Basking in the beauty of Brunello, Pian Dell' Orino Riserva 2004

It has been over a year now since I've returned from my trip to Tuscany and I still think about it all the time and was reminded of one my favorite wineries in Brunello, who may not be the biggest [in terms of case production] or the best [because they don't buy ad space] but in my mind and more importantly on my palate they are freaking winetastic [another word I may have coined].

I was reminded of Jan, the winemaker of Pian Dell' Orino today as I got into the back of my copy of  Wine Enthusiast Mag and there was a great score for his baby, the 2004 Brunello, Pian Dell' Orino Riserva which was in barrel number seven, if I remember correctly. I am surprised that if didn't score higher, perhaps the SRP of $135 and limited availability or other factors may have played a small part in the point deductions. Be that as it may, having tasted it first hand I would have given it at least 95 points. Yes folks it was that good, nearly on the cusp of perfection.

Like I said above, I've been back from Italy over a year now and I'm still putting together my thoughts and notes about the trip to Italy and more precisely Tuscany. The trip was both arduous and filled with many new discoveries. This was my first time in Italy and my first time to [officially] Europe. A few hours in two different European Airports doesn't really count, but it is a place my palate and my mind have both longed to discover and both were equally rewarded and as someone has famously once said, "I'll be back"!

I ran across this quote online"Life is full of beauty. Notice it. Notice the bumble bee, the small child, and the smiling faces. Smell the rain, and feel the wind. Live your life to the fullest potential, and fight for your dreams. Ashley Smith. I thought this quote fit nicely with the reasons for our trip, besides the obvious need for some downtime (vacation) of which it was and wasn't, a strange paradox indeed.

We (that's me and my wife) were only in Montalcino just one day from the early morning until late afternoon, as I really didn't relish the thought of driving around Italy in the dark, they don't have the same standards of roadway illumination as we do in the U.S. and with me driving as well as visiting there for the first time, I thought it would be wise to not to push my luck.

Before we left on our trip, I had made or requested four appointments for that day and three of the four responded in the affirmative that they would be happy to show us around and talk with us a bit about their winery and maybe give us a tour of their facilities and taste some of their wines. One of the wineries told us, "no we don't (and I paraphrase) cater to individual wine writers (read that; wine bloggers) but that we were more than welcome to stop by their tasting room if I was inclined to do so", after that polite snub, I really didn't feel too "inclined" to waste any time visiting these folks.

The three which responded in the affirmative and said that they would be glad to receive us were Poggio Antico, Col D'Orcia and Pian Dell' Orino and all three made us feel very welcome and respected, the fourth which basically dismissed our request will remain unknown. It's worth noting how funny that with time comes changes in attitude and that the winery which rebuffed my request is now sending samples for the review process.
For those of you in the audience who may not be familiar with Brunello, I want to highlight and bring to your attention Pian Dell' Orino, who are "blazing a new trail in Brunello" and it's in the viticulture and the wine-making style where you will find my meaning. If on the contrary you're already fan of Brunello, but are not familiar with this label, than you really owe it to yourself to grab a few bottles today and get acquainted. This is what I would call a small estate (compared to lets say Col D'Orcia) and while small in scale it is not small in producing world class Brunello. Their estate is located directly next to the father of Brunello, Biondi-Santi (which should be grabbing your attention just now) just a mile or so out of town from the down town center of Montalcino.

My wife and I had an opportunity to stop by and visit with their [who is the other half of the team with his wife Caroline Pobiter] winemaker Jan Hendrick Erbach, who was very gracious and informative, we really only intended to stay a short time as Jan had another appointment in town. But as our conversation about his wine and his wonderfully interesting winery took flight and we stayed for nearly three hours and never realized it until it was time for him to depart. After tasting through his wines of which only three of their labels make it stateside, which is too bad because their Rosé is very unique and wonderful.

Having been so thoroughly impressed with his wine, one question came to mind and so I asked Jan, "what are you doing different here?" this question was anchored in my comparisons of the other wines I had tasted that day and his reply deflected away our praise as he said, "really it's about the viticulture and that's the real story, because you can only make great wine from equally great grapes" a statement which finds me in complete agreement.

He went on to say further, "that our winery is a Biodynamic Estate and explained that those farming techniques involved in the process, along with their unusually shaped, winemaking facility built on circular gravity flow basis gives our wines an advantage others would love to emulate". Since his duties at his own winery have increased Jan [pictured above] has had to let go of some of his other consulting positions only because of time constraint, as he has become a very popular consulting enologist in Tuscany.

Pressing him further he admitted to me that while raised in Germany and learning his winemaking at the prestigious Geisenheim Academy he says, "I had really honed his wine-making skills in France and it was that influence which he has brought into his winemaking style." A style which differs from some of the other projects he regularly consults on for other vintners in the area, who of course have their own style and desired outcome for their wines.

