Going to Tuscany?
Going to stay in San Gimignano?
Going to drink some wine?
Of course you are.
Let me offer a recommendation for the a fantastic wine tour through Chianti. I did hours of research online, looking for a private wine tour for our group of 8 that could pick us up from the ridiculously beautiful town of San Gimignano where we were staying. Many of the full day tours I found start and end in Florence. Then a friend was given a recommendation for TuscanyEX and were offered everything we hoped for.
TuscanyEX offers much more then wine tours as it turns out. They offer cooking classes, cullinary tours, truffle hunts, saffron picking, dairy tours (I asume cheese is going to be involved) and many more. You can even request your own specialized tour.
Our guide was the beautiful Claudia Margheri from TuscanyEX. She picked us up right outside the front door of our hotel, Literally. (Hotel La Cisterna. Stay here!!! It's truly wonderful) We were fortunate to make a last minute reservation with her and because of several wine and food festivals happening in the area (late September), she customized a day tour for us to keep us away from the crowds.
After introductions were made, Claudia got right down to business filling our heads with interesting stories and the history of the region all while driving us to our first winery of the day, Antinori.
This is one of the largest wine companies in Italy with a history that dates back to 1385. Their claim to fame is their innovations of the Super Tuscan where their Tignanello was the first to be called as such. The winery itself is a great way to start off a tour of the Chianti Region. Here you will see a massive winery where you will see a building in harmony with the landscape. They pride themselves on innovation with tradition. You'll start the tour off with a movie introducing you to the Antinori family and the history behind the making winery. Then you're guided through the heart and soul of the winery where their amazing wines are created and finally treated to a tasting before you leave.
Our second stop took us through those idyllic rolling vineyards where you'll find yourself saying "I think I've seen this before in a picture." We drove south of Panzano into the heart of Chianti to be introduced to
Il Molino di Grace. A stunning property that has had thriving vineyards for well over 300 years.
Here, we were treated with a stroll through the property and surprised with a beautifully presented al fresco lunch of pates, meats and cheeses, all paired with their delicious wines.
These wines were by far my fovorite of the day.
Lucky for us, an additional tasting was held in their tasting room after our lunch, which was perfect because we were all wanting more of these lovely Chiantis.
It was hard for me not to spend my total travel allowence here and have several cases of wine shipped home.
After our fun experience at Il Molino di Grace, we stopped at a hidden treasure, the town of Castellina in Chianti. It's another charming town that I had never heard of but one that everyone fantasizes about when traveling to Italy.
We spent an hour wandering the old narrow streets, eating gelato and peeking into peoples windows because they made them so enticing.
Just down the hill from Castellina was our final winery of the day, the family owend winery of Lornano.
Again, another private tasting and tour of the winery and cellar with an added bonus of seeing where they were laying out their grapes to make their Vin Santo (holy wine), a sweet Italian desert wine. This was something special to see and smell. The process is unlike anything I've ever seen. The grapes are laid out on mats or hung from rafters to dry for many months. They are then pressed and placed into special barrels where the natural process of fermentation begins.
By the end of the day, Claudia felt like part of our group and we were all very sad to say goodbye. She was so enthusiastic and knowledgeable about her work. She waved goodby as she drove away from the medievel town of San Gimignano where we first met her earlier that morning. We waved back and blew kisses, all of us wishing that we had just one more day, one more adventure with her.