Tagged with 'Brunello wine'

Toscanarama Part Three

Our third instalment in this year’s cavalcade of amazing Tuscan wines continues, focusing again on titanic examples of the best Brunello vintage since at least 2010: 

BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO 

Conti Costanti 2016, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG. One of the original founding estates of the Brunello appellation (along with Biondi Santi), Costanti holds down the Old Guard, building a statuesque, long-looking Brunello from high-altitude sites just below the mountain-top village. Orange zest and lavender are just some of the fresh high-tones that lift the sour cherry and candied raspberries before slowing down to the speed limit on the palate and the brisk, garrigue-inflected Mediterranean finish. Act One starts in 3 years, but oh, what a play that will be. Best Costanti that I can remember. 99 points Wine Enthusiast, 98 points Decanter, 97 points Wine Spectator, 5 6-packs available, $160.98 +tax 

Fuligni 2016, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG. A stone’s throw from Costanti, Fuligni’s nose adds heat and spice to that highly situated style, showing kirsch and strawberry compote amongst the sanguineous plum and anise notes, coasting briskly over the palate before the law gets laid down with a traditionally tannic profile and a lifted, ferrous finish. Boasting a restored convent on the property, you wouldn’t plant anything but grapes on Maria Flora Fuligni’s 1450-ft high site, it’s basically bunch of rocks that produce small, angry bunches of Sangiovese, making a deliberate, inscrutable Brunello that needs a further two years for the finish to integrate. Once it does, it’ll show Fuligni’s perfect balance of elegance and power. 99 points Wine Enthusiast, 99 points Decanter, 98 points Vinous, 3 6-packs available, $145.99 +tax 

Poggio Landi 2016, Brunello di Montalcino 2016. The best value of the Brunello 2016s that I’ve come across thus far, Poggio Landi straddles the trad/modern divide, aging in French oak but keeping the elegance and soft power of the classic houses. Sourced from vineyards in the north of the appellation, including the mighty Montosoli, this 2016 is a balance of fruit and savoury elements: black pepper and licorice mix with dried cherry, cedar and pine notes, before tomato leaf and blackberry zing across the palate and long floral finish. Medium-bodied with considerable intensity and a great future, the fruit presence is fantastic now but (broken record) I’d like the finish to poke out a little less – a two years nap should do the trick. 97 points Wine Spectator, 10 6-packs available, $77.98 +tax 

Canalicchio di Sopra 2016, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG. Situated on the steep northeast side of the mountain in what’s now a Unesco Heritage site, Canalicchio di Sopra blends their Brunello from their home site and the Montosoli cru, mixing a classic delivery with bright freshness and slightly earlier accessibility. Lilac and soft balsamic notes lift the cherries and licorice above a ferrous, citrus-laced frame, hints of sweet spice along the palate and one of the longest finishes of the appellation. Still needs a nap but showing great early promise. 97 points Wine Enthusiast, 4 6-packs available, $106.98 +tax 

Canalicchio di Sopra La Casaccia 2016, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG. Only the second vintage produced from the Casaccia plot in the home vineyard, a two-hectare site with an unusually high level of minerals in its clay soils. I can year you saying “two hectares?!? How much wine can you squeeze out of that?”. The answer is surprisingly specific: 4,133 bottles, and I have 6 of ‘em. The most idiosyncratic plot in Canalicchio do Sopra’s oeuvre, Casaccia unsurprisingly shines with minerality and saline notes before the army of flowers invades: smoke-tinged jasmine and violets precede lovely cherry, pine and citrus aromas. Finishes long and herbal, with even more minerals. 98 points Vinous, 97 points Decanter, two wooden 3-packs available, $222.98 +tax 

