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nattyroe Jan 24th, 2007 11:00 AM

Winery recommendations?
 
Traveling to Italy for the first time, have about three days scheduled for Tuscany. My husband and I love wine, would enjoy some recommendations on specific wineries in the area for tours, tastings, etc. (free or not) We have rented a car so we are pretty flexible in our traveling/scheduling. Thanks!

Budman Jan 24th, 2007 11:04 AM

Castello Banfi is right outside Montalcino. You can have lunch, tour their winery (you need to make a reservation for both), and they have a nice tasting room with gift shop. They have some nice wines. ((b))

KenMi Mar 4th, 2007 07:33 AM

Tagging on to this thread...
We will be spending 8 days in Tuscany ( after beginning our stay with three days along the Amalfi Coast) at the end of June. While we are there we are considering a guided tour for wineries around Montalcino (and perhaps near Montepulciano). Based on what we have picked up on the threads, and in other web locations and guides, it sounds like a good idea to have a more local company provide the tour (and driver) to maximize the experience (and wine tasting if you know what I mean).

So far the more highly recommended wine tour guides that we have found are:

(Hills and Roads) http://www.hillsandroads.com/

(Tuscany Wine Tours)
http://www.tuscan-wine-tours.com/

(Di Vino Tours)
http://www.divinotours.com

We would like to have a LOCAL person, with those special connections that will make it a memorable experience, who would either drive, or have a driver, to take us in their vehicle to wineries that specialized in Brunellos and Vin Nobiles. We are not opposed to Chianti Classico wineries to be included, just thought that we want to specifically focus on the Brunellos for this trip.

Could anyone comment or provide furtheer insight into the type of tour that we are looking for? Or comments / recommendations regarding the tour guides that we have mentioned above would be appreciated. We are in the process of finalizing our trip, and are pretty much ready to select the specific date for the tour - in order to make a reservation.

Having made a few trips to the area, I am taking other family members with us for their first trip. We will have a rental vehicle to tour on our own - so any other winery stops that you have found to be memorable would be appreciated!

Side note to Budman - I have read with interest and enjoyed your recommendations in the past. We are looking to take a separate day to visit Castello Banfi. Our hotel is in Gaiole in Chianti, and at this point we are thinking that we would drive down to Montalcino for their lunch (the five course tasting menu with wines included). Then, after lunch (we are thinking it would be in the 2-3 hour range) we would then be ready to take the tour after lunch - I believe that I read their tour is at 4:00pm in late June whe we are there. After the lunch and tour I am not sure we will be able to do much more beyond driving back toward our hotel and enjoying the countryside. Am I on target with this plan for the Castello Banfi visit? Would there be any other stops that you might recommend for that day?

RJD Mar 4th, 2007 07:44 AM

Note to KenMi. Last year we did a tasting of some Brunellos at the Castello in Montalcino before going on to lunch at the Banfi estate.
Weather you can manage a full tour of the estate after that depends on your youth and capacity. We were not up to it. But a walk around the estate after lunch was fine.

toni_g_b Mar 4th, 2007 07:57 AM

I can't do any comparisons from one winery to the other, but one of our best afternoons is Italy was spent at Fattoria dei Barbi just outside Montalcino. An interesting tour, varied tastings - including olive oil from the estate - and the most delicious lunch in the Taverna on the property. The staff couldn't have been more gracious, the setting just as you would expect for a working farm in Tuscany, a most interesting museum of Brunello and the area, and food that my husband and I still talk about. We were so impressed we plan to return during this year's trip to the area. (Reservations were required.)
http://www.fattoriadeibarbi.net/

KenMi Mar 4th, 2007 02:15 PM

That makes a couple of votes for Fattoria dei Barbi (http://www.fattoriadeibarbi.net) today. It sounds like we may want to plan a few lunches in this area!

How does the Barbi Winery operate? Is there a tour that you set up first (reservation required I assume) which includes tastings? Do you visit their own enoteca to sample their wine (do you pay for "flights" or is it free)? Is there a set menu for lunch, paired with wines as they do at Castello Banfi, or is it an ala carte affair where you order your food and pair it up with wines that are on their menu?

I have heard from a few other folks that we might also consider Castello di Verrazzano for a tour / wine tasting / lunch. Has anyone experienced Castello di Verrazzano - I believe that it is the Chianti area, toward Empoli.


One other thought here - In California and Oregon I have purchased wine at a discount at the winery (especially if you join their "club" or purchase a case at a time). Do Italian wineries operate in a similar manner? Is there any advantage in purchasing wine at a winery over an enoteca or other point of sale for wine? (Sure I understand that if it is at the winery they have controlled its temperature and conditions as opposed to those bottles which are handled by distributors, delivery people and who knows who at stores along the way.)

toni_g_b Mar 4th, 2007 04:46 PM

At Barbi, we did have reservations for the tour and lunch. The tour involved a young woman taking us through the cellar explaining the process and history of brunello and the family. From there, we entered the tasting room for a sampling of various vintages of Rosso di Montalcino and Brunello, along with olive oil. There was no charge at that time for any of the foregoing; I think there is now - $10, maybe, or euros. This took about an hour. We bought just a couple of bottles but I'm sure they are more than happy to sell more. The price seemed quite discounted when I did a comparison of prices from the fattoria to what was on the internet after I got home.
From the tasting we went to the Taverna which does have an a la carte menu. They had a wine list but since we had a drive ahead of us, I only had a glass of the Rosso. My husband had the mixed grilled meats (pork and sausages) and I had the wild boar ragout. I know they sound rather mundane but, oh my, they do something to it that takes it over the top. And the matre d' wouldn't let us leave without my having my first grappa for digestiva - now that may be an acquired taste but the acquisition doesn't take long. It was sublime.
And don't miss the museum at the top of the path from the Taverna. It's really quite substantial if you interested in the history of the area. It was free.

