Departure dates:June 8–13,
-Enjoy private, sit-down tastings at Tenuta San Guido (Sassicaia), Ornellaia, Biondi Santi, Casanova di Neri & more
-Visit the medieval towns of Montalcino, Bolgheri, and Castagneto Carducci
-Explore food and wine pairings during nightly wine dinners
Day 1 – Meet the Maremma
After a pick-up at the Pisa train station, we’ll shuttle down the coast to the Maremma, Tuscany’s Wild West. Our first stop is Castello del Terriccio, founded by a thoroughbred horse breeder (another business for which the Maremma is famous). Its vast property resembles the farms of yore more than any other winery on this tour, but their wines suit modern tastes, with mouth-watering Super Tuscan blends at various price points.
Next is Ornellaia, founded by Ludovico Antinori. Visiting the vineyards, we’ll come to understand why the geography of Bolgheri is so well suited to cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot, and syrah. And in the cellar, we’ll hear about a level of meticulous care that helps explain why Ornellaia has become such a prized cult wine.
Finally, we visit one of Bolgheri’s pioneers: Michele Satta, a mid-sized, family-owned winery founded in the 1980s. Here you’ll find both blended and pure sangiovese (including a fantastic rosé), plus an excellent example of vermentino, the heat-loving white grape of coastal Tuscany. After settling into our countryside hotel, we head to dinner in Castagneto Carducci, a medieval town tucked into the Apennine hills. Up in the mountains, the menu focuses on woodland cuisine, with wild boar (cinghiale) and polenta, a regional favorite. D Podere Conte Gherardo
Day 2 – New kids on the block
Petra, the newest winery on this portion of the tour, is just outside the Bolgheri DOC zone. It’s an architecturally stunning cellar designed by Swiss architect Mario Botta and is indicative of the sizable new investments flowing into Tuscany’s youngest wine zone—and it makes stunning wine.
After the winery tour and lunch, we’ll visit another newish property on the main wine road of Bolgheri, Via Bolgherese: Poggio al Tesoro, founded by the Allegrini family, who are best known for Amarone in the Veneto region. Here you’ll find both hot-weather wines—a vermentino and a rosé—as well as luscious Super Tuscans. Dinner is at the hotel’s cozy restaurant. B, D Podere Conte Gherardo
Day 3 – Bolgheri & The birth of super Tuscans
Today again focuses on Bolgheri, the area that put Super Tuscans on the map. Before World War II, this region produced only light-bodied, farmhouse reds meant for local consumption. After the war, Niccoló Antinori (father of Ludovico and Piero Antinori) began making a rosé at Gualdo al Tasso. Marketed with billboards along the Aurelia Way, the ancient Roman road that runs along the Tyrrhenian coast, this became Bolgheri’s first commercially successful wine.
But its fame was eventually overshadowed by Sassicaia, a powerful Bordeaux-style red that became the benchmark wine of Bolgheri. Today we’ll travel down a cypress-lined road known to every Italian school kid (from a poem by Giosuè Carducci) to Tenuta San Guido, where we’ll hear the history of Sassicaia, the first Super Tuscan, created by a piemontese transplant, the Marquis Mario Incisa della Rocchetta.
Our last coastal winery is Le Macchiole, among the first to put down stakes in the Maremma. Uniquely, their focus is on pure varietals (cab franc and syrah) rather than blends. Transfer to Montalcino, where we will arrive late afternoon. Dinner in town at a lively, family-run restaurant. B, D Hotel Dei Capitani
Day 4 – Brunello’s living legends
History comes alive during our visit to Casato Prime Donne (aka Donatella Cinelli Colombini), on the cooler northern fringe of Montalcino. Donatella Cinelli Colombini is a powerhouse among female winery owners. She invented Italy’s Open Cantine Day, served as president of Donne del Vino (Women in Wine), and was the first Italian to hire an all-female winery staff. Her cellar is arrayed with paintings depicting historical turning points in Montalcino, so our hostess will provide an entertaining history as we tour the cellars. (And their wines are terrific!)
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.
Our third winery visit is Poggio San Polo, another winery that makes exceptional classic-style Brunellos. Dinner is on your own in town. Buon appetito and pass the biscotti and vin santo! B Hotel Dei Capitani
Day 5 – Art & 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 an exceptional 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.
After lunch, 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 new, state-of-the-art cellar tucked under a beautiful stone farmstead.
Our farewell dinner back in Montalcino features Brunello-worthy Tuscan fare, such as gnocchi with wild herbs and beef braised in Brunello. B, D Hotel Dei Capitani
Day 6 – Arrivederci! A shuttle to Florence by noon and assistance with your travel plans. B
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