hidden gems

/hidden gems

March 2018

Lucca – The Famed Walled City

By | 2018-03-07T22:40:46+00:00 March 7th, 2018|Feature, General, hidden gems|

Lucca

The Famed Walled City

Lucca is one of the most beautiful cities in Tuscany and is famous for many things including the retention of its Renaissance era walls.  The walls around the old city were kept intact even as the city became modern and expanded.  The walls are historic as they served to preserve and protect the city and its inhabitants.  Even though the walls have lost their strategic military importance, today they serve as a beautiful promenade–it’s a beautiful walk or bike ride for you to enjoy with all the greenery and trees.

Lucca has delicious foods and many unique artisan shops.  For food, you can enjoy a delicious meal in Lucca and some of the must try foods include:  Farro Soup, made with borlotti beans and seasonal vegetables, Tordelli Lucchese which is pasta stuffed with beef, or Necci, a delicious crepe stuffed with ricotta.  All are typical Lucchese dishes for you to enjoy.  For dessert, try the Buccellato, a ring shaped cake stuffed with raisins and aniseed which is traditionally eaten on Sundays.  It’s delicious with your morning coffee or a glass of red wine.  Remember, you’re still in Tuscany and Tuscany is famous for its red wines.

Lucca also has many artisan shops.  Purchases of interest can include jewelry, art and ceramics.  For fashion, head to via Fillungo, which is the main shopping street in Lucca and enjoy window shopping.

In addition to the delicious food, artisan shops and beautiful, famed walls, there are many other must see sights in Lucca.  Lucca’s San Martino Cathedral is surrounded by medieval buildings in the Piazza San Martino.  With an intricately decorated marble façade, its style is more Roman on the exterior and Gothic on the interior.  There’s also the San Michele church in the large square.  The square is a great place to sit and enjoy an afternoon.  There are many cafes to choose from.  If sitting is not how you want to pass the afternoon, you can climb to the top of the Guinigi Tower, a 14th century tower with spectacular views of Lucca.  There are 130 steps to climb and you will be greatly rewarded with the spectacular views!

Lucca is not only famous for its walls.  It was also the birthplace of the famous opera composer, Giacomo Puccini.  His home is now a museum filled with memorabilia, including his piano and musical scores.

These are just a few reasons A Toast to Travel’s Highlights of Florence and Tuscany Experience includes a visit to Lucca–one of the most beautiful and unique cities in Tuscany!  Join us for an unforgettable experience where you will live like a local.

Chicagoland Culinary Reviews Part 2

By | 2018-03-14T18:41:42+00:00 March 4th, 2018|Chicagoland Culinary Reviews, Feature, food, hidden gems|

Pelago Chicago 1
Pelago-Chicago 2
Pelago-Chicago 3

This year A Toast to Travel is starting a new search, for the most authentic Italian experiences in the Chicagoland culinary world!

Part 2- Pelago Ristorante

Chef Mauro Mafrici is a tall man, with broad shoulders. He is jovial and chooses his words with the same care he’s put into the establishment of Pelago Ristorante. This exclusive gem is tucked away behind the world famous John Hancock Tower, and that’s the way Chef Mauro likes it. In fact, he prefers catering to his guests in this intimate setting.

Chef Mauro has been cooking since he was 14, originally from Italy; his 40 years of experiences have taken him a great number of places. It was actually in New York City that he met his lovely wife, Kimberly. She’s the architect in charge of Pelago’s design. There on a sky blue barstool, I sat taking a moment to appreciate the space she’d envisioned. The entire room is a cozy rectangle, accessed through a blue glass bubble entry way.  The bar is on the west side and is the first sight one has upon entering. The same blue glass is used to divide the room’s upper and lower levels. The chairs at each table are also blue, and they are accompanied by bright blue purse stools. The stools are a custom adopted from the old wives tale that putting one’s purse on the ground is unlucky financially. The choice in color can be correlated to the Chef’s focus on seafood cuisine. Large windows let a lot of light into the space, and the blue glass partition keeps the room open. This design makes the smaller space feel large and airy.

We were treated to a Chef’s tasting. The beginning appetizers were brought, and we sipped Prosecco in pairing. The Burrata is made fresh and is absolutely delicious–the fresh Italian buffalo milk cheese’s delicious flavor seems to explode in one’s mouth, the fresh herbs complimenting it perfectly. It’s one of the best we’ve had outside of Rome and Italy vacations.  The Risotto tasting followed. We were tempted with three variations saffron, vegetable and tomato basil. The Saffron was al dente, and tasted fresh from the streets of Italy herself. The Ruffino Chianti red wine paired with the final plater. Chianti, Italy is where we, at A Toast to Travel, take our guests for all-inclusive culinary and wine experiences and Italy tours and vacation packages.

