Thursday, June 30, 2022

Catch 35 Naperville Surf & Turf and Wine Dinner

Catch 35 Naperville Surf & Turf and Wine Dinner

For a business dinner with a vendor partner we dined at Catch 35 in Naperville. Son Alec works for the same vendor and was invited to join us - a real treat for a father-son business experience. 

The Catch 35 wine list features several of the Long Shadows labels - the library of Vintners Collection Series wines produced by world famous winemakers in each of the varietal select categories.

I have written in these pages about Long Shadows, the brand portfolio of several labels, all crafted by world famous winemakers from fruits sourced in the Washington State Columbia Valley. This was the vision of Allen Shoup, former CEO of Chateau St Michelle, champion and evangelist for Washington State wines. He formed the brand and recruited a world famous winemaker for each varietal based label. Michel Rolland, Pomerol vintner and consultant to many of the world’s top wineries, was selected to produce this Right Bank Bordeaux Blend wine, and legendary Napa Valley Cabernet producer Randy Dunn to produce this Cabernet. 

We've long known about the brand and joined their club while visiting their tasting room hospitality center in Woodinville WA during our Seattle Wine / Dine Experience in 2018. We remain Vault Club Members of the allocated portfolio and get a case each quarter of two of the varietal based selections including this Pedestal label.

For my entree, I chose surf and turf - lobster tail with filet with portabella mushrooms - demi-glace, with whipped potatoes, thus was able to enjoy an ideal pairing with a Merlot
Bordeaux varietal wines.

Long Shadows Vintners Collection Pedestal Merlot 2017

Pedestal 2016
We know this wine well as I have several vintages of this label in our cellar collection, having been a wine-club member for half a decade. We also know and hold several vintages of the winemaker Michel Rolland's flagship labels, legendary Pomerol Bordeaux and Napa Valley oenologist, vintner and consultant to some of the world’s best wineries. This was the best tasting of this label I have had as this vintage selection and food pairing exceeded even my loftiest expectations. 

This is a blend of 82% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon and 3% Petit Verdot, that was aged 22 months in French oak barrels, with 86% being new. 

This release was awarded 95 points by Jeb Dunnuck, 94 points by Wine Advocate and International Wine Reviews, 93P points and a Cellar Selection by Wine Enthusiast, and 92+ points by Stephen Tanzer.

Dark inky garnet purple in color, full bodied, bright vibrant opulent black raspberry and blackberry fruits with notes of cassis, spice, dark mocha chocolate, cigar box, black tea and hints of vanilla with a smooth polished medium silky tannin laced finish.

RM 94 points.

Long Shadows "Feather", Columbia Valley, Washington, 2018

Another label from a producer we know well from our broader cellar collection that span more than two decades, and vertical collection of this label. Our meeting with winemaker Randy Dunn during a visit to Dunn Vineyards estate high atop Howell Mountain was a highlight of our Napa Valley Howell Mountain Wine Experience back in 2008.
One note about winemaker Randy Dunn's wines is that they tend to be long-lived. Pundits say in their reviews, "Best after 2025, with a long life beyond that"; "This wine will be even more delicious with another several years of bottle age. Cellar this and enjoy it for the next 15 years or longer."

That said, this may have been consumed too young and need several more years of aging to develop, integrate, and settle to reveal its true profile, character and potential. A risk of drinking young wines from a restaurant wine list. They might likely be better served perhaps holding this back a few years, or, more likely, featuring some of the other Long Shadows Vintners Series labels that might provide earlier younger drinking gratification. 

Aside the Pedestal above, this was rather closed and therefore somewhat subdued. Perhaps this is a vintage comparison, or reflecting its youth relative to a more vibrant younger reflective label. 

This label also got blockbuster reviews and ratings - 96 points from International Wine Report, 95 points from Jeb Dunnuck and Vinous, Owen Bargreen, and 93 points from Wine Enthusiast who awarded it Cellar Selection, Best of the Year 2021.

This 100% Cabernet Sauvignon Feather comes from the Horse Heaven Hills and Wahluke Slope Weinbau and Wallula Vineyards in Columbia Valley, Washington, and spent 22 months in 90% new French oak. 

