Saying goodbye to my friends at Antico Colle, I was picked up by Gabriele Brugnoni, who is a business development consultant for CMK, an important partner to Kindred Vines Import Company, and who represents the interests of many of Kindred Vines important Italian producers.
Gabriele was to drive me to Montauto, located in Maremma and a good two-hour drive from Montepulciano, but first he was kind enough to drive me to Montalcino, where we were to visit Woodberry Wine partner Podere le Ripi. Montalcino is the famous birthplace of Brunello di Montalcino, which is crafted from Sangiovese grapes. The historic area has been known as Podere le Ripi since the 1200’s, when shepherds and farmers tended their flocks and worked their farms, and indeed, shepherds were still working the land in 1998 when Francesco Illy, of Illy’s coffee fame purchased this magical land.
Woodberry Wine has been working with Podere le Ripi for the past two years, which is officially when the wines were first imported into the US market. Extremely limited in distribution, the wines are quickly achieving cult-like status for their powerful elegance, artistic style, and structure.
Everything about the estate represents a homage to the human spirit, positive natural energy, and the desire to achieve the highest quality in all things done. Winemaker/Managing Director Sebastian Nasello, who has been with the estate for the past six years, led us through a tasting of five wines including Amore y Follia (100% Syrah) Toscana Rosso, Amore y Magia Rosso di Montalcino, Lupi y Sirene Reserva Brunello di Montalcino, and Bonsai 2012 – the most babied (and the most expensive) Rosso di Montalcino in the world. Bonsai is taken from a small vineyard plot which boasts the most densely packed vines in the world, at over 65,000 vines per hectare, all held up with bamboo sticks, causing vines to suffer immensely, and stunting their growth, reminiscent of a bonsai plant. As a point of reference, a normal vineyard is planted with 5000 vines per hectare.
The wines are all aged a minimum of five years, and usually six, producing wines of great character, and a softness which belies the age-worthiness of these wines.
The new wine cellar and production facility took the Illy team 7 years to build, and was completed in early 2016. The domed aging vault was built using the same production techniques as Rome’s Pantheon, and was built using spatial dimensions known as the Golden Ratio, which is considered magical. The cellar includes natural thermal ventilation as cool air enters the lower chamber and warm air escapes through the oculus at the top of the dome and elegant symphony music is played to give the wine a tranquil environment to rest.
Francesco lives at the vineyard estate several days a week, overseeing every detail and insuring the quality is never compromised. Francesco designed the artwork that adorns the bottles, and his son Ernesto, an architect, designed the cellars. In 2010, Francesco convinced his brothers to purchase the highly respected Mastrojanni estate next door, and where he also serves as president.
The wines are highly allocated and not to be missed, if you are fortunate enough to get them. This week, Woodberry Wine has received their fall allocation in its warehouse – I am not too hopeful that there will be any left by the time I arrive back in the States!
(Dan & Sabastian)
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