On the Road with the Grape Guy

On the Road with the Grape Guy is a on-going feature that follows me from event to event ... I post my thoughts, feelings and reviews of what happened and what I tasted ... basically it is here that I review the events I attend and the things that thrilled me.

Altra Toscana Tasting

08 Sep 2023


Altra Toscana(February 2023) ... The final day of Anteprima Toscana sees the other side of Tuscan Wines, these are in some cases the "lesser known" or wines left behind while we travel through Chianti, Chianti Classico, Vino Nobile and to San Gimignano.

This year I combed the book looking for rosés for the rosé report, they were few and far between. Then I looked into interesting regions like Maremma, Cortona, and other wines and combinations of grapes that caught my eye. Here's a list of 31 wines of the 66 I tasted that truly stood out.


Nectar DeiBelguardo 2019 Maremma Toscana DOC - Tenuta Belguardo
(Cabernet Sauvignon / Cabernet Franc)
Really smooth and supple; pretty dark fruit core with good acidity, a touch of vanilla and smoke; tannins kick in at the end giving this wine a long, lingering and lovely finish. (**** ½)

Nittardi 2019 Maremma Toscana DOC - Nectar Dei    
(Cabernet Sauvignon / Petit Verdot / Syrah)
The dark fruit broods while the vanilla added by the oak adds an extra layer of delight - quite pleasant, and all with good acid punch. (****+)

Tenuta Sette Ponti 2020 Toscana IGT - Crognolo    
(Sangiovese / Merlot)
Rich and juicy with plenty of dark fruit, mocha, and nice acid hit on the tongue - well-balanced with a long finish. (****+)

Baldetti 2022 Vino Spumante di Qulita - BaldettiCrognolo
(Chardonnay / Grechetto)
Nice clean classic method sparkling; there's a lovely balance and a pretty bouquet: biscuity with lemon zest tickle the tongue in all the right places. The wine is made using Chardonnay and Grechetto - turns out in sparkling it is a lovely combination. (****)

La Braccesca 2019 Cortona DOC - Bramasole
Smooth silky tannins, yet it has a brooding-dark fruit side that wheels in mocha, black pepper and spice on the finish. (****)

Nittardi 2020 Maremma Toscana DOC - Ad Astra
(Sangiovese / Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot / Syrah)
Smooth across the tongue with notes of mocha and blackberry. Hard to fight against that kind of charm - this one is a winner and knows it. (****)



Cantine Faralli 2020 Cortona DOC - Syrah ... (*** ½+)
Dal Cero 2020 Toscana IGT - Rosato (Syrah / Vermentino) ... (*** ½+)
Il Fitto 2019 Cortona DOC - Syrah ... (*** ½+)
La Braccesca 2021 Cortona DOC - Achelo (Syrah) ... (*** ½+) Achelo
Le Mortelle 2020 Maremma Toscana DOC - Botrosecco (Cabernet Sauvignon / Cabernet Franc) ... (*** ½+)
Le Mortelle 2020 Maremma Toscana DOC - Poggio Alle Nanre (Cabernet Franc / Cabernet Sauvignon / Carmenere) ... (*** ½+)
Le Vigne 2021 Maremma Toscana DOC - Ciliegiolo ... (*** ½+)
Poggio Sorbello 2016 Cortona DOC - Donetto (Merlot) ... (*** ½+)
Poggio Sorbello 2016 Cortona DOC - Gortinaia (Syrah) ... (*** ½+)



Querciabella 2021 Maremma Toscana DOC - Mongrana (Sangiovese / Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot) ... (*** ½+)
Santa Lucia 2021 Maremma Toscana DOC - Canapone (Ciliegiolo) ... (*** ½+)
Valdonica 2018 Maremma Toscana DOC - Ciliegiolo ... (*** ½+)
Vecchia Cantina di Montepulciano 2020 Cortona DOC - Poggio Stella (Syrah) ... (*** ½+)
Vignaioli del Morellino 2022 Maremma Toscana DOC - Capoccia (Ciliegiolo) ... (*** ½+)
Cantina di Pitigliano 2022 Maremma Toscana DOC - Gradone (Ciliegiolo) ... (*** ½)
Eredi Trevisan 2020 Cortona DOC - Candito (Syrah) ... (*** ½)
MiriusMocali 2020 Maremma Toscana DOC - Mirius (Sangiovese / Merlot / Cabernet / Syrah) ... (*** ½)
Petrolo 2020 Valdarno di Sopra DOC - Boggina C (Sangiovese) ... (*** ½)
Stefano Amerighi 2019 Cortona DOC - Syrah Apice ... (*** ½)
Tenuta Aquilaia 2020 Maremma Toscana DOC - Tenuta Aquilaia (Sangiovese / Petit Verdot) ... (*** ½)
Tenuta Montauto 2021 Maremma Toscana DOC - Silio (Ciliegiolo) ... (*** ½)
Tenuta San Jacopo 2018 Toscana IGT - Caprilius (Montepulciano) ... (*** ½)
Tenuta San Jacopo 2021 Toscana IGT - Caprilius (Canaiolo) ... (*** ½)
Tenuta Sette Ponti 2019 Valdarno di Sopra DOC - Vigna Dell'Impero (Sangiovese) ... (*** ½)
Cantina Canaio 2020 Cortona DOC - Calice (Syrah) ... (*** ½)



Visiting Il Colombaio di Santa Chiara (San Gimignano)

01 Sep 2023


Il Colombaio Sign(February 2023) ... San Gimignano - I have been to San Gimignano for 10 years-plus. I have tasted through their anteprima wines (takes me about 2 to 2 and 1/2 hours to do them all) and then I cool my heels in town till the bus deems it time to pick us up. That's usually some five or six hours later.

