April 25, 2013 |
MIscellaneous Wine Fun! , Wine & Food Pairings, Wine Country Travel |
Fattoria del Cerro - the Taste of Tuscany
After a brutal spring without sun--a March with the most rain in 50 years--last week the clouds finally parted over Aquaviva di Montepulciano and the Tuscan sun woke up the land. Soaked with water, the fertile land responded by pushing forth a resplendent carpet of green, making the famous views of La Bella Toscana (beautiful Tuscany) even more breathtaking. In the middle of rolling hills and dazzling fields of yellow flowers, vineyards and olive trees is the Relais Villa Grazianella of the Fattoria del Cerro winery of Italy.
At the top of a long driveway lined with cedar trees and surrounded by the Fattoria del Cerro vineyards, the Relais Villa Grazianella houses 11 junior suites, restaurant, store, swimming pool, jacuzzi and conference room. Their location is ideal to enjoy the magic of this area as it is a short drive away from many historic fortress towns, including the "ideal city" of Pienza (a UNESCCO World Heritage Site) built by Pope Pio II; Montepulciano which boasts an excellent Italian language school for foreigners, Il Sasso; Cortona, with a notable museum of Etruscan antiquities; and one of Italy's most popular UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Siena, famous for hosting the Palio horse race.
If this is not enough enticement to visit, you can also enjoy tasting the fine wines made in the adjacent state-of-the-art Fattoria del Cerro winery, including the aptly named Vino Nobile and Vin Santo. The winery is one of 6 estates in the Saiagricola collection whose portfolio encompasses Brunello, Grappa, Sagrantino di Montefalco, Barbera, Moscadello di Montalcino, and more, from Tuscany, Umbria and Piedmont. The wines and olive oil produced at all the Saiagricola estates are farmed with environmentally compatible methods. Care is taken to preserve woodlands and wildlife. Fattoria del Cerro was instrumental in bringing Vino Nobile into the modern age and in establishing the DOC appellations of Montepulciano in 1980. Several times it has been awarded Italy's top honor of Gambero Rosso's Tre Bicchieri.
Enologist Riccardo Cotarella is the head winemaker for Saiagricola, with enologist Raffaele Pistucchia working directly under him overseeing all the wineries, each of which has its own winemaker for the day-to-day operations. Raffaele conducted the tasting for us, pouring us a selection of 5 Fattoria del Cerro wines out of the 25 wines produced by Saiagricola. Fattoria del Cerro is the largest private estate producing Vino Nobile, with a total farm area of 601 hectares (about 1,485 acres). The vineyards are managed using environmentally-friendly energy and methods. The majority of their planting is to Sangiovese (called Prugnolo Gentile in Tuscany), followed by Colorino, Mammolo, and Merlot, which are blended in small amounts into some of the red wines, plus the white grapes Trebbiano and Chardonnay.
Chardonnay is a recent introduction to Fattoria del Cerro, comprising 100% of La Grazianella, an easy drinking sparkling wine made with the Charmat method. Their Rosso di Montepulciano DOC is a young, approachable wine with a brilliant ruby color and a nose of violets, cherry and vanilla, made with 90% Sangiovese and 10% Mammolo. Their flagship wine, the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, is made with 90% Sangiovese, 5% Colorino and 5% Mammolo. It is a DOCG wine, as is the Riserva version, both with a gorgeous jewel-like color and delicious aroma and flavors. I complimented the color of their Vino Nobile and winemaker Coterella humbly answered that "it is because of the grape Sangiovese", but in fact, I had many Vino Nobile wines in restaurants that were dull in comparison, without the sparkling clarity that is one measure of the quality of the winemaking. Their Riserva is more complex and long in the mouth and can be cellared for at least 15 years. Great care in taken in the vineyard and winery to maintain the integrity of the varietal. As Raffaele said, "when you taste the wine, we want you to taste the Sangiovese, not something that was done in the winery."
A moderate amount of oak is used to give structure to the Vino Nobile. An elegantly powerful wine, one should enjoy it with the local food to appreciate its perfection. Strongly flavored salami and prosciutto have similar pork fat that makes bacon so irresistible, Vino Nobile has the structure and acidity to cut the fat in the mouth. It also pairs well with wild game, black truffle sauces, the enormous Florentine steaks and pici (a local pasta specialty) with meat ragu´.
The pièce de résistance of the tasting was their "Sangallo" Vinsanto di Montepulciano DOC made using the traditional passito method. Instead of being dried in a commercial warehouse, Fattoria del Cerro dries the hand-selected grapes in the old-fashioned way in a historic stone farmhouse designed for this job. After about 5 months of drying, the raisin-like grapes are gently pressed, vinified and aged for 2 years in barrel and 1 year in bottle. Their Vin Santo glistens in the glass like a golden sapphire and has a viscous texture and dense flavor profile of honey, orange, toffee and raisins. Visit their website for information on accommodations and wine tasting: www.saiagricola.it