“In Italy they add work and life on to food and wine.”
We took the train from Venice to Florence then hopped in our rental car and made our way to the Tuscany region. We decided to rent a car so we would be able to explore the area. We picked up our car at the Florence airport and headed in the direction of our hotel, Castello delle Serre, in the town of Rapolano. With no real plan in mind, we let the road guide us… which turned out to be quite interesting. Check out our favorite stops for the best Tuscany wine and food!
We weren’t seeing very many winery signs, so we decided to pull off at an exit to explore. We happened upon a wooden sign that said “Wine and Olive Oil Tasting” so we made our first stop.
We entered the home and were greeted by an elderly man. He spoke no English and we spoke no Italian, but he saw the familiar look in our eyes and lead us to his “tasting room”. He sat these five bottles in front of us along with two glasses. We are assuming he said “Drink what you want” in Italian, because after saying that, he left the room for a long period of time. We tried all of the wines and realized they were just common table wines, but we didn’t care. We were in Italy and in a strange man’s home who we were struggling to communicate with… Awesome! The man finally returned with a plate of bread for us to try our some olive oils.
After a few minutes of trying to talk and pointing on a map where we were from, we headed to the car and were on the road again!
We drove around the area, pulling off the road here and there to take pictures of the vineyards.
After driving around a little, we ended up finding Furnace Di Montecchio and we quickly learned that we had been traveling through the Chianti region of Tuscany.
We entered the winery area and were greeted promptly by the staff. We learned that we would be sampling some Chianti. We also learned some of the history of the winery and also more about Chianti. To be considered Chianti, the wine must have the proper blend of grapes and be grown in a specific region of Chianti. If these “rules” are followed, the wine can be labeled as Chianti Classico, it receives a black rooster seal (know as gallo nero in Italian) and the government seal of approval along with serial number.
So remember, the next time you are buying a bottle of Chianti, look for the bottle that says “Chianti Classico” with a black rooster seal and government label near the top. Now you are official!
We tasted the wines while snacking on some freshly made bruschetta.
After a long train ride, two wineries and the fact we were driving a rental car in a foreign country, we decided it would be best to head to the hotel to check in. But there would be more wine coming soon!
We decided to book a wine tour with a local guide to show us around the area and discuss with us a more in depth history of the region. A personal guide not only provides a designated driver but we also got a personalized tour of the area including much of the history we wouldn’t have learned otherwise! If you make it to Tuscany, we recommend Gianni at Tours Around Tuscany…..he was a wealth of knowledge and very accommodating! We started our day at the Tenuta Valdipiatta winery.
We learned about wine history in the area and then we began to learn about the wine making. We toured the factory area and learned about the fermentation process, but then we were lead outside to a door in the hillside. It was a magical door that took us inside the mountain where the wine was being stored and aged. The mountain provided the perfect setting for the wine to mature over time in the barrels. It was naturally at the correct temperature all year round and protected from the elements.
After exploring the aging room, we walked in the vineyard to see this years crop.
After exploring the vineyards, it was time to get down to business.
We tried four different wines and also Grappa. Amanda smelled the grappa and knew it was too strong, so I took one for the team and drank her glass. It would be rude to waste it!
Next up, we explored the town of Montepulciano.
We walked around town the picturesque town filled with narrow alleys just as we envisioned it would look!
I enjoy taking pictures of doors. Amanda always makes fun of me, but I think they are awesome. Mental note… Need to write a blog post about doors.
We were led into another wine store and found the aging room/storage area which was again inside the side of the mountain! We entered and could immediately smell the wine barrels. The place was huge!
While exploring the town, there was an unlimited amount of stops to take pictures. It was a beautiful panoramic views all around.
The best scenery shot of them all! I want to live in this shop.
After leaving our visit to Montepulciano, we headed for the next town of Monticchiello which would be our lunch break.
Our lunch stop was at Osteria La Porta. It has a great terrace seating area overlooking the countryside.
Our meal featured wines from the region and we were quick to indulge.
As in any Italian meal, it contained the three major food groups: Wine, Pasta and Cured Meat. This is a sampling of the different types of pasta made throughout the region. The waitress explained the difference in pasta cuts and sauce on them.
Up next was what I believe to be what dreams are made of…
The Holy Trinity: Prosciutto, Goat Cheese and Truffles.
I think I need to add it to my death row meal.
