Of all the Tuscan vineyards we visited in Chianti, Monsanto was my absolute favorite. The winery is located in a lovely part of Tuscany. The hills are green and rolling, the roads small and winding, and the views…spectacular.
I don’t know if it was the wine, which was delicious, the people, who were wonderful and welcoming, or the story of how we finally made it to the winery that made us love it so much. I’ll tell you the story and you can decide.
We set out from Lucca in the morning. We picked up our SmartCar from the rental office.
Map in hand, sun shining brightly, we set out to find Castello Monsanto and show up for an impromptu visit, as we didn’t have an appointment. Up and down, round the twisted turning curves, the car handled like a dream. The lush green hills are dripping with rows and rows of grapevines.
As we get closer and closer, I can taste the wine as my excitement grows.
You see, I am a wine-lover (not a wine snob) and I love me some Italian reds.
Me and Chianti, we go way back. We have a good repor.
So, the thought of savoring the homegrown fruits of a vineyard in Tuscany that I’ll be walking upon… well, it doesn’t get any better than that.
We get closer and closer. According to the map, it’s right around the corner. No sign, still no sign. It soon becomes obvious that we must have passed it. OK… we’ll just go back the other way.
“Keep your eyes peeled”, I remind Chris.
So, we backtrack, slowly. Nope, still no sign, we must have passed it again? We turn around again.
For goodness sake… where the heck is this place? It is a popular spot, don’t you think they would have a sign out?
Now we are creeping along so slowly, we could have pushed the car faster! We are both staring out our respective windows for the next two miles… still nothing.
Now it is getting late and we are growing impatient and frustrated!
“Let’s stop and ask”, I say. Hah. This is Tuscany, in the middle of nowhere. There are really no people around, no houses on the road, just the occassional cow.
So we find a dirt road nearby with two houses and as luck would have it, there was a young woman with kids playing in the yard. Up until now, we have been in larger Italian cities, where some English was spoken. I guess that’s what I was expecting, but boy was I in for a rude awakening.
I got out of the car and approached the women. As soon as words were spoken, we quickly knew this would be no easy feat.
There we stood, two women, many similarities, yet such obvious differences. For the next four minutes, we took turns attempting to communicate, when neither of us spoke any of the other’s language.
We struggled, we laughed, we ended up using hand signals and maps. I made a drinking gesture, raising my hand in a cup shape to my lips, gave a tipsy face, and that was the magic that worked!
She walked over to a small locked wooden gate on the back of her property, opened it and motioned for us to drive in that way. It was obvious to us that we weren’t driving in the main entrance. We passed an old Italian farmer with a pitchfork, and suddenly I was having visions of him charging the car with the pitchfork, yelling in Italian that we are trespassing.
At that moment, the desire for wine was not high in my list, staying alive and out of jail was suddenly the priority.
The old man approached the car… oh @#$!!*#… this is not good.
Then he smiled and suddenly I can taste the wine again. He wonders what we are doing. We try to communicate ‘wine tasting’ and he points and walks us over to a parking area. We exit the car, and immediately I am in awe.
This is what we see…. Il Castello…
We wander the grounds taking in the typical Tuscan landscape and suddenly a stunningly beautiful women appears and comes walking toward us. She smiles and in her wonderful Italian accent, greets us in English (gee, how did she know?).
We explain how it came to be that we drove illegally through her fields. She laughs and tells us she is sorry we had to go through that, she was thinking maybe we had an appointment and she messed up her schedule.
Rita immediately takes us to the cellar for our own private wine tasting. She was a charming woman, funny and spoke wonderful English. She told us she lives in Florence.
We tasted a Chianti, Chianti Classico and Chardonnay. We bought the Classico, a Chardonnay and the Chianti Classico Riserva to bring back. The Riserva was amazing, and the label gracing the bottle has a wonderful picture of the Castello and the property.
Hours later we drove out the main gate we missed on the main road, waving “Ciao, Monsanto, you were worth the trouble!”
As we looked back, we now understood why we had driven by so many times. Not a sign – not even an ‘M’ on the gates to call your attention to the beautiful Tuscan vineyard that is shielding from view. Ya gotta love Italy.
I still buy their Riserva in my local wine store, albeit at a much higher price. It serves as a wonderful memory of our adventurous visit to the Castello di Monsanto.