PRE-ORDER: Le Chiuse 2016, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG. Just clearing customs now, will be in store in a couple weeks.  Although no one officially crowns a “Wine Of The Vintage” in Montalcino, let me put it this way: can you name a better candidate than Le Chiuse? This timeless Brunello that was cleaved from Biondi Santi as dowry (it used to be Biondi’s reserve vineyard) has fully met its moment in 2016 – two perfect scores, and although it isn’t officially released yet, Wine Enthusiast let the winery know that this 2016 Brunello placed #2 on their year-end Top 100 Cellar Selections list. Electric red fruit with savoury green herbs, orange peel with crushed rocks, sour cherry with topsoil, the supple palate is upstaged, currently, by a rigid frame, but that should begin to soften by 2024. Years from now, we’ll remember that 2016 was the vintage that vaulted Le Chiuse into the elite echelon of Brunello producers, joining the benchmark houses that define the genre. No way it stays this price. 100 points Jeb Dunnuck, 100 points Wine Enthusiast, 98 points Wine Spectator – 20 6-packs available for pre-order - $151.98 +tax 

Biondi Santi 2012, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG. The grand-daddy of them all in a new release (they hold back for bottle-aging longer than most). The 2012 finds lots of graphite and blood orange amongst the characteristic herbed cherries, with soft currant and tea notes building before the austere finish returns to Biondi Santi’s natural lack of youthful charisma. Some reviewers suggest that the window on this 2012 is already open, but those people must enjoy getting slapped. As it has always been, Biondi Santi is a time capsule and must be aged accordingly; this will be singing in another 6 years but it’s currently growling. 96 points Wine Enthusiast, $263.98 +tax 

 

OTHER TUSCANS 

Istine Vigna Cavarchione 2018, Chianti Classico DOCG. Although old-vine vineyards are never a risky bet, sometimes a young ingenue can turn heads and sing new tunes: the Caverchione vineyard isn’t even a decade old yet, and it’s already producing stunning Sangiovese with energy and precision. The Fronti family spent decades planning and managing vineyards for Chianti’s elite houses, but never making wine themselves until Angela Fronti convinced her dad that their talents should stay in house, and the Istine label launched in 2009. Built upon the family’s uncanny knack for identifying the best plots, Istine makes several crus but the Cavarchione site has stood out for its brawn and depth: this is a big, complicated Chianti Classico, with layers upon layers of plum, orange peel, cherry and stone drawing you into the glass. Finishes like a laser despite its weight, outstanding stuff now, and it’ll be fascinating to watch what this vineyard gives us going forward. 96 points Vinous, 3 6-packs available, $66.98 +tax 

Terralsole “Trio” 2008, Toscana IGT. Although made by a famous Brunello house within the boundaries of the Montalcino appellation, I can’t put Trio in the “Brunello” category as it’s a blend of French grapes created initially to piss off Mario Bollag’s dinner guests. While most Tuscan producers experiment with international grapes here and there, Terralsole’s Mario found himself hosting several snotty neighbours - Brunello winemakers who were taking turns throwing shade on those non-traditional wines over dinner. When asked to sample them on his recent Brunellos in barrel, Mario descended resentfully into his cellar clutching a decanter, which he then filled with equal parts Cabernet Franc, Syrah, and Merlot. He served the ad-hoc jungle juice to his guests, gleefully expecting to revel in their disgust, but was thrown by what happened next: they loved it. Then he tried it. Turns out that Mario had haphazardly created an amazing Supertuscan: lovely dark berries with toasty oak notes and tertiary notes of leather and dried currants (he holds these back longer than his Brunellos because I don’t know why). Smooth as silk and richly textured, I wish I made accidents like this. Not Rated. 2 6-packs available, $58.98 +tax 

 

NON-STOP CLASSIC HITS 

What follows is a brief listing of some wines that fit this theme and have previously been written about, but featured again for the benefit of those who’ve recently joined my Collectors List and may have missed ‘em the first time. If anyone requires more info, I’m happy to send over the original blurb to you. 

