1999 Cepparello IGT, a thrilling ride

Fantastic experience. I don’t know how you choose wines from your cellar. I know how I did it 20+ years ago, and for many, many years thereafter – I paired the wine to the meal/occasion using my educated guess, erm, training. In hindsight, I can see where I placed too much value on that ‘book knowledge’, and not enough on practical experience, but I did the best I could at the time. There’s no substitute for tasting (tens of thousands of wines), i.e no book(s), or courses, come even close.


Not so long ago, after a friend passed WAY too soon, and with WAY too many wines in his cellar (>6,500, with an avg bottle cost of ~ $245). Before he did, he told me “they’re all daily drinkers”, and then he grabbed a 2008 Bonneau du Martray Corton Charlie for our lunch of roasted chicken. I didn’t understand what he really meant at the time – I was just very appreciative of his selection – but I do now.

Last night I went down to the cellar, literally lantern in hand (granted, it’s battery operated), and slid a few bottles from their slots in the racks – most of which I shook my head and said a resolute “not ready”, before sliding it back in place. I only had to pull a few before I came across this wine, the 1999 Isole e Olena Cepparello, a wine that I’d forgotten I’d had at least three times in the past few years, and so therefore felt like I was pulling it as if it were totally blind/unknown to me. I like that, not knowing, in fact, if I could, I’d drink every wine in double-blind fashion for the rest of my life, judging it based on what’s in the glass, and nothing else.

the view from Isole e Olena looking west, with San Gimignano in the distance

Getting back on track…to re-cap: I’d forgotten I’d tasted this fairly recently (3 of the 4 I’d purchased years ago, with one of them being quite dead/oxidized), I didn’t know anything about scores/reviews/etc., I just knew I was (1) ready, and (2) would pair nicely with my braised meat dish, and side of stir fried rice with shrimp.

The cork came out in one piece, and was soaked just 1/6th or so; I appreciate fine, i.e. expensive corks for/in expensive wines, thank you, winemakers/vintners for stepping up. Immediately after, I poured a few ounces in a glass whilst finishing meal prep/plating knowing that some extra air would be a good thing. In fact, this wasn’t fully opened until I was finishing my meal, some 45 minutes later. But, importantly, everything that happened in my glass up to that point, was like watching a magnificent Broadway show – it had my full, almost mesmerized, attention.

the wild, forest land of this great farm sits high in the rolling Chianti Classico hills



The color showed slight bricking, not what I was expecting for a 20-yr old wine. The aromas, after the first few minutes, showed powerful red/dark red fruits, and a sense of place (I’ve been to this farm more than a dozen times) that proved totally transportive, the same as a really good book.

The aromas filled not only my glass, but I expect, part of the room, also. Powerful, precise aromas that, with air, included red currant, purple, and blue flowers, and even a little pie crust. The medium+ body was similar in profile/build to that of a very fine, properly aged (but still young) Bordeaux.

I was only a few sips, and smells, into this when I remarked to myself “I may very well be drinking the finest wine in my cellar”. It’s a fear-based thought, pretty natural, I suppose, but also hopeful in a way. The two thoughts, the first (I’ve got 2,000 bottles, and none could possibly match this experience) is, in reality, a non-starter, as there are hundreds of ‘excellent’, and even (hopefully) ‘epic’ bottles in my cellar. The second, the more hopeful of the two emotions that sliced through my thoughts, was that the more I drink my cellar, i.e. actually enjoy the fruits of my labors/investment (instead of just collecting, constantly saying ‘ not ready yet ‘ when perusing the cellar), the more I’ll have experiences just like this one. But, there are no guarantees, and so I lived in the moment, savoring each and every sip of this special wine. I’m going to stay with this mindset, it’s time to enjoy, and I’ll keep pulling bottles more and more randomly until my cellar is empty. One never knows what grand surprise might be in store.

In summary, last night’s bottle was the final of the four that were in my cellar. It was by far the best of those experiences, the others lagging behind in degrees that included Very Good, Good, DOA. The old adage there are no great bottles, just great corks, rings very true. Again.

after a private lunch among friends, Paolo, a very, very busy man, checks his phone

In closing, thank you, Paolo (and Marta) de Marchi, for your brilliance of mind, your idea/vision, your passion, and, well, for just being totally cool. A great wine, from a great farm (that’s taken a lifetime to restore), from great people. I could ask for nothing more.

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