June 25th, 2014. The sun is shining, the smell of lavender is in the air. After trekking to Montalcino the day before, I was content to have espresso poolside and soak up the morning sun over Vagliagli. The day’s weather promised to be a bit unsettled later that afternoon, so before setting out for a few visits to friends, I slowed down….maybe I will have another espresso and dip my feet after all. This, is my Tuscany.
After two days driving around on Strade Bianca or “White Roads”, I was an expert at getting around and was determined to find my way to Radda without glancing a map or powering up the GPS. You can see the white road, literally unpaved white gravel roads, in the left corner in the picture above.
The road to Radda runs directly from Vagliagli center, which I had reached many times already, so perhaps I wasn’t being as brave as I sound. Nevertheless, after lunch, I set off. I knew Terrabianca was a short ride and they were to be my stop for the day.
|~ This shot is interesting because it features arguably the 3 most prominent features of the Tuscan landscape – Grape Vines excepted: Cypress Trees, Olive Trees, and Rosemary Hedges ~|
Upon arrival, I had to buzz to get into the tasting room. Despite the cantina being open, access is limited. I was greeted by a wonderfully charming woman named Patrizia, who spoke only a tiny bit of English. As I was very familiar with the wines of Terrabianca, I did not plan on doing an extended tasting – I merely had plans to visit and purchase some wine to enjoy that week at the Villa. She would have none of it! “You have to taste a little”…..
|~ The interior of the Terrabianca Tasting Room. Open wines for tasting are stored in the Eurocave, Center Right ~|
Initially Patrizia poured the 2010 Croce Chianti Classico Riserva. This sample from a 375ml bottle is classic in every sense. Sourced directly from Terrabianca’s vineyards directly across from the tasting room, Croce is predominantly Sangiovese with small additions of Canaiolo.
The 2010 is deep ruby in color with wonderful floral aromatics of lavender and rosemary that are joined by crushed berries, spicy tobacco leaf, and soft wood notes. The structure of the vintage is evident on the palate with full bodied juicy red fruits that hang on your palate and support acids and finely woven tannins that balance the flavors of the wine. Minerals and dust join in on the soft berry laden finish. This is a very pretty wine and looking out the tasting room window you get the sense that you’re drinking the land. 92 points. US retail should be about $25.
|~ Croce is predominantly Sangiovese with small additions of Canaiolo ~|
|~ Small stainless steel tanks & ancient Amphorae outside the entrance to the Terrabianca Winery ~|
The next wine we tasted was the 2009 Piano del Cipresso. This is 100% Sangiovese from the estate’s single vineyard named after the Cypress trees that dot the landscape. I’ve tasted and enjoyed this wine all the way back to the 1991 vintage; in fact, it was my first introduction to Terrabianca. I’m happy that it’s still being made because it’s an excellent example of Sangiovese and is not as expensive as some of the more notable mono-varietal Sangiovese that exist.
The 2009 is all about power and finesse. Upon inspection of the deep ruby color that offers the slightest of garnet reflections, the taster is greeted by rich, ripe fruit aromas punctuated with warmed clay and rosemary. The sense of the riper vintage here is evident on the nose and at first was cause for concern, but those fears were allayed after tasting.
On the palate, there is a bright, rich core of wild berry fruit that is tinged with laser like acidity that elevates the fruit from overdone to balanced. 2009 was like walking a tight rope for some estates and Terrabianca got it right with this wine. Juicy vibrant flavors of sweet pipe tobacco, mint, leather and berries are woven together nicely and blend seamlessly over the finish. This is an unsung Tuscan hero and is definitely worth seeking out. 94 points. US retail is about $35-$45.
|~ Piano del Cipresso is 100% Sangiovese ~|
Directly outside the tasting room is Terrabianca’s courtyard. Just beyond that and across the road are some of their estate vineyards. When I was done tasting, I stopped to soak in the view before getting into my car. There is something tactile about the symbiosis of nature. The dirt. The dust in the road. The vines. The lavender. The smell in the air. The cypress trees and the olives. It’s something to behold. With a deep breath I shot the image below in an effort to capture the moment.
Finally, with the weather starting to roil and the promised thunderstorms apparently materializing, I decided to head back to Vagliagli. I carried Terrabianca with me; both in my heart and in my hands. Much more to come from this gorgeous estate.
|~ The Entrance to Cantina Terrabianca ~|
The Tuscans have a phrase: “togliere il fiato”, which means, “it takes your breath away.” When I look back at these photos and realize how the land and the fruit borne from it translates to the wine in the glass, I sigh and remember “togliere il fiato”….
I wish you, my kind of memory.
July 10, 2014