Casaloste Chianti Classico DOCG 2011


Estate: Founded in 1994, by Giovanni Battista d’Orsi, along with his wife Emilia, Casaloste is located in the Greve region of Chianti Classico in Tuscany. Casaloste, together with the other Wine producers of Unione Viticoltori di Panzano has strongly supported and financed The Experimental Station for Sustainable Viticulture (Stazione Sperimentale per la Viticoltura Sostenibile- SPEVIS). The institution aims to find environmentally friendly solutions for winemakers. Not only certified organic [since 1994], the estate also operates “off the grid”. They produce all of their energy needs thru its solar photovoltaic system and biothermal renewable plant fuels.

Winemaking: Aged in French oak barrels of 25 and 35 liters and in barriques “for a period of about 12 months”.

Tasting Notes: Dark garnet in colour with aromas of cherry, earth and soft spice. Soft and velvety, with cherry and strawberry over layers of white pepper, leather and earth. Plush tannins, fruit and soft spice linger between each sip. A lovely, classical balance of fruit/spice/earth/leather notes Chianti Classico is renowned for.

90% Sangiovese, 10%Merlot
Chianti Classico DOCG
Estate Bottled by Giovanni Battista d’Orsi
14% Alcohol
Enjoy now thru 2018

Benvenuto Brunello: Agile to Brooding, each with its own Story to Tell


I was delighted to spend an entire day welcoming the 2012 Brunello di Montalcino vintage at Gotham Hall in NYC! Hosted by Jeff Porter, acclaimed wine director for Mario Batali and Joseph Bastianich restaurants, along with the Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino, the seminar and following walk around tasting was a fantastic way in which to become immersed with the latest vintage of Brunello.

Montalcino is in Tuscany, the central region of Italy and is bordered by the rivers Ombrone, Asso and Orcia. It is located 40 km from the sea and 100km from the Apennine Mountains and has a Mediterranean climate. Wine and olive oil have been crafted there for over 2000 years. Etruscan wine amphorae [clay jars], dating to the 4th century BC, along with numerous documented mentions regarding the wines of Montalcino from Medieval times on, testify to the continuous production in such an esteemed area.

Although it has the dimensions of a small square box, it is not a homogenous territory; the climate, soil and altitude all play a part in creating different terroir. Situated on a hill, the soils differ immensely from area to area, most drastically seen with loose soil at the lowest areas that increase in minerals as one goes higher up the hill. At one time many, many years ago the area was actually underwater; the soil is loaded with crushed marine sediment, especially marl [or mudstone, a clay soil with high amounts of calcium carbonate] and limestone.

The seminar was a great window into the factors that comprised the 2012 vintage, and an opportunity to immerse oneself in their character. Following are my impressions:

• The Brunello region consists of 24,000 hectares, 3500 hectares of which is vineyard, 2000 hectares devoted to Brunello vines amongst 250 producers. 30% of all Brunello is imported into the United States.

• Rather significantly, 2012 has been given a 5 star rating from the Consorzio. This occurs in about 25% of vintages.

• The movement towards sustainability and organic farming continues to increase. There isn’t a lot of disease to fight, and producers are witnessing the multitude of advantages to environmentally conscious methods. The current estimate has 15-20% of estates organic and/or biodynamic.

• Brunello are known for their incredibly lengthy ageing capabilities, however this doesn’t mean they need to be cellared for 10 years in order to be enjoyed. Ultimately, ageing is subjective. It depends on your personal taste; do you enjoy more fruit and acidity? Or are you a fan of less fruit and subtler earth/mineral flavours? All producers feel that the wines are drinking now, or can be cellared. Personally, I feel that many I tasted needed a couple of more years to fully develop; however that doesn’t prevent me from enjoying a few bottles now!

• As with many Italian wines, All Brunello is intended to go with food; “they’re not cocktails”.

• The weather was erratic and unpredictable in 2012. The year started off dry without any snowfall. Brunello is one of the most arid regions in Tuscany, they rely on snow for ground water, and so this was problematic. February saw lots of snow, but unfortunately it was late and stunted the vines a bit. Next up were Torrential downpours that struck right in the middle of flowering, causing more loss. May thru August was incredibly hot, then absolute perfection arrived in the middle of august and continued thru to September. Many winemakers feel that the vintage was really made in those final 8 weeks.

• Due to the above listed circumstances, the 2012 harvest was one of the smallest in many years, the turbulent weather ultimately reducing the production by about one-third. Grapes were small and the bunches themselves also small, leading to fantastic overall grape quality. The smaller the better with Sangiovese, as smaller berries retain their fruit flavours, aromas and acidity better.

