Credit must be given to the Frescobaldi family for having kept on making their top Montesodi wine as a Chianti Rufina rather than adding cabernet and joining the Super-Tuscan ranks. "It was a decision that cost us immensely," owner Lamberto Frescobaldi told me. "You need to remember that there was a time 15 or 20 years ago when you couldn't give Chianti away, and this wasn't even a Classico! But we felt we needed to keep up the name of Rufina and have people become more and more aware of the great potential of this sub-area." Frescobaldi's wines are some of the darker and more modern wines made in Chianti-something true of their Brunello as well.
Also recommended: 2005 Castiglioni Chianti (85). (Folio Fine Wine Partners, Napa, CA)
($28; a blend of pinot noir, sangiovese and merlot) Light to medium ruby. Strawberry, hazelnut and orange zest aromas are lifted by ripe acids that give the nose an impression of energy. An elegantly styled, lighter wine with fruity flavors of strawberry and redcurrant and considerable tannic bite on the back. Finishes fresh and moderately long. Pomino was once among the most famous of all wine-producing areas of Tuscany-long considered the equal of Chianti, if not even better.
($23) Fairly dark ruby. Subdued but pure nose hints at spicy plum, ink, coffee and sweet underbrush. A saline quality and a peppery nuance add to this wine's overall flavor interest. Boasts a rather seamless texture and suave tannins and finishes moderately long if not yet particularly complex. Needs a little bottle aging to show all it's got.
($45) Dark ruby. Intense aromas of black cherry and black plum, tinged with ink, smoke and espresso. Very rich yet nicely delineated flavors of bitter chocolate-covered currant, coffee liqueur and smoked meat. Offers a luscious mouth feel but comes across as a bit chunky at present, even if the tannins are fine. This needs time in bottle to gain in length and express its considerable potential.
($50; a blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot and cabernet franc) Deep ruby-black. Captivating aromas of black cherry, balsamic vinegar and coffee. Pliant in texture, with dark berry, bitter cocoa and balsamic vinegar flavors. This smooth if rather obvious wine is made in an international style. Finishes with moderate nuance and length.