Michele Braganti with Joanie and Jennifer DiDomizio.
About a year ago I was deep in discussion with AI Selections, the awesome little importer for whom I now sell wine in southern California. At the time I had a job I loved working for another larger, much more established company. I had (and still have) many dear friends as a result of my last position. This made it a tough decision when AI Selections offered me a job. I remember I went to meet with Jay Latham in Venice Beach to discuss the possibility of working with their company. As much as I liked the idea, at the end of our discussion I still wasn’t convinced it was the right move to make. But then Michele Braganti and Alessandra Deiana arrived…
Michele and Alessandra are the heart and soul behind the operation at Monteraponi in Chianti. In town to promote their wines, they met Jay and I for lunch after our meeting. I loved them immediately- both bubbling over with excitement for the brilliant beachy sunshiny weather and talking excitedly about a fabulous dinner Osteria Mozza had hosted for them the night before. I know this specific kind of Italian enthusiasm well. What I wasn’t prepared for, were the wines.
Monteraponi Baron’ Ugo 2009.
As a result of living in the US market, I think we have the opportunity to taste a lot of Sangiovese. Chianti, Brunello, Montecucco, Maremma. Tuscany, Umbria, Abruzzo, Marche. In fact, there are very few Sangiovese-based wines that ever truly catch my attention. They all begin to blend together in one wet, vaguely cherry-scented sea of tasting notes.
That’s why I remember the moment I tasted this wine with Michele, Jay and Alessandra so very clearly. The 2009 Baron’ Ugo from Monteraponi snapped me back to reality.
This. Wine. Is. Sangiovese.
Sangiovese in the hands of Michele Braganti becomes a bell. Solid, heavy and full of potential energy. Once struck, the tone of that bell is singular and unforgettable. There is a purity in these wines, all organically farmed and un-obtrusively vinified in traditional large Slavonian casks. I was mesmerized in that moment, and I remember thinking immediately that there was no turning back- I absolutely had to work with these people. Thus, the Sangiovese that altered the course my my life.
The view from the apartments at Monteraponi, leading up to the Baron’ Ugo vineyard.
I had the opportunity to visit the Monteraponi estate a few months ago, and I have been struggling with how to describe the experience ever since. It’s a magical place- close enough to Firenze to make you feel as if you’re almost in the city, however once you arrive you become completely ensconced in the surrounding forest. The vineyards themselves seem almost tucked away inside the massive groves of trees that dominate the property. These forests, their oxygen and temperature- regulating properties, do much to create the unique terroir for the vines. A micro-climate that sculpts stunning and beautifully-balanced wines which sing of Chianti.
We arrived at the ancient stone fortress-like buildings that makes up the estate- a tenth century hamlet that Michele and his father resurrected only a few years ago. Michele appeared like a medieval knight, happily welcoming us back in time. There is a history here that Monteraponi protects and preserves through the rehabilitation of the township itself, and within the integrity of the wines. When you taste the dusty rose, the graphite and bright ripe cherries in these wines you know that these are the honest expressions of Sangiovese and Tuscany. There’s no dressing, no smoke or mirrors. Only the beauty of simplicity. The most perfect grapes grown in the most perfect way, in the most appropriate place in the world.
Michele Braganti, Knight in Shining Armor, and Pizzaiolo.
I feel lucky to find this kind of inspiration in the work that I do. I look forward to every day I spend talking about people like Michele Braganti and Alessandra Deiana, whose wines are not only word-class, but whose work protects and promotes the integrity of Italian wine as a whole. Thank goodness for Sangiovese!
(And thank goodness for Gina, too!)