Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Sassicaia’s Flying Wine Maker Dottore Sebastiano Rosa

Sassicaia is a wine known and loved the world over. From a beautiful coastal hamlet in Tuscany, this Super Tuscan blend is hands down Italy’s most famous wine. It is also the world’s second most counterfeited wine after Chateau Petrus.
So what is behind this success story? In 1948, the Marchese Mario Incisa della Rocchetta began a revolution in Tuscan winemaking, and not in the traditional wine region of Tuscany, Chianti Classico, but at a large farm in the village of Bolgheri located close to Tuscany’s Mediterranean coastline in the southwestern part of the province.
It was here, at Tenuta San Guido, that Incisa decided to plant Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc vine cuttings that he had received from his buddy at Château Lafite-Rothschild in Bordeaux. The Marchese made a non-traditional wine from these non-traditional grapes planted on a non-traditional site. The wine, Sassicaia, which Incisa made for his family and friends, was aged in non-traditional French barriques – small French oak barrels – not the classic old Slavonian oak casks preferred by Tuscan producers
Incisa’s brother-in-law, Marchese Niccolò Antinori and his son, Piero, realized the commercial potential of Sassicaia. Working with Mario Incisa’s son, (also named Niccolò), Antinori winemaker Giacomo Tachis, and Bordeaux-based enologist, Emile Peynaud, the Antinori family brought Sassicaia to market in 1968.  It was wildly successful, and the “Super Tuscan” era had begun.
Dottore Sebastiano Rosa, stepson of Niccolò Incisa della Rochetta, was born in Rome in 1966 but by 1968 was living in Bolgheri. As a young adult, Dr. Rosa came to California to study at UC Davis, graduating in 1990. While in California he worked at Jordan and Stag’s Leap Winery. In 1991 he spent at year at Chateau Lafite-Rothschild, and for the next decade he worked with Giacomo Tachis, the father of the renaissance of Italian wine, as General Manager at Tenuta di Argiano in Montalcino at the invitation of owner Contessa Cinzano. Today both Principessa Noemi Marone Cinzano and Dr. Rosa’s brother Piero Incisa della Rochetta operate neighboring wineries in Patagonia, Argentina – Bodega Noemia and Bodegas Chacra.
From 2002 to 2011, as Technical Director of his family’s estate, he created the second and third labels for Sassicaia – Guidalberto and Le Difese. In addition to his ongoing role in International sales and marketing, he has embarked on a new joint venture in Sardinia, Agricola Punica, with Giacomo Tachis, Tenuta San Guido and Sardinian producer Cantina di Santadi, producing Super Sardinian wines including Barrua, based on the indigenous grapes of that Mediterranean island blended with a touch of Bordeaux varieties.
While Dr. Rosa lives in Bolgheri with his wife Elena and stepson Edoardo, he returns frequently to California to work with Brooks Painter and Peter Velleno in making the delicious Tuscan-style wines for Castello di Amorosa. Castello di Amorosa is a 121,000 sq. foot 13th century medieval Tuscan-style castle and winery built by Dario Sattui in NapaValley.
Have you tried the 1st, 2nd or 3rd label wines from Sassacaia?  How about Noemia, Chacra, Barrua or Castello di Amorosa? Have you tasted a difference in the style or quality of Sassacaia over the years or with Dr. Rosa’s rise to winemaker?

© Copyright 2014 Master Sommelier Catherine Fallis, Planet Grape LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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