The afternoon was passed in pleasant conversation, we took our time tasting each dish, and appreciating the ambiance of the restaurant. The room was impeccable. Behind me, on the wall, hung a magnificent oil painting which when looked at straight on may trick you. The optical illusion of depth is created by a black negative space that contrasts the extremely fine attention to detail in the positive foreground. It appears that if one wished, they could simply reach in and pluck the lobster from the display in the painting.

The dessert sampling finished our meal leaving us with a very sweet impression of Pelago Ristorante. The service was impeccable and faithfully attentive, which served to create an intimate experience between guest and server, leaving one feeling happy and well cared for. Ultimately, Chef Mauro creates an authentic Italian experience in the heart of Chicago.

February 2018

Chicagoland Culinary Reviews

By | 2018-03-14T18:42:24+00:00 February 9th, 2018|Chicagoland Culinary Reviews, Feature, food, hidden gems|

Piccolo Sogno1

This year A Toast to Travel is starting a new search, for the most authentic Italian experiences in the Chicagoland culinary world!

Part 1- Piccolo Sogno

Our first stop is Piccolo Sogno, this little dream of Tony Priolo and Ciro Longbardo, greets you at the door with a first impression you won’t soon forget. I was treated to a first class seat at one of the most tasteful restaurants in Chicago. And don’t just take my word for it, take Italy’s! A placard from Ospitalità Italiana hangs on the left hand side of the main entryway, proudly displayed next to the front desk.

I was greeted by a deep blue wall, and I welcomed its immersive calming embrace. Contrasted beautifully by choice of art, the room greets you and so too do the smiling faces of the staff. Abel the manager, was quick to greet me, he had us check our coats with a sweet smiling attendant, from there leading me through the establishment and to the table. After showing me the table, he asked me if I’d like a tour of the rest, including the kitchen. I, of course, was excited to accept; I left my companion for the evening at the table and followed Abel through the main room camera at the ready. I was here for only the best food, so of course I wanted the best photos.

All pasta served and gelato consumed by guests at Piccolo Sogno is made in house. The Antipasti can be found delightfully displayed when you first enter the kitchen; a large red meat slicer sits to the right hand side. All Prosciutto consumed in house is sliced on this machine. Fresh and salty, the Prosciutto is chewy and easy to pull apart, and an excellent way to start your meal if you like ham. Another excellent choice is the Caprese salad, tomatoes and mozzarella served to enchant the taste buds and the meal has only just begun.

Another prime feature of the kitchen is its wood burning oven, its gapping maw, fire licking away on the inside tugs on my ancestral heartstrings, the Italian in me appreciates such attention to detail. At the table, I am greeted once more but this time by Italia’s very own bottled stars. The N.V Prosecco, Alexa is bubbly, and gives me that cherished oh so tingly sensation, and yet somehow there is heaviness here among the stars. It’s a full body that can be appreciated and considered very, very smooth. Grissini and Focaccia and Filone are given as choices of bread before dinner at the table, I appreciated the light and airy Filone the best, but my companion liked the Focaccia best. I found it to be a strong flavor, I wasn’t quite prepared for.

There are excellent guest relations here; Abel is frequently seen throughout the evening interacting with guests, especially as it gets busier around 6:30 when the restaurant hits the evening rush, a charismatic smile never leaving his lips. I believe this joviality is made possible by the excellent staff relations that exist here as well. Abel has been here 8 to 9 years, to him, “it feels like a family.”

Alberto our servers checks on us often, and takes our dinner order of Tagliolini con Funghi Misti e Tartufo Nero and Ravioli “Piccolo Sogno”. I was promised the perfect pairing of wine with my meal, and Alberto our server for the night has the perfect suggestion. The evening is meant to be enjoyed and I found myself observing the rest of the room. I noticed a few birthdays being celebrated, the birthday candle is lit discretely for the table’s enjoyment. It is personal and private. My ideal birthday treat. The entire setting’s aesthetic can be expressed as intimate. This effect is particularly created by the lighting. It is dark, the room is outlined in a cool white glow but the main source of light is each occupied table’s single white candle.

