Day 9 – Poliziano Winery, Montefollonico, and the Temple of San Biagio

Poliziano winery and vineyards
Poliziano winery and vineyards

We started out today with a tour of the Poliziano winery, owned and operated by the Carletti family.

Jennifer Criswell - our wine expert!
Jennifer Criswell – our wine expert!

Jennifer Criswell, the author of At Least You’re in Tuscany, works there and invited us for a tour.  Jennifer has been giving tours at the winery for several years and is currently studying to be a sommelier.  She is a bottomless pit of information when it comes to all things wine.

Poliziano "Asinone" vineyard
Poliziano “Asinone” vineyard

The tour started in the vineyard where the grapes for their “Asinone” wine is grown.  We were allowed to pick grapes right off the vine to taste.  They are Sangiovese grapes and they were truly the sweetest grapes I’ve ever eaten.  Jennifer explained all about how the grapes are grown, harvested, how the location and soil make a difference in the taste and character of the grapes.  We asked questions and she answered every one of them.

We moved from the vineyard to the area where the grapes were being brought in from the fields.  The harvest was underway.  The grapes are handpicked, loaded into a trailer pulled by a tractor, and brought up to be put into the machine that separates the grapes from the stems.

Grapes coming in from the vineyards
Grapes coming in from the vineyards
On the way to have the grapes separated from the stem
On the way to have the grapes separated from the stem
Magically the stems are removed
Magically the stems are removed

The separation process is meant to be very gentle so as not to crush the grapes.  After the grapes and stems are separated, the grapes go down a big hose into the fermentation area and the stems get spit out into a big stem dumpster-looking-thing.  The grapes go down onto a big vibrating table/conveyor belt thing (that we didn’t see) where people manually sift through them and pick out any tiny bits of stems that made it into the big hose.  From there, the grapes go into HUGE oak barrels where they start the fermentation process.

HUGE oak barrel where the fermentation process starts
HUGE oak barrel where the fermentation process starts

Three times a day, any liquid in the HUGE oak barrels is removed through the faucet at the bottom of the barrel and sprayed over the whole grapes that are floating at the top.  The grapes are not crushed – no feet are stained in the making of this wine.  But there is a pressure system in the barrels that gently presses down on the floating grapes to softly squeeze the juice.  After a few weeks, the contents of the HUGE barrels are moved into another area that is now a blank in my mind.  Moving along, there are more barrels and bottles involved in the future of those little grapes.

The final barrel stage for new wine
The final barrel stage for new wine
Once in the bottle, the wine can spend years maturing.
Once in the bottle, the wine can spend years maturing.

Once the wine goes into the bottles, the bottles sit for a long time, in some cases years, before they are eventually labeled and go to market.  We had the opportunity to stroll through the Carletti’s personal wine cellar where they have bottles of wine from 1970 when they first bought the vineyard.  Very impressive.

The Carletti's personal wine stock.
The Carletti’s personal wine stock.

I think I could spend much more time there learning about the process.  We were both amazed at the process and the care the Carlettis put into the making of their wine.

We left the vineyard and drove over to Montefollonico, a hill town that can be seen from the main gate of Montepulciano.  I’m guessing the town is about as old as Montepulciano, but, for whatever reason, it does not attract as much attention.  We thought we’d like to see what one of these old medieval towns feels like without all the other happy snappers running around.  We were not disappointed.  Montefollonico is just as pretty as Montepulciano, but on a smaller scale, and so much more peaceful.  When we first arrived, we were hungry so we stopped in the little grocery store where we bought two paninis, a slice of apricot torte and a slice of some kind of cream torte.  We took our lunch up the street and sat on the steps of the Church of San Leonardo to eat.

Lunch on the steps of Church of San Leonardo
Lunch on the steps of Church of San Leonardo

The church dates to the 13th century.  No biggie.  We saw three people the whole time we were eating our sandwiches.  After lunch, we walked around the town – both streets.  We were there during the afternoon pause when everything closes for two or three hours and everyone goes home for lunch and naps, I suppose.  The place was so quiet, we could hear the sounds of people talking and forks hitting plates as we passed under the windows of the houses.  We found a bench just outside a big gate in the town wall and sat down to enjoy the beautiful view of the Tuscan valley below.

View from Montefollonico
View from Montefollonico
View from Montefollonico
View from Montefollonico
We were trying to decide which estate we should buy
We were trying to decide which estate we should buy

We could hear the bells from a flock of sheep in a field at the bottom of the hill.

Tuscan sheep
Tuscan sheep

I can’t recall having experienced that kind of quiet.  From where we were sitting, we could see the Temple of San Biagio across the way just below Montepulciano and decided to go check it out.

The Temple of San Biagio as seen from Montefollonico
The Temple of San Biagio as seen from Montefollonico

The Temple of San Biagio dates from the 16th century.  We couldn’t go inside.  There was some scaffolding on the outside of the building, as well, so we’re guessing there was some kind of renovation or maintenance underway.  No matter.  The outside is stunning enough by itself.  There were several artists there making sketches and taking advantage of the beautiful weather.  The lawn around the building would make an excellent spot for a picnic.

Temple of San Biagio
Temple of San Biagio
Temple of San Biagio
Temple of San Biagio
Temple of San Biagio
Temple of San Biagio
Temple of San Biagio
Temple of San Biagio

After the Temple, we hit the Conad, and picked up some supplies for the weekend.  We are supposed to have thunderstorms for the next few days.  Excuse me, but being a Florida girl, I have a biological requirement for a certain number of hours of sunshine – DAILY.  All this rain was not in the forecast when we planned this trip.  Ggggrrrr.

For dinner, the G-man fixed gnocchi with Bolognese sauce.  The gnocchi was fresh from Conad and the Bolognese sauce came in a container.  Can I tell you that even gnocchi and Bolognese sauce from the Conad tastes eons better than anything we could get in a restaurant in the States.  I’m giving serious thought to opening an Italian restaurant when we get back to Tampa and just serve prepackaged stuff from Conad.  Ok, ok.  I know the real Italians would think I’m insane, but anything I can get in the States does not rank up there with the Conad.  It is what it is.

The rain started as soon as we went to bed.

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