Visiting Rome and Tuscany

Lazio and Tuscany, Italy

Tasted June 18, 2019 - July 2, 2019 by La Cave d'Argent with 476 views

Introduction

With our son and daughter being adults in different cities and having their own busy schedules, opportunities for the four of us to spend time together had previously been limited to short stints at holidays, graduations, weddings and other family events. That's why we seized the opportunity for a family vacation to Italy when the stars aligned and our kids' schedules coincidentally allowed for a simultaneous two-week break. What resulted was a trip that was memorable in every sense. The journey led us to places previously unseen, food preparation previously unexperienced, wine previously untasted and best of all, a family bond that became even stronger.

Flight 1 - Tuesday, June 18 and Wednesday, June 19 (1 note)

This was the time frame during which our son and daughter flew to our home in Las Vegas, where we would all be flying out together for the trip. We knew that we would be drinking many different Italian wines during the upcoming trip, so we decided to open a Brunello from our cellar in order for them to get a hint of what was coming. Needless to say, it was well-received while viewing the Las Vegas Strip from our living room.

Red
2013 Podere San Lorenzo Brunello di Montalcino Bramante Italy, Tuscany, Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino
90 points
This young Brunello sports a deep garnet robe and a somewhat understated but broad nose of Bing cherries, black raspberries, orange zest, licorice, earth and menthol-infused tobacco. Medium-to-full-bodied, fresh and without alcoholic heat, it delivers flavors mirroring the nose, wrapping them with substantial mouth-puckering tannins. The middle palate is nicely dense, the alcohol seamless (14.5%) and the oak complementary. While the finish is quite lengthy, its enjoyment is marred by the astringent tannins. This is a quality Brunello that will likely merit a higher score when the tannins have better integrated. Drink 2023-2033.

Flight 2 - Thursday, June 20 and Friday, June 21 (5 notes)

Our flight left Las Vegas McCarran International Airport very early on the 20th. After connecting in Chicago, we had a long but comfortable flight to Rome aboard a brand new American Airlines Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Although we were jet lagged when we arrived in the early morning (Rome time), we were excited and energized from the moment we visualized Italian land from our plane.



Arrangements had been made for a driver to greet us and take us to our hotel in downtown Rome. He was a skilled driver with a new, spacious luxury vehicle. That said, not being used to the narrow roads, numerous pedestrians, motor scooters and general fast driving habits of the Italians, it was a bit harrowing.

Our hotel, the Bernini Bristol, is an elegant, five-star property with beautiful rooms, excellent amenities and outstanding service. We had two adjoining rooms that were handsomely appointed and very comfortable.





After unpacking, we were hungry and ready for lunch. Next door to the Bernini is a delightful restaurant called Bottega Italia Monteforte, where we dined alfresco. Immediately upon being seated, we ordered Aperol Spritz's that had never tasted so good. Two of the dishes (among several) that we ordered were salmon tartare and Spaghetti Carbonara. All dishes were excellent, as was the accompanying focaccia. A bottle of Mellini Chianti San Lorenzo was ordered from the wine list and was a great match with the food.





We were all running on adrenaline, anxious to stroll around Rome after lunch. Among some of the beautiful architectural sites was the Trevi Fountain, truly a site to behold!



Logging at least 2-3 miles on foot, we returned to our hotel. During the afternoon we sipped on two Banfi wines that were included with our rooms, Le Rime and Col di Sasso.

After resting during the afternoon, we dined alfresco at at Hotel Bernini Bristol's elegant rooftop restaurant, The Flair. With stunning views and a fantastic menu created by Executive Chef Alessandro Caputo, it is definitely destination dining for anyone visiting Rome. Some of our dishes are pictured below. The two wines ordered from the list (Argiolas Vermentino and Garofoli Conero) paired nicely.















Exhausted but happy following dinner, we retired to our rooms and had a good night's sleep, knowing that we had a busy day forthcoming.

Red
2017 Melini Chianti San Lorenzo Italy, Tuscany, Chianti
88 points
This medium-to-deep ruby Chianti (a blend of 85% Sangiovese, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Merlot) was ordered from the wine list at Bottega Italia Monteforte upon arriving in Rome. Paired with pasta Carbonara, it was a nice match. Laced with tart cherries, dry earth, violets, nutmeg and licorice on both the nose and palate, it is a medium-bodied red with fresh acidity, medium rustic tannins, minimal wood and seamless alcohol. Solid on the mid-palate and medium in length on the back end, this wine is an excellent value. Enjoy it over the next 3-4 years. Drink now-2023.
White
2017 Castello Banfi Le Rime Toscana IGT Italy, Tuscany, Toscana IGT
82 points
Banfi's 2017 Le Rime is an unspecified blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio. Comprised entirely of free-run juice and seeing only stainless steel in vinification, it is a pale yellow wine with notes of citrus, green apples and chamomile. Light-bodied, fresh and without noticeable alcohol (listed as 13%), it thins a bit on the mid-palate and closes with a clipped finish. Low-priced, crisp and drinkable, this is one to quaff on a hot day without much thought. Drink now-2020.
Red
2018 Castello Banfi Col di Sasso Toscana IGT Italy, Tuscany, Toscana IGT
86 points
Banfi's 2018 Col di Sasso is an unspecified blend of Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon, fermented and aged in stainless steel. Medium ruby in color, it delivers a package of spicy red cherries, blue flowers and orange zest. Freshly acidic, seamlessly alcoholic (13%) and with soft tannins, it retains good presence in the middle and closes with an earthy, medium-length finish. This is a pleasant, fruity red that should be at its best over the next 2-3 years. Drink now-2022.
White
2018 Argiolas Vermentino di Sardegna Merì Italy, Sardinia, Vermentino di Sardegna
88 points
This pale to light yellow wine is highly perfumed, with blue floral and chamomile aromas that are accented with notes of white peaches and pears. Light-bodied, freshly acidic, seamlessly alcoholic (13%) and unoaked, it is a vibrant white with flavors that mirror the nose. There is good mid-palate density here, leading to a medium-length, crisp finish. This is a great wine to serve with grilled fish or similar light fare. Enjoy it in its youth. Drink now-2021.
Red
2008 Garofoli Conero Selezione Gioacchino Garofoli Riserva Italy, Marche, Conero DOCG
92 points
Garofoli produces this particular wine only in exceptional vintages, aging it for a minimum of 18 months in oak barriques and an additional two or more years in bottle. Comprised of 100% Montepulciano, it is an opaque ruby, full-bodied offering that is effusive of dark bramble fruits, licorice, graphite, Asian spices and dried herbs. Freshly acidic and with plentiful fine-grained tannins, it is a structured red that is judiciously oaked and seamlessly alcoholic (14.5%). Nicely dense on the mid-palate and long on the back end, this will sail through the next decade if properly cellared. Drink now-2030.

