Marino Colleoni is a man of interesting contrasts: he meticulously crafts tiny quantities of world-class Brunello from vineyards the size of a modest garden, but when it’s time for lunch, he instead opts for a jug of funky white wine made by a friend, apparently his pairing of choice for a selection of artisanal cheeses and chain-smoked cigarettes. I perplexedly partook in sipping the curiously cloudy solution, eager to live like the locals but admittedly a bit confused as to why one of Marino’s majestic reds wasn’t swirling around in my glass instead. As you’ll see with his Rosso from the high-elevation, north-facing slopes of Montalcino, this man means business when it comes to making old-fashioned Sangiovese. Grown organically and aged in Slavonian oak botti, this one is loaded with elegant bright cherry fruit highlighted by floral nuances and subtle gamey undertones. I’ll take that over his buddy’s dubious home brew any day.
Luisa and Marino Colleoni’s native Bergamo is famous for its medieval palaces, but to them it just couldn’t compare to Tuscany. The couple purchased a property outside Montalcino known as Le Sante Marie and moved in 1993. During a walk, they spotted grapes through the leaves of a tree. They got to work clearing away scrub and when they finished, a neatly planted vineyard lay before them. They summoned an inspector and had the vineyard certified for Brunello. They embraced organic viticulture, and constantly search for even more natural methods. The northern exposure, high altitude, and marl soil that of this property all combine to give elegant and fine Brunellos that sets itself apart from the majority of Brunellos in Montalcino.
Perhaps no region is tied to Italy’s reputation as a producer of fine wine as much as Tuscany. Since Etruscan times, viticulture has played a prominent role in this idyllic land of rolling hills, and the Tuscan winemaking tradition remains as strong as ever today. With a favorable Mediterranean climate, an undulating topography offering countless altitudes and expositions, and a wealth of poor, well-draining soils, conditions are ideal for crafting high-quality wines. Add to that the rich gastronomical tradition—Tuscany is home to some of the country’s finest game, pastas, salumi, and cheeses—and you have the blueprint for a world-class wine region.
This is Sangiovese territory; in fact, it is arguably the only place in the world where Sangiovese reaches a truly regal expression. In spite of a rocky history with fluctuations in quality, traditionally produced Chianti has reclaimed its status as one of the country’s most reliable, food-friendly reds, while the rapid rise of Brunello di Montalcino shows the grape’s potential for grandiose, opulent reds allying power and finesse. Traditionally-minded growers have stuck to using only indigenous grape varieties and employing techniques like aging in massive wooden casks known as botti, creating wines of terroir that shine at the Tuscan table.
Tuscan wines have had a place in our portfolio since Kermit’s first visit in 1977. While the names of the estates have changed, the spirit of those first unfiltered Chiantis he imported live on through our current selections.
I want you to realize once and for all: Even the winemaker does not know what aging is going to do to a new vintage; Robert Parker does not know; I do not know. We all make educated (hopefully) guesses about what the future will bring, but guesses they are. And one of the pleasures of a wine cellar is the opportunity it provides for you to witness the evolution of your various selections. Living wines have ups and downs just as people do, periods of glory and dog days, too. If wine did not remind me of real life, I would not care about it so much.
Inspiring Thirst, page 171
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