Touring the Brunello Vineyards

We awoke this morning bright and early, and started our day off with a tasty breakfast to fill our bellies.

Last night, we booked a wine tour with a local company called Di Gusti. We met our guide, Gilberto, at 9am in a little plaza close to our B&B and were off to the town of Montalcino.

On route, Gilberto educated us about all the wines in the area, specifically the Sangiovese grape. We learned that depending on how long it sits with the skin on, determines the type of wine it can make. For example, one day is a white, three days a rosé, and one week a red. He also informed us about the differences between the DOCG, DOC, and IGT labeled wines. The first indicates that the wine producers followed the strictest regulations and had the wine tested by a committee to ensure the geographical authenticity of the wine. The DOC label still indicates strict guidelines, but they tend to be a bit more relaxed than the DOCG. Finally, the IGT label was created to indicate that a wine producer couldn’t follow all of the guidelines but still makes great wine. Gilberto gave us an example of an IGT wine where it’s comes from the Sangiovese grape, but in order to be a Sangiovese wine it has to be made of 80% Sangiovese grapes. A wine producer could instead use 50% Sangiovese grapes and 50% something else and still make an amazing blend, but then would be limited to the IGT label. This allows for many great wine producers to be creative in the blends they can make.

Along on drive to the first winery, we saw beautiful fields of sunflowers, vineyard after vineyard, and rolling hills that went on for miles.

On first visit was at a family run vineyard called Poggio Rubino. This is a 7 hectare vineyard that has been passed down the family since the 1800s. To ensure the soil of the ground is healthy to grow great grapes, they plant a rose, and if the rose grows then they know grapes will too. The vineyard is surrounded by a tallish caged fence, which protects the grapes from the many pests, particularly deer and wild boar!

We had a tour of the grounds, the beautiful view, and of course the cellars where the magic happens. They informed us that the wine spends only 30 days max in the silver tanks.

We then returned to the main room to begin our tasting. To start with, we had their rosé which is 50% Sangiovese grapes and 50% Pinot noir. It was sparkly, fresh, and an easy drinking summer wine.

Next, they brought us two different olive oils to try. The pure one cost €35 a bottle and the blend €25. One olive tree makes about one bottle of olive oil. We also tried two different types of balsamic. One was 15 years aged and cost €70 a bottle and the second was 30 years aged and cost €90 a bottle. For any balsamic lover, you would have been in heaven. These were both absolutely delicious, especially the 30 year aged, as it was less sweet. At this point, they also prepared us a small snack.

Our next wine was called the Rosso, which is a 2 year aged young grape.

After that, we had two types of Brunello, these are 5 year aged grapes. They were similar in style except for the one on the right came from volcanic soil which greatly impacted the minerally taste of the wine (and to me, made it that much more delicious!).

Finally, we had the piece de resistance: the riserva. This Brunello has to be aged for at least 6 years. This baby sells for a whopping €125, and you could taste the difference.

Our tasting ended with a glass of grappa which is made from the grape skin.

After leaving the winery, we made a short stop in the town of Montalcino, which sits 500m above sea level and was an old fortress for the town of Siena.

Continuing on our journey, we headed to our second vineyard, Tornsei. The house has been in the family since 1863 and again has been passed down through the generations. It’s currently being run by a 91 year old grandma, the son who is the winemaker, and his wife and two daughters. We were lucky enough to meet the winemaker himself and his daughter! We received a tour of the cellars and learned about how their wine making process has evolved through the years.

When we returned to the stunning panoramic terrace, they had a beautiful homemade lunch made for us. During lunch, we also tasted their Rosso and Brunello.

We loaded back into the van and began our trip back to Florence. Now, I forgot to mention. We had booked this tour because they specifically stated that they don’t take more than 8 people in their van. However, today it was only Daniel and I. We essentially had our own private tour of these beautiful Brunello vineyards!

On route home, the amazing Gilberto stopped at the Piazzale Michelangelo to allow us to see a gorgeous view of Florence, which included part of the old city wall that was built in 1334. The square also has the “fake David.”

Returning back to our B&B for a quick pit stop, it then began to hail!

We waited for an hour to so for the storm to pass, and ventured to our favourite little market for dinner. We were fairly filled by all our wine and food today, but still managed to have a beautiful cheesey appetizer, a massive arancini, and a little dessert.

Livin’ On The Sea

Today was dedicated purely to traveling. It was a long, sad goodbye as we ventured down the Grand Canal on a hot and sweaty vaporetto before arriving at the train station. As the train took off and we saw land and cars for the first time in a while, I felt a sense of wonder: where will we ever find a place where buses are boats and streets overlook the beauty of canals? Bittersweet I’d say so myself.

We had what we thought was a short layover in Florence, which ended up being a mad running dash for the next train. Good thing crossfit has trained me well enough to run in flip flops. Out of breathe with barely a minute to spare the train took off on route to the coastal town of La Spezia. Once we arrived there, sadly we missed our following train and were delayed by 30ish minutes.

Being your typical type A personality, I was freaking out about being a half hour late meeting our guesthouse host. We had no way to contact her, and the WiFi was nil. Luckily, Daniel’s sweet, charming Irish accent managed the tourist office to call our host and meet us right outside the train station. She walked and talked, and led us to our adorable new abode for the next few days. Martha gave us numerous suggestions and things to do, and really is a tour guide herself.

