Getting to Know Il Palazzone
An Overview and Interview with Richard Parsons
Marco and Laura
Together, Laura and Marco are the day-to-day anchor of the winery, living there with their three children.
I asked Laura about the potential of people who might be turned-off when they hear that the winery is owned by an American business man, assuming that some non-traditional impact is being made by his influence. She did note that they sometimes play down the owner's history so as to side-step such prejudices. Of Richard she said, "There's no micromanaging from him. He has a galvanizing...great effect...makes you want to do this properly." Of Il Palazzone she says, "It's a real farm, with real people, making good decisions. People [who work there] come from many walks of life. It's a lovely world to be in."
Another key member to the team is veteran oenologist, Paolo Vagaggini. Sometimes called "Mister Sangiovese", he has 30 years of experience making Brunello, and other wines from Sangiovese, and consults for approximately one third of the producers in Montalcino. I asked Laura about his impact on the wine making there and the style. She said, "Here he gets a chance to flex his muscles a different way... he comes to us quite often" "But the reality of the consultant wine maker is, there has to be someone at the estate with a clear philosophy at the helm, and that is the case here. He takes into consideration the style and preferences of the winery."
In my conversation with Dick Parsons, he told me an interesting story that illustrated how Dick had the same stylistic bent as this renowned winemaker.
"My winemaker is a guy named Paolo Vagaggini, who is probably right now, the best known of the Brunello oenologists, and one of the best in Tuscany. He is as much a part of the team as anybody. He and I, essentially, make the wine each year.
Paolo always says to me, '"You have a good palate.'" This year we went to blend the wine from our three different vineyards...
We had 11 bottles to blend from... and we're trying to make the best blend. He's using all his scientific data, and all I had was my taste buds and nose. My best friend was with me, and I said, watch this. I took the first, the third, and the seventh bottle, and a mixed them up and said, "taste that". "Steve (Dick's friend) said, this is really good!"
So then Vagaggini came back from the computer room, with his blend, and I was joking with him, and I said, "I got it for you already", and he tasted it and said, "'that is this!"'
He picked the same three bottles, and he was pretty close on the percentages. "'How did you know?"', he asked. And he showed me his paper, and except for the exact percentages, we had the same blend.
He and I are getting really close in that. And he's a really good man."
Laura says of Dick, "He's been quietly learning for 13 years off stage, he has clear ideas about what he wants from the estate." "He chooses the wine that he likes best, what works for him".