• Overall, the consensus from winemakers and all of us fortunate enough to have tasted numerous 2012 bottles, is that the wines are bright with ripe fruit and acidity, and have a “pretty” quality about them. Some have seen this as a return to more elegant, classic, traditional styled Brunello. Others, such as famed wine critic James Suckling considers their “vibrant fruit, lively acidity, and ultra-fine tannins” to be wonderfully bold and intense; a “rockstar” vintage.


The seminar presented 7 wines from the 2012 vintage. Whilst all were fantastic, below are the ones that I found to be most engaging,
All are 100% Sangiovese.

Talenti Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2012

Hailing from the southwestern part of the region, accessible and easygoing in character. Bright layers of red berry fruit, pepper spice and earth with an herbaceous streak. Baking spices pair up with berries on the plush finish.
15% Alcohol

Collosorbo Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2012

Not as complex as most, but with it’s own identity. Strikingly meaty, with dark fruit and clay minerals culminating in a lengthy, pepper spice finish. Rich and brooding, just lovely.
14% Alcohol

La Magia Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2012


So new, its label hasn’t caught up yet.

Elegant and mineral driven. Cherry, flinty minerals and spice glide atop silky tannins, culminating in a dry fruit and clay mineral finish. Delightful and engaging, this would be fantastic with just about any dish.
14.5% Alcohol

Loacker Corte Pavone Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2012

From the famed biodynamic pioneering Loacker family, this is a powerful expression of Brunello. [Coincidentally perhaps also the darkest shade of garnet seen in the 7 wines.] Velvety and intense with layers of fruit, spice and floral notes. Licorice and a hint of bitter chocolate linger on the plush finish. With its velvety softness and well-integrated, dynamic flavours, this was not only a personal favourite, but also that of many of my fellow attendees.
15% Alcohol


A study in contrast: the dark, inky garnet Loacker on the left, transparent ruby red of the Pian delle Querci on the right.

Pian delle Querci Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2012

In direct contrast to the Loacker Brunello, this hails from the far north of Montalcino and was the lightest in colour. Agile and bright with an herbaceous edge [think pine and cypress] to the vivid strawberry and blackberry fruit, energizing savory elements and traces of bitter cherry comprise the wonderfully dry finish.
14% Alcohol
Currently not imported into the US

A study in character, from elegant to agile to powerful to brooding, each bottle with its own story to tell.

Media event hosted by the Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino

Ruffino ‘Riserva Ducale Oro’ Chianti Classico Riserva 2007


Estate: Cousins and Tuscan natives Illario and Leopoldo Ruffino founded The Ruffino estate in 1877 with a dream to make well-known wines in the heart of Tuscany. In 1913, the winery was sold to the Folonari family, and generations later the estate has established itself as a leader in Chianti, creating modern wines for “the contemporary lifestyle” by using a blend of century-long tradition and current technology. Purchased in 2011 by Constellation Brands, the estate is still headed by the Folinari family; Adolfo Folinari, and are “renowned for consistency and quality”, crafting all of their wines to be enjoyed with food.

Winemaking: Twenty years after the first release of ‘Riserva Ducale’ in 1927, ‘Riserva Ducale Oro’ was produced to commemorate an exceptional vintage year. Continuing the tradition today, Riserva Ducale Oro is only produced in the best vintages, “If the grapes don’t meet the winemaker’s exacting standards, the wine will not be made.” The commemorative label celebrates the 60th anniversary of production.

Grapes are sourced from the estate vineyards Gretole and Santedame. The wine is aged for 36 months, part in oak, part in stainless steel and part in concrete vats.

Tasting Notes: Dark garnet with brick edges in colour, with aromas of plum, leather, black pepper and a hint of earthy funk. Concentrated cherry, current, and plum flavours harmonize with earthy truffle and wisps of smoky oak. Licorice, black pepper along with a hint of espresso comprise the lengthy finish. Smooth and well balanced, light tannins and acidity make this pleasant on its own, or with a variety of standard, classic dishes [such as tomato based dishes, roasts, risotto].

Pairing Suggestions from the Winery: Traditional Italian dishes such as pasta Bolognese, wild boar ragù, and eggplant Parmesan. It’s also wonderful with classic American dishes such as grilled ribeye and roasted vegetables.

