What attracted to me to this wine was it’s listing on Wine Spectator’s top 100 wines for 2013. Due to alcohol laws that I don’t believe anyone understands, least of all the people who write them, I could not get this wine in Connecticut. So I found this bottle at the Hoosick Street Wine Cellar in Troy, New York. My son, Willie, works in Troy and routinely picks up wines for me at the home of WeSpeakWine.com.
It was early in the new year and I was enjoying a visit with his family. Willie went to get me my most recent order that included the Brunello and as he brought it out I noticed it had a little baby sock on it. I thought that was cute, thanked him for getting the wine for me, and noticed the five people in the room looking at me like I had five heads.
So, in good humor my son says to me they are going to change my moniker to GPG. Ah, a light shines over my marblehead. GPG is what my kids and I called my father; it’s short for Grandpa Griffith. My daughter in law was with child, I was going to be a grandfather.
Fast forward 10 months and on September 14, 2014 we welcomed Benigno Lee Cruzgriffith into the world! Hello Beny! We opened up the wine and celebrated my little Beny Boy with a joyful dinner.
The wine lived up to its to 100 rating from Wine Spectator. Now, right off the bat let me tell you this is a very modest Brunello at about $46 a bottle. Truth be told, this wine tasted more like a well-manored Bordeaux or a muscular Pinot Noir to me than a Brunello. There was plenty of aromatic pleasure and a deep red garnet color. The taste was so smooth, totally drinkable, and very fruit forward for a Brunello. While it’s no Biondi-Santi, it was nonetheless a very good wine.
Why Brunello Di Montalcino for Beny? Just like every picture tells a story, so does every wine. Brunello, arguably one of the world’s great wines, has humble roots. The grape used is Sangiovese, same grape used for Chianti. Montalcino has one of the warmest and driest climates in Tuscany, with the grapes in the area ripening up to a week earlier than in other nearby towns. It is the most arid Tuscan DOCG, receiving an average annual 30% less rainfall than the rest of the Chianti region.
Like in all Northern regions, vineyards planted on the north sides of hills receive less sun than those on the southern sides. Vineyards planted on the northern slopes ripen more slowly and tend to produce wines that are racier and more aromatic. Vineyards on the southern and western slopes receive more intense exposure to sunlight and more maritine winds, which produces wines with more power and complexity. The top producers in the area have vineyards on both slopes, and make use of a blend of both styles.
So you see greatness can be achieved by using what you have, to the best of your ability. My dad once told me “we all can’t be roses, most of us will be dandelions, but strive to be the best dandelion you can.” I never really liked that analogy, I always felt a sting of disappointment in me from my dad, but I realize there is truth there.
However there is another reason for the exceptionalness of Brunello Di Montalcino, great parenting. In the mid-19th century, a local farmer named Clemente Santi isolated certain plantings of Sangiovese vines in order to produce a 100% varietal wine that could be aged for a considerable period of time. In 1888, his grandson Ferruccio Biondi-Santi released the first “modern version” of Brunello di Montalcino that was aged for over a decade in large wood barrels. So, never underestimate the power of loving parents or winemakers in the making of a great kid or a great wine.
Both also require patience. Aging a wine for over a decade, you have to be incredibly patient. Raising a child is no different, whether it’s calming a fussy newborn or getting a moody teenager to do their homework. Patience was something I wasn’t always good at.
So, I hope my Grandson will be a Brunello Di Montalcino, strong in flavor, reflective of his terroir, proud of his history, confident of his abilities, and prized and appreciated for who he is. Here’s to you Beny, may 2014 be a fantastic vintage, live long and prosper!