I’ve been coming here for more than 20 years, but the timing of my visits are usually later in the spring, and into summer. So, it’s fun, and also educational, to be visiting during such a severe cold spell, snowstorms, etc.
The area certainly needs the moisture; last year’s drought and boiling temperatures were very unforgiving, and in the case of winegrowing, noticeably destructive.
So far, I’ve had a few weeks in Montalcino (centered around the four days of the Benvenuto Brunello event), during which I’ve had visits with fine people, gifted winegrowers, and just all around lovely human beings; all these qualities define the following, whom I’ve been very fortunate to spend time with:
- Francesco Leanza, Podere Salicutti (an epic visit on a chilly Saturday morning, learning, in great detail the methodologies and vision behind the land at Podere Salicutti, as well as the approach to vinification)
- Marino Colleoni, Podere Santa Maria (another epic visit, this time during a bone-chilling rain storm, with Marino giving me insights into his brilliance in the vineyards, but also in the cellar)
- Andrea Cortonesi, Uccelliera (I rarely taste these wines at VinItaly, or any other event – I prefer to visit the cantina, where (bottle/service) temperatures are always correct. Which is another way of saying just how much I think of them, that they’re worth the drive, worth the extra attention. I’ve written about Andrea before, but really, sometimes I think I go just to be around the man – a lovely, warm and happy person. As always, big hat tip to Agnes!)
- Luca Fanti, La Palazzetta (some of the area’s best natural winegrowing is going on here at this understated, and truly inspiring and beautiful farm. Luca’s always got a smile, it’s genuine, infectious and he’s just plain fun to be around. The wines here are totally under the radar, and the picture of traditional, sustainable winegrowing in a full-flavored, structured, and balanced way)
- Carlo Lisini-Baldi, Lisini (just a great person, so gentle, so caring, and so passionate about quality, tradition. I’ve written about these wines in the past, and they are among my very first purchases each year – this year they were my second purchase, and in good quantity; buy early, buy a lot, the new releases are exciting)
- Francesco Ripaccioli, Canalicchio di Sopra (these guys, Franco, Simonetta, and Marco) have been making all the right moves for many years now. Their in touch with their land, their vines, they’ve just complete (or nearly) a new cellar, and they are among most most cherished wines in my cellar. Never showy, always honest, fun, and pure, these wines, and this family are special for many reasons)
- Stella di Campalto (Stella and I got our wires crossed, and as I showed up for the appointment, she was already on the road, driving to Milano. But that didn’t stop me from learning a great deal about their approach to winegrowing, and the special qualities of their vineyards. Stella and I will see each other at VinItaly, and we’ll be discussing, among many things, the fabulous 2013 Rosso di Montalcino – hint: find some!)
- Laura Gray, Il Palazzone (a special person, and as of a few days, an Italian citizen, too! Laura’s vision, dedication and understanding of the land and vines at Il Palazzone has created a new benchmark for this prized land. I can think of no better ambassador for la zona, and for Il Palazzone; their dedication to sustainable winegrowing shatters any fallacy/stigma that may surround natural growing techniques)
- Ilaria e Marco Mantengoli, La Rasina (fun, beautiful people making full-bodied, full-flavored wines of great purity. Some of my favorite people in the region, and all of Italia, for that matter. These wines are terrific values, and in the case of their Brunello wines, last for many decades, getting better as they do so)
- Fuligni (Daniele was out sick, but I got to spend time with my good friend Mike who works in the vineyards (more) and cellar (less). These are some of my favorite wines, every year, and 2013 Brunello is, simply, exciting)
Because of the snowstorm (about 5 inches in some/most parts, very, very icy) I had to reschedule visits to my other perennial favorites: La Serena, Tiezzi, Pertimali, etc.) I’ll probably visit many/all of these people, and a few more, during my days at VinItaly 2018. I can’t wait!
Thank you, to all of the above, and to many others that showed me a part of their beautiful world, and their passion for winegrowing.
This week I’m in Chianti zone (tonight in Greve in Chianti), and have already had great, deeply memorable visits with San Giusto a Rentennano, Casa Emma, Paola Caciorgna (Le Macchie/N’anticchia), etc. It’s a very productive trip so far, and while the cold really sucks, it’s good for the vines/disease – so it’s good for me, too.