Buon Tempo 2010, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG. 12 bottles available, $89.98 +tax 

Casanova di Neri 2016 (I got more!) Brunello di Montalcino DOCG. 95 points Wine Spectator, 12 bottles available, $105.99 +tax 

Il Paradiso di Manfredi 2013, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG. 97 points Wine Enthusiast, 12 bottles available, $207.98 +tax 

Arcanum 2015, Toscana IGT. 97 points Robert Parker, 18 bottles available, $108.98 +tax 

Le Macchiole “Paleo Rosso” 2016, Toscana IGT. 97 points Robert Parker, 97 points Wine Enthusiast, 1 6-pack available, $170.98 +tax 

Tolaini “Legit” 2016, Toscana IGT. (it’s back and it’s on sale!) #13 Wine Spectator Top 100 of 2020, 95 points Wine Spectator, 4 cases (12) available, reg price $64.99, SALE PRICE $59.99 +tax 

Arguably the greatest vintage of Brunello di Montalcino ever!

Brunello di Montalcino 2016: Arguably the greatest vintage of Brunello di Montalcino ever!

 I've received quite a few bottles of the magical 2016 vintage from Brunello di Montalcino.  This vintage leaves most people speechless, regardless of personal taste. Even if you are not sure which bottle (or bottles) to get, it would be hard to go wrong with any of these excellent wines. 2016 Stands out as the strongest vintage ever in Brunello di Montalcino, a legendary vintage, thanks to a textbook growing season!

 Argiano Brunello di Montalcino 2016: 

 Argiano's Brunello di Montalcino is distinguished by its elegance and its deep ruby red color. It presents a good concentration on the mid-palate and a persistent aftertaste, with a rounded and voluptuous body, and interesting, silky tannins. 97 Decanter. 

$74.99 per bottle plus tax. 

 

 Il Poggione Brunello di Montalcino 2016:  

 Incredible effort for one of the largest estates in Montalcino. This estate produces stunning wines vintage after vintage. Keep this one for at least a decade! 97 Vinous, 96 Wine Spectator. 

$84.98 per bottle plus tax. 

 

 Castiglion Del Bosco Brunello di Montalcino 2016: 

 Complexity, superb structure, and an inviting, mouth-filling palate are the hallmarks of this Sangiovese grown in the 42-hectare Capanna vineyard facing towards the Mediterranean Sea. A garnet-flecked ruby red, it releases generous, emphatic fragrances classic to Sangiovese, developing a near-endless progression notable for its beautiful balance. 97 Decanter, 99 JS. 

$95.98 per bottle plus tax. 

 We also have 6 magnums (1.5L) available of the 2016 vintage: $214.99 plus tax.

 Le Ragnaie Brunello di Montalcino 2016: 

Blended from Le Ragnaie's scattered vineyards, this provides a wide-angle snapshot of Montalcino’s varied territory, violets and Mediterranean scrub meeting wild strawberry, stone and an intriguing earthiness. It also encapsulates Sangiovese’s buoyancy, coming across as mid-weight at first then building with power as firm, dusty tannins wrap around a tangy core. The finish is energetic and uplifting - an elegantly sculpted Brunello. 

 $119.98 per bottle plus tax. 96 Wine Spectator 

 Sesti Brunello di Montalcino 2016: 

The Sesti estate's vineyards are in the enviable position of being on the southern slopes of Montalcino, where some of the most prestigious Brunello comes from. Giuseppe Sesti is considered the leading winemakers of the region. 94 Wine Advocate 

 $147.98 per bottle plus tax. 

Toscanarama Part One

It’s proving to be a bonkers year for Tuscan wines, as we anticipate the arrival of the stellar 2018 IGTs and the 2016 Brunellos (best year since 2010), among others. I’ll offer them in tidy little groupings as they arrive, and you will want them so if you need room you should probably go to your cellar and get busy. That stuff ain’t gonna drink itself. I’ll help. We begin with Part One: 

