cheese tasting

Aging cheese, lots of cheese, at a special artisan shop in Italy

 

By Eileen Ogintz

Cheese tour - Guffanti Arona

Cheese tour – Guffanti Arona

— Parmigiano Reggiano… Pecorino… Fontina…Gorgonzola. Cheese made from sheep’s milk, from goat’s milk, from cows and some made with all three.

 

Shelves and shelves of giant rounds of cheese, square cheeses in rooms carefully controlled for cold and humidity as the cheeses age for months and some cases for years

 

They’re covered with walnut leaves, with pepper and some with saffron… Some are “bathed” in tomato so they have a reddish hue. Others are covered with pressed grapes after the wine harvest. The cheeses come from artisan dairies and are “prepared” here and watched over carefully.

 

Welcome to Luigi Guffanti 1876 in the northern Italian town of Arona that has been buying cheese from the same production sites since 1876, then refining them in special “caves,” sometimes for years before they are sold around the world. They are artisans and specialists who oversee more than more than 200 kinds of cheese here
“Everything you do to the milk changes the taste of the cheese,” explained Walter Carbo, who tours us around the chilly caves. Even the grass where the animals graze impacts the taste.

 

 

“The selection is the hardest part of the work,” Carbo says

 

 

After the cheese is removed from the pot, it is wrapped in cloth and is put in a mold that sets its final form. “Now the cheese is ready for a little nap — and when it wakes up it will have taken on its final form!” the book says. Some of the cheese is placed between pieces of wood and pressed. Salt is added to the cheese and then the cheese “has to rest” and is aged for any time from a few weeks or years. The cheese experts we meet need to rotate the cheese, wash it and most important, watch it.

 

I’ve never seen so many giant cheeses in one place — big rounds I couldn’t even lift.

 

“We watch it and we wash it and we turn it,” Carbo explained.   One cheese is covered in ash, balsamic vinegar and juniper; another is washed with particular oils. Some are meant to be enjoyed fresh, others only after aged a few years.

 

Several generations of the family have been in the business, started when Luigi Guffanti purchased an old mine at the foot of the Alps to age his cheese. The company experts select cheeses made with raw milk; some made only in the summer in the mountains according to ancient traditions. The company is by the shores of Lake Maggiore, which has an ideal micro-climate for the aging process.

 

Don’t ask me what’s the secret to all this. All I know is that the cheeses taste great!

 

By Eileen Ogintz Taking the Kids  eileen@takingthekids.com
5 Viking Green
Westport, CT 06880

A day in Chianti begins

 

By now, it’s not a secret that Mr. TWS and I were smitten with Tuscany on our first visit to the region. Each day brought new experiences in the hilltop villages, historic towns, and countryside. On this day with the promise of more tasty and interesting activities ahead, Mr. TWS and I were driving along Tuscany’s country roads among the vineyards and olive groves enjoying the burst of colorful spring blooms on the wooded hillsides.

Vineyards and olive groves in the Chianti hills of Tuscany

Vineyards and olive groves in the Chianti hills of Tuscany

Tasting Chianti

Chianti, a well-known name to wine drinkers and Italian restaurant patrons worldwide, is a wine zone in Tuscany that grows the grapes used in its namesake wines. What better way to begin a day in Chianti than in one of the foremost wineries of Tuscany with a tour and tasting?

Wine and architecture

Antinori nel Chianti Classico (Cantine Antinori)
Via Cassia per Siena, 133
San Casciano in Val di Pesa, Bargino

Newly opened in October 2012, Cantine Antinori is a striking work of architecture on the Chianti landscape. Created with local materials and a focus on having minimal impact on the environment and saving energy, it complements the natural surroundings of its rural hillside location in Bargino

Tuscany countryside reflected in the glass of the Cantine Antinori in Bargino — innovative architecture designed by Archea Associati in harmony with the landscape

Tuscany countryside reflected in the glass of the Cantine Antinori in Bargino — innovative architecture designed by Archea Associati in harmony with the landscape

Usually, I’m not much for introductory films before tours, but the very interesting video at the beginning of our tour explained the Antinori family’s history in the wine business and particularly how innovation has always been a driving force in their operations. In 1385, Giovanni di Piero Antinori, head of the noble Florentine family, began the centuries-long history of producing wine. Through 26 generations, the family has remained directly involved in management of the winery. Antinori built the new facility and moved its headquarters from Florence to this location to continue advancing their innovative approach to wine making while honoring their long traditions. As Marquis Piero Antinori, current head of the family business, says: “Ancient roots play an important role in our work. But have never been a limit to our innovative spirit”.

