A 94pt Super Tuscan Rockstar
Gordon Sumner grew up outside of Newcastle, England, and like most of his schoolboy mates, was weaned on ale. The first gigs were local, bookings consummated with handshakes. The pay was paltry, but dinner and beer were on the house.
But as the band's popularity grew, Sumner landed performing contracts from Paris to Rome. The Police were on fire. Invariably, after an encore or two, when Gordon returned to his dressing room, he'd find gifts from fans and well-wishers. More often than not, among those gifts were bottles of French and Italian wine. Sumner didn't know a thing about wine, so he gave those bottles to his roadie friend who began building a collection that included vintages of Chateau Petrus, Pichon Lalande and Biondi Santi Brunello.
Our WineAccess jobs don't pay that well, but you can't beat the perks. For the last four years, we've been graciously invited into cellars that wealthy collectors can only dream of visiting. We've enjoyed languorous afternoons in front of horizontal and vertical lineups, trading vintage war stories with the powers that be at Harlan Estate, Bond, Vineyard 7 & 8 and Ramey. Our Meadowood bungalow, nestled in the woods just east of St. Helena, is always beckoning. But none of those venues would hold a candle to the sounds, story, and sun-dappled beauty of the Tuscan patio owned by a musician named Gordon Sumner at birth -- but who the rest of the world knows as Sting.
The oversized chess board was solid marble, the King and Queen towering over sixteen pawns. The music featured one of rock 'n roll's most unforgettable voices, singing "Sister Moon," a fitting accompaniment to the Sicilian Defense. The wine that bore the name of the song is purple black, infused with blackberry and crushed red fruit preserves, tinged with sweet Tuscan herbs, laced with new French cooperage vanilla. The story that followed would trump it all.
The more The Police toured France and Italy, the larger Sting's bass technician, Danny Quatrochi's collection became. Little by little, Quatrochi became an enthusiast, reading about his wines before popping corks. It wouldn't take long before Sting's roadie became his wine mentor. Over time, the musician caught a bad case of the wine bug that afflicts so many of the world's most creative talents. French wines were exquisitely intellectual, but often challenging. Tuscan wines, on the other hand, most particularly Brunellos and the great Cabernets of Bolgheri, were like the country from which they came -- lush and sensual.
In the early 1990s, Sting and his film producer wife, Trudie Styler, were living in the "Lake House" in Wiltshire, England, when they hatched their plan. The bug that had inflicted Sting had spread to Trudie. The couple flew to Florence and engaged a real estate agent to find a property that might be capable of putting out a wine that could challenge two of Tuscany's greatest wines -- Sassicaia and Tignanello. The search began in 1992. Almost a decade later, they'd come up empty. Sting had had enough. But Trudie persisted, finally coming upon a 650-acre property on the cold soils of Figline Valdarno. She persuaded her husband to make one final tour. As soon as Gordon Sumner saw this magnificent cypress-lined avenue, the timeless yellow villa, and the patio that would eventually house that oversized chess board, he was hooked. The couple closed on the property the following day.
Think what you want about celebrity wine estates. Many seem to be little more than monuments to overblown egos. But every so often, a creative genius applies his imagination -- and his bankroll -- to a winegrowing project with the same passion that he applies to Rock 'n Roll. After investing millions in the property and its vines, Sting and Trudie Styler put out this 2008 Super Tuscan, aptly named "Sister Moon", that brought long time Wine Spectator Italian specialist, James Suckling, to his knees.
The 2008 Il Palagio "Sister Moon" is opaque purple in color with luscious aromas of blackberry and dark red fruit preserves, laced with sweet Tuscan herbs. The attack is big, rich, almost Napa-like, packed with black fruit concentration, velour-like in texture, all buttressed by faintly rustic, dusty Tuscan tannins, keeping all the opulence in perfect check.
A lusty 94 points from Suckling. Just 1,000 cases made, 300 of which made it stateside. Seventy-five of those have been earmarked for WineAccess.