Le Potazzine 2016, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG. Look for this stunning achievement by the Gianetti family to get buckets of love at year’s end when everyone compiles their lists: Potazzine has always been one of Montalcino’s most elegant offerings, but Gigliola Gianetti’s 2016 blend of two sites – one high and one low lying – has crossed into Vosne-Romanée territory. This is, improbably, a statue made of silk, showing lavender, cinnamon and anise amongst the blueberries, raspberries, and the distinctly Tuscan sensation of cherries sun-drying on a hot stone. Given the softer touch this will come around sooner than other bruiser Brunellos of the same vintage, but I reckon that an additional 2 year will get us to the sweet spot. Beauty and grace. 99 points Wine Enthusiast, 6 6-packs available, $153.98 +tax 

Altesino Riserva 2012, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG. And now the beast. I had the pleasure of trying this ballistic missile a couple years ago when I visited the winery, it was rightly served last in the flight because any other Sangiovese that follows this will taste like Bud Light – this is the maximum Sangiovese that you can Sangiovese. The hotter, dryer 2012 growing season added more heft and power to an already totemistic wine, like adding a half-dozen oxen on top of a tank, but it’s not all muscle, the seductive nose reminds me of ripe cherries drizzled with balsamic, held in a baseball glove. It’s like when the Coyote is irresistibly drawn to the come-hithering Girl Coyote only to find that she’s actually a dynamite stick with lipstick on.  Herbs and nutmeg round off the finish – this is so nearly perfect but I bet one more year will move the experience into nirvana. 98 points Wine Spectator, 3 6-packs available, $154.98 +tax 

Argiano Vigna del Suolo 2015, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG. This tête-de-cuvée from southern-lying Argiano, sourced from the oldest plot of their estate (planted in 1965) used to be classified as an IGT but is now a Brunello proper. Kind of like Brunello by way of Pauillac, the French and Slovenian oak aging has braced the opulent cherry, game, smoke and coffee notes in a noble frame of graphite, pine and spice. Although Argiano sits in the hot south, the Suolo lieu-dit is the highest in the estate, and you can tell: there is a freshness to the nose and finish – much more than their normale Brunellos – and the affair is framed on both sides by herbs and violets. A gorgeous experience but best delayed – I’d start to think about drinking this after 2025. 97 points Decanter, 96 points Wine Spectator, one 3-pack available, $289.98 +tax 

Fontodi Flaccianello delle Pieve 2017, Colli della Toscana Centrale IGT. The rare Sangiovese practiced in the art of Jiu Jitsu: all the aspects of the Saharan 2017 that made it a challenging vintage for many Tuscan producers seem to have only strengthened Flaccianello, which seems to draw power from its neighbours’ tears. There is dark magic afoot here: jet-black cherries with blackberries stirred by licorice in a dark chocolate bowl, ferrous notes help the tannic structure contain it all and the finish is laced with plums, chalk and sage. A few critics – including Parker – have called Flaccianello the standout wine of the vintage. 97 points Vinous, 96 points Robert Parker, 5 6-packs available, $165.99 +tax 

Capezzana “Villa di Capezzana” 2016, Carmignano DOCG. A charismatic, racy red from the Medici’s resort town, and the first DOCG to allow Cabernet Sauvignon. This has always been one of my go-to bottles for Tuscan value, basically Tignanello for a third of the price (“Tiglet”?). 80/20 Sangiovese/Cabernet from the sleepy village of Carmignano, just northwest of Florence, brimming with tangible minerality, dark fruits and floral hints, all on top of a structured-but-drinkable frame with gravel notes and ripe cherry on the spicy finish. Drinks like a classic, great balance of fruit and tension. 96 points Decanter, 94 points Robert Parker, 2 cases available, $47.98 +tax 

Petrolo Galatrona 2016, Toscana IGT. The folks who tend the Galatrona vineyard in the Valdarno region of eastern Tuscany have pulled off a neat trick: they taught Merlot how to swordfight. Long considered an aspirational member of the Masseto Cadets, the last few years have seen the site produce power-pills of heroic might and beauty, like this nearly-perfect 2016 that sees the trinity of blackberry, blueberry and plum fit together like Voltron to slay space dragons. Floral notes at the front and back, a substantial body and frame that shows iron and tobacco. A classic Merlot from Lucia Bazzocchi Sanjust and her son Luca, best after 2024. 98 points Robert Parker, 98 points James Suckling, 6 bottles available, $188.98 +tax. 

