More Tuscan Wines
- This is one of the real gems in Montalcino and it seems the neighbors (and
competitors) have great respect for the work done by the Bartolommei family
as well as their Brunello wines.
The family had been in various locales in Tuscany for decades, but it was
only in 1965 that they actually became land owners and started planting
vineyards. It was not until 1978 that they vinified their own wine and
it was in 1983 when this first vintage was offered to the market.
- The Brunello from Caprili has been consistently good. So-called
"small" or lesser vintages have been remarkably good and the wines
really shine in top years. The 1999 was a fantastic bottle and so was
In 2019 we had a chance to taste the 2002 vintage. This was a really
difficult year and rains pretty much washed out the crop. Yet the wine
Caprili made was still showing well and it was still alive and kicking.
Young Giacomo Bartolommei put a bottle of the 1994 on the table and we
sarcastically said "Oh, another hall of fame vintage!"
He laughed but that bottle was also remarkable.
The 1997 was a very warm vintage, so perhaps it won't last quite as long,
but that wine was quite showy at nearly 12 years of age.
We also found 2004 and 2006 to be exceptional...but we've tasted every
vintage they've made over the past decade+ and the wines are solid every
Visiting the cellars in 2019, we were treated to a bottle of the 2001
vintage. This may have been the best Tuscan wine of our trip. Fantastically
good, with still good acidity and tannin.
Some new tanks since it's apparently obligatory for Italian wineries to
have concrete "eggs" or something new.
The new cellars at Caprili are impressive.
We have the 2012 in the shop presently. This is a fine bottle at this early
stage and it's destined to be a "grand" bottle if you have some
patience and can cellar it for a decade, or so. They vinify in
stainless steel and then transfer the wine to large Slavonian oak.
The Brunello is fermented using indigenous yeasts. After
the primary fermentation, it's transferred into those large Slavonian oak tanks
(above) and aged for 36 months, or so, before bottling.
The 2012 strikes me as a shade darker in color than typical Sangiovese.
The wine is also a bit fuller in body than standard Brunello and it's got plenty
of dark berry fruit and a mild spice note. The acidity will carry this
wine for years and it's the sort of wine one hopes to be able to enjoy ten or
twenty years from now!
The Riserva is a fantastic bottle...if you open one now, please
decant it an hour or two before dinner...or stash it in the cellar for five to
ten more years!
Currently in stock: 2012 CAPRILI BRUNELLO DI
MONTALCINO (list $75) SALE $59.99
2004 CAPRILI BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO
RISERVA (list $100) Sold Out
Paolo, Paola and Dad
Paolo in 2019...you can easily see they take of the vineyards in proper
The 2014 vintage is a bit of challenge and a number of wineries skipped
Caprili was magnificent, though.
They had only 60% of the normal production but managed to make a seriously good
Paolo pours a 2001 Riserva...that was a grand bottle!
Sunset at Caprili
- We've long been fans of this exceptional estate in the southeastern part
of the Chianti Classico zone.
It's a large estate a bit north and east of Siena.
The property encompasses 298 hectares of land, with about 50 in vines (14
are recently replanted) and 32 in olives.
We first became fans back in the 1970s and the wines were well-regarded back
then and the estate was rather prominent, even with big names such as Ruffino
and Antinori as the major brands from Chianti.
The owner is the Principessa Coralia
Pignatelli della Leonessa. She's born in Greece, grew up in Switzerland
and married an Italian fellow who was his country's ambassador to Algeria (if
memory serves). He died in the mid-1980s and the Principessa has been
running things ever since. It's a major undertaking and her wines are more
well-known amongst serious Tuscan wine aficionados than they are to casual
Italian wine fans.
One of her former American importers described her as
"difficult." She's a bit of a perfectionist and she's accustomed
to having things go her way. (Why not?) I recall, on our very first
visit, asking about the use of Trebbiano in the Chianti, as then was mandated by
She explained that she cultivated Trebbiano vineyards, solely so she could say
she was following the legal requirements in making Chianti Classico. But
she was not about to "water down" her wonderful wine by adding
Trebbiano. The laws, of course, have since been changed and the
Principessa's enlightened view of winemaking has been adopted by top producers
Her wines have never been inexpensive and she's insistent on having low yields
in the vineyards as a means of producing superior quality Sangiovese. And
while many Chianti producers seek to make wines for those who don't really
"understand" Sangiovese (and so they blend Cabernet Sauvignon into
their wine so it tastes more familiar to someone who, well, drinks Cabernet),
Castell'in Villa's is purely Sangiovese.
