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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 4: Milziade Antano

The vineyards of Antano and the snow-dusted Apennines (home to great pecorino)

Milziade Antano

While in Umbria, I stayed at the adorable B&B la Corte de’Vasari, set in a medieval building in Bevagna. On a side note, the B&B doesn’t really serve breakfast unless you prefer to start your day with a slice of cake and a side of cookie. Aside from that, the owner was charming and spent over an hour with me the night of my arrival, practicing English and helping shape my list of places to taste Sagrantino. Daniele, the proprietor, felt strongly about including Milziade Antano as a good example of a “humble and traditional” winery.

After my visit with Caprai, I followed Marco in my Jr. vehicle up to Antano. The winery had a gorgeous setting perched on a hilltop with views of the Apennine Mountains and Montefalco. I was meeting with Francesco, the owner/winemaker, who didn’t speak English, and his son Giordano, who did.

Will he make wine with his dad one day?

I could see why the innkeeper suggested Antano as a contrast; the operation was clearly a “garage” winery, particularly as compared to Caprai. Although the son spoke English and was knowledgeable about the specific wines, I had a little trouble getting background info on the winery and vineyard. I took to the web and found T. Edward Wines in NYC who import and distribute Antano. Their website noted the vines were planted in 1975, and that Antano is “old school” in style with a lack of intervention in the winery, no barrique and no high-tech equipment. In the vineyard, Antano green harvests aggressively and has very low tonnage per acre.

Inside the winery, the son Giordano poured each of the wines. I asked him if he planned to follow his lineage and make the wine at Antano. He crinkled his nose, looking at his dad out of the corner of his eye. He said he wasn’t convinced sticking around Montefalco was his destiny, but maybe time in a big(ger) city would bring him back one day, far away. Fair enough, I thought. I don’t think his Dad loved the response, translated for him by Marco, but it probably wasn’t the first time he had heard it.

Giordano pouring and explaining the wines

After the father/son politics concluded, we addressed the wines.  Milziade Antano has a line-up similar to most of the wineries in the area. They offer a Bianco IGT blend (but no 100% Grechetto); two Montefalco Rossos, one being a Riserva; two Sagrantinos, one version a vineyard designate “Colleallodole”; and a Passito.

Antano definitely excelled in their dry reds, which makes sense. The Montefalco Rossos were particularly lovely, both offering a wild streak of Sagrantino tamed by the softer Sangiovese and small percentage of Merlot. Sweet plums and black cherry were prevalent in the Rosso; the Riserva, which had a little Cabernet Sauvignon and more barrel time, showed additional notes of figs, blackberry and balsamic. The tannins in both were grippy; clearly the wines needed more time.  I would’ve liked a nibble between tastes, but given the garage-style digs, I guess that was expecting too much.

Montefalco Rossos and Sagrantinos

The Sagrantinos were big, broad, palate ball-busters. They were demanding wines with an edge of rusticity, but yet attractive; infants in a bottle with a future you could envision. The 2008 was aged 3 years before release: 15 months in barrel, 15 months stainless steel and 6 months in bottle. The wine showed notes of coffee, tobacco, leather, cherry and blackberry with layers of spice.

The Colleallodole, made from a designated vineyard and only 1000 bottles produced, had similar notes, but an earthier quality, with accentuated tobacco, leather and raisin. The tannins were big but smoother. It was also double the price: $25 v. $50. Again, these are food wines and really need to sleep a half-decade before opening, but should be worth the wait.

Next up: The final stop on my winery tour, Adanti

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Filed under Milziade Antano, Umbria