A Montalcino Spin on A Tuscan Grand Cru
Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar called Castello Di Ama the "Grand Cru" of Tuscany. Gambero Rosso crowned winemaker, Marco Pallanti, "Oenologist of the year." Antonio Galloni called Pallanti a "true visionary," describing Marco as having "painstaking attention and an uncompromising commitment to quality." And Robert Parker's Wine Advocate? Parker has dropped an unmatched thirteen 95 or higher points on Castello Di Ama, outdistancing every Tuscan estate this side of Brunello di Montalcino.
If you come to Ama, don't bring a tent. You might never leave. This tiny wooded hamlet is nestled among gentle hills. Set at almost 1600 feet in elevation (one of the highest perches in the region), the property is a magnificent tapestry of manicured vineyards and olive trees, all bracketed by lush forest.
Marco Pallanti assumed control of the estate thirty years ago and immediately went about designing one of the more daring viticultural redevelopment projects. After conducting extensive soil studies on each of the undulating hillsides of the property, Pallanti began experimenting with radical V-shaped vertical canopies, designed to push the envelope on ripeness in low density vineyards. Then he took a quiet moment to analyze Sangiovese clones, looking for those that were earliest to mature, all in the hope of nursing extravagant wild berry concentration from his Sangiovese plants.
Ama's most critically acclaimed cuvee is from the single-vineyard "Bellavista," an almost black-fruit take on Classico drawn from a fully exposed 23-hectare vineyard planted 45 years ago. In many ways, more like a modernist's take on Brunello than anything from the commune of Gaiole in Chianti, Pallanti's Bellavista is one of Tuscany's brightest stars.
In most vintages, Castello di Ama's "Riserva" is far 'colder' and more vibrant, more aromatically driven, if far less plush. But in what many in Montalcino are already calling the greatest Brunello vintage of the decade. Pallanti's 2009 "Riserva" seems far more Bellavista than we've ever recalled. As we learned last week, for very good reason.
Parker's Wine Advocate called the 2009 Castello di Ama Riserva "striking," describing "Dark red cherries, flowers, mint, licorice and...fleshy, generosity." But the kicker -- the explanation for why the 2009 "Riserva" speaks so eloquently of "Bellavista's" Montalcino-like extravagance -- came a bit later when Marco Pallanti informed us that every drop of the 45-year-old vine single-vineyard "Bellavista" had been added to the 2009 Riserva!
Brilliant dark ruby to the edge with explosive aromas of black cherry, licorice and sweet Tuscan spices, gently laced with new wood cedar. Rich, warm and voluminous on the attack, packed with juicy crushed red fruits and dark plum, despite the massive concentration of the vintage, the finish remains vibrant, the tannins ripe, yet persistent.