Classic Randy Dunn style Cabernet with dark garnet colored, medium full bodied, tight, structured dense and concentrated yet somewhat subdued blackberry and black plum fruits accented by cassis, dust, tar, graphite, leather, tobacco leaf, with hints of dark chocolate and expresso coffee. 

RM 91 points.





Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Coco Pazzo Italian Wine and Fine Dining

Coco Pazzo Italian Wine and Fine Dining - Chicago

For a business partner dinner, hosted by son Ryan, we dined at Coco Pazzo Italian Restaurant on Hubbard street in trendy chic River North, Chicago

Opened in 1992 by restauranter Jack Weiss, Coco Pazzo serves classic traditional seasonal cuisine of Tuscany in a classic stylish 100 year old loft building with timber beams brick walls and rich cyprus floors adorned with blue velvet curtains for a rustic urban chic atmosphere. 

The extensive menu crafted by Chef Eric Hammond features both classic and contemporary dishes with the finest ingredients. 

Coco Pazzo has an award winning Wine Spectator Best of Excellence Award winelist assembled and curated by Wine Director Tamra Presley Weiss, featuring a broad and deep selection of Tuscan focused Italian wines from modest to the most exclusive producers and labels. They also serve twenty wines by the glass WBTG and a collection of large format bottles for special occasion dinners. The winelist has been recognized not only by Wine Spectator but also Food & Wine, The Wine Enthusiast and Wine & Spirits. 

From the wine list I selected three different wines in three styles and profiles to suit our diners' preferences and varied entree selections. All were ideal accompaniments and were very reasonably moderately priced values.

Avignonesi Grifi Toscana Rosso 2018

This Super Tuscan blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese was perfectly paired with my entree selection, the Saltimbocca di Vitello topped with sage and prosciutto with wine shallots and sides of Polenta and Spinach.

The Avignonesi estate still bears the name of its founders but since 2009 it has been owned by Virginie Saverys who pursued winemaking after a successful law career in Belgium. Saverys has turned Avignonesi into one of the largest biodynamic wineries in Italy with 340 acres of vineyards and a state-of-the-art winery in the Montepulciano appellation. 

Grifi is a Super Tuscan blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese - 50.42% Cabernet Sauvignon and 49.58% Sangiovese. It was aged 18 months in French oak barriques (225 ltr) and large Slavonian oak barrels (6000 ltr).

The Sangiovese comes from the Marmino (18.55%), Caprile (15%), El Grasso (10%) and Poggio Badelle (6%) estate vineyards. The Cabernet Sauvignon comes from La Banditella (40%) and Poggio alla Lodola (9.58%) estate vineyards. 

Winemakers' Tasting Notes: "The assembly of two such different personalities such as Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon blend together, giving this wine a unique character. Dark ruby red in color with purple reflections, the nose opens with notes of blueberries, blackberries and incense going up to sandalwood and graphite. In the mouth it is dense and complex with hints of blackberry jam and cinnamon. It then evolves like a balsamic explosion supported by good acidity. The lively tannin all over the palate accompanies the savory and persistent finish."

Dark garnet colored with purple hues, medium full bodied, dense complex concentrated blackberry and black raspberry fruits with notes of graphite, cinnamon spice, black tea, creosote and hints of what the winemaker refers to as balsamic, with a tangy acidic moderate tanning lingering finish. 

RM 91 points.  


Acosta Pirrera Terre Siciliano Nerello Masalese 2016

Those that selected seafood entrees still preferred red wine so I chose this Sicilian Nerello Mascalese grape from the Mt Etna region from a spectacular vintage. 

Spanish, from Tenerife, winemaker Eduardo Torres Acosta fell in love with Sicily and moved there to produce local sourced wines. After gaining experiences with Arianna Occhipinti and Passopisciaro, he set to produce his own wine, initially renting 5 acres of 50-year-old vineyards on the slopes of Etna. He continues to produce totally organic "artisanal" wines, using only liquid sulfur and copper and, in the cellar imposing minimal human intervention.

From the Mt Etna Terre Siciliane region this is a blend of 80% Nerello Mascalese and 20% Nerello Capuccio, Minella.


