Beach wine: A retrospective

 It’s not a MAGA hat.

It’s not a MAGA hat.

I’m writing from the eye of a hurricane. Violent summer’s end, exclamation point. This essay is not advice, the cheerful looking-forward essay that appears in spring. I’m feeling retrospective. Kicking through the ashes of holiday recently gone by, receding memory.  

Ocracoke island. Like all true sociopaths, our ideal vacation setting was as inaccessible as we could manage with two children in tow. A beach vacation of diminished crowds and radically winnowed access to goods-and-services. Two hours via ferry from the sad tumbledown towns of remote coastal Carolina, three hours in a car through swamp and empty geometric agricultural isolation, without wifi. Past all the Dollar Generals, with a requisite stop at Bojangles: even for Biscuitville, this place is a bridge too far.

I last visited Ocracoke as a teenager, a UNC freshman with a car and a poor understanding of the physics of driving on sand. We ran aground somewhere near Duck, met a helpful carpet-layer with an Econoline van and the time and inclination to tow us from the dunes. Car camping, isolation: the southern outer banks were even more deserted back then. Improbably, my tiny Mazda contained a love triangle, tension for close-quarters travel. My affable, fragile roommate was in love with my “girlfriend” for whom I felt some ambivalence that over time would grow into resentment. She was strongly attached to me. Her willpower was the dominant force in our lives: my wavering and his insecure love blew over like sea grass in its path.

A day late, running on fumes and maxed-out credit cards, we arrived in Ocracoke. It was wonderfully, eerily empty. Quiet, nothing. A meandering collection of old southern houses, gravel roads, a few boats. It was spring. There may have been tourists, I didn’t see them. Not sure exactly where we stayed. The place had an old manual card-swiper, the knuckle-busting kind we still used in power outages at my wine shop decades later.

My return to Ocracoke 19 years later was essentially unmarked by memory. The place was new again. My thoughts of it were less sepia-toned than covered in a layer of dust, faded film left in the light, a window left open for too long. The stages of life had changed. This trip was very intentional, mapped down to the last detail months in advance, ferry schedules pored over and debated, accommodations analysed in detail impossible back in the 20th century, before the internet’s true dawn. I argued successfully to take the Swan Quarter passage, a longer ferry ride across Pamilco Sound that shortened the interminable “are we there yet?” car travel with kids by an hour. As a parent I’m a little tickled by how true-to-stereotype my daughters are inside our station wagon. We’re lucky to be 30 minutes from home when the five-year-old lets fly the first salvo. By Tarboro the unremitting waves of “are we there yet?” have battered us to submission. Crumbling sanity forces a fast food stop. Sweet silence reigns while girls are stuffing their faces with chicken biscuits. And soon we are in the true unknown, marveling at the empty grid lines on the car’s GPS that show us rising vertically into space, taking off into Tron. We count, compare, and award medals for the best abandoned buildings we pass. They are impressive in quantity and level of architectural submission to creeping nature, kudzoo and ceiling beam interwoven, farmhouse and century-old barn peeling away from functionality and joining the organic world. Splintered grey siding yielding to mold, rusted barn tin bent by the wind, reaching into the otherwise unbroken sky above. I see a cluster of men digging a grave, waist deep with shovels, a scene from a different century. We drive along levees between patties of soybean and corn, a horizon that seems tailor-made for flood irrigation and rice. Small commercial fishing boats in various levels of maintenance dot the sound-side water. We arrive in Swan Quarter, a moviescape of emptiness dwarfed by a clean modern administrative complex and courthouse. Megan has been here before, for a traffic violation (not hers.) The only other movement is at the ferry terminal, and all signs funnel us to its lanes. They skirt close to stating, “there is nothing else here for you. Only this. Don’t delay, or look too closely.” A pet chicken roams around the terminus. People are relaxed, helpful. My girls make a fast friend who days later we’ll see on the beach. On the other side of the sound, where we belong.

