I wondered if we were ever going to make it to Pasetti’s Testarossa vineyard and estate in the Pescara region of Abruzzo.
This was our last stop on this Press Trip to Abruzzo, and the vineyard was inland, in the Gran Sasso and Laga Mountains National Park, putting us closer to the airport in Rome.
The morning started with us arriving late to our first location, a combination of spotty GPS signals on these tiny winding backroads and road closures due to the heavy rains. This was early June, just after mid-May’s heavy rains, which had caused terrible flooding in Emilia Romagna and Marche to the north. There was also the fact that our little bus was full of passengers and all of our luggage, and we were heading up some pretty steep hills.
As we came to our turn for the winery, we found the road closed due to the road being washed out. Without great cell service, our driver hailed a passing moped for directions. We made it to Pescosansonesco, coming in from the opposite direction than expected.
Regardless, it was a beautiful drive. The clouds dappling the rolling hillsides with shade, flowers in bloom, and everything in a variety of lush shades of green.
I mentioned Pasetti’s Testarossa is located in the Parco Nazionale del Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga. In fact, they are the only winery in the territory permitted to use the Park logo on their bottles.
Tenuta Testarossa is located near Pescosansonesco, a small village that clings to the rocky cliffs within the Southern portion of the National Park. To be clear, there are two villages: the Vecchio (or old) and the Nuovo (or new). We drove through Pescosansonesca Vecchio. On this site, there was an ancient settlement formed by the pre-roman inhabitants of the area. The current village was built in the 10th Century AD.
Driving along the ridgeline opposite the village, we could see the ruins of the early village on the facing ridge, stone walls crumbling, and the remaining stones clinging to the steep slopes. I had read that most of the village had been abandoned after earthquakes and landslides in the 1930s and 40s.
The village still has about 500 inhabitants and sits on a ridge 540 meters above sea level (around 1640 feet.) The roads were narrow, winding, and steep, and as we drove, the windows of the bus skimmed the walls and windows of the houses.
We reached almost the top of the hill when our driver stopped and made a phone call. This was the meeting point. Our guide would arrive to lead us the rest of the way to the property.
We headed through the village to a pull-out, where the bus had to turn around before heading down the steep road to the vineyard. The whole way down, we were all wondering how we would get back up.
On the way down the hill to Tenuta Testarossa, we passed a fountain, which I snuck a photo of from across the bus. Later, at home, I did a bit of research. This Roman fountain was built on a spring. The fountain is U-shaped with a central basin topped by a wall of 9 masks that spill water into the stone trough. This created a place for drinking water and washing.
“Roman” here is the local term for “Hari-mann,” which was the term for the ancient Germanic population in Abruzzo and for “a man free to cultivate his own lands.” Often, this was the land given to knights when they returned from war. This term provides the name for Pasetti’s top-of-the-line Montepulciano d’Abruzzo.
At last, we arrived.
Before us, down the hill, was Tenuta Testarossa, a 2 story stone villa surrounded by gardens built on the slope. The Pasetti family used it as an Agriturismo. Since the pandemic, reserve it just for hosting journalists and wine guests.
Above us were stone ruins on the clifftop. Tenuta Testarossa was constructed of stones from these ancient ruins.
Massimo Pasetti guided us through a tour of the residence built in 1882 by the Troiani family. He then directed us past the pool to a spot that overlooked the vineyards.
The vineyards below are separated by patches of wooded areas and bordered to the east by a section of forest where you can see a stone steeple peeking through the trees. This is the Cappella Troiani, a church built for the Troiani family. They have 33 hectares here that sit at 550 meters above sea level.
The vineyard at Capestrano
They also have another vineyard at Capestrano on the other side of the Monte Picca. Capestrano sits in the L’Aquila region, whereas the Pescasansonesco vineyard is in the Pescara region. The vineyard in Capestrano sits at 450 meters above sea level.
Having this vineyard on the other side of the mountain allows them a completely different microclimate for the grapes, giving them great variety for styles from the natural terroir.
While we did not have an opportunity to visit this vineyard. I did a bit of research on this fascinating area within the National Park and was fascinated by the Magic Square.
The Magic Square at Capestrano
Capestrano holds the Abbasai di San Pietro ad Oratorium. The original church is believed to have been founded by Desiderius (the last king of the Lombards) in 752, but before that, there was likely a pagan temple. In 1100 AD, the new church was built. (Let’s just ponder on the fact that a just said “new church” for a church built in the 12th century, Italy’s history is ancient!) Embedded in the wall of the church is the “Magic Square.” This square is formed by 5 words with their letters laid out so that they can be read from left to right, top to bottom, right to left, and bottom to top. This stone is believed to be from the earlier church built in the 8th century. The words “Rotas, Opera, Tenet, Arepo & Sator.” This palindrome has been thought to be a way that early Christians communicated and has been associated with the Templar Knights.
Do you want to dive deep and learn more? https://www.capestranodascoprire.it/arte/quadrato-magico
We briefly met Massimo’s father, Mimmo, who gave us some information on the vineyard before he had to leave. Both vineyards are farmed without pesticides or herbicides.
Here’s a bit of Mimmo’s story, as told by Massimo. His father took over the winery from Massimo’s grandfather in 1999. He knew historically, the best wines were made from the vineyards in the inland region of Abruzzo. It was only after World War II that vineyards moved toward the coast.
As his parents were traveling through the mountains looking for land, they stopped for lunch at a little restaurant. They ordered pasta with white pork, and without asking, they were brought a ½ liter of red wine. His mother wouldn’t drink it because it was too vinegary, but his father saw the potential in this wine and asked the man about the farm. He took them to see the vineyard, which was overgrown with other plants and not well-tended. His father saw the potential and asked him to sell him the property.
