Drinking Tuscany: Visiting a Castle in the Air

Nestled within Tuscany’s mountainous region is the Castello del Trebbio Winery, a half-hour drive from downtown Florence. As we approached the beautiful castle, the surrounding hilltops were wrapped in a white mist that seemed to glow. The one-hour wine tasting tour was educational, friendly, and, yes, romantic.

The winery, set on 350 hectares of land containing over 50 hectares of vineyards and more than 10,000 olive trees, produces and exports over 350,000 bottles of wine each year as well as olive oil and saffron. Owned by Anna Baj-Macario and her husband, Stefano Casdei, the estate’s winemaker, the winery is also their private home. The castle offers villa and apartment farmhouse accommodations, arrangement for wedding ceremonies, and, in 2006, opened its restaurant, La Sosta del Gusto.

Walking through the castle, we could imagine hearing voices from centuries long ago, yet Castello del Trebbio is a living, bustling right-now business and residential entity. Anna Baj-Macario’s parents purchased and renovated the castle in 1968.

Our vivacious, warm, and welcoming guide, Sylvia, gave a comprehensive history of the castle. Built in 1184, the castle was once home to the Pazzi family, second only to the de Medicis in power and influence. In fifteenth-century Italy, the Pazzis plotted to kill brothers Giuliano and Lorenzo de Medici to seize control of Florence, succeeding in murdering Giuliano but not Lorenzo, who escaped. Within days, the Pazzis (the name, loosely translated, means “that’s crazy”) who had participated in the murder and attempted murder of the de Medicis were publicly executed and most of their possessions destroyed. However, the Pazzi family’s coat of arms still can be seen inside the castle.

We walked through a large, stone-floor courtyard, gazing above at the farming and agricultural tools hanging from hooks. We then entered the conspiracy room or war room, an immense space with soaring ceilings where the Pazzi family plotted their murderous strategy.

The wine cellars, where the wine is stored and aged in oak barrels, seemed timeless, reflecting the craft nearly as old as time itself. We then entered the dungeon where rusted iron rings still hang from the ceiling and the walls are lined with terracotta pots once used to hold olive oil.

Finally, we arrived In the tasting room, where we took seats at two long wooden tables. Sylvia educated us in the basics of savoring and understanding wine. “Swirl the wine around in the glass,” she said, showing us how. “You will see the droplets of moisture that cling to the sides of the glass. Those are the tears of the wine. The more droplets, the higher the alcohol content.”

The centerpiece of the tasting was the Rufina Lastricato Riserva 2007, comprised of 100 percent Sangiovese grapes. The wine was full-bodied, crisp, lush, sour-sweet and heady. We also sampled a lighter wine and a dessert wine with heavy notes of oak and vanilla along with the sting.

Alongside the wine, we samples the castle’s fresh-pressed olive oil drizzled on rounds of crusty bread. Butter would have been a vulgar insult. The Baj-Macarios own a personal press allows them to squeeze olives within two hours of harvest which preserves a low acidity level—key for the highest quality oil. We were also given interesting and useful consumer facts about olive oil. For instance, it’s best to purchase and store olive oil in a dark bottle to shield it from the effects of oxidation. If you are planning to visit Florence, plan to visit the catsle. This lovely, elegant tour is one to be savored just like a glass of Rufina Lastricato Riserva.

For more information, go to the websites:

Castello del Trebbio

Trebbio Castle Wine Tasting in Tuscany