Tenuta Monteti Toscana IGT 2016

For a third bottle, I ordered another Super Tuscan, this one a complex diverse blend of traditional Bordeaux varietals from a highly acclaimed vintage. 

Tenuta Monteti was founded in 1998 by Gemma and Paolo Baratta after years searching for a suitable property to develop for growing grapes and producing wines. They found and setttled on a property in a corner of Tuscany in the southern Maremma area, in a small valley, 15 km from the sea and 145m above sea level, where the fields are protected by the Monteti hill from which the estate takes its name. At that time the area was still unexplored and unproven for high quality wine production. 

In collaboration with consultant oenologist Carlo Ferrini, they pursued what they believed as extraordinary potential of the land to produce quality wines capable with personality with elegance.

Starting from scratch, without regulations of a pre-existing OC classification, they were free to experiment with the soil and the climate, to plant the varieties that would respond and best express themselves to their truest representation of their place. The result was planting Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Alicante Bouschetto, all chosen to best express the unique terroir - climate, soil, exposure, and elevation of the archaic Mediterranean hills.

In 2010, their daughter Eva took over running the company assisted by her husband Javier Pedrazzini, who is sales manager and production supervisor, and a team of agricultural manager, a managing oenologist, and 12 others working vineyards and the winery. 

Monteti is the flagship wine, named like the estate after the hill that protects the vineyard from the strong Mediterranean winds, and guaranteeing the microclimate.

The label is a blend of the estate varietal fruit, 45% Petit Verdot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 25% Cabernet Franc. It is aged for 18 months in medium-toasted French oak barriques, 70% of which are new. This is followed by further 2 years of bottle ageing before being released onto the market.

Monteti reveals the personality of the Maremman territory with its complexity and elegance; the Petit Verdot setting the personality, the rebel horse, Cabernet Sauvignon providing structure and longevity, softened and balanced by the Merlot, with the Cabernet Franc adding a feminine element that embraces and softens both.

Winemaker's Notes: "
An intense and luminous garnet red, it offers to the nose exotic scents of delicate spices and marzipan, violet and black berries. In the mouth it is intriguing, harmonious, interwoven with elegant tannins, very long."


Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Grand Cru Bordeaux 2019 Vintage Release Tour Chicago

Grand Cru Bordeaux 2019 Vintage Release Tour Chicago

After a Covid pause, the UGC Bordeaux (Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux (UGCB)), annual release tour returned to Chicago this week unveiling/showcasing their 2019 vintage release wines. The event was postponed last January and rescheduled to this week. The Union is the association of 134 of the top premier estates from the most prestigious Bordeaux appellations. This year's North American tour visited Houston, Miami, New York, Chicago, and San Francisco.

As in previous years, our 'Pour Boys' wine group helped conduct the event in Chicago. It is such a pleasure, honor and privilege to work the event, meet the producers, and of course taste the wines. From our service to the event over the last dozen years, we've developed many contacts and friendships with the winemakers, owners, ambassadors and commercial directors of our favorite and long-time collected Bordeaux estates. We greatly appreciate their effort to conduct this tour and to visit our fair city each year. 

Breaking from tradition, the event moved from the Drake Hotel and its magnificent grand ballroom to the Great Hall of Chicago's Union Station. The Great Hall proved to be a spectacular setting with its magnificence. This was ironic and very special for me as my office for my 'day job' is actually in the office tower built over the operating Union Station  “double-stub” station, where the 24 tracks approach from two directions, the only such one in the United States. I commute into this station each day that I work in the office.

Chicago Union Station is a iconic building originally designed by legendary Chicago architect and city planner Daniel Burnham. It opened in May 1925 after ten years of construction at a cost of $75 million ($1 billion in today’s dollars). 

Today, Chicago Union Station is the nation’s 3rd-busiest station overall, and it is Amtrak’s 4th busiest. It serves more than 300 trains per day carrying more than 3 million Amtrak customers and 35 million Metra passengers annually. Six of Chicago Metras' 11 routes operate into and out of Union Station with nearly 130,000 Metra passengers passing through the station on an average weekday, and more than 42,000 each weekend. 

