Ferragamos Convert Crumbling Tuscan Villa Into Winery, Resort

Don't bother going to a wine store and asking for the new line of Ferragamo wines. The Italian brand adorning $1,600 leather boots isn't on the bottles because the family, being extremely genteel, thinks it in poor taste.

Instead it uses names like Il Borro, a Tuscan estate spread over 700 hectares (1,730 acres), with 40 dedicated to vineyards. Salvatore Ferragamo, 37, the tall, blue-eyed grandson of the company's late founder, Neapolitan-born Salvatore, recently introduced the wines to the trade and media at a tasting on the patio of the Ferragamo showroom on New York's Fifth Avenue.

"The estate dates back to 1760 in the noble Medici- Tornaquinci family," Ferragamo said at the tasting, "My father Ferruccio used to hunt with Duke Amedeo D'Aosta, who owned the property until 1993, when we bought it and brought it back from almost complete decay."

The Ferragamos restored the grand villa and country houses on the estate and turned it into a winery and a resort, which Salvatore Ferragamo now manages. Daily rates, now in low season, run from 200 euros ($302) to 1,500 euros per night, with a three-night minimum.

Wines have always been made on the estate and the Ferragamos hired enologist Niccolo D'Afflitto in 1999 to improve the quality. The winery opened in 2007, with four labels under the IGT (indication of geography typical of the region) appellation decreed by Italian wine laws.

With D'Afflitto and enologist Cecilia Leoneschi, Ferragamo also makes wines on estates around Montalcino such as the 4,500- acre Castiglion del Bosco.

Cheese and Chicken

Eight wines were presented at the New York tasting, along with platters of prosciutto, Parmigiano cheese, focaccia and Tuscan crostini toast slathered with chicken liver paste — the kind of food whose fat content enhances the wines on the palate.

To begin, there was Il Borro Lamelle Chardonnay 2006 ($24), which spends 8 to 10 days in both oak and stainless steel, then two months in oak, followed finally by two months in the bottle before release. At 12.5 percent alcohol, its structure is much closer to the finesse of French Burgundies than the powerful, over-oaked California style. It is ideal with simple seafood and pastas in cream and butter sauces.

Il Borro Pian di Nova 2006 ($24) is made from an unusual blend, for Tuscany, of 75 percent syrah and 25 percent sangiovese. At a reasonable 13 percent alcohol, you don't get that syrah burn or too much ripeness out of the fruit. It's a big, thick, chewy wine, however, with the ballast of sangiovese tannins that make it a good match with game dishes.

$15 Dainero

Castiglion del Bosco Dainero 2004 ($15) is 90 percent merlot with 10 percent sangiovese that gives a bit more character to the merlot than northern Italian examples usually show. There isn't much complexity here, but at $15, it's pretty wonderful.

Castiglion del Bosco Rosso di Montalcino 2005 ($21) is a more traditional wine of the region, made with 100 percent sangiovese at 13.5 percent alcohol. More and more I am impressed with rosso di Montalcino, the illustrious brunello di Montalcino's lesser brother, because I find it easy to drink at a younger age.

While not having the same body and complexity as brunellos, rosso di Montalcinos are excellent Tuscan wines on their own. Ferragamo's had a brilliant ruby color and a gorgeous bouquet. It's still tannic, but within the next year, should emerge as a very fine example of this increasingly delightful red.

Musty Brunello

Castiglion del Bosco Brunello di Montalcino 2003 ($50), by law 100 percent sangiovese grosso, with 14 percent alcohol, was swirled in the glass with a slightly musty aroma that dissipated to reveal abundant fruit and a remarkably forward development for a young brunello. You could take great pleasure in it now with a peppered bistecca alla Fiorentina, but wait a year or two, and I think you'll really be amazed at its power and refinement.

Castiglion del Bosco Campo del Drago 2003 ($80), also a brunello, is a bigger, very tannic wine now, with a powerful nose that bursts from the glass and a blanketing richness as it falls over the palate. This may take a little time to mature fully, but the wait will be worth it.

For the most part, prices for these wines are amazingly reasonable — the rosso di Montalcino is a steal at $21 — and just the thing to drink while wearing your $790 tassel loafers.

(John Mariani writes on wine for Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)

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