Happy Hour Wine Tasting Featuring Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte, Patz & Hall and Antinori Family Wines with Special Guest Champagne Wayne!
Thursday, July 22, 2021 - 07:30 PM
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“No thing more excellent nor more valuable than wine was ever granted mankind by God.” – Plato c. 429-347 B.C. Greek Philosopher
After the success of the last few week’s “Happy Hour” tastings, we have decided to carry on this casual event over the summer and this tasting is a belly up to the bar, hang out with your friends and the food is casual, this is not a sit-down dinner- a true “Happy Hour” style event… but with GREAT wines. Tonight, we have four wineries to showcase Champagne, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Barolo and Super Tuscan wines with our good friend Champagne Wayne as our host.
I have also included all the wines from these wineries that we have in the store on SALE on this offering.
This tasting starts at 6pm and chef Toni will be making some appetizers to accompany the tasting wines. The fee for this tasting is $75 + tax, for reservations call 954-523-9463 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Happy Hour Wine Tasting Featuring Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte, Patz & Hall and Antinori Family Wines
With Special Guest Champagne Wayne
Thursday, July 22nd, 2021
2012 Nicolas Feuillatte Blanc De Blanc Champagne
List Price: $56.25 Your Price: $49.50
A delicate bead forms a regular, pirouetting stream of bubbles. The wine is bright and delicately golden in appearance, tinged with silver-green. Elegant and graceful, this Champagne is initially underpinned on the palate by bucolic, springtime notes of fresh flowers and angelica. The complex aromas gain in intensity, revealing notes of fresh honey and plums, followed by mint and coriander on the finish. The perfectly balanced freshness ill support this delicately mineral Blanc de Blancs as it attains its true potential. The Collection Vintage 2012 Blanc de Blancs combines the purity and elegance of chardonnay with the rich character of the vintage.
NV Nicolas Feuillatte Terroir Premier Cru Brut Champagne
List Price: $75.00 Your Price: $66.00
The quintessential Champagne and the standard bearer of Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte. Assemblage: 20% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Noir, and 40% Pinot Meunier. Appearance: a golden yellow color. Aroma and bouquet: a floral nose with apple, pear, almond and hazelnut notes. Palate: an elegant and well-balanced Champagne.
2017 Patz & Hall Chardonnay Dutton Ranch Russian River
List Price: $36.00 Your Price: $31.68
(92 Points) The 2017 Chardonnay Dutton Ranch aged on the lees in 35% new oak with weekly bâtonnage. It reluctantly opens to apple pie, toast, apricot, roasted almonds and smoky reduction. It’s medium-bodied, silky and more expressive in the mouth with honeyed, savory notions framing the intense fruits, enlivened by juicy acidity and finishing long and textured. This will benefit from another year in bottle. Robert Parker's Wine Advocate
2018 Patz & Hall Pinot Noir Hyde Vineyard
Price: $70.50 Sale $62.04
This iconic site consistently delivers some of the most elegant and refined Pinots from Patz & Hall. This Pinot provides bright red fruits, freshness, elegant tannins and vibrant acidity. The nose is filled with the signature dried rose petal and cinnamon character of Hyde Vineyard. Well-integrated and refined tannins are knit together with strawberry, raspberry and spice flavors. The mid-palate is rich but delicate, showing the elegance that is classic Hyde.
2016 Prunotto Barolo
List Price: $51.00 Your Price: $44.88
A big bouquet of cherry liqueur like fruit, fresh rose petals and tar like earth on the nose, very forward and seductive. Montofrte, Castigione Falleto and Serralunga D'Alba. A big and chewy wine with a nice amount of forward fruit, this is a very easy drinking vintage for being so young, has a nice hand of spice and truffle like earth notes through the finish 45+ Excellent +
2017 Antinori Guado al Tasso Bolgheri
List Price: $142.50 Your Price: $125.40
Winery Notes: Guado al Tasso 2017 is intensely ruby red in color. Its nose is intact, clean and powerful and has hints of small red ripe fruits such as raspberries, wild strawberries, arbutus, wild blackberries and pleasant notes of laurel and mint. Its entry on the palate is soft, voluminous and persistent with a tannic texture that is dense and silky. Remarkable for its extraordinary balance and equilibrium between power and grace. This vintage can be enjoyed now but also possesses excellent aging potential for years to come.