Its awe-inspiring looks are the result of sweeping Indiana limestone exteriors and larger-than-life ornate interiors. This grandeur centerpiece is the Great Hall, the station's main waiting room spanned by a 219-foot-long, barrel-vaulted skylight that soars 115 feet over the room. The skylight ceiling was blacked out during World War II in order to make the station less of a target for enemy aircraft.

 The Grand Staircase in the Great Hall was made famous in the modern era when it was featured in the movie The Untouchables, noted by several of the visiting wine producers. 

We work with the UGCB Events Manager, Olivier Crombez, host Mike Wangbickler and his Balzac Communications team preparing the room and the wines, checking in trade registrants, and standing in for producers who faced travel or other disruptions, presenting and pouring their wines. 

Several times over the years, several producers or their representatives were delayed in travel or had other disruptions and we were called in to service to pour their wines, hence we earned our moniker, the 'Pour Boys'.

One hundred and four producers were represented at the event that was attended by over five hundred members of the trade, media and industry. The evening event, open to the public, again was sponsored by Doug Jeffirs, Wine Director for Binny's, the midwest beverage super store, was attended by over four hundred wine enthusiasts.
Working and attending this event is the penultimate highlight of my wine interests and activities each year, meeting the producers, and of course, tasting the latest vintage release.
The 2019 Vintage is especially notable for me since we were in Bordeaux during this vintage season. It was unseasonably hot during our visit to the Left Bank and it was quite dry and producers were hoping for some rain. Some wines in 2019 were heat stressed due to the dry summer which may introduce some prune notes to some wines, but in the end it appears was not excessive so as to diminish the outcome generally. 
The searing summer heat was one of the hottest on record for Bordeaux. By July, many of the vineyards were suffering from the extreme rain shortages. By the very end of July when we were there, they saw some heavy rains bringing much needed relief to the vines.
Based on the weather conditions of the year and the balance and character of the wines, this is a superb vintage, one with serious aging potential. After a humid spring came the dry, hot summer, with intense heat waves at the end of June and in July. During our visit, staying in Margaux, we actually heard the canons in the middle of the night, fired into the storm clouds to disrupt potential hail that could damage the vines and delicate fruit. We then journeyed to Paris from Bordeaux and it was over 100 degrees there for several days. 
Fortunately, the rainstorms in July and August, and again in September came just when needed and helped the grapes hold acidity, which resulted in wines with nice balance and freshness. Some say tt was a year when Cabernet Sauvignon grapes shone. 
Opinions on 2019 ranges from 'aromatic, seductive like the 2015s and the structured, classic, truly great 2016s', others call it a mix of the structured 2010s and open, plush 2009s or opulent 2015s, with more purity and finesse'. 
I was called to duty to pour the Chateau Troplong Mondot from Saint-Emilion. Aymeric de Gironde, CEO sees 2019 as “a dual vintage, with charm and sexiness, but also backbone and length.” 
Over one hundred producers attended the event, and as stated, we greatly appreciate their effort to conduct this tour and to visit our fair city. Some of the usual suspects, friends, favorite labels and attendees are shown below.




Sunday, June 26, 2022

Tomahawk Beefsteak and Paradigm Napa Cab

Tomahawk Beefsteak and Paradigm Napa Valley Oakville Cabernet

Friday night dining in, we grilled a Tomahawk bone-in ribeye beefsteak, with baked potato and asparagus, served on the deck, one of our favorite sumertime meal experiences.

I pulled from the cellar this vintage Oakville Napa Cabernet for the occasion, Paradigm Napa Valley Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon 2004.

We visited the Paradigm Oakville estate winery and vineyards and were hosted by owners Ren and Marilyn Harris back in 1999, as part of our Napa Valley Wine Experience 1999

We've collected this label ever since and continue to hold a decade of vintages in our vertical collection. I wrote about Paradigm in more detail when I last posted about Paradigm in March, 2019 when we tasted Paradigm Napa Valley Oakville Merlot 1996.

Ren and Marilyn Harris, have deep roots in Napa Valley (pun intended); Marilyn's grandparents immigrated from Italy to Napa Valley in 1890, while Ren's family came to California in 1769. Marilyn and Ren moved to Napa Valley in the 1960's and settled into their home just east of where Paradigm sits today.

