Owner Paolo de Marchi is one of those gifted winemakers who excels with any grape type he touches. His roster of wines includes a great Italian chardonnay (no, that's not an oxymoron), some of the top cabernet sauvignons and syrahs, stellar Chianti, fine Vin Santo and a sangiovese Super-Tuscan called Cepparello that is always one of the best. You might not know that the latter bottling, though usually mentioned as a pure sangiovese, actually contains up to 8% of cabernet in less than great vintages. And if you don't believe me when I say the man's a genius with just about any grape variety, try his attempt at nebbiolo with the Lessona wines he makes at his new estate in Piedmont (Proprieta Sperino). They're mind-blowingly good.

2005 Isole e Olena Chianti Classico

($25) Dark ruby. Perfumed nose of red cherry and strawberry is clean and fresh. Boasts copious floral, minty red berry and red cherry flavors of lovely purity, with a smooth yet vibrant texture nicely firmed by an edge of acidity. Very fine entry-level Chianti.

90

2004 Isole e Olena Chianti Classico

($22): Medium-dark ruby. Dark cherry, tobacco, wet earth and spices on the rather broad nose. Offers flavors of blackcurrant, black pepper and all-spice, with balsamic minty and coffee elements emerging. Not hugely complex but the intriguing herbal note offers considerable interest. Finishes with mounting tannins and moderate length.

87

2004 Isole e Olena Cepparello Toscana Rosso

(100% sangiovese) Medium saturated ruby. Pretty, floral aromas of red berries and spicy plum, with faint leather and bitter chocolate notes. Round and silky on the palate, but seems to be a bit low on acidity. Finishes with substantial chewy tannins and good length. This really needs time to come together.

89(+?)

2003 Isole e Olena Cepparello Toscana Rosso

($55) Deep ruby. Deep, clean aromas of floral underbrush, smoky plum and grilled meat. Wonderfully concentrated wine with near-confectionery fruit flavors further sweetened by a hint of chocolatey oak and complicated by Mediterranean herbs. The lush, dense texture is firmed up by an edge of acidity. Finishes extremely long and rich.

93

2003 Isole e Olena Syrah Collezione De Marchi

($48) Ruby-black color. Ripe but bright aromas of black plum, black pepper and smoked meat. Then sweet and fresh in the mouth, with intense berry liqueur flavors mixed up with leather and black truffle. This is velvety and thick but also nicely delineated and fresh. Finishes with suave tannins and excellent length.

90

1999 Isole e Olena Vin Santo del Chianti Classico

($45) Medium golden-amber color. Sweet, fresh aromas of peach, honeyed dried apricot and hazelnut are pure and penetrating. Very fine acidity gives rare lift to the hazelnut, peach and white chocolate flavors. This outstanding sweet wine, which mercifully is made in decent quantity, finishes extremely complex and long. (Sussex Wine Merchants, Moorestown, NJ; The Country Vintner, Oilville, VA)

93
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