The rest of the wines from these producers that Wine Watch has in stock:
2008 Nicolas Feuillatte Champagne Palmes d'Or Grande Cuvee
Price: $168.75 Your Price: $148.50
(93 Points)An elegant Champagne that offers flavors of poached pear, candied kumquat and dried cherry on a delicate mousse. Well-cut, with a lingering, mineral-tinged finish. Drink now through 2026. -Wine Spectator
Winemaker Notes: Bright, clear deep gold and perfectly translucent, tinged with inviting, amber tones. Wonderfully rich, the effervescence forms a lovely stream of bubbles resembling fine pearls. Fresh, light and engaging on the nose, the Champagne reveals an understated, yet splendid oral and fruity dual character, and is extremely delicate and tenderly zingy, with aromas of herbs, dried flowers and lemon zest.
Nervous, defined and expressive, the Champagne makes a clear impression on the palate. Perfectly balanced lovely acidity and low levels of sweetness. Great structure on the palate, with a fresh and harmonious finish of impressive length. Appealing zesty flavors of lemon sorbet generously coat the palate.
Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Gastronom Reserve Champagne
Price: $33.75 Your Price: $29.70
It is composed of 20% of the Chardonnay grape variety, for elegance and delicacy, 40% of Pinot Noir, for roundness and structure and 40% of Pinot Meunier for fruitiness. Pale gold in color, abundance of delicate bubbles. Floral aromas of fruit with subtle predominance of white fruits: pear, apple, almonds and hazelnuts. Fresh opening, smooth, pleasant and balanced.
NV Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Rose Champagne
Price: $49.75 Your Price: $43.78
(91 Points) This mouthwatering rosé offers fruit-forward flavors of ripe raspberry and cherry, with fresh ginger and blood orange sorbet accents. Refreshing, lively and well-knit. Drink now through 2020. Wine Spectator
NV Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Demi-Sec Rose D'Luscious
Price: $78.75 Your Price: $69.30
The Demi-sec is aged in our cellars for at least 2 years, even though the legal minimum ageing requirement is only 15 months.Its dry and slightly sweet character is beautifully balanced on the palate. Several cru make up the blend.
A bit about Champagne Nicolas Feuillate :
Always a lover of the finer things in life, Nicholas Feuillate, celebrates his passion for Champagne surrounded by his own wines. In 1976 he brought together the land, the vineyards and the growers to create the marque which bears his name. Today, over twenty years later, it remains as fresh and lively as it ever was.
Nicholas Feuillatte made his first cuvees of Champagne in the early 1970’s on his own 12 hectare Montagne de Reims estate, Domaine Saint Nicholas. In 1986 he associated himself with the Centre Vinicole de la Champagne (CVC), an organization of growers at Chouilly who control vineyards in the various regions of Champagne.
The Centre Vinicole de la Champagne (CVC) is the leading producers’ co-operative and the third largest winemaking cellar in Champagne. It belongs to around 5,000 growers or roughly one in every three throughout the AOC region (there are approximately 15,000 growers in Champagne). The men and women who belong to the CVC have a profound knowledge of their appellation and have focused on producing wines that reflect the quality of grapes that they grow. Their goals are to produce excellent quality individual blends for their members and the development of their own marque-Nicholas Feuillate.
