An Intriguing History of Tuscan Wine


The rolling hills of Tuscany are alive with endless rows of vines. In fact, wine is produced over most of the territory in this region of central Italy. The passion, gusto, and delightful flavors of the wine is directly related to the heart and soul of this beautiful land full of myths and legends. However, the historical truth is much more interesting. Read more

Captain Verrazzano’s Castle Wine Tour

The wine tour is about to begin….we gather ourselves on the front lawn of the old castle

Clouds rolled in on the morning of our wine tour of the Castello di Verrazzano Winery in Chianti. But no matter. After a sumptuous breakfast of fresh-baked coffee cakes, slabs of white cheese, meats, croissants and tasty jams in the castle, everyone gathered into a group on the spacious front lawn. The Castle rose elegantly above us, adorned by lush late-Renaissance gardens and an elegant fountain.

Mateo conducts wine tour
Matteo, our wonderfully expressive tour guide is dwarfed by some Verrazzano ‘big barrels’

We are greeted by Matteo, our wine guide for the tour, personally appointed by ‘Captain Verrazzano.’ (Giovanni da Verrazzano was an early explorer and merchant born in the castle and covered in my previous post, Tuscany’s Castle Winery Leaves a Dashing Legacy). Matteo instantly won our attention and affection by his approachable, enthusiastic and humorous personality. Brimming full of pertinent information about the Verrazzano Estate, as well as the intriguing history surrounding the family, he kept us greatly entertained.

We walked down ancient mysterious corridors
We walked down mysterious corridors…..

The castle cellar was dungeon-like with small rooms off the passageway. I saw boar’s legs of prosciutto hanging from the ceiling as I looked through the bars of a door. In another were huge terracotta amphorae full of Verrazzano extra-virgin olive oil from olives grown on the estate.

Procuitto hanging in small cell

Another product of the castle, miele (honey), is produced from beehives placed on the estate, gathered and sold in jars. Vinegar, also, is made from the natural acetic fermentation of Verrazzano wines, then aged in oak barrels for three months.

The barrell room where the exquisite Verrazzano wines age to perfection
The barrel room where the exquisite Verrazzano wines age to perfection. 

Ahhh...Vinsanto , the Holy Wine. Aged in small barrels, this wine is made from the Trebbiano and Malvasia grapes, gently mashed after a long drying.

Verrazzano Balsamic Vinegar is aged in these tiny barrels for up to twelve years. It is made by slow fermentation and acidification of the Trebbiano grape, cooked over a fire without any other substance added. We have a sampling and it is wonderful. It is thick and syrupy, yet elegantly flavored and not piercing like some I have bought in the stores back home. The texture is velvety and it is aromatically infused from the several kinds of wood from the barrels.

Musty wine storage-some of the fine aging wines of Verrazzano

Castello di Verrazzano makes several wines from the grapes grown on their estate. Vin Santo, the ‘Holy Wine,’ is made from the Trebbiano and Malvasia grapes, gently mashed after a long drying. Here at the estate, the strands of white grapes are hung up to dry. As they dehydrate, the sugar becomes more concentrated and perfect for the dessert wine.

Donna Clara is another white wine, made from Trebbiano, Toscano, and Gewurztraminer grapes. This aromatic, balanced and medium-bodied wine is pale yellow.

Bottiglia Particolare, Sassello and of course, Chianti Riserva are the Verrazzano Estates famous red wines made of Sangiovese blends.

Grappa di Verrazzano is produced by distillation of steam with the discontinuous method of fresh grapes of the Chianti Classico vineyards of the Castle.

Trebbiano and Malvasia grapes hanging to dry for Vin Santo wine.
Trebbiano and Malvasia grapes hanging to dry for Vin Santo wine.
Tasting of the wine in the depths of the Castle cellar
We all 'belly up to the bar' as Mateo pours wine and humours us

Afterward, we wind our way back outside of the castle and over to the big spacious tasting room which is held in a part of their restaurant.

