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Under the Umbrian Sun, Part 5: Adanti

Image by Lauren Mowery


Adanti was my last winery stop in Bevagna and a perfect finale to my mini-tour of this slice of Umbria. Founded in 1974 on the hill of Arquata, Adanti winery was the vision of the Adanti brothers Domenico and Pietro; they purchased an old convent, the 17th century home to a congregation of wine-loving Fillipini monks, and converted it into a winery.

While visiting Adanti’s tasting room, I met the first cellar master and winemaker Alvaro Palini, along with his son Daniele, the current winemaker. Even though I was unable to communicate with Alvaro, his mannerisms revealed an adorable, sprightly senior and enthusiastic host. Donatella Adanti was also in their makeshift tasting room (the winery is currently being renovated), and proffered the story of how Alvaro came to make wine for them.

Adanti's first winemaker Alvaro Palini

From tailor to winemaker

Back in the late ’70s, Alvaro Palini, a tailor and Parisian dressmaker, returned from France to his native region of Umbria just as the Adantis were making their first wines. The brothers asked Palini to assess their efforts, to which he dared he could make a better wine, despite no formal training. Amazingly, they hired him (easiest job interview ever)!

Fortunately for the Adantis, Palini, an apparent grape-whisperer, had incredible instinct when it came to the growing and handling of Sagrantino, an extremely tannic grape that produces aggressive, rustic wines when not handled properly. He modified their vinification techniques and lowered vineyard yields to create one of the most admired wines of the region for over three decades.

Today, Alvaro’s son Daniele is the steward of the wines, as Donatella, a second-generation Adanti, runs the winery. There is a tight bond between the Adantis and Palinis, yet they welcome guests like new members of their clan. My tour and tasting lasted several hours, culminating in a dinner invitation that evening. As I said before, there is no such thing as “alone” in Italy.

Daniele, the winemaker on left, Donatella Adanti on  right

Daniele, the winemaker on left, Donatella Adanti on right

As for the wines, we tasted through their line-up, which meant sampling the 2006 Sagrantino (as opposed to 2007 at many other wineries) and 2005 for their first bottling of their highest altitude, vineyard designated il Domenico. Adanti holds their wines back one year longer than many other wineries because Daniele feels Sagrantino needs a healthy dose of bottle aging before drinking.

2005 Il Domenico and 2006 Sagrantino

2005 il Domenico and 2006 Sagrantino

Each wine had its own personality, but I particularly loved the cherry-tobacco perfumed Montefalco Rosso 2008 and the power and intensity of the blackberry-laced il Domenico 2005.

I must admit to being spoiled like a princess—Daniele tracked down a 1999 so I could experience an older Sagrantino. So far on the trip, I had only sampled babies and I wanted to taste a mature bottle. The 1999 submitted a convincing oral argument for the need to lay this wine down (and have a wine cellar). Loads of black fruit, tobacco, leather and caramel notes filled my glass, but all that tannic intensity had dissolved into a smooth, silky texture. That bottle was a highlight of my visit, and I was lucky enough have another one sent home with me.

Sagrantino from 1999, a highlight of the trip

After the tasting, we went out to an exceptional dinner at Enoteca L’Alchimista in Montefalco. I was amused to suggest a place they had not been before, despite this being their hometown. The food was incredibly fresh, focusing on seasonal, local produce—the norm in Italy. Porcini mushrooms hit their stride that week, so we indulged in multiple plates, washed down with Adanti wines and local, craft beers.

Enoteca L'Alchimista with Daniele and Donatella

Enoteca L’Alchimista with Daniele, Donatella and Sagrantino teeth!

I have since stayed in touch with both Donatella and Daniele. Donatella has sent me several images of the changing leaves in the vineyards. Donatella’s niece Stella took the image of the red Sagrantino leaves below. She has a lovely eye!

Crimson Sagarantino Leaves

Crimson Sagrantino Leaves, photo by Stella Bastianelli

Red Vineyards, taken by Donatella Adanti

Red Vineyards, photo by Donatella Adanti


Filed under Adanti Winery, Umbria

Under the Umbrian Sun, Part 1: Why Go, How to Get There

Assisi on the mountain

Why Go?

If you are considering a visit to Umbria, or heard Umbria is merely an appendix to Tuscany, hopefully this wine and travel report will convince you of the region’s inimitable charms.

I spent a lovely three days in the heart of Umbria near Bevagna and Montefalco. I visited four wineries, ate at darling restaurants and wandered old Roman and medieval cities.  Although I traveled to Umbria solo, there is really no such thing as “alone” in Italy. The minute I mentioned a lack of dining companions, I was whisked off to lunch, invited to dinners and shared drinks with locals and winemakers.

Why is Umbria a treasure? The people treat you like an old friend. The food is über-fresh and seasonal—they have been eating this way longer than “trendy” was a concept. The backdrop of the Apennine Mountains dusted with snow is National Geographic dramatic.  And of course there is the wine. Many know Umbria for the white wines out of Orvieto, but the most fascinating grape is the indigenous and distinctive Sagrantino. I got to know this grape and her makers, and will spend the next several posts sharing their stories. Hopefully some of these words will inspire you to try these wines or visit the “Green Heart of Italy.”

Getting to Umbria

In late October, nearly two weeks ago, I visited Umbria for the first time.  My starting point was Florence, from where I picked up a teeny, tiny European-size car equipped with GPS, followed by a two-hour drive to a town called Bevagna. My mini-Nissan had the craftsmanship of a Go-Kart, but it did the job and later proved to be a fun companion through the medieval streets of the region.

Hopping on to the Autostrada out of Florence, my route proceeded through the stunning Tuscan countryside. I get chills when I travel to new wine regions and first encounter the magical scenery of oft-dreamt about vineyards; it as though an unknown but impending event hangs in the air like the thrill of a new romance.  I felt that energy as rolling hills covered in vine, topped with villas, shot past the window.

I thought I must be crazy for zipping past exits to historic towns: “there goes Chianti; goodbye Arezzo; I can’t believe I am turning away from Montepulciano!” I reminded myself not to get greedy, that there would be another time for Tuscany, and pressed on.  The tingles triggered by Tuscany amplified when crossing into Umbria; a new paramour joined the party.

As I traveled towards the core of Umbria, I passed other notable cities such as Perugia—chocolate!—and Assisi—Church! I was due for an appointment at my first winery, but had a spare hour, so I took a short detour to Assisi. In fact, I nearly wrecked the car while passing it by on the highway; I was mesmerized by the awe-inspiring vista of the Franciscan Basilica on the side of the mountain. Despite doing zero justice to the town on my short visit, I managed to shoot a documentary photo before finishing the last leg to Bevagna and Tenuta Castelbuono.

Stunning entrance to the Basilica of San Francesco d’Assisi

Part 2, Tenuta Castelbuono Winery…

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Filed under Umbria