~ The Entrance to Castellare ~
There are many great Tuscan villages in Chianti Classico that I happily visit repeatedly. Whether it’s Panzano and its crazy Maestro or the breathtaking charm of San Gimignano, it’s not hard to wander in bewilderment at the beauty and the welcoming pace of tradition and daily life.  Yet for some wonderful reason, which even I cannot precisely identify,  I feel most comfortable, most at “home”, when I’m traipsing around Castellina in Chianti.  

~ One of the lovely alleys in Castellina in Chianti ~

The landscape is wonderful, the village is quaint, the people friendly and engaging; I’ve friends there.  And of course, the wines can be spectacular.  Today, we’re focusing on one such example from Castellare di Castellina

Founded in 1977, the Castellare estate is relatively young.  However, the estate is fortunate enough to hold some of the highest vineyard parcels in all of Chianti Classico, with vineyards situated at 1,200 feet above sea level.

Located in Castellina, the 46 acre estate has become a sort of natural refuge for forestry and wildlife.  In fact, many of the birds that grace Castellare’s labels are native to their estate – which is legally protected by the Italian Government. The estate is owned by Paolo Panerai and the lead winemaker is Alessandro Cellai.  The team is dedicated to crafting honest, premium wines driven by terroir.  They are farmers and as Paolo muses, each vintage is unique.   
“After I bought Castellare in the late 1970s, I soon realized that no two vintages are the same. This is due not only to the weather, the sun and the rain do have a lasting effect on them, but above all to that overwhelming feeling depending on whether the whole year, not just the last days, was good, bad or ordinary. This difference in the state of mind, varying from great joy to disappointment, is always evident on the faces of those who are responsible for the vintage.”

~ Castellare’s Vineyards are some of the highest in Chianti Classico ~

In the case of today’s subject wine, those faces clearly sang with joy.  The 2013 Castellare Chianti Classico Riserva “Il Poggiale” is a wine that sings with exuberance.  Il Poggiale is a single vineyard effort from vines planted in 1988.  Produced in only exceptional vintages, the 2013 is a blend of 90% Sangiovese, 5% Canaiolo and 5% Ciliegiolo.  The wine was vinified in stainless steel tanks and then aged in new and 1 year old French barriques for 18 months before resting an additional 16 months in bottle prior to release.

Given the youth of this wine, we chose not to decant it.  Before moving on to Rigatoni with a pork and mushroom ragu, we started tasting the wine with assorted cheeses and salume.  Is there a better foil for a grand Chianti Classico Riserva?  

In the glass the wine is a deep ruby color with violet reflections that fade to softer ruby at the edge of the bowl.  The aromas are simply everything a lover of Sangiovese could hope for.  The wine sings with high toned floral notes that are joined by fresh cypress, fennel, crushed wild cherry, and soft hints of baking spices.   On the palate, the wine is refined and although barrique aged, retains what I’ll call “modern rusticity”.  How’s that for coining a term?  

Deep crushed red cherry flavors dominate this young wine, but earthy tobacco, porcini, fennel and spice notes combine to form an alluring flavor profile.  Balanced, with refreshing acidity, the tannins only assert themselves without food.  Amidst the backdrop of the cheese and pasta, this was silky and delicious.  Hard not to drink this now, but this has the balance to age gracefully at least until its 10th birthday.   93 points and given the average retail price of $30-$35 and absolute steal.  Disclosure:  This bottle was an importer provided sample.

~ Sopresatta, Parmigiano, and Cambozola were wonderful with this Riserva ~

In the coming weeks, we will have many more reviews from this wonderful winery.  Stay tuned!   

Grazie a te!

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