Saturday, June 28, 2014

Antico Colle Rosso and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano

This past week I tasted the wine production of two producers that I wanted to share with you over the next couple blogs, Antico Colle and Fabrizio Dionisio. They both originate out of the Tuscany region with one in Montepulciano and the other in Cortona. 
Montepulciano side streets in Tuscany
My latest trip to Montepulciano in Tuscany, Italy
Montepulciano is in the province of Siena in Tuscany and is a hilly area where each vineyard site and the quality of wines are determined by it's location and angle to the sun as well as the altitude and climate. I remember years ago when I could travel to Montepulciano and for the most part stop in to many wineries without reservation and at the least taste the wines. If you are visiting the area I strongly recommend seeking out some wineries in advance to set something up as it's much tougher these days and shouldn't be missed. This means though that more people are visiting the area and tasting these wines, which is a great success! The town itself is also fantastic, but bring your walking shoes as its all uphill lined with shops and a great piazza on the top. I'll share with you another time all my pictures and some other places I tasted there.
Piazza Grande in Montepulciano Tuscany
Piazza Grande in Montepulciano, Tuscany
Antico Colle, meaning ancient hills, is located in Montepulciano on the eastern side in the wine zone known as Gracciano. Three generations of the Frangiosa family have taken part in the wines produced there. They own about 60 acres (25 hectacres) of land at about 300-400 meters above sea level.
Antico Colle Gracciano, Montepulciano
I tasted:
  • 2012 Antico Colle Chardonnay
  • 2012 Antico Colle Toscana Rosso
  • 2011 Antico Colle Chianti Colli Senesi
  • 2011 Antico Colle Rosso di Montepulciano
  • 2011 Antico Colle Vino Nobile di Montepulciano
I enjoyed the Chianti Colli Senesi for more of an every day wine, but my favorite of all the wines were both the 2011 Antico Colli Rosso di Montepulciano D.O.C. and the 2011 Antico Colli Vino Nobile di Montepulciano D.O.C.G. I chose these two because of the quality and characteristics that I appreciated in each wine. The Rosso di Montepulciano could be drunk on its own where the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano would be best paired off with some food. Possibly a braised lamb shank or wild boar, which is a typical Tuscan dish.

Their Rosso di Montepulciano is made up of 95% prugnolo gentile, which is a clone of the sangiovese grape, as well as 5% merlot. The maceration of this wine lasts about 15 days in stainless steels tanks and is then lightly pressed from the vats. It's aged 6 months in French oak casks and then later refined in bottles for 4 months. More ruby red in color it seemed a little musty on the nose combined with cherries and on the palate had a hint of oak with bright cherry. It had a nice elegance to it and the fruit lingered throughout the finish.  (Wine Searcher averages about $12 retail).

2011 Antico Colle Vino Nobile di MontepulcianoThe best of all was the Antico Colle Vino Nobile di Montepulciano that is an award winning wine by the Wine Enthusiast (93/100). It's made up of 100% prugnolo gentile. The grapes are fermented in stainless steel vats, crushed and repassed over with the must. After about a 20 day maceration the wine is lighted pressed off. Its then aged for 24 months in small to medium Slavonian oak casks and later refined for 6 months in the bottle. This is the type of wine that you should decanter. The color of this wine was deeper in color and on the palate showed rich fruit of dried cherries with some slight oak hints, all well-balanced with the acidity and ended with a beautiful lingering finish. (Wine Searcher averages about $19 retail)

Next I'll cover Fabrizio Dionisio from Cortona in Tuscany, one of my favorite towns, and the wines they produce are all Syrah and very tasty! Stay tuned!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Canaiolo grape and its relation to Chianti