My long absence is not the reason I misread the supply situation. In 1994 I had no need for fancy food and wine, for kid-appropriate fare, for comforts. We had a tent and sleeping bags. Maybe snacks, possibly beer, maybe not. In haste to arrive an hour early for our ferry, we forgot to pick herbs from our garden. But the wholesale absence of produce on the island didn’t sink in until we landed. Ocracoke has the best seafood in North Carolina, thanks to the working fishermen’s co-op in the center of town. And we needed it! Just-caught giant shrimp, yellowfin tuna, swordfish, scallops, sea trout, perfect seafood displaced all other sources of calories in our week offshore. Except ice cream. And pasta.

And wine! There are two places to buy wine in Ocracoke. I thought I’d brought a week’s-worth with us. I radically underestimated the effects of exile and separation from quotidian labor on my rate of wine consumption. We’d drained our cellar by Tuesday, and had to pick up bottles from the island’s shops.

Here’s my wine diary from the trip. I hope it can be both a guide and a cautionary tale. We had top-notch family time, great meals, I came home happy and a little tan. But a wine professional ought to do better when planning for all-important vacation meals. It’s my job to make good wine for meals (special and everyday) appear. Perhaps I stumbled.

Day 1: Drink all the good stuff.

I have no patience. Or, what patience I had died roadside hours ago. I rush out, buy two pounds of huge shrimp, and made a lemony, delicious chitarra pasta. The utter lack of vegetables hasn’t dawned on me yet. We eat on the porch, and drink glasses of Thierry Germain Insolite. The wine is so good I am momentarily distracted from the fact that our rental house is surrounded with small cemeteries full of Spanish moss and 19th century graves.

Megan accurately describes our bedroom for the week as decorated in the style of the Black Lodge in Twin Peaks. Not the ideal refuge from ghosts. At least it’s on the second floor. Ghosts can’t climb stairs. Everyone knows that.

Day 2: The day we all burn.


Whew, that was creepy. From now on, I’ll stay inside after dark. A few hours at the beach will burn off the ghostly haze. And the top layer of my skin. Away from the lifeguard beach you can walk for miles, alone with your thoughts, the only sign of civilization being literal signs instructing one not to stomp on the buried sea turtle eggs, or set the beach on fire. It is peaceful. The white noise of waves is at perfect decibel level to drown out the omnipresent chatter of a 10-year-old. So many questions! What am I, a marine biologist? Ask a research device how all this stuff got here. I’m thinking about dinner.

Several hours being battered by waves and sun will stir up an appetite! A three-story fig tree in the backyard is full of fruit on the leading edge of ripeness. I implore my fig-mad kids to leave them for just a day longer. To no avail. It’s true: the birds won’t wait. We feast, then feast again on yellowfin tuna sashimi and scallops. From the moment I lay eyes on it in the seafood co-op, every primal fiber of my being wants to gorge on the tuna. It is otherworldly, vivid, glistening. I struggle not to push the woman in line in front of me to the ground to procure this maddeningly perfect meat. I rush home, do some quick You Tube research, and begin slicing. We serve a bottle of Roulot Bourgogne Blanc with dinner, knowing full well that our meal has crossed a threshold. It is obscenely delicious. One day we may have to stand trial for our crimes.

Day 3: We venture out in search of the worst meal of the year.

Hello, Cap’n! Ahoy! Do you have a fryer, and a bottomless pit of frozen margarita mix? We’ll, we’re at the beach, this must be our spot to day drink and watch the seagulls rip fish heads to shreds just yards from where we dine. Ooh, tarter sauce with our hush puppies and fries: a local delicacy!

It rains. We abandon the beach in search of kid-friendly lunch fare. Cooking every meal in our ghost house is already getting onerous. We sit outside on a covered patio and suffer a little spray from the wind and rain. But it’s fine! We’re having fun. The kids love the pelicans, and I’m content with the gut-bomb fare. The bluefish seems fresh. Nothing wrong with a sprinkling of mediocrity in our holidays. Thank you, tequila!

Day 4: Penance.

I go for a run along highway 12. It is straight, flat, dunes on both sides, marked only by telephone poles. The occasional couple on rented bikes glide by. I sweat, give thanks to Neptune for the cloud cover and constant wind. Tedium. It’s nature’s treadmill out here.

