La Porta di Vertine in the U.S.

A blog devoted to La Porta di Vertine in the U.S.

tabard inn washington dc

Above: The Tabard Inn in Washington, D.C. is not just another historic and storied hotel of our nation’s capital. It’s also home to one of the best wine list’s in the city (image via the Tabard Inn’s Facebook).

Let’s be honest: Generally, when you come across “historic inns” and “bed and breakfasts” in America, you can usually expect to find a crusty old wine list with all the usual (industrial) suspects.

There’s usually no “wine director” at these places. For the most part, it’s a “beverage director” who simply fulfills guests’ sycophantic love of “Merlot, Cab, and Chard,” with the occasional Syrah and “Sauv Blanc” (ugh, how we hate this misnomer!) thrown in the mix.

So what a great breath of fresh air to discover the FANTASTIC wine list at the historic Tabard Inn in Washington, D.C., a classic capital standby where power brokers have met for three generations now!

And what a thrill to find our wines in the company of wine icons like Burlotto and Lafarge.

From the Burgundy and Champagne selections to the Italian and Spanish, it’s obvious that the person behind this list is a first-caliber “wine nerd.”

When in D.C. and thirsty for some great, traditional expressions of European winemaking, check it out…

The Tabard Inn
1739 N St NW
Washington, DC 20036
(202) 785-1277
Google map

Here’s a score and a tasting note that slipped through the cracks (that’s why we hadn’t posted until now; see all accolades to date here).

This is what Italian wine authority and expert taster Ian D’Agata had to say about the 2009 Chianti Classico Riserva when he tasted it in 2012 (before merging with Vinous Media):

La Porta di Vertine 2009 Chianti Classico Riserva
90+ points

Bright red-ruby. Deep aromas of redcurrant, licorice and lead pencil. Starts off floral but turns rather sullen in the middle, hinting at mineral-driven flavors of red berries, dark cherry, licorice and underbrush. The smooth finish shows sneaky, subtle persistence.

best chianti classico

best natural chianti classico

Ever since it launched in 2012, Grape Collective – the multi-media, online magazine devoted to wine — has driven the “wine conversation” in new and exciting directions.

Its motto is points of view, not points: In a wine writing world dominated by ratings and scores, Grape Collective has been a true breath of fresh air for winemakers, writers, and wine lovers alike.

Founder and editor-in-chief Christopher Barnes recently took time out to sit down and chat with La Porta di Vertine grape grower and winemaker Giacomo Mastretta (above). The interview includes a short video as well.

“What does it mean to you to be an organic winemaker?” asked Christopher.

“I think that there’s no reason to look for complexity in the glass if you don’t have complexity in your soil,” answered Giacomo. “You have something to express. That’s why the starting point is there, so this means to be organic, to accept and look for the biodiversity and the richness.”

Click here for the complete interview.

More and more these days across Italy, young professionals are discovering wine as a means to socialize and to visit Italian wine country. The Italian Sommelier Association — known as AIS — hosts classes and tastings in nearly every major Italian market. These well attended events are favorites among the new generation of Italian wine lovers.

On a personal note, I meet them all the time at tastings and festivals in Italy. They are superb tasters and are highly informed about Italian wines, grape varieties, and appellations. And they interact seamlessly with Italian wine professionals, sommeliers and writers, who happily embrace them as peers.

When I came across a post on La Porta di Vertine by Stefano Alei, an AIS member from Rome, I thought it would be great to translate it here and to give readers a glimpse of how Italians view La Porta di Vertine. Thanks for reading and thanks to Stefano Alei for this great post!

porta di vertine best chianti classico

Image via Bwined.it.

“My Visit to Porta di Vertine”

By Stefano Alei.

My visit to Porta di Vertine, a winery that produces natural wines in the shadow of the marvelous fortress village of Vertine, is partly a reflection of the nature of certain natural producers. They can be austere and even a bit grumpy. But when you ask them to talk about their wines, they light up with passion as they describe their growing practices and their vineyards…

The winery sits less than three km from Gaiole in Chianti village.

La Porta di Vertine’s owners’ adventure began when they acquired a beautiful amphitheater-shaped vineyard that faces south and lies on a peaceful hill at an altitude of more than 500 meters a.s.l.

They began production in 2006 and they are the embodiment of the philosophy that guides them: less is more.

They have roughly ten hectares planted to vine, mostly Sangiovese but also Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Canaiolo, Colorino, and Malvasia Nera.

The philosophy that they have embraced is that of letting Sangiovese express its character in the vineyards and in the cellar.

They are big believers, for example, in using cover crops to aerate the soil and they are careful not to limit the tilling of the soil to only the first 20-30 centimeters in depth.

From day one, they have been adamant about using cover crops. Initially, they planted grains between the rows. Today, they simply take advantage of the wild grasses that grow spontaneously there.

To fertilize the soil, they use a compost made of olive tree trimmings and cow manure.

The average yield per hectare is roughly 500 kg, a figure much lower than the limit imposed by the Chianti Classico Consortium.

