A Tribute to Toscana with Italian Wine Merchants

Guest post from Christopher Deas, Vice President at Italian Wine Merchants, describing a remarkable evening of food and wine in New York City last week presented by Castello di Casole and Timbers Resorts.

We all have a sweet spot for "Toscana," it really is the epicenter of art, food, wine, and history with a landscape matched by few spots on this Earth. While there is a lot to absorb all at once, it is a place of tranquility, and there are few places where a glass of wine overlooking the rolling hills and rustic villas can go so far. For me, it is a place I want to share with my wife and family, which I plan on doing in the spring of 2012 when Hotel Castello di Casole opens on the pastoral estate.

While we anticipate the arrival of this boutique hotel and accompanying spa, restaurants and artisan shops, we did the next best thing, and brought Toscana to Italian Wine Merchants last week with our longtime partner, Timbers Resorts.  It was a night to celebrate Castello di Casole, the historic and magical 4,200-acre property located just outside of Siena, their incredible farmhouse restorations, their estate-produced wine and the upcoming launch of the luxurious five-star hotel. There are few boutique resort and private residence club developers that have invested so much in restoring and preserving Tuscany’s past - it really is quite commendable.

To complement their efforts, we've shared the range of the region’s great wines served at the event at IWM with a description for each below. Highlighting Brunello di Montalcino and Super Tuscans from the historic vintages of 2004, 2006 and 2007, the evening's wine list included handselected vintages from the family behind Sassicaia, Antinori Guado al Tasso, Castello di Rampola Alceo, and, of course, Castello di Casole.

Wine List:

Fantinel NV Brut Rose  
(Friuli, Italy—Pinot Nero, Chardonnay)
As is customary, we started our Italian affair with Prosecco. Next to Malbec, no wine as grown as fast in the U.S. as the easy going effervescence of Italy’s northern bubbles.  One of the great representations in this category is this unique bottle from Fantinel, which is essentially a pink Prosecco from the great white winemaking region of Fruili.  Easy, crowd pleasing bubbles for under $20 – there are few wines that wake up the palate and welcome guests.

La Macchiole 2008 Paleo Bianco 
(Toscana, Italy—Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay)
Tuscany is not known for their whites, but there are certainly two greats that demand attention, Querciabella Batar, and the other, Le Macchiole Paleo Bianco.  In the case of the latter, it is one of the original white Super Tuscans that brilliantly combines the brightness and minerality of Sauvignon Blanc with a the lushness of Chardonnay – in this case, I think the Sauvignon Blanc attributes dominate for a floral, food friendly white that offers layers of dimension.  Just 540 cases are produced each year.

Bodega Chacra 2007 Treinta y Dos 
(Patagonia, Argentina—Pinot Noir)
Premier Cru Burgundy meets Sassicaia.  A Timbers and IWM favorite, Piero Incisa della Rochetta, a third generation winemaker from the family behind the pioneering Super Tuscan Sassicaia, is also the celebrated winemaker behind Castello di Casole Dodici. In 2004 he took his passion for Pinot to Argentina to create one of the great New World nods to Old World Burgundy.  This was easily the smoothest wine of the evening, displaying classic musky red fruit, sweet spice, rose petals on a silky body that only Pinot can deliver. At just 450 cases, this is a rare find being offered at the best rate in the nation.

Dodici 2008 (Castello di Casole, Tuscany, Italy - Sangiovese blend)
Winemaker Piero Incisa della Rochetta who created the Bodega Chacra mentioned above, was the tour de force behind the Tuscan estate's signature vintage. As told by Piero, "At Castello di Casole in 2008, we made a monumental effort to bring selected vineyards back to life by farming them in an organic and biodynamic manner, effectively returning their equilibrium and balance. In my opinion the 2008 express a beautiful elegance and balance, its color is almost ruby, its nose is quiet floral with some leather notes and a hint of rose petals, great red fruit without being over ripe or jammy as it has some very good acidity, which will give it some very good longevity the tannins are softer than expected and a bit chewy at the finish."

