Smack in the center of Gianfranco Soldera's Case Basse vineyards sits a knobby little hillock where a spectacular olive tree grows. Silver barked and impossibly gnarled, this tree is a thousand years old. It was there when the Normans conquered southern Italy, sacking Sicilia. It grew as Petrarch wrote his sonnets in the fourteenth century, and as Leonardo da Vinci drew, painted, invented, and created in fifteenth-century Florence. As Italy united in the nineteenth century, this tree grew, and as wars ripped through it in the twentieth, this tree grew.
It's an old tree, but more than bearing silent, flowering witness to long centuries of human history, it's a survivor. At some point in its life, lightning struck this olive tree, splitting it into four pieces. The four separate parts continued to grow, to flourish, to unfurl green leaves in the spring, to yield olives in the fall, and sleep quietly throughout the winter. Over the years, the quarters of the tree have grown farther and farther apart. You can stand in the center of it, and when you do, you feel magic.
The tree presents a kind of metaphor for the wines of Gianfranco Soldera--and even for the man himself. Like this tree, Soldera is unique, a man whose life can't be easily summed up in a convenient story, and like this tree, Soldera's wines defy time or understanding. They're beautiful, magical freaks of nature, and they make you reverent. Today, I'm pleased to present a new allocation of Case Basse di Soldera 1978 Brunello di Montalcino. This wine is just the second Brunello bottling that Gianfranco released, and like that olive tree, it is spectacular.
This great, historic Brunello deserves worthy partners, so I've chosen to debut Biondi-Santi's 2011 Brunello di Montalcino today. Usually you have to wait years--even decades--to enjoy Biondi-Santi's ageless wines, but this bottle beckons you right from its release. Finally, one more extraordinary wine, Josko Gravner's 2005 Ribolla Gialla Anfora, an amber wine that will blow you away. It's hard for me to choose my favorite Italian winemakers, but there's no doubt that these three producers sit at the top of the list.