San Giusto a Rentennano, Part III

Bettina leads us to the tasting room, which is to say we’re exiting the (former Monastery) and headed a few steps away to the detached tasting room. When wine geeks think of a perfect place to have a wine dinner or have a private tasting, this is what they think about. Great space, which would comfortably seat 10 or 12, but this day it is just she and I. She’s already opened the four wines we’ll taste today. In addition, she’s got an absolutely lovely spread of local meats and cheeses – one of the cheeses was made nearby just five days ago. My heart picks up a few beats. I look for a seat belt to fasten.


Zalto glassware, olive oil, Chianti’s finest cheese and meat, and a lovely, generous host that, just by her nature adds tremendously to the experience, as she exudes calmness, confidence and class.

The conversation turns from the wines before me to the Chianti region, to the vineyards and the farming techniques that SGaR is using with an admixture of the property’s history and even the family’s support of refugees that are being housed there while they search for a better life, in Italy, or perhaps somewhere else in Europe. This whole operation is top-rate, and the wines we’re about to taste follow suit – I’m in for a real treat.

The first wine is the 2013 Chianti Classico, a wine (ok, vintage) I’ve not yet tasted. Here’s the note I jotted down just after the tasting (I will seldom write when in front of a host, I think it’s kind of impolite, and even if not, it still takes away from the experience):

Well, if I need a case of the 2012 Le Baroncole, I need two cases of this. There’s a shimmering beauty to the medium ruby color. The nose offers a refined intensity – this is young, but wow, so pure – cherries, a swath of leather, unripe raspberry, plenty of dusty soil. I will say the beauty, and the purity here, it just reaches out as if to grab you — then it hugs you, and gives you a hand-written greeting card. And a puppy. OK, maybe not all that, but wow is there a lot of love in this fabulous creation. Sense of place, and sense of variety…pow! spot-on. Give it a year or two, even better.”  highly recommended/***

Next is the fore-referenced 2012 Le Baroncole, a Riserva wine. The color shows a slightly darker hue than the Classico, it’s bright and shimmering. My note: “A true wine of the vintage, which is to say it’s not an entirely enjoyable wine, there’s a few, forgivable, rough patches (2012 was less than ideal, owing to lots of heat). I know the rooster people were high on the vintage, but I don’t share their (generalized) enthusiasm. CC region is complex, it covers quite a lot of area and, no surprise, there are a lot of micro-climates within that area. Knowing the farming techniques at SGaR as I do, I take this as an honest expression of the highlights and challenges. Medium-full bodied, with some darker red tones, with tannins that kind of stick out, and while not necessarily complementary to the ripe fruit, it’s consistent with the overall vintages attributes at SGaR; still decent freshness, all things considered. A very good value (as always), and a pleasure to consider over the course of good food and friends.” Drink 2018-2024.  recommended**

Audozed 4 hours and double-decanted just prior to service, and served non-blind. Probably best in the next several years, not seeing that it’s going to improve from here, but the tannins need to integrate some more, so a little rest is prudent.

(I left our meeting with some 2011 Le Baroncole Riserva that I purchased, there was no 2012 for sale – I’d have to wait until I got back to the States).
Next up is the estate’s flagship red, the 2011 Percarlo. My note: “Just speechless; totally at a loss for words here. No flowery prose, no breathless enthusiasm. This is an emotional experience, for me, and a wine that I plan to buy as much as I can – for near, mid and long-term consumption. Epic. Served non-blind.”  very highly recommended/***1/2

Of course I had to write a little more about it, after the some of the endorphins from the visit had faded, “The freshness here is captivating. The nose is packed full of cherries, baking spices, soil, leather, repeat. But I want to be clear here, these aromas are pretty much on steroids – you can’t take your nose away from the glass. This is a bases loaded home run. The palate is just as impressive, packing so much intensity and freshness that the wine really just explodes, over and over, it’s a dazzling display, woven on a very fine full(-) bodied frame, with fine, ripe tannins that will need many years to integrate.”  very highly recommended/***1/2

Our final wine was the 2007 Vin Santo, or as SgaR refers to it, the Vinsangiusto, their current release Vin Santo wine. My note: “Wow, explosive nose, full of dried apricots, marmalade, golden raisins, toffee bits, pralines, etc. But it’s on the palate that this really impresses, managing to cleanly lift away all of the sweetness – nearly 500 grams of residual sugar per liter. Astounding. The wine finishes cleanly, not cloying like pancake syrup in any way. That said, this is a wine to drink in tiny sips, with good conversations and perhaps some well-chosen cheeses, or nuts. Drink thru 2039, at least. Half bottles, only, iirc.”  highly recommended/***

The week prior to my visit to SGaR, I had a bottle of the 1990 Percarlo, a bottle I acquired by trading with a friend in Italy – he wanted a Cult Cab from CA, and I the Percarlo (from a very fine vintage). My note follows, “A magnificent bottle, still fresh and very pure. Lots of dusty sweetness on the nose, with finely layered soft dark(er) cherry fruits and a lingering sweet leather and herbal palate. The finish seems to go on forever. This is just sublime; what a treat. At peak now and for the next several years before any type of decline. Audozed 3 hours, served non-blind. In Staggia.”   highly recommended/***

After I returned from Italy, I was eager to open one of my 1989 Percarlo wines for some close wine-geek friends, they loved it. 1989 was a rainy, mostly miserable year in this region; 1990 was really the opposite, quite ideal. Nonetheless, the 1989 soared and impressed. All hail San Giusto a Rentennano!

My note: “Only just now in its preferred window, but with many good years and even some upside yet ahead of it. My first of four, this was Audozed 5 hours prior to serving. Still, it needed another two hours of being open and sampled before this had revealed all (or at least most) of its charms. Excellent varietal character, with wave after wave of earth; each wave seeming to bring something unique to the table. Medium-bodied, with excellent acidity, this was actually showing a lot of youthfulness around the 45 minute mark (swirling all the while) in the glass. Beautiful, honest, and for me, quite dreamy. I’ll open the next one in 3-5 years, and will be sure to aerate in wide-bottom decanter for at least 2 hours prior to service. Served non-blind.  highly recommended/***

A great standard bearer for what’s possible in the region.

(1989 was an awful vintage for this region, lots of mildew/disease, etc., but this wine did not show anything less than ideal++. A testament to the work that went into the vineyards that year; brilliant winegrowing.)

I look forward to visiting them again in just a few months. OK, that’s an understatement, I’m giddy just thinking about it.

(header photo taken in Cinque Terre, Italy)

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