Today I’m continuing with Volume 4 of the Tuscan Snips series. As with Volume 3, there are some new releases discussed below and some off the beaten track wines as well. The breadth is interesting too, as the wines included contain some 13 different grape varieties. Without wasting any time, let’s get at it.
The first wine fits the mold of Tuscan Snips perfectly. I’ve written extensively about Fattoria Le Pupille and their wonderful wine, Saffredi. If you’re new to the winery and want the historic background, start here.
The 2017 Fattoria Le Pupille Saffredi is a stylish blend of Cabernet (60%) Merlot (30%) and Petit Verdot. In the glass, the wine is a deep purple color clear to the rim. The aromas of the wine are varied and complex. Black plum, pipe tobacco, toasted spice and floral tones round out the picture. On the palate, the black fruit flavors are concentrated and remain fresh, despite the hotter vintage. Savory herbs and minerals join along side the core of juicy black fruit. Moderate tannins give way at the end to a juicy finish. This is, as I’ve come to expect, a simply outstanding wine. It falls short of the perfect 2015, but that is by no means a criticism. 94 points. Find this wine.
The next wine is an interesting case study. My readers will know, it’s not often that I prefer a vintage 2013 wine to it’s 2015 counterpart. In fact, I don’t think that’s ever been the case. Yet, there’s a first for everything.
The 2015 Badia a Coltibuono Montebello is a deep ruby color. A blend of nine indigenous grapes, some on the verge of extinction, I champion this unique and interesting cuvee. The 2015 is a blend of Mammolo, Ciliegiolo, Pugnitello, Colorino, Sanforte, Malvasia Nera, Canaiolo, Foglia Tonda and Sangiovese.
Aromas of crushed cherry, dried herbs, cedar and wet earth are more secondary at this stage than I would have expected. On the palate, the wine’s medium bodied focus is crushed red plums backed by chestnut and roasted spices. It’s very reticent at the moment and while that clearly may be a function of it’s youth, it just didn’t strike me as terribly appealing. Given the 2013, I thought I’d love it straight away. But at it’s current price, I’m not sure if I’ll get another chance to taste it. 88 points. Find this wine.
Years ago, I used to write articles that I called “Side Trips”. They were completely off topic to the central theme of the website. The Tuscan Snips series seems like an interesting way to occasionally bring that back.
Ever since their inaugural 1993 vintage, I’ve been a fan of the Snowden Family wines. Maybe it’s because they remind me of passionate Italian producers. They’re wonderful people who are gracious and generous with their time. In fact, winemaker Diana Snowden Seyss was one of my first interviews on this website.
The Snowden Ranch lies just east of the Rutherford and St. Helena appellations, a few miles south of Howell Mountain, and a mile north of Pritchard Hill. At this confluence, the Snowdens farm just 23 acres. It’s a small, family operation. Sound familiar?
The 2017 Snowden Ranch Cabernet is the latest release from the winery. It’s a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (85%) and Merlot (15%) and is sourced from two of their highest vineyards. Deep purple in the glass, the wine is gorgeous to view. Given the wine’s youth, we decanted it for about 60 minutes. What evolved on the nose were expressive aromas of black fruits, toasted vanilla, mocha and a slight touch of mint. On the palate this is elegant and compelling. Black fruit flavors are velvety and juicy. Dark chocolate, graphite laced dust and fresh herbs frame the fruit. Snowden’s signature has always been to blend Napa ripeness with terroir. They’ve succeeded admirably in this age worthy but accessible wine. A steal in Napa Valley Cabernet. The Ranch spends 17 months in French oak, 50% new and 50% used. 92 points. About $40. Find this wine.
Just below the village of Montefioralle lies the estate of Tenute del Cabreo. Part of the Folonari family of estates, Tenute del Cabreo spans two geographic areas near Greve and Panzano. It is the latter that provides the fruit for the wine below.
The 2018 Tenute del Cabreo La Pietra is 100% Chardonnay and comes from vineyards some 500 meters above sea level. First produced in 1983, it was one of the first white wines in Tuscany to be fermented using small French barrels. La Pietra means “the stone” and indeed there is a lot of rocky minerality running through this wine.
Medium gold in color, the aromas of pineapple, pear, creme and lemon grass are persistent. On the palate, the body of the wine is viscous yet balanced with crisp acidity. The juice was aged on the lees for 12 months with occasional stirring in order to build body into the wine. Pineapple and lemon flavors dominate the palate with plenty of acidity for freshness and what I call “streak” minerality. This was great with my Bucatini alla Carbonara and on its own. 91 points. Find this wine.
The Val delle Rose estate is fast becoming the Cecchi Family’s crown jewel. When I last visited this property in 2017, Andrea Cecchi was already brimming about the 2016 harvest. He knew he had something special in the works. He was right.
That evening we tasted the 2013 which I have since revisited. However, in a better vintage and with a bit more age on the vineyard, this may well be one of Tuscany’s best values.
The 2016 Val delle Rose Morellino di Scansano Riserva Poggio al Leone is a single vineyard Riserva wine. Deep garnet in the glass, the wine portrays violet and copper colored highlights. On the nose the wine exudes bright aromas of crushed berry, Mediterranean scrub, smashed herbs and new leather. I love how this smells! On that palate the wine is medium to full bodied with a ripe, juicy core of cherry fruit backed by vanilla, spice, warm earth and powdery pepper. The tannins are laced with sea bed minerals. Enjoyable now, it will cellar well for 5-8 years. Wonderful value around $24. 90% Sangiovese and 10% other red grapes. This should be more widely available in the US now that Volio Imports is importing. 93 points. Find this wine.
Azienda Grifalco, like many other estates, shares an amazing story. After producing Vino Nobile for 20 odd years, Fabrizio and Cecelia Piccin founded Grifalco in 2004 and moved to Basilicata. Today, the estate is in the capable hands of their sons Lorenzo and Andrea who handle the winemaking and marketing, respectively.
The Piccin’s farm 16 hectares of vineyards dotted among four municipalities within the shadow of Mt. Vulture. The winery is certified organic and the vineyards that produce the Aglianico for Gricos are aged between 10 and 30 years old. Grifalco produces a second Aglianico simply named “Grifalco” that comes from even older vines.
The 2017 Azienda Grifalco “Gricos” is 100% Aglianico. In the glass, the wine is a brooding dark color. It is more reminiscent of a Taurasi than an Aglianico from Vulture. Deep aromas of morello cherry, cracked black pepper and purple flowers mark the enticing nose. On the palate, the wine is concentrated and ripe. Practically full bodied, the structure and tannins are impressive. Loads of ripe cherry fruit are primary with hints of forest floor, black pepper and dusty minerals galore. Fresh, juicy, lively and well balanced at 13% abv. Vinified in stainless steel, the wine is then aged in a combination of used American oak and French Tonneaux for 6-12 months. This is a steal around $18 and a recommended case buy. 93 points. Find this wine.
The highly popular Tuscan Snips series will continue….