The Honest Pour with John Lenart

Taking you beyond the bottle.

Ep. 63 Paolo De Marchi, Isole e Olena

The sub-region of Barberino Tavarnelle lies in the western part of Chianti Classico. Topping out at about 400 meters above sea-level the vines here flower early and experience a longer growing season than other areas of Chianti Classico. Wines for here typically express more earth that fruit and are the perfect companions of the region’s game focused cuisine. I met with Paolo De Marchi of Isole e Olena, a top producer from Barberino Tavarnelle to talk about these wines and learn about how his farming choices over the past 45 years have allowed him to express its special terroir.


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20190322_094217Paolo De Marchi, Isole e Olena

IsoleOlenaChiantiClassicoBottleSmall2016 Isole e Olena Chianti Classico

Aromas of earth, red berries, hints of tomato leaf, leather and cocoa. This is a food wine. This medium bodies wine is driven by earth and acidity. Flavors of fresh red cherries and cedar lend balance. Drink alongside Tuscan cuisine for maximum happiness.

SRP:  $30



images 2016 Isole e Olena Cepparello

100% Sangiovese from the best of selected sites throughout the estate. Nose of a dusty minerality, dark cherries and cocoa powder. An elegant texture showing wonderful balance between fruit, acid and fine tannin. Complex flavors. Drinks nice now, but will age spectacularly for decades. I recommend waiting 5 years minimum for this special wine to mature.

SRP:  $89



IsoleeOlenaGranSelezioneSmall2013 Isole e Olena Chianti Classico Gran Selezione

Aromas of dried red berries, dutch cocoa, spy sauce and a distinct earthiness. Full bodied showing great balance between fruit and earth.  Bright acid and fine tannins make this a wine for a special dinner.

SRP: $225

Ep 62 Francesco Mazzei, Managing Director, Castello di Fonterutoli

We continue our special series of episodes from Chianti Classico. In this episode we visit Castello di Fonterutoli just south of Chianti Classico. It’s on this spot, that the riders of the legend of the black rooster met. The tiny hamlet no loner houses the winery, it is still home to the Mazzei family’s agroturismo and osteria (a great place to have a traditional, highly regional dinner!). The new winery is a modern, high tech winemaking facility, built into the hillside that still uses time honored traditions of vinification. The Mazzei family has been involved in the wine business for 24 generation and holds a unique place in U.S. history. It is said that Philip Mazzei inspired Thomas Jefferson to write that “All men are by nature equally free and independent.” Today brothers Francesco and Filippo continue the family’s legacy of making great wine. I met with Francesco at the winery south of Castellina in Chianti to discuss the family’s heritage, the importance of Chianti Classico and of course to taste some delicious wine.

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francesco-mazzeiFrancesco Mazzei, Managing Director, Castello di Fonterutoli


Classico2016 Fonterutoli Chianti Classico

An earthy nose showing notes of mushrooms, forest floor, cranberry and purple flowers. On the palate this medium bodied wine brings flavors of bing cherry, milk chocolate and a touch of mint. Fine tannins and bright acidity round out this food friendly wine

SRP: 27.99



Ser lapo2016 Fonterutoli Ser Lapo Chianti Classico Riserva

Aromas of dried mixed red berries, forest floor, notes of black olive. A medium-full body brings about flavors of over-ripe cherry, black licorice, hints of clove and sage. Firm, grippy tannins and forward acidity let you know you’re drinking Chianti Classico.

SRP: $29.99




2015 Castello di Fonterutoli Gran Selezione

Bright ruby in color. An elegant and complex nose that coyly calls out to you. Gorgeous balance on the palate between earth, fruit, and acid. Flavors of cherry, cocoa, lead to a long complex finish. Fine silky tannins. Drinks great now but will age for 10 to 30 years or more.

SRP: 74.99





2016 Fonterutoli Seipi Toscano IGT

A blend of 50% merlot and 50% sangiovese. These two varieties complement each other beautifully in this intriguing Super Tuscan blend. Nose of  black cherry and purple flowers. Flavors of black cherry, black plum, tobacco and cocoa mingle harmoniously together in this lush elegant bodied wine.

SRP: $88

Ep. 61 Giovanni Manetti, Fontodi

Welcome to this special series of episodes. In this series we take a deep dive into a wine region that not only offers amazing value, some very special, terroir driven, dynamic wines. Chianti Classico has long suffered image problems. First, all Chianti is not Chianti Classico. In fact the two regions are quite different, even though the name Chianti is often considered synonymous for each of the regions. But nothing could be further from the truth. When you drive through Chianti Classico the hills are steeper and sharper than the gently rolling hills elsewhere in Tuscany, the slopes range from between 200 and 700 meters above sea level, and many grape growers in the region have converted to organic and sustainable farming techniques.  All of this adds up to make wines of special quality.

