by Chris Ryerson

I had the pleasure recently of meeting Antonio Terni, the owner of Fattoria Le Terrazze, one of the leading estates of the Marche. Terni is quite a personality. An avid Bob Dylan fan and yachtsman, he was born in Argentina and worked as a nuclear scientist before returning to his family’s estate in the foothills of Monte Conero on the beautiful Adriatic coast. The estate has belonged to his family since 1882 and under the direction of Terni and his wife, currently produces about 7500 cases of wine each year.

The Le Terrazze wine I was most familiar with from the past is “Chaos,” a blend of Montepulciano, Syrah, and Merlot named in honor of Terni’s physics background. “Chaos” is a full-blown, rich, modern-style, jammy wine. It was nice during this visit to taste Le Terrazze’s more traditional wines. In contrast to “Chaos,” and “Planet Waves,” which are both blends, the basic Rosso Conero and the “Sassi Neri Riserva” are 100% Montepulciano and reflect Terni’s commitment to and belief in that grape as being ideal for the climate of his area. In fact, he was instrumental in pushing for the recent (2004) creation of the Conero DOCG.

The 2007 Rosso Conero is a delicious, approachable expression of the Montepulciano grape, with juicy dark fruits, a hint of earthiness, and soft tannins. The stand-out wine of the day for me however, was the 2006 “Sassi Neri Riserva.” Although also very approachable, this wine has far greater depth, intensity, and structure. Sourced from two hectares of very old vines, it offers beautifully delineated flavors of black cherry and black currant and gains complexity from hints of dried flowers and leather while the year and a half in barrique adds notes of vanilla and spice.