One of the first Tuscan wineries our lucky gang of seven experienced together was Castello di Ama. The winery does not usually accept visitors outside of the trade but a helpful sales guy from one of Ama’s importers (The Sorting Table) was able to make good use of my vocation and his connections to get us an appointment.
What a treat it was! Our cheerful hostess Donatella showed us around the lovely estate, which lies in the heart of the Chianti Classico region in the commune of Gaiole in Chianti. Ama produces wine exclusively from vineyards on the estate and production totals a mere 300 – 350,000 bottles. The estate also yields an even smaller quantity of dee-licious extra virgin olive oil. Marco Pallanti, a well-respected winemaker in Tuscany, oversees the vineyards and makes the wine.
The grounds are charming — almost like a quaint Italian village — and the most interesting aspect is the focus on art. In 2000 the winery instituted Castello di Ama for Contemporary Art to bring together the idea of Art and Wine and showcase various internationals artists. There is a new art installation each year and our favorite was probably the 2001 mirror exhibit by French artist Daniel Buren which is positioned as a "window" on to the real.
“The wine, Vino Girl, what about the wine”?! Well, Donatella was very generous with the wine and we were able to taste the 2005 Al Poggio, followed by the 2001 Vigneto Bellavista and the 2003 L’Apparita. We also tasted the estate’s own olive oil (About $50 for 17 ounces) which is why I know it is dee-lish!
The 2005 Al Poggio (about $30) is a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio and Malvasia Bianca. It’s bright, complex and enchanting and, although they do not sell wine at the estate, we promptly visited a nearby enoteca and purchased a bottle to drink with dinner.
The 2001 Vigneto Bellavista ($100 - $140) is a single vineyard, old vines Chianti Classico made of mostly Sangiovese with a dab of Malvasia Nera. This wine was my darling of the day. It is only produced in the very best vintages (1995, 1997, 1999 and 2001 of late) and is tremendously elegant with superior balance and structure. The wine is multifaceted with juicy black cherry and berries, pleasant earth tones, and layers of herbs and spices. It is silky smooth with a medium to full body and should last for years. Polished is the single best word I can use to describe it.
The 2003 L’Apparita ($175 – $200) is 100% Merlot done the Italian way. By this I mean it is not flabby in the least but clean, rich, minty and chocolaty. It is made in a more lush style than the Bellavista, but, after all, this is Merlot. Overall it is a refined wine that is still too young to fully enjoy.
The gang of seven was duly impressed with all the wines and we departed the “castle of loves” with a certain affection for the winery. In true Italian fashion, we also found out that Donatella lives in the diminutive town we hiked to the day before. I think she was nervous we might knock on her door looking for Sunday dinner!
I should mention that we also drank a bottle of the 2006 Castello di Ama Rosato the following day at lunch (in Donatella’s town.) We were not disappointed. This was one of the best Italian Roses I have ever tasted. The wine is 90% Sangiovese and 10% Canaiolo and possesses a character which to me is lacking in most roses. Coupled with great freshness, acidity and ripe fruit, this is a real winner for under $15!