The red wine, a 2011 Chianti Classico, Casaloste, paired perfectly with the Tagliolini! I found myself quite enthralled by the savory flavor of the mushroom and pasta pairing. I can be quite picky, but the flavor of those al dente noodles made even this palate jovial. My companion and I shared meals, and agreed that it surpassed the Ravioli. Now, this Ravioli has won against Bobby Flay, so this is high praise for the Tagliolini!

Upon Alberto’s insistence we finished dinner with the Tortino di Gianduja. The first bite of this chocolate delight will send your eyes back into your head. Warm chocolate syrup encased in a light chocolate cake shell sprinkled with powdered sugar. This is accompanied by a single scoop of hazelnut gelato. The pairing is well chosen. We take coffee with dessert.

I’d like to thank Piccolo Sogno for an excellent evening. The service is friendly, and the food is tasteful, the experience is authentic.

January 2018

10 Must See Sights in Florence

By | 2018-01-31T19:12:10+00:00 January 14th, 2018|Feature, food, General, hidden gems, Wine|

Ponte Vecchio
Uffizi Gallery
Florence Duomo
Boboli Gardens

10 Must See Sights in Florence

1- The Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore

This massive Gothic cathedral simply known as the Duomo, serves the role of not only being Florence’s religious center but is also one of the most recognizable entities in the city. If the viewer is not already enticed from a far by the building’s stunning architecture, once inside the guest will be drawn into a narrative packed with history and culture.

2-Uffizi Gallery

Located along the banks of the Arno River in the Historic Centre of Florence lies Europe’s first modern museum. This is one of Florence’s most popular attractions so a long wait can be expected, but if you have the time endure the wait you would be rewarded with the best collection of Italian paintings in the world. When you join A Toast to Travel’s Highlights of Florence and Tuscany Experience, we work with locals who help minimize our wait with advance reservations.  Whether you are observing the work of Giorgio Vasari or admiring the life-sized paintings of Botticelli, the Uffizi Gallery is sure to possess a masterpiece that catches your eye.

3- Galleria dell’Accademia

While this museum holds many works of art that deserve your undivided attention such as St. Matthew or Cassone Adimari, the main reason why this location is one of the most desirable areas to visit by guests can be summed up with one word: David. Michelangelo’s most famous work is housed here in the Galleria and will continue to attract visitors from all over the world for years to come.

4- Ponte Vecchio

Once a location run by butchers and bakers, a flood washed away the old bridge and, in its place, rose the Ponte Vecchio, one of the oldest bridges in all of Italy. If you are looking for a historically significant area, look no further than the bridge that has survived it all from natural disasters to attacks during World War II. The bridge is known to be the heart of the city’s gold and jewel trade, so expect to find some fancy trinkets as you venture through the markets.  During the city walk on the Highlights of Florence and Tuscany Experience, you’ll have a chance to personally experience all the energy of the Ponte Vecchio.

5- Boboli Gardens (Giardino di Boboli)

If you are looking for a change of pace from the up-beat tempo of Florence’s city center, try taking a casual stroll through the Boboli Gardens. This beautifully landscaped area provides a quiet setting where you can take in all of what Florence has to offer without being bothered by all the noise and commotion of city activities. While perusing through the garden try finding some of the statues that have been strategically placed on the path and take advantage of the picturesque views provided by the Boboli family’s garden.

6- Piazzale Michelangelo

Perched high above the city in the Oltrano district lies the Piazzale Michelangelo, arguably the best viewpoint in all of the city. This view comes with a cost, as many of its visitors recall the towering staircase that needs to be climbed in order to reach the square, however, if you are into panoramic views that are sure to garner tons of likes on your Instagram, then it is well worth the workout.   During A Toast to Travel’s Highlights of Florence and Tuscany, the brave can join us on the adventure to Piazzale Michelangelo!

7 – Baptistry (Battistero)

Most known for its massive doors whose work was once praised by the great Michelangelo, Baptistry also has the distinction of being the oldest building in all of Florence, dating back to the 5th century. Interesting enough, this octagonal masterpiece was thought to be a temple dedicated to the Roman God of war, Mars, but it is yet to be proven.

8- Campanile di Giotto

Known also as Giotto’s Bell Tower, the 277-foot tower serves as another vista to capture those scenic views of the city you have been yearning for. The tower actually had three architects influence its construction, so it is very intriguing to see how those powerful minds clashed to create this visual work of art.