If you love chianti you should get acquainted with canaiolo. Giovanni Sordi, winemaker at Fattoria Le Bocce in Greve in Chianti, shared with me the following information on this grape. Canaiolo is a grape that has a long standing history in Tuscany. Until the end of the 1700's it was the most cultivated red grape in Chianti. It's native to Tuscany where it's known as canaiolo nero that is added to wine such as chianti to help soften it. There is also canaiolo bianco, also native to the area, that is known as drupeggio in Umbria. 
Chianti Classico wine region in Tuscnay
Much of history mentions that canaiolo was introduced by the Etruscans and the actual name derives from latin, dies caniculares, that indicates the days of the heat wave or the hottest days of the year when this grape changes color to reddish purple. Canaiolo comes from a 5 leafed plant with stocky grape clusters that at times have some small red strains that indicate the presence of anthocyanins. 
It's not often you find wines that are 100% canaiolo, but when it is purely vinified with canaiolo it has unique characteristics that resemble a beautiful roundness on the palate, often countered on the finish becoming lightly bitter. The color in the wines with youth are red and slightly mauve that transform to ruby red. The aroma that distinguishes canaiolo is given from the mature fruit reminiscent of black cherry. Giovanni considers this the most elegant of Tuscan wines. 
Caniolo is a difficult grape to cultivate because its sensitive to mites and powdery mildew and it's necessary to be cultivated in warm zones and vineyards well exposed to the sun. Due to this difficulty, it has caused the reduction of cultivation of this grape. It's a wine that is difficult to make, but comes from great tradition and emotion. It's a true challenge for the future of Tuscany. 
Giovanni wanted to mention a winery that he knows very well that since 1990 had the idea  to take this grape and make it a wine more representative of its true characteristics. Castello di Modanella, which is found near the village of Rapolano Terme in the province of Siena, produces Poggio L'aiole Canaiolo IGT that is made up of 100% canaiolo and demonstrates the lovely characteristics of this wine well.

Have you tried a 100% Canaiolo?

Friday, June 20, 2014

Wines of Abruzzo: Montepulciano d'Abruzzo & Trebbiano d'Abruzzo

The Abruzzo region of Italy is surrounded by the Corno
Grande on one side, which is the highest peak of the Appennine mountains, and on the other the Adriatic Sea. The Corno Grande is part of the Gran Sasso d'Italia, meaning great rock of Italy, which is the mountain chain in the north west part of Abruzzo. The region is a great a combination of maritime and fresh mountain air with a drier climate. South of the region, in Chieti, the majority of the vineyards in Abruzzo are located here and face a lot of humidity and heat.

Wine map of Abruzzo wine region in Italy
Abruzzo wine map ~ Copyright of Federdoc
Abruzzo is one of the top wine production regions in Italy. Much of the production is dominated by cooperatives like Citra with many of them located in the southern part of the region. This region is trying to change its image from being known as bulk producers to smaller wineries specializing in quality. One of the most popular winemakers of this region is Edoardo Valentini, but you will have trouble finding his wine in the states due to an issue with the American authorities back in the 70's. Masciarelli is also another big name of the region where Marina Cvetic has taken over after Gianni Masciarelli passed away in 2008.

There are four provinces in Abruzzo:

  • Chieti
  • Pescara
  • Aquila
  • Teramo

The popular DOC's of the Abruzzo region are: Montepulciano d'Abruzzo, Trebbiano d'Abruzzo DOC and two newer DOC's Controguerra (1996) and Teramane DOC (1995).

The two most popular grapes of this region and the ones that are exported the most are Trebbiano d'Abruzzo (white wine) and Montepulciano d'Abruzzo (red wine).

White wines of Abruzzo

Trebbiano is the star of this region when it comes to white wines. You may also be familiar with this grape as it's known as ugni blanc in France. Trebbiano typically has higher acidity with low extract and is aromatic on the nose. It usually is lighter in body and dry. The Trebbiano d'Abruzzo DOC was created in 1972.

Emidio Pepe wines of Abruzzo
Popular producer of wines in Abruzzo

Red wines of Abruzzo

The rosé wines of this region are some of the heftier rose wines because of the Montepulciano grape that they are produced from, but it depends on the producer and the amount that the skins are macerated with the juice. This rosé is known as Cerasuolo, meaning cherry. It typically shows strawberries and dried cherry along with some spice. This Cerasuolo d'Abruzzo DOC was created in recent years in 2010.

