Continuing on the Wine Trail, part 5

with Rick and Mary Homer


PODERE LE RIPI (Montalcino) ( (tel:  +39 0577 835641)   It is truly an adventure (and at times a little scary) getting to this winery . . .  but if you have the chance to get there, you should!  Please be sure to phone ahead to book a tasting time. 

Our journey began with us driving uphill for some time (on a narrow paved road) and then heading downhill and eventually we left the paved road for an unpaved road.   By now our friend, Ed, who was acting as our driver, was becoming increasingly more comfortable with the style of Italian driving . . . at times, much to my fright!   We drove down a very steep unpaved (sometimes rocky) road for a very long time.  Rick, who was acting as our navigator, began to have his own doubts about the validity of both GPS units we were using.   Ed and I both “voted” to carry on and see what lay ahead . . . Ed doing so because he was adventurous and I doing so because I did not want us to try to turn the car around on a one lane dirt and gravel road with no protection from the steep edge.    Occasionally we came across some crazy walkers / runners that were competing in some type of race.  They looked extremely hot and tired and half-crazed.   We found out later that the “race” was 82 km long (all the while under the hot Italian sun). 

After a long and dusty drive we finally arrive at the winery.  Upon seeing a large and uniquely shaped structure, which we believe may be the winery’s cellar, it becomes immediately apparent that this winery owner thinks “outside of the box”.   We are met and greeted by Giovanni Stella, the winery’s consultant who has now been hired as its winemaker, who promptly takes us on a tour of the vineyards and centuries old olive trees. 

Giovanni shows us how the winery has planted a variety of plants and herbs between the rows of vines to provide certain nutrients to the soil or plant mustard (because of its long tap root) to help the soil drain. (see photo provided) The number of plants/herbs planted varied in each row, depending on what need had to be met.  We learn that this winery does things quite different and are very progressive in their thinking.  So progressive, in fact, that they have a helipad on site for those participating in helicopter tours.   A much easier option than driving, I would say.

Following the tour of the vineyard we are given a tour of the structure we saw upon arriving. Yes, it is indeed a wine cellar, built around the Fibonacci sequence (they call it the Golden Ratio Cellar) with an added bonus of a large terrace on top and grape vines planted along the spirals of the building.  The inside of this structure is just as impressive as the outside. (see photo provided)

We end up walking down the wide spiral cellar, passing large fermentation barrels, a tasting table in front of a wide window (built into the spiral) that offers a beautiful view,  smaller aging barrels, pallets of bottled wine, until we are descended approx. 20 meters below our starting point. The cellar, due to its design, distorts your perception of distance travelled.   Giovanni is providing us with great information about the winery and its standards.   We also had a unique acoustical experience at the bottom of the cellar . . . but we won’t share those details here . . . so as not to spoil your experience when visiting.  Our suspicious were correct:  the winery owner does think outside of the box. 

Following our two tours, we are lead back to the large tasting room.  We opt to enjoy our tasting outdoors on the terrace that overlooks the lush and scenic valley further below and the rolling hills surrounding the area.  I am quickly learning that there is no such thing as a disappointing vista in Italy.  Surrounded by such beauty, it is no wonder that this country is the fashion and style capital of the world!

Tastings at this winery are available in three price points:   E20,  E40 and E70    We end up having a tasting that has a representation of all 3 price points, which includes:

  1. Podere Le Ripi IGT Toscano Rosso “Amore e Follia” (“Love and Madness”) 2014

100% Syrah   Price:   E25

Nose:  Intense perfume; white pepper

Flavour:  Smooth on the palate; not the expected intensity of a syrah but rather an elegant delivery of flavours;

Finish:  Medium in length with complexity; inviting; could be easily enjoyed without the benefit of food;

We agree it is worthy of a Silver Medal

The winery owner is quoted on this label:

Love is essentially crazy.  But the outcome,

as foolish as it might be, is always magical.

Therefore, be crazy my friend.   . . . Francesco Illy


2.  Podere Le Ripi Rosso di Montalcino DOC 2014 “Amore e Magia” (“Love and Magic”)

100% Sangiovese   Price:  E 40

Nose:  Plums, vanilla, black pepper

Flavour:  Intense fruit and spice; well-integrated; especially inviting;

Finish:  Delicate flavours in finish; medium in length; invites you to take another sip;

We agree it is worthy of a (high scoring) Silver Medal

The winery owner is quoted on this label:

Nature is magic.  Mankind can make magic only by investing

love in his actions. . . . Francesco Illy

Note: Giovanni, as the winemaker, believes because the sunlight was different in 2014, (not the usual intense heat, but continuing exposure to the light) is the reason they were able to produce the 2014 wines in a more elegant style.

   3. Podere Le Ripi DOCG Brunello di Montalcino “Cielo d’Ulisse” (“Ulysses’ Sky”) 2013

Price:  E 65

Nose:  Inviting note of red fruit jam and vanilla up front with savoury notes of mushrooms and wood following;

Flavour:  Cherry notes with some minerality in the flavour; subtle savour notes also; an elegant style of wine;

Finish:  Very long finish which continues to develop and change; inviting;

We agree it is worthy of a Gold Medal

   4.  Podere Le Ripi Brunello di Montalcino Riserva DOCG 2008 “Lupi e Sirene” (“Wolves and Mermaids”)   Price:  E 120

Nose:  Complex, Intense, well-integrated notes (some leather)

Flavour:  The intense and complex nose notes carry to the palate;

Finish:  Long, intense and complex;

We agree it is worthy of a (high scoring) Gold Medal


Following our flight of four wines, Giovanni delights us with a tasting of the Bonsai wine, made from grapes grown in a very unique manner.  

Their  Bonsai wine is made from a densely planted vineyard (referred to as the Bonsai vineyard) This Bonsai vineyard is the densest in the world . .   with a density of 60,000 vines planted per hectare (2.7 acres) of land versus the normal planting of 3,000 to 6,000 vines per hectare.  We were also told they only harvest ½ to 1 cluster of grapes per vine in the Bonsai vineyard (photo provided)

   5.  Podere Le Ripi IGT Toscana 2014 Bonsai

100% Sangiovese  Price:  E 200

Nose:  Intense, long, and inviting spice rack upfront with soft red fruits that follow;  Take your time to enjoy the perfume offered by this wine;   This is not a wine to be rushed!

Flavour:  Initially the wine is like drinking liquid velvet . . . so smooth on the tongue; and then it is followed by intense and inviting and complex fruit;  It is like a velvet hammer!

Finish:  Incredibly long and very complex;  amazing finish; One should take their time to enjoy every nuance of this wine;  purchase it for the experience!

We agreed it is worthy of a (high scoring) Gold Medal

This has been a truly informative, educational, unique and satisfying experience.  For that we thank Francesco Illy, winery owner, for his creative insight and thank Giovanni Stella who provided us with an education and represented the winery with true Italian style.  Grazie mille signori!


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