9- Palazzo Pitti

What were once residential homes for citizens during the Renaissance, is now the location of some of Florence’s most intricate museums after the area was bought by the Medici family in 1549. The Palazzo Pitti is the largest museum complex in Florence, spanning about 32,000 square meters and previous guests suggest blocking out several hours of your day so that you may see all of what it has to offer.

10- Piazza della Signoria

This free, outdoor museum area is regarded as the perfect place for the weary traveler to rest as well as viewing some marvelous sculptures, such as the gigantic statue of David replica. This area is great to catch your breath while also not feeling as though you are wasting precious exploration time while you complete your experience in Italy!

October 2017

Truffles, Truffles and more Truffles—Let’s Hunt!

By | 2017-10-04T10:20:40+00:00 October 3rd, 2017|Feature, Features, food, General, hidden gems, Wine|

Truffle hunting in Tuscany
tagliatelle with truffle sauce
Toasting travel with Italian red wine

Truffles, Truffles and more Truffles—Let’s Hunt!

So, what are Truffles?  They are rare, edible mushrooms with an intense aroma and flavor.  They grow underground and can be difficult to find.  They only grow in certain parts of the world.  Certain experts in the past (and some still do) used pigs and hogs to find them—today, in Italy, dogs are used as they  don’t eat them as soon as they find them!  That was a big problem–the hogs would eat the truffles as soon as they found them before they could be stopped.  The dogs, on the other hand, can be trained not to eat them so they end up being a much better choice for the hunt.

October and November in Italy are great times to hunt and eat truffles.  There’s also the Fiera del Tartufo or truffle market which takes places during this time.  Prices vary per pound each year.  The rarest truffles are the most expensive food in the world.  Did you know that the record price paid for a single white truffle was $330,000.  It was unearthed near Pisa, Italy and weighed 3.3 pounds!

Imagine learning to make hand-made pasta only to drizzle your own creation with a special sauce created by you from the truffles you hunted in the morning!  During our Cooking Under the Tuscan Sun Experience, we hunt truffle with truffle hunting experts and their dog.  We walk the hills and with the help of the dogs, seek and find the most delectable truffles we can to use later in the kitchen during our hands-on cooking class.  Heading over to the kitchen, we learn to make Tagliatelle con Tartufo or Tagliatelle with Truffle sauce.  It’s only the start of the week with many authentic recipes to come so pace yourself, pack yourself!

Of course with any Tagliatelle con Tartufo wine is a good complement.  We usually enjoy a Chianti Riserva with this dish as it brings out the best of each.  In Tuscany, there’s always enough Chianti to go around and you certainly can spend your time focusing on wine tasting during The Ultimate Tuscan Wine Experience where we indulge in stunning wineries in Tuscany during tours, wine tastings and exclusive tasting and dinner menus.  It’s all part of living like a local with A Toast to Travel.

If you’ve always wanted to visit Italy or if you’ve already been and have always wanted to go back, now’s the time to pack your bags.  All you need to do is get there and we’ll handle the rest!

June 2017

Visiting an Italian Food Market

By | 2017-06-22T12:01:47+00:00 June 21st, 2017|Feature, food, General, hidden gems, Italy Shopping|

Italian Market
Italian food market

Visiting an Italian Food Market

To really live like a local, you need to shop like a local.  Generally, Italians do not stockpile.  They are generally not visiting a Costco and buying large quantities of food in bulk to store for lengthy periods of time.  Fresh is the name of the game and there’s no better place to find fresh food than at a local Italian food market or “mercato.”

The markets are full of fresh fruit, vegetables, herbs, nuts, cheeses, salumi, bread and more!  It’s an embarrassment of riches and a way of life at the same time.  The prices are reasonable, goods are seasonal and it’s the perfect time and place to sample the local cuisine.  As you walk through the beautiful market and take in all the scents, sights and people, notice how relaxing the experience can be.  It’s what living like a local is all about.  For an authentic Tuscan experience, visiting a local market is essential.  You can soak up the culture and rub shoulders with the locals.  Watch the many different colorful personalities selling their goods—the local farmers, cheese-makers and artisans come to sell their goods every day.  While at the local market, you usually can enjoy other culinary delights like fresh pasta, desserts and even, sample some wine .

I personally use the farmers market not only to buy fresh produce and cheeses but also to socialize with friends and acquaintances.  It can be an adventure, a time for socializing and practicing or keeping up your Italian language skills.  You can also get the latest on all your questions from the locals—ranging from recipes and the best produce to buy right now to politics and elections around Italy and more. Everyone has an opinion!  Italian food markets are weekly, bi-weekly or even daily.  It depends on where you are located.  Most Italians frequent the food markets regularly as a means of buying their fresh fruit and vegetables, cheeses, breads and even desserts.  Much of the shopping is done before lunch so that the food purchased at the market can be incorporated into the lunch menu and is supremely fresh.