NON-STOP CLASSIC HITS 

What follows is a brief listing of some wines that fit this theme and have previously been written about, but featured again for the benefit of those who’ve recently joined my Collectors List and may have missed ‘em the first time. If anyone requires more info I’m happy to send over the original blurb to you. 

Rocca di Montegrossi San Marcellino Gran Selezione 2015, Chianti Classico DOCG. 96 points Vinous, 2 6-packs available, $71.98 +tax 

Supremus 2015, Toscana IGT 95 points James Suckling, 6 cases available, $49.99 +tax 

Tenuta di Trinoro “Le Cupole” 2017, Toscana IGT 93 points Robert Parker, 2 cases available, $64.98 +tax 

Gianni Brunelli 2015, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG. 96 points Vinous, 95 points Decanter, 2 6-packs available, $118.98 +tax 

Piaggia Riserva 2016, Carmignano DOCG. Wine of the Year, Gambero Rosso 1 6-pack available, $65.98 +tax 

Ornellaia 2017, Bolgheri DOC. 97 points Vinous, 96 points Robert Parker, 1 wooden 6-pack available, $259.99 +tax 

La Serena 2012, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG. 96 points Wine Spectator, 2 6-packs available, $119.98 +tax 

Until next time, Happy Drinking!! 

Summer Saga IV - Best Brunellos Ever

Ok, I’ve been building this offering for a while, brick by awesome brick, and now it’s time to show my cards: Brilliant Brunello di Montalcino from several stellar vintages (yes, even 2014, don’t believe everything you read). There are sparse quantities of each wine, so don’t delay if you want some. We begin:

Renieri 2013. A cousin of the Chianti Classico rock star Castello di Bossi, Renieri lies on the warm southern slopes of Montalcino, hugging the appellation’s bottom edge. Like Bossi, concentration is their muse, and the Bacci family practices a severe green harvest (like, Thanos severe) and a month-long maceration towards that end, followed by consecutive stays in both modern Barriques and traditional Botti. Renieri is deep and serious but not angry, the black cherry and plum core radiates warm fuzzies throughout the wine, punctuated by spicy ground tobacco and tar. The tannins are prominent but balanced, you can drink this now without regret but Peak Awesome is probably 3 years away. 98 points James Suckling, 3 wooden 6-packs available, $85.99 +tax

Lisini 2013. Vinous’ Antonio Galloni calls Lisini “one of Montalcino’s historic, reference-point estates”, and it’s easy to see why. The Lisinis have owned Montalcino vineyards since the 1500s, and planted their modern-day vines in the 1930s, back when the outside world probably thought “Brunello” was some kind of ice cream. Indeed, Lisini makes wine as if the last 60 years never happened, fermenting in cement and aging only in large, neutral Slovenian Botti. The reduced oak influence lets the mineral and herbaceous notes shine, and this Lisini nose is bursting with floral orange peel, mint and iron, alongside the expected red cherries. A shad ornery on the finish, needs a 4-year nap to dull its claws, but undoubtedly a future classic -the benchmark holds. 96 points Wine Spectator, 3 6-packs available, $99.99 +tax

Il Poggione 2013. The world never seems more right than when one of your favourite bands drops yet another great album. Since the late 19th century when Lavinio Franceschi bought one of the first estates in the area (they are one of the Original Three), the Franceschi family has been pushing the envelope of quality and innovation in Montalcino, eventually becoming one of the most influential wineries in Tuscany. Their electric 2013 Brunello certainly doesn’t coast on its reputation, either. Boasting ripe berries and crushed rocks stirred with licorice bark, Poggione drinks robustly now, and will for a further 10 years. There are pronounced tannins – Poggione always has these – so throw a steak on the grill and be merry. 96 points Robert Parker, 96 points Jeb Dunnuck, 3 6-packs available, $87.88 +tax

