Thursday, January 30, 2014

A night with Andrea Cecchi (Cecchi) & Alessandra Marino (Cesari)

What a wonderful evening last night at the Tuscan Market in Salem, NH. First of all, the establishment is beautiful, and upon entering you have some of the most amazing artisan options from homemade pastas and breads, desserts as well as gelato, a butcher shop and deli. You can take your purchases home with you or enjoy them in their cozy cafe right there. They have a great small market as well with products from Italy. In the back kitchen there was a pizza making class to add to the atmosphere.

Winemaker Andrea Cecchi from Cecchi wineryCecchi winery - Andrea Cecchi
Of course I was here for the opportunity to meet the prominent figure for the Cecchi brands, none other than the winemaker himself, Andrea Cecchi. It was such an honor and pleasure to be able to conversate with him about his passion and the history and tradition of his family's estate. He is the fourth generation, with his brother, to manage and operate the Cecchi winery. 

He featured four wines including a Vernaccia di San Gimignano named Castello Montauto, a Morellino di Scansano named Val delle Rose in the Maremma region and a Chianti Classico Riserva named Villa Cerna in Castellina in Chianti and another Chianti Classico Riserva named Riserva di Famiglia also from Castellino in Chianti where he resides in Tuscany. All fantastic wines in their own way, but it was interesting in noticing the difference in the Morellino, a clone of Sangiovese, and how it grows in the southern part of Tuscany compared to the Sangiovese in the Chianti Classico's grown in Castellina in Chianti. In the Maremma it's very warm so the grapes are very ripe and the PH is high. In Castellina it's more of a continental climate with calcerous soil. I'm a huge fan of sangiovese myself so they were all very pleasing, but I enjoy the tannins and dryness in a wine so I favored the Morellino di Scansano as well as the Riserva di Famiglia. They both had great structure with beautiful ripe red fruit, a hint of spice, paired with supple tannins and a lasting finish. The Morellino is 100% Sangiovese with the Riserva di Famiglia containing 90% Sangiovese and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon that rounded out the wine creating a beautiful expression of Chianti Classico from this area. I found the Villa Cerna a lot softer compared to these other two, but still a rich wine with nice balance. The Vernaccia I as well enjoyed. I'm a big fan of Vernaccia and it's too bad the average consumer doesn't know enough about it because it's a great alternative to many of the grapes that are internationally known. This Vernaccia was dry and full bodied that displayed bright acidity with nice minerality and was very crisp and fresh.

Val delle Rose 2008 Morellino di ScansanoIn speaking with Andrea he shared that their estate has about 120 employees year round and they own about 850 acres. It's a lot of work! In asking about some changes that he has implemented from the heritage of how the wine has been made through the years and from previous generations, he mentioned that just in the past 5 years alone they have gone through many, many changes. Over the last 10 years they have already replanted 35% of their vineyards. Despite some of the changes they have made, it's important for Andrea and his family to stay true to the traditions that they pride themselves on. This is part of the reason why I love Italian wines because they make changes in the vineyards and production to improve their wines, but they don't gear it towards what the market demands. They stay true to their traditions and the wines that they produce. I don't want to drink what everyone wants to drink, I want to drink what are characteristics of the terroir of a particular region and what makes their wines special. Every person in this world is different and every wine should be able to express itself in its true nature as well.

Alessandra Marino from Cesari wineryCesari winery - Alessandra Marino
Also in attendance last night was Alessandra Marino whom is the Brand Manager exclusively for the Cesari winery. The Cesari winery began in 1936 and it originates in the Verona area. They own and care for 100 hectacres in the well known areas of Valpolicella and Lugana. I enjoyed my time with Alessandra as well. She has a dynamic personality and made my horizontal tasting a lot of fun! She has been representing Cesari for the last 3 years and loves this brand because of their loyalty to tradition, another aligned to what we had just discussed. We tasted the wines from their Due Torri brand and because they are international grapes: Pinot Grigio, Pinot Noir, Merlot and Cabernet, and because they border the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region they label the wines Due Torri from the Grave area in Friuli, whose winemaking dates back over 1,000 years. These grapes were very different from the way the United States produces these international varieties. They were lighter in body, especially the Merlot, which was interesting to taste due to what we're accustomed to here in the states. I found the Due Torri Pinot Noir the most enjoyable as it was very easy to drink, but had a finesse and elegance along with a nice red fruit profile.

Alessandra shared that their wines are hand harvested and within 20 minutes are picked and pressed so you can imagine the laborous days during their harvesting time. One of the honorable things that Alessandra shared with me is that Cesari donates money from the cases sold of Due Torri to the American Red Cross due to the assistance of the them from 1859 in the battles and war that they had assisted the Italian citizens with. The money has gone on in providing free educations for the families of those that suffered or lost their lives during this terrible time.

Overall, it was a fantastic night meeting some prominent figures in the wine industry in Italy and learning of their traditions and their terroirs and experiencing a great flight of wines. Any opportunity you have to meet with winemakers, owners or representatives of the brand in the wine industry, take it because it will provide depth into the history of these wineries and further your education in the wine world.