More vineyards and enotecas

In 2021 I only visited one new vineyard and revisited a favorite from 2016.  But I tried a number of new entocas plus enjoyed one in Montalcino that I’d visited before.

Near San Gimignano

Tenuta Torciano

https://www.torciano.com/en/

My sister and I decided to visit southern Tuscany again in 2021 (see Five Days in Southern Tuscany post). Our first two days we stayed in the tiny town of Ulignano at Hotel Vecchia Asilo, which is owned by Tenuta Torciano.  As we checked in,  we told the staff person that we had a coupon for a wine tasting and for what we thought was supposed to be dinner.   He called the vineyard and was told that the only time they had available that day was at 4:30 pm.  We agreed to the time then hustled around, unpacked and showered.

After parking at the vineyard we had to go through the Cirque du Soleil of trying to talk to the staff through the speaker on the gate.  They finally let us in but it took forever before they  found our reservation. Eventually we were seated outside in the arbor.  Luckily the wind had died down and it was sunny and very pleasant.  We had 4 wines and a dessert wine but just a small plate of meats, cheeses and bruschetta.  So I was completely toasted. But what fun!!  We even had photo ops with the waiter who was trying to chase a rooster that kept trying to join us.

My sister bought three bottles of wine which we enjoyed over the next few days.

Montalcino

Paradiso di Cacuci

https://paradisodicacuci.com/

From Ulignano we drove to Montalcino, one of our favorite towns and stayed at Albergo Giardino.  I’m not sure of the connection between Albergo Giardino and Paradiso di Cacuci but I’ll be forever grateful to the manager (owner?) for offering us a free tour and wine tasting at the vineyard.  We made a reservation for Friday afternoon and lucked out with a beautiful day, the best of the entire week.

The drive there was terrifying though, mainly because the manager of the Albergo told us to take the street past Piazza Cavour, then turn left and keep going.  That street took us through a ‘porta’ so narrow we almost scraped the rear view mirrors on the side.  Then we continued down a narrow dirt road with drop offs on one side and a wall on the other.  We were sweating bullets by the time we spotted the vineyard.

As we parked a man got out of the car next to us, introducing himself as Francesco.  His card says he’s in charge of public relations, the perfect job for the quintessential Italian charmer.  After talking a bit about his background, including working in the U.S., he told us about the vineyard itself; that it’s organic as are all the other vineyards in the valley.   He said maintaining an organic vineyard was made easier by the biodiversity of the area. According to Francesco, the fact that there are mountains, forests and other organic vineyards all in the same area, with abundant wild life such as deer and wild boars, reduces the need for pesticides.

He also talked about the costs of buying even a small vineyard (one million euros per hectare, I think) and how many of the local vineyards have foreign investors, which sadly means Dubai, Russia etc..

Then he gave us the history of how Montalcino became the Brunello capital of Italy, or at least his version.  According to Francesco a mayor of Montalcino had a vision of turning Montalcino and the surrounding valley into one of the top wine growing areas in Italy.  Instead of courting industry as so many towns were doing at that time (in the late 1950’s, early 1960’s I think),  he brought together the top producers of wine at that time and created a consortium which in turn set up stringent regulations that are followed today.

I’ve searched for information about the mayor but haven’t found any.  Most articles say that the region grew when in 1966 Brunello was granted the DOC (Denominazione di Origine). Then in 1980 Brunello became the first wine in Italy to obtain Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita status.

I’ve never truly understood the difference between DOC and DOCG but found an excellent article at https://www.winespectator.com/articles/what-s-the-difference-between-doc-and-docg-wines-in-italy

According to Wine Spectator, ‘DOC wines are regulated for not just the type of grape and where they are grown, but also harvest yields, alcohol levels and the use of barrels. The rules for DOCG are even stricter than DOC—yields must be lower and the wines must be aged in barrels longer, for example. And DOCG includes requiring the wines be submitted for technical analysis and tasted for approval by a government committee before they can be sold as DOCG wines. The DOCG wines even have a numbered, government seal across the neck of the bottle to prevent counterfeiting.’

Some articles also credit the Mariani family from New York who started Banfi Winery with playing a big role in the development of the region’s wine making as well as in the local economy. (And Francesco said the same thing when we mentioned how disappointed we were that Castello Banfi is no longer open for wine tastings.)

We, then, went into the fermentation and ‘aging’ rooms where Francesco explained the process for making Brunello as well as their experiments with different Super Tuscans. He also described the multiple tests their wines have to go through to receive the DOCG. During that discussion he said, ‘We believe in science.’  We quickly agreed and tried to distance ourselves from the crazies in the U.S.

Our final stop was a stunning tasting room where we had 3 Brunellos, including one that Francesco said was their best year, plus a Super Tuscan and a Rosso di Montalcino.  While tasting the wines and having a few bites of salami and cheese, Francesco also told us the vineyard has a B&B on the grounds.  What a fabulous place that would be to stay! We ordered a half case of wine and now wish we’d bought more.

