Winetasting is one of my favorite activities. Perhaps this is because I grew up with wine- my father works for a wine distribution company and my childhood was peppered with his tastings and winery visits. Wine is an art, an expression of culture and agriculture, the past and the present, the land and the winemaker.
Two summers ago, my high school best friend and I backpacked through Italy. We did not have a plan, but met in Rome with the vague intention of working our way either north, to Cinque Terre, or south, to the Amalfi Coast. Since Cinque Terre offered more stopping points along the way, we took that route, and only realized that we were in Chianti after a few days in Siena. Since both of us are lovers of vino, we decided that we should make an effort to taste. I emailed my dad, with the hope that he would respond with a list of winemakers who would love to take us on a tour, but was met with the sad response that all of his connections were at the beach, as it was August after all, and really, isn’t that where we should be?
On a whim, I emailed a woman I’d worked for the previous summer, one of the Senior VPs of the company (and also, coincidentally, a Wellesley woman!), and we found this approach far more successful. On our last night in Siena, I got a call with details of what bus to take from Florence, and the promise that he, Tim, the winemaker, would be there to pick us up.
We made our way north to Florence, and then hopped on a local bus. Although the bus was filled with the sort of local color you expect, and stopped every five minutes, the hour-long journey itself was so beautiful, it seemed photoshopped.
The winemaker was indeed there to pick us up, and he was the sort of big-hearted, fatherly American that any travel-weary 21-year old would be thrilled to see. He drove us to the winery, Il Molino di Grace, (which literally means “Windmill of Grace”), regaling us with tales of living in Panzano as a transplant American, the history of the hundreds-year old vines, the Etruscan paths that run through the property.
We finally reached the winery, full of the sort of rustic beauty that you expect in Tuscany, and began our tour, including the barrel and tasting rooms. I’ve always loved barrel rooms, but this one was truly fantastic, long and dark, reminiscent of the history that Tim had told us about.
I’m not sure how many wines we opened that day, but the Sangioveses and Chianti Classicos flowed freely. Tim took us back to the bus stop, where we wandered the tiny village, and wondered what other gems we were missing out on because they were not large enough to have their own hostel, for Greve in Chianti was truly one of the most charming towns I have ever visited.