Ornellaia's Rare Bird

Tasting a unique white wine from a renowned producer of Super Tuscan reds

Wine enthusiasts know that the Tenuta dell’Ornellaia winery is responsible for producing the wine — appropriately titled Ornellaia — that helped place Super Tuscan international red blends on the fine-wines map during the early 1980s. The contrarian, highly valued and highly rated red wine has been a major player from the Bolgheri region ever since.

And yet, here I am at New York City restaurant Marea drinking an even rarer wine from Ornellaia with Leonardo Raspini, the winery’s gregarious general manager, over a course of Nova Scotia lobster, burrata, basil, and eggplant al funghetto.

“We only made about 1,000 bottles of it, so not much of the '09 is in the United States” he says, as the sommelier pours us a little more. “With the 2010 vintage, which will be here in May, we will have a little bit more of it.”

“It” is the 2009 Ornellaia Poggio alle Gazze, a Tuscan IGT bianco which is made solely of sauvignon blanc. It is delicious — full on the palate with mellow fruit, good mineral flavors, and a richness that comes with white wines mostly fermented in wood and allowed to luxuriate on their fine lees. It is worthy of its $55 price tag.

Alas, it almost never made it to our table.

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