Enotecas

Montepulciano

Montepulciano (see A Week in Montepulciano post) is the epicenter of the Vino Nobile wine making and there’s an enoteca about every 10 feet.  Some are associated with specific vineyards and offer wine tastings.  Others offer light snacks (‘tagliere’ or meat and cheese trays) and wine by the glass.

Perbacco Enoteca

Sunday, our first full day in Montepulcaino, we realized that there was a major bike race that ended in Piazza Grande.  So Sunday afternoon as we strolled around, getting to know the town, we looked for an enoteca with a terrace where we could enjoy the bike race and the sun.  But the town was packed.  As we walked up the steep hill that leads to Piazza Grande we noticed this little enoteca and decided to stop.  We had a nice meat and cheese platter and a couple of glasses of wine all with a great view of the bike race or more accurately the bike grind.

Enoteca Caratello

We stumbled on this cute little place our first afternoon in Montepulciano, exhausted and starving after driving from Montalcino to Siena, dropping off our rental car and then taking the train to Montepulciano.  We went back two more times during the week, each time having 2-3 glasses of wine, usually the local rosato, and a ‘tagliere’ (literally ‘cutting board’).  Our favorite tagliere was one that had crostini topped with diced zucchini in olive oil and herbs.  Yum!!

We only saw one other couple there the three times we went so please, if you’re in Montepulciano, go there.

Enoteca la Fortezza

I was attending Il Sasso Language School in Montepulciano and one of my teachers recommended this enoteca. It is fabulous.  As its name suggests it’s part of the Fortezza Medicea which alone is worth the visit, built on the highest point in the town with stunning vistas.

So Thursday after my sister and I had done some shopping, we dropped off our goodies then headed up the hill to the Fortezza.  We took the same street that eventually leads to via San Biagio but turned right just past Piazza Santa Maria continuing up the steep hill on via di San Donato to the fort.

The enoteca itself is built over an Etruscan archeological find and has glass floors over the ruins.  Enotecca di Fortezza

It’s disconcerting at first but totally amazing. The staff gives you a card which is tied to your credit card and you simply tap the card next to the wine you want to try.  You can taste any of at least 1000 local wines (according to information online).  Plus you can order a tagliere to sop up the wine.  We loved it so much we went twice.

There’s a wall of glass leading to a beautiful terrace that would be wonderful in warm weather. Even though it was rather cool and cloudy both Thursday and when we went back Friday afternoon, both my sister and I went out on the terrace and took lots of pictures of the views out over the valley.

 

Montalcino

Enoteca di Piazza/Taverna di Baietto

https://enotecadipiazza.com/

As I mentioned in my Five Days in Southern Tuscany post, we found that our former favorite restaurant was no longer good and so  the Enoteca and Taverna became our home away from home. (As a side note, the enoteca and taverna are basically the same operation.)

Taverna di Baietto

Our first afternoon in Montalcino, we were starving so braved the winds and walked from the Albergo to Taverna di Baietto and had a couple of glasses of wine along with a caprese salad and crostini. After our day trip to Pienza, and finding that Castello Banfi is no longer open to wine tastings,  we drove back to Montalcino, cleaned up a bit, then walked down to Enoteca di Piazza and asked about a ‘degustazione’ which I mangled.  The staff suggested having it at Taverna di Baietto and so we each had 3 tastings, a meat tray and another glass of wine.

Our last day, after our wine tour at Paradiso, we had an early dinner here of excellent pastas and lots of wine.  Service is always pleasant and the food and wine are always good.

Naples

Bar Decumano

While visiting Naples for the first time, I walked all over the Spaccanapoli neighborhood trying to find via San Gregorio (see Three Days in Naples post.)  On Thursday, my second full day in Naples, after finally finding via San Gregorio, I wandered up and down the streets that make up the north edge of the neighborhood, including via San Biagio dei Librai, looking for a wine bar, finally settling on a little enoteca, Bar Decumano, in Piazzetta Nilo not far from  Piazza San Domenico Maggiore.  Most people were sitting outside but I thought it was a bit chilly so sat inside.  I wrote in my journal, It’s a darling little place and I had a nice Sardinian white for 5 euros.  I started to order a cheese plate but the waiter stopped me and said he’d bring some free snacks.  So I got chips, crackers and nuts.

I returned late afternoon Friday, after going back to via San Gregorio and buying a gift for my sister.  I sat inside again but later wrote that the piazza was jumping and that I wished I had sat outside.  I lingered over two glasses of wine but wasn’t offered any snacks.  While enjoying my wine I wrote, Now they’re playing old disco music and the waiter is singing and dancing.  Lol.

To live is to travel, especially when you can find lovely new vineyards and enotecas.

 

 

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