Late nights, early mornings, Tuscan sunshine and one adventure after another. This must be what it feels like to straddle the gap between the dream world and reality?
I adore starting each day on the terrace, enjoying espresso, spreading preserves over fresh bread, eating Toscano meats and cheeses—plus a few sweet bites of pastry.
We shoved off around 8:30 am for Montalcino (about a 2 hour drive; so worth it). En route we tucked into ‘Bar dell’ Orso’ for a quick panini snack near Monteriggioni. Visualize: Vinci is snuggled between Florence (in the center of Tuscany), and Pisa (on the west coast of Tuscany). We drove from Vinci to Montalcino, by skirting Sienna and driving south.
Just before Montalcino, we visited Lorenzo (above, left). Charismatic, personable and just the guy you want managing some of the world’s best wine: Lorenzo showed us his state of the art (and ‘going green’) facilities. We learned all about Montalcino wines: Montalcino has a cooperative of about 100 growers in a tight quadrant around the city of Montalcino. IGT wines meet the standard requirements, Rosso di Montalcino includes brilliant grapes that follow strict rules to achieve DOCG status and Brunello di Montalcino is an upgraded version of Rosso di Montalcino.
Brunello di Montalcino must age for a minimum of 4 years; they are in short supply and in regular demand around the world (Really? I am only allowed to take TWO bottles home? That’s IT?!!??!). Lorenzo shared about the consortium (the group that manages all rules and regulations for IGT, DOC and DOCG status), the way the vines work, how they age and manage the grapes and the methods to monitoring fermentation (each of their new steel state-of-the-art tanks is monitored via computer—aka degrees, dates, etc.).
My favorite detail was the goal to accept all the grapes had to offer: first they take these quintessentially brilliant grapes in this ideal micro-climate and churn them to begin fermentation for their wines. After 3 weeks they move just the juice to the next tank and take the remnants: skins and seeds et al, and put them in another container for crushing. This crushing gives even more juice for blending and other uses. After this second crush, the skins/seeds/pulp are moved to a truck and then taken away to be distilled into Grappa.
I bought a bottle of the Brunello di Montalcino Grappa—happiness.
I love Grappa and will ‘drill down’ on it later. (No ahem, I did not say ‘drown in it’ later). I have an affection for Grappa and am in Grappa as with wines: the quality of grapes makes a substantial difference.
After our tour of the winery facility with Lorenzo, we popped into their cellar for a light lunch (meats, cheese, focaccia, olives from southern Italy… ) and a brief wine tasting with Brunellos from 2005, 2006, 2007. I bought a bottle of the 2006, complete with Lorenzo’s signature.
Next up: we visited one of the important estates inside of Montalcino—vines that are in the perfect micro-climate—perhaps the Brunello’s of Brunello’s. We met the grower, his son, his Uncle, snapped pictures and felt ‘molto fortunato.’
It was about 100 degrees, so heading for a brief stroll through a nearby Abbey was a delight. We lit candles for loved ones with recent needs, awash with thankfulness.
More photos—even of a few chianina cows (aka: famous Florentine Bistecca)—then headed into the city of Montalcino. An hour is what we had to absorb this small city, so we went for it: a few spoons of gelato and we whipped our cameras out. We took no prisoners, blitzing Montalcino with unabashed touristic flare (I took tons of pics of signs, doors and windows). We caved and all bought knick-knack straw hats. Yes, really.
En route home we gazed upon fields of sunflowers, perfectly lit Tuscan hill-top villas and rows of well-placed cypress.
Just before reaching our villa in Vinci, we stopped for dinner at Villa I Barronci (near San Casciano) and shared again: meats and cheese. Then we shared ‘Primi’s': a brilliant pasta with ragu and classic Gnudi (super jazzed: will shout out/attempt recipe soon). Secondi’s included Sea Bass (Branzino) and Rabbit, Turkey and Veal. The meats, in my humble opinion, were a bit dry but the Gnudi was melt-in-our mouths good and the Tiramisu one of the best I have tasted. Need I say more?
We are home now, and I scramble to upload today’s pictures and give you a quick summary. Tomorrow is another row of surprises… gastronomic delights at their best. So stay tuned!