The wine tasting afterward when we all emerge above ground.
Some of the people sitting at my table examine wine just poured as Matteo describes the varietal. Plates of bread lavishly spread with Castello di Verrazzano olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt arrived as an accompaniment. It disappeared in no time, as did the wine!
Some of the tasty Verrazzano wines!

We wound up our tour and raised a glass to each other’s most excellent health for the coming year. Castello di Verrazzano has left a memory of historical intrigue, medieval wonder, the beauty of vineyards and rolling hills with castle tops, and some delicious wine primed to perfection over the centuries. Salute!

Castello Da Verrazzano in Chianti
Castello Di Verrazzano in Chianti

*Via Castello di Verrazzano, 1, 50022 Greve in Chianti FI, Italy

Have you had the pleasure of touring a castle winery? What is your favorite memory about a winery tour? I’d love to hear your thoughts so please feel free to leave a comment below.

‘Italy in the Valley’ Comes to Oregon

Franco shows off his bottle of Marchesi wine
Franco Marchesi shows off his bottle of Marchesi wine. 

Italy in the Valley LogoGrey skies did little to dampen the enthusiasm of the  attendees at Italy in the Valley, the fifth annual celebration hosted and held at Cana’s Feast Winery here in Northwest Oregon wine country. The afternoon showcased Italian varietals and the wineries producing them. Winemakers and representatives from each of the twelve wineries present poured numerous samplings of wine while introducing their vintages and answering a flow of questions.

Sharing a glass with friends
Sharing a glass of wine with friends

Everyone tends to associate Oregon with Pinot Noir, but although a lot of it is made, there are a whole lot of Italian varietals being produced as well. Most of the grapes are purchased from southern Oregon or Eastern Washington, and these wineries are making them locally. Cana’s Feast produces a wonderful Nebbiolo, Sangiovese and Primitivo. This winery is a top-notch establishment, hosting events that support the Oregon wine community with finesse and a big heart. Not only are the grounds beautiful, the view is breathtaking. I sat on the lawn with a glass of Sangiovese taking in a view that went for miles.

2013-08-25 12.52.54
Cana’s Feast Winery before the Line-up

There are over 400 wineries operating in Oregon alone, and the numbers are growing. This event gives the smaller vintner a chance to share their wine with the community. I must say that I was exceedingly impressed with the taste and quality of these little-known wineries that have a lot to share. Their enthusiasm, knowledge and TLC of their wines came through with great success.

2013-08-25 14.07.45
Ponzi makes a delightful wine, but so does Marchesi, and Troon, and Tartan, and…..I just cannot decide.

Some of the smaller places such as Tartan Winery poured a great Dolcetto and Pinot Gris Rose, while another winery, Angel Vines, introduced me to a nice, full-bodied Primitivo. Apolloni was there with their Soleggio which is their Super Tuscan.

2013-08-25 12.45.17

Marchesi Vineyards from nearby Hood River brought a splash of color to the event. Their wine was outstanding. The Buja Nen Nebbiolo ’10 is a muscular wine that has finesse and elegance. It won Best of Class 2013 winner of the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. They also poured Anjola Pinot Grigio ’10, made of all Columbia Gorge grapes. A crisp white with peach and honey undertones, I found it to be the perfect summer wine.

Cana's Feast Bocce Court
Cana’s Feast Website Photo
Sandy & Franco from Marchesi Winery in Hood River

Troon, a winery from Southern Oregon, produces a wine from the white grapes of Sardinia and Liguria called Vermentino, made with 91% Vermentino grapes. It held its own to being a light, crisply acidic white with a lot of flavor and a smooth feel in the mouth. Stag Hollow, a winery closer to home and one I hadn’t heard of before, poured an impressive Dolcetto ’10 Red that they termed, “the working mans wine.” It won the Gold Medal 2012 Oregon Award.

The afternoon wound down with good cheer on the part of all. We each established new friendships and a vast knowledge of Oregon Wineries and their incredibly distinct wine.

What can I add to the end of a sensational day but a toast to everyone: Alla Salute!