I landed my first restaurant management job as a teenager, and the small chain’s management conference took place at a historic winery in Napa where the waitstaff simply assumed I was of drinking age. At our sumptuous catered lunch in the lush summer vineyard, I was trying to act the proper, knowing adult when we were poured glasses of “Fumé Blanc,” the name coined to differentiate California’s generally oak-tinged effort at Sauvignon Blanc. I practically spun out of my seat, excitedly badgering a colleague to explain this glorious nectar, the first non–Boone’s Farm wine I’d ever tasted. My palate has matured considerably since then, but thankfully I can still be surprised by Sauvignon Blanc. Grown in all four corners of the earth, it comes in as many styles and flavor profiles as the soils and vintners’ creativity can supply. From the precipitously steep limestone slopes of Italy’s Alto Adige to the pastoral green Loire Valley, these acid-driven, obligingly food-friendly and fruit-forward whites can be your table’s best companion. What other grape has the versatility to pair with raw oysters, fish tacos, ripe and creamy chèvre, or Thai basil fried rice with equal aplomb? Want something stony, smoky, and shatteringly crisp? Check. How about silky, honeyed, and chock-full of sweet/tart fruit? You got it. You know, I believe we might have a perfect Sauvignon Blanc for every occasion. Sesti’s is soft, pliable, and plush, with aromas of sweet summer nectarines and only 12.5% alcohol!
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.
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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