The winery is situated at Chouilly just outside Epernay at the Northern end of the Cote des Bancs, the cellars of CVC – Nicholas Feuillate are opposite the Montagne de Reims and overlook the Marne Valley. They are situated right on the point of convergence of all three major Champagne regions, the cellar is logistically placed to utilize the musts from 84 co-operative presses (40% of the harvest) used by 4,000 growers, 170 privately owned presses (40% of the harvest) used by 920 Growers. Each of the 254 pressing centers which deliver juice to the CVC – Nicholas Feuillate, has been checked and accepted by the Institut National des Appellations d’Origine (INAO). The pressing centers are all located as close as possible to the vineyards themselves in order to keep transport time for the harvest to a minimum. This allows the fruit to be delivered healthy and intact in whole bunches to the presses, an essential condition for making good quality Champagne. Strict quality control checks are carried out on each batch of fruit as it arrives for pressing on its appearance, ripeness and sugar content.
CVC – Nicholas Feuillate makes its base wines from a massive diversity of origins and qualities. It also has all its members, its wholesale and distribution customers and its Nicholas Feuillate marque to satisfy. This means that it has to create an impressive number of different cuvees from every vintage. This means in turn that our cellarmaster and his team of oenologists and technical staff must vinify over 60 different base wines classified by cru, area of production and grape type to use as elements in all these blends. The highest expression of their winemaking ability is shown in the Premier Cru wines and the Palmes d’Or cuvee which has won a number of prestigious awards in recent years like; Certificate of Excellence- 1995 Masters of Wine London, Silver Medal- 1996 International Wine Challenge London, Medaille d’Or- 1996 Concours Mondial Bruxelles & many more.
The firm annually produces about 1 million cases. They focus on four items, the Brut Premier cru, Brut Premier Cru Rose, Grande Cuvee Palmes d’Or, and the Cuvee Speciale Premier Cru. The Blanc de Blanc is 100% Chardonnay. Subtle and refined it is aged for at least 6 years in our cellars. Selected from the best Cru’s expressing the most exquisite Chardonnay character. These two wines we are showing tonight are the newest additions to the line-up our crowd tonight will be the first to taste these in South Florida.
2017 Patz N Hall Chardonnay Sonoma Coast
Price: $33.00 Your Price: $29.04
Aromas of smoky, toasty oak, fresh buttered toast opulent tropical fruit and mineral highlights on the nose. Lush and fruity on the palate with just the right touch of toasty oak, balanced acidity leading to a long complex finish. Finish 40+ EXCELLENT +
2017 Patz & Hall Chardonnay Hyde Vineyard
Price: $61.50 Your Price: $54.12
Classic Hyde Vineyard traits of delicate white flowers, tangerine zest, honey, and cinnamon. Poised and energetic, this wine is citrus-driven with orange blossom, hints of yellow apple and warm pie crust weaving a complex nose.
2017 Patz & Hall Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast
Price: $36.00 Your Price: $31.68
A marvelous collection of thirteen small, independently family-owned vineyard sites come together in this gorgeous display of Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir. The color is dark rubygarnet with great density to the rim, hinting at the layered concentration this wine carries so effortlessly. Aromas of spicy, dried cherries, five-spice powder, cocoa and cranberry weave amongst fresh strawberries and kirsch liquor. Though nicely dense and full on the palate, the overt richness avoids heaviness with fresh acidity and bright berry fruit flavors that resolve on a long and detailed finish. At once powerful and concentrated, the 2016 maintains the essential elegance and subtlety that defines great Pinot Noir.
