Today is wine tasting day.
We are bound and determined. We’ve got out little rental Clio and we are heading out into the Chianti region of Tuscany and we are going to find wines and drink them.
And then we are going to drive to the next place that makes wines and drink them.
We start our day with a lazy morning, a long shower and an early lunch. We drove around Poggibonsi for a while before finding what appeared to be a small café open for lunch. We sat down, ordered some wine and some appetizers and settled into our nice little café. It seemed a bit strange, but we couldn’t exactly pin what was weird about it. When we arrived, there was no one else there except a group of paramedics sitting outside at a table. We saw no ambulance nearby, but didn’t think anything of it. We ate some amazing pasta and pizza and felt sufficiently stuffed.
As we glanced over, a group of doctors sat down at the table two over from us. While we were closing out, I walked outside to use my phone and noticed that there was a table of nurses sitting outside where the paramedics had been before.
And then, all at once, I figured out where we were. I looked across a little courtyard to see a giant green blinking cross, a pharmacy. Next to it and on top of it, a big 6 or so story building with a man being wheeled in by a nurse. And I turn back to our lunch spot café to see another 4 or so story building on top of it with several handicap accessible ramps.
We were eating a glamorous Tuscan lunch at…. a hospital cafeteria.
Whatever, it was still delicious.
So we drove out of Poggibonsi and onto the highway we needed which only appeared to be going in one direction. We drove for about an hour without seeing a single winery sign and were feeling quite defeated. Our b&b owner had given us a map with directions and lots of pin points of wineries we should try, but we had seen none of them.
And here begins the story of how we got lost for the second time in two days while driving around Italy. We got on the highway in the wrong direction and had been meandering our way towards the wrong coast.
Once our mistake had been realized (and we stopped at some random vineyard to literally pick the grapes off their vines and eat them) we turned around and headed in the right direction. As soon as we passed Poggibonsi, going in the right direction this time, we started noticing dozens of little wineries off the main road. Most of them were closed, as it was just after the big harvest and we were at the beginning of the quiet season. However, Jacopo had given us a list of open wineries. We trudged down the path of one such winery, a VERY steep one way gravel road winding through olive trees. As we’re going down one of the hills, I realize, we are going to have some serious trouble getting back up the hill. But as we were already half way down it, I figured, we might as well get some wine before we have to try.
After all that. We reach a closed gate with all kinds of signs pointing us to turn around. Which would be awesome, if we happened to be driving a Jeep, or hadn’t just driven 3 hours to our first vineyard. Now I’m starting to think, that with our luck, there is no way in hell we are ever going to make it back up the hill.
In a moment of desperation, I literally just floor it. I come around a corner going about 40 mph and just hope that momentum will carry us up. The traction lights are going NUTS in the car, we can hear the tires spinning like mad and we can see the top, but I really think we’re not going to make it. But. We do, somehow and as I try to remain calm and pretend like what I had just done WASN’T some feat fitted for a stunt driver, we round the corner to find our first open vineyard.
What we stumbled upon wasn’t what I was expecting. It was a small room on the side of the industrial looking building with the huge vats of wine in different states of production. We had two olive oils to taste and about 4 different wines. We were just so happy to be somewhere not in the car, we bought about 6 bottles between us and ate about 3 loaves of bread. I maybe almost offered to take home the gorgeous man in an apron chatting outside also.
From here, our luck got better. We drove around stopping at little places, tasting and snapping lots of photos. We ended our wine tasting extravaganza at Il Borgo di Vignale outside of Castellina en Chianti which was a gorgeous complex with a large wine cellar and bar. We sat there and tasted for about 2 hours. Maybe more. And bought about 3 cases of wine to be shipped back to the states. We got cheeses, snacks and had a great Italian host as he walked us through all the wines, gave us lots of free glasses and introduced us to everyone else that worked at the place. Jennifer even got a ride down on a wine crate dolly with some old guy. Really. Our new best friend (and facebook friend, as we all iphoned each other at the bar) sent us down the road to Radda for dinner to a cute little in-the-middle-of-nowhere restaurant. Here we really capped off our evening with some amazing food and, you guessed it, more wine.
Now, as you can imagine, we’ve probably drunk two bottles of wine each by this point, granted over the course of about 12 hours. What this meant was that Jennifer, Erin and Emily were essentially passed out as I attempted to drive us back to Poggibonsi in the dark on the windy Chianti roads. Many of which are one lane or around sharp bends with no shoulders and big drop offs. In addition, I don’t know why, but Italians drive like they are all constantly on a racetrack. Including but not limited to, pulling up next to you and revving their engine, passing you at astronomical speeds then letting you pass them, tailing you for way too long, and just general craziness. Now, I’m not a timid driver, but I was semi-drunk and in a place I was unfamiliar with. I was not about to pick a drag race with Mario Andretti.
We did arrive home in 4 separate but whole pieces, and then did what any 4 single girls in Italy should, we popped open a couple of the 30 bottles of wine we bought that day, and sat in our hotel getting drunk(er) and talking about boys.
So predictable. As is this picture with Jennifer and an old man who worked at the winery and didn’t speak English.