The Montepulciano d'Abruzzo DOC was created in 1968 and takes up a good part of the region. Don't confuse this grape with that of the town, Montepulciano, which is located in Tuscany and produces the sangiovese grape. This grape is dark in color with low acidity and notes of blackberries and ripe fruit.

Food of Abruzzo

This region being on the coast has fish as their local cuisine, including a popular fish stew, but they are known for their meat including sausage and lamb. In Abruzzo, saffron is the popular spice. Within the last week I featured a food and wine pairing with Montepulciano d'Abruzzo.  

Have you been to Abruzzo and what are your favorite food or wines from the region?

Monday, June 16, 2014

Famous Castello di Cacchiano estate & Giovanni Ricasoli-Firidolfi

Last week I discussed the Lega del Chianti conference that
Giovanni Sordi asked me to promote. One of the wineries present at the event was Castello di Cacchiano located in Gaiole in the province of Siena within the region of Tuscany. This is the heart of the Chianti Classico territory. In a matter of days following the event, small world, but I had the opportunity to meet the owner of Castello di Cacchiano, Baron Giovanni Ricasoli-Firidolfi, at the Tuscan Market in Salem, NH.
Gaiole in Chianti and Monti in Chianti

Castello di Cacchiano is one of the most historic estates in Tuscany housing one of the most noble families and oldest wine producers. The theme of their website is “Identity, Engagement Heart”, and after meeting with Giovanni hearing the history and tasting his wines I can see why. Giovanni states that identity is not only determined by the soil, climate and the environment, but also the work that goes into the wine producing. Engagement is those of the past, present and future of making wine at Castello di Cacchiano. Lastly, the love and desire of what drives the whole operation is the heart behind it all.

Giovanni Ricasoli-Firidolfi from Castello di Cacchiano
Giovanni began his engagement in the world of wine in 1984. Giovanni's famous ancestor, Baron Bettino Ricasoli, whom was Prime Minister of Italy at the beginning of Italy's unification and was one of the men in the very beginning whom formulated what we know today as Chianti Classico.

The Cacchiano Castle was founded in the 10th century and has been in the Ricasoli family for over 1,000 years. Winemaking here dates back to the 12th century. The history at this castle is intriguing as it defended the Florentine territory during the battles of Florence and Siena in the Middle Ages. Today, this estate consists of 495 acres (200 hectacres) with 60 acres (25 hectacres) dedicated to vineyards and the rest dedicated to their olive oil production. The vineyards lie at about 1300 feet above sea level with most slopes southern facing. They produce about 10,000 cases annually.

The wines from the tasting including the following:

  • 2010 Toscana Rosso
  • 2009 Chianti Classico
  • 2006 Chianto Classico Riserva
  • 2007 Millennio
  • 2007 FonteMerlano Toscana

2007 Castello di Cacchiano Millennio Chianti ClassicoThe most impressive to me was the 2007 Millennio, meaning 1,000 years, which represents the thousand year anniversary of the estate. This wine is not produced ever year, as in 2008, as it comes from the best of the best grapes from their vineyard site. Winemakers could only wish for perfect growing seasons every year, but it is what it is and this is what makes this wine so very special. Of all the wines, this was the most elegant and silky on the palate with deep plum notes and great balance throughout. It's made of 100% sangiovese and is aged in barriques and matured for 30 months. It was rated 93 points from Wine Spectator and received a number of other awards. Starting with the 2009 Millennio it will now fall under the new and highest classification for Chianti Classico previously discussed, Gran Selezione.

Being a lover of sangiovese I was also very impressed with the Chianti Classico and Chianti Classico Riserva with more of a preference for the Riserva. The youth of these wines and their aging potential. The tannin and structure of the wines were powerful with the Riserva showing a richness and noticeable fruit profile on the back end. The blend of these two wines are the same with 95% sangiovese and the other 5% consisting of canaiolo, malvasia nera and colorino grapes. Giovanni stated that the 2006 vintage was one of the best from the decade. The Riserva had been aged 36 months in French barriques. It's a perfect pairing with meat due to the acidity in the wine.

I finished with the FonteMerlano, which was 100% Merlot. This is another wine not produced annually depending on quality as in 2009. It was full bodied with subtle tannins, but also presented elements of the land through the minerals displayed in the wine. This wine was aged 19 months in barriques.