Next up: shrimp and grits! Megan brought some beautiful foraged mushrooms from the Duke farmer’s market. Our summer tomato supply is dwindling. The last wine from home is gone. We buy the most promising locally-available options. Prices are high, but considering where we are, you can’t complain. Note Blanche from Domaine Franck Pesson is the realest-looking French wine on the island. It eases our transition into the next stage of our holiday, watching the random VHS tapes scattered around the rental. E.T. is up first. I’ve never seen it. It is heartwarming. The wine, like the film, has no rough edges. A pleaser.

Day 5: Ambling about. Sea trout.

We go for a walk. After four days in the waves, the girls are sick of the sight of the beach. Luckily, Ocracoke is pretty walkable, if you don’t mind dodging those infernal golf carts people roll around in. It’s flat. Able-bodied adults who refuse to stroll around a tiny flat island community but instead have to introduce beat-up country club transport to the small roads and paths we traverse… I look askance at these people. I glare, sometimes at their walrus abdomens. We walk. The girls grump. But they like the lighthouse, and the maritime forest, where we see a snake. They play games. Fiona brings along Baby Jaguar, and takes holiday photos with her beloved pet. At night we eat sea trout and orzo and tomatoes. The pasta selection on Ocracoke is small. The girls love orzo. To me it’s disappointing rice. We watch Young Frankenstein. Less successful than E.T. Too much kissing for the girls. I’ve never been into Mel Brooks. It’s quotable for sure. It’s like the bible: kids should be exposed to it, but I don’t believe.

 Astrid is more Monty Python than Mel Brooks.

Astrid is more Monty Python than Mel Brooks.

A truly wretched Verdicchio mars this evening for me.

Day 6: I get a blister.

Shirtless and shoeless on the beach for five miles. The sea is angry, I pass a few dogs and soul surfers, but otherwise I revel in cool spray, the search for firm-enough sand, the realization that I’m in a national park, alone. At the end of the day we get ice cream. I get a strawberry parfait. I deserve it.

Sandcastles are constructed. We all are sensing the finish line. I make mahi with chitarra pasta and every last sad scrap of produce I can muster from the community store. We drink Heitz Grignolino rose. It’s fruity, bright, a really nice return to form after the previous evening’s worst-case Verdicchio.

Our last real wine, and the only red of the trip, is Clos Roche Blanche cuvee pif. The correct number of reds to bring to the beach may be zero. I always sneak down one or two, and they sit forlorn until all options are exhausted. This throwback from the final vintage at CRB is all the good things when served at 55 degrees. We watched Splash. The girls found it to be a frustrating film. Lots of questions. I’m wondering if we should get a VCR again.

Maybe they are best left for vacations.

Jay Murrie
Chianti Blind Tasting July 2018
Chianti Blind Tasting photo.jpg
Chianti Blind Tasting end.jpg

Megan says I go to a dark place before major events. She cites correlative evidence but I don’t feel any connection: maybe I’m too close to know. Anyway, I stayed in bed, uncommunicative, until 2pm on the day before our Chianti Blind tasting at the warehouse. I was profoundly incapable of rising. Megan read the situation and jumped ship for the farmer’s market and a small-scale construction project, finishing a tree house in her parent’s backyard. I lay motionless and fully clothed in a room that was warm and still, aware and unconcerned with physical discomfort.

When I rose it was with a purpose. I decided to shower because being dirty isn’t cool, I dressed in all black to fit my mood, and I set out for the office. My car is a big dirt bomb littered with packing peanuts and granola bar wrappers, detritus and filth. It’s not cool, either, but I’m not tethered to it and anyway the thing takes longer to clean. The office was soothing: grey, organized, clean. Filtered light, no noise, no motion. When did chaos become the enemy? I posture like I’m on the side of chaos, in reality I find it profoundly upsetting. I need distance from sound, light, distraction. I need space to think.

A blind tasting is an attempt to remove chaos and distraction from the playing field, leaving only the essential things, flavor, color, aroma, and texture on the table. The absence of codes, markers, aesthetic presets, the void permits more ruminative and creative thought about what our senses are being presented with in these crumpled brown paper bags. Twenty-eight brown paper bags, casually linked by the word Chianti.

