So after the sun set, on day 2 of my trip to Abruzzo in June 2022, I found myself at a dinner in the cellar of a 17th century castello (castle) in the town of Semivicoli in Chieti Province Abruzzo. Miriam Masciarelli, the daughter of the late Gianni Masciarelli lead us through a vertical tasting during dinner of their Villa Gemma Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Riserva 2007, 2000, 1999. The wines were full of saddle leather, earth, red cherries and plums, and were utterly different wines, complex, layered, concentrated fruit, than their ubiquitous Masciarelli Classic Montepulciano d’Abruzzo found on the shelves at Binnys Beverage and Eataly Chicago. It was one of those dinners where I just wanted to sit and savor the beauty unraveling in these aged Montepulciano d’Abruzzo wines.
As I was going through the photos of this winery visit and dinner, I got caught up in the beauty of the vineyards and Abruzzo itself.
However, I am getting a bit ahead of myself here, because before dinner at the castello we had a very thorough visit to the Masciarelli winery in Chieti lead by winemaker, Attilio Alfino, and a walk through their vineyards lead by Luigi Valori. Masciarelli, is the largest privately owned winery in Abruzzo, with 60 plots in 13 municipalities across the 4 provinces,(see Wikipedia Province map in my post on Tullum DOCG) In addition, Masciarelli is very focused on sustainability and protection and preservation of the vineyards.
History of Masciarelli
The winery was founded in 1981 by Gianni Masciarelli, and his focus was on terroir-driven wines. Sadly, he died an untimely death in 2008 and his wife, Maria Cvetic (the name of their medium tier label as well) and eldest daughter, Miriam now run the company. They have vineyards in all 4 provinces: 1) Pescara, clay, loam, grapes grow on slopes and the area has a Mediterranean climate, 2) Teramo, the best area for Montepulciano d’Abruzzo in the foothills of the Gran Sasso mountains, 3) L’Aquila, the most mountainous part of Abruzzo and finally 4) Chieti, San Martino sulla Marrucina, 420m of altitude, 15 minute drive from the ocean, 15 minutes to the mountains. My visit was to the winery in San Martino sulla Marrucina, Chieti province, where we were given a tour of the facilities by winemaker Attilio Alfino. The winery is EMAS certified, a sustainable certification offered by the EU. They have 6 wine lines, Villa Gemma, flagship, Iskra (spark in Slavic) from single vineyards in Pescara, Colline Teramane, Marina Cvetic, structured, elegant wines, Castello di Semivicoli, Gianni Masciarelli (a tribute to her husband),and the first range that started the company, Linea Classic.
The Scent of My Land, The Taste of My Wine (quote Gianni Masciarelli)
After our thorough winery tour with Attilio Alfino, winemaker at Masciarelli, we had a tour of their vineyards with one of the happiest people I have met (see my reference to the happy people of Abruzzo in the Intro), Luigi Valori, whose personal tagline is “call me when it rains’. He loves being out in the vineyards so much and there is so much to do, the only time to speak with him is when it is raining and he is home.
The grapes grown in the vineyards of San Martino include Trebbiano Abruzzese, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Chardonnay, Cococciola (native grape to Chieti, also grown in Puglia and Molise).
We had the pleasure of dining with Luigi at Castello di Semivicoli that evening. What was very apparent is that he has meticulous recollection of the last 20 vintages in Abruzzo. He firmly believes that the 2021 vintage is the best vintage of the last 20 years. His passion for the land and the vineyards was quite apparent.
Dinner at Castello di Semivicoli
So after a walk through the beautiful vineyards lead by that happy guy, Luigi, we drove to Castello di Semivicoli.
Gianni Masciarelli purchased the 17th century castello in 2004, with the intention of turning it into a premium wine and culinary destination. Well, all I can say, “mission accomplished”! It has 11 rooms, a pool, olive groves and vineyards on the property. Over the course of dinner, we tasted Pecorinos, Trebbiano d’Abruzzo, Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo and then the aged Montepulcianos from the Masciarelli library collection. Miriam took us through in particular the aged Montepulcianos which really shed a light for me on what the Montepulciano grape is capable of. As with most dinners, the food was so good and the company so entertaining, that note taking fell to the wayside, and conviviality took over.
Good wine and food makes for happy people. So as the evening ended, experiences like this you don’t really want to end, we walked out with bags of some of the condiments and olive oil that Masciarelli produces as well and the bus back to our hotel was full of happy chatter after such a fantastic evening in a castello in Abruzzo.
Stay tuned for Part 4, The Pink Way, Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo, Rosé Abruzzo Style