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April 2018

New Vintages at Tiberi


After tasting with Tenuta di Trinoro I hopped back in the Abarth and blasted over into Umbria.  Halfway through the drive I was actually on roads that I recognized from running around Lake Trasimeno and to Tiberi last year!  It was a funny feeling to be driving through Italy and realize I actually knew the towns and roads and didn't need GPS to get around.

In an excellent moment of serendipity I pulled up to Della Staffa just as the Danilo and the whole SelectioNaturel crew rolled in after having lunch at Collecapretta!  Sleeping situations all got sorted out and we took a short break before heading over to Tiberi for dinner and to taste their new vintages.  Carolyn and Jen came with me and I tried hard to drive in a calm polite manner.  The back seat has decent space but it's right over the rear wheels so any one back there feels every bump!


It was great to see everyone at Tiberi. We walked through the vineyards and talked about how porous their soil is.  It's argillous and a bit sandy and the same sort of stuff the call Ponca up in Friuli (thanks Marco Sara for teaching me that name!).  We were there walking the vineyards right at dusk and Umbria was at it's prettiest.

Generally they get relatively a lot of rain at Tiberi so being up on a windy west facing hill with great drainage is good because it keeps the vines from having too much water and prevents humidity in the vineyard.  Humidity leads to vine and grape diseases: non bouno.  But 2017 was hideously hot and dry.  It didn't rain for 6 months where they are.  So they actually had to do some drip irrigation in order to keep some of their 80+ year old Gamay del Trasimeno (actually Grenache) vines from dying.  
It was a hard year and yields were down, but I get the feeling that they and the other wine makers I spoke to were watching and checking the vineyards day and night so that they could manage to catch the tiny windows of optimal proper balanced ripeness and not let the grapes get over ripe.  The whites I tasted certainly were proof that their hard work had paid off because they were fresh and vivacious (vivace).  The two pet nats, Tribulato and Musticco, we're fantastic: clean fun and refreshing. 
They both had a poise and elegance that wasn't their in previous vintages, but this is only the third year they had made Tribulato, the second time they'd made Musticco, and just the 4th vintage for them making wine period, so obviously there's going to be a learning curve there. 
We tasted through their l'rosso, l'bianco, bianco de Cesare (named for the great grandfather) and a couple older vintages.  They're lovely ripe giving central Umbrian wines that are so grounded in that place.  When I drink them I can really smell and taste the same smells I had when I ran across the countryside there last autumn.    And they were awesome with all the grilled pork and lamb that they cooked on a wood fire outside!

Visit to the Tenuta di Trinoro Winery in Tuscany



I took 20 minutes or so to put myself back together after my 4 and a half hour run,  but  then I ran the buzzer, opened  the gate and drove up to Tenuta di Trinoro.  I met Enna, the office and web manager, and he filled me in on more of the background of the winery.  

Andrea Franchetti had been living in southern France and knew the Bordeaux area very well but as he was traveling through southern Tuscany in the mid 1980's the climate of the the Val d'Orcia reminded him a lot of those places.  It's a little winding rural river valley in southern Tuscany right near the border with Umbria.   So he bought an old abandoned house up on the hills and slowly started restoring it.  In the early nineties he had put down enough roots there that he decided to start planting vineyards and see what would happen. Being more familiar with Bordeaux and in an empty part of Tuscany that didn't already have a fine wine making culture, Franchetti decided to plant his favorite Bordeaux grapes: Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Petit Verdot.

Franchetti has three different vineyard sites: one right around the winery, another a little bit up the hill, and then a third up in the hills near where his house is.  They range from about 250 meters above sea level by the winery up to about 500 meters in the hills.  They are mostly Cabernet Franc and Merlot, with a little bit of Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot in a couple of spots.  


That's a wild boar run going under that fence there.



Just a nice shot of what the valley looks like.


Cabernet Franc vines next to the winery.  They planted extremely densely and yields are very low.  These are about 25 years old.


You can see the soil is all alluvial.  There's lots of river stones and sand.  


Franchetti actually brought Cabernet Franc and Merlot vines from Jean Luc Thunevin of Chateau Valandraud and planted with those varieties. The Val d'Orcia has innumerable little streams running out of all the hills and flowing into the Orcia river.  Those streams and the river have been moving around and wearing away at the sedimentary hills for thousands of years so the soil down in the valley is rich and dark; a bit sandy, and full of rounded river rocks.   It's a nice peaceful winding place with lots of little nooks and cranies and little streams all over.  I lost count of how many I ran over.  


