Chianti’s Heart of Gold: Muratori, Montenidoli, and Vernaccia

Chianti’s Heart of Gold: Muratori, Montenidoli, and Vernaccia

San Gimignano rising out of the mist

Buongiorno agli amici della vigna,

Nestled in the Tuscan hills between Firenze and Siena, just outside of the idyllic medieval hilltop town of San Gimignano, there lies a special place, cared for by some special souls.  This is the land of Vernaccia, a unique & intensely perfumed white wine, and reds of the Chianti Colli Senesi appellation.
Almost ten years ago, I was in San Gimignano as a tourist, and found myself in a small market buying goodies for an impromptu picnic.  When I asked the owner what bottle of Vernaccia I should try, he handed me a bottle of Montenidoli Vernaccia di San Gimignano tradizionale.  “This is TRUE Vernaccia,” he emphatically told me.  To accompany, I got some fresh tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, cured salumi, and a crusty loaf of bread.  I wandered through some of the narrow steep streets of the town, seeking a good vantage point to park it and take in a beautiful afternoon vista of the valley below.  The sheer mouthwatering salty refreshment of the wine, its rising perfume, and how long it lingered is still ingrained in my memory…..the simple beauty of fresh local foods and the quiet sanctuary like setting will always be what I think of when considering this place…..
It was only years later that I learned about Montenidoli and its people; it seems only fitting that they are of the most compassionate and genuine people you may ever meet. A link to their website: Montenidoli website  (Monte=mountain  Nidoli=nests)
This place is a sanctuary of love, respect, food, and poetry.  It has been shaped both by the millennia of natural forces, as well as by the heart’s labor of two very special people: Sergio Muratori and winemaker Elisabetta Fagiuoli.  I wish to convey the breadth of their vision, legacy, and special extended family, but feel that they do it best; check out their website to learn about who they are…..the attached file is a WONDERFUL power point introduction to their work, from soil to vine to people, done far better than I could hope to.
A spirit of poetic reverence and respect permeates all aspects of who and what these people are.  They have farmed organically for decades, in a place where such labor intensive qualitative choices are simply unheard of.  From this reverence, hard work, and traditional know how, the wines here are arguably the finest in all of the Colli Senesi, with a depth, grace, and polish that is unrivaled.  For their entry level Chianti, il Garrulo, they still use the original Chianti recipe as it was originally created by the Barone Ricasoli in 1872, with the inclusion of a bit of the local white varieties.  I feel that it is without question that they make the finest Vernaccia in San Gimignano.
When the time came for me to choose a producer of kindred vision, who offers a faithful expression of a place as emblematic as both Chianti and San Gimignano, it was an easy choice.  On a more somber note, while we were communicating about taking our first baby steps together in late October, Sergio Muratori, the patriarch and visionary leader of this family, passed away.  I cannot emphasize enough the profound humanity that this man embodied.  He was a teacher, anti-fascist partigiano, mountain guide, poet, and father to several bambini, many of whom were adopted special needs children.  Where he chose to apply his ethic of compassionate care taking, life flourished, whether it was in people or in the land.  His spirit lives on in this place, its wines, and in the countless souls whom he touched.  His partner Elisabetta Fagiuoli carries their torch forward, with the same elegant touch that she has always carried as winemaker; the finesse of her wines belie her graceful character and knowledge of this place….
I’m proud to present the newly arrived bounty:
2010 Vernaccia di San Gimignano Tradizionale $16 – Macerated on the skins, with some press juice, this is quintessential.
Here is Ian D’Agata’s review of the 2009: “Dark straw-yellow. Intense ripe apple, pear, almond and herbal nuances soar from the glass. Rich and smooth on the palate, with chewy flavors similar to the aromas, and a lovely mineral tang at the back. I like this wine’s concentrated and refreshing saline note on the finish.  A major winner.” 92 points

2010 Vernaccia di San Gimignano Fiore $22 – Uniquely from free-run juice, with extended aging on the lees.  SUPERFINE. 
Here is Ian D’Agata’s review of the 2009: “Pale straw-yellow with a golden tinge. Bright citrus and mineral aromas are complicated by mint, white pepper and a whiff of quince. Bright and fresh on entry, then richer and deeper in the middle, with ripe citrus, pear, floral and mineral flavors lingering impressively at the back.  This outstanding, almost dry, riesling-like vernaccia will age for another six to eight years effortlessly.” 92 points

2010 Chianti Colli Senesi Il Garullo $17 – From 75% Sangiovese, 20% Canaiuolo, 3% Trebbiano gentile, 2% Malvasia bianca
Ian D’Agata’s review: “Good deep red. Pretty aromas of redcurrant, fresh herbs and flint. Bright and fresh, showing a restrained sweetness and lovely inner-mouth aromatic character to the spicy red fruit flavors framed by lively but harmonious acidity. The bright finish features lively tannins and very good length. Excellent Chianti made in the old way, with white grapes. Another rare example of very good Chianti Colli Senesi, a DOC that Italian producers have not invested in.” 90 points

2008 Chianti Colli Senesi $25 – 70% Sangiovese, 30% Canaiuolo.  From the Montenidoli website: “From the two red grapes traditionally used to make Chianti, Sangiovese and Canaiolo. After a long maceration, it ages for 13 months in barriques. Time enriches its secondary aromas and confers full, dry flavors.  A classic meat wine, ideal with poultry, beef and pork, be it grilled, roasted or stewed. Excellent with lamb, pheasant, prosciutto and other cold cuts.”

2004 Sono Montenidoli $45– 100% Sangiovese; from the Montenidoli website: “The finest bunches of Sangiovese from Montenidoli’s vineyards: after macerating in tank, it ages for 12 months in barriques and for at least three years in bottle. Its power and tightness reveals it youth, and it has a long future ahead of it.  Its fullness and structure make it perfect for special occasions. With game, braised dishes and red meats. It is a cure for all depressions of body and spirit.”

It is a wonderful and unforeseen twist of destiny that the producer whose wines first introduced me to Vernaccia di San Gimignano on a hilltop some ten years ago are now making their way to the table of my friends and family.  Elisabetta’s touch is clearly a special one…..their rose of Canaiuolo is beautiful, as well as a 100% Colorino wine, a sangiovese family varietal often used as a blending component but rarely 100%; these will arrive on the springtime load…….
And when you do try some of these wines, as you listen and savor, raise a glass to Sergio, that his life’s labor of love lives on!!


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