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Italy (5 of 7)

This week I was happy to be invited to participate in some of the events for the North American tour of Benvenuto Brunello, an event put on by the Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino to bring exposure to high quality producers of from Montalcino.

As we were ushered into a room in the beautiful and elegant Culina, at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills I recognized several industry colleagues and friends. I got a chance to sit down next to an old friend, Sommelier, and current overseer of the wine program at Lukshon Marisa Brown, home of one of the most innovative wine by the glass programs in the country today. I also got to chat with Sommelier Nadia Pavlevska who runs the program at Darren’s Restaurant in Manhattan Beach.

The food at Culina unfortunately did not live up to the beautiful setting, but the service was good and friendly. The best course was a Risotto ai Porcini with braised veal cheeks, but it was cleared much too quickly for me to really savor it.

Italy (3 of 7)

I also discovered that we sitting along side many of the producers and representatives from the wineries; other than casual conversation we really weren’t able to hear from them personally, something I think the tasting would have really benefited from. 

We started off trying mostly Rosso di Montalicino, the ‘baby brunellos’ that don’t have quite the aging and oak. For me I usually find these wines a bit more interesting than their older brothers, as if they are good young I often find they get better, naturally with some exception. 

Cava d’Onice’s 2011 Rosso di Montalicino was a standout for me, with bright and fresh cherries bursting out of the glass and a beautiful color. I found that their 2009 Brunello was slightly unbalanced for my tastes with the alcohol taking over the wine slightly, though the wine might just need more time. 

Italy (6 of 7)

Il Poggione’s 2011 Rosso had a similar plush fruit and nose, with the addition of a surprisingly odorous nose. The most unique wine of the tasting for me had to be Il Poggione’s 2009 Brunello de Montalcino, a strange and fantastic wine redolent of wild sage and what I referred to in my notes as, “pirate ship wood.” Dusty and firm tannins with a great deal of character. 

Italy (1 of 7)

Sitting next to Luca Belingardi from Villa Poggio Salvi a learned that in Italy this for lack of a better term funk is referred to as ‘Balsamico’ which he explained here in the states takes on a different connotation. Italians will say Balsamico of dried mediterranean herbs and aromatics where as American’s will immediately arrive at the mental reference to vinegar. Italians he explained savor this odor in their wines; when I am presented with it I never quite know if I like it or not, but in both the il Poggione wines it was highly present.

I really enjoyed the overall winemaking from Solaria – from the clay rich soils of Montalcino. They produced a fantastic 2012 Rosso di Montalcino, with notes of toffee and caramel leaping out of the glass behind some soft florals. This wine had very fine tannins and structure in it’s youth. I found their 2009 to be rich yet clean and bright but I think overall it tasted a bit too young.

Italy (2 of 7)

The most classic feeling I acquired from the tasting certainly came from my neighbor Luca’s wines from Villa Poggio Salvi, which unfortunately I learned aren’t available in California just yet. The 2009 Brunello di Montalcino was my favorite of the two offerings he brought to the tasting, from a warmer year and more ready to drink than the Riserva 2007 (which also showed some promise) the aforementioned dried herbs, a relaxed and sinuous nose, and that slight odor.

As I began to shy away from some of the producers who had an overload of baking spice and vanilla from their use of new French oak, these classic wines were the ones I kept returning too. 

Italy (4 of 7)

I think overall tastings of this nature are difficult as most of these wines are not quite “ready to drink” and still need more time become completely cohesive – still there were some exemplary standouts. I think the wineries would benefit from a more structured tasting format and even perhaps a guided tasting, with notes on the production / viticulture and the representatives speaking to the group rather than just pouring all the wines side by side all at once.

Beautiful Beverly Hills in Winter

Beautiful Beverly Hills in Winter

Nevertheless I was honored to be invited and really enjoyed the company and wines. Salute!