The Paradigm estate consists of fifty acres of vineyard, the winery, two homes, a warehouse, a barn, and an acre of olive trees. 

Paradigm vineyards are planted to Bordeaux varietals Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot along with some Zinfandel. 

Paradigm Winery produced their first vintage in 1991. Our cellar holdings still include a few bottle of 1994 case from that era, as well as early releases from the 1992, '95, '96 and 1997 vintages, several 2002-2006 era vintages, and several recent vintages.

From the earliest days, Ren and Marilyn hired talented legendary winemaker, Heidi Barrett, who has been with Paradigm ever since.

Paradigm Napa Valley Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon 2004

At eighteen years this may be at the apex of its drinking window and profile and while it has several years remaining, its not likely to improve with further aging. The fill level, foil and most importantly, the cork were in ideal condition. 
This is one of several bottles of this vintage we acquired at auction while early releases were acquired directly from the producer, in recent years we obtain it at Binny's, our Chicagoland super merchant.

Our records show the we last tasted this label back in 2008 at Tra Vigne in St Helena, Napa Valley. Back then, it was a fine dining restaurant and had the outdoor deck and patio garden, which has been repurposed as a pizzeria, which is sad as we had many memorable wine dinners there.

Dark garnet colored, medium full bodied, bright lively concentrated black berry and black currant fruits with a layer of cedar accented by tobacco, earth, hints of licorice and mint with a moderate tannins and tangy acidity on the finish. 

RM 92 points.

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

RPM Seafood Chicago Dinner

RPM Seafood Chicago Dinner

I attended a business partner special event for Chicagoland CxO's at RPM Seafood Steakhouse overlooking the Chicago River in the city. 

For the group dinner, they served from the extraordinary extensive deep winelist a red and a white to accompany the starters and our dinner entree selections. They graciously offered the opportunity to select something from the winelist but their basic chosen selections were fine, absolutely suitable for the occasion. 

I chose for my entree the Wild Alaskan Halibut with Capers and Brown Butter (below). It was delicious and ideally paired with the Sancerre wine. It would have been much better had it been served hot rather than barely warm.

Fellow diners chose these other seafood dishes, the Butter Poached Lobster with Lemongrass and Ginger, 

(above) and the Charcoal-Grilled Black Bass with Moroccan Spices, Salsa Verdes shown below.

For the white wine course, which was most widely selected for the majority who chose seafood dishes, they served from the winelist this French Loire Valley Sancerre Sauvignon Blanc

Domaine Vacheron Sancere 2020

The Vacheron vineyards lie near the village of Sancerre and have been in the family for nine generations. The domaine is run by two cousins, the Messieurs Vacheron. Both have sons studying viticulture to carry on the family tradition. 

The vineyards cover 34 hectares with two principal soil types; "silex" and "caillotte" or chalk. 

Winemaker Notes - "A vibrant, 100% organic/biodynamic Sauvignon Blanc from a mix of flint and chalk soils in the heart of Sancerre. Aromas suggest grapefruit zest and gunflint; in the mouth, the wine is pure and fresh, with plenty of mineral energy and citrus-inspired flavors. This is classic Sancerre—limpid and clean, with lots of freshness and lovely energy."

This was awarded 92 points by Wine Enthusiast, and 90 points by Vinous. 

Vinous wrote in describing this wine, "Most producers can only dream of an “entry-level” wine that's this good" and I certainly agree. The broad winelist offers this label, and another premium Domaine Vacheron, "Les Romains" from the same producer for more than two times the price.

Straw, light butter colored, medium light bodied, refreshing, elegant, delicate, polished and superbly balanced flavorful white fruits with mineral, flint and whisper of citrus with well behaved tangy acidity.

RM 91 points. 


For the red wine drinkers, also served from the winelist was this French Southern Rhone Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Saint-Galet, 2019

This Saint-Galet's 2019 Châteauneuf-du-Pape is a blend of 80% Grenache, 12% Mourvèdre and 8% Syrah. 

Dark garnet colored, medium bodied, ripe black and red bramble fruits accented by herbs, pepper with hints of rosemary and mint with soft sweet tannins and tangy acidity on the moderate finish.

RM 88 points. 

Nice QPR in this easy sipping modest bold red.



