  But what makes this house unique is that this 2012 is the current release!   What kind of vintner holds on to his Barbera this long before going to market, sometimes for more than a decade?  One who follows his own heart.

Clearly Pietro Arditi, the ‘Barbera whisperer’, listens to the wine and not the ‘metrics’ of 21st Century marketing.  Now this didn’t happen completely by accident, mind you. The land gave him some juicy, vibrant fruit to work with, then he decided to keep the wine in botti (large neutral barrels) or cement until he deems it ready.   What does six-year-old Barbara taste like? This particular effort is loaded with red berry fruit, but the spice and terroir notes are more expressive and better meshed because the lower acidity from bottle age lets them be.

Don’t worry though, there is surprising freshness and life to the fruit. Bottled unfiltered and unfined, fermented entirely with native yeasts, there is a gregarious, fruit-forward element to Valpane’s wines as well as great purity of flavor.

The Perlydia is 100% Barbera harvested from vines planted only in 2000, but it delivers the same joyous mouthful of fruit as do all of the Valpane wines. That little bit of bottle age really helps the wine to get into gear quickly and the ripe, somewhat resolved tannins and lower acidity make for an uncommonly delicious drink without a lot of fuss.  To do all of this careful raising of the wines for this kind of price is an added bonus and makes Valpane a rather unique wine to offer.

2016 ITALIAN WHITES: MAKING A POINT (plus three more winners)

The more we taste examples from the 2016 vintage in northern Italy, both red and white, the more wonder we experience.  Wine after wine shows a clarity of purpose, purity of fruit, and uniquely expressive nature unlike anything we can recall in recent times.  Are these wines really that good?  The more we experience, the more inclined we are to say ‘yes, they are!’

It wasn’t that long ago we were pretty gaga over the 2010 whites from this part of the world.  The fruit had substance and power, there was plenty of zip and verve and, in short, they were everything that you could expect n Italian white to be.  We remember the 2010s fondly, and were using them as the ‘benchmark’ for  everything that was special about Italian whites.  The 2016s are all of that and more, with everything that the 2010s had plus an undefinable ‘presence’ and harmony that sets the 2016s on another level.  That being said here are three more outstanding examples to make our point:

Filippo Gallino Arneis 2016The story here isn’t extensive, just a committed producer that consistently makes very good wine and doesn’t charge a lot for it.  With a ‘naked’ grape like Arneis you can’t really tweak it in the cellar with wood and have to be very careful with extended lees contact as both can negatively affect the desired freshness of the wine’s profile, you get what Nature gives you.  Wines like this really are made in the vineyard and those that farm meticulously are the successful ones.

Sure there are slightly more exotic aromatics with some of the big dogs labels that cost a lot more.  But this one presents all of the fresh floral nuances and apple-skin aromatics and the lively fruit driven palate that are the essence of this genre.  The 2016 simply has more energy and fruit weight than past versions, which makes this one a killer deal.

Inama Soave Classico 2016– As we have remarked, even the little wines are noticeably better in 2016.  Somehow they have a little more punch, a little more lift, and a surprising degree of harmony that forces you to take notice.  Inama is a staple around here, and we buy it almost every year.  But there’s just ‘more’ to this wine than any that we have tasted in recent memory.

There’s no big story here.  This is just Garganega, the classic grape of Soave, done in 100% stainless steel.  Sure it sounds simple enough.  But again this is a ‘naked’ wine which they can’t really mess with in the cellar of everything doesn’t go right, so there is a bit more to it.  All of the words matter.  To carry the name ‘classico’ the grapes must come from the hillside vineyards around the municipalities of Soave and Monteforte d’Alpone in the original and oldest classic “zone” of Verona established back in 1927.

Forget those over-produced, insipid Soaves that flooded the market 20-30 years ago.  This is nothing like those.  Advocate’s Monica Larner’s words are precise enough, “This entry-level Soave Classico delivers the elegant mineral definition and fruit sensation you should expect of the best Garganega grapes. The 2016 Soave Classico Vin Soave benefits from very favorable growing conditions in a classic vintage. The bouquet is refined and polished with stone fruit, citrus, dried sage and saffron.”  Driving and quite engaging for the fare.

