|~ Castello Banfi: The Path leads to the Taverna and the Castle Proper. At right is the Balsameria ~
About a 20 minute winding drive south of Montalcino center sits the castle of Poggio alle Mura, which Castello Banfi calls home. It’s an imposing fortress and the headquarters of a vast operation that includes not only production of some of the regions finest wines, but also olive oil, Salsa Etrusca Balsamico, honeys and jams. Behind the obvious, the estate is home to two excellent restaurants, a casual Taverna and a Michelin starred Ristorante.
We arrived at Castello Banfi on a cool, grey day but we did not allow that to dampen the mood as we enjoyed a casual tasting of the estate wines, a tour of the aging cellars and then a long, relaxing lunch.
|~ The patented hybrid fermentors in the Castello Banfi winery are a combination of stainless steel and oak ~
The first stop was the “Horizon” winery, first used in producing the 2007 vintage. This state of the art facility features unique, patented hybrid fermentors that combine the clean technology of stainless steel with the subtle influence of French oak during the fermentation process. Castello Banfi vinifies its premium red wines in this facility. White wines and other reds are fermented in 100% stainless steel in a different area of the winery.
|~ An atrium area that leads to the deeper aging cellars beneath the winery ~
The Castello Banfi operation is impressive for its magnitude. While it certainly has its detractors, mostly critics voicing displeasure at Castello Banfi’s sizeable production, I see no reason for the misguided angst. Their size allows them many benefits not available to smaller producers, including the ability to create small lot, artisan wines without sacrificing production capability in other areas. Further, it allows them the flexibility to “de-classify” wine into normal estate bottlings, thereby retaining the integrity of their flagship wines. To the latter point, as I wrote earlier this week, their single vineyard Brunello Riserva, typically among the best Riservas Montalcino offers, has only been produced 10 times since 1985.
|~ Descending into the cellar, we find French barrique used for Castello Banfi’s Super Tuscan Summus ~
|~ Botte used for aging Brunello deep inside the Castello Banfi cellars. The unique chandelier is actually made from wine bottles ~
With the tour complete and our palates sufficiently tempted, we were off to lunch in the Taverna. Our gracious host, Lorella Caressi arranged the wine pairings for our lunch.
|~ Tuscan Specialty: Pici pasta with wild boar sausage and fresh chanterelles ~
With the primi, we were poured the first release from Castello Banfi’s newly acquired vineyard in the Maremma, the 2012 Aska.
The 2012 Aska is the benefactor of a great Tuscan vintage. This young red is very approachable and boasts a lively bright purple color. The aromas from the glass are straightforward and appealing with dark berry fruit and a pretty floral note. On the palate, the wine is medium bodied with pretty notes of lavender, crushed berry and spices. Lively, with bright acidity, the wine is fresh and well balanced. Made predominantly from Cabernet with a tiny percentage of Cabernet Franc, I look forward to following this project as the vineyard and wines mature. 88 points.
|~ 2012 Castello Banfi ASKA – Predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon with a tiny percentage of Cabernet Franc ~
|~ Part of the service area inside Taverna Banfi ~
Next up was an amazing dish of roasted pork tenderloin wrapped in pancetta, accompanied by roasted potatoes. The natural and obvious pairing was Castello Banfi’s recently released 2009 Brunello Poggio Alle Mura.
|~ This dish was absolutely fabulous. As good as the pork was, the rosemary scented potatoes were just delicious ~
The 2009 Poggio Alle Mura is incredibly young. Recently released only weeks before our arrival, the wine barely had time to get comfortable in it’s new bottle home before being uncorked. It’s an educational experience to taste wines this young, and not all that dissimilar from tasting late stage barrel samples. The bottle we were being served had been opened a few hours in advance.
The wine is a deep violet and even at the young age, you can see an ever so faint trace of copper at the rim of the bowl. Derived from vineyards just outside the Castle walls, the Poggio Alle Mura Brunello is the result of Castello Banfi’s extensive clonal research project.
On the nose, the wine is somewhat reticent with notes of soft sandalwood, crushed cherry and spices. On the palate, flavors follow the nose with good, ripe concentration. The tannins are substantial at this young age but are perfectly matched with the pork. Delicious as part of the wine-food symphony, but still a touch disjointed on its own. This will be a wine to watch in the difficult 2009 vintage. I look forward to tasting it again as part of my upcoming report on 2009 Brunello. 90 points.
|~ 2009 Castello Banfi Brunello Poggio Alle Mura ~
After lunch, we enjoyed dessert, espresso and Castello Banfi Grappa before heading out to linger on the grounds of the estate. I snapped the picture below from inside vineyards dedicated to Brunello.
|~ Just a “tiny” bit of Brunello: The TuscanVines team in the barrel aging cellars of Castello Banfi ~
October 24, 2014