In May/June 2014, Charlie and I traveled to Toscana. While the trip did not focus on visiting with winemakers/owners and tasting wine, I did make arrangements beforehand to visit a few wineries. Our favorite part of the trip was our stay on the coast. If I could do our trip over again, we would have spent more time on the coast, and less time in the southeastern part of Toscana (near Umbria). I also wish I would have done more preplanning for Umbria, because our brief forays into Umbria were uneventful, and I know they could have been better.
We landed in Firenze, and having visited the city before, we headed straight to Chianti from the airport. We stayed at Villa Vignamaggio in Greve in Chianti (http://www.vignamaggio.it/). We opted to stay in one of their apartments, and really enjoyed our stay there, including dinner one night and dessert another. We also enjoyed an al fresco lunch at Ristoro di Lamole (http://ristorodilamole.it/en/) where the food, wine (a Castello de Ama Chianti Classico Riserva) and views were excellent.
While in Chianti, the wineries that we visited were:
Querciabella (http://www.querciabella.com/) – visit and tasting with Daniela; wines tasted:
Batar 2011 – a blend of chardonnay and pinot blanco; this is a wine made in the style of “its Burgundy cousins”, but we thought it was very oaky and didn’t really enjoy
Mongrana 2010 – a blend of sangiovese, merlot, cabernet sauvignon; just ok
Camartina 2006 – a blend of cabernet sauvignon and sangiovese; smooth, good tannins and fruit, very nice; buy
Palafreno 2008 – 100% merlot; smooth, nice fruit, very good; buy
Chianti Classico 2009 – 100% sangiovese; a very nice and easy drinking wine; buy
Badia a Passignano (http://www.osteriadipassignano.com/en#osteria) – after reading about this option beforehand, we arranged for a tour of Badia a Passignano, and then
lunch at the Osteria a Passignano accompanied by Antinori wines (Chianti Classico Riserva Badia a Passignano 2008, Tignanello 2011, Guado al Tasso 2011, Brunello di Montalcino Pian delle Vigne 2009 and Solaia 2010), preceded by an olive oil tasting and followed by a tasting of two Vin Santos. The lunch was fantastic! And, all of the wines were “buy” wines! If you visit Chianti, this is well worth the money and time! [A word of caution if you use your GPS to locate Osteria a Passignano. Our GPS could not figure out how to get to the Osteria, and it kept sending Charlie and me in circles. So, look for the signs to Passignano.]
We also had a lunch with wine pairings at Ristorante Badia a Coltibuono (http://en.coltibuono.com/restaurant), where the the lunch was good, but there was nothing special about the wines. One afternoon, we also dropped in to the tasting room for Il Molino di Grace (http://www.ilmolinodigrace.com/), but nothing stood out for us.
We then headed to the Tuscan coast via Siena and San Gimignano. A word of caution when driving from Chianti to San Vincenzo, if your GPS tells you to take the “white road” over the mountain – don’t!!
Charlie and I stayed at Poggio ai Santi (http://www.poggioaisanti.com/) while we visited the coast,and had dinner there one night. This hotel is fantastic! We just wished we had stayed here more days.
While on the coast, we ate lunch at La Pineta in Marina di Bibbona (http://www.lapinetadizazzeri.it/LaPineta/Home.html). While you wouldn’t know it from the outside of the building, this was one of the best meals Charlie and I have ever eaten. If you are ever on the Tuscan coast, go to La Pineta! We also had an enjoyable lunch at Enoteca Tognoni in Bolgheri (http://www.enotecatognoni.it/page3.htm).
The one winery we visited on the coast (Bolgheri) was Ornellaia (http://www.ornellaia.com/). The tour includes visits to the vineyards, and the wines we tasted were:
Le Volte 2012 – a blend of merlot, sangiovese, cabernet sauvignon; fruity, ripe cherries and prunes
Le Serre Nuove 2011 – blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, petit verdot; more complex, spicey, a very nice wine; buy
Ornellaia 2011 – a blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc, petit verdot; very smooth, very good; buy
Varia Zioni in Rosso 2011 – primarily cabernet franc, with some merlot, cabernet sauvignon and petit verdot; no other notes on this wine
We also tasted the 2013 olive oil (peppery) and Eligo dell’Orneallai Grappa Riserva (which just tasted of alcohol)
After staying on the coast (for too few days), we headed back inland to the home of Brunello di Montalcino. Two lodgings interested me, and since both looked appealing, we stayed at two different places while visiting this area. The first was La Bandita, and the other was Le Traverse (http://www.letraverse.it/); both in Pienza. While La Bandita gets rave reviews, Charlie and I were not impressed with the lodging and location (although we very much enjoyed our two dinners there). We were impressed with Le Traverse, and Pinuccia, the owner, is wonderful. If you travel to this part of Tuscany, stay at Le Traverse!
