Any visit to Tuscany is worthy of your time, but if you love Brunello di Montalcino wines, then a stay near the town of Montalcino is a must!
We’ve been to the region a number of times and never tire of the area. The food, the wine and the warm Italian people make for special memories. One of the highlights in the small town of Montalcino is the wine tasting at a tiny wine bar tucked into the corner of a century’s old castle called Enoteca La Forteza. You can’t miss it—at least the castle that is. You have to walk into the courtyard to spot the wine bar on the opposite side. More on La Forteza in a moment.
Our most memorable winery visit this time was at esteemed Biondi Santi, a legendary wine among Brunello fans. Sadly, Franco Biondi Santi passed away shortly before our visit. He was 91 years old– known as the patriarch of Brunello di Montalcino. Mr. Biondi Santi was a staunch traditionalist who believed Brunello wines should always be 100% Sangiovese and aged for five years before being released. His wines consistently receive outstanding ratings, and when you taste Biondi Santi’s Brunello, you’ll understand why it’s considered the standard bearer for all Brunello.
Jacopo Biondi Santi, Franco’s son, is now in charge of the winery. He is also making wonderful wines in the Maremma on Tuscany’s coast. Jacopo was kind enough to sit in on our tasting.
Jacopo is a striking man and a very hospitable host. Biondi Santi’s wines are known to age well, and I was surprised to hear that Jocopo prefers not to decant the Brunello’s but only to open the bottle ahead of serving time.
Always an ongoing debate in our house about when to open the wine and how long to decant, I asked Jacopo for his preferences. According to Jocapo, open the Biondi Santi Rossos about four hours before serving, open the Brunellos about 6-8 hours before serving—no decanting.
Another of my all time favorite Brunello di Montalcinos is Cupano which is produced on a beautiful estate not far from Montalcino. Some years back, we had the pleasure of spending time at the winery with Cupano’s owner and winemaker Lionel Cousin. So yes, Cupano is a sentimental favorite, but I’m not alone in loving these wines. Cupano is also one of the most highly acclaimed Brunello wines in the region. I’ve yet to see it available in the United States.
At La Forteza, the charming wine bar I mentioned earlier, you can taste Cupano and just about every wine producer’s product in the region.
These comprehensive tastings offer a great opportunity to compare and contrast the wines to zero in on your favorites. You can also buy wine to be shipped home.
Our hotel on this trip was amazing – Castello di Velona. This centuries old castle sits atop a hill in the beautiful region and offers every modern amenity imaginable and a breathtaking view. You can see for miles!
The management team was wonderful…Sabrina, the GM, and Serena, were delightful to work with! It was no surprise to find out that Castello di Velona is listed as a member of the exclusive Small Luxury Hotels of the World, a select group of outstanding hotels known for their beauty and exquisite service.
The rooms in the castle are wonderful—each unique and incredibly comfortable and spacious.
The Castello di Velona’s gorgeous pools (indoor and outdoor) are fed with thermal waters from thousands of feet below the surface. These waters are loaded with minerals and are said to possess healing properties. They are incredibly moisturizing I can tell you that! Some of the rooms even offer the thermal waters in the shower and bath—amazing!
The property also has a beautiful, large spa. (One of the best massages I’ve ever had was here!) I’m told people travel from all over the world to visit the spa and indulge in the thermal waters it offers. Castello di Velona is truly a special spot!
Once again, a big shout-out to my friends at AT&T – between their wifi service and my iPhone we had the perfect navigation tools for finding our way on the winding Tuscan roads. Also, a nice reference for exploring wineries in Italy is the Michelin Wine Trails of Italy.