Wineries of the Month

As Vinous Media wine critic Antonio Galloni enthusiastically remarked, “[Piancornello is] one of my favorite under the radar estates in Montalcino.” In 1950, the Pieri family purchased the property on the warm southern slope of Tuscany’s famed Montalcino appellation, a short distance from the Asso River. Initially they sold their grapes to other Montalcino wineries. In 1991, Claudio Monaci, the second generation to run the business, began making wine from estate vineyards, which the family had farmed organically for many years although they applied for formal certification only recently. While the wines are modern in style with higher alcohols and generously ripe fruit flavors, they are also beautifully balanced with plenty of acid and noticeably fine tannins.

Badia a Coltibuono
Badia a Coltibuono or the Abbey of Good Harvest is located in Toscana and is at least a thousand years old, according to the Marchio Storico and the monks of Coltibuono. During the Middle Ages, these abbeys served not only as places of worship and spiritual refuge, but also as centers of learning, engines for economic growth, and laboratories for agricultural development. The monastery was active from 1000 C.E. to around 1800 C.E. when Napoleon annexed most church property in Tuscany. The Stucchi family has owned the estate since 1841, and today, Emanuela Stucchi and her siblings are seventh generation stewards of the property. The philosophical approach is to maintain both the integrity of Sangiovese and the unique terroir of Chianti Classico through organic farming practices, clonal diversity, and the restrained use of new oak barrels.

Sergio Mottura
Since 1933, the Mottura family has run this 320 acre estate, which straddles the central regions of Lazio and Umbria. Volcanic soils are planted with traditional whites, Procanico, Veredello, Grechetto, and Drupeggio, and the reds Montepulciano, Syrah, and Pinot Noir. All of the vineyards are farmed organically, and total production is about 8,000 cases per year. Wine guide Gambero Rosso named Sergio Motura “Winemaker of the Year” in 2013 and describes his estate as “iconic… not only in Veterbo but at a regional level, with its excellent organic wines.”


Winery of the Month

Trinitas Cellars
Tim Busch is a dynamo, who attributes his achievements to German ancestry. “They like to get things done, do them right, do them quick,” he says. While he is attracted to the challenges of different types of businesses, he describes most of them as “pretty boring.” But he loves entertaining and hospitality, which ultimately led him to the hotel and wine business. “I got into the hotel business and loved it because it’s a real estate business, but you get to enjoy people. They’re having fun because they’re traveling. The winery is an extension of that.”

In 2002, Tim developed The Meritage Resort and Spa in Napa, a part of his California hotel portfolio that includes Bacara in Santa Barbara, Pasea in Huntington Beach, Balboa Bay at Newport Beach, and Estancia La Jolla in La Jolla. And the only place that you’ll find his Trinitas wines are in those locations.

Given the sophistication of these hotels, it is surprising that Trinitas wines are as traditional and authentic as they are. The small 15,000 case production includes mostly Cabernet Sauvignon and other Bordeaux varieties from Napa vineyards, made as single varietals or blends, Petite Sirah from Contra Costa County, Zinfandel from El Dorado County, and a wine in the style of the old California field blends with fruit from both Mendocino County and El Dorado. The whites include Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Semillon from Napa.

“We don’t own vineyards,” Tim says. “We’re not in that business. We do own nine acres that are attached to our Meritage Resort in Napa, and we use those grapes in our Bordeaux program. But we buy most of our grapes in appellations that we think are best for particular varietals…” Tim says that he champions organic and sustainable farming. “It’s important that we make the wine and sell it in a way that our growers are proud of, and they are responsible for keeping the land sustainable and minimizing the use of chemicals.”

ITALIAN Wines of the Month


Sergio Mottura 2014 Orvieto
The Mottura Orvieto is a blend of 45% Procanico, 25% Verdello, 20% Grechetto, and 10% Drupeggio. Each variety is separately vinified and then blended. Procanico has sparse bunches, is resistant to rot, and has great character. Verdello has perfect acidity and delicate aromas. Grechetto boasts rich aromas and a full body. Drupeggio has a flowery aroma and a velvety smooth body. Together they form one of Italy’s oldest white wine blends (13% alcohol). Serve chilled.