Flight 3 - Saturday, June 22 (4 notes)

The next morning we were up and at 'em, anxious to embark on our planned tour of the Vatican. After breakfast at the Bernini, we were greeted by our driver and by our tour guide. Our guide was a British man in his mid thirties who had an extensive educational background in art history and had lived in Italy for many years. We were driven through the Vatican security checkpoints and, by virtue of our guide, were able to bypass the lines and gain access to the Vatican museum. Our guide, albeit a bit sterile in his presentation, was a veritable encyclopedia of Vatican knowledge. The works of art were spectacular, many being thousands of years old. The most impressive thing to me, as related by our guide, is that the Vatican museum contains only ten percent of the Vatican's treasured works of art, the rest residing in Vatican offices, meeting rooms, living quarters, etc.









After leaving the museum, we viewed the Sistine Chapel. Unfortunately photographs are not allowed in the chapel. Michelangelo's work is breathtaking, as is the architectural achievement of the chapel itself.

Saint Peter's Basilica was our next stop at the Vatican. Like the Sistine Chapel, this was a sight to behold. Fortunately photos are allowed in the basilica.





Saint Peter (the first Pope) and numerous other Popes are entomed in the Basilica. One of the eeriest sights in St Peter’s Basilica is the Papal corpse of the beloved popularist Pope John XXIII, preserved in wax in an apse at the back right of the Basilica.



Touring the Vatican was an amazing experience. While walking to our driver's vehicle, one last photo was taken with an impressive backdrop.



After returning to our hotel, we decided to walk to a restaurant that had been highly recommended by multiple wine-and-food-oriented friends, Achilli al Parlamento. Located in central Rome, customers enter through a storefront bottle shop and are escorted to a small but elegantly appointed restaurant in the rear of the building. It is here that Chef Massimo Viglietti has created a dining establishment that, in my opinion, deserves higher than its one Michelin star. Dishes included king crab with baby spinach, marrow and pear (topped with gold leaf), tagliolini di farro, sliced filet mignon with fava beans and pesto, etc. We enjoyed our meal with the Ciacci Piccolomini Rosso di Montalcino and Castello di Ama Chianti, but bought two additional wines from the wine shop that were later enjoyed on our trip. For oenophiles, I should note that the stemware is superb, the wine service knowledgeable (and unpretentious) and the wine prices very reasonable (with those consumed in the restaurant being the same price as those purchased from the wine shop). Overall, Achilli al Parlamento was an "11" on a scale of 10. Those visiting Rome should not bypass this gem.













After lunch, we again walked the streets of Rome, seeing the sights and browsing the shops. We returned to our hotel and relaxed until it was time for dinner at Antica Pesa. This restaurant had likewise been highly recommended, and we were not disappointed. Dining alfresco in the restaurant's beautiful courtyard, we quickly became aware that this is an establishment frequented by celebrities and dignitaries. The restaurant's wine list is extensive, presented in an Old World book that is about four inches thick. From the list we ordered the Michele Satta Piastraia, while the Punica Barrua had been purchased earlier in the day at Enoteca Achilli al Parlamento. Both wines were excellent and paired nicely the multiple delicious dishes prepared by Chef Simone Panella.







Red
2017 Ciacci Piccolomini d'Aragona Rosso di Montalcino Italy, Tuscany, Montalcino, Rosso di Montalcino
89 points
This deep ruby wine possesses a nice core of raspberry and red cherry fruit, accented with notes of rose petals, graphite and damp earth. Medium-to-full-bodied, fresh and without any heat from its (listed) 14% alcohol, it wraps its flavors with medium-weight tannins that carry some grip throughout the solid mid-palate and medium length finish. This should show nicely over the next five years. Drink now-2024.
Red
2013 Castello di Ama Chianti Classico Gran Selezione San Lorenzo Italy, Tuscany, Chianti, Chianti Classico DOCG
92 points
First sampled at the Wine Spectator New York Wine Experience 10/21/17, this deep ruby blend of 80% Sangiovese, 13% Merlot and 7% Malvasia Nera (tasted at a restaurant in Rome) is fleshing out as predicted. With a perfumed nose of raspberries, violets, black cherries, baking spices, licorice and tobacco, it has now become equally impressive on the palate. Medium-bodied, fresh and without any heat from its 13% alcohol, it delivers flavors in line with the nose but at this point wraps them with silky-textured tannins. Beautifully dense on the middle palate and long on the finish, this is now ready for prime time. Enjoy it over the next decade. Drink now-2030.
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Red
2015 Michele Satta Bolgheri Superiore Piastraia Italy, Tuscany, Bolgheri, Bolgheri Superiore
92 points
Michele Satta's Piastraia is an unspecified blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Sangiovese. Deep ruby in color, it is laden with black and red fruits, accented with lavender, sandalwood, licorice and dried herbs. Medium-bodied, freshly acidic, seamlessly alcoholic (14%), judiciously oaked and with medium sweet tannins, it has excellent mid-palate density and finishes with a lengthy finish that flaunts notes of bittersweet chocolate. Soft textures and gorgeous fruit make this wine hard to resist. It should provide pleasure for many more years. Drink now-2030.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2014 Agricola Punica Barrua Italy, Sardinia, Isola dei Nuraghi IGT
93 points
The grapes for AgriPunica's Barrua bottling are sourced from their Narcao and Barrua estate vineyards in Basso Sulcis. Comprised of approximately 85% Carignan, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Merlot, it is aged for 18 months in French oak barriques (30% new). The 2014 iteration is a deep ruby, highly aromatic offering that is packed with ripe black fruit, lavender, white flowers, sandalwood, espresso and licorice. Medium-to-full-bodied, freshly acidic and with silky tannins, it stays beautifully dense on the mid-palate. While coming in at a lofty 15% alcohol, this is not problematic when served at the appropriate temperature of 60-65°F. Finishing long and smooth, this is an outstanding wine that should reach its 15th birthday with grace. Drink now-2029.
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Flight 4 - Sunday, June 23 (2 notes)

This was the day that had been planned for touring the historic sites of Rome. We had a different guide for this journey, Antonio Pica, an English-speaking Italian man with extensive knowledge of just about everything Roman. He was extremely affable, informative, funny and (thank God) a safe driver.

Our day's journey began with a lesson about the Roman aqueducts, which date back as early as 300 BC.



We were then taken to Le Catacombe di San Callisto (Catacombs of St. Callixtus), where several Popes were previously buried from the 2nd through 4th centuries. It was fascinating (albeit a bit creepy) to go deep underground and view the grave niches and other relics. Photography was not allowed inside the catacombs.



Next on the list was the Basilica of Saint Clement. This is a three-tiered complex of strucures. The present (street level) basilica was built just before the year 1100. Beneath the present basilica is a 4th-century basilica, below which is the basement that in the 2nd century briefly served as a mithraeum. Ancient artwork and the "goodies" underneath the present basilica were accidentally discovered in the 1860s, when the floor was being repaired for structural problems. Going deep into the structure, visitors can view amazing works of art on the walls that had previously been buried.





