A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending a winemaker dinner that was part of Banfi’s Cru Artisan wine tour.  The guest of honor was Castello Banfi winemaker, Rudy Buratti.  We’ve interviewed Rudy in the past at TuscanVines but it was good to catch up with him and taste some of Castello Banfi’s new releases.  
~ Winemaker Rudy Burartti ~

I’ll just state this from the outset;  this was the best single tasting of Castello Banfi wines that I’ve ever attended.  Each wine showed very well despite the fact that none were decanted and many were only open 45-60 minutes prior to the tasting.   The event took place alongside an extended tasting menu that was created specifically with the wines in mind.   
~ The view from our table at “A Voce” in Manhattan ~

First up were the 2011 Summus and 2010 Excelsus served alongside a delicious steak tartare.  The pairing was sublime and the quail egg that came alongside the tartare lent its richness to the wines and really showcased the primary fruit in these young reds.

2011 Castello Banfi Summus:  A blend of 40% Brunello, 35% Cabernet and 25% Syrah, the blend shifts slightly from year to year based upon vintage characteristics, but the Sangiovese stays constant at 40%.  This is deep purple in the glass with pronounced aromatics of crushed wild fruit, leather, cedar and peppery spice notes.  Flavors follow the nose with classy elegance – the soft texture belying the full bodied frame of the wine.  Long finish with anise and sweet spice notes.  Perfect with the tartare. 93 points.

2010 Castello Banfi Excelsus:   This is 60% Merlot and 40% Cabernet – a blend that has evolved considerably over the years since the wine’s first release in 1995.  This is pure silk.  Deep dark color with black fruits, fresh herbs and tobacco on the nose and palate,  it is dominated texturally by the Merlot but the power and structure of the vintage is excellent.  I hadn’t tried Excelsus in many years;  it’s not the easiest wine to locate at retail,  but this example reminded me of stalwart Merlots like Galatrona and Lamaione. Incredibly well done.  95 points.  

~ 2011 Summus and 2010 Excelsus ~

~ One of the best tartare I’ve had – with poached Quail egg ~

The next trio of wines were Castello Banfi’s Poggio Alle Mura Brunello.  Taking its name from the namesake castle,  these wines come from hillside vineyards just outside the castle walls that sit at about 225  meters above sea level.  Clones specifically selected by Castello Banfi as a result of their extensive clonal research project, the vines were planted in 1992 and now, at 20+ years of age,  are turning out delicious, complex wines. 

2010 Castello Banfi Poggio Alle Mura Brunello:   The most backward and structured of the trio – which was simultaneously surprising and not.  The 2010 is deep ruby with nary a fade in color to the rim.  The power of the vintage is evident in the wild berry, pipe tobacco and dried herb aromas and flavors in this classy, elegant Brunello.  Lots of tannins to contend with;  this is a baby for sure but has all the pieces to be glorious at age 15.  With the food, the tannins really smoothed out, but this needs cellar time.  94 points, but I imagine that will climb in the future. 

~ The 2010 Poggio Alle Mura was served solo alongside gorgonzola risotto ~

The next two wines were served alongside seared duck breast with roasted potato and heirloom beets.  Again, the pairing was absolutely magnificent.  It was so delicious, that I forgot to take a picture!

2004 Castello Banfi Poggio Alle Mura Brunello:  Deep ruby color with a tiny fade at the rim.  This is really maturing so well.  A glimpse of things to come for the 2010?  Lovely aromatics of sandalwood, pipe tobacco, herbs, fennel and crushed berry.  Flavors follow the nose with elegant intensity.  Full bodied and long with balanced acidity and still some tannins to resolve.  Hard to find fault here. 94 points.  

2006 Castello Banfi Poggio Alle Mura Brunello:  Drinking these two side by side was highly educational.  You can really gain an appreciation for just how similar in terms of quality these vintages are.  Yet, the subtle differences get magnified in such close proximity.  While the 2004 exhibits the power of the 2006, the latter owns a slightly richer fruit profile.  Either way, along with 2010,  these are the three greatest modern Brunello vintages I’ve tasted.   

The 2006 is a deep garnet almost clear to the rim.  Aromas of black cherry, fresh herbs, fresh clay and coffee are notable and carry through to the palate.  Intense, with more structure from younger tannins, I imagine this evolutionary arc to be just where the 2004 was a few years ago.  These are compelling Brunello.  95 points.

~ The pairing for the Brunello Riserva:  Dry Aged Strip Steak with Sauteed Morels ~

Next up, the pinnacle: Two vintages of Castello Banfi’s single vineyard Brunello Riserva.  The Poggio All’Oro is a true Riserva.  Made from a single vineyard source and only in the best of vintages,  Poggio All’Oro benefits from exceptional exposition and is sourced from a hillside vineyard that is the oldest on the property and sits at 250 meters above sea level.

2004 Poggio All’Oro Brunello Riserva:  Wow, explosive aromatics of chestnut, berries, espresso, herbs and spices lead to a palate of similar flavors and impeccable purity.  Seamless flavors are woven intricately with an elegant structure from tannins and acids. Full bodied, and still tannic without food,  this is a glorious wine and my words do it little justice.  97 points.    

2006 Poggio All’Oro Brunello Riserva:  As good as the 2004 showed, the 2006 may be even better.  Like the sibling experience from Poggio Alle Mura,  having these wines in such close proximity again showcases the subtle differences between the two.  The 2006 is more unevolved than the 2004.  With more boisterous fruit and less complexity peeking through, this is more about power than elegance at the moment.  Lovely hints of hazelnut and herbs pop up on the finish, but while the 2004 is great now, this one needs a bit more time.  I am willing to wait.  97 points with lots of potential.  

~ 2004 and 2006 Poggio All’Oro Brunello Riserva:  It’s difficult to see in this image, but the wine on the left (2004) is beginning to display that classic fade to brick at the rim of the glass.  The 2006 isn’t there yet ~
As I mentioned at the outset,  this was the greatest collection of Castello Banfi wines I’ve ever tasted in one place.  It was an absolutely stunning tasting that clearly shows that Rudy Buratti is getting it right – his wines from past vintages are developing wonderfully which bodes well for the development of current vintages. 
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