The Holy Grail of Wining & Dining in Tuscany?

That last thing you really want to read about is the food and wine Tim and I experienced in Tuscany. But perhaps you’d want a hot tip? You know, for your upcoming trip to Italy? There’s no question you need to visit Montepulciano. And when in Montepulciano pull out all the stops and have perhaps the best dining experience in Tuscany at Ristorante La Grotta (San Biagio, Montepulciano. Tel: 0578 758354 Closed Wednesdays, and Jan-Feb.).

I’m not going to bore you with the Rabbit, Pici, Chianina beef, Tiramasu and other classic traditional Tuscan treats we sampled. But I will go on a bit about the wine. An amazing selection for this evenings meal:

  1. 2000 Poggio alle Gazze (the last of the white Ornellia, since Mondavi partnered with this operation this vineyard has been pulled and replaced with Cabernet, how sad)
  2. 1997 Percarlo San Giusto A Rentennamo
  3. 1988 Avignonesi Vin Santo

And no. We didn’t finish the evening with Grappa. The 1997 Percarlo is a pure 100% Sangiovese from the Chianti region. But don’t let the region fool you. This wine while light in color packs a full bodied punch with such elegance and flair you are taken back and while the wine coats your tongue and tickles your throat with its amazingly long finish. If I didn’t know this was sangiovese, I’d swear it had the complexity and mouth feel of a bordeaux varietal, but with finesse rarely found in a young wine from France or California. Many of my friends have yet to understand the Italian wines, other than the big California or French imitators (aka Super Tuscans). But the great indigenous to this part of Italy is Sangiovese. And many feel that to plant cabernet is to violate an ultimate truth. “What? You want the wines from Italy to taste as if they’re from California, France or Australia, merde!”

As for the 2000 Poggio alle Gazze, what can I say. This is a Sauvignon Blanc that perhaps also is a varietal better suited to Bordeaux or Napa. But to folks at Ornellia planted this grape many years ago to complement their highly rated and sought after Super Tuscan the almighty Ornellia. But what the hell. Mondavi came in and ripped out the vineyard to plant something else. Sangiovese you might think? Nah. Cabernet. So much for my discussion on indigenous culture. Ah. But the 1988 Avignonesi Vin Santo? We searched high and low for this wine. Every wine store and ristorante shook their heads and in the best broken English would tell us “all finish”. Ah. They meant it’s not available. Avignonese waits 10 years, which is 4 more than the typical aging period for a Vin Santo, per the DOC standards. But recently Avignonesi changed their production methods and will age future Vin Santo wines for 12 years. This put an additional strain on a production that barely yields 1,000 cases worldwide. But this wine was luscious and better than the best Chateau D’Yquem from Sauternes I’ve ever tasted. It’s certainly thicker. But that’s what happens to an d’Yquem after 50 years. But this wine was only 15 years old. More reasonable in my opinion. Caramel, creme brulee and honey flavors. Nectar. I’ve never been a huge desert wine fan. Sure, love the great Sauternes. But mostly I prefer Port. And I generally have a short glass of anything sweet and sticky that comes in a glass bottle. But this wine went on forever. And so did I when talking about it for the next several days.

I’m looking for more, so if you have a bottle let’s break bread!