A Fairy Tale in Castell'in Villa
May 27, 2016 Comments (0)
Day 7 of our Tuscan bike adventure.
We awoke refreshed and ready to roll down the hill from Badia a Coltibuono (a gentle direction in which to begin the day on a bike). But first, a stop in the centuries old chapel to behold the hushed silence. And then, off to Castell'in Villa. It was a relatively easy 17 miles, so we arrived just in time for a stroll around the property. Our quarters were at La Gazzara, the bed and breakfast which is part of the Castell'in Villa estate. La Gazzara is the name of an Italian bird which makes a loud, raucous racket, which seemed an ironic name for such a tranquil setting. The bed and breakfast has been lovingly and beautifully restored to a sumptuous level of comfort, wrapped in a structure which dates back to the 1200's. Beautiful stone walls surrounded us in every room, with views of rolling hills, vineyards and olive trees stretching for miles in every direction.
The biggest treat of all was still in store for us: meeting the woman responsible for everything that happens at Castell'in Villa, Princess Coralia Pignatelli della Leonesse. When she and her husband bought the estate in the late 1960's, she didn't drink wine. It was a Sangiovese grape eaten off the vine that she fell in love with. "Before that, it was Coca Cola and vodka." A stunningly elegant woman with a twinkle in her eye, an easy laugh and quick wit, and a work ethic the likes of which one doesn't see often or ever for that matter. As our tour of the cellar progressed, it became clear that she knew every inch of every room, as well as exactly what was happening in each of the vineyards. Not only that, the renovation and transformation of the estate were all at her hand, paying homage to the idyllic Tuscan countryside and lifestyle, while also bringing it into the 20th century. Determination and exacting standards don't even begin to describe what has been achieved at this place. The event of the day was giving a new machine a test run to see if it was worth the cost. Castell'in Villa doesn't like chemicals, and this machine uses steam to kill weeds which grow at the base of the grapevines. It did a good job, but when we left, she had yet to run the numbers...
Dinner was in the Ristorante Castell'in Villa. Another building dating back to the 1200's, with contemporary, comfortable seating, all chosen and/or designed by the Principessa. There isn't enough space to describe the many beautiful details in the room, so we'll mention the doors to the outside designed by the artist Buonanotte. He's done some work for the Vatican... Massimo, our chef, wore himself out. We began with the Castell'in Villa Rosato (Rose) and artichokes 3 ways and a roulade of guinea fowl. Some ingredients in each of our dishes came from the estate. The best slow food ever. There is a hunter on staff who provides the kitchen with wild game that make the mistake of straying too near the precious grapevines. Not one but two pasta dishes followed, beautifully simple, yet memorably delicious. Next, a bottle of the Castell'in Villa Poggio delle Rose 2009, named for the hill with wild roses where the grapes grow. A delicious companion to food, with a particular concentration of heady fruit with lovely balance. Today's offer of the Castell'in Villa Chianto Classico Riserva 2006 was next and wonderfully different from the Poggio delle Rose. A more delicate and dry wine, it was equally attractive with our food. We asked the winemaker which was her favorite, and were told that it depended on the day, the food, and much more. If only we had more time.