2001 Poggio al Sole Seraselva

Poggio al Sole Seraselva When we were in Florence this winter, one of our hosts said that his family wanted to have us over one night for dinner. They lived about an hour outside of Florence in a tiny village called Tavernelle. "It's not much, just vineyards and olive orchards," he apologized. "Hmmm," I thought, "couldn't be the same Tavernelle as Poggio al Sole, could it?" Turns out it was. "Tavernelle's changed since I lived here," he warned us as we climbed the last hill and rolled into town. "This whole valley's been bought by Germans, who use the villas as vacation homes. My parents just sold theirs and moved into a new condo." He decided that he needed a drink before seeing his family, so we stopped at a cafe on Tavernelle's main square for aperitifs. As we piled out of the car, he joked that we'd be the only Italians in the place. Sure enough, we shared the cafe with vacationing Germans.

Second-generation winemaker Johannes Davaz isn't from Tavernelle, either. Originally, he worked for his father in the family's Swiss vineyards and wine cellar before going to college to study enology. Years later, when the Davaz family took over the Poggio al Sole estate, Johannes (now known locally as "Giovanni") undertook the responsibility of overseeing the new venture, and he moved there with his wife and kids.

Poggio al Sole, which means "sun-facing hill" in Italian, is situated on 37 acres of a south-facing ridge in Tavernelle. In keeping with tradition, many of the village's longtime residents still help out with the annual harvest; but since Davaz took over in the early 1990s, he's transformed Poggio al Sole into a state-of-the-art winery with modern equipment and a temperature-controlled wine cellar. Poggio al Sole was known for its excellent Chianti Classico, so Davaz was initially reluctant to plant Bordeaux varietals on his hill in Tuscany. But he can't argue with the results: Seraselva, his Merlot-Cabernet Sauvignon blend, has won over critics in Italy and around the world, the latter being all the more impressive given the fact that Davaz only makes a few hundred cases of the wine each year.

The 2001 Seraselva is a full-bodied, Merlot-Cabernet Sauvignon blend with rich black currant flavors that are beautifully integrated with the wine's solid structure. Drink now-2010.