I can certainly say every day was an adventure! On day three we started off a little late as the weather sort of lent itself to a slow day, lots of clouds and cool temperature. We headed off to Greve in Chianti without too much of a plan. Just a nice easy day to walk around one of the four founding cities of the Chianti wine consorsium. First stop gelato, then an easy walk around to browse the quaint shops and finally a simple lunch before wine tasting and tour.
The winery, Vecchie Terre di Montefili, is about a 20 minute drive from Greve along windy and narrow rounds. Easy to get to, but be sure that if the road narrows to one lane the Italians won't be the ones slowing down to make room for you to pass. This is a fun area to let your speed racer out, within limits of course, and before the wine tasting.
Signora Acuti and her husband told us their story of the winery where once stood a castle won over from the Florentines by the Sienese and then destroyed. The Acuti's are wine lovers in the truest sense. They make there wines using biological techniques and their years of wisdow and love of wine. They are a small vineyard but with a grand heart. Their "Anfiteatro" wine was awarded 93 points by "Wine Spectator" magazine.
We sat with the couple in their small tasting room, the walls covered with the awards they've earned over the years, sipping wines and listening to stories of their family and how they've grown along side these vines which have nourished them for three generations. Mrs. Acuti recounted the opening of an 18 year old bottle of wine for their nephew's 18th birthday recently and how well it had aged and how wonderful it was to open and share on this special occasion.
Janelle was invited to visit Fattoria Lavacchio on Sunday and I was lucky enough to be allowed to tag along. Hurray for friends! Lavacchio is reached by traveling East along the river, through the countryside in the direction of Rufina. It's about 30 minutes outside of Florence and easy to find. The land originally belonged to the Strozzi family and many of the original villas have been restored and converted to apartments that are part of the agriturismo. There is a working windmill on the property that was restored by the family and with the help of the comune of Pontessieve.
We enjoyed a lovely lunch under the restaurant's gazebo next to the pool before our tour of the fattoria and cantina. Our lunch consisted of roasted vegetables, stuffed zucchini, farro salad, tuscan bean salad, and skewers of chicken and cherry tomatoes - wow. Desert was white peaches in wine, accompanied by the best and creamiest panna cotta I've ever tasted!
The very pleasant host Fay led us on a tour of the fattoria and told us of the romantic story of her parents and how they came to purchase the farm. We climbed the old narrow staircase inside the windmill and were able to see first hand all the working gears inside. She explained that architectural students from several countries participated in the restoration of the old windmill. It was really amazing to hear how they all had collaborated to accomplish such a beautiful and functional design.
After a walk around the fattoria it was time to enjoy a glass of wine by the pool and soak our feet. I can totally see how you could spend days here relaxing, enjoying the food, wine and learning about the processes involved in making wine and olive oil. The grounds are large, including 7000 olive trees, and well-equiped. Everything is within easy walking distance; there is a small bar pool-side and a full restaurant at the edge of the property.
At Lavacchio you can also visit the Innocenti ceramic studio which is on the farm. The artists make ceramics by hand in the authentic artisian style. If this is not enough to keep you busy, you can even arrange to take a horseback riding tour of the area.
Towards the end of our visit we stopped by the restaurant to meet the cook, who was wearing a shirt with the words "Serial Griller" written on the back, and to enjoy a farewell glass of wine while sitting in the vineyard as the sun set. Lucky for us there was also a live country band playing on the patio. Can you picture it - lounge chairs in the vineyard, sipping wine and listening to live music as the sun goes down? Ahhhhhh...
You might wonder what I do on my vacations, well actually I go on tours with my friends =) I was fortunate to have one of my closest girlfriends, Janelle, in town for a week. I felt like I'd gone to summer camp! It was fantastic; I was totally on vacation with her! Every day eating well, drinking amazing wine, touring Florence, visiting Greve and touring wineries in the country. Soooo my next several posts will be about our adventures in and around Florence.
The first day we went to see the Picasso, Miro, Dali installment at the Strozzi museum. This was a great way to put us in the art mood while we walked around the historic center of Florence.
On the way to lunch we stopped to taste olive oils at a quaint little shop just off Borgo San Apostoli, not far from the Ponte Vecchio. This little shop is hidden but if you manage to find it you'll be very pleased with the selection of olive oils you can try, and the numerous cosmetics and soaps which are made from an olive oil base. Of course we couldn't resist taking away a couple small purchases.
After a quick lunch near Santa Croce, we found ourselves near the Palazzo Pitti and felt obligated to stop by Pitti Gola Enoteca wine bar for degustazione di vino, or wine tasting. We sat out on the terrace which is very peaceful thanks to the new traffic laws which forbid most cars and noisy motorinos from passing through the Piazza Pitti, and there are no cars parked in the piazza so you have an unobstructed view of the enormous and refined Palazzo.
We were fortunate to arrive just before the rush and tasted four amazing wines from the Chianti region, Chianti Riserva "Val Delle Corti" 2007, Rosso di Montalcino "Salicutti" 2007, Brunello di Montalcino "Il Colle" 2004, and a Chianti "Castello di Monsanto" 2001 which was a limited production (just 100 bottles), hand selected for Pitti Gola Enoteca. Not surprisingly, we made dinner reservations for a few days later. Our light dinner consisted of tartare of beef, mixed selection of pecorino cheeses, followed by hand made pasta and tomatoe ragu accompanied by a lovely Brunello.