In some part due to my torpor preceding the tasting, the final hours had to be focused, on task. I wrote two pages of discussion topics to be distributed pre-tasting, and six pages of producer notes to be handed out once the sipping and spitting was done. I baked a pasta. I set up tables and chairs, bought glasses and more Chianti, 11th hour additions to the crowded field. Bread, cheese, crackers, plates, water pitchers, minutiae. Unthinking time. Chugging through a to-do list.

If your life contains events such as these, you’ll recognize that by the time you reach this stage, the tablecloths-and-flowers stage, the event is really over. There’s nothing substantive that you can do to change its direction, short of having a meltdown or a moment of unlikely epiphany. Once the first participants found our front door (no small feat, I’d forgotten to send out the gate code to unlock the warehouse complex) my stress level/threat index descended a couple of color bars, my core reactor temperature returned to the normal range, and I settled into jokey small talk and the realization that no matter what type of event I was attempting to stage, this is the one we’ve got, and it’s time to roll with it.

Parsing nuances between soundly made red wines from more-or-less the same place, made from more-or-less the same grapes, is pretty f-ing hard. When it comes to long professional tastings this ain’t my first rodeo, and I’ve spent many days on the ground in Chianti in recent years, but… I need a guard rail. The benefits of tasting without preconceptions for me were probably outweighed by the hinderance of tasting without context. I set up this tasting to learn about the terroir of Chianti. I chose clusters of wines from the distinct sub-zones of greatest interest to wine nerds (ok me.) I picked a variety of production styles and types of wineries, but kept it to producers relevant to the discussion “what is Chianti.” Small innovators, large shippers with solid reputations, new age farming zealots, affluent and established boutique wineries. 

The process was taxing. Everyone took breaks. Still, getting through the last eight wines took an eternity. In the final stretch I had to taste most wines multiple times because my senses were shutting down. Other participants talked about the need to nap, and it wasn’t simply alcohol: we were spitting. It was exhaustion, overload: our taste buds had packed up and gone home for the day.

A cluster of participants newer to this nonsense didn’t even try to taste all 28 wines. Smart. Know when the opportunity to learn has ceased.

I learned a thing or two. At the end of the day the wine I wanted with my dinner wasn’t one of the cool kids. In hindsight, I found the iconic wines in the line-up underwhelming, the natural wines were interesting and relatively easy to pick out, and the more “industrial” stuff was less offensive flavor-wise than I expected it to be. Hollow maybe, in some places too polished, but not gross.

Here are my notes on the wines. They aren’t profound. Stopping reading at this point might be a sound decision. My tasting notes follow the estate name, the rest is background info that I handed out at the end of the event, for discussion/context.

Producer notes:

#1: 2013 Nipozzano Chianti Rufina Riserva – Woodsy, lightweight, hollow mid-palate, clipped finish.

Source: Total Wine
From: Rufina

Key fact: A longstanding member of the external Chianti consortium, Frescobaldi make Chianti Rufina at their headquarters in Nipozzano, near Pontesieve, 35km north of Florence. They are an ancient family of Florentine aristocrats, and fierce rivals of the Antinoris.

90% Sangiovese and 10% other varieties (Malvasia Nera, Colorino, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Aged for 24 months in French barrique.

#2: 2014 Frascole Chianti Rufina – Much more aromatically intense. Animal, lots of length and intensity.
Source: Chambers St. Wines
From: Dicomano, Rufina

Key facts: Fifteen hectares of high-density, low-yield hand harvested fields (and 9ha of olives.) A small, family-owned and operated farm that's been practicing organic agriculture since 1998. The vineyards are 500m above sea level. 90% Sangiovese, 5% Canaiolo, 5% Colorino. Clay loam marl soils. Vineyards planted in 1970, 1996, and 1998. Indigenous yeast fermentation in steel and concrete tanks. Half the wine is aged for 12 months in French barrique.  

#3: 2013 Fattoria Castellina Chianti Montalbano – Smells real. Smoky, stony. Real good.
Source: sample sent by the estate

From: Capraia e Limite/Montalbano
Key facts: Four hectares of certified biodynamic Sangiovese planted to a density of 4,000 plants per hectare. South-facing vineyard, 250m above sea level, sandy soils. Aged for 12-18 months in big neutral barrels.