Budman Mar 4th, 2007 05:00 PM

KenMi, I would recommend the 3-course menu vs. the 5-course. The food was very good -- not great. When you factor in the wine (unlimited), it was well worth it. The last course was Brunello -- I kept it flowing. :-)

After lunch the tour of the winery was by reservation only. You had to get in your car and drive about 1/2 mile down the road. It was interesting and informative, especially if you are not aware of the process.

The tasting room and gift shop was very nice. ((b))

Zydecoqueen Mar 4th, 2007 05:00 PM

We used Luca from Hills and Roads in July 2006 and truly enjoyed our day! He picked us up in Rome at 9:00am and we toured through Tuscany stopping in San Gimignano and Sienna he dropped us off at our apartment in Florence around 8:00pm. During our tour we viewed the local marble quaries, ate lunch at a local trattoria and sipped excellent wines! Luca was an excellent tour guide, very knowledgeable and very funny. We will be returning next fall and plan on calling him upon him again for a private tour. His rates are very reasonable and his van was air conditioned clean and comfortable. Mary

KenMi Mar 4th, 2007 07:38 PM

Thanks Toni - Sampling some Rosso and Brunello would be a great way to begin a visit. At 10Euro it still seems pretty reasonable. It doesn't sound like your meal was mundane at the Taverna - I have been amazed at how fantastic mixed grill is in Tuscany - I always kid around with my wife because she orders the same thing - and she gets back at me in Italy when I order up a mixed grill at least twice on each trip (to make sure it is good at both places...). Your experience with grappa sounds a little like mine. First pour I wasn't so sure I liked it - just last month I bought grappa glasses to "pour it up right" in my home! I would think that a nice walk, and museum tour would also help with digestion. Thank you for sharing your experience.

Budman - you are a man after my own heart! I am not a "big lunch" person - and so I was wondering about the 5 course option and how it was different than the 3 course program (and if I would be able to put away all that food and wine). I am sure the others in our group are probably along the same line - so it is very good to know! And you say that the wine is unlimited - that sounds like a plan to me! We will just have to keep one of us as the designated driver for that afternoon.

Mary - I have heard a lot of great things about Luca from Hills and Roads. Is he their only tour guide, or the one that I want to make sure to schedule (if possible) when I place my reservation. You said he picked you up in Rome, and then you toured the area - to the point where you were dropped off in Florence. Was this a "transfer" that you scheduled as a tour to kill two birds with one stone? It sounds like a wonderful idea!

Thanks to all for your great advice!

jamikins Mar 4th, 2007 07:55 PM

Bookmarking

KenMi Mar 4th, 2007 10:16 PM

OOPS....

Earlier in the thread I asked about Castello Verrazano. I meant to ask about Marquise Frescobaldi / Castello Di Nippozzano. Has anyone visited Castello Di Nippozzano for wine tasting, touring and/or lunch?

macanimals Mar 4th, 2007 10:51 PM

The visit to Banfi and Barbi will be fine but do be aware that you will only be offered their own wines. I've visited both and enjoyed them. Montalcino has many excellent wines and I can''t imagine not having an opportunity to taste a variety of the brunellos. The Fortezza at the top of the hill in Montalcino has an amazing enoteca which will provide an array of wines from many different producers. This is all within the old fortress walls and they also serve light antipasti to accompany the wines. www.enotecalafortezza.it A little time and patience will reward you with a terrific tasting experience.
You also mention staying in Gaiole. There is an excellent Cantina in nearby Greve which provides tastings of nearly 200 Tuscan wines including the chianti classicos and brunellos as well as the super tuscans--not to be missed! www.lecantine.it And then there is also nearby Volpaia, a chianti producer which has completly transformed the small village into an integrated wine facility. Well worth a visit. www.volpaia.it Have fun!
Cin cin Paul

job816 Mar 13th, 2007 03:29 PM

macaanimals . . thanks for that info on LeCantine. Looks like fun. We will be staying outside Greve Sept 2007. Do you need a reservation?


macanimals Mar 15th, 2007 10:05 PM

No reservations required for Le Cantine. Besides being a phenomenal tasting opportunity, it is also a bit of a wine musuem with old presses, wine implements and photos. The wine can be tasted at your leisure as it has a unique delivery system that allows you to choose what wines you are interested in and it bills you according to the price of the bottle of wine you chose--anywhere from 50c to 3/5 euros. It even includes chances to sample local olive oils. A group can be accomodated easily and everyone can do their own choosing and tasting.

lovesroses Jul 26th, 2007 06:02 AM

Searching this topic also--any new recommendations anyone--looking for your favorite--we only want to do one vineyard/winery and combine it with lunch, if possible.
Thank you in advance.


StLgrrl Jul 26th, 2007 07:31 AM

Bookmarking

IdyllicItaly Jul 26th, 2007 10:12 AM

I can highly recommend Villa Vignamaggio http://www.vignamaggio.com/english/tours-tasting.html, where we toured the gardens, wine cellars, and then had their excellent wines accompanied by many cheeses and breads. Villa Vignamaggio has one of the most exquisite settings imaginable. They offer a more extensive meal, too.

The Villa Vignamaggio is within the township of Greve near Lamole - less than 5 miles from the center of Greve.

boom_boom Jul 26th, 2007 02:55 PM

bookmarkin!

lyceemoliere Jul 26th, 2007 03:21 PM

We enjoyed the Villa Nottola (montepulciano) but they do not give wine tours.
We also liked Casali Della Aolia near Radda in chianti- which does give tours. Bothe have nice wines and are relatively low budget


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