In Pursuit of Freshness In a Panda

Jan 27, 2023


When embarking on a road trip through Europe, there is so much excitement and anticipation of becoming part of the Old World Culture for a couple of weeks. There was no other person I’d rather travel across Italy with than Robert “Roberto” Fogarty, Independent Retail Region Manager Icon Team. The cherry on top..? We traversed over 1200 miles in an Italian Icon, a Fiat Panda!!

This trip to Italy was different! As soon as we arrived in Sardegna and took our first sip of Vermentino di Gallura, it was apparent that we were in pursuit of the popular wine quality, freshness!!

The Panda at Il Molino di Grace in Panzano.
Left: Robert Fogarty & Chris Girodano. Right: The town of Monforte D'Alba.

Jankara Winery

We started in Sardegna, 125 miles from the Italian mainland, and further away in culture. The vineyard land is still a small part of the agriculture community with more than double the land dedicated to grazing animals to produce milk and meat. Previous rule by the Spanish brought the dominant grape varietals Vermentino, Cannonau, Carignano and Bovale. There is no coincidence that the island’s first DOCG wine region was Vermentino di Gallura. This region is on the far northern tip of the island. Here the cool ocean breeze and the dry heat help mature the grapes to their full ripeness. Vermentino mirrors this climate and takes on the aromatics and flavors of this extraordinary Mediterranean terroir.

The Jankara Winery is a family affair. In 2006, Renato Spanu and his wife Angela followed Renato’s dream to start a winery in Sant’Antonio di Gallura where his family is from. The Spanu’s dream continued when they landed Italian Sommelier Foundation Bibenda’s 2012 Best Winemaker, Gianni Menotti. This small boutique winery started with 2.5 hectares, and now has over 9 hectares planted mainly to Vermentino and Cannonau.

Jankara’s Vermentino di Gallura 2021 is 100% Vermentino grown on granite soils at almost 1,000 feet above sea level. This perfect position gives the wine great balance and acidity with all the classic mediterranean herb aromas. Citrus and tropical fruits linger on the palate finished with a hint of roasted almond. This wine screams for day-sipping by the deep blue sea or a perfect pairing for something caught fresh from the sea that day.

Local food & Lake Liscia


Our next stop is one of the crown-jewels of Montepulciano, Boscarelli. A story of perseverance by a widow and her sons to keep her fathers dream alive. Founded by Montepulciano native, Egidio Corradi in 1962 in Cervignano. The property was once a traditional Tuscan farm with many types of agriculture including tobacco. After a fatal car accident killed her husband in 1983, Paola enlisted her 2 sons Luca (16) and Nicolo (13) to help. They jumped in immediately by replanting the vineyards to maximize the variety characteristic to the soil type. The vineyards face mainly North at nearly 1000 feet above sea level. The soil is mostly medium density sand. Most of the 35 acres are planted to Prugnolo Gentile with the balance of indigenous varieties and some International varieties. Today, Luca manages winemaking, marketing and sales and his brother Nicolo is the vineyard manager.

Actually being able to taste the wine in the Boscarelli cellar with Luca and Nicolo was a life-changing moment for me. I actually felt like I was in heaven!!

Boscarelli Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2019 blend is 85% Prugnolo Gentile and the remaining 15% is Canaiolo, Mammolo and Colorino. Made from vines that are average age between 10 – 25 years old. Harvested manually then fermented in stainless steel to maintain freshness and purity. Aged in various used oak barrels 18 – 24 months. This is next level Sangiovese that delivers dried herb, leather and earthy aromas. The palate is beautifully structured and complex, laden with plummy flavorful fruit. This wine is made to enjoy with wild boar, lamb or the infamous bistecca alla fiorentina from the local Chianina cattle.

Grapes at Boscarelli, Luca de Ferrari (Producer & Winemaker) and Chris, Nicolò de Ferrari (Vineyard Management)

La Gerla

Back in the Fiat Panda. This time off to the Montalcino region, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the home of Brunello. This charming medieval village appears to float above the majestic Tuscan Countryside around it. This is Italy’s youngest prestigious red wine. But it was one of Italy’s first DOCG reds in 1980. The Sangiovese here is called Sangiovese Grosso, also referred to as Brunello. Montalcino’s southern locale enjoys a warmer and drier climate than most of Tuscany. This allows the grapes to achieve maximum ripeness that produce fuller richer wines. The hill plays a major role as well. The north side of the hill produces more elegant and nuanced wines due to cooler temperatures and rocky schist soils. Conversely, the vineyards on the south side are more powerful from the warmer temperatures and clay soils.

Sangiovese Grosso (Brunello) grapes

La Gerla takes the best of all from the region. The winery is an old Biondi-Santi outpost purchased by businessman Sergio Rossi in 1976 to start La Gerla winery. Perched in the middle of the north face of the hill, La Gerla enjoys the cooler breezes and the clay soils that result in perfumy elegant wines. This is the location of their Riserva cru vineyard “gli Angeli”. To balance everything out, Sergio purchased 13 acres of vineyard land south of Montalcino in Castelnuovo dell’Abate in 1998. This is the location of the new single vineyard Brunello called “La Pieve”. Here the warm dry breeze allows for optimal maturation of the grapes that results in powerfully structured wines. Combining these 2 terroirs allow Alberto Passeri, Estate Director, to balance the profile of his wine regardless of the weather conditions.

Alberto Passeri (Estate Director) holds a la gerla, Robert capturing a photo, a vintage bottle of La Gerla wine.


