With the 2023 Rustic Tuscany Tour behind me, I’ve been wrestling with the idea of how best to chronicle what was an amazing trip. Tuscany charms in many ways. There’s food and wine of course. But the people and the scenery are just as warm and inviting. So, I am letting them tell their story.
One of the many benefits of “nesting” at Il Civettaio for part of our trip is that we commandeer the entire Agriturismo. Guests have the run of the place and that includes the quiet, early morning hours when Tuscany shows off some of it’s bucolic charm. The image above was taken around 8AM looking South toward Grosseto and the sea. The fog layer had yet to evaporate. Adventurous guests hike the property; some even despite my warnings. It’s somewhat of an illusion when you start out. The downward grade seems slight. But the return is anything but.
Our days often start early as the fog layer attests. But that’s at least partially because of the travel time required to get to our appointments. Generally speaking, Tuscany isn’t large. At least not as the crow flies. But the crow rarely flies straight in Italy. After a 90 minute ride from Fiumicino to Maremma, we were ready to taste and have lunch.
Our table was nothing short of spectacular. We had many excellent wines to pair with the best food that Maremma can offer. The Cecchi family has created an amazing oasis at Val delle Rose. But it would be somewhat meaningless if the wines produced were not exceptional. The insistence on quality at no expense is obvious.
And while it’s nice to witness the calm of Civettaio in the mornings, she doesn’t disappoint in the evenings either.
Evening dinners at Civettaio are replete with locally prepared food, the estate’s wines, wines that the group may have acquired during our travels and yes, wine gifted to us by winemakers. Dinners are lighter, so as not to compete with our larger lunches and are served family style. Dessert is always somewhat savory to pair with red wine, or even grappa.
The next morning we headed off to Castello Banfi with a full itinerary planned; tour, tasting and lunch. The guests were surprised, if not shocked, to learn that John Mariani, the CEO Emeritus of Castello Banfi would provide the day’s tour and join us for lunch. I wonder if the group still thinks the nuclear missile story was true?
Castello Banfi is an amazing property. A fully functional and sustainable farm, the produce from the estate includes pasta, plums, prunes, honey, almonds, balsamico Etrusca, olive oil among many others to say nothing of wine. These wares dotted our lunch menu.
The lunch we had, prepared by chefs who run Banfi’s Michelin Stared restaurant, was simply a highlight of the entire trip. The first dish was utterly ethereal.
And arrivederci alla prossima.
While wine is surely one of the main subjects of the Tour, the food and cultural are often equally as important. Inextricably linked to Tuscany are olives and the wonderful green nectar they produce. Sadly, 2023 was a difficult year for olive oil production which, like grapes, is way down. The olive fly wreaked havoc on groves across Tuscany and it was essentially hit or miss whether you were affected. Nevertheless, we found Frantoio Franci in action…..
In addition to the oil being made in a timely fashion, like the Castello Banfi Cabernet pictured above, we also ran into lots of Cabernet being harvested. The image below is an amphora batch of Cabernet being fermented at Tolaini.
Naturally we drank a sea of wine on this trip. However, the warm, friendly people of Tuscany make more than just wine.
Of course, Simone is a maestro in the dining room as well, dutifully taking care of our group as if we were family. And…it was Bistecca time!
So where’s the wine? Well, we had a lot of amazing bottles; some released, some not quite released….
Lamole di Lamole is a regular stop on the Rustic Tuscany Tour. High atop the hills of Greve, the vineyards of Lamole are almost too high to legally fit into the Chianti Classico regulations. As a result, the grapes ripen very slowly, benefiting from wide day/night temperature swings. This diurnal shift fosters wonderful aromatics in the finished wines.
Andrea Daldin has been the winemaker at Lamole for over 30 years. In addition to showing us his wonderful new releases, he always grabs something from the estate’s library. This year, he pulled a 1986 Chianti Classico. While it was clearly browning in color, there were still traces of red and the wine was very fresh. Andrea pointed out that this was especially significant because back then, the inclusion of white grapes in the blend was still mandatory.
But not all wine was a cellared treasure. At least not yet…..
We also glimpsed the future at Uccelliera.
Many wineries have centuries old caves and libraries excavated beneath them. Castello di Monsanto, the pride of proprietor Laura Bianchi, is one of them.
As our time in Montalcino wrapped up, we made our way to Siena. On a few of the mornings I rose early and went for a walk before the city started to bustle. I have enough photos from that walk for a separate article, but this one stands out to me….if you’re a fan of “A Christmas Carol”…..
We have good friends in Montepulciano that we like to visit as well. Andrea Contucci provided yet another amazing tour of his family winery which dates only to the year 1008. (not a typo) Yet, it was the sights, sounds and local flavor of Montepulciano that captivated on this trip.
Our lunch in Montepulciano after touring at Contucci was nothing short of spectacular. It began with an amazing primo piatti.
Not to be outdone, was the secondi…
We endured a spooky, foggy, rainy night in Montepulciano and while we made the best of the situation, it still provided interesting perspective for pictures.
And the morning after required some clean up…
When all was said and done, there was nothing more to do or say. We rode off into the sunset one more time……
The images above are just a smattering from the 2023 Rustic Tuscany Tour. Over the next few months, I’ll share more – including more detailed impressions for some of the wines and Feature Articles on wineries of note. Stay tuned!