The Principessa is early 2019
This is why the wine is so marvelous, on one hand, and a bit difficult from a
sales standpoint. The average bear wants bigger, soft, round fruit
bombs-of-a-wine with coffee, mocha and vanilla...Castell'in Villa Chianti is
snappy, dry, somewhat acidic and well short of "full-bodied."
It's aged in large neutral cooperage, not small French oak barrels.
The estate produces a "classic" Chianti. It's
entirely Sangiovese and it's a medium-bodied wine which is dry, moderately
acidic and mildly tannic. In a world with so many wines made to taste like
"candy," this can be a shocking bottle! There's the hallmark
cherry aroma of Sangiovese, with zippy, zesty acidity and the wine is not at all
heavy or ponderous. It's a delight with good food, however and it's a wine
intended for the table, not as a "cocktail."
We find these age handsomely.
We tasted a 2010 in Europe in March of 2015...I was eyeing the young German
enologist with whom I visited, waiting to see if his impression of the wine
matched mine...it seemed like it was corked.
The Principessa took issue with this assessment saying "my wine can't be
corked. No...it's not corked..." And then a moment later she said
"But I'm not buying corks from that company ever again!"
So we are unsure about the 2010... but tasting it here a few times we did not
find it to be an issue.
The 2015 has recently arrived. It's a beauty!
It is worthy of the term "Classico," not solely because it comes from
the Classico region, but because the wine is a classic.
It is showing well presently and it should continue to blossom over the next 5
to 10 years. This is a winner.
The 2006 Riserva is magnificent...it, like many vintages of Castell'in Villa is
quite structured and tannic. You really do need to open it ahead of time,
splash it around in a decanter and let it air for an hour or two. But it
can be a memorable bottle when paired with a grilled steak or a prime rib of
beef, grilled lamb, etc.
The 2003 Riserva is blossoming nicely. This has deeper fruit than the normale.
Cherry/red plums and an underlying spice tone characterize this wine. It's
medium-full bodied and a delight. You can pair it with a simple grilled
steak or show it off with a selection of cheeses. We opened a bottle
recently at an Italian-themed dinner and even the folks who don 't usually drink
wine of this style were demanding a second pour of this!
The 2001, at 15 years of age, is still youthful and doesn't show its age.
We tasted this in April of 2016 and this can easily be cellared another decade,
or two. Easily. Very fine and elegant. If you want to enjoy a
bottle in the near future, do decant it and give the wine some air. Pair
it with a good steak or roast...it is a noble red wine!
Castell'in Villa's 1986 displays the brickish orange coloring of a mature
Chianti. The nose is quite complex, offering a slightly meaty quality,
with an earthy tone. There's a faintly woodsy element here, too. It
remains crisply acidic and even a bit tannic. Very fine. Tasted
in April of 2016.
The 1971 Reserva, tasted in April of 2016, was a bit brownish in
color. The fragrances are beautifully sweet and complex. It is old
and ready to drink, but this still is alive. There's great acidity to this
with a touch of tannin. Very fine!
When the wines have decades of bottle aging, they take on a
whole different personality. You'll find the color to show its age, with
some brickish tones on the robe. The nose shows faint cherry aromas with
scents of tobacco and a mildly tarry element...it blossoms nicely in the glass
(and is best decanted). Consider some sort of braised or stewed meats with
this and having some dried porcini in the 'stew' is a good idea. The wine
is dry and despite its age, still has some nice 'bite' to it. It's a
wonderful taste of history.
But keep in mind, these are not wines which are universally-appealing. If
you're "in tune" with good, old-fashioned Sangiovese, you'll probably
appreciate these. Fans of Rombauer Zinfandel or Silver Oak Cabernet are
likely to be disappointed.
