I recently attended an Italian wine tasting at my favorite local wine shop, Tower Wines, and was blown away by the elegant Brunello wines that we tasted. The event was led by the incredibly charismatic Luciano Castiello of Castello Banfi and even if I had just listened to him and not tried a single wine, I would have fallen in love with the wines of Montalcino.
The story of Castello Banfi is reminiscent of the American dream, which is ironic since this is an Italian winery. The family that owns Castello Banfi, the Marianis, are American and made a fortune in the importing business before relocating to Tuscany to start a winery. They are pioneers in their adopted region, and have been very generous when it comes to sharing ideas and techniques with their neighbors about how to grow the best Sangiovese in Montalcino. As a result, the family is very respected and admired in their community. It is always nice to hear stories about businesses where the owners continue to treat their neighbors and competitors kindly even after reaching a certain level of success.
Castello Banfi owns properties across Italy, but the wines at this event were primarily those grown in the Montalcino region of Tuscany. The portfolio of Sangiovese based wines produced by this winery is broad, and includes several outstanding wines. My favorites included:
1. The 04 “Poggio Alle Mura” Brunello di Montalcino ($80). This wine was elegant, earthy and rich with a variety of aromas from cherries to blackberries to chocolate. This is one of those wines that you savor over the course of dinner and marvel at how it evolves in the glass.
2. The 06 version of the wine listed above ($90). Even with two years less of age, this wonderfully earthy wine evoked mushrooms, chestnuts and tobacco. This wine will likely continue to improve with time but it is pretty darn tasty now. This was a great vintage in Montalcino so good things are likely to happen with this wine.
3. The 04 “Poggio All’Oro” Brunello di Riserva ($135). This is the creme de la creme and while it is very pricey, it is also very apparent that this truly is the reserve wine of the portfolio. It is like butter; it is velvety smooth and elegant. This wine is only made in outstanding vintages and it aged a minimum of five years before release. If you get a change to try this wine, do not pass up the chance.
Tower had an incredible spread as usual, and this time opted for more dinner-type fare. It was delicious, and while I love a cheese and charcuterie plate as much as the next girl, it was a much healthier set of options. It was like we tasted the wines over dinner.
The tasting was informative and fun, and we got to try some really amazing wines. I highly recommend the wine events at Tower. I have been to three of them now and have had a memorable time at each event.