80% Sangiovese, 20% blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot
Chianti Classico
Bottled by Ruffino SRL
13.5% Alcohol
$45 [average price]
Enjoy now

Rated 92 points by Wine Enthusiast
Rated 91 points by Wine Spectator

Isole e Olena Chianti Classico DOCG 2013


Estate: Isole e Olena was established in 1950 when the De Marchi family purchased and combined two adjoining estates, ‘Isole’ and ‘Olena’, each of which dated back hundreds of years. The estate is located in the hills of the western Chianti Classico region, between Siena and Florence. Today, 4th generation winemaker Paolo De Marchi heads the estate. Considered by many to be “the dean of Chianti” Paolo is known for his extensive work with the Sangiovese grape, research on soil mapping and planting density, along with overall improvement and modernization of the Chianti Classico region. A pioneering force of the “pure Sangiovese movement”, the estate’s flagship wine ‘Cepparello’, first produced in 1980, is 100% Sangiovese.

Winemaking: Grapes were sourced from vineyards with limestone, clay slate, and sandstone soil mix. An ideal blend, the soil allows “for sufficient drainage in times of heavy rain and retain moisture during droughts”. Aged 12 months in a combination of oak casks and barriques, with 15% new wood. Aged in the bottle for 4 months before release.

Tasting Notes: Red-violet in colour with aromas of cherry, earth, woods, cigar box spice and a touch of clove. Wild berry and sour cherry flavours meld with leather, black pepper, sweet and spicy clove and herbaceous traces in the full body. Silky tannins and bright acidity compliment the clean, saline minerality on the dry, fruity finish.

80% Sangiovese, 17% Canaiolo, 3% Syrah
Chianti Classico DOCG
Estate Bottled by Azienda Agricola Isole e Olena
13% Alcohol
$29 [average price]
Enjoy now thru 2023

Rated 90 points by Wine Enthusiast

Romagna Sangiovese: “Good Food, Good Wine, Good Life”


As part of the always informative (and delicious!) Simply Italian Great Wines U.S. Tour, I was delighted to attend the Romagna: Albana to Sangiovese, A Journey Into Native Italian Varietals tasting seminar. Held at the Eventi Hotel in NYC, the class was taught by the wonderfully gregarious Giammario Villa; UCLA wine instructor, Master Taster and International Sommelier, along with the assistance of the winemakers and members of the Consorzio Vini di Romagna.

Emilia and Romagna are often grouped together, however they are two vastly different regions, both culturally and viticulturally. Divided by the ancient Roman road via Emilia, the Emilia region is known for its Lambrusco, Barbera and red Bordeaux varieties, while Romagna has made a name for itself with Sangiovese. Cultivated in the area for centuries, the Sangiovese di Romagna DOC was established in 1967 [the name recently being changed to Romagna Sangiovese].

Under the DOC, wines need to be at least 85% Sangiovese and oak ageing options are left up to the winemaker. These guidelines opened up a huge window for variance within the wines, and did not always present a pure expression of the grape or the land from which it came. With a desire to preserve the purity of Sangiovese and recognize and express the different soils within the Romagna region, 12 subzones were created in 2011. The minimum amount of Sangiovese allowed was increased to 95% and longer, more specific ageing requirements were established.

Additionally, 3 classifications are recognized: “Young” or “d’annata” which are fruity, easy drinking wines usually tank aged and seen on the shelves just a few months after harvest, “Superiore” which can spend a few months in oak, has a bit more tannic structure and intense fruit, but can still be enjoyed young and lastly, “Riserva” wines which are aged for at least 2 years in oak and appreciated for their ageability and concentrated, complex flavours.

Romagna’s unique location between the Apennines Mountains of Tuscany and the Adriatic Sea give it a range of microclimates and also position it is as the link between northern and southern Italy. There is a balance of heat and cold temperatures, along with sea breezes from the Adriatic. The soil is clay limestone, which in addition to providing good drainage, is exceptionally well suited to Sangiovese. Expressing striking flavours of violet, black cherry and herbs such as thyme and oregano, Romagna Sangiovese tends to be more floral with bright fruit and softer tannins then its Tuscan counterpart.

More specifically, northwest mountain vineyards have richer soils, resulting in bigger bodied wines with more tannins and exuberant flavours. These hillside vineyards make use of “spungone Romagnolo”, a vein of blue clay, marine soil deposited during the Pliocene era. Vineyards near the sea have lighter soils, producing wines that tend to be subtler in character, and with pronounced minerality. Breaking it down further, each subzone has distinctive characteristics. For example, Sangiovese from Brisighella displays an elegant, delicate character. Marzeno Sangiovese are known for their tannic, powerful expression, and the subzone of Oriole with its iron and sulphur soils, results in succulent, fruity wines.

Romagna is known as the food valley of Italy, and Romagna Sangiovese is not just food friendly, but is made to be enjoyed with food. With its tannic structure and crisp acidity, it enhances just about every dish all the while refreshing your palate. It is not a coincidence that one of the proverbs on the region is “good food, good wine, good life”.

