At the mention of Antinori we think of Tignanello, of Peppoli and Guado al Tasso, of the magnificent Tuscan Cabernet Solaia and the equally classy Chardonnay from Umbria, Cervaro della Sala.
Seldom does California come to mind.
Yet Piero Antinori dreamed of making wine in the Golden State from his first visit there in 1966. Roughly twenty years later, he entered into a partnership to develop a vineyard site high in the Atlas Peak Mountains, on the eastern side of Napa Valley. It seemed like a strange choice to some, but Antinori knew it was perfect: Located above the fog line at 2663 feet, it possessed the rocky soil, sunny days and cool nights necessary for making great wine.
Antinori brought his formidable experience to the project, as well as the legacy of his family—26 generations of winemakers dating back to the 14th century. He became sole proprietor of the estate in 1993, and augmented his holdings with the purchase of the adjacent 40-acre Townsend Vineyard. The property produced its first wines in 2001. Antinori aimed at making a stylistic blend, an amalgam of the Old and New Worlds that would be a style unto itself.
He has succeeded admirably. The 2010 Antica Chardonnay ($35) yields scents of green apple and lemon zest on the nose, along with mouthwatering acidity. On the palate, it displays impeccable balance, with fresh, clean flavors of citrus, apple and ripe pear tempered by acid and spice; the finish is long and resonant, with hints of vanilla and tart citrus. The overall feeling is reminiscent of drinking a Puligny-Montrachet Villages from a very good producer.
The nose of the 2009 Antica Cabernet Sauvignon ($50) is marked by whiffs of cedar, black currant, fresh herbs and menthol. The wine is medium-bodied in the mouth, tart and fresh, highlighted by flavors of blackberry, cassis and red plum, and underlined by very good acidity. Slightly drying tannins dominate the finish, indicating that the wine has 2-3 years to go before it reaches maturity.