Monday, June 20, 2022

Italian Village Villa Calcinaia Producer Wine Dinner

 Italian Village Villa Calcinaia Producer Sebastiono Caponi Wine Dinner

Wine Director Jared Gelband of  Italian Village Chicago hosted a wine producer dinner featuring special guest Sebastiono Caponi of Villa Calcinaia in Greve-in-Chianti, Firenze, Tuscany, Italy. 

The themed dinner - "A Night in the Cypress" featured a six course dinner prepared by Executive Chef Jose Torres with wine pairing accompaniments for each course from Villa Calcinaia. 

The evening was held in the Italian Village Vivere dining room, the upscale of the three restaurants that make up the Village with its unique funky elegance.

Kicking off the evening, the full house was welcomed by Italian Village Proprietor and General Manager Gina Capitanini. 

The featured producer this evening was Sebastiono Caponi of Villa Calcinaia in Tuscany consisting of a flight of six wines, five from the Calcinaia estate, to accompany each course. We were also served the Villa Calcinaia estate Chianti Classico Extra Virgin Olive Oil. 

Sebastiono was delightfully engaging, he presented the history of the family, the estate, their vineyard plantings and a perspective on each wine. He revealed surprising impressive insights and knowledge of Chicago and even Indiana, as several of our fellow 'Pour Boys' (our wine group), Dr Dan and Ernie, and their guests were Hoosiers, having traveled into the city to accompany me and wife Linda for the evening event. 

As is typical with these events, the pairing of the wine with the food was extraordinary - amplifying the enjoyment of both.

The Calcinaia property has been in the Capponi family dating back to 1524  when Sebastiano del Caccia and Niccola di Andrea Capponi sold to Capponi "four poderi (self-contained agricultural units) a gentleman's house and two buildings in a place called Calcinaia overlooking the road to Greve, the drive in front of the Villa today. 

Today, the Villa Calcinaia estate produces a broad portfolio of more than a dozen Chianti Classico IGT, DOC and DOCG wines - all 100% estate sourced fruit, reds, whites, a sparkling wine produced in the traditional methode champonaise style, a dessert wine, and Chianti Classico olive oil. 

In the mid 16th century Calcinaia was considered important enough to be depicted in the maps of the Captains of the Guelph Party. The buildings enclosed by a wall, included the "house of master Giovanni Battista Capponi", a look more in line with the rank of its owner, a high-ranking official and future senator of the Granduchy of Tuscany.

The original four poderi of 1524 - Sepale, Calcinaia, San Piero al Pino and Bastignano - were increased in number through the years: Casarsa, in 1643 and the rest during the following two centuries. Calcinaia remained a simple country house until the second-half of the eighteenth century, when Count Ferdinando Carlo Capponi, a first-class administrator, reorganized the property in the Greve valley, building a fermenting cellar, storage cellars, the lemonhouse, and the rear section of the Villa that had been refurbished some fifty years earlier by Count Ferrante Capponi, who also added the Chapel.

The wine flight Villa Calcinaia selections

The estate has a historic heritage of vines and olive trees dating back to the end of the 19th century. Villa Calcinaia consists of 450 acres, seventy planted to vines in twenty-six different plots, the remainder in olive groves, surrounded by forests. The old vineyards were planted between 1959 and 1975 with more added later.

The Villa Calcinaia vineyards

The estate sits alongside the Greve river that divides the valley in two sides with different soils on each side. The right bank is characterized by the mountain range known as “Monti del Chianti” and the soil there comprises primarily sandstone and sand formed by the break-up of the bedrock of these mountains. The left bank, where Villa Calcinaia stands, is of Eocene origin with calcareous clay, the predominant soil type of the area. 

Italian Village Vivere elegant funky dining room

The name Calcinaia can be translated as 'chalk quarry', the material necessary for the making of mortar. The calcium can be found in great abundance on the estate and creates a certain fil rouge between the different soils. 

There are also important differences in the various vineyards' varying elevations, from 200 meters to 350 meters above sea level, and varied exposure as well as many small tributaries of the Greve river crossing the estate. On the lower grounds, patches of soil have grey clay, called in tuscan dialect “mattaione”. Generally, the soil in Calcinaia is loam; deeper soils with higher presence of sand in the lowers slopes towards the Greve River, and shallower silty soils with abundance of rocks on the higher grounds, known as “galestro”: a clayey schist whose exfoliating structure, crumbly surface, permeability, pebble content and wealth of trace elements ensure the vine’s vegetative balance and characterful wines. 