Keber Collio Bianco 2016No place does this kind of thing like the northeast  of Italy.  Riveting, purposeful blends of a mixture of white varietals make for some uniquely compelling whites with lifted fruit, plenty of sizzle, but also unexpected palate presence.  In that realm, Keber has always been one of the stars.  Their Collio Bianco can stand with the best in the region, but is much more attractively priced.

Maybe it was just a good day, but the 2016 Keber Collio is the best version of this wine we can remember tasting, everything the past efforts have been but with seemingly another gear.  The blend is 70% Friulano , 15% Malvasia Istriana, and 15% Ribolla Gialla.  The concept is Friulano for structure, Malvasia Istriana for its aromatic qualities, and Ribolla Gialla for
acidity. These varietals do very well in the so-named “Ponka” soil, composed of marl and sandstone, that naturally stresses the vines.  The grapes are whole cluster, soft-pressed to minimize oxidation during crushing. The juice is fermented and matured on the yeasts for 6 months in
cement vats. Twenty per-cent of the Friulano is aged in older, large barrels.

This wine, from a 10-acre estate near the Slovenian border, always has remarkable weight, body and a distinctive, super-minerally aspect typical of the region.  The estate produces just this wine but it is a constant winner.  This time around, it’s just a notch or two better, which is pretty sensational.

 

‘NATURALLY’ TASTY: QUERCIA GROSSA BATTIFOLLE TOSCANA 2014

You’d think after doing this as long as we have, we’d have the sense to be a little more selective of the topics we choose.  Sadly, or perhaps not, we are in it for the experience and to highlight wines that deserve attention from folks who love wine, famous or not.  It sometimes takes you in directions you aren’t necessarily expecting to go.  Quercia Grossa is one of those times, but the wine definitely made it worth the ‘trip’.

Located in the southern part of the Maremma, the warmer part of Tuscany, this wine has the distinction of being from a ‘genre’ that is no longer recognized as en vogue (super-Tuscan), made in a ‘natural’ style (definitely something that sends up reds flags to us because of how many sloppy wines hit the market under that banner), and from one of the most difficult vintages in the region in this century.  It would be very easy, simply based on the data, to just look past this one.  But the wine was simply too compelling and had an engaging, rather unique personality.

It starts with the farming.  In their words, “In the course of this venture, we recovered a number of old vineyards scattered around Roccatederighi in various small plots on the undertaking that they would be treated like a garden, in tune with the rhythms of nature.  Production is not forced in the vineyard, and, as far as possible, we use manual working methods in order to avoid using products that may be harmful to the plants and environment.  Respect for nature and the environment requires the absence of insecticides, botritycides, weed-killers and chemical fertilizers. Treatment in the vineyards is kept to the minimum.”

As to the harvest itself, “Grapes are hand-picked into small crates, so that they can be examined and sorted if necessary during the harvesting process. The grape harvest is a magical moment in which a symbiotic bond forms between man and the grapevines that have been trained and shaped by generations of loving hands. After the grape clusters have been picked and laid carefully in small crates, they are taken to the winery: an intimate, magical place. Here they undergo a delicate vinification process; the grapes give off an intense aroma and start to macerate in small concrete vats for a period of up to forty days. Fermentation takes place naturally with the aid of the indigenous ‘wild’ yeasts present in the grapes.”

“Achieving and preserving a harmonious balance between man, the grapevines and the surrounding countryside in keeping with the concept that “wine is made in the vineyard” is the key to creating a wine with personality: a wine produced by a local winemaker who treats the grape cluster with the utmost respect, applying a philosophy based on simplicity.”

If you have read enough wine writings, you have heard all of this kind of thing before.  The difference here is that, unlike all of the ‘natural’ folks out there that seem to use the process as an excuse for marginal winemaking, the folks at Quercia Grossa made a little magic when the odds were against them.  Of course, having former Cristom Pinot-master Tim Manning consulting and informing the wines with an extra level of elegance doesn’t hurt.

