The tall and slender clock tower that graces the Palazzo dei Priori is just one of the charming sights of Montalcino.

During my travels in Italy I have developed a soft spot in my heart for the town of Montalcino.  One of Tuscany’s many medieval hilltop towns, Montalcino is encircled by fortified walls and guarded by a 13th century fortezza. This castle is open to the public and extraordinary views of the Val d’Orcia countryside can be seen from its towers.  As an added bonus the fortezza has an expansive wine shop on the ground floor offering tastings of many local wines.  The cobblestone streets are lined with cafes, storefronts and restaurants where classic Tuscan cuisine is served.

Montalcino is best known for its expensive and long-lived red wine “Brunello Di Montalcino”.  Made from specific clones of the Sangiovese grape, Brunello possesses a richer body than Chianti, which is produced approximately 35 miles further north.  Brunello Di Montalcino enchants the consumer with multilayered aromas and flavors of blackberry, black cherry, exotic spices and leather.  In good vintages Brunello can be opulent and refined with wonderful complexity and a lengthy finish.

Admirers of Brunello must be patient as this wine possesses both high acid and tannins and needs to be held for several years or given a good decant before its true potential is revealed.  This is a wine to purchase and carefully store for that special occasion. Unmistakably a food wine, Brunello pairs well with grilled and roasted red meat or rich, tomato-based sauces. 

For those who are seeking a more immediate gratification with a less expensive price tag “Rosso Di Montalcino” offers a softer, more fruit forward alternative.  Usually sourced from less prestigious vineyards and aged for one year as compared to four years for Brunello, a good Rosso is a dependable alternative to Chianti Classico.

My Montalcino recommendations for this month:

2010 Fanti Brunello Di Montalcino – 2010 was an exceptional vintage in Montalcino and if you can lay your hands on any Brunello from this year you won’t go wrong.  The Tenuta San Filippo’s Fanti Brunello Di Montalcino will definitely not disappoint.  With flavors and aromas of rich blue and black fruits, possessing notes of cardamom and cedar, this wine is drinking well now after a brief decanting, or you can easily cellar it for five to 10 years.  It is available in limited quantities for $59 in the wine store at Feast Restaurant on Speedway. (I would call first). 

2011 Casisano Colombaio Rosso di Montalcino – This “Baby Brunello” is available at Total Wine for $16.99 and ready to be opened tonight, possibly paired with spaghetti Bolognese. An easygoing rosso, Casisano Colombaio will deliver bright red berry and cherry flavors with a smooth finish.

On a local note: The 2016 Fall Willcox Wine Country festival will be held Oct. 15 and 16 at the historic railroad park in downtown Willcox.  This festival is well run and a great opportunity to explore wines produced around Arizona. Tickets are available onsite or in advance at


Tom Oetinger holds an advanced certification in wine & spirits from the WSET in London, England