From the Basilica of Saint Clement, we walked to the Colosseum, stopping along the way at a tiny restaurant, where we sat along the sidewalk, taking a break for Aperol spritz's and salumi.



The Colosseum itself is breathtaking. There are so many interesting aspects to this structure. Completed in 80 AD, it is mind boggling that it took only ten years to construct, and even more mind boggling that it still stands today.





Last toured was the Palatine. After all of the walking that we had done, hiking up the Palatine Hill took some effort...but it was well worth it!



After the wonderful day of sightseeing, we returned to our hotel, where we relaxed and refreshed before taking a taxi to Ristorante Grano. Located in the center of Rome, we elected to again dine alfresco. Chef Danilo Frisone had crafted a creative menu. Among the dishes ordered were marinated anchovies with burrata cheese; tuna tartare aromatized with lemon and basil; grilled octopus with a delicate potato cream, confit tomatoes and Gaeta olives; risotto with buffalo blue cheese, porcini mushrooms and hazelnuts. All of the dishes were delicious. A white (Falanghina) and red (Cesanese del Piglio) were ordered from Grano's wine list, pairing well with the food.







White
2018 Feudi di San Gregorio Falanghina del Sannio Serrocielo Italy, Campania, Falanghina del Sannio
88 points
This straw-colored wine serves up grapefruit, nectarine, chamomile and lemon verbena on both the nose and palate. Light-bodied, fresh, unoaked and without any heat from its 13.5% alcohol, it stays solid in the middle and closes with a vibrant, medium-length finish. Ordered from the wine list while dining alfresco at Ristorante Grano in Rome, this was an excellent summertime apéritif that also paired nicely with light fare. Drink now-2021.
Red
2018 Villa Simone Cesanese del Piglio Italy, Latium, Cesanese del Piglio
89 points
This young wine, 100% Cesanese, sports a deep-to-opaque crimson robe. Packed with dark bramble fruits, blueberries, smoke, violets and juniper, it is a full-bodied, freshly acidic red with silky tannins and nicely integrated alcohol (listed as 14%). Dense on the mid-palate, it goes on to close with a medium-length, smoky finish. I would favor drinking this over the next 3-4 years, as the beauty is in the wine's youthful ripe fruit. Drink now-2023.

Flight 5 - Monday, June 24 (3 notes)

Throughout our stay at the Bernini, we enjoyed morning breakfasts at the rooftop buffet, which included delicious cooked meats, eggs, salumi, fruit, yogurt, muffins, etc.



This was a less structured day, although it did include a morning walk to the Spanish Steps and Trinità dei Monti church.





Thereafter things moved at a much slower pace. A light lunch with bruschetta in our room was enjoyed with a bottle of aged Venica & Venica Collio Merlot Insieme that we had purchased two days earlier at Enoteca Achilli al Parlamento.



The afternoon was extremely relaxing, enjoying massages in the Bernini's nicely appointed spa. Thereafter, we regained our appetites and walked to a quaint nearby fish restaurant, Pesceria Barberini. With ultra-fresh fish literally on display, Pesceria Barberini serves unpretentious but mouthwatering seafood dishes. We ordered several and they were all off-the-charts good, well-matched with the Tiefenbrunner and Zaccagnini white wines ordered from their list.











Red
2001 Venica & Venica Collio Merlot Insieme Italy, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Collio
92 points
Now 18 years of age, this deep garnet Merlot is showing a gorgeous array of tertiary aromas, yet retains a nice core of fruit. Black cherries, red bramble fruits, walnuts, cigar box, pickling spice and menthol characterize the nose and palate. Medium-bodied and with good acidity, it has a very supple mouth texture by virtue of its soft residual tannins and seamless alcohol (listed as 14%). Layered and dense in the middle and long on the back end, this is an impressive mature wine with enough fruit to ensure another 5-6 years of life. Drink now-2025.
White
2018 Tiefenbrunner Müller-Thurgau Alto Adige - Südtirol Merus Italy, Trentino-Alto Adige, Alto Adige, Alto Adige - Südtirol
88 points
Tiefenbrunner's Merus Müller-Thurgau is sourced from hillside vineyards in Corona-Cortaccia. Comprised of 100% Müller-Thurgau, it is a light-bodied, pale yellow wine that flaunts aromas of tangerine, lemon verbena, pit fruits and wet stones. Bone dry, fresh, unoaked and without noticeable alcohol (13%), it delivers flavors mirroring the nose and retains good presence on the mid-palate. Finishing crisp and with medium length, this is just what the doctor ordered for a warm evening in Rome. Drink now-2021
White
2018 Cantina Zaccagnini Pecorino Abruzzo Yamada Italy, Abruzzi, Abruzzo
87 points
Zaccagnini's 2018 Yamada Pecorino is a limpid, pale yellow wine that offers aromas and flavors of grapefruit, white peaches, pears and jasmine. Light-bodied, crisply acidic, bone dry, unoaked and with seamless alcohol (13%), it stays solid on the middle palate and concludes with a vibrant, medium-length finish. Enjoy this fruity white as an apéritif or with light fare, preferably in its youth. Drink now-2020.

Flight 6 - Tuesday, June 25 (1 note)

This was the day for us to move on from Rome to Castelnuovo Berardenga, located within the Siena province of Italy's Tuscany region. We had an excellent driver with a spacious Mercedes van, who drove us from the Bernini to Castel Monastero. The scenery along the way was beautiful, with rolling green hills and scattered hilltop villages.



Castel Monastero is a breathtakingly beautiful, restored medieval village and monastery. Our rooms were large and elegantly appointed, as were all of the castle's amenities. So historical, it is a destination in and of itself.









After unpacking and strolling the grounds of the hotel, we had a driver take us to the town of Siena, about 14 miles to the west. Our trip coincided with Siena's preparation for the Palio di Siena, The Palio di Siena is a horse race that is held twice each year, on the 2nd of July and the 16th of August. Ten horses and riders, bareback and dressed in the corresponding colors, represent 10 of the 17 contrade (city wards). This is a huge event in Siena, and the excitement of anticipation was palpable. The town itself is absolutely charming. First settled as far back as the Etruscans (900-400 BC), it is loaded with history. The streets are narrow and the buildings are ancient.

The photo below shows the compacted dirt that has been applied to the periphery of the Siena town square. This is the course where the Palio horses will race.



Here are the 17 contrade:



Virtually every spot in this town presents a photo op!









We had been told about the nearly 3000-year-old wine cellar at La Taverna di San Giuseppe. Although we did not dine there, the owner graciously allowed us to view the cellar.





We had made reservations well in advance at La Finestra, based upon the recommendation of several friends who had previously visited Siena. As had been our preference on most evenings, we dined alfresco. The dishes were delectable, a couple of which are pictured below. Ordered from the wine list, the Col dOrcia Brunello was a great match.







By the time our dinner had concluded, the sun had set. This presented some beautiful nighttime views of the town.