2016 Patz N Hall Pinot Noir Chenoweth Ranch
Price: $60.00 Your Price: $52.80
Light smoke toasty oak notes to the raspberry and red cherry berry fruit tea and exotic spices. Big and chewy with lots of zesty acidity and exotic spice with a good amount of tannins and perfumed floral notes through the finish. Finish 45+ Most Excellent
2016 Patz & Hall Pinot Noir Gap's Crown Vineyard
Price: $70.50 Your Price: $62.04
This extremely high altitude vineyard site has a very perfumed bouquet of dark raspberry fruit, pretty violet floral notes and hints of ginger snapes to the nose. This wine has the most rich decadent fruit, black raspberry coulis and an array of pretty violet floral notes and that ginger snap spice through the finish, a big Pinot Noir but still has nice balance and freshness at the end. Finish 50+ Most Excellent +
A bit about Patz & Hall:
he seeds for Patz & Hall were planted in the 1980s when assistant winemaker James Hall and national sales manager Donald Patz struck up a close friendship while working together at Flora Springs Winery and Vineyards. The two discovered a mutual enthusiasm for a rich and compelling style of wine made by applying traditional winemaking techniques to fruit from elite, small vineyards. Inspired to combine their winemaking and sales talents, James and Donald joined with partners Anne Moses and Heather Patz, to establish Patz & Hall in 1988.
To achieve their goal of crafting exceptional limited-production wines, the four founders have each focused their specialized knowledge, expertise and daily attention to different areas of the winery's operations. This integrated, hands-on approach, along with a commitment to developing close personal relationships with a handful of California 's finest growers, has become the cornerstone of the winery's success—allowing Patz & Hall to continually realize the highest levels of quality and consistency.
As national sales director, and one of four founding partners, Donald Patz has spent nearly 20 years building Patz & Hall's reputation for quality, consistency and excellence. A dedicated and visionary individual, Donald brings a comprehensive understanding of Patz & Hall to his role, having gained extensive hands-on expertise in every aspect of the winery's operations. This depth of knowledge, coupled with Donald's belief in developing long-term, mutually rewarding relationships, has helped to earn a place for Patz & Hall on many of the world's great wine lists.
Donald first discovered his passion for wine when he stumbled upon a copy of Hugh Johnson's "World Atlas of Wine," while earning a degree in biology at the University of Oregon in Eugene in the late 1970s. Fascinated by the book's central idea that wine is intrinsically tied to individual regions and vineyards, Donald began actively exploring different wines from around the world. A regular face at local wine shops, Donald was soon asked to become the director of the local Les Amis du Vin wine group, setting up tastings and winemaker dinners. Eager to immerse himself in California's emerging wine scene, Donald moved to Santa Rosa in 1983 and spent two years as a sales manager for a large wine wholesaler, handling key restaurant accounts throughout Northern California.
For three decades, founder and winemaker James Hall has guided the Patz & Hall winemaking program, instilling it with his own boldness, imagination and trademark perfectionism. Combining a belief in great viticulture, traditional winemaking practices, and the judicious use of innovative techniques, James has earned a reputation for crafting dramatic benchmark Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs that balance vibrant power with vineyard-inspired depth and sophistication.
The son of an English professor, who was also a wine enthusiast, James developed an early appreciation for fine wine during travels with his family to Europe in the late 1960s. While studying liberal arts at the University of California, Santa Cruz, James met Anne Moses, and together the two began exploring their shared interest in wine. Although it was not part of his curriculum, James started studying winemaking textbooks in his spare time. Inspired, he transferred to the University of California, Davis, to study viticulture and enology. Eager to experience the hands-on work of winemaking, James took his first winery job at Felton-Empire in 1981, where he was able to learn from renowned winemakers Leo McCloskey and Patrick Mahaney. "Leo was the scientist, obsessed with unraveling the mysteries of wine, Pat was the craftsman, meticulously working with the raw materials. It was a remarkable experience learning these complementary approaches."
In 1983, James joined Napa Valley's Flora Springs Winery and Vineyards as assistant winemaker. There, he spent four years developing his expertise crafting barrel-fermented, small-lot Chardonnays. While at Flora Springs, James struck up a close friendship with sales manager Donald Patz, and the two soon discovered that they shared a similar philosophical approach to wine and winemaking. In the spring of 1988, while working as the winemaker and estate manager for Honig Winery, James teamed up with Donald and Heather Patz, and Anne Moses to make and release Patz & Hall's inaugural Napa Valley Chardonnay.
