skip to main content

Andy's Journal Entry #5

Thursday, 06 June 2024 09:34
Andy's Journal Entry #5
The Tuscan Trail
We got to the hotel around midnight and were dressed, fed and back on the bus at 8:30 the following morning. The informal name for this trip among the staff at the importer is the “Death March,” because of the extreme amount of regions and wineries visited in such a short time. I was aware of this before I agreed to go, my wine rep friend told me he went on it 5 or 6 years ago. He said it was amazing and life changing, but very difficult. 
I feel like my group started to feel it this morning; conversation was just a little muted, everyone was a little slower. The excitement was still there, but it was relatively quiet on the bus to Tuscany. Even wine tasting in paradise can become exhausting after a while, especially on 4-6 hours of sleep per night. All of us seemed to be kept alive by the wonderful espresso, which fortunately was everywhere.
The drive to Chianti was lovely, the familiar rolling hills and cypress trees were so iconic, I felt like I was driving through a travel brochure or a movie set in the sepia tones of Hollywood’s artificial movie version of Tuscany. It was foreign but so familiar.
Our first stop was the famous Chianti producer, Badia I Coltibuono. Our bus, led by our driver, Dominico, somehow navigated the steep, narrow, strada a tornanti switchback roads as we ascended high into the mountains. The ancient monastery that houses the winery eventually came into view, it is over 1000 years old. Roberto Stucchi, the owner of the winery suddenly appeared in our bus after we stopped. Roberto studied viticulture at UC Davis and worked at Chapellet for a year before returning home to Coltibuono, his english was perfect and almost unaccented.
He took us on a long tour of the grounds, it was ancient and incredibly serene. I’m not sure if it was because it used to be a monastery, but my group grew uncharacteristically quiet, walked a little slower, seemed to contemplate life. It was one of the most peaceful places I have ever been. If you are ever vacationing in Tuscany, I highly recommend staying at Badia I Coltibuono, they have rooms you can stay in there.
The wines at Coltibuono were excellent; most of the grapes came from higher altitude areas which gave the wines a little higher acidity and slightly more earth. They walked a nice line between tart cherry, cranberry and earth and leather. Overall, these wines were a little more of an elegant expression of Chianti than some of the other Chianti’s I have tasted, grown on the valley floor. 
After a lovely lunch in the most gorgeous outdoor setting, overlooking the valley below, we boarded the bus again and headed to the less known DOCG of Carmignano to visit the ancient winery of Capezzana. 15 minutes after we left Coltibuono, the entire bus was asleep. Carmignano is just to the north of Florence, the gorgeous estate of Capezzana resides high on a hill overlooking the valley below. Not quite as high altitude as Coltibuono, but enough to give us a lovely view. We were met by Beatrice, the owner, who showed us her vineyards and olive groves. She had a kind but intense demeanor, I really liked her! Carmignano is a DOCG that I had never heard of before, which, as an Italian wine nerd, was a surprise to me. I like to think that I know all of Italy’s wine regions, but this one was new to me. 
Apparently, the Medici’s lived in Florence, but in the summertime, it got to be too hot for their liking, so they made some lovely villas up in the mountains of Carmignano to stay cool. One of the Medici’s married someone from Bordeaux, apologies for the vagueness of that sentence, she told us this after drinking wine at lunch at Coltibuono and I was feeling tired. Because of the Bordeaux marriage, they began planting Uva Francese, or Cabernet Franc, which became a part of the blend at Carmignano. They typically use Cabernet Sauvignon nowadays, and the typical blend is usually 80% Sangiovese and 20% Cabernet.
We were treated to a tasing of the wines inside the ancient Villa, dating back to 800 AD. I was surprised by the power of these wines, they were dense, dark, incredibly tannic and nearly unapproachable. One of the wines we tasted was a 10 year old version of their Carmignano blend, it was more ready to drink, but still extremely tannic and dense. I wrote down in my notes, needs another 5-10 years? While the power and quality of these wines was evident, they seemed to need so much time to age! The only exception being their little, entry level rosso, Barco Real, which was fun, bright and full of red cherry, strawberry and raspberry flavors. 
We had dinner next, on an outdoor veranda overlooking the valley below, another absolutely stunning view! During this multi course meal, which is apparently typical in Italy, lasted about 4 hours, we were served some old bottles of the wines we tried earlier from their cellar. We started off with a 2008 vintage of their Carmignano next to a 1998 Carmignano. The 2008 was approaching its drinking window, and opened up in my glass. The 1998 was drinking perfectly! Think Brunello, but heavier and more powerful! It took 25 years for this wine to reach its peak. 
With the next course, we had the Ghiai della Furba IGT, their version of a Supertuscan. Mostly Cab, with 20% Merlot and 20% Syrah. We had the 2020 version earlier, which was palette destroyingly tannic. The 2013 and 2005 vintages we were served at dinner were much more enjoyable; spicy, pruny, peppery and very powerful. They could have gone another 5 years or so, but they went very well with the Peposo we were served, a heavily peppered stewed beef dish.
Also of note, was the Vin Santo, a slightly oxidized dessert wine. I had never had the opportunity to try a dessert wine before this trip. As of this evening, I had tried 4. They were all excellent, and very different from each other. The Vin Santo at Coltibuono was, like Roberto’s other wines, lighter, fresher and more apricot forward. The Vin Santo from Capezzana is famous, it won the best dessert wine in the world 4 times and routinely has very high scores in the US magazines as well, typically scoring around 97 points. It did not disappoint. Salted caramel, apricot, and a hint of espresso. I then finished my night with the Grappa that they make on the property as well. It must be so nice to like this all the time!
We arrived at the hotel around midnight again. Tomorrow promises another early morning followed by more travel. Tomorrow we head to Emilia Romagna, Lambrusco country. The only winery on our docket for tomorrow is Cleto Chiarli, the thought of only visiting one winery instilling our group with relief. Hopefully tomorrow will be a little more relaxed.
unnamed 11