Red
2013 Tenuta Col d'Orcia Brunello di Montalcino Italy, Tuscany, Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino
92 points
Col d'Orcia's 2013 Brunello emphasizes finesse over muscle. Medium-to-deep ruby in color, it has a beautiful core of black raspberry fruit, accented with notes of allspice, lavender, loamy earth and rose petals. Medium-bodied, freshly acidic, judiciously oaked and with seamless alcohol (listed as 14.5%), it wraps its flavors with plentiful fine-grained tannins and stays dense on the mid-palate. Finishing with medium length and good lift, this is an excellent "food wine" that should easily reach its 15th birthday. Drink now-2028.

Flight 7 - Wednesday, June 26 (8 notes)

Guests of Castel Monastero get to enjoy a tasty breakfast each morning, with the hotel providing a nice buffet. After filling up, we embarked on a planned excursion to Montalcino and Montepulciano. Our driver/guide was a knowledgeable young woman from Siena who spoke perfect English. The approximately 30 mile ride south to the Montalcino DOCG was not only scenic but informative. On the way we stopped at the Val d’Orcia to spend about 45 minutes in Pienza, a city built in the 15th century and named after Pope Pius II. Partially destroyed June 15, 1944 during World War II, the damaged areas were restored by October 1955, which is commemorated with a plaque above the town's entry arch.



The town itself was delightful. Narrow streets, gorgeous architecture, amazing views, a beautiful church...and even a cool little wine shop!











Our next stop was one that was memorable in every sense. We were personal guests at Castello Tricerchi. The nearly 1000-acre estate extends over the north side of Montalcino, but only 32 are planted, all being to Sangiovese Grosso (the grape of Brunello).

Built in the 13th century by the Altesi family and completed in 1441 by the Tricerchi family, it was an important rampart for the pilgrims, who traveled to Rome along the Via Francigena. The castle was occupied by the Spanish in the 16th century, who built it as their stronghold. Returning to the Tricerchi family, it again served as shelter to those who went on pilgrimage to the Holy Sea. In 1820 the last of the Tricerchi kin, Porzia, was married to Baron Finetti. Having no direct descendants, the castle passed to the nephews Falzacappa and from Maddalena (Nena) to the firstborn Giulio (Iulio) Squarcia. You will notice Iulio's name on one of the bottlings.

We were so surprised and pleased to see that the family home was set up for a private lunch...just for us. And a wonderful lunch it was!









From Castello Tricerchi, our driver took us to Montepulciano, about 20-25 miles due east. There we were pampered guests of what is perhaps the most beautiful old winery I have ever seen, De'Ricci Cantine Storiche. Built in the mid sixteenth century but also incorporating a structure dating back to 1337, it oozes with history (imposing brick and stone arches, deep cellar barrel rooms, ancient water well, etc.). While most of De'Ricci's wines are now made at a nearby modern winery in Fontecornino, the old winery still serves a vital role with respect to barrel aging and hospitality.











After a wonderful day of touring and tasting, we returned to Castel Monastero. A dip in one of the castle's beautiful pools was quite relaxing!





During the evening, we dined at Castel Monastero's gourmet restaurant, Contrada. Part of Gorden Ramsay's empire, the cuisine is refined and well-executed under the tutelage of Executive Chef Enrico Marmo. We ordered the La Braccesca Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Riserva (single vineyard) Santa Pia, which was a great accompaniment to the food. The dishes were fantastic and the atmosphere (alfresco in the small square of this Tuscan hamlet) was priceless. What a wonderful way to end a wonderful day!







Red
2018 Castello Tricerchi IuLi’o Toscana IGT Italy, Tuscany, Toscana IGT
90 points
A deep ruby blend of approximately 90% Sangiovese and 10% Merlot, Tricerchi's 2018 IuLi'o offers an attractive combination of red and black fruit, augmented with spicy oak and earthy notes that are pervasive from start to finish. Medium-bodied, freshly acidic, seamlessly alcoholic (13.5%) and with appropriately proportioned oak, it stays solid on the mid-palate and finishes with medium length. This is an impressive red that is "entry level" for Castello Tricerchi. Quality at this level typically defines a winery, which is definitely the case for this producer. Drink now-2025.
Red
2017 Castello Tricerchi Rosso di Montalcino Italy, Tuscany, Montalcino, Rosso di Montalcino
91 points
Castello Tricerchi's 2017 Rosso di Montalcino is a deep ruby wine with abundant red fruit on the nose and palate. Accented with baking spices, dry earth and pipe tobacco, it is a medium-bodied offering with good acidity, soft tannins and nicely integrated alcohol (14%). By virtue of aging in 20 hectoliter Slavonian oak foudres, the wood component is subtle and harmonious with the fruit. Dense on the middle palate and finishing with medium length, this is an excellent red at an excellent price. Tricerchi's production is small...buy it if you can find it. Drink now-2027.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2013 Castello Tricerchi Brunello di Montalcino Italy, Tuscany, Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino
93 points
Aged for approximately 42 months in 15 and 20 hectoliter Slavonian oak foudres, Tricerchi's Brunello has achieved an impressive balance of fruit and wood. Deep garnet in color, it offers a bouquet of red and black bramble fruits, Montmorency cherries, baking spices, pipe tobacco and dry earth. Medium-bodied, freshly acidic and with silky tannins, it delivers flavors in line with the nose, underscoring them with a dollop of oak that is perfectly complimentary. The middle palate is solid and the finish is lengthy, making this difficult to resist. Drink now-2028.
Red
2013 Castello Tricerchi Brunello di Montalcino A.D. 1441 Italy, Tuscany, Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino
94 points
This select bottling from Tricerchi is done in tiny volumes and is a delight to taste. Deep garnet and complex, it delivers a package of red bramble fruits, orange zest, pickling spice, smoke and dry earth. Medium-bodied, freshly acidic, seamlessly alcoholic (14%) and with silky tannins, it has an impressively dense mid-palate that is accented with just the right amount of oak. Finishing smooth and long, this is one to have in the cellar and enjoy each year over the next decade. Drink now-2029.
Red
2016 De'Ricci Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Italy, Tuscany, Montepulciano, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano
92 points
De'Ricci's Vino Nobile 2016 is a deep ruby wine that is effusive of blackberries, black raspberries, graphite, allspice and pipe tobacco. Medium-bodied, fresh and with nicely integrated alcohol (listed as 13.5%), it delivers its fruit in a milieu of sweet tannins and soft oak. Solid in the middle and long on the back end, this is nothing short of delicious. Enjoy it over the next 5-6 years. Drink now-2025.
Red
2015 De'Ricci Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Soraldo Italy, Tuscany, Montepulciano, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano
93 points
Sourced entirely from De'Ricci's Soraldo vineyard, this medium ruby wine has virtually no rough edges. Beautifully aromatic, it serves up an array of Bing cherries, black plums, dark chocolate, allspice, cinnamon and dry earth. Medium-bodied, freshly acidic and without alcoholic heat (14%), it delivers flavors mirroring the nose. The tannins are plentiful but very fine-grained, giving the wine a silky texture that it pervasive throughout the solid mid-palate and lengthy finish. Despite its youthful appeal and soft textures, this has the stuffing to glide through the next decade. Drink now-2030.
Red
2016 De'Ricci Il Vignone Toscana IGT Italy, Tuscany, Toscana IGT
90 points
Done in an international style, De'Ricci's 2016 Il Vignone is a blend of 65% Merlot and 35% Cabernet Sauvignon. Opaque ruby in color, it delivers aromas and flavors of black currants, dark bramble fruits, baking spices and vanilla. Medium-to-full-bodied, fresh, seamlessly alcoholic (13.5%) and with ample sweet tannins, it has excellent mid-palate density and closes with a medium-length finish that has a whiff of toasted oak. This is already quite drinkable but possesses the structure to age gracefully. Drink now-2029.
Red
2015 La Braccesca (Antinori) Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Riserva Vigneto Santa Pia Italy, Tuscany, Montepulciano, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano
92 points
Sourced from the 37-acre Santa Pia vineyard within Antinori's La Braccesca property, this deep ruby wine (100% Sangiovese) has an attractive core of tarry black cherry and blackberry fruit, accented with notes of licorice, lavender, allspice and pipe tobacco. Medium-bodied, fresh and without alcoholic heat (14%), it wraps its flavors with silky-textured tannins and is layered on the middle palate. Impressively long on the back end, this is an outstanding wine that should be at its best over the next 7-8 years. Drink now-2027.

