Every year from 2007-2010 Juliet and I went to Montalcino in Southern Tuscany to visit our amazing friends at Terralsole Cantina. Mario Bollag and Athena Tergis are the proprietors, our dear friends, and produce some of my favorite Brunello di Montalcino wine.
Brunello di Montalcino is the great wine of Southern Tuscany; made with 100% Sangiovese Grosso grapes, these wines are meaty, bright, austere in their youth, and some of the finest red wines on the planet with a meal. A great Brunello always has hints of tart cherries, new saddle leather, and tell-tale grip around every corner of the mouth. Brunello was the wine that convinced me to get into the industry and remains one of my greatest pleasures on earth.
I met Mario in 2006 while I was working as the wine director for The Tasting Room in Houston, TX. Mario brought his wonderful wines to sample in hopes he might find some homes for them in Texas. In me he found a home and a friend for life. In all my travels I have met no one with Mario’s energy, enthusiasm for life, and sheer inertia. I have few heroes on this planet, but I can say with all certainty he is one of them.
Mario makes Brunello and Brunello Riserva as well as some wonderful other varieties of red wine that grow brilliantly in the soil along the southern slopes of Montalcino. The Swiss-born winemaker and lifelong entrepreneur has a flair for the dramatic in his otherwise markedly Swiss personality. He reminds me of the best parts of France, Germany, and Italy all rolled into one sinfully charming human being. I rarely want to emulate another human being but I have little choice but to admit that when I grow up I want to be like Mario.
Athena is the co-owner of Terralsole and one of the most talented musicians I have ever met in person. She is a world-renowned Irish Fiddle player who hails originally from San Francisco. Athena has performed with Michael Flatley on Broadway as well as the brilliant Michael G Rose. Juliet and I have had the pleasure to listen to Athena play on every occasion to Terralsole and each time we have been moved by her genius. Athena is a gracious host and is one heck of a cook. Athena and Mario are two of the dearest people in our Italian lives.
While working closely with Mario at the winery and raising their young daughter Vivienne, Athena also produces albums in their studio as well as tours extensively with her musical group The Green Fields of America and as a soloist with the Dublin Philharmonic Orchestra. As the saying goes: “Behind every great wine is a great woman”.
Mario and Athena do offer their guest villa at Terralsole as a vacation rental. I can think of no place on earth I have stayed more relaxing, stunningly beautiful, and charmingly decorated with art from Italy, China, India, Morocco, and especially Haiti. Here is a link to the villa rental page on their website (I know for a fact this one of the most reasonably priced properties in Montalcino and for the quality it is simply unmatched)
How is the wine? Let me tell you that Terralsole is a traditional Brunello with an eye and a palate towards the elegant. These wines have muscle and also finesse for days. Mario is an enormous fan of Brunello di Montalcino first and foremost and this love for the wines pushed him to become a winemaker nearly 30 years ago. This is serious wine for wondrous occasions and I highly suggest you seek out these brilliant products in your state or country of residence. Better yet, book a ticket and get to Montalcino to taste with Mario and Athena then take the wines home with you signed, sealed, and delivered…just like I do 🙂
If you want to know more detail about Brunello I suggest this wonderful post – Montalcino, a Land Kissed by G-d by the very talented wine blogger, Jeremy Parzen; with links to his overview of the wines. I used to believe I went to Montalcino frequently till I met Jeremy, and he is simply the leading authority on the region (in my eyes)