If there is one thing I have learned about wine it’s that wine drunk alone can only be good.  To be great it must be drunk with others.  This proved true on a recent night when friends new and old came together for a Tuscan wine dinner at Aurora in Brooklyn.  I had tried a couple of the special wines we drank on previous occasions and they had been very good, but in the presence of such a great group of friends the spirit of the night brought the wines to a new level of greatness.  I am thankful for the great wines we drank, and the great food that we ate with them, but most of all for the people that came together to share it all.  Wine is nothing if not an experience to be shared, and that’s one of the meanings of life in my book.

The food and atmosphere at Aurora was the perfect backdrop for the wines, all of which were from Tuscany.  We started with a vertical of vintages of Camartina from biodynamic Tuscan producer Querciabella.  The 1981 was the very first vintage ever produced of this great wine;  and oh what a wine, more Burgundian than Tuscan and a very special moment to be able to witness the birth of a legend.  The other vintages from 1991, 1996, 1999, and 2000 also proved to be very good.  The style of each wine seemed to be singular to each vintage, and although the style has evolved into something more modern with increasing percentages of Cabernet at the expense of Sangiovese, there is no denying that Camartina is a deftly made wine that relies on balance in each vintage.  All the Camartina’s have a long life ahead of them.  Loving to see how the more recent vintages will evolve.  Camartina has to go down as the best example of Super Tuscan that I have yet tasted.

After the epic flight of Camartina (my first ever experience with these wines by the way) we moved onto one of my favorite Chianti producers, Félsina.  We had a trio of their top wines from the 1995 vintage:  Chianti Classico Riserva, Chianti Classico Rancia, and Fontalloro.  We also had a bottle of 1994 Fontalloro.  It gave us a great comparison to the differences of each wine in the 1995 vintage and back to back vintages of the ever special Fontalloro, which my friend Rosemary Gray commented was a “Penthouse” of a wine, and she meant the magazine!  The Félsina wines showed well on this night, and showed how well classically made Chianti can age.  All of the Félsina’s have lots of life ahead of them and this was confirmation of just how great Félsina can be.

Then we entered the bonus round where cash and prizes are doubled.  We had a couple of surprise for our group, two of the most iconic wines in all of Tuscany:  Montevertine Le Pergole Torte and Soldera Case Basse Brunello.  I can’t actually think of two Tuscan wines I would rather drink.  Besides the fact that the Le Pergole Torte label is totally beautiful, it is one of the most legendary expressions of Sangiovese.  The 2006 is still a baby that is only beginning it’s journey, but it is a great expression of Sangiovese and Tuscany.  And what can one say about Soldera really.  Many people, especially Gianfranco Soldera, consider Case Basse to be the greatest expression of Sangiovese and Brunello di Montalcino, and one of the greatest wines in the world.  Who am I to disagree.  I will simply say this:  the 1998 Soldera Case Basse may be the finest wine I have ever tasted.  It is a wine almost beyond words.

CAMARTINA:

Querciabella Camartina 1981

Greenish fresh nose and sweet strawberries in the mouth.  An elegant and persistent wine.  Perfect and drinkable.  First vintage ever of Camartina.  Lovely stuff, reminiscent of the best from Burgundy.  HIGHLY RECOMMENDED – CLASSIC

Querciabella Camartina 1991

Bordeaux like on the nose with cedar and smoke and a touch a of cordial.  Drinking well but could go on further.  HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Querciabella Camartina 1996

A hint of menthol and dark berries, this is balanced and integrated and heading towards elegance.  The most restrained other than the 1981.  HIGHLY RECOMMEDED

Querciabella Camartina 1999

Dark almost opulent fruits.  Hints of cordial and herbs.  Moving toward more modern, but still perfectly balanced.  HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Querciabella Camartina 2000

Sweet red fruits, a hint of menthol.  This is polished and integrated in a sweet fruit modern way, yet it is a bit changeable and some classic notes appear after time.  This one may turn out more classic given time.  Check back in a decade.  HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

FELSINA:

Félsina Chianti Classico Riserva 1995

Grilled steak, balsamic, herbs, bark, earth, and black berry.  This is classic stuff that speaks of the earth, the place, and Sangiovese.  HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Félsina Chianti Classico Rancia 1995

Smoke, bark, beef broth.  Tart retiring red fruits.  There is good acidity here and a persistent finish.  Rancia can often be the most difficult of Félsina wines to appreciate.  HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Félsina Fontalloro 1995

Briar, tobacco, bark and tart cherry.  There is good acid, yet a sense of lush integration, the difference between Fontalloro and the other Félsina Chianti is immediately apparent.  A truly special wine from a great producer.  HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Félsina Fontalloro 1994

Dark and briary, and perhaps a bit more rustic than the 1995 Fontalloro.  Bark and herbs are there too and it is again plush yet tart.  Proves again what a special wine Fontalloro always seems to be.  HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

BONUS ROUND:

Montevertine 2006 Le Pergole Torte

Metallic nose, that berry and earth.  This is a baby, and it has good acidity to carry it forth.  This needs 5-10 to begin to start to strut a bit more, and will undoubtedly go on for a long time thereafter being from 2006.  HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Soldera 1998 Case Basse

The truth spoke with the 1998 Soldera.  Strawberry, cherry cola, marzipan, and wedding cake.  And that was just the nose!  And oh what a nose, but on the palate it delivered the goods too with a caressing pretty mouth feel.  A perfect wine of sublime delicacy.  It was all French lace panties.  HIGHLY RECOMMENDED – CLASSIC