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by Fred McMillin
for May 3, 1999

 

Machiavelli Memories

Niccolo Machiavelli,
born May 3, 1469 in Florence


Prologue

Machiavelli dined here, 1513  
Rinaldo Novello was showing us Antinori holdings near Florence, when he stopped. "You might be interested in this old restaurant." Were we ever! It bore a plaque saying Machiavelli dined there regularly while in 1513 he wrote his shocking set of political guidelines "Il Principe" (The Prince). The stone building where he lived was just across the street (pictured). We were served a special toast; the coarse bread dipped in olive oil and rubbed with a garlic clove before going on the grill...Served piping hot, it made an exciting companion for the Antinori Chianti. My wife adapted it to the American palate in her cooking lessons, and named it Machiavellian Toast.

Then it was off to see the Sangiovese vines that produced the major component of that Chianti. This was twenty years ago. Little did we know that today we could get a California wine made from cuttings of those same vines. And here it is...


Wine of the Day

Atlas Peak 1996 Atlas Peak Sangiovese, Napa Valley
The Vines—Piero Antinori carefully selected choice clones from his Tuscan estate and brought them to the Atlas Peak winery in 1986. The resulting 120 acres constituted about 70% of all Sangiovese in the state. Today's wine is the eighth vintage of Piero's picks.
Vineyard Management—Sangiovese tends to produce too generously, which will reduce flavor intensity. Consequently, those Tuscany cuttings are growing on rocky, shallow, low-nutrient soil. Furthermore, Sangiove poses another problem. It ripens unevenly. Hence, the grapes that made this wine were harvested by hand. They are picked only when deep purple. Oak Treatment—You'll find it rather subdued to protect those bright fruit flavors.
Contact—George Rose, (707) 473-2349
Pairing with Food—Call Margaret Smith, author of Companions at the Table, (800) 600-9086.
Price—$16 range.


Postscript

Atlas Peak really got the Sangiovese varietal rolling in California. When they planted those 120 acres in 1986, there weren't ten Golden State vintners growing the grape. Today there are over a hundred!

Note: For more about the Florence connection, see the Feb. 10, 1999 WineDay titled "Atlas Peak Ain't Meek."

 
About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.

 
 

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