There are family businesses and then there is Antinori.
This Italian family has been making wine for more than 600 years or 26 generations. Their centuries of success has everything to do with innovation and quality, creating new traditions and blending them with the old. The current head of this dynamic dynasty is Marchese Piero Antinori. Not only has he expanded the Antinori business far beyond Italy’s borders, he has played a key role in putting Italian wines on the map.
One of the greatest nights of my life, excluding my wedding day and birth of my two daughters of course, (my husband gets a little touchy about that), was the night my husband and I had dinner at Antinori’s Tignanello estate in Chianti with the Marchese himself, thanks to Toronto wine collector Garrett Herman. Antinori talked about the importance of tradition in any family business. His admiration for his three daughters who are continuing the family tradition was obvious. He talked about bringing his 18-year old grandson to visit Antinori’s Califonia vineyards, grooming the next generation. The lively discussion was even better than the Solaia 2007 served with the meal, and that’s saying a lot because the wine was absolutely amazing.
Among the gifts the family has brought to the world: Super Tuscans Tignanello, Solaia, Guado al Tasso, Vintages Classics like Badia a Passignano, Marchesi Antinori, Peppoli, along with wines from Lombardy, Puglia, California, Washington and Chile’s Maipo Valley. The list goes on.
Many of the stars in the Antinori portfolio shone brightly under one roof at an LCBO event recently in Toronto. Some familiar, and some new discoveries.
A few of the highlights:
My Wines II teacher once told us if we ever saw a bottle of Franciacorta (Italian sparkling wine) – buy it immediately because Franciacorta rarely makes its way to the LCBO. Franciacorta is a sparkler from Lombardy in northern Italy. It has been called the catnip of wine lovers. Now that I have tried this Champagne-like sparkler, I think Italians are crazy to let it out of the country at all. Antinori’s Montenisa was fresh and light with apple, pear notes. It is $35.00 a bottle, but compares with Champagne at twice the price.
Haras de Pirque Hussonet Gran Reserva 2009, Maipo Valley, Chile
This was one of the best value finds of the evening. A partnership between the Antinori family and Edourdo Matte, an entrepreneur who wanted to blend his two passions, wine and thoroughbred horses. Haras de Pirque is the name of Chile’s oldest thoroughbred breeding stud. The horseshoe-shaped winery and prize horse farm is built on the side of a hill and gets top marks from TripAdvisor (one more place to add to the bucket list) and this wine got top marks from me for great value. At $16 a bottle, Tina and I ordered a case.
Pian delle Vigne Brunello di Montalcino 2007, Tignanello IGT Toscana, Tuscany Italy , Antinori Badia a Passignano Chianti Classico Riserva 2007
We elbowed our way through the crowd around this table of Superstars. I learned you do NOT save the best for last at these events. The superstars go quickly. I also learned that cork dorks (and I use the term fondly) call the King of the Super Tuscans, Tignanello – TIG. Long live this King. It did not let me down. It was superb. But the true star of this evening was, without question, the Pian delle Vigne Brunello di Montalcino… hands down. It was elegant, rich and refined with cherry, tobacco and even a hint of chocolate. A toe-curling experience at $59.95. But compared with the Tignanello at $102.95 – almost a steal. The Badia a Passignano was also good and is my version of a splurge at $44.95 – but tonight this Chianti Classic was clearly upstaged by her Brunello sibling.
La Braccesca Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2009 DOCG Tuscany, La Braccesca Bramasole Syrah 2008 DOC Cortona, Tuscany
I loved these wines and even bought a couple of bottles. These two Antinori estates are close to each other but very different. the web site refers to them as different souls. Each has a character worth savouring. The Vino Nobile di Montepulciano is ripe, rich with a hint of vanilla, smooth and spicy and personally, I feel it is a bargain at $25.00 a bottle. La Braccesca Bramasole is also something very special. It is 100% Syrah coming from an area near Cortona that has become known for its international grapes. You might recognize the name Bramasole from Frances Mayes bestseller “Under the Tuscan Sun”. I first picked up a bottle in Montreal at the SAQ and it is delicious. This vintage is big, bold and unforgettable even at $44.00. Wine Spectator gave it 92 points.
Prunotto Barbera D’Alba 2011, DOC, Piedmont, Italy, Prunotto Mompertone, Monferatto 2010 DOC, Piedmont, Italy, Prunotto Barolo 2009, DOCG, Piedmont, Italy, Prunotto Barbaresco 2009, DOCG Piedmont Italy
The final table that stirred the crowd, featured wines from the Piedmont region just south of Torino. Truly one of the most beautiful areas in the country, it is what I would imagine Shangri-La would look like. And the wines are equally worthy of attention.
The Prunotto Barolo as expected, was big rich and impressive. I am a sucker for a good Barbaresco and this one was nothing short of great. Both were $42.00 and worth the splurge if you are looking for something special. On the more affordable side of the spectrum, I thought the Prunotto Mompertone was delicious and at $19.00 a bottle, I ordered a half dozen. The Prunotto Barbera D’Alba was also good – fresh with bright acidity – also well priced at $21.00.
That was my night with the Antinori stars – some that are regulars at LCBO Vintages or SAQ, Others are available through consignment. It’s pretty hard to go wrong with a family that’s been making wine for more than 600 years.