They ferment their wines in stainless-steel and cement [vats]. But they are working more and more with cement. The reason is that they are adamant about not controlling the temperatures during vinification.

Maceration is relatively long at roughly two months. But in some cases, they have experimented with macerations lasting as long as four months.

The grapes are never sulfured. And sometimes, they are pressed with their stems. After maceration, they don’t rack the wines and so the wines are aged on their lees until bottling.

Sulfur is added only at bottling. They use roughly 70 mg per liter, a number much lower than the legal limit for sulfur (150 mg/l), even though the World Health Organization prescribed daily limit for the human consumption of sulfur is 49 mg.

Remember: Sulfur isn’t just used in wine! It’s a useful antiseptic and anti-oxidant that we find in many of the foods we eat on a daily basis.

La Porta di Vertine produces about 35,000 bottles per year and most of these are sold abroad.

Now let’s check out their cellar, where we tasted the Chianti Classico Riserva 2010 and the 2012. We also tried the wine that will become their Chianti Classico 2014 directly from the cask.

They are all very interesting wines. The younger ones are vinous in character, fruity and very pleasant on the nose. They are fresh and tannic, notes that we should expect in wines from this area and they will certainly “have a lot to tell us” over the course of the years.

uva nera best wine bar florence

It was thanks to one of our favorite Italy-based English-language wine bloggers, VinoVagando, that we learned about a super cool new wine bar that just opened this month in Florence, Italy called Uva Nera (above).

The new place doesn’t have a website (at least not one we can find) but it does have a Facebook (with phone number and map).

It’s located in the center of this beautiful city just a stone’s throw from the banks of the Arno river.

The best news is that they have the 2011 La Porta di Vertine Chianti Classico on their wine list.

So when in the city of Dante, Michelangelo, and Leonardo and in need of refreshment, you know where to go!

Thanks again, VinoVagando, for the post and the kind words about La Porta di Vertine!

Image via the Uva Nera Facebook.

alberese

In the course of researching the origins of the place name Gaiole in Chianti this week (more on that later), I came across a wonderful 1833 survey of the village in the Dizionario Geografico, Fisico, Storico della Toscana (Geographic, Physical, and Historical Dictionary of Tuscany) by Emanuele Repetti, one of the most renowned Tuscan historians of his era.

At the time, nearly 4,400 persons lived there, including a “doctor and a surgeon.”

The vibrant community, writes Repetti, was centered around an important market.

Already by that time, its hills also produced “exquisite wines and brilliant silk,” he writes.

But the most interesting I discovered in his entry on Gaiole was his description of the subsoils:

“The dominant feature of these hills consists in the Apennine limestone [known as] alberese, which is often completely covered by a schist known in Tuscany under the name of galestro and is found in and around Gaiole…”

“This type of soil is ideal for olive trees and vines as well as larger fruit trees. This is the reason that Gaiole produces such exquisite wines and brilliant silks…”

In the photo above, you can see a piece of alberese, which is so hard that it rarely breaks into pieces smaller than the one in the image.

In the photo below, you can see the crumbly galestro.

Because of the presence of these types of rocks, the subsoil in Gaiole is nutrient poor, which makes it ideal for the cultivation of grapes for fine wine (because the vines must work harder to produce their berries and as a result, the fruit is richer).

They also create natural drainage in the soil, which forces the vines to work harder to find the water table (again, producing richer fruit).

galestro

best chianti classico natural wineAbove: Grape grower and winemaker Giacomo Mastretta shows off the winery’s recently acquired Adine vineyard.

La Porta di Vertine blog recently caught up with Giacomo who spoke about his new plantings in Adine and Vertine.

How many new vines did you plant and where?

On terraces in our Adine vineyard.

On the side where Sangiovese is planted, we could only fit two rows per terrace and the distance of the vines along the row is 60 cm.

On the Canaiolo side, which we planted the last spring, the terraces were slightly wider, enough to fit three rows with the vines at the same distance.

In Vertine, we replanted the vineyards that are called Il Campino dei Visconti. It had been grubbed up in 2009 and we let the soil rest for a few years before replanted it.

We planted one hectare of Sangiovese, with 2 meters between the rows and 70 cm between the vines in the rows for a density of 7,100 vines per hectare.

Did you plant only Sangiovese or other grape varieties?

Just Sangiovese.

What clones did you use and why?

We planted a mixture of clones in order to have more complexity and variability. In Vertine, we used two different types of rootstock: 110R in the higher, dryer part and 161-49 which is better suited to the slightly richer soil in the lower part.

How long will it take before you start to vinify fruit from the new plantings?

We won’t do anything with the fruit for the first two years. We will have our first crop in the third year.

Why did you begin planting so late in the season?

Late April and early May may be considered a late time to plant.

But conditions were very good. We had a lot of rain after planting the majority of the vines. This is good while planting because even though you push the grafted cuttings deep into the ground, you can be sure that the entire surface of the roots is in contact with the soil. The water brings the soil totally into contact with the roots, thus allowing the new little, young roots to grow and to start to explore and colonize the ground. That’s how it all begins.