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The 2009 Pietra Santa Sassolino reminds us of the many wonderful, stylish Super Tuscan reds we have tasted in Italy over the years, which of course is Alessio Carli’s intention with Sassolino – a traditional Super Tuscan blend of 70% Sangiovese and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon. The 2009 Sassolino is a rich, complex wine of both considerable fruit and firm structure that proudly pays homage to Carli’s Tuscan heritage and re-affirms Pietra Santa’s unequivocal success with Sangiovese. Sassolino exhibits an enticing bouquet and a variety of luscious flavors reminiscent of cranberry, Bing cherry, and plum infused with hints of anise and wood smoke. Full, but polished, the 2009 Sassolino fills the mouth with crushed berry and spice flavors, a smooth texture, and a long, lingering finish reminiscent of Tuscany’s finest red wines. For optimal enjoyment, we suggest affording Sassolino an hour of aeration before serving at cool room temperature (60°-65° F).
The 2009 Sassolino is a great food wine that is easy to pair with many cuisines, but we find it especially well suited to almost anything Italian. Alessio Carli’s Gnocchi with Marinara Sauce and Pietra Santa’s recipe for Flank Steak Stuffed with Spinach and Mushrooms are two outstanding accompaniments to this wine. Homemade lasagna layered with sliced meatballs and spicy Italian sausage provides another tasty accompaniment. Risotto Fratacchione, a traditional Sienese dish made with lean sausages, Arborio rice, and a dollop of Parmigiano-Reggiano, also offers wonderful companionship to Pietra Santa’s Sassolino. Cheese or meat tortellini, roast pork with polenta, and grilled lamb also do justice to this classic Tuscan style red, while a plate of artisan cheeses affords yet another opportunity to enjoy the 2009 Sassolino. Buon Appetito!
Pietra Santa is a family-run estate producing outstanding artisanal wines and olive oils. It is located 25 miles from Monterey Bay in the beautiful Cienega Valley. Founded in the early 1850s by Frenchman Theophile Vache, it is now owned by the Blackburn family. Pietra Santa fashions an array of delicious wines, thanks to the acumen of Italian winemaker Alessio Carli and the estate’s unique terroir. The estate’s proximity to the coast emits cooling maritime breezes that temper the summer sun, resulting in a long growing season and vibrant balanced wines. Moreover, the winery is located on the San Andreas Fault, which has created soils rich in granite and limestone that naturally lower vineyard yields and add distinctive flavors to the wines. The winery was named Pietra Santa, Italian for “Sacred Stone,” in honor of these exceptional soils.
Although Pietra Santa spans more than 400 acres spread across Cienega Valley, adjacent bench lands, and nearby Gabilan Mountains, only 120 acres are devoted to wine grapes. Each of the winery’s nine grape varieties benefit from the estate’s varied terrain. Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio enjoy steep, terraced hillsides where they thrive under the bright morning sun as well as cool, afternoon shade. Meanwhile, Pinot Noir and Sangiovese are grown on the moderate bench land, while Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are planted in the deepest parts of the valley to receive maximum sun exposure. Pietra Santa’s oldest vineyards date to 1905.
What is perhaps most impressive about Pietra Santa is how winemaker Alessio Carli brings out the best in each of Pietra Santa’s varietals. Tuscan by birth, Alessio first learned to make Chianti with his father. He then went on to study agronomy at college and later earned a graduate degree in enology. In Tuscany, he spent two years at Fattoria Il Castagno where he supervised the fattoria’s production of both wine and olive oil. He also served as Assistant Winemaker at Badia a Coltibuono, one of Chianti’s most celebrated estates, before coming to California in 1990. He has worked exclusively with Pietra Santa since 1998. His expertise with Sangiovese, an indigenous Tuscan grape, is second to none. However, choosing one progeny over another at Pietra Santa is akin to “Sophie’s Choice.” From our experience, Alessio’s olive oils are quite exceptional as well. In short, Pietra Santa is one of California’s rising stars, and its wines are not to be missed.
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