Ahh.....Montalcino. The legendary Tuscan city on the hill, surrounded by the castle walls of la fortezza—medieval era stones that surround the populace once known for its top quality leather goods and tanneries around the 13th century. In later years, as the leather trade went into an economic decline, Montalcino's importance stemmed from its location on the road between Rome and France, becoming an important stop along the way for merchants and travelers. It wasn't until the 1900s, however, that Montalcino would become a powerhouse in the wine trade, growing from a mere eleven producers in the 1960s to more than two hundred today. Instead of animal hides, today it's all about sangiovese vineyards—lush plantings of that fleshy, dark-fruited grape known primarily by Americans as Chianti, rather than the more rich and robust Brunello di Montalcino. Looking to secure more stocks from the 2010 vintage (being called the best harvest of this generation), Greg St. Clair was in town yesterday to check in on his municipality, while tasting the first samples from the 2015 harvest.
I know Greg was extremely excited to meet with Gaetano Salvioni and taste his Albatreti wines. A recent discovery, Greg recently referred to Salvioni's Brunellos as absolutely incredible. His email said, "The moment I put my nose in this wine I knew it was extraordinary, effortless, graceful, and classic, everything you’d want in a Brunello and more. I’ve been travelling to Montalcino for more than twenty years and have tasted a veritable ocean of Brunello, but until recently I'd never even heard of this producer. His first vintage was the 2009 and we hadn’t seen it in the market at all. I re-tasted another bottle just to make sure I didn’t get mis-poured, and the second time I was even more impressed."
Salvioni makes 5300 bottles of Brunello per year—not cases, but bottles. That's a paltry amount compared to most producers. He ages the wine for twelve months in barrels not bigger than five hectaliters, then switches over to two years in botte—a really big barrel that gives less wood influence. His vineyards are about thirty years old and just southwest of the town of Montalcino in a rocky outcrop in some of the highest elevations in Montalcino. Greg said, "The nose on this wine is scintillating, so pure it is hard to put into words to, yet it seems like waves of aromas of wild cherry, Tuscan brush, leather, rosemary and Middle Eastern spices. On the palate the wine is so graceful, respectful and calm it reminded me of Gaetano himself."
After leaving Albatreti, it was over to one of our most iconic and popular exclusive import properties—Poggiarellino. Ever since I started working at K&L I've been buying, drinking, and cellaring selections from Poggiarellino: the wines of Anna and Lodovico Ginotti that are so chewy, old school, and bursting with pure sangiovese flavor. And look who else happened to be in Montalcino this afternoon! Why, it's none other that Redwood City store manager Sarah Covey, taking some much deserved time off in Italy before the holiday retail rush begins to set it. It looks like vacation happened to correspond with a little work time in this case.
The Poggiarellino gang is one of those old school, old world Italian families that makes wine the old fashioned way, just as they were taught by previous generations. The wines are down-to-earth, simple, and humble, just like Ginotti family in charge of tending to the vineyards. I'm dying to get out there and visit the property myself.
After a long morning of serious wine tasting, you know what's in order, don't you? Tuscan ragu with a bottle of Baricci, baby.