November 4, 2017

Castles are a great option for wine tours

 I recently had some wonderful first time clients from Chicago who requested a last minute tour  to go to Greve in Chianti. Since I had little information on what they were looking for I decided to really wow them with two of my favorite castles in that area, Castello di Verrazzano, and Castello di Gabbiano. They are always so beautiful and impressive which is why they are a good option for families also, kids will be wowed by the ancient castles and cellars and can have a bit of space to wonder in the gardens.
They are generally on a higher elevation of approximately 400 to 500 meters above sea level thus the views are stunning!

Just the drive up to the castles is simply breathtaking as you wind up the hills and gaze out over the vineyards and olive orchards for miles. The air is fresh and the smells are enticing, you will be surrounded by seasonal flowers and foliage, it is truly dreamy;)

Visiting the cellars is like walking back in time, going underground into a different world full of French and Italian barrels, grapes aging, prosciutto curing, olive oil stored in old orciao and balsamic vinegar to name a few of the exciting things you will encounter on your trip into the medieval cellars.  You won't find this in the new world of winemaking! Of course, there are many great wines coming out of those areas too:-))
The locations of the tastings vary, it could be in a beautifully sunlit room with a view of the garden and fountain, on the terrace overlooking the rolling hills and vineyards or deep in the cellar where you are surrounded by the smell and sounds of barique barrels and aging wine....shhhhhhhh the wine is sleeping;) 

Of course, let's not forget the WINES!


These castles have an array of quality Chianti and Chianti  Classico wines. From a simple easy drinking Chianti aged in large Italian oak barrels to refined and elegant reserves to creative and alluring Super Tuscans and those who are able some Gran Selections that will knock your socks off! Generally, the Castles are mid-size productions ranging from 250.000 bottles up to a million. These wines can be shipped from the vineyard straight to your door for a reasonable price. Shipping takes approximately four weeks. Many of these vineyards offer a selection of these wines that can be found internationally including the US but with generally higher price points. This is because the simple Chianti that they make to export will have to support many fees placed on top of the original bottles such as import/export fees, taxes, distribution, transportation,  marketing and last but not least store or restaurant mark up.
You will, however, have the opportunity at most of them to taste the higher quality wines that generally remain in Italy or may be harder to find abroad, such as some fantastic reserves and Gran Selezione. Of course, you will always have the opportunity to purchase these products to be shipped from the vineyard to your door, you can expect to receive your order within approximately 4 weeks.

 I have made real connections with some of my most treasured guests with whom have become treasured friends, it is hard to not have an amazing and memorable experience in Tuscany if it is done right! 










The medieval village of Castello di Albola stands on the magnificent Chianti hills, in an unique location known for the charm of its history, for the evocative power of art and for the unique landscape and agrarian context of unrivalled harmony.

Once belonging to some of the most noble Tuscan Families throughout the ages, from the Acciaioli and the Samminiati to the Pazzi and the Ginori Conti, the estate has been in the care and protection of the Zonin Family for over 30 years.
Gianni Zonin’s first task was to ensure that the vineyards would produce high quality grapes, and then to restore the outbuildings and the beautiful villa that had been built in the 16th century but maintained in its two massive towers the traces of the original mediaeval castle. In addition to the recuperation and restoration of the main villa and of the hamlet, the rural outbuildings have also been refurbished and are now used as accommodation. A new winery has also been built, in perfect harmony with the landscape.

The Zonin Family has also enlarged both the vineyards and the estate, which today covers 900 hectares, of which 150 are under vine and where there are also over 4 thousand olive trees.




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Ama takes its name from a small borgo, or agricultural hamlet, nestled in the hills at an altitude of almost 500 metres. Five centuries ago, it was the hub of a florid farming and winemaking business overseen by a group of local families. “The road from Radda leads to Amma, three miles away on a hill and home to the Pianigiani, Ricucci and Montigiani – the most prominent families in Chianti,” wrote Grand Duke Peter Leopold of Habsburg-Lorraine in his 18th-century Report on the government of Tuscany. “They are well-off country gentry that spend all their income on farming and vineyards, and take care of everything. The hills and valleys surrounding the castle of Amma are the most beautiful in all of Chianti, superbly tended with fertile grain fields, olive groves and magnificent vineyards.” The Grand Duke’s visit is commemorated by a plaque on one of the buildings in the borgo, which are now owned by the winery. CASTELLO DI AMA , the winery, was founded in the 1970s by a group of families who had fallen under the spell of this magical spot. They set themselves the task of reviving Ama’s past glories and of producing a Chianti Classico that would rank among the world’s most prestigious wines.


It was this wine, and the vineyards it derives from, that forged an alliance between Lorenza Sebasti and Marco Pallanti, the couple who run the winery today. Lorenza is Roman, the second generation of one of the winery’s founding families. Winemaker Marco is a Tuscan born and bred, who honed his craft partly on home ground, and partly in France. For more than 30 years now they have dedicated themselves to making exceptional wines at Ama.

Marco was named Winemaker of the Year in the 2003 edition of the most authoritative Italian wine guide, the Gambero Rosso’s Vini d’Italia. In 2004, the company was awarded the Impresa e Cultura (Business and Culture) prize, sponsored by Confindustria, ICE, Sviluppo Italia and Palermo city council, for “best track record of investment in culture”. A year later, in 2005, Castello di Ama was named Best Winery of the Year by the Gambero Rosso wine guide. San Lorenzo was ranked sixth in the Wine Spectator’s Best Wines of the World list in 2010. Between 2006 and 2012, Marco served two terms as the president of the Consorzio del Chianti Classico, the renowned wine zone’s governing consortium.




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​Thanks to the location of the castle at the center of the property, the grapes reach the cellar in just a few minutes to be quickly and gently pressed and put to ferment in small quantities at a controlled temperature.

The ancient cellars date back to the XVIth century. Aging takes place in Slavonian oak barrels placed along the corridors, protected from sudden temperature changes. 3 years old oak barrels of 30 hl. capacity are used for the elevation of the Chianti and Chianti Classico Riserva, and new barriques (Allier and Vosges) for the elevation of Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Sassello and of the Super Tuscan Bottiglia Particolare.

By visiting the winery, surrounded by the scents of fine oak barrels, one enters into the heart of the castle, where selections of the best vintages since 1924 are kept.

Remained unchanged within its boundaries for over 1000 years, the estate of 230 acres owns 52 hectares of vineyards at altitudes between 260 and 420 meters above sea level, in a stony soil rich in limestone.

The vineyards are periodically renewed according to a program that keeps the average age of the plant around 12 years.

Types of farming are the traditional ones used for the territory of Chianti Classico, which is the horizontal spurred cordon decking at 60 cm from ground level, and Guyot.

The existing 52 hectares of vineyards are divided into single vineyards located on the more suited ground with the best properties and microclimate. The grapes used are mostly red grapes, among which Sangiovese clearly stands out, along with other varieties including Merlot, Canaiolo, Cabernet Sauvignon and Colorino, and only a small percentage of white grapes like Trebbiano Toscano, Traminer and Malvasia lunga del Chianti.

The excellent climatic conditions of vineyards, combined with improved farming techniques aimed at obtaining a better phyto-sanitary state plant of the grapes, and the limited production yield per hectare (about 60 quintals of grape) enable to produce fine wines, characterized by the maximum expression of the terroir-vine combination.

A completely organic fertilization and the agronomic techniques adopted, including the practice of “grassing” aim at a rigorous respect for the environment and its balance.

The harvest, which usually take place between September 25th and October 25th, is done exclusively by hand through a careful selection of grapes.