Villa Calcinaia owner producer
Sebastiono Caponi
Above the altitude of about 300 meters, there are outcrops of “alberese”, a calcareus marl more typical of the area of Gaiole that contributes to the wide array of soils at Calcinaia.

The estate produces Chianti Classico from Villa Calcinaia, considered the truest expression of the property proudly branded and labeled Capponi, producing three single vineyard designated wines that represent the distinct terroir of three notable vineyards on the estate.

The La Fornace vineyard was planted in 1975 by the Toti family, sharecroppers who had run the “podere” Le Fornaci from the beginning of the twentieth century. In 1975 the three brothers Natale, Renato and Adolfo, in agreement with the owners, planted just over a hectare of Sangiovese. American vines were also planted before being grafted after a few years with Sangiovese taken from the other vineyards of Villa Calcinaia. 

The La Fornace vineyard has a southern exposure lying nearest the river Greve, characterized by a greater presence of sand and the typical gray clay, like that which is still used for the production of bricks. This increases the complexity of the soil and is the basis for the name La Fornace. Sangiovese grown here reflects the specific soil texture of La Fornace, similar to those that grown on the right bank of the river Greve and often described as the most “Lamolese” of all the crus of Villa Calcinaia.

The wines sourced from here are characterized by a very fragrant and elegant wine, defined by fine and graceful tannins.

Over the last ten years, Villa Calcinaia has renewed many of the vineyards to achieve increased production of Chianti Classico wines. The renewal and restoration program included crafting the terraced land thereby allowing the vines to be planted following the contour line rather than the high East incline. They were planted with historical clones of Sangiovese determined through examining each vine on the plots of land originally developed by the sharecroppers. From this generation of vineyards, planted on a clayey and calcareous soil , surrounded by a pine forest, is the Bastignano vineyard. Since the 2006 vintage, this sources production of Chianti Classico Sangiovese, designated Vigna Bastignano after the name of the vineyard. 

From the unusual microclimatic warmth and the exposure, Bastignano produces wines with character of light, ruby, sunny and spicy bouquet and a distinct soft elegance of taste. This was the single vineyard designated label served with tonight's dinner.

The third vineyard selected for a single vineyard designated bottling, Contessa Luisa, was planted by Ferrante Capponi in 1959. The block was dedicated to his mother Luisa Vonwiller and remains today the oldest vineyard still in production at Villa Calcinaia. The two hectare plot is located on a hill facing west, the only such one on the Estate, which receives the warmth of the afternoon sun. The soil is characterized by a strong clayey character and a good depth. 

The American vines were grafted with the Estate mass selection Sangiovese varietal, as well as a small amount of other varietals that make the vineyard population more diverse and vibrant. Wine produced from this vineyard tends to have a very rich and opulent nose, characterized on the palate by an imposing tannic structure, resulting from the clayey nature of the soil. 

The dinner courses and wine pairings menu shown below:

The dinner courses and wine flight were designed by Jared and Chef Jose Torres, curated by special guest Sebastiano Capponi, the owner of the estate, who talked about each wine course and the history of the vineyard.


Grilled Watermelon / Cherry Heirloom Tomato / Burrata / Frisée / 

Balsamic Vinaigrette / Shaved Radish / Sea Salt

Served with:

Cantine Coppi 'Bollicinecheri' Sparkling Extra Dry Rose Salento IGT


Seared Shrimp / Caponata / Toasted Hazelnut / Citrus Vinaigrette

Served with:

Villa Calcinaia 'Comitale' Bianco dei Colli della Toscana Centrale IGT

Like all the Villa Calcinaia wines, this is 100% estate grown fruit from vineyards planted in 1967 following a major flood in the area. The Comitale grapes were not the intended selection but were retained when they were found to be useful for producing this unique white wine.  

This is a blend of 90% Grechetto and 10% Vernaccia.