Castelnuovo Berardenga was next on our stop located in the southernmost commune of Chianti Classico. We visited one of the most recognized and respected Chianti Classico wineries, Felsina. It all started in 1966 when Domenico Poggali purchased 500 hectares to indulge his passion for hunting. This was once the fattoria of the Grand Dukes of Tuscany. He learned quickly the land had great potential for vineyards and wine vinification. Felsina has been organic since their inception. They believe that when living off the land one shouldn’t pollute the environment where your food is produced. In the late 1970’s Felsina gained International recognition with the collaboration with famed oenologist Franco Bernabei.

Resting on 500 hectares, Felsina boasts a variety of terroirs. This diversity blends well with Sangiovese and its many clones to best express the site. Felsina’s philosophy to pair vine and terrain is a critical requirement.

Felsina's cellar, Chris & Chiara Leonini (Felsina Export Manager), Felsina wines resting in the barrel room

Felsina’s Chianti Classico Cru Rancia 2018 is the winery’s prime example of the perfect pairing of vine and terrain. Cru Rancia is a 9 hectare single vineyard site dedicated to making the best Chianti Classico Riserva they possibly can. Named after the historic Rancia Farmhouse that overlooks the vineyard and once a Benedictine monastery. This vineyard is perfectly situated facing southwest at over 400 meters in elevation on rocky schist limestone alberese soil. The vines are massal selection from the original Rancia plantings. This is a stunning vineyard. You can see for miles from the Rancia farmhouse. And the wine is even more dramatic. 100% hand-harvested Sangiovese fermented in stainless steel for 16 – 20 days. Aged in new French oak barrels for 18 – 20 months. Rich and intense spice on the nose followed by floral notes. Spice is prevalent on the palate but is cooled by the refined tannins and dark berry notes. This is a classic!!


The Panda took us next to Piedmont, which lies at the foot of the Alps. Here the Alps create a natural amphitheater that surrounds this most important wine region. Most of all the best vineyards are in the southern and eastern part of the region, where it is warmer and protected from the Alpine influence. Southeastern Piedmont is where nebbiolo shines. This is where Barolo is located, and Nebbiolo is what Barolo is made of. The soil here is clay, limestone and sand. The best vineyards are facing south on the tops “bricco” of the rolling hills of this region referred to as the Langhe. Each vineyard has many aspects and soil types that can change the profile of nebbiolo. And in the modern age of Barolo, most Piedmontese vintners, just like Burgundy, are obsessed with the diversity from one vineyard site to another.

The town of Monforte d'Alba

Manuel Marchetti, owner of Marcarini winery is no exception in Barolo. Fascinated by the tradition but driven by the evolution of showcasing several Barolo vineyard sites in his portfolio. In fact Marcarini was one of the first Barolo wineries to designate single vineyards on their labels. The winery, located in La Morra, dates back to the 1700’s with cool underground cellars to provide an ideal environment for the wines to mature. Presently Manuel’s children represent the 6th Generation of this family-owned establishment. The 49 acres of vineyard land of Marcarini are all estate-owned and planted with indigenous grape varieties of the Langhe Hills. Their pride and joy cru vineyard holdings (Brunate and La Serra) are located close to the Marcarini home and winery.

The Marcarini Barolo La Serra 2018 comes from the highly regarded and organic La Morra Cru called La Serra. Given its elevation, La Serra always has a soft breeze to keep the air dry and fresh!! This site has poor soil but is rich in minerals. As a result, this wine is deep in color, structured, flavorful and possesses fine tannins. Classic rose petal aroma leads to a velvety mid palate finishing dry and a hint of licorice. I just love the drinkability of the 2018 vintage in Piedmont. The wines are approachable and accessible. This wine can be enjoyed with a wide range of cuisine. But since it’s cold outside, I prefer something with truffles!

The Marcarini Winery barrel room and wines

There is no other place in the world like Italy. And the wineries we visited welcomed us with open arms as if we were family. Robert and I are grateful for the time and attention we received on our visits. But what stands out most to me is that given the way that the world has changed the past 3 years, these long standing wineries are pivoting to deliver the most transparent and pure wine they possibly can. They too are in the pursuit of freshness.


Great balance between acidity, alcohol, and fruit with extremely rich, intense aromas of white flowers and almonds, along with complex tropical nuances that pleasingly linger on the palate.


85% Sangiovese and 15% Canaiolo, Mammolo, and Colorino. Boscarelli Vino Nobile di Montepulciano is deep ruby with garnet hues. Structured and complex, with a lovely nose of dried herbs, leather, earth, vanilla and strawberry, jam and plenty of plummy, flavorful fruit on the palate.


Rich and suave, and then suddenly slender and poised, yet always potent, with masses of red and black berries that penetrate deeply. Full of balanced pleasures, as salty minerals, licorice and tart blackberries linger incredibly long under an air of violet florals.


Ruby red appearance with rich, intense tones. Spicy nose with floral notes and hints of wild berry (red and black), accompanied by mineral impressions and light toasted notes. Spice re-appears on the palate, which displays firm but supple tannins, and the finale is vigorous and taut. Overall, the wine is compelling for its flavour-rich mid-palate and supporting acidity.


Garnet in color with slight orange reflections; the bouquet is typical of the La Serra cru, floral (rose and violet petals, mountain flowers), ethereal, appealing and intense; dry, full and sturdy on the palate, austere yet velvety, extremely well balanced.

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