One day unexpectedly, driving around Tuscany, the irresistible call of Montalcino, a brand-new winery and the embrace of a special friend. Hop in the car with me now, we are off to a fabulous trip!
Every time I am in Tuscany, surrounded by my beloved vineyards, with the hills gently rolling to the valley, mesmerized by a landscape that takes my breath away as if it were the first time, every time I have to struggle long and hard to leave this place. With time I have developed several strategies to procrastinate the departure. One of my favorite is to disregard the navigator and avoid turing at the suggested intersection, thus forcing it to find a different route. This is how I discover new roads, new landscapes, small new villages, and drifting away is always so sweet in this corner of Italy!
Here I am, with my Yaris Hybrid, my faithful companion, about to set the navigator on the way home. We will drive slowly, she and I, because not only do we like to respect speed limits, but even more we love to glide along this wonderful painting making no noise and no pollution. We are on our way back from Chianti Classico, it snowed last night and these strokes of white make the landscape all the more poignant! I do not want to leave! Not yet, I am just not ready to go!
And that is how an idea, a wish, a hope suddenly creeps in: what if I drop by to hug a friend I have not seen in a long, long time? After all, she is on my way, more or less, and she just happens to be right across the street from a Winery that holds precious barrels I have not tasted in too long. Without any hope or agenda, I send a message to a recipient who probably will not read it for the next three hours or so. The reply comes immediately instead and it is a GO! Who’s the lucky girl! It is foggy on the road, but I know my way there. She calls me, she guides me, she speaks to me.
And here I am again, at Sanlorenzo, Luciano Ciolfi’s Winery in Montalcino. Yes, it is inevitable to return to this corner of paradise where the wine, by the way, is always increasingly delicious. With no concern about the puddles around, my first embrace is for my beloved Oak tree that watches over the vineyards from the highest point of the estate. She is my beautiful distant friend indeed! Luciano looks at me in bewilderment and somewhat amused, more bewildered than anything else I dare say, also because I got my boots a bit muddy. Never mind! This is the sacred soil of Montalcino after all.
With time on my side today, I will be able to enjoy the place and the wine for a change. It has been over a year since I have tasted “my” barrels. And yes, I do have some in “adoption,” paperwork taken care of when they were still fermenting. Someone told me that drinking must is not so good for you, but I am really fond of it, and I have never felt better in my life!
Besides, with Luciano it is a win situation from the very beginning. The 2022 tastings at the end of fermentation, just before racking, were incredible! Three vats already clearly defined: Rosso di Montalcino, agile and floral, Brunello di Montalcino, fruity, rich and crip, and Bramante with all its disarming depth and elegance. Granted, they are most definitely in embryo stage, but these wines are born with royal blood. The dynasty of this Sangiovese, ascended to the throne and consecrated years ago, reigns gloriously over this lush and flourishing feud.
Some people “downgrade” Brunello di Montalcino when, on its debut on the markets, it is already very enjoyable, arguing its alleged lack of longevity. I find myself to be the exact opposite and cannot even wait the five or six years of aging required by DOCG regulations. I cannot wait this long to enjoy such good wine! And here it is good right away! So there you have it, there is always a good reason to come back to Montalcino, to Sanlorenzo Winery as well as to many other friends who allow me to taste bottles that will never be bottled, as they are the rarest ones after all.
Tasting barrels for me is a must! I want to know my Champions intimately. Coming face to face with a bottle of wine that wins you over is a bit like falling in love with a person at first sight. At that very moment the person is exactly everything you desire, but each of us holds within a personal story that has led us to be the beautiful and unique individuals we are today. Wine makes no exception in this regard.
I long to know the full story of the life and evolution of wine, starting with fermentation and all the way through, because you discover wonderful and unique sensations in these sips. I really can’t get enough of it! Let us not linger any longer and move on to the tasting now.
Brunello 2021 is somewhat withdrawn, the sip is contracted but so it is, as it is cold today and heck he wants to be left alone! We apologize for the disturbance and move on. The Riserva? We shall see, let’s keep it a secret for now.
Brunello 2020 is joyful, smooth, exuberant and elegant at the same time. I do not think this is due solely to a one-year difference, but rather to its bright and distinguished character. Yet, there was a time when this one too was locked in introspective shyness.
Brunello 2019 is on the home stretch toward bottling. This is another perfect vintage. There was not a single moment, during its long journey, that this wine did not express vitality, tension, and absolute grace. It is heartbreaking, smooth, deep, and vibrant. Two distinct barrels that will soon merge for eternity into one soul. Long live the newlyweds!
And then there is Bramante, the 2019 Riserva. It’s him, it is always him, it is my greatest love! Will he be able to oust the 2016 Riserva from my heart? Well, I don’t think it is necessary, however. I have a very big heart and there will be room for both of them.
Let me wrap this up with the most wonderful novelty here at Sanlorenzo: the new Winery built in no time. Praise to Luciano! It must have been quite hard to complete the work in time for the harvest. It is beautiful, spacious with its impeccable minimal style, and truly elegant in its essential and sober fashion. A wonderful job of renovation of an old shed that now houses the fermentation vats, the storage of old vintages (something to die for!) and the legendary Rosé in the making. We tasted that one also, of course we did! But that is a different story, sooner or later I will tell you about it.
Time to go now, and as I walk to my car, I turn one last time to say goodbye to my beloved Oak tree, with my eyes already full of melancholy. And that is how I am reminded of a line from “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” by Richard Bach, a book that I know by heart.
“Don’t believe what your eyes are telling you. All they show is limitation.”
My eyes, they see a brand new Winery today, my heart an endless trail of great achievements, past, present, and future. Farewell now, I will be back.
Podere Sanlorenzo, 280
53024 Montalcino (Siena) Italy
© Riproduzione riservata
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