When it comes to the marked contrasts of neighboring microclimates, Montalcino in southern Tuscany gives the Bay Area a run for its money. Summer 2017 was infernally hot in western Europe, with the heat wave earning the nickname Lucifer. While the Sesti estate certainly endured a hot, dry year, the vines did not bear the brunt of it the way they did in other parts of Italy, even within the Montalcino DOCG. The astronomer-turned-vigneron Giuseppe Sesti says, “We were blessed with two rainfalls during the summer, which were so localized that they didn’t reach as far as four kilometers from us.” It wasn’t just the rain that saved the vintage at Sesti, producing this stately wine, whose relative concentration is balanced by remarkable finesse. Giuseppe and his daughter Elisa, who now manages the domaine, did what they could to react deftly to the heat. They left more leaves on their vines than usual to shield the grapes from the sun and also worked the topsoil with the “rippatura” technique, preserving moisture in the soil when it rains without drastically altering the soil structure. These factors combined to make an admirably restrained Rosso di Montalcino with notes of cherries, mint, and tomato—and likely lots of longevity. Pair it with roast rosemary chicken and potatoes, a wild mushroom polenta, or Chris Lee’s braised lamb shoulder for an exquisite fall feast.
Giuseppe Sesti didn’t initially choose a career in wine. Instead, he was inspired to study music, art, and astronomy, the latter becoming his profession. He met his future wife in Wales while writing his first book, and in 1975 moved to Tuscany, purchasing the abandoned castle of Argiano, slowly restoring the breathtaking estate later planting his vineyards around the castle. In 1999 the Sesti’s daughter, Elisa, joined the estate full time, becoming a partner in all aspects of production. The Sesti lineup includes a white Sauvignon and a Rosato, but their Brunello, Brunello Riserva, and Rosso di Montalcino provide traditional expressions of the appellation, robust and powerful yet refreshing, with great aging potential.
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.
Every three or four months I would send my clients a cheaply made list of my inventory, but it began to dawn on me that business did not pick up afterwards. It occurred to me that my clientele might not know what Château Grillet is, either. One month in 1974 I had an especially esoteric collection of wines arriving, so I decided to put a short explanation about each wine into my price list, to try and let my clients know what to expect when they uncorked a bottle. The day after I mailed that brochure, people showed up at the shop, and that is how these little propaganda pieces for fine wine were born.—Kermit Lynch
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