Written by Taylor Cameron | Wine Brand Manager | Farrell Distributing

After seven flights, eight hotels, two ferries, three trains, three vans and about 15,000 miles of total travel, I’ve returned from one of the most eye opening and exhilarating wine trips to date. Almost every year the Kermit Lynch Wine Merchants National Sales Team and a group of wine distributors make the pilgrimage to Italy to visit producers within the KLWM portfolio and taste new wines and upcoming vintages. While tasting and planning purchases for the following year are the main focus, seeing the terroir first hand and spending time with the personalities behind the wine is what resonates most with me. Besides bringing great wine back to Vermont, my goal is to convey the beauty and passion of the winemakers and these remote corners of the wine world to our customers.

(Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant Logo) My abbreviated itinerary began just south of Florence in the heart of Tuscany. Lisa Strausser, New England Sales Manager for KLWM, had sent me GPS coordinates for a parking lot just off a busy highway with a note saying the vans would be on their way from Liguria and were scheduled to pick me up around 6:30pm. As I arrived in the parking lot the sun was starting to set, and my cab driver was reluctant to leave a random American on the side of the highway. I assured him my friends would be along shortly and sure enough 10 minutes later my luggage was loaded, and I was handed a premixed bottle of Aperol Spritz! I was joining the trip about half way through. The rest of the group had begun their journey in Venice, worked their way through northern Italy, through Piedmont and Liguria then picked me up on the way to Greve, in Chianti. I thought it quite remarkable that after all the uncertainty of international travel we both arrive in an empty parking lot within 10 minutes of each other.

Our first stop was dinner at Podere Campriano, located in a stone farmhouse on a hill top looking over the small town of Greve. Campriano is a relatively new addition to the Kermit Lynch portfolio and this was my first time tasting the wines. They were the perfect remedy for jet lag. Owners Elena Lapini and Luca Polga walked us through their lineup of Chianti Classicos which they farm organically and only produce about 1500 cases annually. Elena explained that they have vineyards on two distinct soil types: Galestro, which is a mix of schist and clay, and a limestone rich clay. They prefer to bottle these sites separately to highlight their distinctions.


(The stunning view overlooking Vermentinu and Cannonau blocks in Perfugas, Sardinia)

Morning came a bit too early for everyone but the excitement of exploring new regions can have a revitalizing effect. Our first stop was at Castagnoli in Chianti Classico and then we were off to Montalcino. Our vans, slowly climbing to the top of Montalcino, were passed by a Lamborghini, a Ferrari and an Audi R8 that were out for a Sunday drive through the Tuscan hills. I was really excited to explore the hilltop town and even more excited to taste the wines of Guiseppe Maria “Guigi” Sesti. When making my initial travel arrangements I was told “do not miss the Sesti visit.” I took that advice and I’m very glad I did.

From Sesti’s Rosato (the only all Sangiovese Rosato from Montalcino) all the way up to the revelatory Brunello di Montalcino Riserva “Phenomena,” the wines seemed to be a living entity with a story to tell. Guigi and his wife, Sarah, moved to the abandoned ruins of the castle of Argiano on the western most ridge of the Montalcino DOCG. In 1991 they began planting vineyards to Sangiovese on the hillsides surrounding the castle. The ridge acts like a funnel and accelerates the Mediterranean breezes through their vineyards creating an abnormally cool mesoclimate resulting in balanced, elegant and vastly complex wines.

Guigi might be the most interesting person I’ve encountered in my 10+ years in the wine business. Growing up in Venice he studied art, the opera and astronomy. In an earlier career he was a professor of astronomy and continues to write books on the subject. As if not busy enough he also directs the local Baroque opera festival. Not surprisingly, Sesti is farmed using Biodynamic principals so all activity in the vineyards fall in line with the lunar calendar. Guigi says farming along the lunar cycle enables him to add very little SO2, if any at all, because of the innate qualities of his fruit. All back story aside, these wines are just down right delicious and with the Monteleccio IGT coming in around $20 on the shelf, they are price point accessible. After tasting the lineup and making purchases for the upcoming year, we were treated to dinner in the Pagan chapel on property that dates back the 8th century. This was truly an unforgettable visit.


Next stop…Corsica!


(Calcified marine life is one of the main influencers of terroir in Patrimonio.)

A two-hour drive landed us in the industrial port of Livorno. We drove past a skyline of shipping containers which undoubtedly held some Kermit Lynch wines headed for the United States. We boarded our ferry and made our way to the lounge which looked like a cross between a Long Island banquet hall and a Vegas casino. After four hours, plenty of rosé and a surprisingly good fritto misto we pulled into the Corsican town of Bastia. From Bastia we climbed the hillside headed west over the Cap Corse towards the A.O.C. of Patrimonio in our off-duty school bus. Corsica is insanely mountainous making any drive both beautiful and harrowing.

While I had spent plenty of time prior the trip reading about the wine and terroir of Corsica, I was overwhelmed by the extreme geography. Corsica is known as the “mountain in the sea” and for good reason. The island is 115 miles long and about 50 miles at its widest point. In such a small landmass the elevations stretch from sea level to nearly 9,000 feet! Antoine Arena explained to us that the tectonic plates that collided to create the Alps also are responsible for Corsica’s extreme terrain and varied soil types. My initial understanding of the island’s terroir was that the northern appellations of Patrimonio, Cap Corse and Calvi were based almost exclusively on limestone while the southern appellations of Figari, Ajaccio and Bonifaccio were granite. While my assumption wasn’t entirely wrong I realized the terroir of the north and south are far more complex and complicated. Looking at the extreme escarpments in Patrimonio you can clearly see the stratified layers of limestone, granite, sandstone and schist being thrust upward by the plate collisions. Limestone is in fact the preferred soil type for Vermentinu and Niellucciu in the north, but this terroir is sought out, not just the default option.


(Patrimonio.)

During our brief, but fascinating, time in northern Corsica we tasted and visited with the Arena family (Jean-Baptiste Arena, Antoine Arena), Sandrine Leccia (Yves Leccia) and Christian Giacometti (Domaine Giacometti). The Arena wines are all about minerality. They have sought out some of the oldest and steepest sites in Patrimonio. The Carco vineyard at Arena which sits on a very steep slope is littered with chunks of fossilized limestone. The minerality is unmistakable in both their Vermentinu and Niellucciu. Getting to the Carco site requires four-wheel drive and an experienced driver. We were lucky the have the Arena family behind the wheel during our tour and subsequent hike to the top of Haut Carco.

To Be Continued…….

About Taylor Cameron

Taylor was first introduced to the world of fine wine by family members who had just returned from a sabbatical in Australia. After graduating from UVM he made the snowboarder’s pilgrimage to Lake Tahoe. With Tahoe as a home base, Taylor started exploring the west coast wine regions from Santa Barbara to Napa and even into the Willamette Valley and eastern Washington. During this time Taylor jumped into the deep end of the Wine and Spirit Education Trust which he stuck with all the way through the Diploma program. Next stop was Seattle where Taylor received a crash course in distribution and small production old world wines at a boutique importer. After five years on the west coast it was time to head back east. Taylor took a job with the esteemed Michael Skurnik Wines where the next four years he “pounded the pavement” in Manhattan and worked with some of the city’s most exciting restaurants. Taylor is now back in Vermont and is applying his studies, experiences and vision to the fine wine portfolio at FDC.