The Saratoga Performing Arts Center has hosted a Fall Wine Festival for many years, recently the sponsor has been the Italian Trade Commission. When you get to the SPAC grounds you will not only get to sample hundreds of wines from around the world, foods from some of the area’s top restaurants, but you’ll get to see a display of some of the world’s most exciting little Italian sports cars- as the festival is now called the Wine and Food and Fall Ferrari Festival.
The “Italian Wine Tent” invited me to look at the world’s most popular Italian Winery, Ruffino. The Ruffino cousins started the winery in the heart of Tuscany in the late 1870′s. The winery has grown and made world class wines since then, winning a gold medal with their Chianti at the Bordeaux Exhibition in 1895, some tough competition in the wine world. In 1913 the Ruffino’s sold the winery to the Folonari brothers, who had five generations of winemaking experience in their family. Over the years the Folonari family has expanded the estate, buying more land and vineyards and growing the winery, all the while maintaining the quality wine that was produced from the beginning. Modernization in the 1900′s and expansion in the 1950′s after some of the cellar was destroyed during World War II, led to Ruffino having some of the most state of the art facilities for its time. In 1975 the Folonari’s created a new bottle, doing away with the traditional “straw basket” that the Chianti was bottled in for nearly a hundred years. The “Florentine” bottle has softer shoulders, similar to that of Burgundy shaped bottles, and the Folonari’s hold the patent. The regular label Ruffino Chianti is still bottled in the Florentine.
The Ruffino Chianti Riserva Ducale Oro, often referred to as “Ruffino Gold” has been made since 1947, and is only produced in what the winery feels are outstanding vintage years. The 2006 vintage has more than 80% Sangiovese grapes, the rest is Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, grown in some of the most prestigious vineyard sites in Tuscany. It is aged for nearly 3 years- three months in vats, then two years in oak casks, then another three months in vats, before six more months of bottle aging and then release. The color is ruby red in the glass with intense aromas of cherry and plum. The subtle flavors of tobacco, cinnamon and black pepper intermingle with the red fruit flavors. It is velvety on the tongue, despite good structure and firm tannins- that feeling of dryness in your mouth. It finishes long and almost takes you to the sand and clay soils of the hillsides of Chianti. The Ducale Oro is consistently rated with high scores from trade publications and is available from most local retailers, around $38 a bottle.
If you get the opportunity to attend the festival next year, don’t miss the cars, the restaurants, the auction, the seminars, and most important- the wines!
~ Carolyn Brown