For me, visiting a local Italian food market is much more than just buying fresh tomatoes, burrata and basil even though I usually make a caprese salad right after my visit!  It’s an essential part of Italian life, shopping with the locals, seeing old friends and making new ones, maybe stopping for a coffee after and generally catching up on life.  It’s a feeling of connectedness that is hard to find in a US grocery store with lists in our hands and little time for enjoying the moment.  I always leave the market with a fresh perspective and a smile on my face.  I look forward to experiencing a local food market each time I am in Italy.  It reminds me of what’s important in life.

We invite you to join us on our Cooking Under the Tuscan Sun Experience so you can experience Italian food markets, an essential part of local life!

May 2017

A Day in the Life—the courses of an Italian dinner

By | 2017-05-04T09:19:21+00:00 May 3rd, 2017|Feature, food, hidden gems, Wine|

For Italians, mealtime is a social and friendly affair.  Italians love to take their time, savoring each course and enjoying good company and great wine.  Meals can take several hours with plenty of time for socializing and if the weather is nice, soaking up the beautiful sun.  It can be intimidating to understand what all the courses are and the cadence of the meal in Italy.  To help put you at ease, we’ve put together some information on eating dinner like an Italian.

So what are all the typical courses of an Italian dinner?  Well, after you’ve had your aperitivo (more on that in an upcoming blog) where you’ve enjoyed a pre-dinner drink with a few snacks at a bar or café and shared the latest news with your friends over a glass of wine or two (or spirits or prosecco), now it’s time for dinner.

Assuming you are dining in a ristorante (we will also write more on the differences between the various types of places to eat in Italy), generally the courses are as follows:  antipasto, primo, secondo (with contorno) and dolce.  Of course, not everyone orders or eats all the courses and that’s the beauty of it all—the point is to have a great time and enjoy life.  La Dolce Vita!

Now, let’s start with the antipasto (no pun intended).  This is the starter course and it can consist of charcuterie, cheese and bread or it can simply be a beautiful bruschetta made with fresh tomatoes and extra virgin olive oil.  The next course, il primo, is the first course.  Typical first courses or primi (plural for primo) are pasta, soup, gnocchi and risotto.  Portion sizes tend to be smaller than in the US so you should still have room for the main course, il secondo!  Generally this is your meat or seafood course.  Depending on the region where you are dining, you can choose from various seafood or meat options.  In Tuscany, the bistecca alla fiorentina is your best option if you love steak.  It’s tender, juicy and grilled to perfection after having been drizzled with olive oil and herbs.  Magnifico!  Also, Italians normally order a contorno or a side with the secondo and the contorno is usually vegetables (raw or cooked).  I tend to order a salad—arugula salad to compliment the taste of the steak.  I add a little extra virgin olive oil, squeeze a fresh lemon and add a dash of salt to my arugula salad.

The last course is the dolce or dessert.  There are many delicious options to choose from including tiramisu, panna cotta, cake or gelato.  Keep in mind, wine is served during the meal and after dinner, most Italians have an espresso (no milk).  Some Italians will also have a digestivo to aid in digestion after dinner.  Generally, the digestive after the meal is a grappa, amaro or limoncello (depending on the region of Italy).

I hope you find this content helpful in living like a local.  Please feel free to send us any topic you are interested in learning more about and we’ll be happy to write about it.  In the meantime, Buon Appetito!

 

 

 

April 2017

San Giovanni Valdarno

By | 2017-04-11T07:26:26+00:00 April 11th, 2017|Feature, hidden gems, Wine|

It is undeniable that Italy is rich in culture and history and for many, at the top of their bucket list.  Many of its cities are quite well known—Rome, Milan and Florence for example.  All are recognizable by name or landmark.  At the same time, Italy is also blessed with many lesser known cities and towns with their own charm and that also served considerable strategic and historic importance.

San Giovanni Valdarno is one of those towns.  It may be lesser known but its strategic and historic importance cannot be underestimated.  Founded in the XIII century by Florence as a way to consolidate its presence in the Higher Valdarno, that higher ground served as a lookout for and from any impending danger across Arezzo, Florence and Siena, Tuscany.  Located in the valley of the Arno River (“Val d’ Arno” or valley of the Arno = “Valdarno”), the area is divided into the Upper Valdarno (between Arezzo and Siena) and Lower Valdarno (between Florence and Pisa).

