San Leonardo

About the Producer: 
My early encounters with Cabernets and Merlots of Trentino provided scents of bell peppers and cut grass along with tangs of under-ripe fruit accented by the likes of choke cherries and bitter almonds. I naively attributed those traits to a peculiar gout de terroir of the terraced vineyards of the Alpine region. But it has since been pointed out that they Bordeaux varieties introduced early in the twentieth century had not been well selected (Cabernet Franc and the lesser Carmenet prevailed) and that overcropped vines trained over high pergolas were so lush that leaf canopies inhibited ripening of grapes. The wines of Tenuta San Leonardo had won moderate praise by the 1970s when Carlo Guerrieri Gonzaga inherited the estate that had come into his family in the nineteenth century. Carlo, who traces his lineage to the Gonzaga dynasty that rules Mantua from the fourteenth to the seventeenth centuries, took a degree in enology and worked at estates in France before joining his father Anselmo in running the winery. He knew that the wines could be better, but he wasn’t aware of how dramatically that could improve until after observing production of Sassicaia, he began working with enologist Giacomo Tachis. Carlo produced a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc with Merlot from the 1983 vintage, calling it San Leonardo after the chapel in the walled hamlet of the estate that surrounds the sire of a tenth-century monastery. Since them, he has introduced select clones of those varieties, training vines in a spurred cordon fro lower yields of riper healthier grapes. Tachis provided the cellar mastery, including maturation in small barrels of French oak. San Leonardo has grown steadily in stature to rank among the finest Bordeaux blends of Italy, while dispelling my suspicions that tastes of the earth in Trentino could be somehow less noble. From 18 hectares of vines, Tenuta San Leonardo produces about 120,000 bottles of wine a year. Including Trentino DOC Merlot.