Martha booked us in for a Michelin guide restaurant along the coast. According to google, our 2 minute walk ended up being 30 seconds so we had ample time to explore the cove prior to our dinner. What a beauty it is!

I’ve always loved the water, but this made me question even more, why I don’t live by it. The sheer beauty and calmly effect is something to admire.

As our dinner seating time approached, we walked up the cliff side to the gorgeous setting of our restaurant and of course immediately ordered a beautiful, local wine.

Deciding on dinner options was a bit of a feat. To being with, we shared the most deliciously and naturally tasting oysters I’ve ever had!

For our main course, Daniel chose the Riomaggiore spaghetti, with fresh anchovies, and I selected the black ink Tagliolini with clams and squid. Both were insanely delicious.

Instead of finishing off with a dessert, we decided to hike up to the highest point of town, wine in hand, and enjoyed the evening, star-lit sky, stunning view, and tasty beverages!

Can’t wait for tomorrow!

The Islands of Venezia

After another tasty breakfast, we decided to spend our last full day in Venice lagooning around the islands. Boarding the vaporetto just in the knick of time, our first destination was Burano. Once you arrive, your eyes are memorized by the pastel houses which line the canals. Each one appears different and is so unique in it’s style, colour, and sheer cuteness!

Burano is renowned for its lace making and every shop along every canal is filled with beautifully hand made lace pieces: table cloths, dresses, art. It’s stunning, incredible soft, and worth a large penny!

Touring the streets during this crazy heat wave made us quite thirsty, so we stopped at the local grocer and picked up a few ingredients for a picnic. We sat by the canal, with a gentle breeze, and admired (and ate) our delicious spread.

This was also my first Lambrusco in Italy. I’m still going questioning why it took so long, but it was fab!

Once lunch was finished, and I was annoyed by all the creatures, seagulls and ants alike, that Daniel persuaded to visit us, we crossed a small footpath which led us to Mazzorbo.

As you walk through these peaceful, art filled gardens, you realize that you’re surrounded by vineyards: Beautiful white grapes hanging vine after vine.

Following the path, we came across a Michelin star restaurant, but were more interested in trying out some of the wine from the vineyard. We walked into the shop, asked if we could do a wine tasting, and the finely dressed man replied, “Yes, you can taste our wine. It’s €25/glass.” When in Rome we thought, even though we aren’t quite there yet. The man informed us that the wine itself is a Venetian Dorona, which is a thick-skinned golden grape that is like a white wine grape, however is treated like a red wine. It’s barreled for 25 years and has a beautiful nectar colouring. The vineyard itself is only one hectare and produces only 4000 bottles of wine each year. Each bottle is numbered and the “wine labels” contain a traditional Venetian gold leaf, applied by hand to each bottle before being baked by local glass makers.

The wine itself tastes quite unique. A mix between port, sherry, and a red wine. It was delicious and a perfect stop on our afternoon adventure. Our server also offered us a complimentary snack of a cod fish flan… insane!

Our final island stop was Murano, the glass blowing island. Not nearly as impressive as Burano in its uniqueness, but the glass itself was stunning. The technique, precision, and work that goes into a piece, well I can’t even imagine what that would take.

The final picture shows some very fine pieces that sell from between €2000-€4000!

Walking around Murano, and seeing the impressive skills that the artists have, we were led to a street with a stunning masterpiece at the end.

Hot and hungry, we hopped back onto the vaporetto and ventured back to Venice. We walked through the beautiful streets to our dinner destination, Birraria La Corte, a local restaurant inside an old brewery. We began with a local IPA for Daniel and an Aperol spritz for myself.

We had a full fledged sharesies meal tonight. We began with the scallops done in a cauliflower and carrot creme, top with the finest prosciutto.

For our next course, we selected the ricotta gnocchi. I can’t even explain how pure and insanely delicious this was.

Finally, we ordered our first pizza: cheese, mushrooms, porchetta. Simple ingredients make something extraordinary.

The meal was a perfect last dinner in Venice. We spent the rest of the evening strolling the beautiful streets and wishing we had more time to get lost in the beauty of Venice!

Bordeaux: Port of the Moon

Longest shopping strip in Europe, France’s oldest museums with World War II displays, highest number of preserved historical buildings outside of Paris, and the world’s major wine industry… I must be talking about Bordeaux!

We boarded the train from San Sebastián for our three hour journey into France. Easily navigable, we stopped for a quick and delicious coffee, before checking in at our latest and greatest Air B&B in Old Town. We received the ever most important food recommendations, before heading out for a quick orientation of the town and some yummy eats. Strolling through the streets, every block looked different, yet equally as stunning in architecture. Cobblestone streets, limited vehicles, and lively squares surround each block. 


After aimless wandering, we stopped for oysters and a glass of local white wine, both of which exceeded any prior expectations we may have had. We continued on for some ice cream, more street wandering, and then a lovely dinner.  Dinner was concluded with THE BEST creme brûlée I think I’ve ever. I anticipate that this will reappear in my dreams! 


One thing that continues to arise in my mind is the quality of the food here: both in Spain and France. It’s been four years since I’ve eaten any form of refined sugar, dairy, or wheat, primarily due to the digestion issues that I had with it. However, since being here I’ve eaten (literally) everything and anything I’ve wanted and there have been no issues. What’s wrong with our Canadian food? Perhaps that’s a whole other topic for discussion. 

Tomorrow brings a site-seeing filled day and more delicious eats! I can’t wait!