Even though I only visited two other producers of Brunello and maybe tasted a handful of others in the various Entecos, I would have to conclude that in general I find Pian Dell' Orino Brunello to be silky smooth on the palate, just a great mouth feel  and while quite rich, they are balanced with good acidity and  really serves as a testament of Biodynamic farming practices and the quality of their grapes. In a nutshell  I would say that the wines made at Pian Dell' Orino offers excellent fruit concentration, lovely aromatics a have mouthwatering acidity!

Their Wines: Brunello di Montalcino , Rosso di Montalcino and Piandorino we tasted all three that day and their Rosé which are all fantastic, there is no other way the describe the sheer quality of this wine. I brought home one of each except the Rosé, the Brunello was the 2004 and the other two were the 2007. If you are familiar with the current best vintages of Brunello overall it's 2004 which is getting all the attention and if their 2004 is typical of this vintage then it would behoove the average consumer and collector alike to grab a few of these wonderful wines before they are gone.

Their Grapes: All their wines are 100% Sangiovese, even the Rosé which has a beautiful peach color and enticing aromatics which carry through to the palate and expresses itself wonderfully. The grapes from their self described top-tier vineyards are made of Sangiovese Grosso grapes also called Brunello [little dark one], so named for the brown hue on the skin. Making wines that are big, deep colored and powerful, with enough tannins and structure great for long-term cellaring.

Historic Origins: The Sangiovese grape that we know today to supposedly a descendent of the Roman era and has led to theories that the grape's origins dated from Roman times and a translation of Sangiovese's name sanguis Jovis, "the blood of Jove" the Roman god Jupiter. These fun facts makes for some interesting reading to "cork-dorks" like myself.

Their Vineyards: The four estate vineyards  are composed of -Pian dell’Orino, Pian Bossolino, Cancello Rosso and Scopeta – all producing Sangiovese grapes. The growth system they use is the single spur cordon system.
Their Label: I only mention their label because it's very different from any other label you may encounter on the shelf, as you pass your hand over the Pian dell’Orino label it reveals the raised dots of the Braille alphabet. Which is a compassionate gesture that allows even the visually challenged to enjoy every single aspect of Jan and Caroline’s wines and to that I say, kudos!

Where to buy: If you want to buy their wine it appears you'll will have to do most of your shopping online and if you follow this link Pian Dell'Orino Brunello di Montalcino 2004 you can find this wine for $58 and their Pian Dell'Orino Rosso di Montalcino 2005 for $28 which seem fair prices for the caliber of wine you will be drinking. You can of course look around the web yourself and find various prices, but finding that wine for $58 is a good price from Stirling Fine Wines and if purchased from anywhere besides NJ you will save a few dollars on taxes. But of course the shipping may jack up the price, as there appears to be no standard in shipping prices charged by various online wine stores and wineries alike.

Other Voices : Antonio Galloni from the (The Wine Advocate) scored the non-Riserva 94 Points and had this to say about their wine, "The 2004 Brunello di Montalcino is a powerful, muscular wine endowed with plenty of dark fruit, minerals, spices and French oak. The balance here is exceptional, has everything is in the right place. Firm yet silky tannins frame the finish with a classy elegance that is tough to find in Montalcino."  This is one of the wines I scored when I was there, last year.

I like when the folks at the big Wine Pub's concur with my findings on superlative vino, this rating just came out from WE the October 2010 issue, on the 2004 Pian Dell' Orino Riserva Brunello, they scored it 92 points, saying of this wine, "it delivers loads of intensity in the mouth, this is a big, thick and dense expression that is ready to drink now!" and this wine is imported by Polaner Selections.

Here is how Jan and Caroline define their own new "Trail Blazing Difference" in Brunello with their own twelve step program:
“Our” quality in 12 points

· We only grow the autochthonous grape, Sangiovese grosso
· We are organic and certified by the ICEA
· Our maximum yield is a bottle per vine
· We respect the natural rhythms which influence the growth of every plant
· We regularly taste our wines as they age
· Our use of sulphur is kept to an absolute minimum, so that the wines are easily digested
· The wine is not filtered and therefore retains its vitality
· Everything we do is here motivated by our continual search for quality
· Our grapes are picked and treated with great delicacy
· The fermentation is slow and spontaneous thanks to naturally occurring yeasts
· We follow the aging in wood scrupulously
· We are very attentive to the authenticity of our wines – and have never used any added aroma, grape concentrate or other industrial “devilry”

You can think of the wines made at Pian dell'Orino - Montalcino - Toscana - Italia like one of the songs which Frank Sinatra sang, "the best is yet to come"!  Which is why today after writing this article last year I wanted to dust it off and update it, as it has been brought to my attention by the recent praise lauded on their 2004 Riserva Brunello by Wine Enthusiast Magazine.

Please visit their website which is easy to navigate and is very smartly laid out . Until next time cheers everyone! Ciao!

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