Monday, June 25, 2012

Remembering Tuscany

One of my all-time favourite family vacations, not surprisingly, is our trip to Italy in 2009. We spent nearly three weeks in late September-early October, in Rome, Tuscany, and Venice, and it was our first overseas trip with the kids.

It was a promise I had fulfilled to the girls after Lori and I went to Italy, without them, in 2004.

The highlight of the trip was when we spent a week in Tuscany. We had rented an agritourisma (farm cottage) just to the north of Siena, just inside the Chianti region, between Poggibonsi and Castellina in Chianti; one of my favourite Italian wine regions.

The agritourisma we rented was owned by a young farmer named Antonio. His villa was set on a hillside that overlooked a valley, the medieval hill town of San Gimignano visible on the ridge on the other side. Every day, we would tour the countryside, exploring some of the regional towns, only to return to our home away from home, where we would go for a cool swim in an outdoor infinity pool that also overlooked the valley. Afterwards, we would prepare a homemade dinner and eat it on the patio, near the pool, and watch the sun set over San Gimignano.

It was absolute paradise.

Antonio had rows and rows of olive groves, from which he produced incredible olive oil. In fact, the "cottage" we stayed in was at one time used to press the olives. Antonio supplied our kitchen with a bottle of extra-virgin olive oil, and before we left Tuscany we made sure to purchase a fresh bottle to take back to Canada.

Antonio also had rows and rows of vines, and he grew Sangiovese grapes that he supplied to one of the local wineries. These vineyards came right up to the back of our cottage (see the photo, above), and on one morning, before we headed to Florence, I took our youngest daughter through the mist-covered rows to show her the luscious grapes, days away from harvest (pictured left).

I plucked a grape or two and sucked the sweet juice and pulp out of the skins. I handed one to Lainey and encouraged her to do the same. "Will I get drunk?" she asked me, thinking that these grapes were full of wine (she was only five at the time).

"Only drunk on love," I told her as she took the grape.

Antonio supplied our cottage with a couple of bottles of the wine—not grape juice—in our kitchen, which we were free to enjoy if we wanted to buy them. On one evening, as we watched yet another gorgeous sun set upon the hills across the valley, we opened one and savoured the fabulous wine, and at that moment decided to pay the winery a visit before we left the region.

The winery was Casa Emma. We ended our tour by buying a couple of bottles of their 2004 vintage, the year that Lori and I first went to Tuscany.

This weekend, more than two-and-a-half years after our trip, I was in my local LCBO, looking for a beer to try and review, and I also checked into the vintages section, where I came across our beloved Casa Emma.

The vintage was 2009: the same grapes that Antonio was growing and that I ate on that memorable trip. And so I decided right then and there that I wasn't going to write a beer review this week. Instead, I thought I would reflect on our trip and review this wine.

So here we go.
Chianti Classico 2009
Barberino Val D'Elsa, Italy
LCBO Vintages: $18.95; 14% ABV
This wine garners a deep, rich garnet colour with great legs that told me that the alcohol level was substantial. This is a big red.

On the nose, the richness continued: intense ripe cherries and black pepper, with a hint of alcohol. But more than anything, the fruit comes through and told me that while you could enjoy a glass today, this wine could easily stand another five years on its side.

On the palate, this Chianti is very well balanced between the fruit, tannins, and alcohol. The flavour was incredible. Easily, you can drink this wine now, enjoy it with a barbecued Filet Mignon, or save it and enjoy it when the tannins settle down.

If you love big, luscious, flavourful Italian reds, grab yourself a few bottles of this one: some to enjoy over the summer, others to hang on to in the coming years.

But don't even bother trying to find any this week in the LCBO in Barrhaven: I cleaned them out. I plan to enjoy these bottles as I reminisce over my photos from our vacation.



  1. This trip looks absolutely amazing! I also stayed at a Tuscany villa rental once last summer and its great to see I wasn't the only one enjoying the local wineries. I think its great you were able to experience living like one of the locals, that's something I would love to go back and experience.

    1. Thanks, Alex. Tuscany is a place I would never tire of visiting. Just the other night, one of my kids whined, "I miss Tuscany! Can we go back someday?" Absolutely!

      I provided a link to the place where we stayed. I can't recommend it enough. Antonio was an awesome host and has the most beautiful view in Chianti. If you do go back, stay there.