The big day…

I honestly don’t think I’ve ever been so excited to wake up on my birthday as I was on this day.  There is something beautiful and precious about realizing one of your dreams.  I had been planning on turning thirty in Tuscany for many years, and here I was, it was happening.

Reality is that too often we plan, dream, and set goals, but life gets in the way.  But not today!

We set out that morning to drive to Montepulciano.  The Bravio Delle Botti was calling my name, and I was going to spend this amazing day in an amazing place partaking in the festivities that people from Italy plan their years around.  It sounded like the perfect way to spend my thirtieth birthday.

IMG_1459I wanted to stop in Montalcino (home of Brunello, you fellow wine nerds will understand how amazing that is) and my mother was kind enough to take a very scenic route to Montepulciano, so we could go do some wine tastings in Montalcino, well there was one little snafu with this plan… it was Sunday.

Sundays are ridiculously quiet in Italy.  We arrived in Montalcino after some expeditious driving to try to find any wineries that were open, which unfortunately we couldn’t.  Finally, we decided to park outside the city walls and walk up to the city.  The narrow road was fortunately rather abandoned because if it had been busy, we may have been too terrified to walk those bends with the crazy drivers otherwise known as Italians.  (Don’t get me wrong I love the Italians, but I’m not sure how they keep their tiny cars on the road with all the narrow turns going 90 km/h.)  I’m glad that we did brave the walk up, however, because the view when we reached the city wall was worth it.IMG_1463

IMG_1458We walked around the city a while, then I came upon a poster for the Bravio Delle Botti and suddenly I was ready to leave.  I did have a chance to stop at the local enoteca and do some tasting, then purchased a demi bottle of Brunello to enjoy at a later time.

Back on the road we finally made our way to Montepulciano.  Everything about this fair city was worth the wait and the drive.  My mom may feel differently after having to drive a manual car up the terrifyingly steep roads into the parking areas just outside the city walls, even walking uphill to San Gimignano wasn’t this steep, this hill/mountain was particularly steep, I could see how it’s still standing.  Anyone who would want to lay siege here would have been exhausted by the time they reached the outer most wall. It would have an epic toboggan ride in the winter.

Once inside, the city was all I imagined and more.  The castles were full of history and wine, litterally barrels and barrels of wine.

We had so much fun just walking around and drinking wine. Finally at lunch we sat down at an outdoor cafe.  There was a group of fellow americans who we met at the table next to us.  They were on holiday from New York, the four of them were actually staying in a bed and breakfast inside Montepulciano (something I hope to do when I return).  My pizza margherita and carpaccio-arugula appetizer with all the vino nobile di montepulciano I could want made for the perfect thirtieth birthday luncheon.  It was a fabulous afternoon as we eagerly awaited the start of the festivities.

The festival events were a lot of fun, but the highlight for me was when we ended the day at Gattavecchi winery.

IMG_1885The brother and sister team that ran this winery were the quintessential Italians.  They were so kind and helpful.  We must have tried over 13 different kinds of wine.  Daniela was the kindest woman I met on this trip.  There was an Italian man who tried to jump in front of me for tasting, and Daniella would have none of it.  She kindly put him in his place and said to him, “Io vi aiuterà in un momento dopo mi sono fatto aiutare questa giovane donna.” Which means, “I’ll help you in a moment after I am done helping her.”  She eventually gave him a few wines to taste, after which he left without purchasing anything.IMG_1886

She went on to discuss wine with me for over an hour, we learned from one another, and enjoyed each other’s company.  She was so sweet that when she found out it was my birthday, she gave me a taste of a 2001 reserve that she wasn’t even able to sell me.  This particular bottle was possibly the best wine I’ve ever tried.  It was so fantastic, it tasted like plum, spice, raisins, and a rich dark chocolate truffle, with a lovely tobacco note on the incredibly long finish.  I knew at this moment that I was in love with this winery and the wonderful family that runs it.  The winery was beautiful, simple, and the perfect birthday experience.

When all was said and done my mom and I each purchased eleven bottles of wine and one bottle of olive oil each.  Then Daniela was so kind that she gave me a birthday present, the one bottle of wine we didn’t get the chance to try.

I will never forget Daniela and her brother and this amazing experience, I can’t wait to go back and maybe I’ll have the opportunity to bring her some wine from the states.  This truly was my best birthday to date!