On our last day in Tuscany, eight of us headed to Montalcino in two cars for the day. Mark and I had been invited by Laura Gray at Il Palazzone for a tour of the vineyard and a tasting of their Brunello, ... And we were told to bring friends.
Brunello di Montalcino, if you aren't familiar with it, is an Italian red wine produced in the vineyards surrounding the town of Montalcino located about 70 miles south of Florence. Brunello, roughly translated as "small dark one" in the local dialect, is made solely from hand-picked Sangiovese grapes and then aged in oak barrels. Most producers separate their production between a normale and riserva bottling, releasing the normale bottles four years after harvest and the riserva anther year after that. In 1980, the Brunello di Montalcino was awarded the first Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) designation and today is one of Italy's best-known and most expensive wines.
So, off we went to get there for our 11:00 tour, arriving pretty much on time. Il Palazzone isn't far at all from the "villa" we rented in Montalcino in 1998 (a converted monastery called I Cappuccini) - a trip with many of the same folks who were here in Tuscany with us this year. Memories of that earlier trip flowed freely in our car; it was a magical time.