Bolgheri, Tuscany, Italy
"Our vineyards - for reasons of tradition and passion!"
This is a special story about a very special family-run winery in Tuscany. It all begins in 2003, in Toronto, when my husband and I had an amazing dinner in Little Italy. The owner was so wonderful and the food superb, but ultimate praise went to the bottle of wine suggested by the owner… a 2001 “Alfeo” from Ceralti Winery. My husband (for years a wine connaisseur and collector) said it was one of the best wines he'd ever tasted, and certainly his favourite from Italy.
Our Hunt for Their Great Wines
In May 2004, LCBO Vintages had a special release of "Alfeo". It flew off the shelves! It had been given great reviews and was a great value too! My husband bought a case. When our last bottle was drunk - with no signs that Vintages would bring in more - we went back to the restaurant in Little Italy and got their last bottle of “Alfeo” with our meal.
The hunt was now on to stock his cellar because it wouldn’t come from Ontario wine stores given their short-sightedness importing this gem. He sourced U.S. suppliers but their stock sold out as soon as it arrived. He found an agent in Manhattan with several cases but the crazy 103% tax imposed on all wine imports by the LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario) made any purchase prohibitive. So we bought bottles here and there at various restaurants whenever we travelled in the U.S.
Going to the Source
You can imagine how excited my husband was in May 2009 when we went to Italy for the month. We spent one week in Tuscany (in Chianti several days) but it was our day trip to an area known as Bolgheri, in western Tuscany, that was most exciting. It is there that Ceralti Winery is located, alongside such prestigious names as Ornellaia and Sassicaia.
He was not successful pre-booking a tour at Ceralti before we left Canada, so when we arrived in Bolgheri, we went directly to the little tourist office to inquire.
We didn’t hold much hope… the previous day our concierge called Ceralti to arrange a tour for us and was told because they’re a small family-run winery, they cannot give tastings or tours. But we thought, worth a try. The very pleasant woman working the tourist office called Ceralti. I heard her ask for a tour for two Americans - but then corrected herself to say two Canadians. She spoke for a bit and then asked if we were available at 4:00 for a private tour? We couldn’t believe it!
We don’t know what she said to the vintner’s wife… perhaps that we’d been seeking their wine for years and came halfway around the world to experience it first-hand! No matter, we were set to meet with Mr. Walter Alfeo and his son, Iacopo.
Warm Welcome and Gracious Hospitality
With plenty of time for a memorable lunch in Bolgheri and a drive through the region spotting the big name wineries, we arrived at Ceralti Winery just in time. We found the place by sheer chance… we were given directions by the tourist office who told us there were no signs to this winery - and no sign (except a tiny one) at the entrance of their property. We were told the owners were modest about their reputation.
We got lost and were given directions twice (both wrong). We were driving around lost for a while and were about to give up when we asked (one more time, we thought) an elderly man sitting in his car. The man didn’t speak any English but heard the name “Alfeo” and instantly motioned for us to follow him in his car. After a short distance full of turns, he pulled off the road and pointed to the winery entrance. Bless him!
We were very warmly greeted by Walter and Iacopo Alfeo. Their friendly demeanour, big smiles, and genuine welcome made us feel instantly at home. Iacopo took us in his SUV to the vineyards where he told us the proud story of their winery and, as we walked in the vineyards, explained the terroir that produced such heavenly wines. We then joined Walter at the wine cellar for a quick tour, followed by a very special tasting.
Best Winery Experience Ever
My husband and I have travelled to some of the best wineries in the world, extensively in France and California - and most notably in Bordeaux and Napa. But this tour and tasting were beyond anything we've experienced… not only because their wines are superb but because Walter and Iacopo are among the most gracious and generous people we've ever met!
Walter had prepared a large table with great breads, cheeses, prosciutto, water, their own wonderful olive oil - and glasses for 5 tastings! Yes, my husband was in heaven.
Tasting Notes for Ceralti
We tasted two whites ("Lunarae" and "Vermentino") followed by three reds ("Alfeo", "Sonoro" and "ScirÃ¨") and were not the least bit disappointed by any. In fact, we were amazed at the colour, characteristics and complexity of every one… each a gem! And as we tasted, we enjoyed listening to these two very talented (and modest) men tell us of their heritage, land, and great wines. (By the way, their olive oil is also fantastic!)
My husband describes his all-time favourite…
Alfeo Bolgheri Red Superior
"This wine is enticingly rich in dark red fruit flavours with distinct notes of spice, velvety on the palate, consistent, and well balanced with a long lingering finish. It's mineral composition is wonderfully rich in sweet tannins, unlike any other wine I've tasted and due to the unique composition of their soil." (As Iacopo explained, their soil is very unique due to its nearness to the sea and its history of long ago, a story of how the minerals got deposited.) The colour is intense ruby red with violet reflections. Enjoy!