We aren’t trying to qualify the achievement either.  This tender, fruit centered, surprisingly ample wine is just plain tasty, with a uniquely appealing texture, plum, cassis and black cherry fruit with notes of earth and minerality, and gentle, unfettered tannins.  The Quercia Grossa Battifolle Toscana 2014, still presented under the indeterminate banner of IGT, is a blend of 40% Sangiovese, 40% Merlot , and  20% Cabernet Sauvignon , after which it is placed into 225 liter second and third use barrels with minimal sulphite addition.

For the guy who imported this wine, this is a labor of passion.  But this genteel, tasty red deserves an audience which is why we bought it.

Sizzling Sudtirol Triple-Play

The more we find out about this Sud-Tirol producer, the more impressed we are.  We are big fans of the whites from these pristine sites nestled near the Alps, which we lovingly refer to as the German part of Italy.  Sparkling high valleys, clean air, unique ad varied soils, we dare say that when Nature cooperates, these are some of the most riveting whites anywhere.  Margreid has been one of the standard bearers for the region since we first ran across his precise wines maybe three vintages back.  The rest, as they say, is history, though this latest set of releases kind of border on ‘historic from the standpoint of excelling true to the region.

If you like big, buttery Chardonnays, these will not be your muse.  But if you fancy driving fruit delivered atop vigorous, fresh acidity, clean, pure flavors and superb integration, your Schiff has com in.  We were recently presented with this lineup from Margrein, featuring efforts from the 2016 vintage (which has been enormously exciting in this region) and we couldn’t help buy everything we were presented.  This ‘triple play’ was quite a show!

The thing is that these perform nearly perfectly for what they are intended to be.  It isn’t a genre that gets a lot of attention, nor are these the kind of wines that will play to the typical media palate.  But the execution for our tastes is so impressive, we find talking them up an imperative even if it is for a small, select audience.  How excited can we get about Kerner, Pinot Grigio and Schiava?  If they taste like this, pretty darned excited!  And the prices are very modest for wines this good.

Nals Margreid Kerner Sudtirol Alto Adige 2016While this aromatic white grape, first created in Germany in 1929 as a hybrid between Schiava and Riesling, is something of an also-ran in its native country, on this side of the hills it hits remarkable heights.  The exotic fruit component flashes tropical notes, candied citrus, dried peach and honey, yet is bone dry with a trace of salinity.  The tension between the fruit and well-integrated acid keeps the flavors lifted and vigorous but there is plenty here to make an impression.  Even though it is crisp and nervy, it is packed with flavor.

Nals Margreid Pinot Grigio Sudtirol Alto Adige 2016One of the most unique and interesting examples of this varietal we can recall.  There’s a persistent florality to the nose that grabs you immediately, followed by impressions of pear and apricot that avail themselves as the wine unfolds.  Plenty of flesh to make an impression up front followed almost immediately by a fresh underpinning of acidity that drives the fruit through the back-palate.  Yes we know that there is a lot of insipid Pinot Grigio on the market.  The people who drink those probably wouldn’t like this one because it has waayyy too much character.  This is an elite performance because it is loaded with character yet still plays on the racy side as it should.

Nals Margreid Galea Schiava Sudtirol Alto Adige 2016Schiava anyone?  Yes this fresh red is virtually unknown to most folks, mostly functioning as a cool, go-to red in this mountain country.  But with a little more ripeness’ the possibilities expand greatly.  Here we have the insistent spice of the varietal augmenting a somewhat riper and more tender version of red fruits that lean a little blue.  Schiava from a cooler vintage can have a bit of an edge.  But somehow, in Goldilocks speak, this one is ‘just right’.  Roses, fresh outdoor spiciness, a touch of earth, bright flavors., from century-old vines, it is medium weight and dangerously quaffable.  Serve with a slight chill.

 

 

“Too sexy” Guidalberto 2015

On any given day.  That’s typically a sports related saying about how a game can have a decidedly different outcome from one day to the next.  The saying does have applications to wine, too, however.  In this era of the critic, a wine’s evaluation can have a lasting effect on the particular wine’s following.  We have made the point many times that critics are people, too.  They have good days and bad days, happy days and angry days.  Wines go through a constant evolution as well and last week’s so-so can be next week’s knockout.  Given people, wines, biodynamic calendars, barometric pressure, bottle variation, relativity, etc., etc., the whole process is pretty fluid.  Yet the score lives indefinitely.

