Win(e)ding Roads: The Frescobaldi Crus Wine Seminar at the Sun Winefest 1.17.09


Southern Tuscany

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer
We finished the seminar – and our tour of the Frescobaldi estates – in Southern Tuscany.  Castelgiocondo, one of the largest estates in the Montalcino appellation, was originally owned by a French Investment Bank, who grew mostly Bordeaux variety grapes.  The owners soon discovered that the Bordeaux varieties did not grow well here, and the vineyard was replanted largely with Brunello (a clone of Sangiovese).  It was around this time that the Frescobaldi family assumed the management of the estate, which they purchased outright in 1989.  Today the Frescobaldis are the largest landowner in the Montalcino region, while the rival Banfi estate is the largest producer.
The region has been known for Brunello grapes and the quality of the wines they produce since the 14th century.   The region was awarded the first DOCG designation (Brunello di Montalcino DOCG) in 1980, and today the wines are some of the most awarded and prized wines produced in Italy.  (Source: Wikipedia).
The seminar featured two of the four wines currently produced at Castelgiocondo:

Despite being 100% Sangiovese, the Brunello is not a Chianti.  The wine is aged at the estate for 4 years, three of those in oak barrels.  A deep, deep red, the nose is earthy and robust, with notes of plum.  The wine is intense, rich and complex – there’s a slight acidity, but overall it is smooth with well-balanced tannins.  There are rich notes of plum and other stone fruits.  The wine would be beautiful on it’s own, but will also pair exceptionally well with food, particularly beef or lamb.   Retailing for around $60 US, this wine has limited production and fewer cases are imported into the US than other Frescobaldi wines.  It can be found primarily in the New York area.
The Lamaione is 100% Merlot.  Not a grape that traditionally does well in Tuscany, one portion of the Castelgiocondo estate has strong volcanic clay soil, and the Merlot grapes do grow well here.  A deep red color, the nose is gorgeous – rich, earthy, with overtones of both fruit and spice.  I detected notes of cinnamon and cloves.  The wine itself is full-bodied, with strong notes of spice – again clove and cinnamon.  It is not what I expect from a Merlot – it’s more “aggressive” if you will, but in a good way.  This is a wine that demands notice – smoother than the Brunelo, it is complex, rich, nuanced – overall a very interesting wine.   The tasting notes described it as a “racy Merlot.”  Retailing for about $70 US, it also has limited distribution, and can be tough to find outside of the New York area.
And with these, the seminar was concluded, and Christy and I headed over to the Grand Tasting.  By the end of the day, we both agreed the seminar was the highlight of the event, and next year, we’ll likely sign up for a few seminars and spend less time in the Grand Tasting hall.

Win(e)ding Roads: The Frescobaldi Crus Wine Seminar at the Sun Winefest 1.17.09

Castello di Nipozzano

North East Tuscany

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer
The Castello di Nipozzano estate is in the heart of the Chianti Rúfina DOCG.  A DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) is a sub-region of the larger DOC regions, and the classification guidelines are more stringent than those of the DOC.
The Chianti Rúfina appellation is the coolest and highest elevation in the Chianti region; with sandy soil and a dry and windy climate, the region is ideal for growing Sangiovese grapes.  The castle at the center of the estate dates back to the year 1,000, and was rebuilt in the 1400s to incorporate extensive wine cellars for the estate’s burgeoning wine production.
The seminar featured two wines from this estate:

Montesodi Chianti Rúfina, DOCG Chianti Rúfina
This is one of the Frescobaldi family’s favorite wines, as well as being their birth wine.  Bottled separately from other wines on the estate, the Montesodi is 100% Sangiovese and is aged for 18 months in small French Oak barrels.  The color is a deep purple, with a jewel tone quality to it.  The nose is smooth, floral and soft, with light notes of berry.  Our host described it as a “kitty-cat” wine – the nose just curls up and purrs…  A strange description, but surprisingly apt.  
The Montesodi is a full-bodied wine, more reminiscent of a Cabernet than what one typically expects from a Chianti.  Slightly acidic, I tasted rich fruit notes, possibly plum.  There also were strong notes of minerality, and the wine had a bite at the end when drunk by itself.  It pairs exceptionally well with food, however;  pairing with a sharp cheddar balanced the wine beautifully – and it really came alive in the mouth.  
The wine retails for about $50 US.  About 2,000 cases a year are imported into the US making it one of the easier wines to find of those featured during the seminar.   
Mormoreto, IGT Toscana

