As a former Italian expat, I was excited to go back “home” and tour some of the luxury wineries and resorts in Tuscany and Umbria.
When people think Italian wine, their first thought might be the robust Chiantis of Tuscany. Having lived in Italy, I kind of felt “been there, done that.” But on my return, I was excited to learn, and taste, how Tuscany is embracing luxury wine travel.
My adventure began at the Baracchi Winery which sits high above Cortona, up narrow, winding roads that even our GPS couldn’t keep up with. It was a constant barrage of “turn right”, “turn left”, “turn right”, as we made the hairpin turns. But the views of the Valdichiana Valley, when we arrived at the top, were all worth the nauseating drive.
Founded by Riccardo Baracchi, the winery is a small, boutique producer of one of the region’s only sparkling wines and some fabulous blends. We were greeted by Benedetto Baracchi, son of the winery’s founder, who started our tour in the sparkling wine room where the Baracchi Brut Trebbiano Metodo Classico is produced. A single worker was painstakingly turning each bottle ¼ turn, as he does daily for 45 days, to allow the sediment from the Trebbiano grapes to settle at the top of the bottle. There, it is ultimately frozen and forced out. As a small producer, Baracchi takes great care and pride in this hand-processed production of one of the region’s only sparkling wines. Our tour ended with a tasting of the sparkling wine, paired with pecorino cheese produced at the resort. I enjoyed the Brut Trebbiano Metodo Classico tremendously, perhaps because I could really respect the great care taken in its production.
Guests of the winery stay at the luxury Il Relais il Falconiere & Spa resort, part of the prestigious chain Relais & Châteaux, located just beyond the vineyard. There the resort’s traditional Etruscan spa is the spectacle, perched high on a hilltop, surrounded by lush vineyards. I wanted to plant myself at the pool adjacent to the spa and just waste the Baracchi afternoon sipping wine and enjoying the view. Instead, we were then treated to lunch at the resort’s outdoor café where the weather was perfect but views of the surrounding vineyards and valley were even more perfect– location, location, location.
Cortona’s most popular resident, Frances Mayes of “Under the Tuscan Sun”, is prevalent throughout the resort. Silvia Baracchi hosts cooking classes at the restaurant and at their cooking school, Under the Tuscan Sun. Baracchi produces a number of wines from Sangiovese, Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet and Trebbiano grapes, in addition to olive oil and my husband’s favorite, grappa.
We tasted the winery’s most popular wines with each course of our meal. We started with the Ardito, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, a great peppery wine to wake our tastebuds. Throughout the rest of the meal, we tasted the single grape Smeriglio wines include a Syrah, Merlot and Sangiovese. A beautifully prepared dessert plate was presented at the end of the meal but we opted for espresso instead of grappa, especially given the winding drive home.