~ Welcome to Querciavalle ~

In 1870,  humble Tuscan sharecroppers Emilio and Tranquillo Losi were dutifully tending the Fontino and Querciavalle farms.  At the time, the adjacent farms were covered primarily with grains, beans, grape vines and olive trees.  Although they tended to everything during Italy’s “Mezzadria” (sharecropping) period,  even at this early stage the Losi’s emphasized wine production.

When the sharecropping era began to wither,  Tranquillo purchased both farms and merged them into the Agricola Losi Querciavalle Estate.  Then in 1954, with tremendous foresight, Tranquillo hired enologist Tancredi Biondi Santi.  From this mentor and modern day Father of Brunello, he learned the art of winemaking.  This was especially prescient at the time since most Chianti was sold off in bulk and not used for quality wine production.

~ The Losi Estate is well manicured. In this photo, the clay has been turned over roughly between the vine rows. There is an underlying point here. The would be grape and vine shoot thieves (i.e. deer) don’t like the way the uneven dirt feels under their hoofs. This is somewhat of a deterrent ~

Today the estate covers 50 hectares in the commune of Castelnuovo Berardenga.  Approximately 20 hectares are under vine, from which the Losi’s produce several distinctive wines. The remaining land is devoted to the family home, olive trees, grains and other arable crops.

Recently, I spent an amazing day visiting the estate with Valeria Losi and her family.   We walked the vineyards, toured the cellars, tasted, and shared a relaxing picnic lunch.

~ In this shot of Querciavalle’s vineyards, you can see the Tower of Siena poking through the haze at the far left ~

The picture below is an attempt to illustrate the slope of this Sangiovese vineyard.  Peering out on the left is Siena.

Grape vines

~ Again, in this shot you can see the rough dirt between the vine rows. You also get a glimpse of Siena and a feel for how steep this section of the vineyards are ~

After walking the vineyards and gaining a better sense of the exposition, we started touring the cellars.  The original cellar dates back decades and is still used today.  However, in 1996 a new underground addition was constructed and adjoined to the existing cellar. This has given the Losi’s the additional room they desperately needed for aging, bottling and shipping.

Cement Wine Storage Tanks

~ 50 and 20 Hectoliter Cement tanks used, as you can see, for Chianti Classico and IGT Rosso Sangiovese. These are in the older part of the family cellar. As you can see, the closest vat is holding the 2015 vintage ~

The Losi’s uses many different vessels in aging their wines.  Botte, in both round and oval form, barrique, stainless steel, glass lined and the cement tanks pictured above.  As we wandered through the older portion of the cellar en route to the new expansion, several types were visible.

~ Drawing a barrel sample of 2016 Chianti Classico from Oval casks in the older portion of the cellar. At the time this was just a few months away from being bottled. It was very bright, aromatic, juicy and primary. A bold Classico that can easily withstand the longer aging. It will be interesting to taste the finished wine ~

Just beyond the room pictured below lies the new cellar expansion.  The facility houses the bottling and shipping area as well as a reception area for tasting.

Wine Cellar

~ This is an interesting picture on many levels. Here you can see a desk filled with notes and figures chronicling the various wine’s maturation. Visible are new large botte, glass lined fiberglass tanks, barriques and a much older botte. On the back wall, the “black hole” under the Consorzio sign is actually a passageway stepping down into the newer vast aging cellar ~

As we passed through the narrow catacombs of the cellar, we also passed a treasured archive of family bottles.  Valeria said they recently tried a bottle from 1978 that was fresh and interesting.

Old wine bottles

~ Visible in this close up are wines from 1985 and 1982 though the collection goes back to the 1960s. Older than my host! Valeria mentioned that they are like history to her and I agreed. Seeing and drinking older vintages like that always gives me chills. It’s one of the reasons wine is so great ~

Before arranging our plans for lunch, we tasted a few more recently bottled wines.  The 2015 Querciavalle Chianti Classico is a tremendous example of the vintage and one that harnesses the Castelnuovo Berardenga terroir and bottles it!  A beautiful ruby color gives way to aromas of fresh flowers, crushed berry, spice and new leather.  Focused and energetic, this blend of 90% Sangiovese and 10% Canaiolo has flavors that echo the nose.  Pure, juicy and vibrant, this will be a must when fully available. 91 points, very pretty.

~ The color of the 2015 is classic. The table the bottle is resting on features a glass top. Underneath, it’s hollow and filled with dirt from the estate’s vineyards. You can see the coarseness of the soil from clay to galestro and albarese ~

The 2012 Chianti Classico Riserva was the next wine we tried.  If I’m not mistaken, the bottle had been opened for a few days.  It was still as fresh as can be. A slightly darker ruby, this wine is 95% Sangiovese and 5% Canaiolo.  Richer, meatier on the palate with flavors of dark cherry, plum, mulch and mushroom.  The aromas are more heady as well with older leather, deeper fruit notes and hints of coffee. Very attractive and hints at a slow evolution.  Moderately tannic, it’s enjoyable now for its balance.  91 points.

