One fine example of the connections that give me special inside entry to private tours, tastings, parties lunches and dinners with the winemakeror the proprietors of wine estates around the world would be a fabulously
memorable lunch I had with Conti Sebastiani Capponi and his brother
Conti Nicolo Capponi at their families estate Greve, Italy, the Villa Calcinaia
which was purchased by the noble Capponi family in 1524.
Villa Calcinaia was once a Florentine outpost on the medieval road of Greve.
The Capponi’s have been producing wonderful wine, olive oil, and vinegars
since the Renaissance. I will always remember the lunch I shared with Conti Sebastiani and Nicolo Capponi one beautiful Spring day a few years back. Nicolo gave us a whimsical tour of the vineyards and its cellars. We first started in the beautiful old kitchen of the villa which apart from the gas stove looks almost exactly as it has for over 500 years, incredible. Before we started on our sojourn of the cellars of Villa Calcinaia, Niccolo treated us to some the extraordinary Salami and Prosciutto that they make on the estate, soley for the Capponi family consumption, along with any guest who are lucky enough to partake as well. It was quite an especially unique treat, eating the private artisnal Capponi Family Salumi while sipping their superb Chianti in the medieval kitchen as the house cook was grilling veal in the ancient fireplace, the veal that would be the main-course of our glorious lunch.
Nicolo then took us through the labyrinth of the Calcinaia Cellars and into a room where the Capponi's have a 300 year old mother. Yes that's right, a "300 Year Old Mother."
A Mother is the starting process of making vinegar and it can be kept alive for hundreds of years, thus in this case, a 300 year old one, so they say. The vinegar it produces is exceptional.
Nicolo then led us into the adjacent room and proclaimed, "These are from Ali Baba."
What Nicolo was referring to, were large terra cotta vessels where the estates fine Tuscan Olive Oil are stored before bottling, and by the way, they do look as they may very well
come from the caves of Ali Baba himself.
The Count (Conti) then led the way to the fermentation room where the pressed Sangiovese grapes make the estates fine Chianti, as well as their amazing Vino Santo made from Trebbiano of Calcinaaia.
From the fermentation room we went into the cellars where Chianti was being aged in large Slovenian Oak Cask. We took barrel samples out of the 1994 Chianti Reserva and the Chianti Classico 1995 as well. And yes, they were quite tasty to say the least.
The Road to Calcinaia
After barrel-tasting the Chianti, Niccolo brought us into the room where
thousands of bunches of Trebbiano grapes were hanging from nails on beams
so they could dry out before being turned into the lush nectar of Tuscan
Vin Santo which we would be drinking later on to finish off our unforgettable lunch.
Conti Niccolo then led us outside to the Capponi vineyards and to their herb
and vegetable garden in back of the castle.
After seeing the garden and walking through the vines of Sangiovese we joined
up with Niccolo’s brother Conti Sebastiano Capponi in a beautiful little dining
room for our incredible lunch to come.
The dining room was decorated in the perfect combination of country elegance of
which was unchanged for some 500 years.
We started this wonderful meal with an antipasto misto of Crostini Toscano,
Prosciutto, and roast peppers. The antipasto was followed by a simple but tasty
We were served the Veal that we had observed being roasted by the cook previously,
along with some sautéed escarole from the garden.
We then followed the Veal with some Pecorino Toscano while enjoying the
Capponi’s great Chianti throughout the meal.
For desert we ate succulent Oranges while sipping on the extraordinary
Calcinaia Vin Santo which to me is the best expression of this famous Tuscan
dessert wine that I have ever tasted, ever better than the superb Avognesi Vin Santo
1990 which received the highest score possible for any wine, a 100 from the
Wine Spectator. The Vin Santo from Villa Calcinaia is perfectly balanced with
the sweetness of ripe Pears and Apricots, with hints of Wild Flowers and Walnuts
and at the finish, utterly Perfecto!
This meal was one of the most memorable of my life, dining with the
Capponi’s in a lovely dining room in the Castel
which dates back to the Renaissance, at the Villa Calcinaia in the
heart Chianti Classico, drinking their fabulous wine with our meal,
it was an experience that not many people ever get the chance to do,
On the third day in Panzano we went to visit the stunning wine estate of
This estate has quite a history behind it. La Gioconda (Mona Lisa) was
born at this stately villa, and the painting is believed to been painted by
DaVinci on the grounds of Vignamaggio.
The estate is absolutely beautiful. If you look at the background of
the painting Mona Lisa you will get an idea of the beauty of the estate and
the panoramas you see from its various vantage points, they are spectacular.