Austin is blessed with a really fabulous wine shop called East End Wines. It’s a haul from our place, but I try to always make it over there when I’m looking for something special. The staff is extremely knowledgeable and the stock is well curated. For as long as I can remember, East End has had free tastings on Friday nights. We go whenever we can and this past Friday was a must-attend as East End welcomed Tenuta Sette Cieli and its owner/winemaker, Ambrogio Cremona Ratti. Let me throw off any scholarly pretense and say that, frankly, I read Super Tuscan in the email subject line and started salivating. 

However, it was wonderful to try the wines with Ambrogio on hand to answer questions and explain the heritage and craftsmanship of each of the four wines we tried. In our conversation with Ambrogio, we learned a lot about the estate itself. For instance, it is at elevation 1,300 and sits along the Tuscan coast, which is technically outside the controlled designation of origin known as Tuscany, but these were interesting wines.

 Here are brief descriptions of the four we tried and my thoughts on each:

Yantra Toscana IGT 2011. Organic. This one is made entirely from fruit grown on the estate, planted in 2001-2002. It is 60% Cabernet and 40% Merlot, and was aged 7 months in stainless steel. At about $25 a bottle, it’s definitely the economical choice from this estate, but don’t let that sway you – it held its own. It was fruity up front with lots of raspberry, but then a subtle spiciness immediately followed. It was full of soft and ripe tannins with a lasting finish. This is definitely a bottle I will keep around. It’s not for casual sipping, but will be good to have on hand for casual tomato-based dishes. It would even stand up to a hearty beef or venison stew.

NOI 4 Bolgheri 2011. Organic. Pronounced “nwa quattro”, this wine was blended with grapes from inside the Tuscan designation. It is 70% Cabernet, 15% Merlot, 10% Petit Verdot, and 5% Cab Franc. I typically love anything with Petit Verdot in it – I think it’s a placebo effect – and this one was no different, as NOI 4 was my favorite of the four. It starts off with a ripe fullness that I can only describe as fleshy. It holds its structure with earthy, woody tones and a long finish. At about $42 a bottle, this one falls into the special occasion category for me. It has an aging potential of 10 years, so I might just stash a bottle for some momentous occasion down the road. You should, too.

Indaco Toscana IGT 2009. Organic. This is also all estate fruit that was planted in 2001-2002. It is 40% Malbec (more on that in a minute), 30% Cabernet, and 30% Merlot. Malbec isn’t often found in the Tuscany area because it doesn’t do really well. However, the grapes that make it are sturdy from a hard-knock life of dry-farming. Irrigation is prohibited in the region, as it is in many regions throughout the world, so the vines have to fight hard to seek out water and survive. It’s believed this contributes to their poignancy. This is a fairly common practice, even it it isn't required, and I'm a fan. This wine has lots of structure, credited to the strapping Frenchman in the room, or perhaps due to its being aged in French Oak for 14 months – regardless, I guess the French get the credit. It is full of red fruit, rich, and spicy, spicy, spicy. It is a $50 bottle with aging potential of 15-20 years. You wouldn’t go wrong buying this and saving it for when you burn your mortgage or send your kids to college. It was also Joel’s favorite.

Scipio Toscana IGT 2009. Organic and 100% estate-grown, also made with fruit planted in 2001-2002, the Scipio is 100% Cab Franc. However, it was made from grapes harvested and vinified separately. It was aged for 24 months in French Oak. I’ll say it has a fabulous leathery aroma, but my opinion is that it fell a little flat on the palate. Tasting notes claim it is seductive with fruit aromas and spicy notes, and that it is complex with concentration. I wish things were different, but this was not my experience. If you want to fork over the $110 and see for yourself, I’ll not be offended.