We had some good meals in this area, including lunch at Boccon Divino in Montalcino (http://www.boccondivinomontalcino.it/boccondivino/), but the very best was lunch at Ristorante Silene in Seggiano (https://www.ilsilene.it/silene/). At Ristorante Silene, we asked owner/chef Roberto Rossi to cook what he wanted for us, and this meal was one of the best we have ever had! Chef Roberto also selected our wine, a 1988 Il Poggione Brunello di Montalcino Riserva, and this wine was excellent. Charlie and I enjoyed this meal so much that we stayed longer than we expected, and had to move an appointment we had to another day.
We visited a few wineries in this area:
Valdipiatta (http://www.valdipiatta.it/eng/pag/visite.htm) – the wines we tasted were:
Nibbiano Toscana 2012 – floral, easy drinking, a good wine while sitting by the pool, but not available in the US
Pinot Nero 2006 – fresh, light bodied, nice
Rosso di Montepulciano 2011 – light bodied, very nice, a good everyday house wine; buy
Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2010 – smooth, good fruit and tannins, very good; buy
Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Vigna Alfiero 2004 – dark ruby, complex and w/ depth, very good; buy
Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Riserva 2005 – strong tannins, but still smooth; Charlie liked this wine better than the Vigna Alfiero
Trincerone 2003 – a blend of canaiolo and merlot; smooth, nice; buy
Trefonti 2000 – a blend of sangiovese, cabernet sauvignon, canaiolo; a nice wine; buy
Vin Santo 2006 – this was the best vin santo we had tasted on the trip, but still not something we would buy
Stella di Campalto (http://stelladicampalto.com/en/) – we had a barrel tasting with a friend of Stella’s. There were no bottled wines offered for tasting. We did buy a bottle of her Brunello di Montalcino 2007, which we enjoyed latter on during our trip.
Our last visit was to Avignonesi (https://www.avignonesi.it/en) where we took a group tour (a group that included Charlie, me and many Belgians), and then had an excellent lunch with wines from the estate. The wines we had at lunch were:
Il Marzocco Chardonnay 2013 – oaky
Grifi Toscana IGT 2010 – a blend of sangiovese and cabernet sauvignon; so-so
Desiderio 2010 – mostly merlot with some cabernet sauvignon; so-so
Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Grandi Annate 2007 –smooth, good tannins and fruit, very good; buy
50 & 50 Toscana IGT- a blend of merlot and sangiovese; an enjoyable wine; very good; buy
Vin Santo 1999 – thick and sweet
Occhio di Pernice Vin Santo 1999 – very thick and syrupy
We then headed southeast towards San Casciano dei Bagni for a few days. While in this area, we stayed at Casa Fabbrini. Casa Fabbrini is an out of the way, but beautiful, place. However, this is not a lodging we would recommend.
Finally, we headed to Rome for our flight home. We stayed overnight near the airport at the Al Porticciolo Hotel in Fiumicino (this hotel doesn’t have its own website, so you need to book through booking.com, or a similar site). This is a nice place to stay if you have an early morning flight, because the restaurant at this hotel is wonderful.
Practicalities: We flew into the airport at Firenze (FLR), and rented a car (Hertz through Auto Europe). We own a TomTom GPS, and that has proven to be invaluable on our drives throughout Europe. We flew home out of the Rome airport (FCO). As I said in my Piemonte post, set your GPS to give you speed camera alerts, and pay attention to these alerts. Also, while driving in a city, look for ZTL signs. It is not uncommon (in fact, it is very common) to receive a ticket or tickets upon your return home for driving past a ZTL sign and into the restricted zone, or speeding. I made all of our winery appointments and restaurant reservations via email (at least 30 days in advance).