wine tasting

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You can find other posts on our recent trip to Tuscany/Umbria below:

Eating Our Way Through Italy: Part 1

Villa Life: A Week in Umbria

Wine Tasting in Tuscany: Avignonesi Winery

When you think Italy, of course food and wine are top of mind, and we did plenty of eating during our trip.

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It was gloriously hot and sunny every single day, and we opted to eat almost every meal outside. When visiting Cortona after a spectacular wine tasting at Baracchi Winery (more to come on that), we were ravenous and tired and happy to find Baracchi’s Cortona restaurant, Bottega Baracchi, was serving a cold lunch and pizza even late in the afternoon when many places close. We shared cheese and meat plates and more wine from Baracchi on their charming patio, but I of course had to take a peek inside and was glad I did.

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While the patio of Bottega Baracchi is beautiful and overlooks bustling Cortona, the interior of the restaurant is spectacular! It just keeps going, and there’s wine and food and art everywhere. I loved the displays of fresh veggies and this rack of rosé. I’ll take it all, please!

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No meal in Italy is really complete without gelato, and we stopped for a dish or cone every chance we got. A scoop of hazelnut and a scoop of chocolate for me!

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Vecchio Molino in the town we were staying in, Tuoro Sul Trasimeno, was a favorite for a late dinner al fresco, complete with fried zucchini blossom heaven.

I’m well aware of the amount of oil that goes into these, which is part of what makes them so delicious.

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Truffles were a regional staple where we were staying, and these raviolis in cream sauce were covered in fragrant truffle. It was amazing.

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And then of course there was the wedding! The whole reason we all gathered for a week in Italy was for my husband’s sister’s wedding, and we ate all night long.

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Course after course of incredible food came out all night and included indulgences like this Umbrian bread salad topped with lobster and prosciutto and cheese crepes with black truffle.

These were just the appetizers. There was a pasta with shrimp and a gnocchi in a rich montalcino wine sauce, followed by a fliet of beef, and the most decadent, cream topped, Nutella filled wedding cake.

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And then after some dancing, there was pizza!

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Our last night in Italy turned into a massive party at the villa, with all of the guests who weren’t staying there over to swim, and everyone brought food or wine to the table for a delicious meal. We had a professional chef in the group, which was amazing, and with his grilling and other cooking, along with everyone else’s culinary talents, we feasted on salads, grilled burgers and spicy sausage, salads, pasta, and so much more. It was the perfect way to end the trip.

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Tags: cheese, Cortona, gelato, Italy, Travel, travel blog, Tuscany, wine, wine tasting, winery

Wine tasting in Tuscany. . . a beautiful phrase that conjures  up images of rolling hills dotted with smiling sunflowers and juicy grapes. . .a dreamy thought really. . .

Last month wine tasting in Tuscany became a reality as we stayed at a villa in Umbria, which was just over the Tuscan border. Hot, dry summer days with little to do but explore beautiful pockets of Italy left us time for visiting wineries like Avignonesi, located near Montepulciano. 

 Tuscany sunflowers

Even after a week in Tuscany, I couldn’t get over the sunflowers. Each and every time I saw one or a million, I was enchanted.

sunflowers in Tuscany

After only about 20 minutes of driving from our villa, we drove up the dusty road to Avignonesi, where we were greeted by sun-baked architecture, a warm welcome, and flights of wine.

Avignonsi Winery

Avignonesi

Options of covered patio seating and indoor tasting meant keeping cool out of the Tuscan sun, which gets hot! We opted to share the two tasting flights so that we could try more of the beautiful wines made at Avignonesi.

wine tasting

Our wine tasting was at our leisure, with the wines brought to the table two at a time. Our tasting included the following:

Il Marzocco Chardonnay Toscana IGT
Grandi Annate Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG
Desiderio Merlot Toscana IGT

Grifi Sangiovese – Cabernet Sauvignon Toscana IGT
50&50 Toscana IGT

You’ll notice the focus in the region is mainly reds, including Sangiovese and Merlot. We did start with Chardonnay, and I learned that Tuscan Chardonnay, and this one in particular, is delicious. Notes of honey, lemon, wildflowers make it very different than the California Chardonnays I am used to drinking. The Chardonnay was a welcome, chilled respite from the heat, while the reds were big, structured, juicy, some tannic. These wines were beautiful, but for me, would definitely pair well with fall or winter, big bowls of stew or chili, and a fireplace.

 

wine tasting in Tuscan 

We finished with a Vin Santo di Montepulciano; it was rich and syrupy but not-too-sweet. A sip or two is all you need to pair with crunchy biscotti to finish off a meal.

vin santo

We enjoyed the ambiance of Avignonesi so much that we didn’t want to leave, so we got a glass of Prosecco to share and toured the beautiful grounds. The Prosecco was perfectly refreshing and in a more brut style, which I prefer. I am not a fan of sweet Prosecco!

Tuscany  winery in Tuscany  wine barrels

The whole of the property was wide open to us, and we peeked into the drying room and barrique room before stepping back out into the sunlight to soak up more of Tuscany.

What an incredible way to spend a few hours in Italy!

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Tags: Italy, Travel, Tuscany, wine, wine tasting, winery

Boston’s restaurant scene is growing at a pace I can barely keep up with, and while trying out new spots is a favorite pastime, there’s nothing I love more than a classic steak house, especially when it sits right on the water.

