I wanted to share this marvelous tour of the Chianti Classico region of Italy that my husband and I were fortunate enough to take this June. In advance of our planned 10 days in and near Florence, I searched online for a way we could see some of the wineries between Florence and Siena, the most famous of which is the Chianti Classico area.
After checking out a couple of options, we ended up with Chianti Tours[linked to http://www.chianti.info/], a full-day excursion via minibus from Florence into the lovely wine country just south of the city. Our tour guide, Angie, was a thirty-something resident of the area with an encylclopedic knowledge of its charms and very good English. A stroke of luck: even though we signed up for a "shared tour"--at 110 euros per person, half the price of a "private tour"--we were her only customers that day and got a private tour anyhow!
We have visited many different wine areas, mostly in France, California and Oregon, but the way this day turned out put it at the very top of our wine-country experiences.
Angie took us first to a medium-sized wine estate called Montecchio, where we were the only tourists--just us and the employees. After a tour of the cellars and vineyards, we settled in their impressive tasting room where they provided generous pours of all their wines, including four of the pricier Super Tuscans. [Photo at left is in my husband with our hostess in the tasting room] The estate also makes olive oil and honey, which they set out as well along with some good Italian bread. It was glorious!
After a beautiful drive through the countryside, we ended up at the tiny, family run farm and winery called Vallone di Cecione, producer of a mere 700 cases per year of Chianti Classico. Not only were there no other tourists here, the only folks in sight were the Cecione family. Mama Cecione had laid out a scrumptious lunch for us -- with their wines --and her son the winemaker ate with the three of us, with Angie translating when his English wasn't up to the task.
It was the simplest of fare--a bowl of fusili pasta in a light tomato sauce, bruschetta topped with tomatoes, garlic and basil from their own gardens, a plate of local salamis and cheeses, fresh green salad--but the setting and purity of the food made it one of the best meals we had in Italy (which is saying a lot). [Photo of table shows the lunch they served.]
After that delicious interlude, Angie drove us to the town of Greve, a tiny burg in the heart of Chianti Classico, where we strolled the town square and shopped for hand-made linens and a few local food items. She drove us back to Florence with our purchases, which included wine and olive oil from Montecchio--we had the Cecione ship a few bottles of theirs to us.
All in all, it was an unparalleled day of wine, food, bonhomie and scenery. If you get a chance to go to Florence, be sure to add this to your itinerary!