As Patz & Hall's winemaker for nearly 30 years, James has built lasting relationships with such renowned growers as Larry Hyde, Charlie and Bud Chenoweth, Gary Pisoni and Lee Martinelli to create an acclaimed portfolio of single-vineyard wines. At the same time, he has designed and implemented cutting-edge equipment and procedures, including a custom punch-over device, in an effort to constantly enhance quality. A master of his craft, and a widely respected veteran winemaker, James is regularly asked to speak about artisan winemaking.
The message about the wines of Patz & Hall is resounding, the quality of the wines lies in the dirt where the grapes are grown and that is what they hand their hats on at Patz & Hall winery. One of our favorite vineyard sites in California and one of the best wines of the year for 2008 comes from one of the most unique growers in all of the world, one of the leading Pinot Noir vineyard of the central coast area Pisoni Vineyard.
2019 Prunotto Arneis Roero
Price: $22.50 Your Price: $19.80
This is one of the typical white from the Piedmont and is light and fresh with a slight spritz to the palate and a clean and refreshing finish. Finish 35+
2013 Prunotto Mompertone Monferrato
Price: $15.25 Your Price: $13.42
A blend of 60% barbera and 40% syrah, this is a very unique blend of the piedmont 12 months in small barrique, has some of that pretty floral notes with some black truffle and earthy notes. A nice richness on the tongue with ripe luscious blackberry fruit, has nice freshness and some tannins here, but very drinkable style, with notes of mineral through the finish. Finish 35+ Very Good +
2019 Prunotto Barbera D'Asti Fiulot
Price: $18.75 Your Price: $16.50
This wine is a vivid and intense ruby red in color with a grapey and fruity (plum and cherry) aroma. Grapes grown on light and loose-textured soils and modern oenological techniques which enable producers to obtain and conserve fruit and freshness combine to make this a wine which is very pleasurable in its youth.
2016 Prunotto Pian Romualdo Barbera D'Alba
Price: $30.00 Your Price: $26.40
Vinified since 1961 and this barbera is from a vineyards just ouside of the Barolo DOCG, NW facing so longer to ripen and a good amount of ripe black cherry and plum like fruit, liqueur like richness with some pretty floral notes, cooler climate. A nicely balanced wine on the tongue with a solid core of dark cherry berry fruit and a nice freshness here at the end, pretty floral ntoes and some of that black truffle spice. Very Good +
2017 Prunotto Nebbiolo d Alba Occhetti
Price: $24.25 Your Price: $21.34
A single vineyard nebbiolo from Roero and this wine has a very pretty nose red cherry fruit, perfumed floral notes, rose petal and red licorice spice. Pretty red cherry fruit on the tongue with fine tannins and a nice hand of spice and floral notes on the finish, light chalk, very pretty and quite drinkable but this is a vintage you could keep these entry level wines for 3-5 years easily. Finish 35+ Very Good
2013 Prunotto Barolo Bussia
Price: $95.75 Your Price: $84.26
(94 points) Bright cherry, currant and orange zest flavors are the hallmarks of this elegant red. Linear, tense and persistent through the lingering, minerally and woodsy finish. This is just starting to hit its stride now, but has the energy for a long life ahead. Drink now through 2040. 300 cases imported. (Dec 15 2019) Wine Spectator
2010 Prunotto Barolo Bussia
Price: $82.50 Your Price: $72.60 Quantity in Stock: 11
The first single vineyard bottled in 1961 from the Bussia Vineyard they own 7.5 hectares, they have a separate winery at Bussia to make this wine 4,000 cases of Bussia, this wine has a beautiful bouquet of Cherry liqueur like fruit rose petals and fresh truffles here lots of exotic spices. Excellent structure and depth of fruit here, firm tannins with a long layered finish. Finish 50+ Most Excellent
2016 Prunotto Barbaresco
Price: $36.75 Your Price: $32.34 Quantity in Stock: 8
(94 Points) Delicate floral and red fruit aromas and flavors peek through the eucalyptus, tar and tobacco notes and muscular profile of this red, though it will take some time for them to emerge and occupy center stage. This version is balanced, elegant and long in the end. Best from 2023 through 2040. Wine Spectator
2015 Prunotto Barbaresco Bric Turot
Price: $73.25 Your Price: $64.46
The Bric Turot vineyard in the township of Barbaresco with soils from the Tortonian-Messinian period known as “Sant’Agathaa fossil marls”, rich in elements such as manganese, zinc, and borium. The soils are composed of fine-grained particles which tend to form laminated strata which easily erode (silty marls).