The story of The Black Rooster



You know you have a true bottle of Chianti Classico when the bottle is labeled with the black rooster. It’s the symbol of Chianti Classico.

Back in the 13th century the region was in constant dispute between the cities of Florence and Sienna. In order to determine where the true border between the city states laid without war, it was decided that, on a certain day, when the cock crowed, riders from Florence and Sienna would set off along the road. When the met, that’s where the border would be drawn.  The crafty Florentines however, decided to take an old angry black rooster, starve it for a few days, keep it awake for a few days and set it free long before dawn on the morning of the ride. Well, it was so agitated that it crowed immediately, long before the crack of dawn, so the Florentine rider set off. By the time dawn had come and the rider from Sienna had begun his ride the rider from the north had covered most of the distance to Sienna. When they met, they were within just 20 km of the walls of Sienna. Thus, the black rooster became the symbol of Chianti Classico.

In this episode I met with Giovanni Manetti, the current President of The Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico and winemaker of Fontodi. The pride he takes in his vineyard is clear when he talks about his farming practices. You can hear the passion in his voice and it’s impossible to not be captured by it. And of course you can taste it in his wines.

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Giovanni Manetti, Fontodi

fontodi_chianti_classico2016 Fontodi, Chianti Classico

Aromas of violets, fresh herbs and dark cherries. On the palate flavors of black cherry, cocoa, leather, cigar box and herbs. Quite youthful, grippy tannins and bright acidity.  Enjoy now or age for ten or more years.

SRP:  $39.99


fontodi_granselezione2012-crop-u414472015 Fontodi, Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Vigna del Sorbo

Perfect balance. Aromas of earth, violets and dark berry.   Flavors of a complex blend of black plum, black cherry, and licorice. Sure you can drink it now but you’ll be rewarded greatly after a few years of cellaring.

SRP:  $90




fontodi_flaccianello2015 Fontodi, Flaccianello della Pieve

This is a big boy. On the nose dusty minerality leads the way followed by notes of black plum, black cherry, black licorice. On the palate this wine is full and rich. Plush fruit, Cherry, milk chocolate, baking spices, vanilla. This wine is worth cellaring for decades to come. A true classic, showing all of the bold characteristics typical of Greve and more particularly Panzano. You want this wine.

SRP: $125

Ep. 60 Sara Dionisio, Antonio Lopez Ribeiro Wines

Passion only takes winemakers so far. On top of the desire to make great wine a lot of hard work goes into it as well. There are few people in wine who have had to work as hard as Sara Dionisio and her husband Antonio Ribeiro. After mother nature dealt the couple a catastrophic blow in 2017, they have, like a phoenix, literally risen from the ashes and today continue their pursuit of  producing delicious wines.

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Casa de Mouraz-3
Sara Dionisio and Antonio Ribeiro


CDMW2015 Casa de Mouraz, Dao White

Enticing aromas of petrol and beeswax give way to flowers and stone fruit. On the palate flavors or lemon/lime, distinct limestone minerality, fresh acidity and a wonderful overall texture.

SRP:  $17.99




2016 Antonio Lopez Ribeiro, Vinho Tinto

This red wine is a special take on the typically harsh red wines from Vinho Verde, a region known more for white wine production. A spicy, salty nose showing notes of light red fruit and cracked black pepper. Flavors of  wild strawberries and a distinct acidity. Serve this light bodied red chilled along side grilled meats. Perfect for the summertime meals on the patio.

SRP: 19.99


CDMR2014 Casa de Mouraz, Dao Rouge

Deep purple in color. Fresh dark fruits lead the way on the nose of this wine. Think plum, dark berries, black licorice, earthiness, with floral and roasted meat notes. On the palate a very silky texture with nice balance between the dark fruit flavors, bright acid and fine tannins. A spicy, complex finish.

SRP: $17.99

Ep. 59 Jo Landron, Domaines Landron

When I started The Honest Pour there were several winemakers who I really wanted to interview.  The guest of this episode is one who I have tried to book for almost three years. The wines of Muscadet are often over cropped, too linear, and mundane, But the wines made by this episode’s guest are different.  Jo Landron makes some of the most dynamic, terroir driven, and delicious wines in the western Loire’s Muscadet region. Known as much for his flamboyant mustache as his wines, Landron uses both organic and biodynamic farming to express the special terroir of his vineyards. Next time you want to have some seafood, raw oysters in particular, pick up a bottle of his delicious and crazy good value wine for a match made in heaven.  You can thank me later.

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Jo Landron, Domaines Landron and John Lenart


2016 Domaines Landron, La Louvetrie

Delicate nose of flint and limestone, notes of stone fruit. Just a slight bit of effervescence give this fresh bright wine an exclamation point of fun. Concentrated flavors of peach, grapefruit zest are balance with a distinct minerality which combine in a long mouthwatering finish.

