Wine Spotlight: Altesino Brunello di Montalcino 2001

Rometti, Altesino Celler

 Rometti, Altesino BottleThis wine spotlight shines on a tremendous wine producer in Montalcino, Italy.  Altesino has long been one of Montalcino’s top producers.  Founded in 1972 Altesino has brought on a new era of top quality Brunello wines.

All Brunello di Montalcino wine is made exclusively from Sangiovese grapes grown on the hillsides of Montalcino just 20 miles (30km) south of Siena. The word Brunello translates roughly as ‘little dark one’, and is the local vernacular name for Sangiovese Grosso, the large-berried form of Sangiovese which grows in the area.  You could say Sangiovese grapes have adapted well in the region…planted here impressively since 800 AD.

Rometti, Altesino Sign

Arriving in southern Tuscany’s Montalcino region you feel as if you have done just that, arrived as if there was nowhere else you should be.  The lush landscape of the spring is nothing short of heavenly, and the winter is quiet yet calming in its rustic brittle nature.  You could say its the hibernation of things to come as wine makers look to the harvest of the new year.  But work doesn’t stop on a cold December morning.  Rometti had the great pleasure of meeting up with Altesino’s General Manager Claudio Basla who started with Altesino from their very first vintage.  Basla is quite the joker, but one thing is curtain he is truly passionate about his wine.  He shared with us what makes their wine tick, and talked about what makes the Montalcino region one of the most prized places in the world to produce wine, as well as how Altesino is positioned very well to consistently be one of the great authorities in Italian wines.

Altesino's Claudio Basla (Center)

Altesino’s Claudio Basla (Center)

The Altesino estate covers approximately 80 hectares.  The vineyards consist of ~45 hectares, sub-divided into the “crus” of Altesino, Macina, Castelnuovo dell’Abate (in the district of Velona), Pianezzine and Montosoli.  Other than Sangiovese di Montalcino, the majority of the grapes grown (used to make Brunello, Rosso di Montalcino Palazzo Altesi), there is Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot (blended with Sangiovese di Montalcino to make Alte d’Altesi and Rosso di Altesino), Trebbiano and Malvasia (for Vin Santo) and Vermentino, Chardonnay and Viognier used to make Bianco di Altesino.

Rometti, Grape Cluster

Because the Altesino vineyard plots are spread out in parts of the region giving different exposures to the vine, how does this put you at an advantage?. “different winds and  temperatures, northern parts are protected by the winds, when there are hot vintages the north facing vinyards will give ideal production, in complicated vintages the south faceing vineyards can also deliver ideal productions.  There are merely different exposures, plots and microclimates.” says Basla.

Rometti, Altesino North Facing VineyardRometti, Altesino Barrel RoomWhat is it that makes Brunello’s stand out from other wines? “…the particularity of Brunello di Monatlcino is that there is compulsory longer aging.  At least two years in wood, then at their discretion they can continue to age in barrels, tanks, or bottles. Many factors such as vintage, size harvest, and capacity of barrels dictate the true aging process. This aging extends to four years prior to selling to the market.”

We later cracked a bottle of Brunello di Montalcino 2001 in the Siena’s Piazza del Campo after a great day of tasting.  The wine opened up nicely with a matured strawberry, and cherry notes, it later evolves with dark tones of chocolate, and light oak, perhaps hints of tobacco.  Once it rolls off your tongue your hit with some acidity but the tannins hold firm to a nice smooth velvet finish.

Altesino continues to produce some impressively elegant wines with 90+ ratings on their ’04, (WE 94) ’06 (SP 91, WE 90) ’07 (SP 92, WE 91).

Rometti, Altesino Brunello di Montalcino 2001

Altesino – Brunello di Montalcino 2001

Rometti Score:  92

Wine Spectator: 90

Wine Enthusiast: 91


Altesino s.p.a. – societa’ agricola
Località Altesino, 54 53024 Montalcino (Siena)
Tel. 0577 806208
Fax 0577 806131


Wine Spotlight: Whitehall Lane Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 1997

Rometti is proud to introduce a new series called Wine Spotlight.  Many of our readers have enjoyed our Rometti Limoncello cocktails and the great cuisine recipes from all over the world, however no meal would be complete without some amazing vino.

This week’s Wine Spotlight is not just on an exceptional bottle of wine from the past but also about a winery / family that is consistently producing some incredible wine in California’s Napa Valley.   It was in 1993 that the Leonardini Family took control of the Whitehall Lane estate with a commitment to produce award-winning wines.  They have achieved nothing short of that, with Wine Spectator / Enthusiast ratings of 90+ consistently throughout the years.

It was about 10 years ago a family friend introduced me to a bottle of wine that truly put to the test my underdeveloped palate.  It was a bottle of 1997 Whitehall Lane Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve.   This vibrant dark ruby colored wine was aged for 28 months in French and American oak.  The nose explosively hits you with blackberry, raspberry, while the taste has great complexity.  The creamy smoky sweet oak develops with flavors of cherry, plum, along with lingering depths of seemingly limitless flavors. It is why this big and bold wine is one to remember.  1997 was the vintage of the century in California and in many parts of the world, it’s no wonder this bottle was ranked #3 on Wine Spectator’s Top 10 Wines of 2000.  If you are able to find one, prepare to spend over $100 and be ready to drink.

Years since, my pallet has evolved and I’ve continued to enjoy Whitehall. I picked up a case of 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon (WS 90) in late 2010 hoping to hold, but bottles flew off the rack within 3 months, all in good company at least.

On your next trip to Napa, I urge you to drive north and find this gem in the valley.

Whitehall Lane Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Reserve 1997

Rometti Score: 95

Wine Spectator: 91 Points

Wine Enthusiast: 90


Whitehall Lane Winery & Vineyard 

1563 South St. Helena Hwy St. Helena, CA 94574 Ph.800.963.9454