A garnet red wine in color with dark ruby highlights and with a complex nose with notes of liquorice, berry fruit, cinnamon, cloves, and violets. The flavors feature solid and ample tannins and a long finish of ripe fruit. With its full body and significant structure.
A bit about Prunotto
In the council chambers of the community of Serralunga, and in the presence of notary Giacomo Oddero and the young witness Alfred Prunotto, the co-operative winery known as "Ai Vini delle Langhe" ("Of the wines of Langhe") was founded. Amongst those who participated in the drawing up of the constitutional acts, there were individuals who left their mark on the story of Alba and the nearby communities of Langa and many small producers of the surrounding area.
The first harvest took place in 1905. This was followed by several difficult years which suffered from the instability in the economy, aggravated by the first world war. In 1922, when it was time to renew the co-operative winery, many members decided not to contribute their grapes anymore. Thus, although it was an exceptional year, the vintage was not very abundant. The winery started having serious economic problems and was liquidated.
During this crisis, the young Alfredo Prunotto met and then married Luigina, with whom he decided to take over the co-operative winery "Ai Vini delle Langhe", bestowing on it his name. Thanks to the passionate persistence of the newlyweds, the winery became famous very quickly and began to export wines throughout the world: first to South America and then to the United States, whose markets opened up during those years. Prunotto is one of the few companies that believed in the economic prospects of the new world.
In 1956, Alfredo Prunotto decided to retire from the business, giving the company over to his friend and wine expert Beppe Colla, aided by Carlo Filiberti and a bit later by his brother Tino Colla.
In 1961, the Prunotto Cellars began to identify specific production zones noted for growing top-quality grapes appropriate for the separate vinification of individual crus, such as the Barolo Bussia and Barbera d'Alba Pian Romualdo.
In 1972, Ugo della Piana, an architect of langarol origins designed the new wine cellar, which was to be built near Alba, where the company's head offices are today.
In 1989, the Marchesi Antinori family began its collaboration with the Prunotto Company, at first handling distribution and later, in 1994, when the Colla brothers retired, getting directly involved in the production process, maintaining the excellent level of quality which Alfredo Prunotto had always insisted upon.
One of the most important objectives set by the Antinori family together with the Colla brothers, is to produce wines from personally-owned vineyards and therefore to maintain more control over the final product right from birth.
This project was realized in 1990, when Albiera Antinori, Marchese Piero Antinori's oldest daughter, further delineated the character of the winery, paying special attention to the acquisition of vineyards, which include: The Costamiole Vineyard in Agliano, for the production of Barbera d'Asti; the vineyard in the Bussia cru, one of the most well-known in the in the Barolo zone; and land in Calliano, for the study and analysis of the new varietals, i.e. Albarossa and Syrah. In 1996, a vineyard of 5 hectares in size, called "Bric Turot", was acquired in the Barbaresco region; and a 5-hectare vineyard was purchased in the Treiso zone for the production of Moscato.