SRP:  $14.99




1313538x2018 Domaines Landron, Amphibolite (Barrel Sample, for release in mid 2019)

Aromas of fresh stone fruit, apricot cream, fresh grapefruit and lime zest. Wonderful complexity and balance on the palate with flavors of lemon and sea salt highlighted by crisp acidity and a touch of playful spritz.

SRP: $19.99





2014 Domaine Landron, Fief du Briel

A complex and elegant stunner of a wine. Aromas of Beeswax, a hint of smokiness, with notes crushed gravel, earth and nuts. On the palate flavors of red apple and lemon chiffon play in perfect harmony with lush acidity, distinct minerality and minty notes.  Lovely to drink now but as age worthy as wine three times its price.

SRP: $28.99


Ep. 58 Claudio Naranjo, General Manager, Viña Los Vascos

Just over 30 years ago the great Bordeaux house Chateau Lafite Rothschild laid stake in the new world with its purchase of Los Vascos in the Colchagua province in Chile. To run the business they hired Claudio Naranjo, a young financial consultant who aided them in the purchase, as the General Manager. Decades later, Naranjo still holds that position but with a much deeper understanding of, and more importantly, a passion for wine. Today, Claudio is responsible for maintaining what is referred to as “The Spirit of Lafite” here in the new world. While making some great red wines, headed by Le Dix de Los Vascos, grand cuvee, one of the wines that most impressed from the Los Vascos portfolio is a $10 sauvignon blanc. This wine is among the best $10 wines I have ever tasted.

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Los Vascos People (6)

Claudio Naranjo, General Manager, Viña Los Vascos


LosVascosSavBlancsm2017 Los Vascos Sauvignon Blanc

Aromas of lime, grapefruit, subtle notes of passion fruit, and salinity. On the palate mouth watering acidity leads to flavors of tart apple, lemon, with a hint of minerality. This could easily be one of the greatest values in wine at just $10 per bottle.

SRP: $10





LosVascosGrandReservesm2015 Los Vascos Grande Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

Pretty and complex nose of red fruit, dutch cocoa and just a breath of mint. On the palate flavor of cranberry, black cherry and baking spices. A soft texture with good balance and fine tannin make this an elegant drinker. Another  super value at $21 per bottle.

SRP:  $21





2014 Los Vascos Le Dix

This grand cuvee is primarily cabernet sauvignon, blended with syrah, and carmenere, from vines up to 80 years old. Aged for 18 months in new and used oak it presents aromas of dark fruit like  black plum, blackberry, with hints of milk chocolate and graphite. Lovely balance, great tannins, and balanced acidity make this wine one to age for a decade or more, if you can wait that long!

SRP: $70

Ep. 57 Ryan Shenk, Benessere Vineyards

Sometimes touring Napa Valley wineries can become a bit repetitive. Cabernet, cabernet and more cabernet. Now, I love Napa cab, but a brief departure from it can offer a palate refreshing break. A great place for this break is Benessere. Founded in 1994 by John and Ellen Benish, they wanted a place to remind them of a beloved trip to Italy they had taken. So, instead of planing more cabernet, they committed to planing Italian varieties like sangiovese, aglianico and even sagrantino.  While John sadly passed away in October of 2018, his family is committed to maintaining his vision of producing wonderful wines using grape varieties from Italy. Benessere’s winemaker, Matt Reid says he makes wine because “it makes me happy and I want to share that happiness.” His wines convey this happiness. Beautiful Italian-like acidity, balanced by the sun-kissed fruit of Napa make for some very special wines.  I met with Ryan Shenk, DTC Sales and Hospitality Manager at Benessere to walk the vineyards of Benessere and of course, to taste some delicious wines.

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Ryan V1 (1)Ryan Shenk, Benessere Vineyards

Sangiovese 2014

2016 Benessere Sangiovese

Pale garnet in color. Aromas of fresh strawberry, cherries, and a bit of toasty oak. On the palate this medium bodied wine shows flavors of cherry, leather, mocha, with hints of anise. Fine, grippy tannins and mouth watering acidity make this a wine which screams for food.

SRP: $38


Phenomenon 2014

2015 Benessere Phenomenon, Super Tuscan Blend

Aroma of roses, fresh herbs and fresh red berries. The body of this wine is nicely balanced, neither too rich nor too lean. Flavors of cranberry, currant, and blueberry, with a touch of menthol. Bright acid and super fine tannin finish this finessed wine.

SRP:  $60


Aglianico 2014

2015 Benessere Aglianico, Collins Holystone Vineyard

Intense garnet color. Rich aromas of dark plum, black cherry, blueberry, lavender and notes of black pepper. This full bodied wine is balanced by a nice minerality, youthful grippy tannin and flavors of grenadine, cola, and vanilla.