That is our only explanation for this wine, the sexiest version of Sassicaisa’s Guidalberto we can recall, getting only 91 points.  The Tenuta San Guido Guidalberto Toscana 2015 is a fruit bomb with layered flavors of dark red fruits tinged with leather, anise, earth and spice.  It is big, broad and generous in thee mouth with an almost sappy palate feel and more richness on the palate than any Guidalberto we can recall.  Lush, layered, downright hedonistic for a Cabernet-based Italian red (it’s 60 % Cabernet Sauvignon and 40 % Merlot), this one impressed us right out of the gate.

Even more curious is that this one only garnered a couple of points better than the rather uninspiring 2014 (a difficult vintage in all fairness).  The words are encouraging enough from Wine Advocate, “The 2015 Guidalberto opens to a darkly saturated garnet hue. It shows similar concentration and power in terms of its aromatic delivery. Aromas are shapely and round with dark fruit nuances followed by leather, spice and dark tar…You feel the lush softness of the second grape as the wine glides smoothly over the palate. It takes on more weight in the glass.”  The conclusion? A little baffling.

Maybe this wine is too sexy for Bolgheri, but we certainly don’t see that as a flaw.  This is a pretty flashy, rather accessible, very delicious effort.  Sometimes we don’t agree with the critics.  This is one of those times.  We like this a lot.

There was another point in the Advocate article, “The 2015 vintage promises good things in Tuscany and this wine offers an informal sneak peek at what we can expect from the celebrated Tenuta San Guido vineyards in Bolgheri.”  No argument there, but this offers more than just a ‘sneak peek’….$39.98

HIGH VALLEY WHITES-PART ONE

Not a lot of 2016 whites have come across our paths yet, but it’s easy to be optimistic given what we have seen so far.  More specifically, those versatile whites from northeastern Italy are most promising.  One of the real go-tos around here over the last few years have been from Abbazia Di Novacella.  They are both high quality and won’t break the bank.  We have an admitted fondness for Kerner around here and the Abbazia Di Novacella Valle Isarco Kerner 2016 is a beauty.  Tender and pliant in the mid-palate with just the right touch of acidity, the delicate florality, faintly pear and pineapple fruit and refined palate are hard to resist and this one is food friendly with anything from a pasta primavera to a lighter handed fish dish to Vietnamese spring rolls.

Pinot Grigio had sadly become almost a cliché, and that’s unfortunate because the Abbazia di Novacella Pinot Grigio 2016 is an excellent example of what this varietal can be.  It has plenty of pear and apricot fruit, some richness and weight on the palate and the requisite brightness to the flavors.  This Pinot Grigio can play to a more sophisticated audience yet has the quaffability factor to please the casual cocktail crowd.

NO ORDINARY CHIANTIS

Chianti has come a long way since the days where all anyone saw were the straw fiasco bottles in the local checkered tablecloth Italian joint.  The rules have changed, and a number of the wineries have stepped up their game with regard to the quality of the entry-level and reserva wines.  A lot of folks are still trying to come to grips with the whole Gran Selezione designation which started with the 2010 vintage.  With all due respect to our inspired friends at Castello di Ama, the world is still a little shell-shocked with the proliferation of $50, $60, $70 Chianti, ourselves included.

Our job is to explain all of these trends to you.  But we also know for most folks, Chianti is a go-to, something to accompany some good food while not breaking the bank.  We hear you.  Maybe it was just a good day, but we found two outstanding examples back-to-back on morning not long ago.  They do have a couple of things in common.  Both were from the Classico zone, and both were produced by folks who were much more famous for their Super Tuscans, Podere Poggio Scalette (il Carbonione) and Castellare (I Sodi di San Niccolo).

Obviously one could invoke our mantra of ‘little wines from big-time sources’, but we haven’t found a Scalette or Castellare ‘regular’ Chianti this memorable before.  These are by no means ‘regular’!  We’ll start with the Podere Poggio Scalette Chianti Classico 2012.  Their Il Carbonione gets a bit of attention but Antonio Galloni, in his notes on this Chianti, was most enthuisiastic.  His words, “Poggio Scalette’s 2012 Chianti Classico is gorgeous. Dark red and black stone fruits, spices, leather and menthol meld together in a supple yet powerful wine endowed with terrific depth and complexity at its level. All the elements are in the right place.”