The owner insisted they must also buy the house on the property if they wanted the vineyards. It was likely he was unaware of the deep history behind the building.
Tasting the wines of Pasetti
Massimo’s mother, Laura, joined us before her husband headed out, and she led us back into the dining room, which was set up for lunch and our tasting.
Massimo walked us through the wines as the others poured. We began with their Collecivetta Pecorino, then moved on to their Trebbiano and Rosato. Yes, I said Rosato, not Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo. Massimo explained that they found the quality of Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo DOC wines varied too widely, so instead, they chose to simply label their wine as a Rosato. In addition, this wine comes from their Capestrano vineyard in L’Aquila, and the climate and soils here do not lean to the Cerasuolo style, So they make it in the Rosato style, a fresher wine with fewer tannins.
From here, we moved to the Montepulciano wines, tasting the Madonnella Montepulciano d’Abruzzo (their classic Montepulciano), the Testarossa Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Reserva, and two vintages of their Harimann Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, the 2016, which is their most recent release of this wine and the 2004 vintage, so that we could see the aging potential of the wine.
Laura is especially proud of this wine.
Lunch made by Laura
As we had been tasting, we had been enjoying lunch. We began with an array of dishes Laura had prepared: frittatas, Italian flatbreads, cheeses, & cured meats.
This was followed by a pasta course of linguini in a cream sauce with pork and Pallotte Cac e Ove.
(I had made Pallotte Cac e Ove once at home, although Laura’s were tastier. I think she has had much more practice at this dish. If you are interested in the recipe, you will find it in this article * Pallotte Cac e Ove and Orecchiette with 2 brillian cherry red rosatoes from southeast Italy )
Dessert on the Patio
We gathered to leave and found dessert waiting on the patio along with their Passito wine, Gesmino. This was paired with apricot or chocolate shortbread bars.
As we enjoyed our dessert, we watched the dark clouds of an incoming storm roll in, and the winds picked up.
Our bus had been sent back up the hill empty, and Massimo had a mini-van to shuttle us up the mountain. I went with the first group, and we had a brilliant view of the valley and the incoming storm as we waited for the rest of our group.
As we headed back down through the village’s winding streets, the clouds opened, splattering the windows. Watching the ancient city through rain-splattered windows left me with a sense of longing. This trip had not been long enough. There is so much more in this beautiful region that I want to explore.
Wines of Pasetti
Collecivetta Pecorino 2022
This wine is made from Pecorino from both of the vineyards. Both vineyards are planted to 5200 plants per hectare (relatively high-density planting.) The grapes are softly pressed and do a cold ferment. The wine is racked and then left on the fine lees. This ages in stainless steel.
Lemon & lime, citrus pith, Bright and zingy on the palate without being too sharp.
Testarossa Trebbiano d’Abruzzo DOC 2021
*Testarossa is their flagship label. The name translates to “redhead”. It is an ode to the strong red-haired women in the Pasetti family.
100% Trebbiano d’Abruzzo from their Capestrano vineyard, where the soil has sand and pebbles. The wine ferments 90% in Stainless Steel and 10% in Barriques.
This wine was bright and had the typical softness I find in Trebbiano. This wine has stony mineral notes, which are rounded on the palate.
The grapes for this wine come from the Capestrano vineyard. The wine ferments and ages in Stainless Steel.
Strawberry, watermelon, dusty rose, and other florals waft up from the nose. The acidity of this wine is vibrant, vibrating around the edges of my tongue almost like effervescence.
Mondonnella Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2020
This is their classic Montepulciano d’Abruzzo coming from the vineyards here in Pescosansonesco. It ferments in Stainless Steel and ages in concrete and large oak barrels.
Eucalyptus, dark tart fruit, currant, cranberry, anise, and resin on the nose.
Tart with blackberry with peppery notes in my mouth.
Testarossa Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2019
Again, from the Pescosansonesco vineyard, fermented in Stainless steel and aged in a mix of concrete and wood for 24 months. This wine has more spice notes and dark berries with richer tannins. Notes of tobacco, licorice, and cocoa.
Harimann 2016 & 2004
In the living room of Testarossa hangs a painting of a knight, his hands filled with grapes, his sword stuck in the ground. Finished with war, he can now tend the land.
100% Montepulciano from a single parcel with vines over 80 years old. This vineyard is harvested later than the others, and the wine does 10 days of maceration after fermentation. 24 months aging in a mixture of concrete and French oak.
The 2016 was tart with notes of red fruit and a bit of floral. There were notes of black pepper and coffee.
The 2004 had much smoother tannins, everything being more integrated. There were notes of caramel and butterscotch.
This wine is made from Moscatello di Castiglione grapes, a native Abruzzo variety found mostly around Castiglione, a village not far away that we had driven through to get here.
Pasetti notes, “The bunch is quite small and sparse, which is ideal both for withering in drying lofts and on the plant itself.”
The grapes dry for 40 days, ferment for 24 hours, and then are racked and pressed. It has residual sugar of 80-120 g/l.
Coppery gold in color, the wine has notes of peach, apricot compote, and honey, with acidity that keeps the wine from seeming too sweet.
For more information on Pasetti and their wines, visit their website.
If you find yourself in Abruzzo, take the time to visit the Gran Sasso and Laga Mountains National Park. There is so much history to discover there, and the views are amazing.
There is great hiking and climbing. Very near to Tenuta Testarossa, you find a cave in the mountain rock.
For more information on the park visit.
For more information on the wines of the Abruzzo region visit
Robin Renken is a wine writer and Certified Specialist of Wine and WSET 3 Certified. She and her husband Michael travel to wine regions interviewing vineyard owners and winemakers and learning the stories behind the glass.
When not traveling they indulge in cooking and pairing wines with food at home in Las Vegas.
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