Significantly enhanced when paired with the food. Straw colored, light bodied, exotic and rich, aromatics and flavors of citrus, hints of pineapple, floral, mineral and stone fruit with crisp acidity.

RM 88 points.


 Rigatoni / Veal Bolognese / Sun-dried Tomatoes / Shaved Pecorino

Served with:

Villa Calcinaia Mammolo IGT 2019

This is a unique grape varietal indigenous to Tuscany and is very rare, almost extinct in the region. It is not recognized or sanctioned by the Chianti appellation rules and therefore is not allowed as a blending grape with DOC Sangiovese wines. It stands alone in its character and flavor profile, more herbal than fruity, high in acid low in tannins, it goes well with charcuterie and was an ideal pairing with the Veal Bolognese. 

Although widely planted, Mammolo is a black berry varietal grown variously in Central Italy. It gets its name from the distinctive aroma of violet that characterizes its wine, ruby red in color, floral nose with typical hints of violet. 

When the weather is hot and low alcohol wines are preferred, Mammolo is a popular alternative to whites and roses of Tuscany with their character of wines with high acidity with low tannic content. They are popularly served paired with charcuterie.  

Dark garnet purple colored, medium full bodied, tangy acidity prevails from the black berry and plum fruit with notes of tobacco leaf and leather.

RM 88 points.


Short Rib with Polenta, Tart Cherry Jus and Roasted Heirloom Carrots

Served with:

Villa Calcinaia “Vigna Bastignano” Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG 2015

This is a one of the three premium Villa Calcinaia's single vineyard designated wines - each 100% Sangiovese, which as Sebastiano explains, is especially 'transparent' in reflecting the unique terroir of each vineyard site.

Vigna Bastignano vineyard is rocky soil and produces spicy fruit that are low in tannins. Only 3,092 bottles were produced. 

The WOTN - Wine of the Night - perfectly paired with the short rib beef course, dark purple colored, full bodied, concentrated and firmly structured yet nicely balanced, black berry fruits with intense aromatics with spice, black tea, tobacco and leather with firm gripping tannins and lively acidity on the cloying finish. 

RM 93 points. 

Wine Advocate rated this wine 93 points.


 Roasted Lamb Loin / Parsnip Puree / Bourbon Plum Glaze / Rapini

Served with:

Villa Calcinaia “Casarsa” Merlot IGT 2015

This 100% Merlot based wine is a Super Tuscan sourced from Villa Calcinaia estate grapes that were planted in 1967 by mistake - not intended to be a Merlot planting at the time since it was not a recognized varietal in the DOC appellation rules. As the vines matured, they were found to produce wonderful Merlot fruit, worthy of standing on its own in its own bottling and label. 

The parsnip puree was the to-die-for highlight of this dish! ... with the Bourbon Plum Glaze!

Over time Merlot became generally accepted as a common grape for Chianti regional wines.  

Dark garnet purple colored, medium full bodied, dense concentrated tangy blackberry and plum fruits with notes of spice, cedar, tobacco and leather  on a long moderate tannin laced finish.

RM 90 points. 


Crème Brûlée pana cotta with Gorgonzola and Walnut

Served with:

Villa Calcinaia Vin Santo del Chianti Classico DOCG 2011

This wine is held and aged for ten years before being released. Hence, the butter color at time of blending and production, has darkened to tea color by the time the wine is released. 

This dessert wine is a blend of the white grape varietals Trebbiano and Malvasia, together with a portion of the red grape Canaiolo. The blend for the 2010 vintage was 70% Trebbiano, 15% Canaille and 15% Malvasia.

The harvested grapes are dried naturally in the estate’s drying room for several months to allow the sugar content to concentrate to produce this traditional Tuscan dessert wine.  

By February the grapes have reached about 350/400 grams of sugar. They are then pressed and racked in tiny Slavonian 'caratelli' oak barrels for an extended 96 months.

This aging allows the sweet must to ferments for the period of eight to ten years with occasional refilling to restore the 'angel's share' that evaporates from the barrels before bottling. 

Amber, tea colored medium full bodied, rich concentrated intense, resinous aromas and flavors of caramel, hints of apricots, honey and mango fruits with smooth velvety tongue coating well balanced sweet finish. 

RM 92