The Stunning Brunelli di Montalcino of Stella di Campalto and Pian dell’Orino

The Stunning Brunelli di Montalcino of Stella di Campalto and Pian dell’Orino

    Buongiorno tutti!
In reflecting upon today’s introduction, it reminds me of how Life has a funny way of unfolding sometimes…….destiny’s cards are dealt, and we play our hand.  Sometimes twists and turns in the road lead us to places that we had no intention of visiting; yet once we arrive, we find unforseen things that profoundly shape who and what we are.  I know that to be true for my life in wine, and my marriage to my beautiful and wacky wife Amber.  I never would have guessed……..and when there are those occasions of serendipity, when the unlikely or obscure coincidence occurs and reveals unforeseen meaning great or small, you have to, at the very least, give a wink and a nod to greater forces at play……
Such was the unlikey birth of Stella di Campalto’s life in Brunello.  A city girl from Rome, she married fairly young into a wealthy and powerful family that gave the young couple as a wedding gift an old church property on the oustskirts of Castelnuovo dell’Abate of Montalcino.  It had once been farmed as recently as the 1930s, but had remained fallow in hibernation since that time.  Then some years later, her aunt, a palm-reader…..CLICK ON THE IMAGE ABOVE TO HEAR STELLA TELL HER STORY! THE JUICY BITS IN ENGLISH ARE FROM 3:10 TO THE END; THERE IS A LOVELY POETIC FINISH……
And the results of Stella’s unlikely journey are nothing short of awe-inspiring.  Her wines are at once sensual, hedonistic, all about finesse, and all about Sangiovese.  There is a savory depth and delicacy to them that brings Burgundy to mind, indeed!
As to vinification, Stella has had ZERO formal education.  She hired a friend, the late Giusseppe Bianchini of Ciacci Piccolomini, to help her plant the vineyard (biodynamic from day 1), as well as consulting with the legendary Gianfranco Soldera for the first few years.  For the past few vintages, she has been on her own, guided by instinct.  The wines are aged in a broad variety of oak vessels; there is not yet a fixed recipe to Stella’s regimen, she is feeling it out as she goes……as the wines age in barrel, she tastes periodically, deciding in flight what will become her Brunello and what will become her Rosso.  This makes for a genuine “baby Brunello” for her Rosso, as literally every bottle COULD be called Brunello if she so chose.  I don’t know of a single person who has tasted her wines that hasn’t been charmed by them…….
It is also important to mention the collaboration that she and two other vintners started: the SPA, Sangiovese per Amico. In direct response to the corruption of the “Brunellogate” scandal, which revealed massive amounts of fraudulent Brunello being made by the addition of non-Sangiovese based grapes, Stella and two colleagues at Poderi Salicutti and Pian dell’Orino joined together and seceeded from the Consorzio di Brunello, the dominant political entity that oversees all legislation regarding Brunello.  In their quest to better define and celebrate what makes the several subzones of Montalcino different, as well as the genetic variety of Sangiovese that exists there, they proposed to meticulously measure and quantify these differences, attempting to create a map of the terroirs of Montalcino, a la Burgundy or any region that has a classification system of Crus.  They were met with hostility and threats from the largest abusers of the name “Brunello di Montalcino”, as such a classification would reveal who is the real deal, and who is a pretender…….
The biggest contributor to this meticulous study is Jan Hendrik Erbach of Pian dell’Orino.  What this man is doing, i’m convinced, is going to forever change the way that wine lovers understand Montalcino and its diversity.  His minute detail oriented “experiments” from several zones of Montalcino carried out over several years are going to yield a scientifically substantiated map of the zones of Montalcino, its parcellary character, and the subtle differences in the clonal varieties of Sangiovese.  HIs thoroughness, sensitivity, and passion are remarkable, as I was thrilled and awed by his vision from just one cellar visit.  NOT TO MENTION THE WINES!! The Pian dell’Orino wines have also burst onto the scene, their profound finesse and purity stealing the hearts of critics and wine lovers alike.  I am starting to work the Jan and his wife Caroline Pobitzer with a small parcel of their 2007 Brunello and 2010 Rosso to arrive in late October, early November.  They are not to be missed……..
As to Stella’s wines, there are minuscule quantities in stock, as people have taken to the wines really fast;  Beauty is as Beauty does!
But here is the lowdown on what is available:

2008 Rosso di Montalcino $35 
“The 2008 Rosso di Montalcino goes straight to the soul. Black olives, dried cherries and subtle earthiness are some of the nuances that emerge from this highly personal, idiosyncratic Rosso. This is a strikingly beautiful wine from Stella di Campalto.” 92 points Antonio Galloni
2009 Rosso di Montalcino $35
“The 2009 Rosso di Montalcino offers up freshly cut flowers, sweet red berries, wild herbs and licorice. There is a brightness to the fruit that is quite appealing. The slender personality of the year comes through in this perfumed, refined Rosso.” Antonio Galloni
2005 Brunello di Montalcino $69
“Bright, moderately saturated red. Flamboyant aromas of red cherry reduction, cassis, sandalwood, sweet spices and rose petal. Amazingly velvety on entry, with the rich, dense flavors of superripe red cherry, sweet licorice and truffle giving an almost unctuous mouth feel. The long and creamy-smooth lasts for minutes. A great Brunello and one of my early picks for wine of the vintage. ” 94 points Ian d’Agata of Tanzer’s IWC
2006 Brunello di Montalcino $69 in 750 $159 in Magnum!
“The 2006 Brunello di Montalcino is a wine that will make readers fall in love with Sangiovese. Mediterranean herbs, underbrush, tobacco, plums and dark cherries are just some of the nuances that emerge from this graceful Brunello. Deceptively medium in body at first, the wine puts on weight in the glass while remaining delicate and impeccably balanced. The inner perfume builds nicely towards the compelling finish, where the closing blast of fruit punctuates the energetic close. This is a mesmerizing wine that combines finesse and power.” 96+ points Antonio Galloni
2007 Brunello di Montalcino $79 
“The 2007 Brunello di Montalcino is ripe, flashy and seductive. It shows lovely juiciness and fleshiness to match its generous personality. It is only with the passage of time that the wine’s structure begins to emerge. Ripe red fruits, rose petals, spices and licorice wrap around the subtle yet engaging finish. ” 94 points Antonio Galloni

AND FROM PIAN DELL’ORINO: Arriving in late October/early November

2010 Rosso di Montalcino $29 – No press on this one yet, but the 2010 vintage was outstanding in Montalcino.  Here is a review of the 2009:
“The 2009 Rosso di Montalcino is a beautiful, radiant wine that captures the personality of the vintage. It shows lovely juiciness and generosity in its silky red berries, flowers, mint and sweet spices. The Rosso impresses for its mid-palate juiciness and fabulous overall balance. The 2009 was made from vineyards in Pian Bossolino and a plot adjacent to the winery, and spent 18 months in cask. The 2009 is a serious Rosso and an excellent introduction to the wines of Pian dell’Orino.” 91 points Antonio Galloni for the 2009

2007 Brunello di Montalcino $65 It bears mentioning that this was the highest rated Brunello in both Parker and Tanzer for the 2007 vintage!
“The 2007 Brunello di Montalcino is more than a worthy follow up to the spectacular 2006. Freshly cut flowers, violets, licorice, leather and tar meld into layers of dark fruit in a dazzling display of elegance and power. Silky tannins and expressive perfumed notes both add further refinement on the huge, explosive finish. The combination of ripeness of the year allied to a classic sense of structure is immensely appealing. This is one of the few 2007s I tasted that still needs time in the cellar, even though today it is flat-out stunning.” 97 points Antonio Galloni
“Bright deep red.  Subtle, precise aromas of raspberry, minerals, smoke and flowers hint at a liqueur-like ripeness; there’s something almost Burgundian here.  Dense, thick and compellingly sweet, with outstanding chewy depth and sufficient energy to its sappy red berry and mineral flavors.  Utterly seamless Brunello with chewy, lush tannins and outstanding lingering sweetness.  A very ripe wine for the vintage, but it all works.” 95 points Ian d’Agata 

I am thrilled to partner with two of the brightest rising stars of Montalcino, and to support their belief in a revolutionary understanding and celebration of what makes Brunello genuine and unique.  The road is just beginning to unfold for these growers, with fascinating results to come…..
I can assure you, if you enjoy Sangiovese based wines, and wines of finesse, hedonism, and complexity, these are must try wines…..come and see what all the buzz is about!
As always, with any questions or orders, feel free to contact me at
Cheers to unlikely, beautiful twists of fate, friendships of mutual vision and purpose, and these growers’ labor of love!!


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