Wednesday, September 19th

It is a cloudy cool day for our trip to Col d’Orcia winery near Montalcino.  The first hour or so was on a typical Tuscan winding road but then we got onto a fairly straight 4-lane highway.  What a treat after a week of narrow roads!  Nearer to Col d’Orcia the roads once again narrowed.  As we drove through the village of Saint Angelo we missed the sign to Col d’Orcia and ended up several kilometers outside of town where we saw vineyards with the Col d’Orcia name on them but no buildings.  As we were parked in the laneway checking instructions again a car came along.  We flagged it down.  The two young women looked like they may have been on their way to pick grapes.  In any event one of them spoke English and gave us directions back into town and on to the winery.

Col d’Orcia

We arrived at the winery a few minutes late.  Our companions for the tour turned out to be fellow Opimians Mike and Judy Zelikovitz from Toronto.  We had known there would be other Opimians visiting with us but did not know in advance who they would be.  Our guide, Nicola Giannetti, is the PR and communications manager for the winery.  He started off by introducing us to Count Francesco Marone Cinzano, the owner.

Our first stop is the cask cellar.  Here we were treated to a tasting of two different vintages (2011 & 2010) of Sangiovese right out of the cask.

Sample from the cask

It was very interesting to taste the difference of a year’s aging between the two samples.  Incidentally the prediction is that the 2010 Brunello (made primarily from Sangiovese) is going to be a very good year.  Unfortunately we will have to wait until 2015 before it is released.  From the large casks the wine is aged further in the smaller oak barrels.

The next stop was essentially the start of the process in the winery where the grapes are dumped into a hopper then onto a short conveyor belt.  The first selection of grapes occurs when the grapes are handpicked, the second selection occurs along this belt where a couple of workers select out the unusable grapes.  The grapes then go through a process of stem and leaf removal, pressing and primary fermentation in stainless steel tanks.  From the tanks the wine goes to the aforementioned oak casks.  Just before bottling the wine is stored in large concrete containers (lined with fibreglass).

Following the tour we returned to the main building for a tasting of Col d’Orcia wines.

Tasting room

The seven different wines we tasted include a couple of Rossos, Brunellos, their signature Poggio al Vento Riserva and a cabernet blend from Chile.  The grapes for the “Poggio al Vento” Brunello di Montalcino Reserva come from a specific vineyard and this Riserva is only made if the grapes for that year are good enough.  There have been a number of years where no Poggio has been produced.

Nicola, Susan & Neil

Nicola then led us to the town of Montenero where we had lunch at the Antica Fattoria Sel Grottaione.  This wonderful restaurant commands an impressive view over the valley to the Col d’Orcia vineyards.  Lunch was accompanied by several of the wines we had earlier sampled along with some Vinsanto to accompany a delicious gelato.  Unfortunately Nicola had to leave just after the desert was served as he had an appointment. We remained to continue a leisurely visit with Mike and Judy before we reluctantly had to leave for our return trip home (after a stop by the winery again to purchase a couple of bottles of wine).

All I can say after this wonderful tour is that I can’t wait for the case of Brunello I ordered this year through Opimian to arrive and I will definitely be looking forward to the release in 2015 of the 2010 Brunello.

So far on our trip we have not run into any significant rain.  The drive back from Col d’Orcia made up for that in a hurry.  At one point it was coming down so hard that I had to pull off the highway into a gas station until the rain let up a bit.  It was just as well as it gave me a chance for a bit of a power nap and by the time we got back on the highway I had caught my second wind.

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