Rustic Tuscany

~ The view over Sant’Angelo in Colle ~

We set the bar high after Day 1.   But this is Tuscan Vine’s Rustic Tuscany, there was no way the bar would not be eclipsed.

This was to be our first full day “on the ground” in Tuscany, and the crew rallied for what was to become our standard AOB time of 9:30 in the morning.  We piled into our vans after a rustic, but typical breakfast, and off we went.


The first stop of the day was at Talenti, a producer that is fast becoming one of my favorites.  We were met at the top of the driveway by Owner & Winemaker Riccardo Talenti.  In what was to become a theme for the entire trip, the guests soon realized that average tours are generally not conducted by the winery principals. It made for a very special visit.

Rustic Tuscany

~ The entrance to Talenti is well marked and sits on the main road into Montalcino ~

Adjacent to the winery is one of Talenti’s best vineyards. It’s from here that he sources grapes for his Riserva bottling; if there is one.  The Talenti estate is one of the highest in the zone and here, on October 21st, the vines were already beginning to turn color.   Talenti’s vineyards are parsed throughout the Brunello zone so there’s not much to explore near the winery.  It was time to taste!

Rustic Tuscany

~ The building on the right is the winery, aging cellars and tasting area. The smaller building on the left has the business offices ~

The first stop was the fermentation room where guests were quick to note the shimmering stainless steel vats in various sizes.  Fermentation had finished already and the wines had been racked to barrels.

~ Riccardo was very generous with his time and eager to answer questions. I think the guests were equally impressed with his t-shirt ~

On to the barrel aging cellars which rest below the winery.

Rustic Tuscany

~ Talenti employs a variety of barrels that are from different origins, different sizes and different shapes ~

Talenti is very judicious with his use of wood in his wines.  There were at least 5 or 6 different sized barrels in the cellar ranging from barrique to large botte.  Riccardo uses the barriques only for his Rosso di Montalcino (in part) and his Brunello sees only larger vessels.  In the photo above, you can see the large clay amphora. When I asked him what he was doing there, he gave me a dismissive wave and chuckled.. “just an experiment”……

~ Again, in the cellars Riccardo fielded all sorts of questions from the guests and was gracious with his time ~

Rustic Tuscany

~ At the opposite end of the cellar is the Talenti family library of wines. There are some wines from every vintage, even the poor ones. Sadly, these are for the family only and not for sale. But the guests tried! ~

Talenti Assagiare

We were set up in a wonderful tasting room where we tasted through a range of Riccardo’s most recent releases.  These included some “off” vintages, but you would have never known that from this tasting.

~ Preparing to taste at Talenti. Samples of the three most prominent soils from his vineyards were passed around and discussed. Galesto, Albarese and Clay/Tufo ~

In the tasting room was a large map of the Brunello zone with the locations of Talenti’s vineyards.  Riccardo is adamant about having his vineyards scattered and insists that it ultimately makes for a better Brunello – one that expresses the “whole” vintage and one that is less effected by vintage climactic conditions.

~ Talenti’s vineyards on the map of the DOCG area ~

Talenti Rosso di Montalcino 2020:  This is a brilliant medium ruby.  Brightly aromatic.  Crushed wild berry with fresh herb notes and soft sandalwood and warm spice aromas.  On the palate, this is lively and fresh.  Pretty sour cherry flavors are medium bodied and accented with spicy pepper notes. A bit “hot” from the alcohol in a “warming” sense.  There’s a hint of vanilla on the finish that is nice.  87-89 points.  Not yet released in the US.  Find this wine.  Use my Coupon Code!

Talenti Brunello di Montalcino 2017:  No Riserva made in 2017.  Deep ruby. Classic color extends out to the rim. Richer cherry notes on the nose with accents of wood and chestnut.  On the palate this is very lively for the vintage. Ripe cherry notes are backed by bright acidity and vanilla accents. Full bodied with substantial tannic structure. Green olives and baking spices linger on the finish.  Needs time to come together but I like this.  15% alc. is very well balanced.  90-92  Find this wine. Use my Coupon Code!

Talenti Brunello di Montalcino Brunello Piero 2017:  This is their Single Vineyard Cru wine. 2015 was the first vintage ever produced. This sees 24 months in tonneaux.  Deeper ruby.  Rich, riper aromas of dark cherry. Hints of menthol and herbs.  Rich on the palate. Full bodied and juicy. Fresh, with mineral driven racy, elegant cherry fruit.  Silkier tannins that are sweeter and less aggressive. This is a wonderful wine.   94-96 notes.  Find this wine. Use my Coupon Code!

Talenti Brunello Riserva 2016:  This rests 36 months in tonneaux.  Massive aromas of cherry, with spices, hazelnut and fresh herbs. Huge fruit and structure. Fresh, intense mineral, iron, cherry and tobacco flavors. Long, long finish.   Stupendo.  96-99 points.  Find this wine.  Use my Coupon Code!