Below is a list of the wall of all the separate little vineyard plots and what day they they were harvested on.  Considering Tenuta di Trinoro only has 3 separate vineyards you get a real sense of how specific the harvests are.  
20180410_080628 crop
Every thing in the winery is small with the idea that small scale allows for more precision.  The grapes are harvested by hand and the pickers make many passes over different days to make sure they're only harvesting the truly ripe grapes.  As you can see in the pictures Trinoro has lots and lots of small stainless tanks and small Bordeaux barrels, so that every batch of wine from each pass through a different specific spot of vineyard can be kept separate.  
However large or small a tank is, when you put wine in it, it needs to be full.  So if all a winery has are large tanks then wines from different vineyard parts will have to be blended in order to fill those tanks to the brim.
Everything ferments in stainless steel and rests there for about 8 months, then generally spends about 8 months in barrel, and then after blending spends maybe 6 months in bottle.  
Cement tanks and glass demi-jons for aging le Cupole and various experiments or extra juice.
Different wines in bottle aging until release.
If you zoom way in on the hill behind the pine trees there you can see Andrea Franchetti's house up there on the hill.  It actually used to be an old garrison building with soldiers stationed here to keep bandits from traveling back and forth through the valley.

So all the little vineyard plots are made into wine separately.   Once all the wines have been made and aged Franchetti then does the final blending and deciding about which parcels should be bottled on their own or go into Le Cupole or what.  
I tasted two Cabernet Francs: Camagi and Magnacosta.  Camagi is the best wine from the vineyard next door to the winery and then Magnacosta is the best wine from the vineyard about 200 meters higher up next to Andrea's house.  They were both fantastic.  Andrea always harvests late and at very full ripeness so the wines are always impressive and have a lot going on.  The french oak polishes them and gives them more elegance, but they're still very recognizably Tuscan.  The Camagi was a little more supple and the Magnacosta a bit more spicy and aromatic and tannic.
The Palazzi is a limited bottling of the best Merlot the vineyards produce.  Deep and lush and warm; it's usually from a couple particular parcels that always produce exceptional grapes
And then finally the Franchetti.  This is Andrea's flagship.  It's a blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petit Verdot.  This is always the best grapes, and it's always Andrea's vision to capture the pinnacle of the vintage, but he's not trying to achieve the same profile or flavors from year to year.  This was deep and ripe and thoughtful as a wine, but also with tension and acidity that made the wine energetic and a tiny bit edgy.   Tasting after all the running and with out eating anything kind of dulled my senses, so not the best personal situation for me to taste in, but very impressive and invaluable to have a better sense of the fell and smell of this corner of Tuscany. 
  20180423_164504The label of the excellently lush, ripe, sunny and Italian Le Cupole blend.  Available at Bow St Beverage in Portland and Bow St Market in Freeport.

Running Across Southern Tuscany from Tenuta di Trinoro to Montepulciano and back


I got up Tuesday morning not quite super early and a bit jetlagged but excited and ready to push on through and have adventures!  It was bright and sunny and amazing to see old Montepulciano in the light! I collected my things, successfully found where I had left my car the night before, and ate the cold and congealed asparagus and Peccorino appetizer from the night before.  


I figured that Montepulciano(being an old hill town) would probably be the highest elevation point of the run so I I decided I would drive down south first and then run out and back so that I'd  hopefully be running downhill late in my run.  The roads driving down to Montepulciano were perfect for the Abarth: tight winding and down hill.  I had a great time exploding out of each corner and then slamming the brakes back on for the next to tuck the nose in.   It's sort of unrelated, but here's a video I made of the car:



Tenuta di Trinoro was out a dirt road that was slowly becoming a bog; the Abarth did not like that as much.  But I found Tenuta di Trinoro and parked the Abarth on the grassy shoulder outside their gate.  Then I started running.
Google said that their were two nearly equidistant routes I could take so my plan was to run up one way and then back down the other.  So I headed out up this dirt road.
After I had run about a mile I started really looking at the map and realized that the road was just a series of zig zags.   That was when I realized: I was running up a mountain. 
So for about 3 miles I just ran up.  I came out on this ridge top and could see super far both north and south through Tuscany. 
Although there hadn't been any forks in the road, when I looked at the GPS I was clearly not on the trail Google wanted me to be on, but at that point I really didn't care anymore and it looked like eventually the little dirt track I was following would come out on a real road again. I kept on getting off track but I wasn't too worried.  I was pretty confident that if I just kept running long enough I would get somewhere and then find my way back.  
After running on a hiking trail through a nature preserve I eventually came out on a real road again! Once I got my GPS working I discovered that I wasn't too far from the route that I had driven down earlier from Montepulciano.  Running on them seemed like a great idea since already knew that they were beautiful, rural, and hilly.  I headed up gravel SP 88, past some unknown ancient santuary or convent, that was in the midst of being restored, and then was just running over rolling green hills with farms here in there looking over the hills of Tuscany.
It was pretty good. The smells were great!  The moisture from the rain was evaporating in the sun and I could smell every different grass and wild flower and the soil as I ran along!  
I made it to within a couple kilometers of Montepulciano before I felt like I needed to turn around and head back for my appointment at the winery.  Running back down the 88 was great and I made up some time.  But after an hour or so I hit the SP40 and it started to turn into a slog.  I ground it out but the rolling hills of the final 5 ish miles I was starting to feel it.  I still took pictures of this old hilltop tower and the sign for Tenuta di Trinoro though! 
I slogged through the mud of the SP126 and finally, as I crested a hill, off in the distance I could see the rounded little black shape of my Abarth. In the end I ran 23 miles up and down over the hills and mountains of southern Tuscany.  I lay the grass for 10 minutes before I got up, changed my clothes, put on boots, and got ready to go taste wine.