#4: 2015 Fattoria Castellina Chianti Montalbano – Alive, bright, fresh red fruit. Clean, delicate.
Source: sample sent by the estate
From: Capraia e Limite/Montalbano

Key Fact: Elisabeta Montomoli and her daughter run this estate with the help of oenologist Ivan Chirico. It’s a coastal vineyard area: on a clear day you can see the Tuscan coast from this hillside.

#5 2012 Fattoria Castellina Terra e Cielo Older. Caramel. Madeira. Still alive, but to be drunk soon. High toned.
Source: sample sent by the estate
From: Capraia e Limite/Montalbano

Key facts: This alberello-trained vineyard is plowed using a draft horse. It’s from a .6ha vineyard with limestone/sand soil. 100% Sangiovese aged in French Tonneau for 20 months.

#6 2015 Ruffino Aziano Chianti Classico – More chocolate. A little strange texturally – acidified?
Source: Total Wine
From: Poggibonsi
Key facts: 80% Sangiovese, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Aged for 11 months in stainless steel and four months in bottle. From disparate vineyard sources around the Chianti Classico zone, including purchased fruit. Owned by the Folonari family, Ruffino are historically significant and powerful wine merchants who started acquiring vineyards in Chianti Classico and elsewhere over the latter half of the 20th century.

#7: 2014 Corzano e Paterno Terre di Corzano Chianti – Red fruit and flint. Light/delicate.
Source: sample sent by the estate
From: San Casciano in val di Pesa

Key facts: Certified organic. 90% Sangiovese, 10% Canaiolo. Manual harvest from the 24 September until the 7th of October. Ageing in used barriques and 25hl and 40 hl oak barrels for 12 months. 29,000 bottles produced. Family owned, estate-bottled on a farm that also produces sheep’s milk cheese and monovarietal olive oil.

#8: 2015 Corzano e Paterno Terre di Conzano Chianti – Ripe/round. Fresh/bright, some tannin. Source: sample sent by the estate
From: San Casciano in val di Pesa

Kay facts: Certified organic. 90% Sangiovese, 10% Canaiolo. Manual harvest from the 21 September to the 1st of October. Aged 50% in French barrique and 50% large barrels (25hl.) The estate has 17ha of vineyard and produces 80,000 bottles of wine annually.

#9: 2015 Corzano e Paterno I Tre Borri Sangiovese Toscana – More garnet/purple color. Transparent. An odd aroma. More sweet fruit on the finish.
Source: sample sent by the estate
From: San Casciano in val di Pesa
Key facts: Certified organic. Sangiovese 100% Manual harvest between the 21st and the 30th of September. Fermentation in small 10 hl containers. Aged in barriques and 25hl barrels for 23 months. 8,900 bottles produced. Corzano’s vineyards are 300m above sea level,  and south-southeast facing. I Tre Borri is their bottling of the best Sangiovese vineyard from a given vintage.

#10: 2016 Montesecondo Rosso Toscana – Funky animal red cherry candy.
Source: The Caviste
From: Cerbaia/Vignano (San Casciano)
Key facts: Organic since 2003. Biodynamic methods. Native yeast fermentation in concrete and amphora. Low sulfur. 100% Sangiovese grown on clay-limestone soils.

#11: 2015 Antinori Peppoli Chianti Classico – Mid-weight with some tannin. Good clarity/accessibility.
Source: Total Wine
From: San Casciano in val di Pesa
Key facts: Peppoli was purchased by the powerful merchant Antinori family in the 1980s. It is a 100 hectare (247 acre) farm in the center of Chianti Classico, half of which is planted to vine. Fermented in temperature-controlled stainless steel (26-28C.) It is aged for nine months in large Slavonian oak casks.