SRP:  $62


Sagrantino 2014

2015 Benessere Sagrantino

Deep ruby in color this wine presents finessed aromas of dark fruits, exotic spices and forest floor. Like sagrantino from Umbria this wine has a massive tannic structure, but is balanced out bu Napa Valley sunshine that brings about lush fruit with whispers of cocoa and espresso. Enjoy with lamb. You can thank me later.

SRP:  $60

Ep. 56 Stuart Smith, Founder, Smith-Madrone

Stuart Smith founded Smith-Madrone in 1971 on Spring Mountain. Since then  he and his brother have been making some fantastic wines from their self built winery.  If you want to see winemaking that isn’t veiled by the branded, retail friendly experience you get at many places along highway 29, head up Spring Mountain and pay a visit to Smith-Madrone. Stu may likely be your host in the barn-like winery/tasting room. You’ll find him a gigantic character never short on opinions. More importantly you’ll taste some spectacular and insightfully made wines.


Stuart Smith, Founder, Smith-Madrone

bottle-sm_16chard-hires2016 Smith-Madrone Estate Grown Chardonnay

Nose of Golden Delicious Apple, peaches and hazelnut, On the palate flavors of apple, lemon peel, and toasted marshmallow. Full yet lively. Superbly integrated long finish.

SRP: $40




sm-bottle-14cab-hirez2014 Smith-Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon

Bright ruby color. (Tasted in colder conditions) Aromas of delicate raspberry, cranberry and earthy notes. As the wine warmed darker fruit flavors of plum and fresh blackberry predominated. Wonderful velvety texture and fine tannins combine with finessed notes of pencil lead and baking spices. Smith proudly calls this “The world’s greatest wine under $75.” I’d say it’s in the running for sure.

SRP:  $52



bottle-hires-cf20132013 Smith-Madrone Cook’s Flat Reserve

This Bordeaux-style blend is Smith’s self proclaimed attempt to make the greatest Bordeaux blend in the world. 46% Cabernet Franc, 33% Cabernet Sauvignon and 21% Merlot, aged for 19 months in 100% new
French oak. Opening with aromas of blackberry and currant lead to notes of graphite and earth. Complex flavors of dark berries are backed by notes of tobacco, dutch cocoa, and nutmeg. Texturally this is still a youthful wine, showing fresh acidity and elegant tanning all combining into a wonderfully balanced wine. Drink in 5 to 10 years or more.

SRP:  $225


bottle-sm-2015riesling-hires2015 Smith-Madrone Riesling

Wonderful aromas of petrol, apricot, lychee and white flowers. Mouth watering acidity plays perfectly with flavors of lemon/lime, apricot, peach and pear. Easy drinking now but has age-ability.

SRP: $32

Ep. 55 K.R. Rombauer III, Rombauer Vineyards

Big, round, rich chardonnay may not always be a critical favorite, but it is certainly loved by the mass market.  While the wines of Kistler, Sonoma-Cutrer and others popularized this style in California, it wasn’t until 1990 when Koerner Rombauer, working with fruit from Sangiacomo vineyard in Carneros, was able to produce this style of chardonnay at a price point friendly to the consumer. Today, K.R., Koerner’s  son runs the family winery and remains true to his father’s vision of making wine his customers want to drink. I sat down with K.R., to talk about the wines made at his family’s winery, his commitment to staying family owned, and of course, to taste some delicious wine.

people_koernerK.R. Rombauer III

nv-napa-valley-sauvignon-blanc-2016-onward-rotated2017 Rombauer, Napa Valley, Sauvignon Blanc

Aroma’s of nectarine, pineapple, and  passion fruit combine with pretty floral scents. On the palate flavors of grapefruit, lime zest, pineapple and other exotic fruits are balanced by floral notes and mouth watering acidity.

SRP:  $24





nv-carneros-chardonnay-2015-onward-rotated2017 Rombauer, Carneros, Chardonnay

A nose that leads with stone fruit and oak is backed by creamy, vanilla notes and hints of creme brulee. On the palate golden delicious apple flavors are given structure by notes of baking spice and buttery flavors. This may sound big, but it’s balanced by bright acidity and subtle minerality.

SRP:  $38





nv-diamond-selection-caberent-2014-rotated2014 Rombauer, Diamond Selection, Cabernet Sauvignon

Dark fruit aromas of blackberry, cassis and purple flowers. On the palate dark fruit flavors of black plum and blackberry are backed by notes of mocha, tobacco, and clove. ABV comes through a touch hot but should come into balance with a touch of age. Fine tannins give elegant structure.

SRP:  $100





2016 Rombauer Zinfandel

Dusty minerality, purple flowers and  blackberry on the nose. A finessed body. Full,, sweet, black fruit flavors, backed up with vanilla notes, black pepper and a hints of spices.

SRP:  $35

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