Badia a Coltibuono
2013 Cetamura Chianti
A traditional blend of Sangiovese and Canoiolo grapes, this fresh and medium bodied Chianti is a go-to red for summer menus. Cherry and blackberry aromatics with spicy nuances infuse this soft and tasty wine, which weighs in at 12.5% alcohol. So don’t hesitate to keep refilling your glass.


Piancornello 2013 Rosso di Montalcino
“This is a gorgeous Rosso with real pedigree and fabulous overall balance,” reports Antonio Galloni. While he and even winemaker Claudio Monaci recommend decanting the wine to soften tannins, I found this 100 % Sangiovese to be deliciously balanced from bottle to glass. As with all Piancornello wines, this one shows off the perfect use of oak for aging but not to supplement flavor. Mario Monaci no longer uses small French oak barrels and instead aged the wine in oak casks for ten months before bottling (14.5% alcohol).

Piancornello 2011 per Emma,
Podere del Visciolo
Podere del Visciolo means “Estate of the Cherry,” which is a fitting origin for this deliciously fruit dominated but balanced wine, made from Sangiovese Grosso. The vineyard received formal organic certification in 1913 but had always been farmed with organic procedures. The wine is versatile enough to pair with grilled or roasted chicken or salmon and firm summer vegetables like a medley of eggplant, red and green bell peppers, and zucchini, as well as red meats (14.5% alcohol).

Sergio Mottura
2011 Grechetto di Civitella
The best Grechetto grapes were harvested from five different vineyards that feature the Poggio della Costa clone. Golden in color, the wine has an elegant and complex nose and subtle nutty flavors, almost like a red wine (13.5% alcohol). Serve chilled.


Piancornello 2010
Brunello di Montalcino
Rich fruit and spice dominate this midweight wine with its delicious balance of Piancornello fruit, acid, and tannin. Organically farmed vines, planted on steep slopes, are 10 to 20 years old and selected from clones that give low yields and loose clusters. In addition, the vines are grafted onto stalks that are resistant to drought and high summer temperatures. Antonio Galloni from Vinous Media gave the wine 93 points and describes it as “a powerful yet mid-weight Brunello that impresses for its balance and class.”

Badia a Coltibuono 2009 Sangioveto
The fruit is harvested from the estate’s oldest organically farmed vineyards with vines from 25 to 55 years old. Clean fruit flavors that lean toward balsamic, wild flowers, and spice dominate the palate, which is supported by acid and smooth tannins. The wine is pure Sangiovese in its most elegant and refined form (14% alcohol).

ITALIAN Region of the Month


The name Toscana comes from the Latin Tuscia, which the Romans called the area to honor the Etruscans, who developed an advanced civilization there before the Romans subjugated them. The Etruscans were wine makers, but the Romans preferred stronger southern wines. Thus the Etruscan wine trade faded until monks revived viticulture in the region. Wine became a daily beverage in the medieval cities of Florence, Siena, Pisa, Lucca, and Arezzo. During the Renaissance, which began in Florence, the wines of Toscana were transported throughout Europe. The noble red grape variety of Toscana is Sangiovese. Although many clones of Sangiovese exist, the superior ones are among the world’s finest vines, such as Montalcino’s Brunello, Chianti’s Sangioveto, and Montepulciano’s Prugnolo Gentile. Among other fine Sangiovese based wines are Rosso di Montalcino, Vino Nobile, and Carmignano. Tuscan wines also include the “Super Tuscans,” which are100% Cabernet or Sangiovese-Cabernet blends. Vernaccia de San Gimignano is the most prestigious white wine in Toscana, and Vin Santo its highly prized dessert wine. In the government system of laws that regulate wine production, Toscana boasts 11 DOCG areas, 39 DOC areas, and 6 ITG.

CALIFORNIAN Wines of the Month


Trinitas 2012 Old Vine Zinfandel,
Mendocino County
This wine is an old style Zinfandel with plenty of acid and tannin. The grapes were harvested from a 70 year-old vineyard in Mendocino County, where vineyards of that age and older are not uncommon. Serve at cool room temperature with grilled or barbecued beef or lamb (14.2% alcohol).

