Life In Tuscany

Posted on Wednesday, March 13th, 2013 by admin

1303541004_img_blog01_19In Tuscany life is lived at a different pace. The daily preparation of food, the art and science of winemaking all require a strong dose of patience which is reflected in the ancient unchanged landscape. I share some anecdotes of my life in Tuscany in my blog…

Antinori’s Osteria Badia a Passignano

Posted on Thursday, February 28th, 2013 by admin

Those able to tear themselves away from the historic and modern charms of Florence, leave the hustle and bustle of the “centro” and are rewarded with gently curving roads and achingly beautiful scenery, almost unchanged from the familiar Renaissance scenes painted by the likes of Leonardo and Botticelli. The road to Badia a Passignano, one of the premiere properties of the noble Antinori family of Florence, is well traveled. The historic abbey, wine cellar and now the restaurant have been frequented by both, the well heeled Florentine and the savvy world traveler for several generations. The setting is quintessentially Florentine; Elegant, restrained and timeless. As one enters the restaurant it is evident by the charming displays, complete with ancient dust covered bottles, that this is to be a meal whose purpose is to showcase the family’s fine wines. The commanding presence of the sommelier in the dining room confirms this assumption. Once seated, the task at hand is to first select the wines to be tasted and then the courses which will accompany the wines. We eliminate some very fine selections which we have just recently tasted and  put ourselves in the efficient hands of the sommelier. Quickly returning to our table, he efficiently pours a 2006 Conte della Vipera, a very light but highly acidic Sauvignon Blanc. An ideal start to our afternoon meal. Next to arrive is a Cervro della Sala of the same vintage. Immediately, I am skeptical of this is 85% Chardonnay, 15% Grechetto. I’m not a Chardonnay lover, but I attempt to keep an open mind. It is elegant and restrained, with a pleasant round mouth feel resulting from malolactic fermentation, and gentle use of oak. On to the next course. Our first red, a 2003 Santa Pia Sangiovese is poured. It has seen a few years in the bottle, yet retains its fresh cherry fruit while developing some tertiary flavors which hint at some medicinal notes. Sangiovese is the truly the workhorse of Tuscany, and  this Santa Pia hints at its rustic roots. My favorite of the selections is a 2005 Bramasole. Yes, this wine is made in conjunction with the now renown author who lovingly wrote of the footloose and fancy free lifestyle she discovered while restoring a ramshackle Italian villa and building a second, happier marriage. Perhaps a bit of a gimmick I think, then I taste and realize I am in the hands of the Antinori, who indeed are marketers extraordinaire, but more importantly have been great winemakers for centuries. This Cortona DOC Syrah is terrific. Well balanced, with hints of sweet spice and cedar. It is medium bodied and explodes mid-palate. For a moment the hint of fine leather in the wine glass transports me back to the city center where Ferragamo’s flagship store is imbued with a similar hedonistic fragrance. Undoubtedly the trio of businessmen sitting at  a nearby table are donning a pair of their fine moccasins…. The Marchese Antinori, Chianti Classico DOCG Riserva is poured. It is a blend of 85% Sangiovese and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon from 2003, a robust Chianti. I wonder; Since it carries the patriarch’s name, could it perhaps be his favorite? Certainly it is enjoyable, one of the favorites at our table. Like the Santa Pia Sangiovese, this wine also has the advantage of a couple of extra years of bottle aging. Yet it remains highly tannic, with delicious red cherry, cedar and artichoke flavors. In spite of being a vegetal note, it does not imply unripened fruit. Harvested in the ultra hot vintage of 2003, that seems impossible. Instead it suggests an  association with the esoteric qualities that the artichoke imparts in the drink Cinzano, which is very appealing to the Italian palate. This Chianti is highly tannic and the artichoke-like flavors impart a characteristically Tuscan profile to the wine. At last we taste wine made from the very property we have come to visit, 2004 Badia a Passignano, Chianti Classico Riserva. Here the native Sangiovese is bottled as a single varietal. It tastes of red plums, red cherry, and a hint of tobacco – another favorite Tuscan essence. We finish with a young 2005 Guado al Tasso, IGT Bolgheri, located in the coastal sub-region of Tuscany known locally as Maremma. It has also been my own family’s home for centuries. This highly regarded wine region has skyrocketed to international fame with the spectacular introduction of the “Super Tuscan” Sassicaia followed by the equally illustrious Ornellaia. This Super Tuscan is a blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% Merlot and 5% Syrah. It is with great anticipation we try Antinori’s 2005 vintage. Immediately I identify wild fennel on the nose; For me it is a pleasant and nostalgic association with the Maremma region. It is earthy and sightly medicinal in a pleasant way, with hints of sweet spice. In spite of its young age, it is well integrated. Surprisingly it is high in acidity, which aging will subdue, yet hopefully it will retain its red and black fruit. Once again the now familiar Tuscan taste of tobacco resurfaces on the palate with hints of cedar and of native wild fennel, even in so called “international” varietals. This is a testament to this winery’s “terroir”. At such a young age this wine is already complex and will continue to develop further in the bottle. By way of the mystic science of vinification, new aromas develop as the wine ages, hopefully delicately maintaining its lovely current characteristics.  Happily satiated we leave the dining room and head to our car in the small gravel parking lot and take in the fresh country air and once again feast our eyes on the timeless landscape of cypress tress and rolling hills of Chianti.