Towards the end of the XIV century, San Giovanni Valdarno’s strategic position and in Upper Valdarno enabled a military victory during an invasion by an army led by Gian Galeazzo Visconti, the first duke of Milan.  Despite this victory, the town continued to be in the middle of many battles, including the battle between Florence and Naples.  Unfortunately, that battle ravaged the territory.  When Florence finally emerged victorious over Naples, a short period of peace began and restoration projects and architectural progress were made.  Despite this progress, a spreading plague epidemic greatly reduced the population and devastated the inhabitants.

When Lorraine’s Dukes “Lorena family” came to power, the fate of San Giovanni Valdarno changed for the better.  The Lorena family was one of the most notable and famous of rulers who cared for the people and the region.  They were great patrons and brilliant politicians who greatly enhanced the people’s quality of life.  They started significant territorial projects and infrastructure improvements which resulted in economic prosperity and the cultivation of wheat and vegetables.  The resilience of the people of the land helped to shape their future.

Today, San Giovanni Valdarno is home to Villa Barberino (Greek for “broken ground”) where we host our Cooking Under the Tuscan Sun Experience.  With its strategic position and the role it played in the feuds between Florence and Arezzo, it’s a medieval castle not to be missed!

Boasting of several private rooms (and apartments) located in various historic buildings inside the walls of the hamlet, you can also visit the villa’s museum to learn about all the tools the farmers of yesteryear relied upon to live and make a living.  During our wine tasting experience, we challenge you to find the escape hatch thousands of years old used by the residents of the villa to escape danger in the event of an invasion.  Maybe with enough wine—it will be easier to find!  Running through the hatch, you find yourself in the woods free to run as far (and as fast) as you can.  You might also walk the lush green Italian gardens, visit the vineyards, take in the scent of the surrounding cypress trees or just lie by the pool and sip your Tuscan wine.

San Giovanni Valdarno is a hidden gem and a beautiful canvas for any Tuscan countryside experience.  We welcome you to join us at Villa Barberino to learn how to live, cook, lounge and explore like a local

 

March 2017

So Much Wine, So Little Time… Part 1

By | 2017-03-06T15:31:58+00:00 March 6th, 2017|General, hidden gems, Wine|

Hi Everyone,

For those that follow me, you already know that I LOVE Italian wine, specifically Tuscan reds.  So, it is with great pleasure that I speak to this delicious topic.  I drink red wine year round, and that is typically all I drink with the exception of the occasional glass or bottle of sparkling.  Natalie on the other hand tends to stick with sparkling when it is warm and switches to red when it turns cooler.

What is with all those letters on a bottle of wine?

If you drink Italian wine, I am sure that at some point you have noticed a seal with letters.  Such as DOC or DOCG.  These are formalized grading standards for Italian wine.  In a nutshell, you have IGT, DOC and DOCG.  IGT (Indicazione Geografica Tipica ) is the lowest formal standards and has loose standards with regards to the grape varieties that are allowed from the area that the wine comes from.  DOC (Denominazione Origine Controllata )  is the next step up.  And at the highest level is DOCG (Denominazione Origine Controllata e Garantita).  DOCG is meant to represent the most legendary wines in Italy.

There are way too many types of Tuscan wine to discuss each one, so I will touch on a few of my favorites.  Now, to decide on a few favorites – This is a very difficult decision.  I love the king of Italian red, the Brunello di Montalcino but I equally love Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and a of course a good Chianti.  I could probably list about 4 more very easily, but I will stick to these for this series.

Brunello di Montalcino-

Brunello is a medieval village in the province of Siena, and the winemaking region is to the Northeast.  Brunello tends to be more expensive than most other Italian reds.  This is primarily due to the smaller production area.  The Brunello di Montalcino area is roughly 3,000 acres while Chianti has about 40,000 acres.  Brunello di Montalcino is made from 100% Sangiovese grapes, which is also the dominant grape in Chianti.  The difference in these grapes is that due to the higher and dryer climate, the grapes ripen at a more consistent rate.  This wine also must be aged for 5 years after harvest.  Because this is a heavy red, it is an amazing wine to pair with the king of steaks, the Bistecca alla Fiorentina.

We visit amazing wineries on our Tuscan Wine and Culture Experience as well as our Cooking Under the Tuscan Sun Cooking Experience

January 2017