The sun rose lazily from behind the rolling hillside. A slight mist crept though the valley. My breakfast was awash with fruits, breads, meats, cheeses, honey, and of course coffee, lots of coffee. It has been a year since my last visit to Montalcino and thankfully not much has changed. Outside of a few more American tourists all seemed right. It was a good day to drink Brunello.
Sesta di Sopra
The first stop of the day was with none other than the illustrious Ettore and his charming wife, Enrica, at Sesta di Sopra. This small production winery is located midway between Castelnuovo dell’Abate and Sant’Angelo in Colle on Montalcino’s southern ridge. The combination of the local soils and the high altitude give these wines a beautiful and distintive profile that I find appealing. Driving up to the winery I was met with a flurry of construction as a new facility was being added over the existing one. This was just one sign (of many) that Montalcino was not suffering from the financial turmoil prevalent in other areas of Italy. The car was nearly parked when Ettore came out of his home with a generous and welcoming smile. I sensed he had good things to show me.
As was the custom the year prior, we sat in the dining room as Enrica brought out breads and cheeses and Ettore attended to the wines. This year we had the added surprise of homemade jams, a task that kept Enrica busy this morning. During the next hours we tasted through several wines while Ettore regaled us with stories of the 2011 harvest and past vintages. For those of you who were not there these are some of his comments:
My notes on these wines are:
Rosso (2009) – well balanced with light tannins and good acidity; nice core of cherry, earth, and sweet spice, anise notes; rounder than typical in Rossos due to barrique treatment
Brunello (2005) – delicious ripe red fruits, scorched earth, and tar accented by vanilla and sweet spice, ready to drink as Ettore points out and went well with pecorino
Brunello (2006) – after a while in the glass this finally opened showing deep cherry, plum, and intoxicating spices with mineral and oak notes; the tannins and acid played well together; a truly spectacular wine that will not be ready for at least 5 years and will last decades.
All in all, Ettore makes great wines capable of extended aging. Another great year for Sesta di Sopra.
Across the street we were greeted by Mieke and Giovanni, owners of a fantastic winery named Baccinetti. This very charming couple, whose stories seemed limitless, provided hours of entertainment and education in addition to an over the top lunch with jugs of wine.
As you can see my note taking took backseat to making a new friendship here so I have no tasting notes for you. I can tell you though that I left very satisfied.
Thanks Mieke and Giovanni.
The third and last stop of the day was with Katia at San Polino. The winery was thick in the midst of harvest with juice being pumped from tank to tank. The smell was both wonderful and overwhelming all at once. While Katia was busy with a German couple, Alberto, the winemaker, talked us through the process post-harvest. This was interesting as it was in all Italian. Fortunately Katia had given us the tour last year. San Polino is located north of Castelnuovo dell’Abate and the south eastern ridge – a spectacular setting. Once out of the cellar we joined the others for a grand tasting of various blends across various vintages.
It was here that we were joined by a local realtor who brought along a portfolio of several properties for my review. No distressed sales – yet another sign that Montalcino is doing just fine. Oh well, my dreams of owning a vineyard of Brunello will have to wait.
Not all was lost though as we were treated to a vertical of San Polino’s finest. Over more than an hour we tasted through a number of vintages and watched them change over that time. For me the 2006 was so closed initially I was somewhat disappointed and gave the nod to the beautifully open and complex 2004. But after an hour the 2006 had opened to reveal incredible red fruits, great minerality, and integrated spice. The acidity, body, and tannins all danced wonderfully on the palate. The nod went to this wine.
Thanks Katia for a wonderful afternoon.
In the days that followed I was able to focus more on the wines and can say that the 2006s are great. Time after time the comparison with bottles from 2004 showed 2006 to be a notch or two better. That being said the 2010s from barrel are intriguing – stay tuned.