I had a plan.
We left our villa in San Gimignano around 11 am with more than enough time to make the 1 hour drive to Montalcino. We were not in a hurry. We had an afternoon appointment with Giacomo Bartolommei, the young energetic winemaker for Caprili, but we wanted plenty of time to wander the streets of Montalcino and grab lunch at Trattoria Sciame. Courtesy of iWind and TIM, or more like Breaking Wind and Tiny Tim, I didn’t even have 3G service on my way to town. No texting. No calls. But it didn’t matter. I knew how to get to Montalcino and from there we’d find WiFi and I’d call Giacomo for directions to Caprili. That was the plan.
I think it was Mike Tyson who originally said “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.”
I guess this is as good a time as any to alert readers that finding Wifi in Montalcino is not a given. I managed to get a few texts through to Giacomo in order to confirm his availability, but I still didn’t know how to find Caprili. We had a lovely lunch at Trattoria Sciame and although they had no Wifi, re-charging my stomach (and maybe my brain) proved to be the ticket. Having been to Montalcino many times, I know several people in town who speak fluent English and one of them had to know where Caprili was.
My first stop was Enoteca di Piazza; a must visit if you’re in Montalcino. They were holding wine that I needed to pick up and I knew my contact there spoke English well enough. Upon greeting me, Samuele says Giovanni, you have to try this wine too – and he walks me over to their bar area where they draw sample tastes. He reaches up and grabs the 2012 Caprili Brunello. I laughed and said, I don’t need to taste that one because I’m heading there soon. Samuele laughed and said: “Giacomo is a good friend of mine!” Technology be damned, I now had directions to Caprili.
We began with a tour of the estate grounds and the new gravity fed winery. First used for the 2015 vintage, the new winery allows both the bottling, aging and winemaking processes to be housed in one building. Previously, this took place in separate buildings. Now grapes arrive at the sorting area atop the winery and the entire process is gravity fed until the wine comes to rest in the barrel cellars.
From the top, we made our way down. The first stop was the room where all the vinification takes place; both for the red and white wines. Giacomo explained that everything is digitally controlled for the optimal temperatures during fermentation and maceration. We then moved into the barrel aging room.
After moving through the barrel room, we emerged outside near the edge of the Mother Vineyard and I was immediately struck by a wave of perfumes. Within sight of each other were plum trees, lemon trees, roses, jasmine, gardenia, lavender and cypress trees just to name a few that I could identify. It really is an amazing array of aromas to experience.
We then crossed the courtyard to begin our tasting and started with Caprili’s new white wine Settimia; which is named after Giacomo’s great grandmother.
The 2016 Settimia is 100% Vermentino and is lively and fresh. Only recently bottled, the wine is somewhat restrained on the nose but more aggressive swirling brings lemon peel, lemon wax and white flowers to the fore. Crisp, zesty and clean, this is light to medium bodied and would work well with delicate fish dishes or antipasto. 87 points.
The next wine was the 2016 Ilex Sangiovese. Ilex is the Tuscan name for the native trees that grow in the region. These are the trees with the tall trunks and the wide enveloping canopy similar to an umbrella. They are also found throughout Rome. Ilex is an easy drinking wine made for near term consumption. The 2016 shows a medium ruby color with lots of tobacco and earth notes and appears less fruit driven. It’s more tannic than I expected and at the moment, a bit drying. Could use some time to settle down. 85 points.
The 2015 Rosso di Montalcino lives up to the reputation of the vintage that many other 2015 Rossos have precipitated. Lovely wild berry notes on the nose, this medium ruby wine has lots of structure. Fresh acidity keeps this lively and the fruit driven core of the wine picks ups tobacco an licorice on the palate. Also tannic, but not drying like the Ilex. Really nice. 90 points.
The 2012 Brunello di Montalcino was opened earlier in the day before my arrival, (3PM) and was wonderfully aromatic upon tasting. It’s a deep ruby color with notes of crushed berry, tobacco, licorice and eucalyptus. The flavors follow the nose, but this is so smooth and elegant. Very elegant tannins that are wonderfully integrated. Long, long finish that just sits on your palate. This is great now, but I think it will be even better in 3-4 years. 93 points.
When we finished tasting the current releases, Giacomo says “I’ll be right back” and disappeared down in the cellar. When he returned, he was toting the next wine. Unopened, he drew two glasses from the bottle using a Coravin.
The 2006 Brunello di Montalcino Riserva is nothing short of stunning. Classic evolving color. It’s a deep ruby with a slight fade to copper at the rim of the bowl. Full on nose of crushed cherry and chestnuts that is compelling and huge. On the palate, even bigger. It displays the same flavors as the 2012 only much, much bigger and more intense. My notes say “more more more”. It walks the unique line of being masculine but also very elegant. A deftly crafted wine indeed. 97 points.
Finally, we wound down our time together with some of Giacomo’s 2016 Moscadello di Montalcino. I love Moscadello. Low alcohol, sweet but not cloying, perfect with biscotti. This is a pale gold color. Loads of white flowers, honey and almond character on the nose. Long, sweet palate with lots of tropical fruit; mango, white peaches and apricot. Delicate, yet medium bodied with medium weight viscosity. Very well done. 90 points.
After making a few essential purchases, I was back on my way to the center of Montalcino for an afternoon of shopping before heading to the Borgo at Castello Banfi for dinner and some much needed relaxation. More on that a little later……..