I experienced the perfect combination of history, “identity, engagement, and heart”. Don't miss the opportunity to try these wines.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Wine Pairing Weekend with I Lauri Bajo Montepulciano d'Abruzzo and BBQ

When David, from Cooking Chat and Wine Pairing Weekend #winepw, asked me to participate in the 1st food and wine pairing event I accepted the challenge. I'm not much of an experienced foodie, but I love to cook, enjoy all kinds of foods and am looking to meet others that are more advanced in this area and be able to lend my wine knowledge to others. The topic of the wine and food pairing with BBQ brought a perfect wine to mind from my experience at my last job and the training that I received.  Yes wine drinking is part of learning in the wine industry.  I worked for a wholesaler and importer of Italian wines. Part of the portfolio of wines are grown by their estate in Pienza, Italy and the rest are through partnerships with other wineries that are producing quality Italian wines.

I Lauri Bajo Montepulciano d'AbruzzoDuring my training in getting to know the wines I tried a Montepulciano d'Abruzzo, named Bajo, from the producer I Lauri. I Lauri is located in the hilltop town of Loreto Aprutino in the Abruzzo region of Italy, which is centrally located in Italy. I Lauri produces about 200,000 bottles a year. Bajo is made from 100% Montepulciano d'Abruzzo and it's aged for 6 months in French oak barrels.

This wine is a perfect pairing for barbecued and/or grilled meats due to its barrel aging, fruit component and alcohol content matching well to smoked meats. This past weekend I paired it with with some simple chicken on the grill that I seasoned and marinated in extra virgin olive oil, rosemary, oregano and garlic salt. I also baked some fresh veggies including baby bellas, red peppers, asparagus, zucchini and summer squash glazed with extra virgin olive oil and sea salt. Another great suggestion if you do try this wine or another montepulciano d'abruzzo would be to pair it with barbequed pork ribs.

BBQ ribs wine pairing with montepulciano d'abruzzo

Food and wine pairing can be lots of fun. I've provided the basics in learning how to pair food and wine, but the more you experiment with wines and foods the more you will start to understand how they can complement each other.

Wine Pairing Weekend #1 Bloggers: Be sure to check out the great pairings my fellow bloggers have come up with for the first Wine Pairing Weekend! 

The Tasting Pour is posting "Pairing Food and Wine: Cabernet Cliché"
Culinary Adventures with Camilla is pairing "Lemon Marmalade-Glazed Duck Legs + Holman Ranch's Off-Dry Pinot Gris"
Vino Travels - An Italian Wine Blog will share "Food and Wine Pairing: BBQ with Montepulciano d'Abruzzo"
Grape Experiences is sharing "Wine and Dine: Sinfo Rosado 2012 with Chicken Enchilada Burgers"
Pull that Cork posted "Rolled Pork Florentine on the Grill, Which Wine Pairs Best?"
From Cooking Chat, "Grilled Pork Tenderloin Paired with a Bonny Doon Syrah"
Meal Diva blogged about "Grilled Sausage Kabobs and White Wine"
Curious Cuisiniere paired "Wine Grilled Chicken with Lewis Station Winery's Oaked Chardonnay"

Join the #winePW conversation: Follow the #winePW conversation on Twitter throughout the weekend and beyond. You can also visit our group Pinterest board to pin some great pairing ideas for later!

Friday, June 13, 2014

The results from the Lega del Chianti conference in Tuscany

Lega del Chianti

Last Saturday I wrote a blog on the Lega del Chianti, “League of Chianti”, and I wanted to share the results from the event reported to me by winemaker, Giovanni Sordi, that was in attendance. The event was a beautiful success with interesting speakers.

Dr. Paolo Storchi conducted a report on the evolution of the components of the chianti classico wines over time.

Professor Bertuccioli gave a splendid report on the relationships between sangiovese and the Tuscan territory. Bertuccioli highlighted the enological evolution on the potential quality of sangiovese that is still not fully expressed today. Sangiovese can produce great results if the management of the wine is connected directly to the achievement of the objective of both quality and typical expressions.