Last week, on a gorgeous spring evening, I attended the most incredible blogger dinner at Smith & Wollensky Atlantic Wharf, where we indulged in course-after-course, paired with cocktails, their new international wine flights and great conversation.

Aviation Cocktail

The violet hue of this Aviation cocktail, a blend of Sipsmith Gin, Crème de Violette, Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur, and lemon juice went perfectly with the spring weather, and I loved the acidity and slight peppery notes of the drink. Smith & Wollensky always pleases when it comes to cocktail cravings, which is just another thing I love about them. They are incredibly consistent with their quality.

 

wine dinner

Smith & Wollensky Atlantic Wharf has a fantastic waterfront location, and while the inside gives you that gorgeous old steak house vibe, with modern twists like a giant photo of a young Paul McCartney (swoon), the patio is breezy and elegant with lovely views of Boston. While it draws crowds, it doesn’t feel crowded like other patios can.

Our table was set with all of the wine glasses, and as we settled in we started to learn about and taste the white wine flight. 

 white wine flight 

  • Bodega Colomé Torrontes – a light, refreshing wine with Muscat notes redolent of jasmine and orange blossoms.
  • Schloss Johannisberg Gelblack Qualitatswein Feinherb Riesling – a single-vineyard German Riesling wine that is firm and fresh on the palate, well-balanced and crisp acidity. The nose is young with white flowers, grinded lemon peel and pears.
  • Louis Latour Montagny 1er cru “la Grande Roche” Chardonnay- this wine reveals delicious floral aromas of honeysuckle.  Full in the mouth with notes of almond, apricot and pepper, the finish is fresh with a hint of mint.

Wine flights are perfect for discovering new favorites, and for a chance to taste grape varieties with a fresh approach. For example, some people think sweet when they hear the word Riesling or super oaky when they think of Chardonnay, two preconceptions thrown out the window with the above wines.

They were all balanced, refreshing, and most importantly delicious and food-friendly, especially with all of the seafood we devoured. Each also offered something very unique in its flavor profile, making tasting, then going back to taste again really fun.

wine tasting

I didn’t think it could get better after the flight of white wines, but this rosé flight was simply heaven. Long a fan of “Whispering Angel” I savored every sip before being introduced to Domaine De Cala rosés, which were simply gorgeous.

  • Chateau d’Esclans “Whispering Angel” – a Provence rosé with a lovely bright pink color and crystal clarity to the berry flavors.  Powerful yet elegant with plenty of minerality and balanced spice notes. The long finish lingers with white pepper and wisps of red peach.
  • Domaine De Cala Classic – blending Cinsault, Syrah, and Grenache red varietals with Rolle white grapes, the French wine greets the nose with aromas of white flower followed by those of exotic fruits- lemony, with notes of peach.
  • Domaine De Cala Prestige – a more exclusive, elevated take on its original rosé. The shiny, clear, salmon-pink color with brilliant reflections entices the palate, and the wine exudes initial aromas of grapefruit and citrus and secondary notes of cherry and strawberry.

Flights are $25 and are available at Smith & Wollensky locations in Boston, Chicago, Columbus, Houston and Miami Beach through June.

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Smith & Wollensky is as known for its seafood as much as it is its beef, and we were treated to the freshest raw bar platter with yummy sauces, along with signature dishes, the Angry Shrimp with spicy lobster butter sauce and their tuna tartare, which is my favorite tuna dish anywhere.

 

angry shrimp 

Give me this tuna and one of the spring wine flights, and you basically have my dream lunch.

In fact, I am taking summer Fridays this year, and I will most likely make this happen.

 tuna tartare ribeye carpaccio

Even before our main courses, we were also treated to Smith & Wollensky’s famed beef in different forms, including a delicate Ribeye Carpaccio and the Spring Steak Feature, Snake River Farms American Wagyu New York Strip, presented on a Himalayan Salt Block.

This meat was like butter, and it picked up the salt and mineral flavors of the salt block. This was the ultimate indulgence.

 

wagyu beef 

And there was still more food to come! My coffee and cocoa rubbed filet could have been cut with a spoon, and the flavors of the rub added a little sweetness and earthiness to the meat’s natural flavor. I could only eat a few bites before wrapping this up and bringing it home. . . it made the most delicious dinner the next night!

 

coffee and cocoa rubbed filet mignon

Entrees were enjoyed with a wine that is made specially for Smith & Wollensky. I couldn’t stop breathing this wine in; it reminded me of a place I love so much. Spice, earth, bursts of berry flavor; this is a big, bold, yet elegant Napa Valley red, a perfect pairing with Smith & Wollensky’s food and personality.

Napa Valley Red Wine

Our final course before we said our goodbyes was a colossal dessert plate that, despite being full, I could not say no to. The Chocolate Layer Cake at Smith & Wollensky is worth visiting for alone, and it could easily feed a group. I didn’t make it to the Coconut Cake, so I will have to bring my appetite and a few friends to enjoy that on another occasion.

 

chocolate layer cake  

Smith & Wollensky generously rolled out the red carpet for us and treated us to the food and hospitality they are known for. It definitely was not my first time here, and it certainly won’t be my last.

Whether you are looking for a flight of wine or a perfectly crafted cocktail after work or a place to celebrate an occasion, this is a very special place to do it.

 

Dinner was kindly provided by Smith & Wollensky; all opinions are my own.

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Tags: Boston, steak house, wine, wine dinner, wine event, wine flights, wine tasting

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