Currently in stock: 2015 CASTELL'IN VILLA CHIANTI
1986 CASTELL'IN VILLA CHIANTI CLASSICO RISERVA SALE $189.99
2003 CASTELL'IN VILLA CHIANTI CLASSICO RISERVA (List $65)
2005 CASTELL'IN VILLA CHIANTI CLASSICO RISERVA $74.99
2006 CASTELL'IN VILLA CHIANTI CLASSICO RISERVA (List $65)
2001 CASTELL'IN VILLA CHIANTI CLASSICO RISERVA SALE
The Principessa with Pierre Sicard and Giulia Masi.
HERE TO SEE SOME PIECES OF GIANNI FANELLO'S SCULPTURES
WHICH WERE DISPLAYED AT CASTELL'IN VILLA IN 2011-2012
Monsanto is the name of a small village in the Chianti Classico region.
- Owned by
the Bianchi family, the Monsanto estate covers about 390-something acres, of which less
than one-third are vineyards. The property is down the road from Isole e Olena and
has been under the current ownership since 1961.
It is not, by the way, affiliated with the large "agrochemical" or
"agricultural biotech" giant called Monsanto. The name being
the same has made it difficult for this smallish, family-operated Tuscan
winery to find a market in the US, beyond those who are "in the
We've been tasting their wines for
many years and usually find the famous "Il Poggio" to be one of the
most structured and cellarworthy bottlings in Chianti. The wines have
become somewhat more refined over the past decade, but they are not
"easy" Sangioveses which are intended for immediate drinking.
I can't say the Monsanto wines are made with an eye towards receiving high
numerical scores from various wine critics. They seem intent on making
wines which are traditionally-styled and which are true to their vineyard
origins. If these get a nice review, I am certain the Bianchi family
is happy. But you won't find wines which are tailored for the American market.
On our first visit (about 30+ years ago) we were offered, along with some other guests (who didn't seem
like they really cared whether the wines poured were good or not), Monsanto's 1972.
This was an unusual wine! It had an almost honey-like aroma.
Fabrizio Bianchi later
opened his 1973 Chianti. Another odd wine, to say the least.
Finally we learned why Bianchi pulled out of the Consorzio of Chianti Classico
producers back in those days.
It seemed that organization had the "say" as to when the fruit could be
harvested. Bianchi, who says his vineyards produce a modest crop level, was ready to
pick in both 1972 and 1973. Cultivating fewer grapes per acre than others, his fruit
was more advanced in ripeness and was ready to pick.
"Not yet!" said the Consorzio, accustomed to monitoring vineyards
being grown for maximum yields, not quality wine. As a result, those vines
were well behind Signor Bianchi's in terms of ripeness or maturity.
In both vintages, it rained on his healthy fruit, causing the spread of mold and rot.
So, Bianchi made Chianti wines in both vintages which had Botrytis cinerea (noble
Finally, disgusted with this system of paying dues to a group which was hampering his
ability to make fine wine, Bianchi withdrew his membership. Others
vintners followed, by
So, for a time, bottles of Castello di Monsanto Chianti Classico wines did
not have the Gallo Nero symbol on them.
They still have a cellar full of the two botrytized vintages of
Laura Bianchi, who runs the estate, shows off the famed "Il Poggio"
Laura Bianchi atop their observation platform where you can view many of
the vineyards in the Monsanto area.
Please notice the soil below the vines has been turned and there's not
dead vegetation as a result of spraying herbicides...
When I visited the estate a few years ago, the cellars were
rather new and pristine...and they still are!
Temperature controlled fermentation tanks...
Large, neutral Slavonian oak is used to mature the Chianti Classico wines.
Small French oak...they use these for their Riserva wines as well as their
Various galleries took years to construct.
Laura shows off a prized vintage of Il Poggio Chianti Classico.
Daughter and Laura...many years ago.
Tasting in 2019...that unlabeled bottle was from the 1970 vintage!
The 2004 IL POGGIO Chianti Classico is a gem...though it's a bit of a 'rough
& tumble' sort of red wine. In fact, Monsanto routinely made
Sangiovese wines with the ferocity of Piemontese Nebbiolo!
I purchased a bottle of their 2007 Il Poggio and found this wine, much like the
2006, to be a wine of a whole different structure! The wine is rather
showy and nicely woodsy, with cedar tones intermingling with the cherry notes of
the Sangiovese. It's dry and medium+ bodied, with much softer tannins than
in the 2004 and earlier vintages.
