Sunday, July 11, 2010

Italy Trip Day 6 - Avignonesi Winery Tour & Montepulciano

The rain was back again after our one-day sun visitation, but we were excited to get up and start our day, since after breakfast we were headed to our first winery tour. Breakfast at the Locanda was a lot like the breakfast at Capricci di Merion, cereal, fruit, pastries, etc. There was a good selection, and it filled us up until lunch. The winery we visited this day is called Avignonesi, a producer of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, on the way to Cortona. The grounds and caverns of the winery were beautiful, and the tour friendly and informative, but the best part of the day was lunch, served at a "Common Table" (a long table where everyone sits together).

I've posted a picture of the full menu above (which you can click on to make it bigger); our favorites were the pasta and the pork (picture of pasta at right). The wines they paired with each course (and which they kept on generously pouring, until we had to slow down our drinking!) were quite good as well. Much more than a token add-on after the tour, lunch was a high point of the day, a truly memorable meal!

At the end, we paired up with a young couple next to us to try both types of the vin santo dessert wine. This is some serious wine. It ages for 10 years in small oak barrels after the grapes are dried on mats for about 6 months. The result is something that resembles thick maple syrup in viscosity, with a very sweet, port-like taste. Avignonesi is known for their vin santo, they make a white and a red variety, and they sell for about €200 (!), with the white being slightly cheaper than the red. Apparently, their vin santo is always rated one of the top three dessert wines in the world. A small pour costs 25 euro for the white, 30 euro for the red. Both were fantastic, and I'm glad we were able to have that experience.

After taking a nap (all that wine made us sleepy!) and watching the sunset from the wine bar again, we went to a very casual place in town that was recommended by Cinzia called Trattoria Cagnano. This is a very big, very cheap and very crowded restaurant, with good-but-not-great examples of all the Tuscan favorites. Tonight we were sharing the restaurant with what appeared to be an American college orchestra on tour, so drunk 20-year-olds bounded all over the place. Lively, and never dull, though perhaps not the most authentic Montepulciano experience! We again had cinghiale (wild boar), this time cooked in Vino Nobile sauce over polenta (good, but not great), and a pizza with prosciutto and mushrooms (also pretty good, both pictured above). We shared another bottle of local Vino Nobile with dinner, and had tiramisu for dessert.

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