Professor Zeffiro Ciuffoletti described historically the viticulture of the chiantigiana.  He stated that the cultural link and the secular success of the wine from the chiantigiana affirms that comparing with the world the earth of the gallo nero, or black rooster, will continue in the cultural and qualitative birth. The culture and artistic beauty that characterizes the territories between Siena and Florence combined with the unique quality of the products represent a unique combination.

The event concluded with Dr. Giovanni Sordi stating that only across the native vines they can obtain unique wines. The native tuscan vines are very influenced from the territory and the climate and for this reason they produce wines that distinguish themselves for their quality and uniqueness.

Recovering a concept from Professor Ciuffoletti, Chianti Classico doesn't fear the comparison with the global world in regards to it's cultural and territorial uniqueness and expresses its varietal unique products.

The conference was followed by a tasting of 10 Chianti Classico wines from diverse zones. The tasting was coordinated by Giovanni Sordi and conducted by sommelier Luigi Pizzolato and Fiorella Chimenta highlighted the grand quality of the wines from the Chiantigiana and how the terrior influences such wine production.

Lucky me yesterday had the opportunity to meet the owner of Castello di Cacchiano and his fantastic wines. I can't wait to share them with you so check back in soon.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Cabernet Franc in the different wine regions of Italy

2009 Billsboro winery Cabernet FrancSitting around last night my decision was to go for a walk or open a bottle of wine and write a blog. Guess I chose the healthier option because here's my blog! When I pulled the 2009 Billsboro Cabernet Franc from my wine fridge it gave me the idea to write about cabernet franc in Italy. I wanted to share more about this grape and where it's mostly found and some of the characteristics compared to other countries. First, I do want to discuss this particular wine though from Billsboro winery in Geneva, NY.

In the Finger Lakes it's one of the prominent grapes producers are using to make red wine and is often primarily as a 100% cabernet franc wine rather than being blended with other grapes. I enjoy this wine at select wineries throughout this area and this cabernet franc didn't disappoint, hence why I always pick up some bottles from my favorite wineries.  For a 2009 it still had good acidity to it and was on the drier side, but had some blackberry and raspberry on the palate. If you're more curious about the wines from the Finger Lakes I make an annual trip there and you can view some of my information about the region and the lakes from my last visit (Seneca Lake, Keuka Lake, more Seneca Lake wineries).

Finger Lakes wineries
Finger Lakes

Many know cabernet franc as being one of the grapes in the wines of Bordeaux, France or also the wines of the Loire in France. Being an Italian wine blog though I wanted to share with you where this grape is prevalent in Italy. This grape has been produced in Italy since back in the early 1800's. Cabernet Franc grows best in cool climates and is probably the reason why this grape is mostly found in the Tre Venezie of northeastern Italy (Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Veneto and Trentino-Alto Adige). Out of the three regions it is mostly grown in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia. You can also find cabernet franc grown throughout other regions in Italy including Lazio, Lombardy, Emilia-Romagna and Tuscany. In Tuscany it's blended with other grapes to form some of the most famous super tuscans of all time, such as Ornellaia and Sassicaia.

In Italy you will find cabernet sauvignon or cabernet franc labeled just as cabernet. It's a blend or a cross between the two, but most of the time the wine is primarily made up of cabernet franc. One of the more confusing things about Italian grapes is that they are known as different names in different regions making it more of a challenge to understand, for example, cabernet franc in Veneto is known as bordo.

Typically cabernet franc is known for being lower in acidity and tannin and showing profiles of blackberry, raspberry, earthy tones. It can also have more vegetal characteristics like bell pepper. In Italy you may find more herbaceous notes to the wines. I will be sure to share cabernet franc wines of these regions discussed so we can compare and contrast. Have you had any from any of these regions that you enjoy?

Saturday, June 7, 2014

A Tuscan Red Blend with Villa Le Piazzole

After my beautiful wedding in Tuscany last fall I got to know a great wedding planner,Daniela Tripodi from The Tuscan Wedding, whom took care of my shuttle for the day so we could sit back, relax and enjoy the Chiantigiana as we drove through the hillsides with Andrea Bocelli playing throughout the shuttle. What a dream! Daniela introduced me to Villa Le Piazzole as this is one of the venues that she uses for wedding ceremonies and seeing their estate I can see why.