Currently in stock: 2004 MONSANTO "Il Poggio" CHIANTI
CLASSICO RISERVA (list $60) SALE $49.99
Poggerino estate is a small property near Radda in Chianti that's run by
Piero Lanza. This fellow is truly what we can call a "wine
grower," for unlike most vintners who sell wine or winemakers who
merely vinify grape juice, this guy "grows" wine.
When I have visited the place (a couple of times), Piero is always out in
the vineyards. And a winemaker friend who's very familiar with the
Tuscan enological landscape has great respect for the wines Lanza makes,
saying Piero is a top-notch viticulturist.
The property comprises about 11 hectares of vines. It's nearly all
Sangiovese, though he makes a Super-Tuscan that's half Merlot.
Chianti wines here are exemplary showcases for good, traditionally-made,
Lanza bleeds off some juice to intensify his wine, but the Poggerino Chianti
already has a fair bit of stuffing and pretty good structure. That's
not to say the wines are hugely tannic, because they're not. He
manages to balance them quite nicely.
The vineyard was planted in the 1970s and someone decided having the
traditional white grapes for Chianti was a good idea. Over the years,
this situation has been corrected and Poggerino Chianti is pretty much
Sangiovese with no international varieties to make the wines seem like
they're made in California or other New World locales. Nor are these
watered down with Trebbiano...
We currently have Piero's 2004 vintage Chianti Classico. If you're
interested in tasting a wine that's a bit of a throw-back, this would be a
good bottle to try. It's a serious Sangiovese and a wine of great
integrity. Very fine...
Currently in stock: POGGERINO 2004 CHIANTI CLASSICO Sold Out
Piero Lanza and his lovely sister, Benedetta in April 2008.
SAN FABIANO CALCINAIA
can say the Chianti of this estate is "molto Serio," because, in
fact, the man who owns the place is named Guido Serio.
He purchased the property in 1983 and set about making improvements,
investments, renovating the cellar, etc. They're located southeast
of Poggibonsi and west of Castellina in Chianti if you're familiar with
the geography. And even if you aren't familiar with the lay of the
land, that's still where they are.
The vineyards are in the area of Castellina and the property comprises
approximately 165.3 hectares, about 25% of which are devoted to
wine. The rest are farmed for grain, olives or simply left
'wild'. The holdings are a bit divided, with the Cellole property
being just west of Castellina, while the winery and their other operations
(several guest apartments and a small osteria) being to the
southwest, a short drive east from Poggibonsi.
We found their 2008 Chianti Classico to be quite good. Many 2008s
seem out of balance to some degree--many strike us as a bit empty.
The San Fabiano bottling is medium-bodied and shows the classic character
of good Chianti: cherryish fruit and snappy acidity, making it a nice
partner for pasta, pizza or simple grilled meats. It's drinkable
immediately and will remain in good condition for several years.
The Riserva is called "Cellole" and the 2007 is
spectacular. The wine comes from an 8 hectare vineyard site near
Castellina. The wine has a small percentage of Merlot in the blend
and it's matured in French oak, some of the barrels being brand new and
others having had one wine in them.
We brought a bottle to a dinner in Milano after visiting San Fabiano and
it was paired alongside a couple of 2004 Brunello wines from good
estates...and the Cellole was the wine of the night!
Currently in stock: SAN FABIANO CALCINAIA 2008 CHIANTI
CLASSICO Sold Out
SAN FABIANO CALCINAIA 2007 "CELLOLE" CHIANTI CLASSICO RISERVA Sold
- Beautiful vineyards near the winery...
Le Ragnaie estate is situated less than 3 kilometers south of the town of
Montalcino and it's one of the leading naturalista producers in the
area. The winery is about 2 kilometers southwest of the famous
Riccardo and Jennifer Campinoti purchased the Le Ragnaie property in 2002,
though it's reported the first bottled vintages were made in 1991 by the
The name of the estate comes from its having been a famous area for bird
catchers or hunters. But these people would look to ensare birds not
by shooting them, apparently, but by capturing them in a special sort of
net which was said to resemble a spider's web. Spider, in Italian,
is a "ragno," hence the name of the property, Le
The Campinotis have somewhere between 14 and 17 hectares of
vineyards. The winery (and its agriturismo apartments) are at a fairly
high elevation and this has a major influence on the character and style of the
Le Ragnaie Brunello. Riccardo has vineyard in four locales, we're told
during a visit in March of 2019.