Trinitas 2010 Moscato
We rarely if ever send dessert wines. But this one was irresistible. Moscato is indigenous to Italy and is planted throughout the country. In Piedmont, it is made mostly as a sparkling wine, but in the south, Moscato is renowned as a still wine. So far, minute amounts of Moscato are planted in California. Serve chilled with a platter of fresh fruit and cheeses or with a fruit dessert (9% alcohol).


Trinitas 2011 Mysteriama
This old-style blend is 40% Carignane, 19% Old Vine Petite Sirah, 18% Old Vine Zinfandel, 7% Old Vine Mataro, and 7% Alicante Bouchet from two vineyards in Contra Costa and Mendocino counties. The grape varieties are reminiscent of those in the old California field blends, planted together in the same vineyard because the grower thought they would combine to make a good wine. Then, the grapes were picked at the same time and fermented together in the same tank unlike modern blends that are picked and fermented separately and then blended to achieve a certain flavor profile. The Mysteriama is a hardy and flavor-packed wine that best pairs with barbecued or roasted red meats (13% alcohol).

Trinitas 2012 Petite Sirah,
Contra Costa County
This Petite Sirah was harvested from the Gonsalves Vineyard in Oakley. Roots penetrate the sandy soils to almost 60 feet deep. The vineyard is well over 100 years old and has survived both Prohibition from 1919 to 1933 and the root louse Philloxera that destroyed almost half of California vineyards in the 1990s. The wine was aged for 18 months in American oak barrels. Rich berry flavors, chocolate, and coffee dominate the nose and palate (15.3% alcohol). Serve a cool room temperature with barbecued or roasted red meats.

Trinitas 2012 Chardonnay, Los Carneros
The grapes for this Chardonnay were harvested from a vineyard on the Napa side of cooler Los Carneros, which stretches across the border between Napa and Sonoma counties. Intense Chardonnay aromas and flavors are balanced by crisp acidity in this refreshing wine (14.5% alcohol). Serve chilled.

CALIFORNIAN Region of the Month


Napa Valley is the heart of California’s wine industry, its vine-covered valley floor and rolling hills the destination for millions of visitors each year. The Valley is home to 43,000 acres of vines, over 400 wineries, and many renowned restaurants. George Calvert Yount, arriving in 1831, planted the first grapes. Notable early but still existing stone wineries, developed between 1859 and 1882, including Charles Krug, Christian Brothers, Beringer, Chateau Montelena, and Beaulieu. Formerly a sanatorium, Inglenook winery began production in 1880. San Franciscans provided a huge market for Napa wines, which were easily transported across the San Francisco Bay. But Prohibition, enacted in 1920, closed most of them, except the few that provided sacramental wine for churches. The Valley didn’t begin recovery until Robert Mondavi built his large winery in 1966. Today, the Napa Valley has 16 American Viticultural Areas. The umbrella appellation Napa Valley, specializes in Bordeaux grape varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Sauvignon Blanc. Cooler Los Carneros, stretching into Sonoma County, is ideal for the grapes of Burgundy, including Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. But other grape varieties, such as Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, and Italian Sangiovese are planted in Napa County.


Dinner for an End-of-Summer Night

Bruschetta with diced Roma tomatoes, garlic, basil, & olive oil

Main Course
Grilled butterflied Chicken al Diavolo
Grilled eggplant rounds with pesto

Classic Greek salad with tomatoes, cucumbers, red bell peppers,
and thinly sliced red onion, dressed with olive oil
and chopped fresh oregano and parsley

Assorted fresh cheeses and a platter of stone fruit, berries and
grapes, served with chilled Moscato

Golden Moscato

Even though this summer has been uncomfortably warm in Northern California, it remains a glorious season. One of its supreme pleasures is the array of gorgeous fruit stacked in our markets and, if we’re lucky, growing on a tree or two outside our doors. Orange and white peaches and nectarines, purple plums, mangoes, apricots, figs, deeply colored berries, and table grapes with skins from black to pale green enhance breakfast, lunch, and dinner. But when served with a platter of fresh cheeses and a gloriously sweet Moscato wine, summer fruit celebrates the season like nothing else can. Moscato itself, whether sparkling or still, is part of that summer bounty, preserved in a bottle for the darker seasons. Enjoy it now with the fruits and cheeses that it was meant to embellish!