As lunch ended, we decided to take a stroll around the quiet town. It was amazing how quiet it was throughout. We felt as if we were the only ones in town that day.
After our time in Monticchiello, we made our way to the next town. It was great having a driver to transport us from destination to destination. He explained everything we were passing and gave us some history about the region. It was nice to just sit back and relax while looking out the windows. He even stopped at picturesque spots along the way so we can get those classic Tuscan photos!
Up next: Montalcino – better known for it’s Brunello wine….the King of the Tuscany wine region. Montalcino is know as the walled city on top of the mountain.
We arrived in Montalcino and were taken to a local wine shop to taste all of the Brunello that we could drink. Brunello di Montalcino is made from 100% Sangiovese grapes.
So many varieties of Brunello! We wanted to try them all, but we decided about 10 would be enough!
Brunello is a type of wine that we are told can taste different depending on the area the grapes are grown around the area. The terrain below the town is dominated by vines, olive orchards, oak trees, fields and villages. So in theory, people who really enjoy Brunello, know they like it from the North, South, East or West areas of the Brunello region (depending on where the grapes were grown). I’m sure it takes a lot of time to develop a palette for the directions, but I wish I could learn the different tastes so I could mess with a sommelier in a restaurant!
After the wine tasting we walked around exploring the beautiful town of Montalcino. Here is the Fortezza di Montalcino which was built in 1361.
We had a lot of fun just walking around the city taking in all of the sights. It was again a very peaceful town with very little people around.
Overall it was a great day of wine tasting in Tuscany. Our wine experience was not yet over. As we drove the rental car back to Florence on our last day, we decided to make a couple pit stops as well!
Pit Stop #1: Tenuta Di Arceno Winery
This 2,500 acre estate lies in Tuscany’s Chianti Classico region.
The Tenuta Di Arceno estate is know for it’s curved vineyards. So much so that the vineyard design is features on the label of the bottles.
After a quick photo session in the vineyard, Amanda and I made our way indoors to try out some wine, check out the view and take advantage of their crisp cool air conditioning!
Wine time! We were the only people on the estate so we were able to take advantage of a private wine tasting! We learned some history of the property and the Chianti Classico region. We ended up trying out six wines and really enjoyed them all.
Amanda found her favorite: Valadorna (which was a Bordeaux red blend)
My favorite: Strada al Sasso (which is a Chianti Classico Riserva 2009)
Now that we were feeling good from the wine, we decided to take a walk around the estate.
The estate also doubles as a time share/home rentals. We didn’t run into anyone while we were there, but I am guessing it would cost a pretty penny to rent a place to stay here. Walking around the estate, you could feel the history. So many old buildings and well manicured vineyards. We found this sculpture and remembered it from our tasting session. Some of their bottles feature this image on the front.
At this point, we were getting hungry so we decided to take our hotel’s advice and make our way to our lunch spot. We were told this was a nice place to have lunch in the Chianti region. After driving for a while on some long and windy roads, up and down hills, we finally started to drive on dirt roads with this view on each side! We knew we were close. We could smell pasta in the air… or maybe it was the wine talking to my stomach.
Pit Stop #2: Lunch
As you can see, like our wine tastings and tours, the place was packed! We could hardly find a seat. Where would we sit? How long is this wait?
Well we finally found a seat… I was nervous for a minute there.
Once seated, we were able to order some wine and take in the fabolous view of the vineyards!
Now it was time for some food. I was really happy with the menu. So many choices, how do I order just one!? We decided to start with the antipasto plate and it didn’t disappoint.
I ordered the Cacio e Pepe… I’m getting hungry looking at it now!
The Secondo course was next. Amanda ordered the pasta with mushrooms. Nice choice!
Because I had what is considered to be a “heavy” Primo course, I decided to order something light… haha just kidding. I’M IN ITALY!! I ordered the gnocchi!
It was so good looking, it needed to have it’s own private photoshoot!
We stayed here for awhile and enjoyed the view. Sipping on some good wine while relaxing in the shade.
I know I said earlier that I wanted to live in the meat, cheese and wine store, but at this point I have changed my mind. I want to live on this property. I’m sure I would weigh 800 pounds after some time, but it would be worth it. This was hands down our favorite stop for the best Tuscany wine and food during our trip.
Overall we had a fantastic few days in Tuscany! We can’t wait to return but until then we will use our new knowledge of Chianti and Brunello wines to enjoy a bit of Italy at home.
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