Hanging out with Danilo in Umbria
Hanging out with Danilo in Umbria
Earlier this month I spent a whirlwind 30 Hours in Umbria
When I planned out this whole trip to Piedmont I felt like I had to get down to Umbria to say hi to Danilo and my friends there. Umbria isn't that far away! So I booked my return flight out of Rome. Turns out it's a solid 6 our drive on the Autostrada to get down to Umbria. Good thing I had an Abarth Cinquecento! It was cool to directly and suddenly experience the difference between Piedmont and Umbria. Piedmont was cooler, more wild, more forests, the people were a little stiffer.... and then Umbria is so absolutely Mediterranean! People are louder, a bit more extroverted, it's warmer and sunnier, people drive more aggressively down in central Italy.... It was funny how familiar Umbria felt after the week in Piedmont.
I made it to Danilo after a 6 hour drive. Danilo was in the cantina and it was so full of wine! They had been harvesting Trebbiano that day and had 11 big vats full! Riccardo and Toni were starting to pump the mix of juice and skins into tanks for some of the wines. Others would stay in the open vats (mastelli) for a week or so. Danilo said it was one of the best vintages he'd seen. Conestabile della Staffa had produced over 100,000 kilos of grapes! Yes, the summer was hot and dry but the calcareous clay soil holds water and they do get morning fog off the lake. Then they got some rain in September and he said it had been perfectly timed. It probably helps that Danilo is generally going for larger yields to keep the alcohol from getting too high and that he farms so naturally. Keeping more leaves on the vines and having healthy plant cover between the rows all helps with heat stress. He said it was a reminder that it's important to just pay attention to nature and make your farming decisions based on what you your self are seeing and experiencing, not what you're hearing on the news.
Danilo was super excited about a very old vineyard he had recently acquired from an old wine farmer. The grape variety is Trebbiano Romagnolo. It has a bit more color to the skins and he was letting it macerate a bit longer. He put me to work aggressively punching down all the fermenting vats. Then I had about an hour to unpack and appreciate the Umbrian sunset before Danilo and I headed out for dinner and to taste all his new vintages. Danilo has definitely hit his stride and dialed in making focused fruit driven mineral natural wines that do a great job of walking the line between obviously natural and "wild tasting" but also being legitimately delicious and well balanced. It's also cool to see that the rest of the Conestabile della Staffa family has really gotten on board now that he has some serious success behind him.
Look at how full that winery is! It's crazy that despite the crazy heat wave and the doom and gloom weather stories about that heat wave Danilo has had an incredible vintage.
I call this one: Natural Wine to the Moon!!!
Wine maker hands. Danilo and I went out to dinner and tasted through all his new vintages. Part way through dinner I noticed his wine maker hands.
I got to hang out with Giorgia again! Giorgia is a young refugee from the fashion industry who started working with Danilo about a year and a half ago. She's since started her own winery outside of Cortona! The bottles next to her are the first vintage.
Here's a video of Danilo and I walking around the winery and talking about the harvest
MossO Rosato 2020
Priced around $25. Find it at Solo Cucina and Bath Natural Foods
MossO is a blend of Sangiovese and Gamay del Trasimeno (Grenache). The grapes are harvested on the early side and then ferment in open vats with the skins for a few days before gong into a fiberglass tank. The wine is bottled after about 6 months and refermented with a bit of grape juice Danilo had frozen during the harvest. No sulfur added.
Aroma: tropical fruit! It has this ripe and heady combination of mango, guava, and ripe peach! It sounds so weird to say but it kind of smells like cotton candy and classic pink Bazooka Joe bubble gum! And actually as I keep working on it also very much like sun-dried tomatoes! It is an exciting psychedelic kind of aroma! This is what I love about wine! Exciting fun things that challenge my ideas of what they can smell like
Taste: bright and fresh and peachy up front followed by super fine frothy little bubbles, and then this meaty pink grapefruit followed by a hit of that bubble gum. On the finish there's a little bit of a dried cranberry and some interesting aromatic spices like clove and cardamom. This is so much fun and so wildly aromatic!
Priced around $28. Find it at Solo Cucina, Riverside Butcher, and Blue Hill Co-op
Aroma: this is amazing: the aroma is gorgeously floral but it doesn't cross the line into being perfumy or annoying. It's just incredible. It smells like lavender and lilacs and wild cherry blossoms. At first I thought I had washed my hands with aromatic soap or something; I just couldn't believe it. But no, really the wine just smells amazing!
Taste: lots of peach juice. Delicious! The fruit is so beautiful ad peachy, there's a little bit of strawberry in there too but part of what makes it fantastic is that it's well supported with subtle acidity, fine frothiness, and a little bit of salt on the mid palate. There's a little bit of watermelon flavor to the finish but the peach runs all the way through. This is really one of the best petnats I've ever had.
This is Sangiovese Petnat from Danilo Marcucci. For 2021 Danilo switched from fully fermenting his sparkling wines in tank and then adding grape juice he had frozen for the refermentation in the bottles. On more research Danilo became convinced that bottling during initial primary fermentation captured other chemicals that are lost if you do a second fermentation (nitrogen). It's a bit trickier to do this way since you have to bottle at just the right moment and there's not much margin for error, but he feels the result is more complex as well as more stable. This is early harvest Sangiovese from a parcel that was eaten by wild boars for several years running, so finally Danilo decided to harvest early to beat the boars to the fruit.
