Wine from the heart of Tuscany

Breaking bread with a leader in the winemaking fraternity of the legendary Italian district of Tuscany is always like visiting the papal community at the Vatican. Tasting their wines is a true epiphany.My latest experience was at the Carlsbad location of Vigilucci’s, operated by the affable G.M. Vittorio Homberger, where I met Andrea Cecchi with the bright, blue Pacific Ocean just a few steps away.

Cecchi Wines are a true reflection of what the lovely Sangiovese grape always should aspire to. This grape makes polished wines of great stature, and Cecchi makes sure the tradition is backboned in every bottle. Andrea Cecchi calls himself a forward-thinking traditionalist.

“I prefer classic structure with good acidity to go with food, moderate alcohol, and a lighter oak treatment. From the present, we embrace the latest in oenology and vineyard management,” he said.

Castellina, an awe-inspiring hillside Tuscan town, is the winemaking hub for Cecchi Wines. It was here that Andrea’s family got its start in 1893.

The current headquarters, run by the fourth generation of Cecchis, Andrea and brother Cesare, is called Villa Cerna. It has an altitude of 957 feet, hilly exposure with lots of sun and good drainage. Of the selections I tasted, the one that I loved is from the 370-acre Cecchi Estate Val delle Rose in the exciting Maremma district in the southwest of Tuscany.

The wine is Val delle Rose Morellino di Scansano Riserva 2007 (suggested price $20). It has brought the Sangiovese grape, once only known through Chianti, to a new level of divinity in a bottle. The wine is aged in French oak barriques for peak performance followed by eight months of bottle refinement.

Tuscan wines in the Maremma district with a 2007 vintage were rated among the highest in the last decade by Wine Spectator’s experts at an average 95 points. Enjoy this wine with veal, well-seasoned pasta dishes, red meats and cheese.

Andrea Cecchi is the family winemaker. He makes wines from family vineyards in Castellina, San Gimignano, Maremma and Umbria. In each area he saw challenge and greatness, and realized their full potential. Check out the Cecchi website at

Cellar Gems shine at Encinitas Wine Merchants

“You will love our Cellar Gems, but buy them when you see them,” advised Ellena Cassidy, one of the two partners at the new Encinitas Wine Merchants. Cassidy and Mark Dubiel have just consolidated their retail wine store into the wine bar in the Kohl’s center in Encinitas. Dubiel, who has 37 years in the business, also runs a highly successful Internet wine business, and is able to move some household name wines in “ones and twos” into the retail/wine bar at a big discount. Regular customers always check the Cellar Gems section first and snap up the standouts.

“Our menu of 20 wines by the glass changes weekly, with Friday being a premier wine flight of three pours with nothing but premium wines,” Cassidy said. The day I was in, she poured a 2010 Paydirt Paso Robles blend of Grenache, Zinfandel, Syrah, Mourvedre and Petite Sirah ( $29.99). “Paso Robles wines are favorites at the wine bar and blends are very big,” she revealed. Check out this wine oasis. They are open Tuesday through Thursday 1 p.m. to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday 1 p.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Call (760) 407-4265 for more information.

Wine Bytes

The new Hacienda de las Rosas Winery in Ramona has its grand opening from noon to 5 p.m. March 23 and March 24. Port and sherry barrel tasting, specials, raffle drawings and an exhibition of Peruvian Paso horses will be offered. The cost is $10. Call (619) 840-5557 for details.

A Saxon Brown Wine Dinner is planned for the Table 926 Restaurant in San Diego March 26 at $75 per person. Call (858) 539-0926 for an RSVP and time.

VINOPERA, a wine and music paired dinner is at ACQUA AL 2, downtown San Diego from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. March 28. Batasiolo wines from Piemonte will pair with the dinner, with live performances from opera singers. Cost is $70. RSVP at (619) 230-0382.

San Diego Wine Co. has a Zinfandel tasting from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. March 30. The fee is $10. Details at (858) 586-WINE.



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