Some years ago Campinoti purchased vineyards in the Castelnuovo dell'Abate area
in southwest Montalcino...those sites are warmer than at the home estate
property. The highest sites on the home property are more than 600 meters
above sea level, higher than has been legally allowed for Brunello. With
warmer vintages, though, the Consorzio is looking to possibly amend this
restriction to allow fruit from those vines to be incorporated in the Brunello.
Being a fan of Burgundy, Campinoti has the idea of bottling a single-vineyard or
"cru" wine. That's called "Fornace" and it's from the
Castelnuovo dell'Abate area. There's also a "V.V." bottling from
Vecchie Vigne (old vines). These are close to 50 years of age and
they're from the home base area near the winery. They only make a couple
of hundred cases of that wine as we understand it.
We have periodically had Le Ragnaie's regular bottling of Brunello in the
Currently we have the 2013 Brunello di Montalcino. It's an elegant red
and, at this stage, needs to be decanted and allowed maybe an hour or two of
aeration. It's brickish garnet in color giving the impression
the wine has a bit of maturity, but it's still young and a bit tight.
There's good acidity which should allow it to cellar for another decade, or
so. There's a note of cherry fruit from the Sangiovese and maybe some
underlying herbal tones, too.
When they started, small oak was employed, but Campinoti realized larger wood
vats would allow the character of the fruit and a measure of "terroir"
Currently in stock: 2013 LE RAGNAIE BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO
As you can see from this snapshot just outside the Le Ragnaie cellar, it's a
fairly high elevation site.
Maybe you can't see that from this photo...
- I'm not sure I can shed much light on Luce,
which began as a collaborative project of Robert Mondavi
and Tuscany's Frescobaldi family. They have a property in Montalcino; some vineyards
are owned by the firm, others are rented.
In an effort to create a Tuscan "Opus
One," they're blending Merlot with Sangiovese (or Brunello, if you prefer).
While the wine is beautifully packaged, I can't honestly say I find the wine to be as
extraordinary as its price might indicate.
The wine seems to have all the charm of a
California Merlot. It's a wine from a "royal" wine
family making royally-priced wines for those who aspire to rub elbows with
the "elite." As a result, eighty bucks affords one this
I suspect they call the wine "Luce" (light) as when you buy a
bottle, your wallet is much lighter.
A smaller version, dubbed "Lucente," is
nicely made $15-$20 red wine for which they ask closer to $25.
- Currently available: 2014 LUCE SALE $109.99
There is a Rocca di Castagnoli in the Chianti Classico region.
But this is not Rocca di Castagnoli, it's just "Castagnoli."
World of difference, too.
This estate is owned by a German fellow who, amongst other things, makes a
bit of wine in Deutschland. Alfred Schefenacker bought Castagnoli
from another German fellow, a guy named Doebelin.
It's a property just a mile, or so, from Castellina in Chianti.
Soils are galestro and Pietraforte, a very hard sandstone
from which numerous Florentine building are constructed. With
well-drained soils and the reflective nature of the Pietraforte,
the vines tend to produce small crops and, interestingly,
smaller-than-normal Sangiovese grapes. This means there's a greater
skin-to-juice ration and probably accounts for the remarkable intensity of
the Chianti here. The estate has maybe 12 hectares of vineyards and
seven, or so, of olives. The rest is forestland.
The agricultural practices are beyond organic, so the wines from this
estate can be called "biologico."
The property is run by a local Tuscan lady, Sonia Ermini. Her
Mom grew up at Le Filigare and Dad came from Casa Emma, two prominent
Chianti estates. She's definitely got Sangiovese in her veins.
Add to the mix, a consulting winemaker who "studied" at Ca' del
Bosco, Antinori, Montellori and Isole e Olena.
Giampaolo Chiettini works with a number of good wineries these days and
more than a few told us they appreciate his advice as he doesn't put his
fingerprints on their wines, but allows them to develop on their own,
expressing their places of origin.
(This may sound pretty simplistic, but we've tasted wines from a few of
the more famed consultants and their wines often have a similar character
whether they come from Tuscany, Sicily, Umbria or Lazio for example.)