#12: 2015 Castello di Ama Chianti Classico – Pleasant. Bright.
Source: Parker & Otis
From: Gaiole in Chianti
Key facts: A historic estate that was resuscitated by Roman investors in the 1970s. Sixty-five hectares (161 acres) of vines grown using open lyre trellising at 480 meters above sea level. 40ha of olives. Marco Pallanti of Castello di Ama was head of the Chianti Classico consortium. This estate-bottled wine is sourced from four vineyards, with vines averaging 8-10 years in age. These modern clones are planted at a density of 5,200 vines per hectare.

#13: 2012 Montevertine – Easy. Good.
Source: Table Wine
From: Radda in Chianti
Key facts: Montevertine sits three kilometers from Radda in the heart of the Chianti zone. The estate has been in existence since the 11th century. Sergio Manetti, father of current proprietor Martino Manetti, purchased the 10-hectare property in 1967. All wine at this estate is hand harvested, never pumped but instead moved using gravity, and bottled without filtration.

#14: 2015 Monteraponi Chianti Classico – Funky. Reductive.
Source: Wine Authorities
From: Radda in Chianti
Key facts: The winery extends over an area of 200 hectares set in a natural amphitheater, which is exposed to the south and sheltered from the north winds. The vineyards are spread over 12 hectares, the olive trees over 8 hectares, while the remaining area is covered with towering, ancient oaks and chestnut trees. Harvesting, which usually begins in early October, is done by hand.

#15: 2015 Vignavecchia Chianti Classico Ripe red fruit “classic” Sangiovese aromas. Nice balance.
Source: sample sent by the estate
From: Radda in Chianti
Key facts: 90% Sangiovese and 10% Merlot. Aged in French and American barrels for two months. Family-owned since 1840. Vineyards are 500m above sea level.

#16: L2016 Caparsa Rosso di Caparsa – Very clean approachable aromas. Some candied red fruit.
Source: sample sent by the estate
From Radda in Chianti
Key facts: Certified organic Soil type: Alberese, Galestro, clay, sand
Elevation: 450m Grapes: Sangiovese, Trebbiano and Malvasia
method of fermentation: Spontaneous with indigenous yeasts for about 12 days. Aged in cement tanks. Bottles made: 5,333

#17: 2013 Pruneto Chianti Classico – Darker red color. Tannin. Seems intense and good.Source: sample sent by the estate
From: Radda in Chianti
Farmed Organically
Soil type: Galestro, a friable schist mixed with chalk.
Elevation: 550 meters above sea level
Grapes: 95-100% Sangiovese
Method of fermentation: Hand picked, destemmed, fermented with native yeasts in concrete tanks then aged in very large neutral oak for two years then two years in the bottle before release. 833 cases produced.

#18: 2014 Gabbiano Chianti Classico – Seems legit.
Source: Total Wine
From: Panzano in Chianti
Key facts: A 147ha property surrounding an 12th century castle. Certified sustainable farming. Ninety percent Sangiovese, the rest is Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Petit Verdot , Colorino, and Malvasia. Temperature-controlled fermentation in tank, followed by 8-10 months of ageing in 15-50hl French oak casks.

#19: 2015 Monte Bernardi Retromarcia Chianti Classico – Fresh dark fruit. Some tannin, balance.
Source: Chambers St. Wines
From: Panzano in Chianti
Key facts: Nine and a half hectares of vineyards at 350m above sea level in southernmost Panzano that look down on the Pesa river. Organic farming. Ninety-five percent Sangiovese, three percent Merlot, two percent Canaiolo Nero.

#20: 2014 Monte Bernardi Chianti Classico straw basket – Red fruit. Tasty.
Source: Chambers St. Wines
From: Panzano in Chianti

Key facts: Owner Michael Schmetzler favors 1980’s clones of Sangiovese with larger, slower-to-ripen grapes with thin skins. Low-density plantings, close to the regional minimum. Schmetzler harvests variably ripe fruit and doesn’t use a sorting table. He uses large oval German and Austrian oak casks for fermentation and aging.

#21: 2015 Castello dei Rampolla Chianti Classico – Tastes a little more oxygen exposed. Older barrels maybe? Tastes old school.
Source: Chapel Hill Wine Co.
From: Panzano in Chianti

Key facts: Sangiovese, Cabernet and Merlot. Aged for eight months in concrete tank, 12 months in barrel and six months in bottle. 25-40,000 bottles made annually. Biodynamic farming practices are used at the estate. Owned by the di Napoli family since the 1960s.

