I had been on this road a few times. A couple of times in the dark. Lost. Oh, and going the wrong way. So I was getting pretty good on the ol' SR222, once known as the ancient trail of the sheep.
An early departure in the morning, as we had a 10 a.m. appointment at Castello dei Rampolla. Right. Somewhere between Siena and Greve we got a call on the cellular. The agronomist was coming, could we delay our arrival? No problem.
While the light was still fresh and bright we parked in Panzano and made an orbit around the little hilltop village. In 4 days this town would transform into a bazaar of butchers, for the annual "We are macelleria men and we love to eat meat" fest.
Checcucci was already preparing the pigs, and closer towards the town gates Dario Cecchini was cranking up the Puccini and dusting off Dante in his venerable chapel to Chiannina.
But ours was a different mission, to go where no man has gone before, at least with the aid of a map.
Cecchini led us out his door and offered his take on the road to Rampolla. Follow the cobblestone road, past Checcucci, where we get our prosciutto, and turn left at the church, right at the stop. There, you will find a meadow, where the bees make the finest honey that we use for our morning toast. Go to the next church and take the road left. Then you will find some signs and follow them to the ancient castle. OK, that seemed easy enough.
Once there, we spotted the owners in the fields with their consultants. Signs everywhere saying, "Tachis was here." I could see why he was excited. The vineyard hummed with the life of the earth it was sewn into. This is a golden shell of energy; I was waiting to find a crop circle around the corner.
They practice "Biodynamic" here; hence, the rack of bull’s horns waiting for the mixture of concentrated manure from the 7th bull of the 7th bull. Full moon was 2 weeks away. A lot of folks who have wished the wish - "I wish I could be a fly on the wall"- are getting their afterlife-karmic requests granted here.
They have a young winemaker, Marcus, with deep, penetrating slate-blue eyes, tall, upright, a welcome addition to the Tuscan table. Marcus was born in Germany, raised among the steep, dark, schist-laden vineyards of his homeland. There is a heaven for some. The payoff is work in the sun. Not a lot of money, which is another story for that young generation.
The wines of Rampolla still resonate within me. The finish is lingering in a way I rarely feel in wine. It isn't just a bottle of wine. I don’t know if it is even wine in the strict sense of it. Yes, they use grapes and barrels and bottles and corks. But I am still tasting those wines!
What was Daniel Thomases thinking the last time he tasted, and wrote about, these wines? Shame on him. I think he liked the wines, but other than a score, where's the passion? In this arena, a score of 89 or 98 is irrelevant. Did the owners strike him in the wrong way on that day, using tu instead of lei? They never showed up on my visit either. Big deal.
What did show up that day, as has been the case for millions of years, were the bees and the lizards, the flowers and the dirt, the high-galestro scrigno, this treasure chest of pyrite whereupon the vines sit and flourish, making merry in the sun. Wine for us mere mortals to sip, perchance to dream, the dream of Dionysius. And linger over Sangiovese fit for the gods.