It’s a short, winding, dusty strada bianca that leads from Vagliagli center to Radda in Chianti,  but it’s a lovely ride for it’s untamed, serene landscapes that have seemingly remained unchanged for hundreds of years.  The backroads of Chianti lead to many a treasure and just outside Radda lies the beautiful estate of Monteraponi.   Although just a few minutes from the center of Radda,  Monteraponi is isolated in natural beauty.  Winemaker Michele Braganti sums it up nicely:  

“Monteraponi is an independant ecosystem, it’s a village surrounded by the forest on all sides, like a monopole in France. The property is about 200 hectares stretching through a valley over passed by the Arbia river, with oak trees, and over 1,200 olive trees. Of the total area of land, only 10 hectares are vineyards and the rest semi-native and wild. There is a lake, where I go to fish from time by time…to relax.”

I arrived shortly after lunch, on a glorius Tuscan day – cool enough to enjoy being outdoors,  but warm enough to appreciate the nurturing dampness of the Monteraponi cellars.  Alessandra Deiana provided a brief orientation of the estate and then we headed to the cellars to barrel taste some of Monteraponi’s recent vintages. 

~ In addition to a wonderful Chianti Classico,  Monteraponi produces two single vineyard Riservas.  In the picture above, centered just underneath the power lines, lies the Il Campitello Vineyard.  Some 40+ years old, Il Campitello is surrounded by forest on all sides ~

~ The top wine of the estate is widely considered to be the Riserva Baron Ugo.  Although difficult to tell,  this vineyard is among the steepest you will ever come across.  The vines spread across the hillside and harvest is only possible by hand ~

Off to the cellars to taste……….

~ Cement fermenters at Monteraponi.  Braganti prefers the inert aspects of cement for his Sangiovese ~
~ Large casks for Aging.  It’s hard to tell, but these barrels are oval as opposed to the more traditional circular shape. Alessandra explained that the oval barrels take up less space in the cellar, and they increase the surface area of wine to barrel which further reduces the impact of the oak ~  
The first wine we tasted was the 2013 Chianti Classico.   The 2013 is a deep ruby in the glass.  Clear and vibrant, it’s got vibrant fruit flavors and aromas of mouth watering tart cherry, minerality and spice.  

Next was the 2012 Il Campitello Chianti Classico Riserva.  This lovely wine, resting in barrel,  is glorius.  Absolutely glorius.  It’s full of flowers, minerals and crushed vibrant fruit on the nose and palate.  It’s amazingly pure.  It’s my favorite wine from Monteraponi and will be my benchmark for the estate.  Seek this out when it’s released. 

~ Alessandra drawing samples of the 2012 Il Campitello Chianti Classico Riserva ~

We then made our way to a pair of the Baron Ugo.  If  Il Campitello is the elegant, graceful Queen, then Baron Ugo is the more muscular, erudite King.  Alessandra explained that 2011 was a difficult vintage for Monteraponi because of the varying conditions which led to almost a 40% reduction in the grapes they used. However, this selectivity appears to have paid off. 

The 2011 Baron Ugo Chianti Classico Riserva  has lots of concentration and power behind its black cherry flavors. There’s lots of minerality here and already a tiny trace of leather. Medium to full bodied and although I was impressed with this wine, the 2013 Baron Ugo will be even better. Vibrant and pure, with lots of power, tannin, acids and crushed fruit, everything is elevated with this wine. Full body and a long, long finish. When you taste this wine and stare at the vineyard, you can see the flavors.  This is beautiful Chianti. 

~ Larger circular barrels in Monteraponi’s Cellars ~  

We then left the cellar and headed over to the office for a tasting of bottled wines.  

~ Monteraponi is as beautiful as the wine is good ~

Finished Wines
The first wine we tried was the 2013 Trebbiano.   Michele explained that Trebbiano can not be a DOC when grown in Chianti so the wine bears the Toscana Centrale designation.   There’s lots of wonderful extraction here.   Aromas are clean and classic with white stone fruit, lemongrass and citrus notes.  On the palate, the medium gold wine is viscous, with a solid medium body and crisp acidity.  Flavors for the nose and the finish is dotted with grapefruit.  Delicate and refreshing.  I brought a bottle of this home to the Villa and we enjoyed it poolside with some antipasto.  I can’t imagine a better setting for it.  87 points. 

~ Monteraponi Trebbiano Toscana Centrale ~

One hallmark of Briganti’s reds is clearly the minerality that is central to each wine he produces.  His winemaking methods allow this quality to speak,  but it’s the soil that imparts this wonderful complexity to the wine.  Using the phrase a picture is worth a thousand words; voila! 
~ On the left is Galestro.  Galestro is all over Tuscany and makes up the soil of the Il Campitello vineyard.  It’s delicate, and if you will, feminine.  Briganti grabbed a piece and snapped it in half with his fingers.  It’s covered in powder.  To the right is Albarese.  This is harder and rounder.  Whereas Galestro extends into the ground like layers, Albarese appears to cover the surface of the ground like strewn river stones.  Albarese makes up the soil in the Baron Ugo vineyard ~

2012 Chianti Classico:
This wine is simply the soul of this estate and Chianti Classico in a bottle.  90% Sangiovese and 10% Canaiolo, it’s full of vibrant ripe berry fruit, minerality, sweet tobacco and spice.  Front to back, top to bottom, this is a must buy vintage after vintage for lovers of Chianti.  88 points and fairly priced at about $20.  

2011 Il Campitello Chianti Classico Riserva:  I love this vineyard.  I’ve not had a wine from it yet that I did not think was spectacular.  The deep ruby color is sexy and alluring.   The aromas are redolent of flowers, bright red fruits,  and mineral.  The flavors follow the nose and add a savory, tart mouth watering sensation that compels another sip.  It stands among my favorite Chianti wines and a must purchase each vintage.  94 points.  

I took a bottle home to the villa and a few nights later we opened it with Penne tossed with boar sausage, basil and local fresh tomatoes.  Dined al fresco under the pergola and listened to the dogs barking below in the valley.  They were no doubt chasing some of the cinghiale that was on our plate.  A match made in heaven.  
2010 Baron Ugo Chianti Classico Riserva:  
A great vintage in the hands of a talented winemaker who gets great grapes from amazing terroir is about as close to a guarantee as you’ll get.  Baron Ugo is Michele Braganti’s child.  The blackish red Sangiovese has pronouced aromas of flowers, crushed red fruit, sage, and meat.  The full bodied wine is tannic, with masses of fruit on a large frame supported by mouth watering acids.  Long, savory, ripe finish.  Among the best 2010’s I’ve had.  94 points. 

~  The Tasting Lineup ~

It’s difficult to say more about Michele and his beautiful partner Alessandra.  They are humble, passionate people.  Alessandra and I clearly prefer Il Campitello to Baron Ugo,  but it’s splitting hairs.  She jokingly patted him on the back for making the 2011 Il Campitello and Michele jokingly patted himself on the back for Baron Ugo!  They are friendly and graciously opened their home and cellars to me.  I can’t wait to see them again.  Great people making great wine.  But don’t take my word for it, try the wines for yourself!
~ Wine that will become Chianti Classico Riserva Baron Ugo 2013 ~

~ Michele & Me ~

 Spero ci vediamo presto amici!

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