We tasted through their range of wines in April of 2019 while in Italy and
found the Castagnoli bottlings to be very good.
Once back home, we tasted the 2015 Chianti Classico with the staff and
this got the thumbs up from all of us.
The vineyards are not terribly old for their normale Chianti
Classico. The oldest parcel was planted in 1993 and the youngest in
This vintage is entirely Sangiovese, though we noted the 2016 has 10%
Syrah. In any case, the wine sits on the skins during the
fermentation and beyond, having about three weeks of skin contact.
The wine is then matured in Slavonian oak vats and French puncheons and
There are red and black fruit notes to the 2015 and it's fuller than most
Chianti Classico, save for those blended with Cabernet. For us this
shows a more "noble" aspect of Sangiovese. That is to say,
this is not merely a "Spaghetti Red." It's got more class
The 2015 is showing quite handsomely at present and it can likely be
cellared into 2025, or so.
Currently in stock: 2015 CASTAGNOLI Chianti
- This estate was
carved out of a small patch of vines sold by the Coltibuono folks to John
Dunkley, a British gentleman who "retired" to Tuscany long before
it was fashionable to do so.
I first met him in the mid to late 1980s and we had a nice chat about how
Chianti was perceived in the American market. At the time, the British
had no idea good wine was made in Italy (wine had to be French to be good,
it seems) and most Americans wanted something in a straw-covered fiasco
bottle. This situation was disheartening to poor old Mr.
Dunkley. But he was a stalwart in a place steeped in tradition,
sometimes to its/his detriment.
brought an outsider's view to Tuscany and, in a certain way, became a bit of
an ambassador for the region to the English-speaking world. He was a
major proponent of Sangiovese and his wine often struck me as a bit fierce
and certainly not for those wanting something to drink immediately.
Dunkley took on a protégé, Sean O'Callaghan, in 1991, a fellow who had
studied at Germany's wine school in Geisenheim. Dunkley died in 1999
and today the property was then owned by a fellow named Baumann. He
sold the estate in 2011 to a Russian woman named Svetlana Frank who is said
to continue in Dunkley's footsteps.
But Mr. O'Callaghan is no longer part of Riecine.
We tasted the roster of Riecine wines in 2018 and need to taste them again
before passing judgment.
Aussie Tom from the Barossa Valley...
I'd say Dunkley had left the place in good hands as vintages have ranged
from very good to off-the-charts back then.
And they don't pander to the American critics who prefer everything taste
Riecine Chianti tastes like Sangiovese...as it should.
We had a 2012 Chianti Classico, a deliciously "pure"
Sangiovese. The wine has good structure, but it's a smoother Chianti
than Riecine normally makes. This is perfectly delicious right now if you pair it with
substantial foods: a grilled steak dabbed with good olive oil...roasted lamb
chops seasoned with rosemary...well, you get the idea.
They have an importer on the East Coast and a few other markets, but
California seems to be a mystery to Riecine's management.
Stay tuned...perhaps their wines will reappear.
- Currently in stock: 2012 Riecine Chianti Classico Sold Out
- CHIANTI IN STRAW-COVERED FLASKS
- While we
don't find the wines to be as exceptional as those coming in 'normal'
bottles, we typically have a few of the Chianti "fiaschi"
bottles in stock. These are straw-covered bottles and cost around ten
to twelve bucks each.
Unlike the art-work here depicting the straw-covered bottle featuring
"Chianti Classico," I can't think of a producer in the
"Classico" region who bottles such a wine in this format.
The Chianti we have in straw-covered bottles is "merely"
Please send me a note or give me a call if you need a quantity of these, as
I will be delighted to order them for you.
got one made by the Banfi folks...it's called Bellagio. They list for
$14 per 750ml bottle and we've got them sale-tagged at $10.99 for orders
picked up here at the shop.
We get requests for empty fiaschi bottles and we'll be happy to empty
them for you, as long as you don't mind paying for full ones as well as the
spaghetti & meatballs we'll prepare to go with the wine.
((I kid you not...I receive several e-mails annually
asking for EMPTY fiaschi bottles! I attribute this to global warming and
some people being in the sun a wee bit too long.))
- Currently in stock:
Banfi's BELLAGIO Chianti 750ml (List $14) $10.99
(plus the shipping box and UPS)
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