Departure dates: June 11-16.
- Wine estates: Tenuta San Guido (Sassicaia), Ornellaia, Biondi Santi, Casanova di Neri and more.
- The medieval towns of Montalcino and Castagneto Carducci.
- Lunch at a 1-star Michelin restaurant.
Day 1: Meet the Maremma:
After a pick-up in Pisa, we'll shuttle down the coast of Tuscany to the Maremma. Our first stop is Castello del Terriccio, founded by a thoroughbred horse breeder (another business for which the Maremma is famous). Here you'll have an intro to Super Tuscan wines, tasting the estate's fantastic cabernet-based bottlings. Next is Petra, an architecturally stunning winery designed by Swiss architect Mario Botta. It's indicative of the sizable new investments flowing into Tuscany's youngest wine zone. Finally, we visit Michele Satta in Bolgheri, a mid-sized, family-owned winery founded in the 1980s which has gained a loyal following. After settling into our countryside hotel, we'll head to dinner in Castagneto Carducci, a medieval town tucked in the Apennine hills. In this mountainous, forested region, the menu focuses on woodland cuisine, with wild boar (cinghiale) and polenta a regional favorite. Includes: (D).
Day 2: Bolgheri and super Tuscan Stars.
Today focuses on Bolgheri, the area that first put Super Tuscans on the map. We'll travel down a cypress-lined road to Tenuta San Guido and hear the history of their wine Sassicaia, the first Super Tuscan. We'll learn how French grapes like cabernet and aging in small oak barrels changed the face of Italian wine - a revolution that continues to this day. After lunch, we'll visit another two prestigious estates, Ornellaia and Le Macchiole, both among the first to put down stakes in the Maremma. The wines of these pioneers are now objects of veneration among wine lovers. Taste and you'll see why. Dinner is at the hotel. Includes: (B), (D).
Day 3: Brunello up close.
Today we turn our attention to Brunello di Montalcino, one of Italy's most coveted wines. Our first stop, after driving in from the coast, is Banfi, a mega-sized, American-owned winery that, through its clonal research and attention to marketing, helped put Brunello on the map in the 1980s. After a tasting and brief history of Brunello, it's on to Poggio Antico. Here you'll indulge in a complementary lunch at the winery's 1-star Michelin restaurant. During our afternoon tasting, you'll meet a true artisan: Alessandro Mori, owner of Il Marroneto. Mori gave up his law practice to make wine, and now personally oversees every aspect of his boutique winery. He'll offer insights into the art and craft of making Brunello, with barrel samples to illustrate. Dinner is on your own in Montalcino, where you'll find such Tuscan fare as rustic bread salad (panzanella) and guinea fowl in wine sauce. Includes: (B), (L).
Day 4: Brunello's living legends.
History comes alive during our visit to Casato Prime Donne. As we tour the wine cellar, you'll hear about Montalcino's history and legends, as well as its founder, Donatella Cinelli Colombini, a powerhouse among female winery owners. Other than consulting enologist Carlo Ferrini, she hires only women in the cellar and vineyard. Following lunch in town, we encounter some living history at Biondi Santi. Brunello's beginnings in the 19th century go back to the agricultural experiments of Clementi Santi, a pharmacist and agronomist who is credited with isolating the Brunello clone. The family went on to transform rustic sangiovese into a long-lived powerhouse that gave Bordeaux a run for its money at the Paris and London Worlds Fairs in 1888 and 1891. Today it continues to set the benchmark for age-worthy Brunellos, as we'll see. Our third winery visit is Mastrojanni, another winery that makes exceptional classic-style Brunellos, which we'll taste out of the barrel. Dinner is in town. Buon appetito and pass the biscotti and vin santo! Includes: (B), (D).
Day 5: Art and Wine.
Art lovers will remember Sandro Chia as being part of the Neoexpressionist movement of the 1980s (along with Julian Schnabel, David Salle, Francesco Clementi et al.). This Florentine native has also thrown himself into the art of wine, purchasing an ancient fortress near Montalcino, Castello Romitorio, and turning it into a winery. His Brunellos and Maremma-area wines are as impressive as the winery is unique, being populated with Chia's sculptures, paintings, and eclectic antiques. Our afternoon tasting is at Casanova di Neri, whose single-vineyard Tenuta Nuova Brunello was Wine Spectator's No. 1 of its Top 100 wines of 2007. Specializing in single vineyard Brunellos, they make several cru as well as an excellent base Brunello. You'll see a brand-new, state-of-the-art cellar, completed at the beginning of 2008. During our farewell dinner, we'll toast new friends and new finds for the wine cellar. Includes: (B).
Day 6: Arrivederci.
A shuttle to Florence and assistance with your travel plans. Includes: (B).
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Europe Italy Local Culture Food & Wine Cultural Journey
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