My most recent Tuscany tour began in Florence, where after a welcome dinner, we departed the following morning for Montepulciano, in southern Tuscany. Our first stop was to the spectacular Avignonesi winery. Our VIP tour was lead by the lovely and elegant Signora Fulvo, the owner, who led us down into the ancient barrel caves,
then into their Vin Santaio, where there very special Vin Santo is made, or should I say where it rests and makes itself. The mother for their Vin Santo is centuries old, and they treat their aging wine like gold, as they should. These little half bottles of very precious liquid sell for over 100 euros a bottle and fetch perfect scores, yes 100 points, from top wine magazines. Amazing. Here is a shot of a barrel of Vin Santo:
We also visited the stunningly beautiful property of Vignamaggio in Greve. Vignamaggio is the ancestral home of the Monna Lisa - yes, there really was a Monna Lisa and Leonardo da Vinci painted at this property on several occasions. Because of its beauty and views, I understand why. With their delicious array of Chianti Classicos and Super Tuscans, we were served a typically delicious lunch.
After lunch, we walked around their immaculate gardens where "Much Ado About Nothing" was filmed. Leaving was the difficult part. "Celebrating the Harvest" (my title). One of the many garden sculptures at Vignamaggio.
One of the highlights of the trip was a day of cooking lessons at Badia a Coltibuono winery, the home of Lorenza di Medici and her family. She founded the famous cooking school and now her son runs it, deftly teaching typical Tuscan dishes with a great sense of humor. Everyone loved it so much that after the long lunch with dessert, dessert wines, grappa and coffee, I had a hard time getting everyone on the bus!
My group, firmly planted, not moving from the comfort of Coltibuono.
Some of Coltibuono's cellar collection.
In between all this wine tasting and fine dining, we had time to tour Florence, Siena, San Gimignano and Volterra. This was a tremendous group of people, all genuinely interested, kind, easy-going and responsible. The tour could not have been better. We celebrated its success with a fabulous meal our last night in Florence. At Il Latini, known for their roasted meats, we not only ate like kings, but drank like them as well. The staff treated us great and stuffed us like pigs! Most of us took a late walk around Florence that night to help digest what we ate.
I invite you all to come on one of my tours. I will be posting two 2009 trips on my website in the next month or so. Hop on over there and sign up on my email list if you want to receive more information when I have it.