Flight 8 - Thursday, June 27 (4 notes)

This day was total R&R. Beginning with the typical scrumptious Castel Monastero breakfast and followed by a nice relaxing stint at the pool, we had lunch at Cantina, Castel Monastero's less formal restaurant. Located in the medieval wine cellar of the castle, it is architecturally beautiful (high-vaulted ceilings, arches, stone walls, etc.). The cuisine is traditional Tuscan fare and quite delicious! We ordered the Fèlsina Pepestrino and Bonelli Chianti Colli Senesi to pair with the dishes, both of which served admirably.









After lunch, we returned to the pool, where we lounged around, had an Aperol spritz or two and intermittently cooled off in the water. The evening was spent together in one of our rooms, where we ordered freely from the castle's extensive room service menu. The various dishes were well-matched with the Bonelli Chianti Villa Chigi and Abbadia Ardenga Brunello.

White
2017 Fattoria di Fèlsina Berardenga Pepestrino Toscana IGT Italy, Tuscany, Toscana IGT
86 points
This limpid, pale yellow wine is a blend of 70% Trebbiano, 15% Chardonnay and 15% Sauvignon Blanc. Offering aromas of lemon verbena, green apples and jasmine, it delivers citrus and stone fruit flavors in a crisply acidic, light-bodied frame. With unnoticeable alcohol (12%) and no oak, it is a straightforward summertime sipper that retains good tension on the mid-palate and finishes with medium length. Drink now-2020.
Red
2016 Poggio Bonelli Chianti Colli Senesi Italy, Tuscany, Chianti, Chianti Colli Senesi
88 points
Sourced from vineyards in Castelnuevo Berardenga, Siena (just outside of the Chianti Classico DOCG) and comprised of 100% Sangiovese, this deep ruby wine serves up aromas and flavors of Montmorency cherries, black raspberries, anise and loamy earth. Medium-bodied, seamlessly alcoholic (13%) and with good lift, it buttresses its flavors with suave tannins and is solid on the middle palate. Concluding with a medium length finish, this is a well-crafted Chianti that should show well for several more years. Drink now-2026.
Red
2017 Poggio Bonelli Chianti Villa Chigi Italy, Tuscany, Chianti
87 points
Poggio Bonelli's Villa Chigi Chianti is sourced from vineyards in Castelnuovo Berardenga and is named after Villa Chigi Saracini (a beautiful village to visit). The 2017 iteration is comprised of 100% Sangiovese and sees only stainless steel in its vinification. Medium ruby in color, it delivers aromas and flavors of red cherries, gingersnap cookies, pipe tobacco and damp earth. Medium-bodied, fresh, seamlessly alcoholic (13%) and with light sweet tannins, it retains good presence in the middle and closes with a touch of cranberry on the medium length finish. This is a delightful "easy drinker" that should provide pleasure for another 3-4 years. Drink now-2023.
Red
2014 Abbadia Ardenga Brunello di Montalcino Italy, Tuscany, Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino
88 points
Purchased two days prior from a tiny wine shop in Siena, this bottle was uncorked and serially tasted in our hotel room in Castelnuovo Berardenga over a period of two hours. Deep ruby in color, it opens within the first 30 minutes to reveal notes of earthy black cherries, dried herbs, licorice, sandalwood and pipe tobacco. Medium-bodied, fresh, softly oaked and without any heat from its 14% alcohol, it wraps its flavors with medium-weight, somewhat grippy tannins. Nicely dense on the middle palate, it goes on to close with a medium-length albeit leafy finish. Overall this is a pleasant Brunello, but there is a bit of a green element that is likely the result of the 2014 vintage (when a cool, wet season with lack of sun made full ripening difficult). I would favor giving this another year or two in the cellar in order to soften the tannins. Thereafter it should provide pleasure for several years. Drink 2021-2027.

Flight 9 - Friday, June 28 (7 notes)

The morning of this day was reserved for spa treatments and pool lounging, while the afternoon was reserved for a private tour and tasting at Fattoria di Fèlsina. Located near Castel Monastero in Castelnuovo Berardenga, Fèlsina is a beautiful historic estate that was purchased by Domenico Poggiali in 1966, at a time when Italian viticulture was struggling. He invested heavily in the vineyards, winery and cellars, while at the same time developing a terroir-based olive oil operation that produces four different varieties of oil from differently situated orchards. Fèlsina remains in the Poggiali family, now with Domenico's grandson, Giovanni Poggiali, at the helm. Today, the estate covers approximately 1500 acres, of which 235 acres are planted to grapevines.







We were warmly greeted by Fèlsina's employee, Michele (a native who speaks quite good English), who immediately escorted us to his truck and took us to their prestigious Rancia vineyard. At the top of the vineyard is a farmhouse that is nearly a thousand years old. Without electricity or plumbing, it is used for drying harvested grapes on mats and racks, ultimately to be used in Fèlsina's Vin Santo.











In 1966, Domenico Poggiali found a cellar set into the tufa hills of his estate. It was small, built of stone with a wide brick vault. Construction of an underground wine cellar connecting with the old stables, once home to fine horses, was completed in the early 1970s and is still used for aging. This underground connection links cellars that are hundreds of years old.





Fèlsina makes small quantities of high-quality sparkling wine, produced in the traditional method. In fact, a portion of this sparkling wine is still hand-riddled!





As was the case for our tour of the vineyards and cellar, the tasting portion of our visit was private and personalized. We were seated at a table in a private room, provided with bread, salumi and a variety of olive oils, and served by Michele, who was very knowledgeable about all of Fèlsina's products. The first five wines listed below were tasted at the winery, while the Fontalloro and Maestro Raro were purchased from Fèlsina and consumed with a superb Castel Monastero room service spread the same evening. Two additional wines were purchased from Fèlsina, the 2016 Berardenga Chianti Classico Riserva and the 2013 Colonia, both of which were consumed later during our trip.

