by Fred McMillin
for May 3, 1999
born May 3, 1469 in Florence
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
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.
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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