Innovative architecture and design of Cantine Antinori -- From top left: A circular skylight fills the lobby with light; "Biosphere 06" art by Tomás Saraceno installed in cellar stairway; ; views of Tuscan hills from lobby; soft and colorful seating in lounge area; looking up through the spiral staircase from the parking lot

Innovative architecture and design of Cantine Antinori — From top left: A circular skylight fills the lobby with light; “Biosphere 06” art by Tomás Saraceno installed in cellar stairway; ; views of Tuscan hills from lobby; soft and colorful seating in lounge area; looking up through the spiral staircase from the parking lot

The geometric and abstract designs of the structure and interior decor are eye-catching as you peruse the Antinori family art collections and information exhibits on the main level. I particularly liked the views of the Tuscan hills and Antinori’s Sangiovese vineyards through the expansive glass windows (top right above).

From top left: Time for tasting after the tour; alluring display of wine bottles in the shop; terracotta vats for olive oil production; vaulted wine cellar

From top left: Time for tasting after the tour; alluring display of wine bottles in the shop; terracotta vats for olive oil production; vaulted wine cellar

 

There are several guided tours available that cover the wine-making process from the vineyard to the bottle and provide an excellent introduction to Antinori wines.

When in Italy … Although still before noon, Mr. TWS and I had no problem sampling a few wines during the tasting at the end of the tour. We began with a Bramito Chardonnay from Umbria that was perfect for early imbibing, followed by two of their signature Chianti Classico vintages. Chianti Classico is a designation that not only refers to a geographic district in Chianti, but also to the particular blend of grapes with Sangiovese being at least 80% of the blend.

Cheese and more wine

Fattoria Corzano e Paterno
Via San Vito di Sopra snc
San Pancrazio, San Casciano

But this day in Chianti wasn’t all about wine. Much to our pleasure, cheese was also involved.

Ancient stone buildings of Fattoria Corzano e Paterno in San Pancrazio, San Casciano, ItalyAncient stone buildings of Fattoria Corzano e Paterno

Ancient stone buildings of Fattoria Corzano e Paterno in San Pancrazio, San Casciano, ItalyAncient stone buildings of Fattoria Corzano e Paterno

 

Across the River Pesa, down winding tree-lined rural roads through hills dotted with Tuscan estates is Fattoria Corzano e Paterno, a family owned and operated cheese factory and winery. In the 1970s, with visions of living closer with the land as he began a new chapter of his life, the late Wendel Gelpke, a Swiss architect, came to Tuscany and bought two centuries-old farms — Corzano (in 1972) and Paterno (in 1976). We were given a tour of the farm by Arianna Gelpke, Wendel’s daughter and the winery’s assistant winemaker.

Touring the cheese factory with Arianna; Antonia’s luscious cheese creations on racks in the factory

Touring the cheese factory with Arianna; Antonia’s luscious cheese creations on racks in the factory

The cheese

Since 1992, the cheeses of Fattoria Corzano e Paterno have been produced by hand using traditional methods using the milk from the farm’s Sardinian sheep, chosen for their adaptability to the hilly terrain of Tuscany. The original small herd of 50 sheep purchased in the early 1970s to help clear the fields for vineyards has grown to 650 sheep, managed by Wendel’s son, Tillo. Reflecting the farm’s belief in sustainability and giving back to the land, the sheep also provide manure that enriches the soil in the vineyards and olive groves.

Antonia, wife of Wendel’s nephew Aljoscha, is a master cheesemaker who has managed the dairy since 1986 and has created many varieties of cheese. Among her inventions are the popular Lingotto (with smoked bacon aromas) and Rocco (a creamy and tangy cheese).