A Cold Rainy Night in Montepulciano

I got into Rome at about 5 in the evening.  Luckily I already cleared customs in Amsterdam and could head straight out of the airport and start the process of picking up my Abarth Cinquecento.


When I finally hit the road it was grey and raining and it looked like I wouldn't make it to Montepulciano until 8: not so great. It got progressively darker and wetter as I got closer and then I discovered that the road Google Maps wanted me to take into Montepulciano had been washed out at and was closed. Rural Tuscany isn't so built up so it took a good extra half hour to sort it out. When I got to Montepulciano it was black, spitting rain, and the town seemed utterly dark and deserted.






Google Maps wanted me to drive up a staircase, so after even more driving around I finally just ended up ditching the car and walking to the hotel.

2018-04-11 12.55.42

I'd just about given up hope of finding dinner but after a quick explanation to the owner of the hotel about the pazzesco run that I had planned early the next morning she told me that there might still be a restaurant open down the street.


As soon as I walked into La Pentolaccia I could tell that they were getting ready to close but I asked me if they would still feed me and I guess my broken Italian was endearing because they showed me to a table. I started to get a good feeling when I noticed that all the diners were Italian. The space was small, only maybe 30 seats, and cozy with lots of brick and terracotta. They had pictures of a little local rally team on the wall that they sponsored. The wine list was small and almost all wines from Montepulciano. All of these were positive signs! I recognized some of the wines, including Sanguineto: a fantastic traditional producer that I work with. I explained to the lone woman working the front of the house that I worked with wine, knew Sanguineto, and liked small producers working manually without chemicals. She got excited and said she had just the wine. It was from a farm owned by her friends and called Macchione.


So of course I got that and it was a perfect balanced structured Sangiovese from 2016. The menu was just as good once I turned my attention to it. I ordered a dish of Tagliatelle that they had made with a bit of coffee mixed into the pasta dough and it gave the pasta a great earthier flavor. She said it was a recipe she and her sister had come up with just playing around in the kitchen!


I followed that with a traditional Tuscan beef stew that was super hearty and full of peppercorns which had been cooked with the beef. The long cooking had taken some of the spice from the peppercorns but they were still spicy and gave the dish more warmth and fire.


They also gave me an appetizer to eat the next morning once I explained that I would be running back and forth around Montepulciano and would be up too early to get food anywhere. I headed back to my hotel a little later than I had wanted to go to, but so happy, so grateful, and with a completely different feeling about Montepulciano. La Pentolaccia saved the day! 


 The view the next morning looking out over where I was going to run....... 20180410_013458


Peppucci Petroro 2016


Vintage: 2016

Grapes: 60% Sangiovese, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 20% Merlot.

This is great.  I really like these wines and the Petroro 4 has been out of stock for a bit with the vintage changing over.  The 2016 is exactly what i'd hoped it would be.  '16 was a great year in central Italy.  The weather was just right and many people made excellent well balanced and integrated wines.  This is a great vintage to both find value wines and to find wines that are capable of long aging.  

I visited Peppucci in Autumn of '17 and had a great time talking to Filippo, the son who's taken over running the winery that his parents began the process of starting.  It's not just that Filippo took over responsibility for the winery, it seemed like he had really grown it and stepped up the wine making to a more serious level.  Here's a video of him in the winery.


Aroma: the 2016 Peppucci Petroro 4 smells like black berry and black cherry.  It smells dark and kind of woodsey and rich.  It's substantial and grounded like the Umbrian countryside.  

Taste: Juicy, but brighter than it smells.  The Petroro Quatro tastes more of cherries and black raspberries.  It's....almost chocolately even.  The balance of acid and ripe fruit is great.  There's just the right amount of tannin to make it a serious wine that would be excellent with some kind of hearty food with some fat to it.  There's a tiny bit of smoke to it as well.  Somehow this reminds me of an Italian Bordeaux in terms of it's focus and structure and linear character.