Sesti “Phenomena” Riserva 2012. Rich, lush Southern Brunello at its finest, made in sub-atomic quantities. Although the Argiano winery (more on them further down) is named after the medieval Castello di Argiano, the actual Castello is next door on the largely wooded estate owned by Giuseppe Sesti, a historian of astronomy and Opera festival director who came to winemaking by studying the effects of the moon cycles on vineyards (this sounds like the set up for a Sci-Fi movie where Giuseppe – played by Nicholas Cage -  finds an alien capsule under a vine, but I swear it’s legit). Today, Sesti makes wines so organically, you’d think they were a family of bears – the requirements of most organic certifiers are actually too lax for him. I visited the estate last year and that’s where I found this alien capsule called Phenomena, a Riserva DOCG with the weight and persistence of a Saint-Emillon. Giuseppe designs the labels every year (because of course he does) to reflect an astronomical event that occurred during the year of harvest – in 2012 it was a solar eclipse – and it drinks amazeballs. All manner of baking spices surround dried fruits and nuts, with crushed red fruits and star anise on the long, warm finish. Tastes like Barry White sounds. 94 points Decanter, 6 bottles available, $165.98

Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona 2013. Take it from me, once you learn how to pronounce this winery’s name, it’ll be all you want to do all day. Once a 17th century palace, the estate played owner-plinko until it fell into the hands of the Bianchini family, who in the 80s modernized and sanitized the production, and they’ve found themselves on various Top 100 lists off and on ever since. This 2013 finds red fruits multiplying like Mogwai throwing each other into water, even more than other vintages the fruit drives this bus, contained by soft, refined tannins and a sense of existential comfort. I’d like the acid to come down a decibel or two – 2021 is likely the optimal launch date – but otherwise there are nothing but yummies all the way down. 96 points Wine Spectator, 12 bottles available, $106.98 +tax

Valdicava 2012. Farming in the northern Montosoli cru, Vincenzo Abbruzzese continues to produce time capsules that will serve to educate our future Robot Overlords about how awesome we were. The nose is fantastically aromatized with herbs, spices and sweet oak, but it drinks like an electric fence and will for the next 8 years. If you’re willing to put the time in, this 2012 will more than reward you on the other side – I still have some 2005* and it is simply divine – but as popular and cult-like as it is, Valdicava won’t drink at its price point for another 8 years. I was only allocated 6 bottles, hence the caveat. 96 points James Suckling, 6 bottles available, $193.98 +tax

Biondi Santi Annata 2012. The Granddaddy of them all, Biondi Santi is, simply put, the reason that we care about Montalcino as a Fine Wine terroir, and not San Gandolphini just down the road**. Anyone who has attended my Brunello class knows how Franco Biondi Santi and his forebearers – inspired by Bordeaux -  elevated both the quality and visibility of Brunello over a century and a half – if it weren’t for them, Montalcino would be just another hill with a town on top that happened to grow wine. Like the Valdicava above, Biondi Santi is an investment, think of it as an Italian First Growth (because it basically is), something that will gain fame and value over time, but I wouldn’t advise drinking it now if you’d like to keep all of your teeth. Built for hibernation, a young Biondi Santi doesn’t show much of anything on the nose – the true character will be the tertiary notes that only time can bring – and the structure obscures all else. On the other side of history, however, it’s a marvel of elegance and longevity, and one of the world’s truly essential wines. 96 points Wine Enthusiast, 95 points James Suckling, 6 bottles available, $294.98 +tax