#22: 2015 Le Masse di Lamole Chianti Classico – Approachable. Some dark fruit. I gave this a star (about as good a rating as I give.)
Source: Raleigh Wine Shop
From: Lamole

Key facts: vinified in steel without temperature control. From high elevation bush vines, organically farmed. Aged in 100-year-old 15-25hl chestnut barrels. The soil is Macigno, which is compressed sandstone (arenaria in Italian) with traces of Silicon. 95% Sangiovese, 5% Malvasia Nera. Wild yeast fermentation, 1,200 cases made.

#23: 2015 Fattoria Rodano Chianti Classico – Smoky/funky aromas.
Source: Parker & Otis
From: Castellina
Key facts: The estate was purchased by Enrico Pozzesi’s family in 1958. Today he is agronomist in his family’s 34ha of vineyards. The farm is 250m above sea level, with mostly clay soil. The wine is 90% Sangiovese, 5% Canaiolo, 5% Colorino, matured for two years in Slavonian oak casks.

#24: 2015 Felsina Chianti Classico – Distinctly green pea aroma. Herbaceous. Underripe.
Source: Parker & Otis
From: Castelnuovo Berardenga
Key facts: Southwestern exposure, 320-420m above sea level. Roughly a mile north of Castelnuovo Berardenga. Alberese and alluvial pebble soils. Fermented in temperature-controlled stainless steel, followed by 12 months in Slavonian oak. 100% Sangiovese, 5,400 vines per hectare. Harvested in the first three weeks of October.

#25: 2014 Lecci e Brocchi Chianti Classico – Seems nice. Light, Balance. Typical.
Source: Chambers St. Wines
From: Castelnuovo Berardenga
Key facts: Run by second-generation winemakers Sabrina Lastrucci, her husband Giancarlo, and young son Giovanni. Vines are planted at 420m above sea level on ferrous red soil (akin to Galestro) to the east of Castelnuovo Berardenga. Two hectares of vineyard. Bush-trained alberello vines, Sangiovese, Malvasia Nera and Canaiolo. Winemaking in concrete, stainless steel, and old barrels. Lecci e Brocchi are in the process of being certified organic. Very old vines.

#26: 2013 Monsanto Chianti Classico Riserva – Weird. Also has some Cab herbiness (no Cab in this: ha! -ed.) Not what I expected.
Source: Total Wine
From Barberino
Key facts: 90% Sangiovese, 10% Canaiolo and Colorino. Vinified in stainless steel and aged for 12 months in 50hl Slavonian oak. Owned by the Bianchi family since 1961. The vineyards are 310 meters above sea level facing San Gimignano to the west. Galestro soils.

#27: 2015 Montenidoli Il Garrulo Chianti colli Senesi – Natural. Old school. Traditional. I like it.
Source: Raleigh Wine Shop
From: San Gimignano
Key facts: Elisabetta Fagiuoli moved to this estate in 1965. Il Garrulo" refers to the noisy chirping of birds in general, similar to happy diners enjoying wine, and to Garrulus, a particular bird that walks on the winery’s roof in winter. This estate practices organic farming methods. At Montenidoli, all the fruit is harvested by hand in small baskets to minimize damage to the ripe grape clusters. Harvest usually starts in late September or early October. The vines are east-facing, are planted perpendicular to the slope, in line with an old stream bed, for correct drainage. In 41 years they have never used an herbicide. Elisabetta writes, "We do not use insecticides; the vineyards are aglow with fireflies by night and dancing with ladybugs by day."

#28: 2015 Pietralta Chianti – Smells good. Red fruit. Lean. Good.
Source: sample sent by the estate
From: Gambassi Terme
Key facts: Organic farming, 350m above sea level in stony clay soil. Ninety percent Sangiovese, five percent Canaiolo, five percent Colorino. Vinified in temperature-controlled stainless steel and aged in enamel-lined cement tanks, 12 months in tank and three in bottle before release. 5,000 bottles produced.











Jay Murrie