Allegrini in Bolgheri
The other day I met with the elegant and charming Marilisa Allegrini, whose family has been growing grapes in the Valpolicella region since the 1600s or so. I've always primarily associated the Allegrinis with their extremely good Amarone and perennial great-bargain red, Palazzo della Torre—the latter one of the better ways you can put $20 or so to use in the context of Italian wine. What I didn't know, probably because I haven't been paying adequate attention, is that the Allegrinis also started buying land in Bolgheri in 2001. (Bolgheri is the gold coast of the Tuscan Maremma, in terms of wine production: the home of Sassicaia, Ornellaia, Grattamacco, and Gaja's Tuscan venture, Ca Marcanda.) They now have approximately 180 acres of planted vineyards there, co-owned, I believe, with importer Leonardo Locascio.
In any case, both the wines that I tasted from Poggio al Tesoro, the Allegrini's Bolgheri estate, are superb:
2004 Poggio al Tesoro Sondraia ($45) The second vintage of this wine, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. The scent recalls sweet dark cherries and black currants, with a light herbal note that's likely from the Cab Franc; on the palate it's dense, with sweet dark fruit, a hint of dill, and grippy tannins on the finish. I'd decant it for a few hours if drinking it now, or hide it away for five to ten years.
2004 Poggio al Tesoro Dedicato a Walter ($85) One hundred percent Cabernet Franc, and an homage to Marilisa's late brother Walter. Marilisa's comment: "Cabernet Franc can be very green, but in Bolgheri, with the sandy soil and the sun we have, it ripens very well." Certainly this doesn't lack for ripeness—it's a luscious, sexy interpretation of Cab Franc, with the aroma of black cherry jam, notes of toast, espresso, blackberries and black cherries, and enveloping sweet tannins. Very impressive; unfortunately they only make about 3,000 bottles a year of it.
There's also a Vermentino, but she didn't bring it along, so it remains a mystery. Also, as a side note, when I asked Marilisa what she likes to eat with Allegrini's Amarone, she surprised me with the answer, "Indian food! The richness and the sweetness and the curry aroma goes wonderfully with a wine that has a little sweetness and spice aromas." She also noted that while Amarone can age twenty to thirty years, her favorites out of their library right now are the vintages running from 1990 to 1995. So if you happen to have a cellar full of 1990 Amarone, order up some Chicken Tikka Masala and unlimber that corkscrew right now!