Priced about $27. Find this at Solo Cucina and Vessel and Vine
100% Sangiovese made with a unique method of carbonic maceration that dates back to the Etruscan times. The Ancient Etruscans were known to cover the fermentation tanks (often clay pots or palmenti) with a wet, clay based paste. This rudimentary covering on the fermentation allowed the CO2 during primary fermentation to protect the must and preserving fruit. Danilo experimented with the idea and in the end created this. Aged in fiberglass tanks. No filtering or fining.
This is so ripe and exuberant! It's not as candied and over the top fruity as true carbonic maceration wines can be. It's super ripe and juicy and a little woodsey. It's a little rustic in it's dry earthy mid palate flavors and the vividly ripe cherry and raspberry fruit is exuberant... but it's fun and delicious and uplifting. It tastes like it's 13% or so percent but actually it's 11.5%! This is so juicy and playful but refreshing too... I'm planning to feature this for Thanksgiving.
Priced about $23/btl. Find this at Riverside Butcher, Solo Cucina, and Bow St Market
Brand new 100% Sangiovese. That's sort of similar to the CarboEtrusco, but this is less exuberantly fruity, has a bit more tannin, and is 12.5% alcohol. I love that this is classic Sangiovese ripe cherry fruit, but perfectly balanced and not too dry.
Aroma: juicy cherry and raspberry but it's also got some dried fruit flavors too. Dried cherry and some raspberry jam. There's some hints of rosemary, time and a little hint of milk chocolate. It's that classic juicy butt slightly sun-dried and savory Sangiovese profile.
Taste: wow, juicy, energetic and so delicious. There's lots of cherry and raspberry fruit that comes across fresh and playful and vibrant. It's backed up immediately by some delicious savory salt and the combination of the vibrant fruit and the salt is really delicious. The mid palette has more fresh raspberry to it but also picks up some black pepper and gets kind of savory before these dry gentle tannins come in. It's a classic Sangiovese profile with deliciously restrained alcohol and vibrant acidity.
Vivo Rosso 2020
Priced about $26/btl
Gamay del Trasimeno (local version of Grenache) made with a unique method of semi-carbonic maceration in the same way as the CarboEtrusco above. So it's partial whole cluster and then the top of the tank is sealed with a paste that keeps oxygen out and provides an anaerobic environment for the fermentation. It allows you to get flavor without too much tannin, and maybe avoid pressing altogether. Aged in fiberglass tanks. No filtering, fining, sulfur, or temperature control.
Aroma: ripe raspberries, raspberry jam, fresh cherries, a little hint of cinnamon and maybe some wintergreen. It's a really pretty mix of juicy reduced fruit, fresh fruit, and a touch of spice.
Taste: juicy warm and relaxed. The wine has a really smooth supple texture but underneath it there's a little bit of wild volatile acidity that gives the wine some more intensity and urgency. The fruit up front is all kinds of raspberry, cooked strawberry, and fresh cherry. Then the mid palate has a little bit of wintergreen and reduced sweet stewed tomato. Some integrated dry relaxed tannins come in to round out the Finish and draw out the cooked strawberry and cherry flavors. It's so delicious and supple, but also thirst quenching; I love the balance!
Priced about $27/btl.
Find this at Bow St Freeport, Solo Cucina, Weatherbird, Vessel and Vine, and Table Bar
Danilo makes this from some old Alicante vines that were planted at Conestabile della Staffa at some unknown time way in the past. Alicante is a red grape with red flesh and wines from it always have a lot of color. Danilo only makes this wine in god years and even then he only makes one barrel. And that barrel is 150 years old and kept alive by will power (I know, I worked on it a few years ago). This wine is not normally imported into the US but after tasting it in Italy I special ordered it. We have 2 cases on hand.
Aroma: chocolate-covered cherries, Tootsie Roll, cherry jam, a little bit of wintergreen; it smells deep dark rich and delicious
Taste: rich and viscous upfront: cooked cherry, then a little bit of chocolate on the mid palate but then some wintergreen and more blackberry fruit comes in. There are nice dark balancing tannins on the finish, a little touch of alcohol to make it warm, cozy, and serious. The mid palate also has a little bit of coriander and cinnamon. The finish is very long. The flavors are all integrated and work well together and the wine is quite well balanced. I'm always super impressed to see a wine that is this big and also this well-balanced
Priced about $30
Find this at Solo Cucina, Graze and Vine, River House, Stompers, Weatherbird, Kennebec Meat Co, Goods in Camden, Bow St Portland, and Folk in Kittery.
3 clones of Trebbiano: Spoletino, Trebbiano d'Abruzzo and Trebbiano Toscano. Spontaneous fermentation with 10 days of skin contact before vertical press and aging in fiberglass. No added sulfur and no filtering or fining. Crown cap closure to indicate the jovial and rustic nature of the wine.
Aroma: fresh orange juice, roasted carrots, roasted butternut squash a hint of Basil, a little bit of honey.... it smells a bit waxy. It's a deep and savory Aroma that's both ripe and fruity while also having savory components. It smells perfect for this time of year
Taste: bright fresh orange up front. There's energetic acidity that makes it citrusy and zippy. A little bit of roasted carrot, then it has a orange peel component followed up with some nice savory salt. There's more orange but then either woven with it some flavors of ginger, cinnamon and cumin. It has some tannins of course and they dry your palate out but they also sort of hold the flavors of the wine together, draw them in to the Finish. It makes me really think of those ripe juicy sungold cherry tomatoes
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