Well, there's nothing like some incredibly horrible news (not related to my health, don't worry), and jet lag to get you up at 3:00am. So I took Pauline's advice, and wrote up another entry to take my minds off things. I still need to upload my photos (and Chris's and Andrew's) from the cameras but will do that later today and may go back and pepper some of these posts with them. Anyway, here's part of Day 5 at Avignonesi.
After meeting Dorit and her friend, who had been staying in San Quirico, for breakfast at Bar Alle Logge (by the way, Dorit, you missed Chris by five minutes), we hit the road for Avignonesi. Now, I have to say, we left a bit late as two of our party, who shall remain nameless (A&K), slept in, just a bit – let’s call it delayed jet lag.
I actually arranged today’s activity through our SlowTrav Classified (#3311) which I no longer see listed (but I’ve contacted IB to see why it’s no longer there). Anyway, you can get the info off Avignonesi’s web site – Common Table. We headed out in the direction of Montepulciano, and me, not realizing how far out the Fattoria, Le Cappezzine is (it’s past Montepulciano Stazione and Valiano), we arrived about 15 minutes late. But no worries, the other couples (two other Americans staying near Siena), got lost in the “Black Hole of Siena” and arrived late too.
Shoot – see this is what happens when you don’t take notes, I do not remember our guide's name but she was a lovely young woman who speaks excellent English (well, her and the big white sheep dog from the Maremma that tagged along as well. Her name I remember, Bella).
We started first in the vineyards between the property and the main house, identifying two different methods for growing the vines, the more traditional and a newer method that allows the vines to grow almost like an individual bush. They produce less grapes this way, though more concentrated, but can have more vines within the same area, allowing for the same yield in production.
After the vineyards, we hit the wine cellars, saw the lovely oak caskets (yes, I now know the difference between Slovenian oak and French Oak - the big ones are Slovenian ; D – though this may also be the winery we visited that used American oak, yeah I think it is), then we saw the room where they dry the Vin Santo grapes. Avignonesi is a bit famous for its Vin Santo but we’ve never tried it (can you say expensive? It goes for over $100 for a 1/2 size bottle) and had hopes for a sip today, but no such luck. Anyway, after learning about the 10 year process it takes to make their Vin Santo, I guess I do get why the high price tag. That’s an awful lot of time and space invested in something that won’t pay off for ten years.
After our tour, we got down to the serious business, lunch. Let me just go on record, right here, right now, this was one of the best wine-meal experiences I’ve ever had, no let me correct that, probably the best.
We entered the small dining room, where two long tables were set for four each (our two groups toured together but after the antipasti, dined separate). At one end of the room, a fire roared, and there were some chairs gathered all around it. There we sat, enjoying a cool fruity sauvignon blanc (who knew an Italian winery made a sauvignon blanc – oh, and I really enjoyed it; it would be great in summer), while we munched on salami made from Cinta Sinese pigs, Pecorino cheese from Pienza, some of the best foccacia ever (a nice change from the saltless Tuscan breast), and a bruschetta topped with some just harvested greens that were amazing.
Now, let me tell you a pet peeve I have about some wine dinners, the tiny, un-refilled pour. I’ve been to a few where the glass gets barely a two-ounce pour and never shall the wine be seen again. Okay – I get the whole moderation thing, but don’t charge me over $100 for a wine dinner, and barely give me eight ounces of wine over the course of the evening.
Happy to say, not so here, almost to the point where it was too much. The moment someone emptied a glass, it seemed as if the Chef (chef and server all in one), was back, refilling – poor Chris, of course, he being the driver, had to pace himself, but I’d say the other three enjoyed a bit much.
Anyway, after our co-mingled antipasti in front of the fire, we went to our separate tables where we were served a pasta dish along with their Chardonnay – sort of strange pairing but that was a strong Chardonnay and could handle the tomato and cauliflower sauce on the pasta (cooked perfectly by the way). About halfway through the pasta course, the Montepulciano Nobile made an appearance. Now Chris and I love the Nobile, a blend predominately of Prugnolo Gentile (aka Sangiovese) but as we learned over the course of the week, Andy and Katy prefer the “Super Tuscans” or cabernet blends, though we’re anxious for them to visit next week so we can introduce them to an older Brunello (now that they’ve been drinking young ones for a week, we want them to see what they can become).
After the pasta course, we were served a pork roast dish, along with some of the best roast potatoes (large chunks of caramelized potatoes) and a salad that were all good. With this course, they served another bottle, their Desiderio, a Merlot-Cabernet blend, grown in the “Cortona” province (literally though, right across a dirt road from the Montepulciano province where the nobile grapes are grown).
For dessert, they served an espresso-flavored crème caramel along with a dessert wine, not produced by Avignonesi but distributed by them (bummer again on the lack of Vin Santo but I get it). The dessert wine was pretty good though, an orange-honey flavor that I enjoyed.
Lastly, we had espresso and some of their grappa made from the remains of the vin santo grape, that I had hoped would be a bit sweet or that we would like, but again, no such luck on the grappa. It still is not my favorite beverage though I can stomach it now.
Finally, over four hours after arriving, we rolled out of there, stopped by the store to make some purchases (bummer, no olive oil yet, they’re just starting to harvest), and after playing with two of the local basset hounds (adorable), we hit the road. We all felt this entire afternoon was well worth what we paid and probably one of the best experiences of the trip.