Winemaker Leonelli Marchesi samples his best at Pastina Trattoria


Just recently one of my favorite wine magazines arrived with a special section on Italian wines and winemakers. I was struck by one interesting fact: none of the people I was caught up by were young. Angelo Gaja is 71, still in charge of his wine world, but training the next generation to take over. Franco Biondi Santo is in his 80’s and put out a new book a couple of years ago. Niccolo Incisa della Rochetta of Bolgheri remains a mystery to me, but must be in his late 60’s or early 70s.

Italian winemaker Lionello Marchesi introduces his wines.

So, a couple of weeks ago I was invited by Jason Hayes of WJ Deutsch and Co. to meet his arriving guest — Lionello Marchesi, owner of three Tuscan properties, and to taste several of his wines, along with a snack prepared by Frank Catullo of Pastina Trattoria, in Westwood. Mr. Marchesi arrived with tie and beautiful suit, and sorted out his wines. I thought I had caught somewhere that he was an engineer before moving into the wine industry. But, he nicely corrected me, and explained that he had been an inventor and entrepreneur. Now a graceful 74, he had left that world to seriously commit himself to wines, and the wines of Tuscany. But, those efforts could have provided him a pension from General Motors. He seemed to come to the US and spent nearly a decade between the middle west and Denver, Colorado. So, off he went to Australia and through Europe, selling seat belts to auto manufacturers and then a non leaky sunroof to General Motors. He was almost into his 50’s when he bought some bankrupt wineries in Tuscany. Then he sold those early wineries in 1994 for $30 million and jumped right in to three other Tuscan estates: Castello di Monastero, Coldisole and Poggio alle Sugheri.

Now the Marchesi estates make wine for the world, and hardly sell any in Italy. A decades long friend of WJ Deutsch, of his importing company, he is well served by them, and continues to work new markets like China and Japan.

I began, because the bottle was nearest to me, with the Brunello di Montalcino 2006, made of 100% Sangiovese, and one of the best I’ve ever had. Bottled in oak for 36 months, the wine spends another 12 months in the bottle.

We went on to the Morellino di Scansano, from 90% Sangiovese and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. Aged for 8 months in small oak barrels and another 3-4 months in the bottle. This was the second year of the new DOCG, and Senor Marchesi was very pleased with the wine’s progress.

Third was the Chianti Superiore, aged in oak for seven months and another 4 or so months in the bottle. This was a new appelation for Marchesi and again they were happy about the success of the blend (85% Sangiovese and 15% merlot) The wine was smooth, fruit forward and very good.

Next was the Chianti Classico, from Radda in Tuscany (near Sienna), was 85% Sangiovese and 15% Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. I liked the nose on this, with the edgy fruit forward hints of wild fruit and a dry intense taste, both complex and in balance.

We moved on to the Rosso di Montalcino, 100% Sangiovese, and aged for 14 months between its time in oak and 6 more months in the bottle. I did pick up strong fruits like raspberry on the nose, and liked the warm dry, and generous taste of the wine. I thought it medium weight, but well balanced.

I do know I had another taste of the Brunello to properly finish off the tasting. I hope I can visit Lionello Marchesi at home in Italy during 2012. Maybe after my trip back from Erfurt and the Culinary Olympics.