Rosé - Sparkling
N.V. Fattoria di Fèlsina Berardenga Vino Spumante Di Qualità Rosè Italy, Tuscany, Toscana IGT
89 points
While primarily known for its still wines, Fèlsina also produces small quantities of various sparkling wines that are of quite high quality. Vinified using the traditional method (méthode champenoise), some of the bottles are even hand-riddled in the old cellar. This iteration of their non-vintage rosé, disgorged June 1, 2019 (lot 8157), is a light salmon-colored blend of 60% Sangiovese, 20% Pinot Noir and 20% Chardonnay, with the color of the wine being the result of limited red grape skin contact. Sporting a brisk small bead, it is a vibrant sparkler with lots of dusty raspberry and strawberry fruit, accented with notes of toasted bread and rose petals. Retaining good energy throughout, it goes on to close with a medium-to-long finish. This is serious Italian sparkling wine, well-worthy of consideration by anyone who is partial to high-quality bubbly. Drink now-2021.
White
2017 Fattoria di Fèlsina Berardenga I Sistri Toscana IGT Italy, Tuscany, Toscana IGT
89 points
Recently released, this straw-colored wine (100% Chardonnay) was aged for 11 months in used oak barriques and subsequently 8 months in bottle. Effusive of stone fruits, pears, lemon verbena and white flowers, it is a medium-bodied offering with crisp acidity, nicely integrated alcohol (13.5%) and appropriately proportioned oak. Nicely dense on the middle palate and medium in length on the back end, this is a well-balanced white that should be at its best over the next four years. Drink now-2023.
Red
2017 Fattoria di Fèlsina Berardenga Chianti Classico Italy, Tuscany, Chianti, Chianti Classico DOCG
89 points
Comprised of 100% Sangiovese and aged for approximately 12 months in Slavonian oak foudres, Fèlsina's 2017 Berardenga Chianti Classico is a deep ruby wine that offers up loads of black and red cherry fruit. Augmented with notes of pickling spice, sandalwood and dry earth, it is medium-bodied, fresh, softly oaked and seamlessly alcoholic (13.5%). The tannins are medium in weight and quite supple. Solid on the mid-palate and concluding with a tart, medium-length finish, this is an excellent food wine that should provide pleasure for several more years. Drink now-2027.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2016 Fattoria di Fèlsina Berardenga Chianti Classico Riserva Rancia Italy, Tuscany, Chianti, Chianti Classico DOCG
96 points
Sourced from the Rancia Vineyard (adjacent to Castel Monastero) in Castelnuovo Berardenga, this recently-released Riserva is clearly classic in quality. Aged for 18 months in French oak barriques and subsequently in the bottle for 12 months, it is a deep ruby elixir that exudes a gorgeous array of red fruit and spices. Cherries, raspberries, coriander, allspice, rosemary, tobacco and tarragon reside in a full-bodied, freshly acidic, seamlessly alcoholic (13.5%) frame with substantial grippy tannins and equally substantial toasty oak that will require aging in order to assimilate. Impressively dense on the mid-palate and long on the back end, there is no denying that this is a diamond in the rough. Give it at least three years in a temperature-controlled cellar. Drink 2022-2035.
2 people found this helpful Comment
White - Sweet/Dessert
2007 Fattoria di Fèlsina Berardenga Vin Santo del Chianti Classico Italy, Tuscany, Chianti, Vin Santo del Chianti Classico
95 points
Seeing how labor intensive and lengthy the process is of making this wine, the quality of the ultimate product is not surprising. Grown on Fèlsina's estate in Castelnuovo Berardenga and dried on racks in an ancient farmhouse, these are special grapes that are subsequently aged for 7 years in small (100 liter) oak barrels followed by a minimum of 6 months in bottle before releasing. Fèlsina's 2007 Vin Santo is a blend of 40% Trebbiano, 40% Malvasia and 20% Sangiovese. Limpid and medium rust-colored, it is quite sweet (120 g/l residual sugar) and laden with maraschino cherries, caramel, pink popcorn and honey. The beauty of this sticky is its amazing balancing acidity, which keep the substantial sugar from turning the wine into something cloying. Beautifully viscous and impressively long on the finish, this is a delicious wine with a broad range of culinary pairing options. Drink now-2035.
Red
2016 Fattoria di Fèlsina Berardenga Fontalloro Italy, Tuscany, Toscana IGT
94 points
Fèlsina's 2016 Fontalloro is a profound wine that will require significant cellar time in order to reach its full potential. Comprised of 100% Sangiovese and sourced from estate vineyards within the Chianti Classico appellation, it was aged for nearly two years in French oak barriques (an unspecified combination of new and first-passage). Intensely aromatic and flavorful, it delivers a package of red and black bramble fruits that are supported with anise, cedar, lavender, allspice and espresso. Full-bodied, fresh and with nicely integrated alcohol (listed as 13.5%), it is layered and dense on the mid-palate but at this stage is laden with substantial grippy tannins and lots of toasted oak. The lengthy finish is impressive, but cellar time will be necessary to soften the astringency and allow the oak to fully integrate. Lay this down for at least four years and then enjoy it over the ensuing two decades. Drink 2023-2043.
3 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2016 Fattoria di Fèlsina Berardenga Maestro Raro Toscana IGT Italy, Tuscany, Toscana IGT
95 points
The grapes for Fèlsina's Maestro Raro bottling (100% Cabernet Sauvignon) are sourced from two estate vineyards, Rancia Piccola and Poggiolo, with the former being adjacent to their esteemed Rancia Sangiovese vineyard. Aged for 18-20 months in French oak barriques (unspecified percentages of new and first passage), it then sees an additional 8-10 months in bottle before being commercially released. The 2016 iteration is an opaque ruby, full-bodied wine with a core of dark bramble fruits, black cherries, licorice, mulling spices, pipe tobacco and sandalwood. Lifted by fresh acidity and supported by substantial grippy tannins and toasted oak, it has impressive mid-palate density and no alcoholic heat (13.5%). With a finish that lingers on and on, this is a superb Super Tuscan, but patience will be necessary to allow the tannins and oak to fully integrate. Drink 2023-2036.
3 people found this helpful Comment

Flight 10 - Saturday, June 29 (3 notes)

This was the day to move on to Florence. After bidding adieu to the wonderful staff at Castel Monastero, we embarked on a scenic road trip north. Florence is approximately 60 miles northwest of Castelnuovo Berardenga. Our driver was excellent and we were at our new destination, Hotel Brunelleschi, within 90 minutes. The Brunelleschi is a luxurious boutique hotel in the center of Florence, located where once stood the church of San Michele (known as "in Palchetto”). Our two suites were spacious, beautifully decorated and adorned with fruit baskets, fresh flowers, sparkling water and wine. Each suite had picturesque views of the city.











