Anyone else embarking on wine travel these days?
Not in the usual sense of wine travel, where you visit gorgeous wineries in exotic places. There’s not a lot of that happening, given all the COVID-related travel restrictions.
I mean drinking a wine and being transported to far-off places through the sensations on your palate.
I’m talking about pulling the cork and being whisked away to a foreign land by the bouquet. You close your eyes and with that first sip you can hear the Mediterranean breeze whispering through the olive trees.
And even though more and more borders are opening up around the world, it can also be thrilling to open a bottle of wine and experience a different kind of travel.
This happened recently when, upon perusing a recent Vintages release, I came upon a wine that we don’t see here very often.
The wine was the Fattoria Poggio Alloro Vernaccia di San Gimignano, and I was instantly transported to a warm September evening in Italy.
It was our last night in Tuscany, and we had booked a farm-to-table dinner at Fattoria Poggio Alloro, which had come highly recommended by my father.
[Sidenote for all you language nerds, fattoria means “farm” in Italian.]
Before making a reservation, I did a bit of research. Here’s a good summary for the visual learners:
Poggio Alloro is an organic farm in the heart of Tuscany run by the Fiorini family. The three Fiorini brothers acquired it in the mid 1950s, and it is now run by their children. They raise cattle, chickens, pigs, they have grape vines and olive groves, a huge variety of fruits and vegetables, as well as grains. Thirty years ago, the fattoria became an agriturismo accommodation, offering tourists a taste of life on the farm, both figuratively and literally. Everything that guests eat and drink, from the steak to the wine, is actually made at the farm. And it’s 100% organic.
Check out this gorgeous location overlooking the rolling Tuscan hills and the thirteen towers of San Gimignano in the distance.
Of course the night we went it was cloudy and foggy and looked like this instead.
The ominous threat of rain moved our al fresco dining experience inside to the long tables where the whole Fiorini family gathers for meals, giving our dinner an even more authentic feel.
The meal began, in typical Italian form, with the antipasti: cured salami and prosciutto, homemade bread fresh out of the oven, crostini with cheese and sausage, quiche and spelt and bean soup, all made with ingredients from the farm.
Many of these dishes were brought around twice, and were so delicious we seriously considered helping ourselves to seconds, but we also didn’t want to spoil our appetites, knowing there was oh-so much more on the way.
It goes without saying that all this food was accompanied by ever-flowing wine. The red was the house Chianti. And the white? The house Vernaccia di San Gimignano. Yes – the very same white that is now available at the LCBO! Vernaccia is grown all over Italy but Vernaccia di San Gimignano is unique to Tuscany and is even the region’s only white wine with DOCG status, Italy’s highest classification of quality.
These bottles were replenished quite often, making us wish we had taken a cab, and wondering if that even existed in the middle of the Tuscan countryside. Anyway, the photos get a bit fuzzy at this point. Let’s just blame poor lighting.
And then the meat course, accompanied by beautifully sautéed veggies with fresh herbs from the garden.
And lastly, the pièce de résistance, a chocolate mousse for dessert.
But we weren’t done yet! As a digestif, a bit of the farm’s own vin santo, served with cantuccini, Tuscan-style almond biscotti.
We aren’t normally nighttime coffee drinkers, but after a meal like that, it was necessary to ensure we didn’t fall asleep on our drive home!
Our dinner at Fattoria Poggio Alloro was definitely one of the highlights of our European adventure, and opening a bottle of Vernaccia di San Gimignano is like re-living this 10-course dining experience from the comfort of my own home, though I fear the food won’t quite live up to the memory.
Tuscany is certainly high on the list of places I want to re-visit once all this COVID craziness is a distant memory. What about you? Where will you go?
In the meantime, thank goodness for wine’s ability to transport us all around the world…without having to leave the house!