~ The view from Ornellaia is spectacular ~


In 1997, Tenuta dell’Ornellaia was owned by Ludovico Antinori who had parted ways from his brother Piero Antinori to establish his own estate on the Tuscan coast near Bolgheri.  By any measure, his efforts were a resounding success and his signature flagship wine Ornellaia soon became sought after among collectors as the Super Tuscan craze blossomed beyond expectations.   Michel Rolland, the famed enologist from Bordeaux crafted the wine and the essence of Tuscany lent its distinctive mark on the grapes in the blend. 


After sales of the estate to Mondavi and then ultimately to Frescobaldi,  Ornellaia appears to be settling down and a pattern of consistent excellence is emerging.  Since 2005, Axel Heinz has been the winemaker and ownership has remained consistent. 
As I’ve often remarked, wine is bottled poetry – but Ornellaia has taken that notion one step further:  Wine is Bottled Art.  Since 2006,  the estate has commissioned a new artist for each vintage to create a label and a name that best reflects the nature of each vintage.  A limited production label is then placed on 1 out of every 6 bottles in each wooden case and proceeds from those bottles are provided to charity.  The goal is simple:  Obsession with quality and giving back.


I last tried today’s subject wine in 2012 and it was certainly a disappointment, but my suspicions about cellaring the wine for 5 more years proved to be correct.   1997 was a classic modern vintage across Tuscany and although the vintage began with cool, wet weather, from May onward conditions were ideal.  Yields were down slightly, mostly due to the smaller size of the berries.  The 1997 Ornellaia is 65% Cabernet, 30% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc.   We decanted the wine for 90 minutes before dinner and it was served alongside roasted pork stuffed with spinach, cheese and herbs.   The match was wonderful.
The wine is still a dark garnet color with slighter ruby reflections throughout.  On the nose the wine predictably reminds of a fine claret.  Cedar, cigar tobacco, and roasted coffee notes accent a lovely core aroma of chocolate covered cherries.  There is still, per my note from 2012,  a whiff of oak. It is not nearly the issue it was back then, so maybe,  after a few more years in the cellar, it will completely dissipate.  
On the palate, the wine is remarkable.  The texture is pure velvet.  It caresses ever so deftly.  Black cherry flavors, dark chocolate, tobacco and roasted coffee bean are delicious and classy. The tannins are finely grained and have mostly subsided given the enormous amount of sediment removed from the wine.  There’s enough acidic nature to keep things fresh and while you can cellar this for 3-5 more years, at almost 19 years of age,  I love this right now.  95 points.  About $75 upon release. 
~ 1997 was amazing – look at the perfect cork from this bottle ~

Buon Natale!

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