Caparzo 2014. Firstly, a few notes on the 2014 vintage, because wineries will tell you that everything was great-why-are-you-asking and wine writers act like everyone died. I asked everybody I met when I went to Tuscany last year: What happened, put simply, is rain. Not even a ton of rain, but it happened when you wouldn’t want it to, and it happened enough that humidity was a problem. Those who practiced proper canopy management and green harvest made elegant, ageable wines with a touch less pigment than other vintages. Those who did not… didn’t produce a 2014 Brunello. That’s it. Remember: Good People Make Good Wine. Vintage characteristics can vary, perhaps in and out of our preferences, but skilled winemakers don’t make disasters (or put their name on them, at least). Speaking of good people: Caparzo. More traditionally hued than their neighbour Altesino (they share an owner), Caparzo was perfectly suited to the lighter 2014 vintage – dried herbs and cherry with plums and a hint of balsamic. Medium bodied, elegant and delicious, evocative of a red Burgundy, just with different sniffs. 92 points Wine Spectator, 2 6-packs available, $73.98 +tax

Gaja Pieve Santa Restituta 2014. The locals all screamed Carpetbagger when Barbaresco’s most famous son bought the historic Santa Restituta estate near Montalcino, but Angelo Gaja respected the land, its soils and its traditions so thoroughly that now they just scream because he doesn’t make enough wine. There’s even less for this vintage, alas. Usually a multi-tiered project, Angelo found the 2014 vintage challenging, so he folded all of the fruit from the Rennina and Sugarille vineyards (priced more like Biondi Santi) into this entry-level Brunello. Kaboom. Tightly wound like all his wines, but with gobs of red and dark fruits and licorice and fresh basil. Definitely a step up from other vintages, intensity-wise. Not yet rated, 3 6-packs available, $123.98 +tax

Castiglion del Bosco “Millecento” Riserva 2010. The flagship of the Ferragamo (yep, that Ferragamo) family’s venture in the densely wooded, sparsely planted northwest quadrant of the appellation, and the omg-window on this sublime 2010 just opened up. Sourced from the estate’s oldest vines, Millecento spends so much time (3 years) in French Oak, they had to give each bottle its own wooden box so that the wine didn’t feel scared out in the world. Full of dark berries and little sticks of dynamite, Millecento is still a robust affair, but time has turned the massive fruit a little brown around the edges,, with some welcome leather notes joining the party. 96 points James Suckling, 94+ points Robert Parker, 3 bottles (in individual wooden boxes) available, $262.98 +tax

Argiano Solengo 2016 Toscana I.G.T. Okay, I’m totally cheating here because this isn’t a Brunello, it’s a Supertuscan, but since Argiano is a Brunello house (as noted, right next to Sesti), and since Solengo is so awesome, I thought I’d sneak it in. I sold out of the 2015 vintage only a couple of weeks ago, and this 2016 is proving to be just as epic. Cabernet Sauvignon driven with Petit Verdot and Merlot in sidecar, blackberries, tobacco and spice abound, the body is a bit fatter than the 2015 but we’re still a couple years away from go-time, here. I do not expect to have this for very long. 99 points James Suckling, 3 6-packs available, $106.98 +tax

Until next time, Happy Drinking!

*as noted, I do have a bit of 2005 Valdicava ($173.98) left, as well as some 2006 Terralsole Riserva ($121.98) for those wishing to warp past those levels where you wait for your Brunello to age.

**There is no town called San Gandolphini, I made it up, but that’s what Montalcino would have sounded like to us if it weren’t for Biondi Santi. #nailedit 

Under the Tuscan Salad: Part One

Throughout the year I tend to collect small batches of yums – not a big enough buy to write a whole story about, but supremely tasty finds none the less. The time has come to show my cards and spill the beans: I’m sitting on a pretty tidy Tuscan Salad right now. I’ve Supertuscans and DOCG wines, some to drink and some to time-capsule, some are returning champions and some are newbies - since it’s a long list I’ll get right to part one:

Piaggia Il Sasso 2015, Carmignano DOCG. Is this Tig at less than half the price? Carmignano, that ancient village north of Florence, is less famous today than it was during the Renaissance, when it was the pastoral playground of the ruling Medici family.  Despite its local renown (it was the first Italian village where Cab was allowed under DOCG regs) its wines have been largely absent from our shores, which is a shame because here be dragons. Spark, sizzle and heft, 70% Sangiovese and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon (similar to Tignanello’s make-up). Some Carmignanos want to turn you into a better, leaner soldier but Il Sasso just wants to give you a neck rub and hear about your day, the body here is more luscious than usual and the floral, dark fruited nose doesn’t require a degree in Latin to get. If I still have some, we’ll be pouring this on Saturday at 3pm in the River District Vintage Room if you’re curious. Herbs and cocoa powder round off the finish, holy cheese-balls 2015 was a great vintage there. 95 points Vinous, 3 6-packs available, $48.99 +tax

Canalicchio di Sopra 2013, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG. A returning champion (in boxing announcer voice): the “Magic From Montalcino”!! The “Presto right from the UNSECO Site”!! My allotment of this iconic, traditionally modern (modernly traditional?) Brunello shrinks every year, and every year my lucky International Cellars agent gets to hear what I think about that. Whereas many of the 2013 Brunellos are accessible a tad earlier than the 2012s, Canalicchio di Sopra does Opposite Day and proves to be a little tighter than last year. The intensity is nearly identical (perhaps more so), ripe red fruit with burnt orange and black twizzlers, but the supporting frame is poking out at the moment and will need a couple years’ education to unlock fully. I hate being this guy but I’ll have to limit this to one 6-pack each for the first 3 respondents. Seems fairest? 97 points Wine Spectator, 96 points Robert Parker, 3 6-packs available, $90.49 +tax

Canalicchio di Sopra Riserva 2012, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG. Everything I just said times five. This Riserva doesn’t always come to BC, and those of us who get some dare not divulge the dirty deeds we did to get it. Built like a truck, decidedly longer maceration and darker pigment, here, everything would collapse on its own tent poles if it weren’t for that filament streak of acidity that elevates the body and electrifies the finish. Not sure why you’d throw dark cherries on the BBQ but that’s a start? Outstanding balance between Monument and Pleasure Dome. 96 points Wine Spectator, 2 wooden 6-packs available, $181.49 +tax

Rocco di Montegrossi Geremia 2013, Toscana IGT. A bear that was raised by ducks. An outstanding Chianti house in its own right (their sweet Vin Santo is to die for), Montegrossi grows Merlot and Cab (85/15) in the middle of Chianti Classico, ages it in French oak for 2 years, then unleashes it into society without any regard to public safety. Sweaty blackberries are fanning themselves with sprigs of rosemary, unaware that the reason they’re so hot is that they’re on fire. A classical minerality reminds you that this is indeed Tuscany, the plums and massive body tell you that this is indeed Merlot The Giant, and it sits wherever it wants. If quantities hold, we’ll be pouring this on Saturday at 3pm in the River District Vintage Room if you’d like to taste. 97 points Vinous, 2 cases available, $70.99 +tax

Casanova di Neri Cerretalto 2012, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG. I got one of only 2 3-packs that came into BC. The Cerretalto vineyard, east of Montalcino, forms an eastern-facing natural amphitheatre that cradles the morning sun, only to let the heat slowly dissipate as evening falls, and nights here are cold. The barely decomposed, iron-rich soil is so poor that the Sangiovese Grosso vines (Brunello in local parlance) can only muster sparse, small, straggly bunches of grapes, packed with super-human phenolics and fruit-weight. Things should not grow here, and the things that do should scare you. The downscale 2012 Brunello from Casanova di Neri placed #4 on Wine Spectator’s Top 100 this wine is several Bowser Castles up from that. The stressed vines throw everything they have at these grapes because they have to: crushed rocks, spiced cherries, orange tobacco - but the concentration, achieved entirely in the vineyard, is the stuff of legends. 98 points Wine Spectator, 98 points Robert Parker, 3 bottles available, $607.99 +tax

Hope to see you Saturday, until next week (for Part Two), Happy Drinking!!