Tuscany is one of my all time favorite destinations. The rolling hills, the food and wine and the delightful Italian people make it one of the best places on earth to visit.
On a recent visit to explore wines, we discovered a jewel on the beautiful Tuscan coast—the wine region of Bolgheri. We were captivated!
Bolgheri as an official wine region (an appellation recognized by the Italian government) is incredibly young. Sassicaia wines won a prestigious competition in the mid 1970’s that put Bolgheri wines in the spotlight.
Soon, others discovered what Sassicaia already knew, that the characteristics of the soil and the microclimates in the region are outstanding for growing Bordeaux varietals like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. Though Italians in this area had been making wine for centuries, the appellation wasn’t formally designated until 1994.
Recognizing the potential of wines in Bolgheri long before the government’s official declaration, the prestigious Antinori family in the early 80’s founded the Ornellaia Estate. You might recall the late, great wine entrepreneur Robert Mondavi also invested in the property.
Ornellaia is one of the most beautiful and fascinating wineries I’ve ever been to. Architecturally, the winery is stunning – it blends right into the beautiful scenery that surrounds the property. Inside there is a great amount of space and detail dedicated to the arts.
About seven years ago Ornellaia started a project called Vendemmia d’Artista, a marriage between the world of contemporary art and wine. Each vintage is given a theme based on the characteristics of the vintage (patience, exuberance, etc), and an artist is chosen to create an exclusive label.
There’s a beautiful bottle collection of the artists’ labels from past vintages in the entrance hall at the winery along with a stunning display of column-sculptures that symbolize the four seasons of the year. There’s tons of eye-candy at this winery, not to mention the incredible wines.
While touring the bottling section of the winery I spotted a wine label I had not seen before. Masseto. Our wonderful guide told us that Masseto is one of Ornellaia’s best. It’s known as the Petrus of Bolgheri – the most treasured wine in the region. And like Chateau Petrus of Bordeaux, Masseto is 100% merlot.
Sadly, we didn’t get to taste this so-called vinified ambrosia, and I understand why. The current vintage costs about $500 a bottle, and I’m told every bottle of every vintage sells! BTW, I did spot a couple of bottles at Houston Wine Merchant THIS weekend.
Tours at Ornellaia are given by appointment only, and I highly recommend them and the wines—Le Serre Nuove dell’Ornellaia, Le Volte dell’Ornellaia and of course their flagship wine Ornellaia. You can get more information on their website at http://www.ornellaia.com/.
A huge thank you to at&t for the wonderful wifi – we depended on my iPhone for our navigation!