~ The 2012 is a very pretty wine with some more advanced aromatics but will easily cellar another 5-7 years. Balanced well; it hints at what the 2015 Riserva may become ~

After gathering the necessaries – read: cheeses, meats, melon, cherries, bread, oil, water and wine we set out for a lovely picnic destination – a casual table under a tall oak – surrounded by yellow perfumed Ginestra and overlooking the wee hamlet of Vagliagli.

Vagliagli

~ View for a Picnic:  This is the entirety of Vagliagli – a small hamlet about 15 minutes north of Siena where I have spent quite a bit of time over the last 5 years ~

I only wish I had photographed the amazing array of antipasto type food that we managed to cram in a few small bags but nevertheless, I was focused on the wine and more importantly, the friendship.

~ Crisp, zesty and refreshing, this IGT is almost completely clear in the glass ~

Named after the founder of the estate, the first wine we began with was the 2018 Cavalier Tranquilo IGT.   Almost colorless in the glass, the wine boasts wonderful aromas of white flowers, tropical fruit and stones.  On the palate, the core flavors reflect ripe mango and white peach notes that are clean and refreshing.  A blend of  90% Trebbiano and 10% Malvasia this worked very well with the fresh melon and green olives. 87 points.

~ Valeria explained that this wine is a passion of her brother, the family’s winemaker. It’s a 100% Sangiovese from the 4 hectare La Capanna vineyard.  ~

The 2015 La Capanna IGT Rosso holds a special place in the heart of Valeria’s brother, the family winemaker.  This 100% Sangiovese is deep garnet fixed by aging in French barrique after vinification in stainless steel.  Notes on the nose remind of violets and black plums and those traits carry onto the palate.  Fresh and lively with good balance but very soft tannins.  Meant to be drunk young, this was delicious with the assorted cured meats.  Bottled and released earlier than required for Chianti Classico. 87 points.

~ This is the 2013 Chianti Classico Riserva in a generic mocked up label ~

The next wine up was the yet to be released 2013 Chianti Classico Riserva.  A deep garnet red, like the 2012 this is 95% Sangiovese and 5% Canaiolo.  This is a heavy weight wine.  Not nearly as austere as many of the 2013 Brunello at this stage.  This sports deep aromas of leather, earth, crushed wild cherry and flowers.  The flavors echo the nose with wonderful harmony and delineation. Tremendous wine! Fresh, concentrated and long.  Great with all the antipasto – even the prosciutto with sweet, ripe melon.  93 points.  Find earlier vintages here.

Gran Selezione

~ The Gran Selezione is produced only in the best vintages and the 2011 is the current release. It’s worth seeking out ~

The final red wine of the day was opened when we began lunch.  So, perhaps it sat for about 45 minutes before we began tasting it with aged pecorino, bread, oil and cured meats.  The 2011 Millenium Gran Selezione is aptly named having been produced first in the year 2000 with grapes from the wondeful 1997 harvest.  The wine is a blend of 90% Sangiovese, 5% Canaiolo and 5% Malvasia.  Sourced from the properties oldest vines, this complex rosso undergoes alcoholic fermentation in stainless steel, malolactic fermentation in cement and this is transferred to medium sized (10 hl) French botte where it ages for 36 months.

Deep violet with garnet tones, the 2011 is deep and earthy with crushed cherry and leather notes on the nose.  In the mouth, the wine expresses deep flavors of red fruits, leather, spices and toasted tobacco leaf. Long, rich and fresh with lots of tannins and what seems to be a long evolution ahead.  Still young.  Give it 3-5 years to shed some tannins.  94 points.

Olive Grove

~ Olive trees are intermittently present throughout the property. Here you can see vines in the background amid this olive grove. These trees are 30-40 years old ~

We finished lunch with some homemade cherry tarts made from estate grown fruit and reflectively sipped on the wonderful Vin Santo the family produces.

Vin Santo wine

~ You can see the cherries in the background of this picture. The wine was wonderful alongside the buttery, flakely crust of the tarts ~

The 2005 Vin Santo is a deep golden honey reminiscent of maple syrup.  A blend of 50% Trebbiano and 50% Malvasia, the wine is aged in Caratelli for 10 years before release.  The 2005 is the current vintage.

Aromas of white flowers, toasted hazelnut, maple syrup, brown sugar and orange peel are nothing short of amazing.  On the palate the viscosity of the wine is thick and fresh with acidity.  Flavors of brown sugar, maple syrup, orange zest and almonds are lively and concentrated.  Not at all cloying.  This is a truly special nectar and worth the tariff.  A 375ml bottle is about $37.  Dare I say that’s a great value? There, I did.  96 points.   Find this wine.

~ Arrivederci from Querciavalle ! ~

Salute!

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