The Tuscany wine region has been on my list of places to visit for quite some time now. Even though we'd been to Florence during our honeymoon 20+ years ago, we'd never explored the surrounding wine regions.
Although our time in Florence was still short this time, our excellent tour guides from our last Piedmont trip (Travel Langhe) recommended their friends Deb and Massi from Italy Unfiltered. Massi (who's Italian) and his wife/business partner Deb (who's American but now lives in Italy) worked with us to design a custom itinerary that included their recommendations as well as our own suggestions.
Deb was our main point of contact during the planning stage, and she was great. Super organized, responsive, and flexible. On the day of the tour, Massi came and picked us up and spent the whole day with us.
The drive out to the Chianti Wine Region from Florence takes about 45 minutes, and the views are stunning once you get into wine country.
Massi knew we loved taking photos, so sometimes at various spots along the drive he would just stop the car and let us get out to take some photos. We were blessed with amazing sunshine and lovely weather overall, so the views were amazing.
First Stop: Montefioralle
Montefioralle is an ancient village nestled in the hills above Greve in Chianti, right between Florence and Siena. This tiny, tiny village is virtually car-free and still retains its original fort-like walls.
Some say it is one of the most beautiful villages in Italy. It's really small and very walkable, and so very quaint and pretty all around. We spent about 20 minutes exploring and taking photos of the village itself as well as the surrounding vistas.
Stunning views of the surrounding mountains from every angle!
Second Stop: Altiero Vineyard
Deb and Massi have built up relationships with many winemakers in the region over the years they have lived in Italy. They try to seek out more unique, off-the-beaten-path experiences for people who take their tours.
We met the winemakers of Altiero in Chianti. Altiero is a small production organic winery that only produces around 15,000 bottles per year. It was cool to get up and personal with this family and learn more about their winery.
Samuela, the winemaker, shared with us about the long process it took for them to become DOC certified. In Italy, DOC certification ensures that a wine is made in a particular geographical area and using a certain production method.
On top of that, the wine has to pass a taste test for a certain quality standard. It takes years to achieve and lots of paperwork and waiting. For this family, it took them nearly 12 years.
After an educational tour of the winery itself, we began tasting wine on their magnificent patio with unparalleled views of the Chianti wine region below.
We enjoyed the wines and thought the prices were very reasonable. Best yet, they shipped to Hong Kong! So we ordered a case of 12 and asked then to ship it to us when we arrived back in Hong Kong!
P.S. They ended up delivering it early, so it arrived while we were serving out our 3-week quarantine. We drank several bottles in quarantine!
Third Stop: Lunch + Vertical Tasting at Castello di Ama
This third part of the tour was our request. When Bryan's best friend found out we were traveling to Italy, he (perhaps half jokingly) told us we should try to taste a vertical of Castello di Ama's flagship wine, the Bella Vista.
I asked Deb and Massi if they could arrange it for us, and guess what? They did! They arranged for us to have a winery tour, lunch, and the vertical tasting at Castello di Ama. So fun!
The Restaurant: Il Ristoro di Villa Pianigiani
We began with a lovely pasta lunch at the winery restaurant, which was delicious! Of course they serve their own wine, and it was tempting to try several even before our official wine tasting.
The freshly made pastas were excellent, and we did enjoy a glass of their wine (just a taste!) during the lunch together with the pastas.
The Winery Tour
Next we took a private tour of the winery.
Very different from Altiero, Castello di Ama is a much bigger operation. At the time of the tour they were just putting on the finishing touches on their brand new, gorgeous tasting space.
The surrounding views are stunning, with olive trees, rows of grapevines, and mountains in the distance.
The tasting was really, really fun, and we did get to try both a number of different Castello di Ama wines, as well as a mini vertical of their flagship, the Vigneto Bellavista. We tried the 2006, 2007, and 2011.
We also tried the L'Apparita 2008 and Vigneto La Casuccia 2011.
We decided to buy some Vigneto Bellavista as well as some other more "casual" wines for everyday drinking. Yes, they ship to Hong Kong as well!
As we were winding up the tasting, i noticed the magnificent sunset right outside the window. I ran outside with my camera and managed to grab a few shots before the sun went down.
Dario Cecchini - Antica Macelleria Cecchini
Our last stop was at celebrity butcher Dario Cecchini's famous steak shop (and restaurant) in Chianti. Dario Cecchini has been features on Netflix's Chef's Table as well as BBC's Food Programme. He's an 8th generation butcher who strongly believes in traditional methods and art of butchery.
"You're from Hong Kong?" His eyes lit up.
"I'll be opening something in Hong Kong soon."
He slipped us his business card, which included a tiny bag of Florentine steak spices.
We promised to visit his new Hong Kong venture as soon as it opened.
We couldn't stay for dinner, unfortunately (oh how fun it would have been!), but he did gift us a few larger bags of his special Florentine steak spice to try.
Chianti Wine Region Tour
We had a great time with Italy Unfiltered. We opted for a guaranteed private tour, which cost 200 Euros per person for the whole day (pick up 9AM / drop off around 6PM). We could have opted for a semi-private tour (180 Euros per person), which means there's a chance we would be paired up with another couple. I guess since it was Covid times we wanted to be cautious, so we opted for the guaranteed tour. This also allowed us to customize our itinerary, swapping out certain things for the Castello di Ama tour that we did.
I really felt like I only got a tiny taste of the Chianti wine region. The wine region is beautiful, much like other wine regions I've visited in Italy. I would love to come back and explore more, but then there are so many other wine regions to visit!
In any event, it's an easy day trip from Florence (only 45 minute drive), so if you're going to be in Florence, it's not a huge deal to take a day off and tour around the wine region. Joining a private tour means you can drink more wine and not worry about driving!
We had an amazing time, and I would opt for a private tour again if I came. Italy Unfiltered was great! (This is totally not sponsored. In fact, they have no idea I am writing this post).