That means I have wasted days of my life in San Gimignano. I've eaten ice cream (gelato), walked down one street and up another, ate more gelato, strolled down more streets, walked into every open shop door at least once. I’ve also seen more pottery and textiles than I care to mention. I've eaten as much as three to four cups of gelato (Yes it is that good?) in a day.

... But you know what I've never seen in all my time in San Gimignano? A vineyard. Not one. Not once. Which I believe is a crime. They have a whole bunch of journalists from a variety of countries and they let us loose in their streets, or to put it another way: they’ve left us cooling our heels in the lobby.

This year I followed the folks from The Connected Table to a vineyard, they privately arranged. Yes, I played third wheel, and I loved it. I got to see a vineyard, taste a whole pile of wines and learned something about San Gimignano besides the story of Dondali. Which reminds me, my report for the wines tasted during the anteprima San Gimignano - Vernaccia, can be found here.

But now, let me tell you about my visit to Il Colombaio. Il Colombaio di Sant Chiara is a Locanda dei Lagi ... A winery and inn that was started in 2002 (with their first vintage in 2004). They boast six rooms, and a restaurant. The project started with 2.5 hectares, and has since grown to 20 hectares: half red varieties and half white: 90% Sangiovese along with some Merlot and Cabernet Franc (red). On the white side it's 100% Vernaccia. It is located in the area called San Donato, which has limestone, clay and sandy soils, but mostly known for its mineral driven soils. The property is located in the southeastern part of the area of San Gimignano. The eye-opener here was the amount of red wine being made: 50% ... Super-impressive, since all we taste during the anteprima is white.

We kicked off our tasting with five vintages of Selvabianca, their Vernaccia, and ended with their 100% Cabernet Franc.


White Wines …

2022 Selvabianca
Once picked, these grapes are refrigerated for 24 hours to preserve the freshness... Morning picks are normal for these grapes as the temperature can be 3 to 4° c, optimal for picking and freshness. This current vintage shows a lovely minerality, along with grapefruit pith and lots of freshness. (It receives a “Better” rating, during the tasting and receives the same here).

2020 Selvabianca White Wine at Colombaio
There's still a freshness here, but there's also a bitterness that manages to get in the way... Think about biting too deep into a watermelon.

2018 Selvabianca
Similar notes to the 2020, but that bitterness of fruit seems to be waning here.

2014 Selvabianca
This year's version (which is 9 years old) leans a little more herbaceous in nature, especially on the finish – emerging notes of banana leaf with a mineral finish; but there does seem to be a bitterness kicking around on that lingering finish.

2013 Selvabianca
Simple mouth feel: mineral, dry and citrusy. Interesting for a 10-year-old wine.

Single Vineyard White Wine2021 Campo Della Pieve - single vineyard (Vernaccia)
The wine spends 18 months in concrete ... Steely notes on the palate with a mineral freshness and a citrusy / salty finish.

2020 L'Alberata Riserva - single vineyard (Vernaccia)
A richer mouthfeel that comes across more zesty than the previous wine... The use of oak is very subtle. It is fermented and aged one year in botti of 2500 l (French oak) ; then 4 to 6 months in concrete to let the wine meld and shuck some of that oak - then it spends one more year in bottle before release.


Red Wines ...

2020 Campale
A wine that sees both barrique and concrete made up of 90% Sangiovese and 10% Merlot. 70% of the wine goes into barrique, 30% into concrete then one year in bottle before release. Big acid with burnt cherry and smoke ... On the palate it’s fresh and lively with sour cherry and currants; while cranberry takes up residence on the finish.

2019 Il Priore RiservaRed Wine Colombaio
A blend of Sangiovese and Canaiolo that spends two years in second use barrique and another 2 years in bottle. This oaky wine hides the fruit in the background and it has a rather smoky finish.

2019 Il Colombaio Riserva
100% Sangiovese that spends 2 years in barrique than 2 years in bottle... This is very Sangiovese forward with its high acidity, plus dark fruit and spice.

2018 Bacicolo
100% Cabernet Franc that spends one year in French oak and made from 4-year-old vines... The wine also spends 2 months in concrete before bottling. This wine was tasted in two glasses: the winery recommends a Burgundy glass – I asked for a Bordeaux.
Bordeaux - high acidity, raspberry and chalky.
Burgundy - tones the acidity down so the fruit really pops on the finish.
Interesting experiment for this wine, because of the high acidity, the Burgundy works better to tame the wine.


End notes ...

This was an "unauthorized" visit, but it was so worthwhile to learn about San Gimignano and it’s wine regions (if only this one) first hand. To see vines and touch soil aids in the understanding of a region – plus to witness the passion of the people is invaluable. I certainly hope those in charge of Anteprima San Gimignano will think about adding winery visits to the program in coming years. It sure does add a further element of understanding to the area... And keeps me from waiting in the lobby of the region for a bus - the only drawback will be less ice cream ... but I think me and my waistline will be fine with that.

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