Villa Le Piazzole Florence, Italy
Villa Le Piazzole is located in Florence, Italy, but even due to its close proximity to the city center it's on the outskirts so you can enjoy the peace and quiet of the Tuscan countryside. It's a 17th century villa that has apartments and operates as a B&B. You can share in the luxuries of the estate including their organic products of wine and olive oil production that can be tasted on the premises at the Cantina della Torre or as a guest enjoying it throughout the premises.
Villa Le Piazzole wine cellarvineyards of Villa Le Piazzole

2007 Villa Le Piazzole rosso toscana IGTI received a shipment from Villa Le Piazzole and decided to open the 2007 Villa Le Piazzole rosso I.G.T since it was an older vintage and I figured it was at the point it needed to be drunk. It's a blend of 60% sangiovese, 20% cabernet sauvignon and 20% merlot. I was a big fan of this wine and surprised how well the wine was still structured. It was full-bodied balanced by acidity with some tannins. It had a nice profile of cedar, tobacco and ripe cherry with a lasting finish. The wine was aged in french oak for 18 months before returning to stainless steel and then bottled for 6 months before release.

caprese with Villa Le Piazzole rosso
I paired this wine with some fresh mozzarella, tomatoes and basil straight out of my garden along with the amazing green oil I brought back from Tuscany. I also prepared one of the recipes in Frances Mayes new cookbook, The Tuscan SunCookbook. I made cannellini bean and sage bruschetta, except I substituted the rosemary since I'm a fan of it. A great snack on a Sunday afternoon sitting around enjoying conversation with family. Isn't that what life is all about?

Friday, June 6, 2014

The Lega del Chianti and wines of the Chianti Classico region

Lega del Chianti
If you are in Tuscany this weekend there is an event being held by the Lega del Chianti, “League of Chianti”. They are hosting an event this Saturday at 16:00, Chianti Classico: Storia, Vini e Vitigni Unici, “Chianti Classico: History, Wines and Unique Varietals”. In speaking with Giovanni Sordi, whom is a master taster of wine and oil and whom is the senior advisor of the league, there will be a host of speakers at the event including speakers that are all prominent figures of Tuscan research at institutes and universities. The event includes the following:

  • Barone Giovanni Ricasoli-Firidolfi (General Captain of the league) for a greeting
  • Roberto Ariani (Commissioner of Greve)
  • Giovanni Sordi discussing the theme of the conference
  • Paolo Storchi (speaker from the Istituto Superiore Viticoltura) discussing the evolution of chose varietals in the territory of Chianti
  • Mario Bertuccioli (professor at the Universita degli Studi di Firenze) discussing the sensorial characterristics of sangiovese in relation to the territory.
  • Zeffiro Ciuffoletti (professor at the Universita degli Studi di Firenze) discussing the Chianti region as a cultural asset

Finishing off the event is a tasting of a dozen wines, each representing different parts of the terroirs of the Chianti Classico region, also known as the Gallo Nero. It's followed with a buffet of foods that are typical products of the Chiantigiana area.

To attend the event you can contact Signore Milena e Daniela at or contact at 055 2608890. It's only 10 euro. I wish we had prices like that for an event such as this in the states. I will report back information shared at the event to help educate on this world wide famous region of Italy.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

2012 Cantina Bolzano Pinot Grigio from Alto Adige/South Tyrol

I recently attended a tasting of about 45 wines at a local wine shop. With my focus being on Italian wine I wanted to share with you my favorite Italian wine from the event, which was the 2012 Cantina Bolzano Pinot Grigio. Bolzano is located in the southern Tyrol region, known also as Suditrol in German or as Alto Adige in Italian. As I've discussed in my previous blog on Alto Adige, this is a region that speaks both German and Italian, so you often find both languages on their bottles.  If you love the Trentino-Alto Adige region you'll love our recent Italian bloggers group event online featuring the food, wine and travel of this region.