Also from the Castello di Nippozano estate, the Mormereto is a blended wine: 70% Cabernet grapes, 20% Merlot, and 10% Cabernet Franc.  Like the Montesodi, this wine is also bottled separately, and is aged for 12 months in small French Oak barrels.
The nose is deep and rich, with notes of berries and a hint of cherry.  Also a deep purple, the color is denser than the Montesodi; it doesn’t catch the light and have that jewel-tone element I found in the Chianti.  A full-bodied wine, the taste is complex – definitely notes of berry, but also strong minerality.   Very dry, the wine has a chalky element to it.  Paired with food, particularly strong cheese or meats, the wine blossoms – becoming even richer and more complex.
Retailing for $50-$60 US, approximately 2,000 cases a year are imported to the US.  Both the Mormoreto and the Montesodi can be found on
Last stop – and next post: the Castelgiocondo estate and the Castelgiocondo Brunello di Montalcino and the 2005 Lamaione.

Win(e)ding Roads: The Frescobaldi Crus Wine Seminar at the Sun Winefest 1.17.09


North West Tuscany

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer
The second wine featured in the seminar was the Tenuta di Castiglioni from the Castiglioni estate in North West Tuscany.  Castiglioni is the family’s first estate, established in the 11th century.  The estate is situated near the Arno and Pesa rivers, and as a result the soil has areas of both sand and clay. 
Like the Pomino estate, the climate and soil does not favor Sangiovese grapes, but Bordeaux varieties do exceptionally well here.  The Frescobaldis have replanted the vineyards recently with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot.  As the family replants their vineyards, whether here or on other estates, they are replanting in the “California style”: high density planting, forcing the grapes close together to increase the stress on the grapes.  By increasing the stress, the vines force more nutrients to the grapes to ensure they survive, and as a result the grapes are richer and juicier.
The Castiglioni estate is part of the IGT Toscana.  IGT (Indicazione Geografica Typica), adopted by Italy in 1992, is an expansion of the DOC classifications.   IGT allows winemakers to expand beyond the narrower DOC guidelines and produce wines blended from several grapes.
The Tenuta is one such blended wine: 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 15% blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Sangiovese and Petite Verdot.  Aged for the first year in stainless steel, and then for another 12 months in French and American oak barrels, the wine spends another 2 months in the bottle before release.  The 2006 vintage, which we tasted, is only the 3rd vintage produced.
The color is a deep, deep purple; the nose is earthy and robust, with notes of spice and mint.  Both Christy and I agreed the nose on the Tenuta was the most interesting of all the wines.  The wine is complex; I tasted notes of mint and spice, as well as strong tannins and minerality by the finish.  There is a slight acidity that is beautifully balanced when paired with food, and it will pair nicely with a wide range of foods.  Definitely one of my favorites of the seminar.
The wine retails for $30 US, and can be found in select wine stores in the New York area and online through Dotcom Wines.
Next up: Castello di Nipozzano in North East Tuscany and the Montesodi Chianti Rufina and the Mormoreto.

Banfi CollePino

Marguerite Barrett

Contributing Writer
I mentioned a few days ago that I picked up this up solely because the label caught my eye.  
From Castello Banfi in the Tuscan region of Italy, the CollePino is a blend of Sangiovese and Merlot that is quite delicious.  And at less than $10US a bottle, a great wine to stock up on for a good everyday table red.    I paired it with a hearty risotto one evening for a wonderful “comfort food” dinner.