The Tuscan Wines of Sting & Trudie Styler’s “Il Palagio”!

“My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun; my hunger for her explains everything I’ve done. To howl at the moon the whole night through; and they really don’t care if I do. I’d go out of my mind, but for you.” – Sting, Sister Moon

Oenology. Philanthropy. History. Music. These elements harmoniously converge at Il Palagio, the idyllic Tuscan estate of husband and wife team and power couple, Sting and Trudie Styler. In 1990 Trudie embarked on an odyssey to find an Italian retreat for her family that would exist for more than just their own personal pleasure. A dedicated supporter of humanitarian efforts, Trudie wanted a property that would also benefit the community and in 1997, seven years after beginning her quest, she finally found it.


Trudie & Sting in the Il Palagio cellar

Il Palagio dates back to the mid-1500’s and since then has changed hands among a variety of noble, Tuscan families. In 1819, however, it was sold to the Countess Carlotta Barbolani of Montauto and the property remained in her family for almost two hundred years. During this time the estate revolved around agriculture, producing wine, olive oil, wheat, corn, sugar beets, peaches, apricots and cherries. At the time of Trudie’s discovery, its current owner, Duke Simone Velluti Zati di San Clemente, a descendant of Countess Carlotta, had found it exceedingly difficult to financially maintain the large villa and sprawling property and was happy to accept Trudie and Sting’s “interesting offer.”

Over the following decade, Sting and Trudie lovingly restored the estate and doubled its size by reacquiring land sold off during the family’s times of financial difficulty. Today, the estate consists of a sprawling 865 acres, 65 of which are planted to grapevines. Under the direction of the late, famed viticulturist Alan York, known for his organic and biodynamic approach to agriculture, 27 acres of ailing vines were replaced and the estate was converted to biodynamic farming.

Grapes aren’t the only thing currently grown at Il Palagio. The estate’s olive groves consist of 8,000, centuries-old trees and happen to be Sting’s favorite spot on the property. They were returned to full production under the watchful eye of estate manager, Paolo Rossi, who was born on the estate and has remained there his entire life. Trudie’s passion project is the establishment of bee colonies and she and Paolo have built happy homes for over 80 of them. “I have a huge belief in the importance of bees, not just for their honey which is a healing and delicious food, but the necessity of bee colonies that are vital to the health of the planet,” she shares. Sting and Trudie are currently in the process of importing their organic olive oil and honey to the United States and, in keeping with their philanthropic nature, a portion of the proceeds from the sale of these products will benefit charities near and dear to their hearts.

il-palagio-view-tuscanyWhen it comes to wine, the Il Palagio vines are currently in the capable hands of Winemaker, Paolo Caciorgna, and Vineyard Manager and Winemaker, Daniel O’Donnell, who took over for an ailing Alan York in 2013. The Sienese Caciorgna was born into a winemaking family and, after formally studying wine, enjoyed appointments in both California and France before becoming a consultant in 1997. International winemaker and consultant O’Donnell has experience making wine in such diverse regions as Chile, Argentina, Turkey, France, Italy, Uruguay and California. O’Donnell is known for producing wines “of place” and is currently implementing improvements in the Il Palagio vineyards which include rehabilitating older vines and adjusting yields.

I recently had the pleasure of sampling the Il Palagio wines which include four offerings, all predicated on Tuscany’s signature red grape, Sangiovese. The wines first entice with their labels featuring eye-catching artwork ranging from whimsical, figural poses to lovely, handwritten script in muted tones of grey, red, and black. Unlike many celebrity wines on the market today, however, the Il Palagio wines do not need to rely on their aesthetically pleasing labels! The care and time Sting and Trudie have devoted to their beloved estate definitely shines through in their delightful line of wines which each represent a unique expression of the Sangiovese grape.

Also, in keeping with the Italian ethos that wine is meant to be enjoyed with food, I whipped up the classic Tuscan dish, Bistecca alla Fiorentina, to pair with the Il Palagio wines. While it is traditionally made from Tuscan Chianina beef, I made do with a gorgeous Choice Hereford Porterhouse steak from Fresh Market which was incredibly flavorful and delicious. The recipe also couldn’t be easier since the steak is seasoned only with olive oil, salt and pepper to allow the natural flavor of the meat to shine through. It made a perfect accompaniment for the wines and the recipe and my tasting notes are below:

1.) 2011 Il Palagio Sister Moon IGT, Toscana, Italy ($56): Named for Sting’s eponymous song, Sister Moon is the flagship wine of the Il Palagio estate. This 2011 Super Tuscan is a blend of 45% Sangiovese, 45% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon aged for 15-18 month in oak barriques and an additional six months in bottle. The wine is a lovely garnet/purple color with aromas of blackberry, violet and spice. On the palate, this elegant, well-balanced wine displays a beautiful integration of black and red fruit, supple tannins and food friendly acidity. While drinking beautifully now, this wine could also evolve in the cellar nicely for 5-10 years.

2.) 2011 Il Palagio Casino delle Vie IGT, Toscana, Italy ($30): The second Super Tuscan of the portfolio is named for a property on the estate which, literally translated, means ‘little house by the roads.’ This blend of 75% Sangiovese, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot and Cabernet Franc is aged for 12 months in used barriques and an additional six months in bottle. The result is a wine with a deep garnet/purple color and aromas of ripe dark fruit and spice. On the palate, mouth-filling, lush flavors of wild blackberry, black currant, leather and licorice accompany sweet tannins.

3.) 2011 Il Palagio Message in a Bottle, Toscana, Italy ($20): Named for one of Sting’s most popular songs, this wine is a blend of 70% Sangiovese, 15% Syrah and 15% Merlot fermented in stainless steel and aged in bottle for four months. This wine has a fresh, youthful purple/garnet color with fragrant aromas of plummy dark fruit, cassis and black pepper. On the palate, ripe black cherry, wild strawberry and spice are accompanied by supple tannins, a lively acidity and bitter almond-tinged finish.

4.) 2013 Il Palagio When We Dance Chianti, Toscana, Italy ($19): Also named for one of Sting’s songs this is a great “everyday” offering from the estate. The 2013 is a blend of 90% Sangiovese, 5% Canaiolo and 5% Colorino fermented entirely in stainless steel and aged in bottle three months prior to release. This wine has a classic translucent garnet color and aromas of red and black fruit and earth. On the palate, this easy drinking wine offers flavors of cherry, red berries, orange peel, baked earth and spice with mild tannins and a tart finish.

“Bistecca all Fiorentina”
Serves 2-4

2lb. Porterhouse Steak, at least 1 1/2-2 inches thick
Good Olive Oil
Kosher or Sea Salt
Coarse grind black pepper

1.) Take the steak out of the refrigerator 30 minutes prior to cooking. The steak can either be prepared on a grill or pan-roasted in which case you’ll need to preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
2.) Coat the steak lightly in olive oil and then liberally season both sides with salt and pepper, pressing the seasoning into the meat. If grilling, grill the steaks for about 5-6 minutes on each side for medium rare. The fillet will cook a little faster than the strip so be sure to move the steak every 2 minutes or so for even cooking.
3.) If pan roasting, heat your cast iron skillet until very hot. Place the seasoned steak in the center of the pan and cook until the first side is seared brown – approximately 4 minutes. Turn the steak and immediately place the pan in the pre-heated oven until done, about 4-5 minutes for medium rare. Remove the steak to a carving board and let rest for 5 minutes before carving.
4.) Cut the steaks away from the bone and carve into 1/2-inch slices. Serve with extra salt and pepper and with a side dish of white beans and/or an arugula salad.



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