Badia a Coltibuono 2006 Chianti Classico Riserva 
(Toscana, Italy—Sangiovese)
This is one of the oldest properties in Chianti Classico and a must-see visit while you are at Castello di Casole.  The historic estate produces pure, traditionally inspired Chianti, focused on the noble Sangiovese varietal.  The wine screams for Chef Kevin’s Papparedelle al Funghi al Selvaggi e Pecorino with its bright acidity, which is complimented by classic red fruit, underbrush, and spice.  This is good reliable Chianti Classico for the dinner table.

Il Macchione 2005 Vino Nobile di Montepulciano  
(Toscana, Italy—Prugnolo Gentile)
From the medieval city of Montepulciano, located just 60 miles southeast from Castello di Casole, comes a unique expression of Sangiovese that produces a wine called Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.  Like Brunello di Montalcino, the grape here provides a darker and more muscular expression of Sangiovese. Here black cherry and tobacco notes linger on a structured and acidic backbone that is an ideal fit for the Chef’s Straccetti con la Rucola dish.

Poggio di Sotto 2003 Brunello di Montalcino 
(Toscana, Italy—Sangiovese Grosso)
For many of the guests this was simply the wine of the evening, and went no further!  This artisanal estate is located just 49 twisting miles from Castello di Casole, and is one of those cult Brunello estates you visit just to get the wine, or contact IWM.  This is a rare and difficult find that showcases the elegant side of Brunello, almost possessing a Burgundy quality to its muscular physique, in a similar manner that Italy’s great winemakers Giacosa and Soldera can only achieve.

Querciabella 1991 Camartina 
(Toscana, Italy—Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese, Merlot, Syrah)
Close your eyes and you might think you are drinking, and smelling, an old, Left Bank Bordeaux, with one major exception – the price.  Classic notes of cedar and pencil shavings, accompanied by black fruit and herbal notes.  This historic Super Tuscan is less than $50 a bottle and carries 20 years of age. Drink and enjoy it now.

Querciabella 1999 Camartina 
(Toscana, Italy—Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese, Merlot, Syrah)
Same historic Super Tuscan house as above, but this expression is from the legendary 1999 vintage in Tuscany. Smooth, lush, easy drinking dark fruit; this is a crowd pleaser for the summer that provides more weight than its older sibling.  Another rare Super Tuscan find with age that is being offered to Timbers Resorts at the best price in the country.

Antinori 2007 Guado al Tasso 
(Toscana, Italy—Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc)
Sure, Anintori has Tignanello and Solaia, but located in Bolgheri, where neighboring wines Sassicaia, Masseto, Ornellaia, and  Grattamacco started the pioneering Super Tuscan movement, there is Guado al Tasso.  Just 42 miles from Castello di Casole via SR68 (a road I emphatically endorse traveling by light of day), this is Antinori’s debut effort on the Tuscan Coast, and the 2007 is the first vintage to include Cabernet Franc (over Syrah), adding a classic, and seductive peppery quality to this opulence meets elegance, crowd pleasing glass of wine.

Castello dei Rampolla 2004 Vigna d’Alceo 
(Toscana, Italy—Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot)
Next to the Poggio di Sotto Brunello, the Alceo was the wine of the evening.  Contrary to the Brunello, this was all about dense and masculine attributes that gave way to notes of cassis, espresso, black licorice and minerality. This tightly coiled Super Tuscan consistently captures the media attention and garnering 96 points from the historic 2004 vintage. It is a critic’s wine, but one that is an essential fit for those seeking big, powerful wines. It is a baby now and will age another two decades, perhaps three or four...

To learn more about these wines and discover all that IWM has to offer, call 212.473.2323 x 101 or visit www.italianwinemerchants.com. For more information on Castello di Casole, ownership opportunities and the debut of the hotel, call 866.963.5005, email info@castellodicasole.com or visit www.castellodicasole.com.