The Bussia vineyard is one of the most renowned of the Barolo zone, extending across 7.35 hectares and is laid out like an amphitheatre, with a southeast/southwest exposure. A small cru, Bussia Vigna Colonnello, is located in the interior of the vineyard. A red Barolo of grand character originates from this vineyard. This wine expresses all of the peculiarities of this territory, offering intense and persistent aromas. This 2010 Barolo Bussia is from a classic vintage for Barolo, many of the producers that have visited the store over the last few years have been touting the virtues of 2010 and its aging potential. Although the best wines are not very high on the immediate gratification scale, hold on to these wines for a decade and you will be rewarded with a drinking experience that is second to none from the Piedmont.
2019 Antinori Tenuta Guado Al Tasso Vermentino Bolgheri
Price: $19.50 Your Price: $17.16 Quantity in Stock: 2
Vermentino from Tenuta Guado al Tasso is straw yellow in color with greenish highlights. Good intensity on the nose with citrus aromas, citron peel and elderflowers. Its palate has good concentration yet maintains excellent freshness and balance. Its finish is lingering with light citrusy notes.
Two distinct climatic trends, cool temperatures between April and May and hot dry weather through July, marked the 2019 vintage. The slight delay in the vines’ initial vegetative cycle was counterbalanced as the summer season kicked in. An abrupt rise in temperatures favored the formation of light, loose clusters affecting in particular those late-season varieties whose fruit set was not yet complete. August and September brought stable sunny weather that allowed the grapes to complete the ripening phases under optimal conditions. Vermentino was harvested right on schedule from the 15th to the 30th of September; this year’s fruit was slightly more concentrated in terms of dry extract and sugar levels. -antinori.it
2018 Antinori Guado Al Tasso Merlot Cont Ugo Bolgheri
Price: $58.50 Your Price: $51.48
This is 100% Merlot from three parcels and 2011 was the first vintage this wine has a good amount of ripe plum and sweet herbs on the nose, very appealing bouquet. A big and fruity wine with lots of sweet plum and cherry fruit on the tongue plush velvety texture with excellent freshness through the finish wonderful balance and length on the finish. Finish 45+ Excellent +
A bit about Guado Al Tasso:
Antinori is indisputably the greatest name in Italian winedom" said Robert Parker in the December 1989 issue of The Wine Advocate, where Antinori was named one of the world's top twelve wine producers for 1989. Although Parker's opinions carry considerable weight in the world of wine, he is not the first to praise Antinori. In March of 1985 Piero Antinori was the subject of a cover story in The Wine Spectator, where he was dubbed "Chianti's Tastemaker". Alexis Lichine who once said that "Quantity is the enemy of quality" would no doubt find it difficult to accept the fact that one of Italy's largest wine producers (production of the Antinori wines now exceeds well over one million cases annually) is also quite possibly her best!
The family of Piero Antinori has been making wine in Tuscany for over 600 years, but it was not until the early 1970's that the Antinoris began to make an impact on the future of Chianti and the future of Italian wine. Italy's great wine renaissance, now underway for at least twenty years, really began with Antinori. Under the leadership of its dynamic and innovative owner, fifty-five year old Piero Antinori, the Antinori winery sparked and then led Italy's quality revolution. Back in the early 1970's, Americans thought of Chianti as light, acidic simple wines whose outstanding attribute was the finish - i.e. what you did with the bottle (use if for a candle holder) when you were finished. Now Americans and the world are coming to understand that Chianti, especially Chianti Classico, can be as rich and as complex as some of the best Bordeaux and California red wines. Antinori, himself, is a reticent man - reluctant to call himself a trendsetter. When Antinori began making changes in the early 1970's, his peers in Tuscany chastised him and resisted his innovative ideas - they even ridiculed him.
