The SOMM Journal

October/November 2014

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Page 48 of 120

48 { THE SOMM JOURNAL } OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2014 the friendship between Mazzei and Jefferson. And it's these qualities that still inspire the Mazzei family today. But the legend of the Mazzei family started far before even Philip. It was actually the vision of the first Mazzei winemaker, Ser Lapo Mazzei (1350–1412), that put the name "Chianti" on the region of production, and therefore a terroir. A commercial con - tract, signed by Ser Lapo Mazzei in 1398 reads, "To be paid, on December 16, 3 florins, 26 soldi and 8 dinars, to Piero di Tino Riccio, for 6 barrels of Chianti wine . . . the above pay by letter of Ser Lapo Mazzei." The connection of the Mazzeis to the Fonterutoli property occurred in 1435 when Ser Lapo Mazzei's granddaughter, Madonna Smeralda, married Piero di Agnolo da Fonterutoli. For 24 generations following that union, Mazzei grape-growers and winemakers have occupied the estate called Castello di Fonterutoli, located just a few of miles south of Castellina in Chianti, in what is now the Chianti Classico zone. Committed to a Better Understanding of Terroir Fast-forward nearly 600 years and, at present day, the Marchesi Mazzei estate at Fonterutoli covers 650 acres and while most of the property is forest, five distinct vineyard locations (Fonterutoli, Siepi, Caggio, Le Ripe and Belvedere) span 117 acres ranging from elevations of 750 to nearly 1,700 feet above sea level, all facing south and southwest. Since the 1970s, the Mazzei family has been committed to better understanding their own terroir and the land of Castello di Fonterutoli. Through many years of research in partner - ship with Carlo Ferrini, a leading Tuscan vineyard consultant who takes a holistic approach to managing estates, they have selected these five optimal sites for vine-growing within their property. In these locations, besides the blending grapes of Malvasia Nera and Colorino, and some stretches of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, the Mazzeis grow 36 different biotypes of Sangiovese grapes; 18 are massal selections from the old vines at Fonterutoli and 18 are clones specially selected from those available on the market. Propelled by their entrepreneurial spirit, the Mazzei family has also diversified their land holdings and in the 1990s purchased Belguardo, a 173-acre estate in the Maremma, six miles from the Tuscan coast, near the national park called Parco dell'Uccellina ("park of the little bird"). The purchase of the property represents for the Mazzei family the drive to experiment and be expressive, outside of their home district. On this coastal Tuscan prop - erty, they grow indigenous varieties Sangiovese, Alicante and Vermentino, as well as international grapes Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Syrah. In 2003 they furthered their vision with the purchase of Zisola, a 123-acre estate in southeastern Sicily, which is protected as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Just three years later, they com - pleted total renovation of their winery at Castello di Fonterutoli. Agnese Mazzei, family member and also designer of the barrel cellar at Sassicaia, created the 107,640-square-foot cutting-edge winery. Designed to have minimal environmental impact, the three-story structure exists mainly underground and makes use of gravity flow to minimize the handling of the grapes during the process of fermentation and aging. A natural spring exists on the bottom floor, in the barrel room, to naturally control humidity. They even use much of their agricultural waste as a fuel source. With a constant eye towards technology and the demands of today's market, but an unwavering commitment to their land, the current Mazzeis, Lapo and his sons, Fillipo and Francesco, continue to pursue new enterprises while coddling their Tuscan heritage. A Tribute to the Ancestor The family's most recent project, a wine named "Philip," pays tribute to their ancestor, who had a deep passion to embark upon new frontiers while staying loyal to his home. Philip, the wine, is a 100% Cabernet Sauvignon—and absolutely Tuscan. It comes from grapes grown on both the Belguardo and Castello di Fonterutoli estates. The rocky soils of the Belguardo hills, rich in iron and manganese, produce wines with a marked minerality; a mix of sandstone in the soil offers perfume qualities to the wines. At Fonterutoli in Chianti Classico, the limestone- and calcium- rich soils contribute deep structure and complexity to its wines. To enable the full expression of both locations, while supporting harmony in the blend, the two lots age separately in a sturdy and sensible aging program—24 months in 30% new 500-liter French and American oak barrels—before being blended and bottled. True to its varietal character, this Cabernet has the added benefit of extra layers of Tuscan character. Driven by a nexus of mineral, smoke, moss, cedar and black plum aromas, the mid- palate comes in firm with black fruit, mocha and vanilla. The wine remains poised throughout, with a solid framework and a lifted and spicy finish. For the Mazzei family, Philip is a true Tuscan rep - resentation of the attainment of life, liberty and happiness. Mazzei wines are imported by Palm Bay International. The label for Mazzei Philip is based on the design of the 1980 U.S. commemorative airmail stamp in honor of Philip Mazzei, a "Patriot Remembered."

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