. Vite Vinifera De Vino's Blog: Sarteano Day XI

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Sarteano Day XI

The alarm went off at 8 am; the air was fresh and crisp, the sun was already warming up the earth and a formidable number of birds saluted us with their twitter; yet another spectacular day was ahead of us. The first stop was a more in-depth tour of the Vitalonga cellars. Gigi first took us into the room where the stainless tanks are; the estate vinifies each and every parcel of the vineyard separately, and the tanks are temperature-controlled, giving winemaker Riccardo Cotarella the privilege of having total control of every step of the fermentation process.
Down below the first room, there was the "Barricaia" were the barriques are stored. After the fermentation the wine is transferred by gravity into barrels. Vitalonga employs 3 different kind of wood (Slovenian, French, and American), and splits the wine between new and second hand barrels, were the malolatic fermentation is carried.
When we got to the barrique storage, one of the farmers was moving the solid components in the barrels, batonage, with a funny instrument that looks more like a weapon. We started to taste the barrels, from the youngest to the one that were about to be bottled. Tasting from the barrels is like looking at a baby and from the small sounds and movements they make, you guess how it will be once it's all grown up. We tasted each barrel of the Montepulciano, Cabernet Sauvignon and the Merlot from 2 different parcels (that's a total of 36, not bad to begin the day).
After the barrel sampling, we got in car again, headed toward Sarteano, where Erika was expecting us for lunch at Tenuta di Trinoro.
Here is how small the world is - I met Erika a long time ago, here in NYC while she was working for Domaine Select. Then she moved to Indonesia for few years, and then went back to Italy to work for Mr. Franchetti. It happened by coincidence that I learned of her new adventure, and I was very happy to see her again after so many years.
After a good 45-minute drive, we left the paved road for a white one, and once again we were in the middle of nowhere with amazing 360-degree views of the incomparable countryside. We got there a bit late, left the car and hopped in a old Fiat Panda 4x4 (driven by Erika) to go up to the house for some food and wine. Erika handled the car like a rally pilot in those steep and narrow roads, as we passed by part of the gorgeous vineyards. and when we got to the top, there was a beautiful country house, overlooking the valley guarded by the Mount Amiata, opposite us.
During lunch, Erika opened up a bottle of "Le Cupole" and a bottle of "Passopisciaro". the story of the "azienda" is very unusual, starting with the location; nothing really worth noticing ever came out of Sarteano; then the grape varietals planted - Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petite Verdot; and last but not least, the crazy owner Andrea Franchetti (who is also the agronomist and the winemaker) that personally choose the blends.
Andrea vinifies every varietal separately until, in April, he figures out the blends. For additional information on his practices, I also suggest visiting the very informative web site of Tenuta di Trinoro.
Passopisciaro is made from Nerello Mascalese from the estate's Sicilian properties, more specifically in the Mount Etna area; both the Trinoro and the Passopisciaro wines are produced in very limited quantity.
After lunch Erika took us around with the red Panda to show us the lake that supplied the water to the vineyards. She also showed us the new plants, and the most precious part of Franchetti's estate; his potato field!!!!!!
Yes is not a mistake nor a joke, Andrea most precious love is his potato field, just consider that he got selected seeds from a special American clone and the King of Belgium, a relation of Franchetti, helped to plant them, the funny part is that there were tens of Italians and Belgians special force and secret service to protect the King while he was planting potatoes...
Then she took us in the cellar, the fermentation is made in cement vats, then the wine is transfered in the barriques for up to six months before going into the bottle.
Our next stop will take us into the core of the Chianti Classico region where my friend Luciano AKA "Il Frasca" was waiting for us. I met Luciano almost 10 years ago, he owns one of the best restaurant I ever eat in called La Valle dell'Inferno overlooking the Ambra river.
The restaurant also have some rooms very well designed with terrace, little kitchen, living room, large bathroom and a big sleeping room, mine also had a small sauna that I used in order to get rid of some toxins :)
After few aperitif it was dinner time and Luciano start to pull out trays of raw scampi, shrimps and some claims and other shell fishes.
Then we had some pasta with asparagus and zucchini followed by a veal "Tagliata" as per wine we had a great bottle of Caberlot from Il Carnasciale, the wine was showing great fruit and body, although the 20o2 vintage wasn't a good one, after some time it start to show notes of pepper and minerality becoming more complex as the oxygen was interacting with the antioxidants.
I will not tell you more about this wine and winery, which has a very interesting story, because Piers and I will visit them the following day therefore I will tell you more in the next post.
The dinner finished with some delicious homemade Tiramisu, Pannacotta, some fresh sorbet and few shots of Grappa.
Every time I come back to Italy I always look forward to spend at least couple of days with Luciano, he is one of my mentor that helped me to learn and understand wine, I like to hang in his restaurant and see his friends that eventually became mine too, I love the irony involved in every conversation, the way the Tuscans make every situation light with some funny jokes and sharp comments, somehow this places recharge me with vital energy.
Another day is about to end, and tomorrow is going to be the last of our trip, probably the one that will reserve us the biggest surprises!
To Be Continued...


Terence said...

Trouble is you come back with about 5 kilos to lose!

Same for everyone who goes there.

What a way to go, eh?

De Vino said...

yes 5 kg sound about right ehehehe
But is all good stuff so it doesn't hurt.