If you conjur an image in your mind of the quintessential Tuscan hill town, complete with Fortress, a piazza dominated by a Church, various enoteca and cute meandering alleys filled with shops, you will have pictured Castellina in Chianti. An easy 15 minute ride over the "Strada Bianca" from our home in Vagliagli, Castellina became a favorite spot on our recent trip.
The more modern and commercial part of the town has all of the comforts one may need, from wonderful bars to a mid-sized but well stock grocery store. However, once you pass into the Zona Traffico Limitata (Limited Traffic Zone) you enter a pedestrian only oasis of picture perfect Tuscany. We came and went to Castellina many times on this trip and never tired of this charming place.
|~ We often started our day with a typical Italian breakfast in Castellina. All for the 6 Euro! ~|
As with many hill towns in Tuscany, the center of Castellina is adorned with the obligatory Piazza anchored on either end by the facets of life considered most important; The Church and the Fortress. Indeed, Castellina is no different in this regard and although the Fortress is a nod to unstable bygone times, the Church is still a vibrant communal center and often used as a point of reference to meet friends. We ourselves met Andrea Cecchi on these very steps before setting out for an evening with him; the subject of a future article.
|~ The beautiful facade of the Church in Castellina ~|
Castellina sits in the center of the Chianti Classico region. Ringed by gently sloping hills filled with vineyards and olive groves, Castellina and it's immediate environs are home to many prominent wine producers. It's cobblestoned streets are home to many enoteca, almost more than you'd think the tiny town needs, but seemingly they all thrive.
|~ The arrow marks the spot. This shop was actually among the smaller in town, but boasted a broad selection ~|
|~ The architecture and doors of Castellina. In the lower left, just around the corner of this building, you can see the beginning of the Church stairs leading to the small Piazza ~|
|~ An Alley Way in Castellina in Chianti. The door just beyond the arch on the right is the entrance to the enoteca pictured above ~|
|~ Trattoria La Torre on the Piazza in Castellina was home for several of our meals. The restaurant takes it's name from the Fortress Tower which is directly adjacent to the restaurant ~|
La Torre came highly recommended by friends and several of the local shop owners we chatted with. The beautiful outdoor setting was wonderful and the awning and plants did just enough to keep the cool evening breezes at bay. Dinner began with a primi of one of the most ethereal pastas I've ever eaten: Tagliatelle with peas and prosciutto. The key here was that the sauce consisted of pureed peas in addition to peas being tossed with the pasta. We were so busy eating that I failed to take a picture. But I will attempt to replicate this at home...stay tuned.
|~ Secondi Piatti: Rabbit stuffed with sausage, egg, and breadcrumbs ~|
|~ Contorni: Vegetables are served separtely in Italy and this was the mixed plate. In the upper right is a "sformato" which is a sort of vegetable stuffing that was absolutely amazing ~|
With this wonderful meal, and with prices considerably lower than in the US, there was to be no playing around when selecting the wine.
The 2010 Fontodi Flaccianello was the absolute perfect foil for this meal. I had some trepidation about opening such a young wine, but the 2010's I had in Italy were far more expressive and open than the 2010's I've tasted here at home. And the Flaccianello was no example. Deep dark blackish red, the wine explodes aromatically from the glass with huge crushed wild berries, sweet tobacco, mushroom, leather and coffee notes that expanded as the dinner progressed. Ripe and full bodied on the palate, with massive fruit and concentration, this Flaccianello is backed by laser like acidity and yes, substantial tannins that assert themselves noticeably without food. Flavors follow the nose and the ground coffee note on the finish was very appealing. I can't imagine a better pairing with the rabbit. Plus, the fried zucchini, the sformato, and the grilled eggplant worked very well too. Simply a stunning wine. 95 points. 60 Euro on the list which is about $84 - substantially less than US retail.
|~ Fontodi's Flaccianello is 100% Sangiovese from their Panzano Estate ~|
Well sated, we returned home over the winding white road. The adventure will continue...........
|~ Looking west at some of our lavender. Believe it or not, this picture was taken at about 9:30 at night! ~|