Like their flagship wine, this is 100% Sangiovese, and a bit darker and deeper than the norm as seems to be the case with this property.  But Galloni’s score was a mere 89+, suggesting with the ‘+’ that there was upside potential, but not high enough to turn heads.  Chiantis typically don’t get re-reviewed like, say, Bordeaux, so this wine will stand with that score for all of eternity most likely.  We are here to say that all of those ‘elements that were in the right place’ have come together beautifully since that tasting note was written in September, 2014!  Polished, classy juice from a top house, a fine option for the fare ($23.98).

We met the winemaker from Castellare years ago and he struck us as not only talented by, given the points he was discussing that day, extraordinarily meticulous.  His track record has born out our impressions over the course of several I Sodis and the currently in stock , smashing Castellare Di Castellina Chianti Classico Riserva Il Poggiale 2012.

You don’t see a lot of stuff this good from a producer like Castellare for under $20.  But the 2015 served up spectacular fruit that give Castellare Di Castellina Chianti Classico 2015  ($19.98) the stuffing and authority of a lot of reserve level wines.  All that aside, you can enjoy this one simply on the basis of its layered, intense fruit component, purity of flavor, and outgoing personality.  Even as good as 2015 is shaping up to be, we don’t imagine we’ll find many that perform like this.  A spectacularly fruit driven go-to that should deliver for years but is already quite showy.

Massican’s ‘Real’ Italian

California’s Cal-Ital movement has been quite a mixed bag.  We get that folks like Italian wine (we do to) and ‘hands on’ vintners couldn’t wait to try and emulate those wines here in California.  After all, they reasoned, the same sun shines over Italy that does over California, right?  Yeah, but that’s about where the comparison ends.  The term ‘terroir’ describes those things that make one place different than another and, frankly, a lot of Italian varietals planted here simply don’t perform well.  For sure they don’t come out anything like the ‘original’ versions.  There have been successes, sure.  But for the most part they are curiosities rather than something that threatens to find a consistent place on people’s tables.

One of the more intriguing new players in this arena has been Massican, named for a mountain range in Campania where some mythological occurrence involving Bacchus supposedly took place.  The winery has developed quite a cult following centering on wines made with such grapes as Ribolla Gialla, Greco, Friulano, and, of course, Pinot Grigio.  No small task to do this kind of thing in California, so props for that.  The wines are unique in this landscape, which will certainly get them an audience among the geek set, and they were well crafted.  But Italian purists will make the point that you can’t take certain grapes out of their native environments where they excel and expect to achieve the same level of performance somewhere else.

While some will praise the Napa versions of these distinct Italian blends as uniquely intriguing, the counterpoint is that grapes can’t ripen the same way California that tey do in Italy.  The acidities are never quite the same, and, while the wines might be richer here, they won’t have the same ‘hum’ as Italian versions.  While we will surely find fans for the small amounts of this winery’s home grown Italian blends that we get, some among us felt for this kind of fare, there had to be better, more compelling examples actually from Italy.

While winemaker/owner Dan Petroski, who also makes Larkmead wines (certainly a completely different discipline), has definitely become what one article called “icon of hipster wine”, classicists might argue that the Cal-Italian blends don’t have quite the lift and pop of the ‘real thing’.  For whatever reason, Petrowski decided to give it a spin with Italian grapes, as in from Italy.

The result is Massican Bianco Friuli Colli Orientali Gaspare 2015. Now that’s Italian.  While the winery was named for mountains in the south, these grapes came from the white wine bastion in the northeast, Colli Orientalli.  The mix here, surprisingly, is more Chardonnay heavy than the California examples (40% in the Gaspare as opposed to 9% in the Annia Napa white), but different environments might well dictate different blends.  In any case the Chardonnay, along with 35% Ribolla Gialla and 25% Friulano, pops in a way that only a proper Italian white can.

