Long-awaited ’04 Italian Bruenellos debut

Rich, powerful, elegant and assertive are just a few of the descriptions of praise for the newly released 2004 Brunellos, considered to be the elite wines from Tuscany.
Brunellos are not frou frou frivolous wines. They are the quintessential symbol of the excellence of Italian winemaking. A clone of the Sangiovese grape, they are carefully cultivated in small batches, barreled for four years, then a year in bottle before being released for consumption. Some 25 percent of the Brunellos produced are sent to America where an eager market will pay a premium to taste this lush king of Italian style and culture. Prices range from $40 up to $150 a bottle.
Many of the smart winemakers in and around the birthing ground, Montalcino, did not produce a Brunello in 2002 and 2003 due to unacceptable weather conditions, so the ’04 has pent up demand, and it does not disappoint. Wineries like Gaja, Banfi, Casanovi di Neri, Altesino, Frescobaldi rave about this vintage. “The 2004 season was exceptional with excellent conditions, and compares favorably with the wonderful 2001 wines,” stated Giacomo Neri. “The growing season in 2003 was just too hot and lacked structure and backbone; and the 2002 was a washout with terrible rains especially at harvest. Most of this ’04 season was much easier on the grapes under sunny, warm skies and cooler temperatures.”
That’s Italy for you. Winemakers have to be flexible and possess a touch of genius to produce remarkable wines with Italy’s weather swings.
Another winemaker, Andrea Cortonesi of Ucceliera, was quoted in Wine Spectator as saying of the ‘04’s “these Brunellos are much richer and better for aging than the 2001’s. There will be great surprises.” What he is saying refers to the cellaring of the ‘04’s, up to 12 years, to maximize its wealth of flavors.
Half-way around the world, Peder and Julie Norby lead remarkable careers in North County. He is a marketing specialist guiding the future of retail districts in Encinitas. She is a school principal in Solana Beach. But if you ask them what they really enjoy out of life, they would tell you it is to make Brunello wine on their residential property in Carlsbad. Some 60 neighbors and friends gathered recently at the Norby home, and after he oriented the group, they all dug into grape picking, crushing, bottling and tasting.
“We grow mostly Brunello grapes,” Norby said. “The soil and climate are perfectly aligned to Tuscany and Montalcino. We are pleased with our second year harvest and after we are through picking today, we will taste the results of our first harvest (which I also worked at). It should get better as the vines age to a sweet spot of seven or more years.”
Norby should be able to get close to 80 gallons of wine and 400 bottles from this years’ harvest. Like pieces to an intricate puzzle, he has invested in small-scale but effective equipment which precisely processes the grapes to bottle. “To get delicious tasting wine, you must be patient and know winemaking,” he said. “This is such a satisfying, productive thing to do with a piece of property. It sure beats filling a bag every week with grass clippings.” I’ll drink to that.
Wine Bytes
— Vinz Wine Bar in downtown Escondido is new and presents outdoor live entertainment every Saturday through Oct. 31, from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Dinner reservations can be made by calling (760) 743-8466.
— The Catamaran Resort Hotel on Mission Bay San Diego hosts a Wine Festival from 1 to 4 p.m. Sept. 26. It benefits Big Brothers and Sisters charity. Sixty wineries are expected including Napa, Sonoma, Washington, and Oregon. Food pairings include gourmet cheeses. Entrance fee is $55 in advance, $60 at the door. Full details at www.missionbaywinefestival.com or call (858) 488-1081.
— Thurs. Oct. 1 is a great time to be in Carmel as their annual wine event happens from 6 to 10 p.m. Thirty restaurants and 20 wineries participate at the Carmel Mission. Call (831) 624-2522 for more information.
— Vino 100 in San Marcos goes Around the World for their wine tasting on Fri. Oct. 2 from 5 to 9 p.m. The cost is $15 per person which gets you the opportunity to compare a world of wine. Call (760) 591-9113 for details.
— Four North County wineries have partnered for a Fall Barrel Tasting with the winemakers in attendance, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 3 at each of the wineries: Belle Marie, Bernardo, Cordiano and Deer Park. Passports are being pre-sold for $35 at each of the wineries and are good for all wineries that day. Contact Jeff at Belle Marie for details at (760) 796-7557.
— Belle Marie in Escondido also has its next Winemaker’s Dinner on Sat. Oct. 10. Special French menu is planned, paired with the winery’s French-style wines. For more, again contact Jeff at (760) 796-7557.

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