One of the great pleasures of returning to my old stomping grounds in New York City has been reconnecting with my old boss and friend, Nicola Marzovilla, legacy restaurateur and now Chianti Classico grape grower.
But an even greater delight has been that of meeting and spending time with his extraordinary winemaker, the indomitable Serena Gusmeri.
She’s from Brescia, another connection we share. Before working with Nicola at his Vecchie Terre di Montefili estate in Panzano, she had never made a red wine in her life. But now she’s one of the hottest enologists in Tuscany, with astronomic scores from the opinion-making mastheads.
As Nicola likes to say, “I used to hate the critics but now I love them!” (When Nicola met Tracie for the first time many years ago, he told her that she needed to get glasses, just to put this in context.)
I visited Serena and the historic Montefili estate in September of last year, just a few days before the Sangiovese harvest was to begin there. I was blown away by the farm, the highest in Panzano. The village is Italy’s first organic biome: every farmer in the commune now farms there organically.
The property hadn’t been abandoned when Nicola took it over a decade ago. But let’s just say that it hadn’t been “updated.”
Today, Serena works closely with a leading biodynamic consultant to align her farming practices with the soils’ biodiversity. In other words, they survey the flora and soils’ nitrogen levels etc. to understand how best to grow the grapes.
The results have been spectacular.
Last week when I was in town, my client and I dined at Nicola’s new and impossible-to-get-in Manhattan restaurant, Nonna Dora’s Pasta Bar, where he opened his most coveted expression of Sangiovese for us, the 2018 Vigna Vecchia — 100 percent Sangiovese made from vines that are more than 40 years old, raised in galestro and alberese-rich soils. Remember the post I did a few weeks ago, “Chianti 101: galestro and alberese”? The images came from my September visit to the farm.
This wine, still very young in its evolution, is rich in body and texture, with vibrant acidity that keeps its heft in balance. The flavors tend toward the darker fruits and the savory character that you find in the greatest of Sangiovese.
We paired it with Nicola’s mom Dora’s orecchiette with rabbit ragù.
Believe me when I say it: it was great to be back in the city.
Thank you again, Nicola! And great to see the old I Trulli crew!