Bolzano in the Alto Adige Sudtirol
Bolzano ~ Alto Adige

Cantina Bolzano went through a merger between two cooperatives: Gries, which had been making wine since 1908, and Saint Magdalena, making wine since 1930. They joined forces as the Cantina Bolzano in 2001 keeping both wineries at two different locations and allowing them to become one of the top wineries of the region. The two locations combined equal about 790 acres (320 hectacres). They are partnered with about 200 grape growers that they work closely with that allow them to produce quality wines. With this conglomeration they are able to showcase the grapes that grow best in their terroir with Gries focusing on Lagrein wine and St. Magdalenda producing the wine St. Magdalenda made from the Vernatsch grape.

Cantina Bolzano 2012 Pinot Grigio from Alto AdigeThis Pinot Grigio comes from the high elevations around Bolzano. On the nose the aromatics showed hints of honey and on the palate there is some citrus and apple followed by bright acidity. It's perfect this time of year with a nice salad or seafood dish. Average price $15.

What wines have you sampled from this region?

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Frances Mayes Tuscan Sun wines and a visit to Cortona & Bramasole

Author Frances Mayes from Under the Tuscan Sun
I, like many others, would love to uproot, buy a home in Italy and live the life as featured in the movie “Under the Tuscan Sun” (one of my favorites)! Fortunately, I lived it for a short time in Florence (Firenze). I've even been to Cortona multiple times along with Rome and Positano where the movie was partially filmed. I've been to the home, Bramasole, both in the movie and the real Bramasole owned by the famous author, Frances Mayes.
Iesolana wedding in Bucine
Cortona is such a charming town with much character, as many of the towns in Tuscany. Upon my stay there years ago I made sure I got up very early to walk up to the top of the town, sit on the wall and watch the sun rise. Well worth the early rise! Recently on my visit in October, I made sure that we visited Cortona on the eve of our wedding so that I could get fresh sunflowers from Cortona for my wedding bouquet. 

We drove by Frances's beautiful home perched up on the hill that was under renovation. What started as a roof reconstruction, she mentioned, had led to other improvements that should be hopefully finished soon where she can start to replant her garden. The first time I visited the “Bramasole” from the movie the neighbor next door made me feel like I was living the movie and asked if I was going to buy it as it was up for sale at that time from what I remember for about 4 million dollars. I wish!
Frances Mayes Tuscan Sun Wines
Frances Mayes is actually an American professor and author whom I had the pleasure to meet at the Tuscan Market in Salem, NH, where they always host great events such as this one. Being a fan of many of her books including “Under theTuscan Sun”, “Bella Tuscany” and her new cookbook, The Tuscan Sun Cookbook, it was a great opportunity. Frances had been traveling in promotion of her newest book “Under Magnolia”, which is about her life growing up in the south. In addition to her great book she has also recently introduced a line of wines that she was promoting called the Tuscan Sun Wines from Curious Cork Imports. All the bottles of wine have unique names that stem from her books. Of all the wines I tasted the “Pensiero” and “Auguri” were my favorites. 
Pensiero Frances Mayes Tuscan Sun winesThe 2012 Pensiero, meaning “a little gift”, is made of 100% pinot grigio. I thought this was a lovely wine with nice acidity and fruit with a touch of dryness. It rounded out nicely and even had some minerality to it. I highly enjoyed it and it's perfect for this time of year. The Pensiero also comes from the Alto Adige region of northeastern Italy, which I recently wrote about that you can view here.

Auguri from Frances Mayes Tuscan Sun wineThe other wine I enjoyed from the Tuscan Sun Wine line was the 2009 Auguri, meaning “best wishes”, which is made of 80% sangiovese, 10% cabernet sauvignon and 10% merlot. I found this wine to be very balanced and elegant with a nice lasting finish. Overall it was nice and rich with good structure and soft tannins. I personally thought it was the most structured with the most depth of the three wines and overall was impressed by the quality of the tasting of the Tuscan Sun Wines.
I'm sure Frances living in Cortona has brought more tourism to the area, but it brought more recognition to an area that others should be aware for all its spendor. Have you ever been to Cortona or have basked under the Tuscan sun? Ciao ciao for now!