October 3, 2008 - Chianti Touring in Tuscany

Our next day began with an early pickup from our Chianti wine guide, Guido Bandinelli. He arrived at our hotel in Siena at 9am in his shiny black Mercedes van and whisked us away to our first stop, the famous hill town of San Gimignano in Tuscany, passing glorious vineyards and olive trees along the way.
San Gimignano is tiny, but unmistakable thanks to the multiple towers dotting the town.
We climbed the main tower to capture photos from above, and gasped at the beauty of the landscape surrounding us...
...including the quaint piazza of the town below...
...and the church bell tower to the east.
After descending the tower, we shopped a bit for linens and ceramics, then met up with Guido to depart for our first stop on our wine tasting tour in Chianti.
Pietro Beconcini is run by Leonardo Beconcini, the son of the late Pietro, and his wife Eva. It's a small family operation and we toured the winery where we saw grapes drying from the recent harvest...
...and vineyard workers completing the harvest.
These enormous bottles line the driveway of the property, and are used by the family to store wine for the household.
After wandering around for a bit, we settled into the tasting room with Leonardo and Eva to taste their wines along with the incredibly tasty extra virgin olive oil.
I love tasting in this environment - the passion of the producer shows through, and the intimacy of the setting enhances the experience. After our tasting, we were invited in to the Beconcini's home for a family style lunch prepared by the matriarch of the house, Eva's mother, whom we never saw during the meal as she was firmly entrenched in the kitchen.
Lunch began with a simple pasta dressed in homemade marinara sauce...
...and was followed by the meats, a platter of salami, sopressata, a wonderful truffled sausage crostini and homemade head cheese (tastes better than it sounds or looks!).
Nearly stuffed at this point, we endured and continued on to enjoy various aged Pecorino cheeses that we slathered with onion and tomato jam, and then finished our meal with homemade almond biscotti which we dipped in the Beconcini's own Vin Santo wine.
We placed our orders for wine and olive oil (which thankfully we received intact a couple of weeks later), offered our thanks, and left for the Chianti Classico area and a second winery.
Casa Emma is another small winery off the beaten path in the Chianti Classico area nestled between Florence and Siena in Tuscany.
They were readying themselves for the Sangiovese harvest, and we joined the guide in the small tasting room to sample the Chianti Classico, Chianti Classico Riserva, and their Super Tuscan, made from 70% Sangiovese, 25% Gamay, and 5% Merlot (I think).
Tasted out and tired, we returned to Siena, bid our farewells to Guido, and rallied to head into town to a small tratoria recommended as a favorite of locals by the hotel. We experienced the classic initial reluctance to serve us and we were offered a small table in the back but told we would need to eat and be out within an hour. Frustrated and tired, we didn't have it in us to argue, so seated ourselves and began ordering.
Well, after we had ordered multiple bottles of wine and not only the typical salad and pasta courses, but an enormous bisteca fiorentina, the woman running the place decided we were OK and seated her 9pm reservation at another table and let us hang out.
She even brought us the bottle of house-made grappa (barely drinkable in my book) as a gracious way to thank us for our business.
We only needed a sip of it to convince us to retire to the back patio of our hotel for a bottle of prosecco accompanied by music from Rob's iPod.

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