Monte Antico Sangiovese Red Wine VDT Tuscany Italy 2003. 12.5% alcohol. We delivered a birthday present to Janet's neice yesterday, the event dragged on a bit, we decided unexpectedly to eat out, and Janet's brother suggested that we try an Northern Italian restaurant, Mezza Luna Bistro, in Allendale. We had quite a pleasant dinner of Lobster ravioli, excellent wild salmon and really delicious scrod. The place is run with at least ten members of an extended family, and ambience and decor is just what you would expect of a family Italian joint in northern New Jersey.
The stock of the neighborhood wine store is fairly limited and I'm not impressed with their storage. Monte Antico’s Toscano Red is usually a safe bet as I mention in the notes below, and I thought it was likely to go well with Mezza Luna's food. Wine Spectator's shelf talker didn't talk me out of spending ten bucks: ""Lovely plum and berry character, with loads of ripe fruit. Full-bodied, with velvety tannins and a long finish. Delicious. Best ever under this label. A super value in super Tuscan. Drink now through 2007." [Another note, unattributed read: "The result of the synergy between Italian wine specialist Neil Empson and renowned winemaker Franco Bernabei."]
With 100,000 cases made, there is sure to be some bottle variation. Our bottle was bright medium red, light hue, very sharp acidic attack which softened over time and worked well with the rich food, a light cherry and plum aroma, growing more complex over time -- hints of tobacco and roses and even a bit of brett; the taste was a bit more acidic than I remember; the tannins were very sweet and well melded; mouth feel was medium with a slight chewiness, and the finish was short but fairly complex. 3*.
Monte Antico was one of the very first wines I tried when I started drinking wine in 1995. We enjoyed a couple of bottles and then Janet found two cases of the the 1990 vintage -- absolutely irrestible at $4.00 a bottle. [The 1991 was just arriving and the 1992 was expected in six months -- Janet's kind of shopping. :-)]
Over 40 of the bottles were delicious until the wine fell apart in 2001; a typical tasting note from my diary:
8/12/99 Thu 1990 Monte Antico VDT Tuscany Italy. Dark red color; deep hue; intense cherry and fruit aroma; pleasant tastes of cherries and fruit; mild tannins and slight acidity; medium mouth feel; medium finish with good fruit and tannins, some spice notes. Very nice wine. Janet loved it, and chortled over the $4.00 price. 4*.
I continued to enjoy other vintages of this wine, never as much as the 1990 vintage, but always at least pleasing. And it was great fun reading about other people's experience with this wine. Here is a classic post from WLDG:
Jamie B_______, WLDG, December 11, 2000: Monte Antico 1994 passed away Sunday December 9 2000 in my kitchen in a suburb of NJ. He was barely 6 years old. Monte was born in October 11, 1994 after a long and difficult laborin the Hills of Tuscany. Since he was born only 12 feet from Montalcino he was not allowed to take the name of his father, Brunello, but used the name of his mother Vina de Tavola. Many referred to him as "Baby Brunello" during his short but interesting life. He claimed noble heritage due to his Sangiovese Grosso roots, but was not allowed by the government to exploit that fact. It didn't surprise many of us that knew him and the difficulties encountered during his gestation that he would meet his demise so quickly. He was always envious of his older siblings 1991 and 1993 who survive him and are alive and well in a cellar somewhare in Maplewood NJ. He is also survived by 1995 and 1997 Monte Antico. His other brother 1996 has been dead for several years. The family spokesman Neil Epsom released the following statement:
"While we are rather disturbed by the abruptness
of this tragedy, you do realize we make like 50,000
cases of this stuff so spring for another $9 for the
Franco Bernabei, who delivered Monte could not be reached for comment. Associates claim that he was in seclusion, but would release a statement along with the 1998 vintage shortly. The body was found inside of a Riedel Chianti glass barely breathing and with a thin quality and near brownish edge. Doctors, including myself tried in vain to revive him by swirling and decanting the body but to no avail. During his life he was associated with a Roast Suckling pig, Pasta with Pomedera sauce and various cheeses. But he'll be best remembered for the way he looked beside a plate of peasant chicken and sausages. Many people claim he had a sort of rivalry going with 1993 Santa Cristina, but he brushed that aside as a purely press driven issue. "We are two different wines!" he would say,but friends and associates always maintained that whilst he was the better of the two he was rather jealous of her press. The remains were spread over a boneless leg of lamb with the ceremonial 21 cloves of garlic salute, where it was allowed to marinate for three hours before being evaporating in the oven. He will be missed.…
In any event, Monte Antico remains a great QPR wine, and it was great fun spending time with one of a long line of pleasing bottles.