~ The tasting lineup for the day. As the Brunello and Rosso are generally available in the US, I grabbed the Piero and Riserva for my personal cellar ~

After checking out our purchases and saying goodbye to our host, we piled into the vans for the short ride over to Castello Banfi.  We had an appointment to Tour the Castello, visit the Balsameria, Enoteca and do a little barrel tasting!   Avanti….

Rustic Tuscany

~ The Castello Banfi Balsameria is essentially an aging cellar adjacent to the Castello and Enoteca ~

It’s not vinegar.  It’s Salsa Balsamico Etrusca.  It’s dark brown liquid nectar of the Etruscan Gods and if you haven’t tried it, I implore you to do so.  It isn’t for salad.  This is a thick sauce that is aged for 12 years in the Balsameria.  During that span, the liquid is moved from barrel to barrel.  The type of wood changes and the barrels get smaller as the wine ages.  Considering the manually intensive work and the length thereof, the $35 cost for a single bottle is a complete steal.

~ Inside the Balsameria – the cloth prevents unwanted visitors from entering the barrels but allows the liquid to breathe naturally through the opening it covers ~

After the Balsameria, we piled into the vans and followed the vineyard manager and winemaker into the Vigna Marrucheto; Castello Banfi’s highest vineyard and home to the newest Cru Brunello that bears the same name.

Rustic Tuscany

~ Lars interpreting for Vineyard Manager Giovanni; Winemaker Gabrielle Pazzaglia is at left ~

~ The steep slope of Vigna Marrucheto ~

Exploration of the terroir completed, we set off for the winery.  It was there that the guests received an incredible surprise.  Owner John Mariani was present and toured along with us. He regaled us with tale upon tale, some true, some not so much. But all incredibly entertaining and the firebrand (at age 90!) made a lasting impression.  The guests were talking about his passion and energy for days.

~ John Mariani holding court in the Castello Banfi winery. Here he’s telling us how the CIA once approached him through the IRS to replace some of his large stainless steel tanks with ICBM’s ~

It was at this moment that we learned our next phrase of the trip after “It depends” – “Se non e vero, ben trovato”.  If it’s not true, at least it sounds good!

~ The aging cellars at Castello Banfi are massive. They hold every conceivable size and shape barrel imaginable. Each of Banfi’s wines receives different oak treatment depending upon the winemaking goal and grapes involved ~

I did not take notes on the wines we tasted in the Castello Banfi cellars.  There wasn’t really any place to sit and type into my phone.  In fact, I am struggling to recall the exact wine we tasted. All were unfinished wines from barrel.  We tried the “2019 Brunello Riserva Poggio all’Oro”  which is set to be stunning.  We tried two single vineyard (pre-blend) “Brunello”  from the 2020 vintage that were already outstanding.  The future is bright for Castello Banfi.  Winemaker Gabrielle Pazzaglia is on his game and Banfi is experimenting with several new initiatives.  One is the possibility of launching additional single vineyard wines. Another is the new cellar space – complete with new oval barrels – where they are aging these potentially new wines.

~ New 40HL oval barrels in a newly designated cellar space at Castello Banfi. These barrels are being used to age the single vineyard “Brunello” lots. In the glass is one of the 2020 barrel samples pulled from cask ~

After finishing up at Castello Banfi, we were ready for lunch.  Due to the invigorating story telling of Mssr. Mariani,  we were running rather late for our lunch appointment at Trattoria il Leccio in Sant’Angelo in Colle.  But running late for lunch wasn’t necessarily a bad thing as we built up an appetite!

Lunch began with an array of antipasto.

~ Panzanella Salad ~

~ Pappa al Pomodoro ~

Rustic Tuscany

~ This is a tourine of Fennel. This was one of the best things I ate on the entire Tour. I am going to attempt to replicate it ~

Finally we wound down with two pastas; ravioli with sage and tagliatelle with fresh porcini.  The Il Poggione Rosso and Brunello di Montalcino helped us wash down our lunch!

~ These fresh pasta were utterly amazing and with the fresh, 2017 Brunello from Il Poggione, whose vineyards are just down the road from the restaurant, it was an amazing pairing ~

The 2017 Il Poggione Brunello di Montalcino is a medium ruby color with an amber fade at the rim.  At once it’s fresh on the nose with crushed cherry, bright floral tones and sandalwood.  On the palate, this Brunello is well balanced and lively.  Bright cherry notes are marked with vanilla, tobacco and dried herbs. Tasty on its own, it excelled with the porcini pasta.  92 points. Find this wine

~ In a challenging vintages, Alessandro Bindocci fared very well. This is delicious and ready to drink now ~

This was yet another enjoyable 2017 that was approachable and fresh.  Throughout the Tour, whether it was at wineries or various restaurants, 2017 was mainly the vintage for sale. This is what the wines are perfect for.  They’re not for the cellar, but generally they are well made and delicious with the perfect goal of short term drinking.

More from The Rustic Tuscany Tour is coming.  For now, salute!

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