Made at Ronco Del Gnemiz, there’s some floral and faintly honeyed notes accenting bright, yellow stone fruits with an underpinning of minerality, but the freshness and lift that comes from these hills make a noticeable difference.  Sure, Italian varietals from Napa is probably more ‘cool’.  But this is a more compelling wine with an extra dimension over the very good Cali versions we have had.  This not only succeeds for itself, but opens the door for people to explore other great Italian white blends like Terlano’s ‘Terlaner’ and Vie di Romans.  Well done.

LITTLE ITALY, PART ONE: DOLCETTO

Dolcetto days are here again.  It has been tough couple of years for Piedmont.  While Nebbiolo is king, the everyday wines like Dolcetto and Barbera are the mainstays of the vintners as well as fantastic food choices for us Americani.  The problem for both was back to back ‘stinker’ vintages.  Yes, thanks to some late sunshine, the 2013 Nebbiolos have been juicy, complex and dazzling.  Everybody is looking forward to the Barolos and Barbarescos.  But the Dolcetto and Barbera, often planted in the lesser sections of some of the top vineyards, got hit with untimely rain and couldn’t hang on until the sun shined.  As to 2014, it was all kinds of difficult across the board.

For those reasons, there simply hasn’t been very many choices for the category …that is until the 2015s started showing up.  It’s a brand new day, with ripe, plump and engaging examples of both started to show up on supplier lists.  The success of 2015 hit Piedmont as well, and the Dolcettos are no exception.  We dare say that the turnabout seems even greater here than most other European regions.  Whereas in Burgundy, Bordeaux and the Rhone were also pretty good in 2014, in this part of the world it was not.  So the difference between the 2014s and 2015s borders on staggering, the salient point being we have some seriously good Dolcetto at hand now.

The Piemontese love Dolcetto for its outgoing fruit, food versatility, and attractive pricing (the Piemontese are notoriously frugal).  You can even put a slight chill on it for service on warmer days, and it will play with virtually anything from a hearty Italian stew to a plate of salume.   It’s one of Italy’s best ‘little’ reds,  and we’re  pleased to have not only good stuff to sell, but really engaging juice to drink thanks to 2015.  To that end we have three fine, fresh examples from some of our favorite sources.

The story of Olek Bondonio is a little unusual.  Olek, who has eastern European roots as well as Italian, visited the estate he currently operates in summer as a child.  He then made his name as a competitive snowboarder before becoming a winemaker.  His family has been involved here for some 200 years but Olek only started making wine here in 2005.  His Barbaresco comes from the Roncagliette, perhaps better known by the name used by his neighbor, Sori Tildin.  He is very ‘hands on’ when it comes to working the vineyard but he is all about letting the vineyard shine through.

The Olek Bondonio Dolcetto d’Alba 2015 reflects that attention to detail with a great purity to the fruit and inviting scents of blue fruits, violet, and a little almond skin.  Sleek and polished, the expressive fruit of the vintage is perfectly punctuated by fresh acidity and the kind of lift that makes this an easy quaff.   It’s what Dolcetto is all about, with the extra added attraction of coming from storied dirt.  The vines are 30-50 years old, all is done with native yeasts and gravity flow, and it’s bottled unfiltered.

Andrea Bosco is the passionate young owner of Bosco Agosatino, named for his father and founded by his grandfather in 1904.  Again here all of the juice is state grown, all within the confines of La Morra, and the surface area of the estate is around 10 acres.  The hillside faces south west and it composed of clay and limestone, and 70% of the Dolcetto vines are over a half-century in age.   The fermentation is controlled and done entirely in stainless steel to both preserve the gregarious fruit and prevent the extraction of unwanted tannins.  As you may have expected, Andrea’s single-vineyard Agostino Bosco Dolcetto d’Alba Vantrin 2015 is something of a fruit bomb with effusive blackberry and mulberry character, a streak of minerality and earth, and just enough cleansing freshness to keep things on point.

Finally, it’s hard to talk about things like Dolcetto and Barbera without mentioning perennial all-star Luca Currado who seems to do everything well all the time.  Granted the young vignerons above have established themselves as players but no one is more passionate than the folks at Vietti.  While Luca’s Vietti Dolcetto d’Alba Tre Vigne 2015 isn’t necessarily as ‘aristocratic’ as Olek’s (serious dirt for Dolcetto) or as ‘big’ as Andrea’s, it is plump, engaging and very likely to disappear while whatever the discussion is continues.  Friendly and harmonious.