One of Antinori's first innovations was the now famous Tignanello, first commercially produced in 1971. Tignanello is made up mostly of the primary red grape of Chianti, Sangiovese, a small amount of Cabernet Sauvignon (15%) and a tiny amount of Cabernet Franc (5%). Tignanello was a radical departure for those times, for it was one of the first reds ever produced in the Chianti zone without the traditional addition to the blend of a required minimum amount of white wine. This practice as well as a number of other now discredited traditions were the reasons Antinori also quit the Chianti Classico Consortium, the area's growers' association. Antinori said: "We quit because everybody could put the same seal on their bottles as Antinori. And the overall quality of their wines was not good." Antinori believed that the reds of Chianti lacked the body and richness they once had because of changes in viticulture, vinification, and climatic conditions. Even though Antinori considered the 100 year old formula of adding up to 30% white grapes to the Chianti blend established in the 1800's by Barone Ricasoli to be outdated, the rest of Chianti's producers followed it religiously. "We came to the conclusion that it was practically impossible to produce any great wines in Chianti anymore."
Antinori and his winemaker, Giacomo Tachis, began refining his viticultural practices and cut the addition of white grapes to the minimum 10% - their Tignanello innovation junked the white grapes completely and replaced them with 10% Cabernet. Antinori also introduced the concept of barriques - new Bordeaux barrels in which to age the wines. In 1970 Antinori had 25 barrels - now he has over 5000. He claims to be the largest user of small barrels in Italy. Antinori admits that many of these changes were not new to the wine world. He got his ideas from numerous trips to Bordeaux and to California, and Bordeaux's famous enologist, Emile Peynaud, often consulted with him. That Antinori was right and his peers wrong is now established for the record; most of Antinori's former radical ideas are now part of Italy's new DOCG laws.
Antinori's Tignanello continued to grow in stature and international prestige. Recent vintages of Tignanello have been outstanding, and the price has continued to escalate (new vintages have been released in excess of $50 a bottle.) The success of Tignanello has had an enormous impact on other producers in Tuscany - there are now a number of Chianti producers who are experimenting with high priced blends. In addition to Tignanello, Antinori produces an explosively rich and concentrated wine called Solaia, a blend of 75 % Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Sangiovese and 5% Cabernet Franc. In the past year Antinori released his first Cabernet based wine from Bolgheri, Guado al Tasso (where the Badger crosses the road) this wine is a blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot and 10% Syrah, it may become the next Tignanello. Antinori has experience with more grape varietals outside of the thousands of traditional Italian varietals than anyone else in Italy.
Antinori makes several different Chiantis all of which are Chianti Classico, meaning that they all come vineyards located in the historic epicenter of the Chianti region. He used to make a straight Chianti from his Santa Cristina estate, but the ever watchful eye of Piero saw a trend toward varietal popularity in the world market and decided to give the main grape of Chianti its due. Thus, the most inexpensive red wine in the portfolio, Santa Cristina became known as Sangiovese di Toscana (Sangiovese of Tuscany). The other Chiantis are all some of the highest quality wines in their respective price range. The most inexpensive wine is from the Badia a Passignano estate. It is here where the Antinoris carry out many of the viticultural experiments that will take them into the 21st century. When Piero purchased this property back in 1988, he kept the vineyards and use of the monastery cellar, but gave the abbey back to the Vallombrosan monks who had been ousted by the Italian government in the preceding century. As a result, the moks were re-united with their thousand-year old mother-abbey for the first time in 121 years. The next level up is the Chianti from their Villa Antinori estate. This wine was first introduced by Piero’s father Niccolo in 1928 and it has become the benchmark for Chianti Classico Riserva. Like all of his Chiantis and Super Tuscan wines they are only produced in vintages that yield grapes of excellent quality. In 1992, the vintage was so poor the only red wine that Antinori made from his Chianti vineyards was Santa Cristina. Not many people in the wine world are so quality minded- to let their pride stand in front of their checkbook.
One of the newest ventures that Antinori has taken on is an estate bottled wine in Bulgheri, Guado al Tasso, (translated literally- where the Badger crosses the road). Grapes for the Guado are grown at Piero’s Belvedere estate in Maremma where cabernet sauvignon vineyards were originally planted in 1967.
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