One area on the “must do” list was visiting the Tuscan wine region. We had been learning more intently (not just drinking) wine for this region and could only image the beauty of the rolling hills of endless grapes vines. Since we did not plan on having a car, picking a tour company was an important decision. Focusing on small group sizes, quality vineyards, diverse itinerary, knowledgeable staff, affordable cost, and well rated reviews, Tuscan Wine School met each of those parameters (in fact, we also used this tour group on our walking tour of Siena).
With a variety of tours to chose from, we felt that the Super Chianti was perfect for us. A knowledgeable, English speaking guide with a max of eight people a tour for personalized experiences, visiting two vineyards in two wine regions (Chianti and Chianti Classico), lunch in Panzano and a stop in the village of Greve, all in an eight hour day with transportation to and from Florence.
Early in the morning, we made our way to the meeting place to meet the group along with our guide, Rebecca. On the drive to our first vineyard in a very comfortable van, Rebecca gave us history of the region, as well as the wine produced.
One thing we learned on this drive was the history of the black rooster found on bottles from Chianti Classico region. It came from a dispute in the 13th century between Flroence and Siena over the land now known as Chianti Classico. In order to determine who would own the land, a man by horse would leave each area at the sound of the rooster crow and where they met would mark the new board for the regions. The people of Florence selected a black rooster and kept it under covers for several days so that when the cover was removed, it would crow and it would be far before dawn. This gave the Florence rider the advantage and thus ownership of this sought after region.
Our first stop was Corzano e Paterno vineyard in the Chianti region and when we got out of the van, it really was as magical as I predicted- the landscape did not even look real! I feel like the entire group spend several minutes just staring into the endless vineyards on the hills.
It was also in the heart of harvest so we got to observe the entire process in action while learning how the grapes are turned into wine. Tasting grapes directly off the vine was a great treat- the grapes were so sweet, a sign they are ready for harvest.
We made our way up to the tasting terrace where we tried four wines, four cheeses, and olive oil- all of which are made on the property. It was such an enjoyable process the taste the wines as a guided experience broken down by each sip, surrounded by the vines from which it came.
After a rather nauseating car ride (apparently the hills of Tuscany coupled with the back of the van was not the best combination for me- front of the van for the rest of the trip and I was fine), we arrived in Panzano for our lunch. The famous Dario Cecchini, known for this humanitarian approach to butchery and promoting a good life for animals, operates two restaurants and a butcher shop.
Our group was led to a private room inside Solociccia and I do not think any of us were prepared for the feast ahead. Starting with Dario’s house made Chianti, which was delivered through taps in the wall, raw garden vegetables with fresh golden olive oil were brought out with Tuscan (saltless) bread, spicy meat ragu on toast, and garbanzo and white beans. Then, different meat varieties appeared on the table, including beef roast, boiled meats, and braised meats. Everything on the table was fantastic and so delicious- you could taste the freshness and quality. The meal ended with deliciously moist olive oil cake. (We loved the meal so much that we returned here the following year!)
Enormously full, we piled back into the van and traveled to our second vineyard, Monteclavi family vineyard, in Chianti Classico region. The views for atop this tasting room were even more incredible than before- it was breathtaking.
The winemaker, Jackie, and her dog gave us a tour of the entire property and educated us on the wine making process, ending with a tasting of the wines on her terrace. Jackie walked us through a detailed tasting of each of the three wines she had for us, then after discussing each wine had us re-taste each wine again. Our favorite was “VV” made from the family’s old vines planted in the 1930s. We all sat amazed at out current situation- sitting in the middle of hundreds of vines drinking the wine with the winemaker- how on earth does this place exist and we do not live here?
Our day ended with a stop in Greve where the town center was setting up for the Chianti Classico wine festival- how perfect! We would not be in the town long enough to enjoy it but we did get to view the different vineyards represented while they got their tent space set up. Across the street was Gelateria da Lorenzo so we stopped in and grab fantastic gelato (not that any gelato is bad!) as we finished lapping the festival area.
The group got into the van to our journey back to Florence. The day far surpassed all expectations and we cannot recommend this tour group enough. We also equally enjoyed the walking tour in Siena we did the next day as well as the Wine Time tour we did the following year. When we got back to Florence, we grabbed our backpacks from the hotel and made our way to the bus station for our trip to Siena to continue our trip.
For the full Italy itinerary, click here!