Looking for some picks for a weekend of reds? Old World meets New World on the list of this week’s suggestions.
Frenchie Cabernet Sauvignon Napoleon 2013, North Coast, USA I am not a fan of clever labels. All too often, I have found the cuter the labels, the lousier the wine. The exception to this are California and Australian labels. Hence I gave “Frenchie” a try. And very happy I did. It is rich and smooth, a full-bodied wine with a great nose of cassis, vanilla, and dark fruit with a long finish. Dog lovers planning to visit this winery should know your pets are welcome to stay at their wine-themed kennels. $24.95
Miguel Torres Altos Ibericos Crianza 2012 Miguel Torres is the king of Spanish wine. On a recent stop in Toronto, the legendary winemaker paid tribute to other great winemaking families. Torres’ product line is extensive and a testament to good taste. I found this one at the LCBO for $16.95. It’s 100% Tempranillo and I plan to buy a case before my ex-pat Montreal friends come for dinner – otherwise we end up hitting the good stuff late at night. Never a good plan. Trust me, I know from experience.
Pillar Box Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Padthaway, South Australia Clearly my wine choices this weekend were on the big bold side. This Cabernet Sauvignon responded to both. It was spicy, smooth and it is winning accolades around the world, including a 91 from the Wine Enthusiast. $21.95
Giulio Caporali is proud of his grapes, his wines and his daughters, and not necessarily in that order. He grew up making wine. His career steered him to the railway industry. In the 70s, Guilio decided to get into the wine business, buying a choice piece of land in southern Tuscany, close to Montepulciano.
Tenuta Valdipiatta is a family-owned winery producing about 100,000 bottles a year. And oh what bottles! These are award-winning wines that have shared the spotlight with the much-heralded Super Tuscans Sassicaia and Ornellaia.
Giulio took us through the stunning grounds. He gave us a primer on the status of the vines and the way they are trained to produce the best grapes. Everything here is done by hand. The aging room was dug out of tufa rock. Etruscan relics found on the property are mounted on the walls. And inside the barrels… pure magic.
We started with 100% Pinot Noir, unusual for this area. Critics said it could not be done but Guilio doesn’t really care about going against the grain, or the grape. He follows his own path – something his daughters learned from their father.
Miriam – an economist, runs the winery and Cinzia, a mechanical engineer is co-owner of La Locanda di San Francesco, the most romantic & luxurious B & B in Montepulciano with a wine bar where I first sampled Valdipiatta (in fact our group like it so much we cleaned them out of all 12 bottles that night – hey, before you get judgey, there WERE 8 of us.)
Each tasting came with a story of an evolution, a discovery or a philosophy.
Guilio on Decanting: 90% is theatre. A good wine, is a good wine. But if I were having friends over I would open the bottle the day before. How would you feel if you were locked up in a bottle for 10 years? You need to stretch.
On Super Tuscans: Great marketing strategy.
On Oak Barrels: Russian Oak was the thing until the Revolution and the French saw an opportunity to step in.
Today Valdipiatta uses Slavonian, French and some Russian oak.
I am not sure which I enjoyed most: the wine, which was spectacular or the conversation. Though I know exactly which wine I loved the most. The 2005 Riserva. 100% Sangiovese. So smooth. So spicy. So Savoury – with flavours that live on. When you are only allowed to bring 2 bottles each through Canadian customs, you become rather choosy about what those bottles will be, but the Valdipiatta Riserva has a permanent spot in my heart and my luggage.
Luckily Valdipiatta is available on occasion at the LCBO.
There are dozens of producers of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, but this tasting was one of the best. If you find yourself in the area, I highly recommend it for the wine and for the experience. Go to their web site – www.TenutaValdipiatta.it for a full list of tours and tastings available.
I am under the Tuscan Sun, the place where magic happens, where grapes become wine, history becomes a playground, and life truly feels like this was how it was meant to be lived.
Montemercurio Winery combines legend and science to create memorable wines.
It is said the grand piazza of Montepulciano was once the site of a temple honouring Mercury, the winged-God of Roman mythology. Mercury was the God of communication, commerce, eloquence (poetry) and travellers (how forward-thinking those Romans were).
In 2007, when Marco Anselmi decided to create his own brand of wine in the shadow of the hill town of Montepulciano or Mons Mercurio as it was once called, he honoured the legend and he honoured his grandfather Damo who taught him everything about wine.
Last year at an informal blind tasting of producers of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano at the E Lucevan Le Stelle – a wine bar par excellence in the pretty hill town , Montemercurio came first. It sparked brisk sales, and my interest in getting to know their wines better. Much better.
Sommelier Irene Lesti was our guide. She drove us to the stunning fields just below Montepulciano, most planted with Sangiovese – the Tuscan hero grape, a little Merlot, Canaiolo, Colorino, and Barbera for blending – along with Malvasia Bianca, Canaiolo Bianco, Trebbiano and Pulcinculo used to produce a kick ass white.
Owner and winemaker Marco Anselmi is a firm believer in traditional methods. He respects the old ways – from the size of the oak barrels to the regional grapes.
His latest experiment, aging wine in a gigantic cement block as the Romans did 2000 years ago. It’s an idea that’s caught on in the last few years with Crush Pad in the Okanagan and a number of California wineries, including Conundrum and Cliff Lede, doing the same.
Back at the Cantina, Irene let us sample the entire production line, starting with Caduceo IGT 2012, a white even my husband Steve, a seriously dedicated red wine drinker, appreciated. It was full of all the flavour Pinot Grigio often lacks.
Irene took us on a journey through the Tedicciolo, an IGT Toscana Rosso which softens the 80% Sangiovese with 20% Merlot. “Sangiovese can be a very aggressive grape,” said Irene. “Merlot gives it a little fruit.” Steve, my official tasting companion, loved it….until he tasted the Petaso – a Rosso di Montepulciano that went down so nicely, we had to take one home. With a flavour that is equal parts intense and elegant, this is a great value wine. Snap it up if it comes to the LCBO or SAQ!
Messaggero Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2008 was my favourite. It was big, bold and beautiful – a delicious blend of 95%Sangiovese and 5% Canaiolo. The reason this vintage was special – Marco did not think the selection grapes met the standard for their premium wine, DAMO, so all the grapes meant for DAMO went into the 2008 Messaggero. Essentially a Riserva without the price tag. This was only the second harvest for the winery. The good news is Messagero is coming to the LCBO – so keep an eye out for it.
Finally, DAMO, Montemercurio’s premium wine is a blend of the best grapes of the vineyard. 80% Sangiovese, 20% Canaiolo, Mammolo, Colorino and Barbera. Named after Damo, Marco’s grandfather and inspiration. Irene let us try the 2007 – the first vintage and the 2008, a complex blend that opens with age.
Montemercurio produces 30,000 bottles a year, 80% is exported. Thankfully that means you don’t HAVE to return to Tuscany to try it, HOWEVER this is where the magic happens so I highly recommend it!