For those of you that know us, you may be surprised to learn that on Sunday, we went on a wine tasting tour of the vineyards in San Gimignano. Lorenzo, our landlord in Florence, told us he was going and asked if we would care to join him and another couple, Diane and Ricardo from Australia, on this trip. San Gimignano is about a 45 minute drive outside of Florence. It is gorgeous, hilly wine country. We began our tour at the Tenute Niccolai farm where we saw the vines growing in neat rows along the hillside. The amount of sun each section gets determines the type of wine the grapes will produce. Nothing goes to waste. After the juice has been extracted from the grapes, the skins are dried and used as fuel for the farm furnaces. We then toured the processing plant, which pretty much resembles other winery processing plants I have seen. The wines are "aged" in three steps; first stainless steel tanks, then cement tanks lined with beeswax (which gives it a slight sweetness) and finally in wooden casks. This final step, time spent in the wooden casks, helps to determine the flavor. We then went to the tasting room where we sampled four different wines that the farm produced (...well, I sampled the wines. Lori did an excellent job of sampling the bottled water provided).
No matter where you stood, you could see vineyards like this all around you.
We were a bit surprised to see that the soil almost seemed clay like. Not what we expected.
The guest vintners?
The traditional aging room.
By regulation this vineyard is restricted to producing only 50,000 bottles of their labeled wines per year. However, like all regulations, there are ways around this rule. The farm sells a number of bottles to local restaurants under a "table wine" label. This farm also is home to Villa Palagetto and Villa Arnilu, old farmhouses converted into bed and breakfast establishments.
Diane and Ricardo, new friends from Australia
Master control center for keeping the temperature even in the stainless steel and the cement tanks.
The shipping room where the finished product is sent out.
Following the wine tasting, we then traveled approximately five miles over winding, dusty, dirt roads to another vineyard owned by the same family, this one is called La Lucciolaia. Here the whole tour, numbering approximately 45 folks, were served a sumptuous four course luncheon. First course; antipasto (consisting of several piece of cold cuts, cheese, and mini- bruchettas with three different sauces on them. Second course; spaghetti with mushrooms and sausage pieces. Third course; slow-cooked, oven roasted beef with potatoes, cooked spinach, and beans. Fourth course; an assortment of pastries and cappuccino. Of course, during this luncheon, we sampled three more wines (and Lori continued her sampling of the bottled waters provided, declaring them all...bellisimo!).
Our land lord, Lorenzo
The main dinning room of La Lucciolaia
The gentleman on the far left of this picture was one of the owners of the two vineyards we visited.
The main course