Our journey into Romagna Sangiovese was launched with a trio of one of the region’s most ancient and historical grapes, Albana. Known as “gold in the vineyard, gold in the glass” the Albano grape can produce wines that range from light and dry to sweet passito style. The grape is entwined with the history and legends of Romagna. It was described by Pliny the Elder and the Younger as a fine wine. Galla Placidia, the daughter of the Roman emperor Theodosius I and regent of the Western Roman Empire from 425 to 437 AD, referred to it as liquid gold. Famous for that golden colour, it is a distinctive wine displaying aromas and flavours of apricot, magnolia, peach, apricot, citrus, honey, almond, cashew, minerals, whilst passito versions express orange peel and candied fruit notes.

All of the wines presented are from family estates that like the majority of the Romagna region, practice a blend of environmentally friendly, lute raisonnée, organic, and sustainable viticulture methods. They are passionate about family tradition, the future generations and drink the wine they make, which is reflected in their philosophy that drinking Sangiovese “means taking a sip of this land”.

I greatly enjoyed all of the wines presented, below are the ones I found the most engaging and expressive of where they come from, along with representing a range of winemaking approaches.

Leone Conti ‘Progetto 1’ Romagna Albana DOCG 2015


Pale gold in colour, very aromatic; with exquisite floral aromas accompanied by fresh herbs and hints of summer hay. Honey, apricot, and herbs are accented by citrus zest and a bitter nut note on the refreshing finish. Just lovely, rather like a summer day in a glass.
* Aged for 7 months in steel tanks.
100% Albana
13.5% Alcohol

Cantina Sociale de Cesena – Tenuta Amalia Romagna Albana DOCG 2015


Deep gold with green tinges in colour, with aromas of rain washed minerals laced with sweet, smoky hints. Golden honey and graham cracker flavours are complimented by bright acidity. Butterscotch and orange zest linger enticingly between each sip. Engaging and charismatic.
* Aged in stainless steel tanks for 4 months.
100% Albana
12.5% Alcohol
Currently not imported into the US
Only 6,000 bottles made

Enio Ottaviani ‘Caciara’ Romagna Sangiovese Superiore DOP 2015


Caciara translates to “happy noise” or “great rejoicing”. For the 3rd generation winemakers of the Ottaviani family it means shared joy and represents how wine is a system of dialogue and a way of meeting people. Friendly and engaging with sweet fresh berries, garden herbs and hints of violet backed by bright acidity. Baking spices linger cozily on the dry finish.
* Fermented in concrete vats, finished in big barrels for 6 months.
100% Sangiovese
13.5% Alcohol
Currently not imported to the US

Azienda Agricola San Valentino ‘Bacaia’ Romagna Sangiovese Superiore DOC 2015


Individual and distinctive, with aromas of sweet allspice wrapped around a funky note. Silky layers of cherry, plum, graphite and oak are complimented by licorice and clove on the sweet and spicy, plush finish. A fantastic example of how Sangiovese is exceptional at expressing terroir and winemaking methods.
* Fermented in stainless steel and concrete tanks, aged for an average of 8 months in 2yr old 500lt French wooden casks.
100% Sangiovese
14% Alcohol
Currently not imported to the US

Trerè ‘Amarcord d’un Ross’ Romagna Sangiovese Superiore DOC 2013

Striking and delectable, my note verbatim “smells like a cozy, spicy meal”. Herbaceous notes really shine, think smoked paprika and black pepper. Currents and cherry flavours round out the body whilst eucalyptus and pink peppercorn comprise the lengthy finish. Dry and savory with a wonderfully rustic edge, a fantastic pairing with anything roasted.
* Aged for 12 months in French oak barrels, then 6 months in the bottle.
85% Sangiovese, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon
14% Alcohol

Celli Bron & Rusèval Sangiovese Riserva Bertinoro DOC 2013


A powerful, elegant expression of Sangiovese, with red berries framed by pepper spice and herbaceous elements. Eucalyptus notes radiate on the dry, clean finish.
* Aged 1 year in middle toasted French barriques, followed by 2 years in the bottle.
100% Sangiovese
14.5% Alcohol

Fattoria Zerbina ‘Pietramora’ Romagna Sangiovese Riserva Marzeno DOP 2013

From female winemaker Cristina Geminiani, a powerful, complex Sangiovese bottled only in the best vintages. Black licorice, black pepper and tobacco notes elevate wild cherry and herbs. Dry, silky tannins glide along, whilst baking chocolate and spiced oak linger between each sip. Iron minerals impart an all-embracing meaty character. A big wine with a luxurious, polished edge
*Aged 1 year in French barrels.
98% Sangiovese, 2% Ancellotta
15% Alcohol




Media event hosted by Simply Italian Great Wines U.S. Tour