After unpacking, we made the short walk to Cantinetta Antinori, where we had a longstanding reservation for lunch. Located on the ground floor of Palazzo Antinori, it one of the finest examples of Florentine architecture from the mid 1400’s. Since that time (for over 500 years), Palazzo Antinori has always been the family’s private residence and headquarters for their entrepreneurial ventures. In 1957 the Antinori family established their restaurant, Cantinetta Antinori, at the Palazzo, where it has been a bucket-list dining destination.







We ordered numerous dishes, including:

Panzanella



Chickpea flour flatbread with shrimp and calamari



Toasted bread with butter and anchovies



Pappardelle pasta with Tuscan meat ragout



Thick Tuscan tomato and bread soup



Sliced Tuscan steak with rosemary



And...veal fillet with Porcini mushrooms



Cantinetta Antinori has an extensive wine list with great depth and breath of the entire Antinori lineup. We chose the 2018 Monteloro Pinot Blanc and the 2016 Tignanello, with the latter destined to become a legend. The wine service was professional in every respect and the stemware (including decanter) exquisite.





After lunch, we walked the streets of Florence, ultimately meeting our guide for a private tour of the Ufizzi Gallery.

When the ruling house of Medici died out, their art collections were gifted to the city of Florence by Anna Maria Luisa, the last Medici heiress. The gallery had been open to visitors by request since the sixteenth century. In 1765 it was officially opened to the public, formally becoming a museum in 1865. The works of art are breathtaking and include pieces by Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Raphael and Boticelli.





When our tour of the Ufizzi had ended, we strolled to the nearby Ponte Vecchio, a medieval stone closed-spandrel segmental arch bridge over the Arno River, noted for still having shops built along it, as was once common. While butchers initially occupied the shops, the present tenants are jewelers, art dealers and souvenir sellers.



Thereafter, we toured the Florence Cathedral (Duomo di Firenze), the mother church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Florence. Completed in 1436, it took 140 years to build!



Tired and hungry, we bought made-to-order paninis from a popular take-out in the town square, taking them back to our room to be enjoyed with the Fèlsina Berardenga Chianti Classico Riserva that had been purchased at the winery the day prior.

White
2018 Antinori Villa Antinori Tenuta Monteloro Toscana IGT Italy, Tuscany, Toscana IGT
89 points
Sourced from Antinori's best Pinot Blanc vineyards on their Monteloro estate (set in the hillsides behind Fiesole), this pale yellow/green wine offers attractive floral, citrus, white peach and mango aromas and flavors. With a slight spritz that rapidly dissipates upon opening, it is a light bodied, freshly acidic, unoaked white without noticeable alcohol (12%). Despite its light body, there is excellent density on the middle palate. Maintaining good tension throughout its medium-length finish, this is a delight to drink. Enjoy it as an apéritif or with light fare, preferably in its youth. Drink now-2021.
Red
2016 Antinori Tignanello Toscana IGT Italy, Tuscany, Toscana IGT
98 points
A true tour de force, Antinori's 2016 version of Tignanello is perhaps its best ever. An opaque ruby blend of 80% Sangiovese, 13% Cabernet Sauvignon and 7% Cabernet Franc, it is loaded with dark bramble fruits, cassis, baking spices, Provençal herbs, espresso and tobacco. Full-bodied, fresh, seamlessly alcoholic (14%) and with gorgeous purity of fruit, it wraps its flavors with substantial fine-grained tannins and a judicious amount of spicy oak. Dense on the mid-palate, it proceeds to a very long, mineral-laden finish. As good as this is now, it will benefit from a few years in the cellar. Thereafter, look forward to more than two decades of enjoyment. Drink 2023-2046.
3 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2016 Fattoria di Fèlsina Berardenga Chianti Classico Riserva Italy, Tuscany, Chianti, Chianti Classico DOCG
93 points
Fèlsina's Berardenga Chianti Classico Riserva, 100% Sangiovese, is sourced from vineyards located in Castelnuovo Berardenga, northeast of Siena. The 2016 offering, aged in a combination of used French barriques and Slavonian oak foudres, is a deep ruby/red wine with up-front spicy black and red cherry fruit, smoke, graphite, tobacco and loamy earth. Medium-bodied, fresh and seamlessly alcoholic (13.5%), it has great mid-palate presence, ample fine-grained tannins and a lengthy finish. Although drinkable now, this will undoubtedly get better with additional time in the bottle. Drink 2022-2036.
2 people found this helpful Comment

Flight 11 - Sunday, June 30 (5 notes)

This day was spent strolling the streets of Florence, shopping and watching street performers.









By midday, we had worked up a pretty good appetite and were ready to relax. Lunch alfresco at Osteria Santo Spirito included:

Greek salad



Ravioli with clams



Spaghetti with fresh tomatoes and basil



Lasagna



Last, but not least, gnocchi with soft cheese gratinée and truffle oil



From the Santo Spirito's wine list we ordered the Santa Cristina (Antinori) Orvieto Classico Campogrande, which was refreshing on the warm Italian summer day.

During the remainder of the afternoon we lounged at the hotel and shared two half-bottles, a Casalvento white and Casalvento Chianti (from the minibar).

Only my wife knew where we would be dining during the evening, keeping the long-in-advance reservation a secret from the rest of the family. We dressed and got in a taxi to parts unknown. A long and winding road up into the hills above Florence led us to Belmond Villa San Michele, where we had dinner at their flagship restaurant, La Loggia. Dining alfresco on a gorgeous Florentine evening, overlooking the Tuscan hills as the sun set, was something that will never be forgotten.







La Loggia is renowned for its refined Italian cuisine, which we were able to immerse ourselves in by ordering the six-course "Tasting Sensations" selection.

I cannot recall the makeup of the amuse-bouche, but do recall it being visually beautiful and equally flavorful.



The courses that followed were all works of art, perfect in execution and absolutely delicious:

Amberjack ceviche, panzanella salad, Jerez vinegar and tomato water



Roasted sea scallops, guanciale from Siena, cannellini beans, black cabbage crumble



Durham wheat bischeri pasta, cacciucco fish broth and sautéed seafood



Homemade fagottini, Chianina beef, ricotta cheese from Pistoia and shaved truffle



Roasted pigeon from Valdarno, broad beans, cherry compote, hibiscus flowers



Vanilla gelato bite, followed by poppy seeds "pan dolce," beer and raspberry sorbet, crunchy almonds





During the course of our fantastic dinner, we enjoyed the 2015 Brancaia Il Blu Toscana IGT and 2011 Luce della Vite Lucente, both pairing well with the food.

