Thursday, July 26, 2012

Day 8: Wine tastings in Chianti

We woke up on Sunday after a very hot and restless night.  We went downstairs and had breakfast on the back porch, which was very nice. They had cereal, fresh milk, fruit, and yogurt at a buffet and then we were served juice, coffee, and toasted croissants. 

We tried to verify directions to our destination with the employee on duty, but I think she was German and there was a definite language barrier.  However, she was very nice and wanted to be helpful.  So we studied the map for awhile and took off in our little Panda. Our first destination was a scheduled wine tasting at Casa Emma in San Donato in Poggio.  The drive only took a little over a half hour on the very windy small roads of Tuscany. We thought we were lost when we finally came upon it.  

At Casa Emma we had an 11:00 scheduled tasting. Unlike the U.S., tastings here usually should be scheduled. There were about 8 of us total in the group- a couple from Sydney, Australia, a couple from Orange County, California, and a mother and son from Louisville, Colorado!  We were so excited to meet someone from our old stomping grounds and were exchanging stories about familiar places and the devastating fires in Colorado.  Our tour guide, Carlotta, was amazing!  She was very fun and knowledgeable.  The wines were pretty good, but their sweet balsamic vinegar was sensational!  After the tasting, we had a brief tour of the wine cellars. See the review here. 
Casa Emma Winery 

Casa Emma Winery 
Casa Emma Vineyards

Chianti Classico

Sam tasting wine
Leslie and Sam in the cellar at Casa Emma
After our visit to Casa Emma, we decided to take our time driving to our next destination, Gaiole in Chianti, where we would visit Castello di Brolio.  Our tour and tasting here was scheduled for 3:00 pm (15:00) so we had plenty of time to get there since it should only take about 45 minutes to an hour to get there. We wrangled the map and set off in the direction of Gaiole in Chianti.  By the way, it is much easier to simply follow the signs through this area and refer to the map as needed.  Maps in Italy should be used loosely.  They are not that accurate, nor can they be considering all of the many windy roads. 

We found Gaiole and then searched for free public parking so we could venture into the main piazza in search of some lunch.  We knew it was going to be challenging to find somewhere open at 1:00 pm (13:00), but we did find a restaurant with a nice shaded patio open and ready for business. When we sat down at La Sfizio di Bianchi, there was only one other table, but obviously several others had the same idea as us, and it filled up quite quickly. The service was something to be desired, but I think it was due to the fact that the server was new and overwhelmed.  Sam didn't get his meal until after I was done eating.  We had fried dough filled with cheese and wrapped with prosciutto.  I had pici- like a thick spaghetti, and Sam (eventually) had trofie with truffles. The food was average, but better than the service.  See the full review here
Fried cheese dough wrapped with Prosciutto
Pici with tomato, parsley, and bacon

Trofie with truffles
Although we sat down with plenty of time to kill, by the time we finally got the check, we were short on time. So we jumped back in the car and took off for the castle.  Luckily, we were closer than we thought.  As we pulled up the hill towards Castello di Brolio, we saw a sign for free public parking, and we figured this is where we should park.  We ended up walking up the entire hill to the castle and many, many steps.  It turns out, we could have actually driven all the way up and parked directly next to the castle.  Now we were really hot and sweaty!
Castello di Brolio
In the 12th century, the powerful feudal family of the Ricasoli took control of the Castello di Brolio and their ancestors still own and reside here during the summers. The Castello di Brolio played an important role in the history of the Chianti region. Being strategically placed in the province of Firenze, but within view of Siena, it often switched hands in feudal battles.   The castle rests in boundless vineyards, from which since 1141 the Ricasoli distilled their famous wines.
The Chapel

The Tower

View from the Castle
Our tour group included ourselves and three other couples. First we toured the personal chapel and crypt on the castle ground and then explored the tower- the oldest part of the castle built in 1009 AD! We then surveyed the gardens and enjoyed the gorgeous view overlooking Siena.  In some of the pictures below, you can see some of the damage the castle suffered at the hands of the Germans during WW II.  As the story goes, the castle was stumbled upon and taken during the German retreat.  The family and several individuals were temporarily taken hostage in the house while soldiers enjoyed the bounty of wine they found in the cellars.  
Marks in the wall left from WW II bombs

This tree was bombed, suffered interior damage, but still lived! 

The view toward Siena from the castle
After we toured the castle, we were told to drive down the hill to the new winery production center.  When I told the tour guide that our car was all the way down the hill, and it might take us awhile to walk down there, a really nice Irish couple offered to give us a lift down the hill to our car.  We rode with them and got the scoop on Ireland.  Maybe that will be a future trip! We entered the winery and toured the bottling facility and the cool cellars downstairs with a multitude of wine barrels! Overall, it was a pretty lengthy tour, eventually ending in a sleek banquet room donned with wine glasses.  Here we had a tasting, featuring only three of the Ricasoli wines.  It was very classy, but I was somewhat disappointed that we only got to taste three wines after all that.  Overall, it was a fun experience and a really interesting landmark. See the review here.
Bottling production line 
The Wine Cellar at Brolio
Wine tasting with a personalized and dated place mat!
We then drove up the SR 222 up to Greve in Chianti.  We relaxed for an hour and then walked back into town to go back to La Bogetta del Moro for dinner.  We figured we liked it so much the first time, we would go back and try it again, but this time we would go all out.  We shared two 1/2 liter carafes of the house white wine and started with an appetizer of the zucchini pie.  This was delicious!  It was similar to a zucchini quiche drizzled with balsamic vinegar.  It was small, but I loved it!  The owner then brought out some thin pieces of fried bread to tide us over, although our meal was not taking especially long.  We ordered two meals and shared them. We had the ricotta ravioli, which was ok and the chicken with capers in carrot sauce, which was outstanding!  Instead of dessert, we opted to order the bruschetta which we were eyeing at the next table.  It was the best bruschetta I have ever had!  It was garden fresh and salty. Overall it was a very good meal, and still very affordable. See the review here.
Complimentary fried bread "chips" 

Zucchini Pie

Ricotta Ravioli

Chicken and Capers in Carrot Sauce

The BEST bruschetta on our trip
We then walked home, stopping for gelato along the way.  I didn't write down the name of the place, but it was decent.  It is right next to the co-op on the SR 222 in Greve. Sam had black cherry, and I had fior di latte, which was heavenly.  It literally means milk of the flower.  I wish I had been getting this flavor all along, as it is common. We walked along the stream and watched the coypu or nutria, similar to a beaver without the big tail, and ducks in the stream for the second night in a row.

Here is a video of the nutria.  One of the shop owners nearby gave them the day-old bread.

No comments:

Post a Comment