It’s great to have Dolcetto back on the shelves, and this time around we have some great Dolcetto thanks to our network of proven producers and the gloriously decadent 2015 vintage.

 

 

TENUTA TRINORO: ‘The Best or Nothing’

As many of you will recall, one of our mantras is to always be aware of the ‘little’ wines from elite producers.

The idea is that the best winemakers are considered the best because they continuously succeed.  That success is largely due to their attention to detail and commitment to excellence.  Such producers don’t even have the capacity to ‘coast’ or ‘phone it in’.  It’s not in their DNA.  Their expectations as to what is acceptable are simply on another plane.  Imagine Thomas Keller or Joel Robuchon cooking your breakfast eggs.  Sure, they’re just eggs, but those guys have standards for eggs, and they will be cooked and seasoned perfectly.  It’s like that.

We know a lot of such meticulous folks in the wine industry and these are the folks that make the great wines.  We know of no one that is more passionate or more of a quality fanatic than Andrea Franchetti.  He is also not afraid to go where few have gone before.  Tenuta di Trinoro’s location in southeast Tuscany is a far cry from the traditional wine road (heck it’s almost Umbria).  But Andrea liked the soil composition for the Bordeaux varietals he was intent on growing so in the vines went.

He ‘runs with the big dogs’ counting as close friends Jean-Luc Thunevin of Valandraud in St. Emilion and Peter Sisseck of Pingus in the Ribera del Duero.  Imagine what ‘show and tell’ is in that crowd.  Though Franchetti operates on the same level both here in Tuscany as well as at his Etna property, Passopisciaro, he is probably less ‘famous’ than he should be because of this off-the-beaten-path location.

Now, no matter how good you are, you still have to deal with Mother Nature, and the 2014 vintage was a formidable foe for even some of Tuscany’s top addresses.  But Franchetti was not going to allow Nature to beat him.  Andrea hired more people to work the vineyards and drop one-third of the crop.  Because of the extra vineyard work and the overall health of the vineyard, the grapes ripened slowly if a little unevenly.  No problem, there were 36 separate pickings from 29 September until 28 October for this wine, making sure all the blocks were at their best when harvested.  You can expect that kind of commitment from an estate charging $80, $100, or more for all of their wines.  But to push this hard for something selling for under $30?  For Tenuta di Trinoro there is no other way.

The Tenuta di Trinoro Rosso Toscana IGT Le Cupole 2014 is a sensational success.  This Bordeaux-inspired blend of mostly equal parts Cabernet Franc and Merlot with a dollop of Cabernet Sauvignon got glowing reviews from Wine Spectator’s Bruce Sanderson, with a 93-point score and comments, “Alluring scents of ripe cherry, mulberry and fresh herbs complement concentrated flavors of cherry and sweet spice in this red. Offers a backbone of mouthcoating tannins and remains integrated as the finish lingers.”

It also placed #29 in the Wine Spectator Top 100 2016. That’s a pretty big deal, especially for the price.

Wine Advocate’s Monica Larner was no less impressed, offering Andrea Franchetti is a perfectionist when it comes to fruit selection. This Bordeaux-inspired Tuscan blend opens to dark concentration and a full bouquet that is redolent of dark fruit, spice and tobacco. The aromas are delivered in seamless fashion and with noteworthy intensity. Those are the qualities that ultimately distinguish this wine among the many choices you have from Tuscany today. One thing Tenuta di Trinoro always delivers is distinct personality…”.

This is an exciting example of one man’s plain sheer will, and that’s the kind of story one can tell about Andrea Franchetti and those like him.  That’s why we tell people to look at everything producers like Andrea craft.  Delicious wine for the money?  Distinctive and character-filled?  Yes, and yes.

By the way, we have a smidgen remaining of some of Trinoro’s ‘partners’ from the Wine Spectator’s Top 100 list, including last call on the Maurodos San Roman Toro and Felsina Chianti Classico 2013.