White
2018 Santa Cristina (Antinori) Orvieto Classico Campogrande Italy, Umbria, Orvieto, Orvieto Classico
85 points
Consumed while having lunch alfresco on a warm day in Florence, this simple, fruity white was a good choice. A pale yellow blend of Procanico and Grechetto grape varieties (in unspecified percentages), it has aromas and flavors of stone fruits, citrus and green apples. Crisply acidic, unoaked and without noticeable alcohol (listed as 12%), it thins a bit in the middle but the resurrected finish has good lift and is medium in length. Drink now-2020.
White
2017 Casalvento Toscana IGT Italy, Tuscany, Toscana IGT
87 points
Consumed as an apéritif from a 375 cc bottle, this pale yellow wine, 100% Vermentino, is a refreshing summertime sipper. Crisply acidic, light-bodied, seamlessly alcoholic (13%), unoaked and bone dry, it delivers a nice combination of floral, stone fruit and dried herbal aromas and flavors. Solid on the middle palate and retaining good tension throughout a medium-length finish, this is a delightful Italian white that should show its best over the next year. Drink now-2020.
Red
2017 Casalvento Chianti Italy, Tuscany, Chianti
83 points
This medium ruby wine was sampled from a 375 cc bottle. Possessing an attractive core of red currant fruit with notes of licorice and earth, it is a light-to-medium-bodied red with good acidity, unnoticeable alcohol (13%), minimal wood and very soft tannins. Unfortunately it thins on the mid-palate and closes with a terse finish. While not unpleasant, there is nothing to get too excited about here. Drink now-2022.
Red
2015 Brancaia Il Blu Toscana IGT Italy, Tuscany, Toscana IGT
95 points
Brancaia's 2015 Il Blu is an opaque crimson blend of 70% Merlot, 25% Sangiovese and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, aged for 20 months in French oak barriques (67% new). Decanted and allowed approximately one hour of aeration prior to sampling, the wine was subsequently consumed over the ensuing two hours. Throughout this entire time frame it continued to evolve, revealing an intense aromatic and flavor profile of dark bramble fruit, black plum, fig, pickling spice, cedar and tobacco. Full-bodied, freshly acidic, seamlessly alcoholic (14.5%) and with big sweet tannins, it is dense and layered. Despite such significant oak exposure during élevage, the wood component is complementary rather than overwhelming. Finishing with impressive length, this is a tremendous Super Tuscan that should fully hit its stride with some additional cellaring. Drink 2022-2035.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2011 Luce della Vite Lucente Italy, Tuscany, Toscana IGT
91 points
Luce della Vite's Lucente is the second wine of their icon Super Tuscan, Luce. The 2011 Lucente is a blend of 75% Merlot and 25% Sangiovese, aged for 12 months in oak barriques (55% new French, 5% new American oak and 40% once-used French). Still a youthful opaque ruby in color, it is effusive of ripe red currant and black raspberry fruit, accented with notes of dark chocolate, anise, sage and espresso. Full-bodied, freshly acidic and with well-integrated alcohol (listed as 14.5%), it still has substantial grippy tannins and a fair amount of oak that will need to assimilate. The middle palate is dense, leading to a long but somewhat astringent finish. Despite the fact that this wine is now eight years old, it should benefit from additional cellaring. If this can come together as expected, a higher score will be warranted. Drink 2021-2031.

Flight 12 - Monday, July 1 (3 notes)

This was sadly the day that we would be leaving Florence, taking an afternoon train to Rome, where we had reservations at the Rome Airport Hilton. This had been arranged in order to have us in close proximity to the airport when catching our early morning flight the next day.

As was the case for every morning at Hotel Brunelleschi, we began our day with their beautiful breakfast buffet, choosing from a wide selection of delicious options.







Before catching our train to Rome, we had lunch at La Grotta Toscana in downtown Florence.





We ordered multiple dishes at this comfortable restaurant, all of which were uniformly excellent:

Caprese salad



Zucchini flan



French onion soup gratinée



Spaghetti all'Amatriciana



Lasagna



Four cheeses pizza



From La Gratta Toscana's wine list we ordered two reds, the 2015 Fattoria del Cerro Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and the 2017 Castello Banfi Chianti Classico, both of which were nicely complementary to the food.

All packed and ready to go following lunch, our driver took us to the Florence railway station, where we caught a high speed train to Rome. A taxi ride from the Rome train station to the Airport Hilton put us in an ideal position to easily catch our early morning flight the next day.









By the time we arrived at the hotel, we were ready for dinner. The meal at the Hilton's restaurant, Le Colonne, was surprisingly good, as was the service.











We had specifically saved the bottle of Fèlsina Colonia (that we had purchased at the winery a few days earlier) for our final night in Italy, and it turned out to be a perfect wine with which to conclude a perfect vacation.

Red
2015 Fattoria del Cerro Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Italy, Tuscany, Montepulciano, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano
88 points
Fattoria del Cerro's 2015 Vino Nobile di Montepulciano is a deep ruby wine that delivers aromas and flavors of dried cranberries, red licorice, anise, tobacco and loamy earth. Medium-bodied, fresh, judiciously oaked and with nicely integrated alcohol (listed as 13.5%), it wraps its flavors with medium-weight, somewhat dry tannins. Solid in the middle, it goes on to close with a medium-length finish that carries a bit of tannic grip. Although I would not hesitate to drink this now, it will likely get better as the tannins integrate. As such, it may merit a higher score in the future. Drink now-2025.
Red
2017 Castello Banfi Chianti Classico Italy, Tuscany, Chianti, Chianti Classico DOCG
87 points
This deep ruby wine delivers ripe black fruit on both the nose and palate, augmented with notes of licorice, bark and loamy earth. Medium-bodied, fresh, lightly oaked and without alcoholic heat (13.5%), it is easy to drink by virtue of its soft tannins. The middle palate is solid and there is good lift throughout the medium-length finish. Although not particularly complex, this is an enjoyable red for the price. Drink now-2023.
Red
2013 Fattoria di Fèlsina Berardenga Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Colonia Italy, Tuscany, Chianti, Chianti Classico DOCG
96 points
Fèlsina's Colonia, always 100% Sangiovese, is sourced entirely from their estate's Colonia vineyard and is only produced in exceptional vintages (thus being granted "Gran Selezione" status). The 2013 Colonia is a monumental, opaque ruby, saturated wine that is packed with dark bramble fruits, Bing cherries, baking spices, black tea, espresso and dried herbs. Full-bodied, fresh and with magnificent purity of fruit, it is structured with plentiful fine-grained tannins and a complementary aliquot of creamy oak. Impressively dense on the mid-palate and finishing with equally impressive length, this is truly a special wine that is well worthy of its accolades. Although delicious now, it should further improve with a bit more time in the cellar. Drink 2021-2033.

Flight 13 - Tuesday, July 2 (0 notes)

Catching an early morning flight to the U.S., we had a comfortable trip aboard an American Airlines Boeing 777, ultimately arriving in Las Vegas in the early evening. We were a bit tired but extremely content with a fantastic trip that had no major glitches.

Closing

Our family's trip to Italy will forever be remembered as a special time together. Rome and Tuscany were impressively scenic, and the Italian people could not have been more hospitable. We hope that at some point the stars will again align and all four of us will be able to enjoy another adventure.

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