The wine

Aljoscha is the winemaker whose experience began 30 years ago when he helped his uncle on the original six hectares of land, which have grown to 18 hectares. Arianna assists Aljoscha and is in charge of the newer wine cellar built in 2005. Their grape varieties include Sangiovese, Canaiolo, Malvasia, Trebbiano(each common to the Chianti area), as well as other varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Chardonnay.

The tasting

A highlight was sampling the freshness of Corzano e Paterno with a wine and cheese tasting in the courtyard in front of the shop where their wine, cheese, cured meats, and other local products can be purchased. On this warm afternoon with flowers in bloom, the Il Corzanello Toscana IGT Bianco was a perfect accompaniment to the cheeses we sampled (described below). We also tasted one of their red wines, Terre di Corzano Chianti, a Sangiovese and Canaiolo blend, and we couldn’t resist buying a bottle before we left.

Top left: Marzolino (soft cheese like mozzarella), Erbolino (fresh pecorino with garlic, parsley and hot pepper), and goat cheese; on the terrace with our guide Babeth and Arianna enjoying Il Corzanello Bianco 2014; fresh eggs in the shop; beautiful irises at the dairy

Top left: Marzolino (soft cheese like mozzarella), Erbolino (fresh pecorino with garlic, parsley and hot pepper), and goat cheese; on the terrace with our guide Babeth and Arianna enjoying Il Corzanello Bianco 2014; fresh eggs in the shop; beautiful irises at the dairy

 

Luxury country holiday villas

Within easy reach of Cantine Antinori and Corzano e Paterno are two of Este Villa’s luxury holiday rentals near the town of San Casciano, Borgorosa and Casa Mattei. Although we didn’t stay in these villas, we toured both of these properties and were instantly impressed with them as options for stays in Chianti. Each is distinctive in its accommodations and amenities, but being in the heart of Chianti, they both share convenient accessibility to many of Tuscany’s alluring cities and attractions, including the gorgeous Renaissance city of Florence which is only 18 km.

Borgorosa holiday rentals in a restored barn and olive mill

Borgorosa holiday rentals in a restored barn and olive mill

Filled with history in a secluded setting among the cypress trees of the Chianti hills is Borgorosa, a historic estate with holiday rentals. At the beautiful and grand villa adjacent to the rentals, Mr. TWS and I enjoyed meeting the owners, Andrea and his wife Claudia whose family has owned the property since the 1700s. During a tour and gourmet Tuscan lunch with our gracious hosts, we also liked learning about the history of the villa.

A memorable dining experience in Renaissance ambiance with Andrea and Claudia in their villa

A memorable dining experience in Renaissance ambiance with Andrea and Claudia in their villa

The villa was first built in the 13th century as a lookout tower to watch for enemy factions. As many of these types of structures in Italy, it was subsequently destroyed and rebuilt during the following centuries. In 1520, the villa was purchased by the famous Florentine noble, Matteo Strozzi, for a summer residence. He had it enlarged and decorated in grand Renaissance style by the most important sculptors and painters of the time. We had a glimpse of some of the ornate and richly-furnished rooms of the villa, including a stunning ballroom, but because photography was not allowed we are not able to share. The private chapel has stunning frescoes (top left below) painted by Michele Tosini, a student of Ridolfo del Ghirlandaio, a renowned Renaissance painter. Claudia’s ancestors in the Cancellieri Ganucci family bought the villa from Strozzi in the 1700s.

cr Borgorosa ev

 

Besides being a summer home for the nobility, the villa has seen its share of history through the centuries. According to Claudia’s grandfather’s diary, during World War II the villa was first occupied by the German Stasi command and then by the American army when the Germans had withdrawn.

Crossing the wide expanse of lawn to the Borgorosa holiday rental buildings from the family villa

Crossing the wide expanse of lawn to the Borgorosa holiday rental buildings from the family villa

Across a wide expanse of lawn from the main house are Borgorosa’s holiday rentals located in two buildings (shown above and below).

Borgorosa rental unit with private courtyard and outdoor dining area

Borgorosa rental unit with private courtyard and outdoor dining area

Andrea and Claudia have shown great style in the furnishings of the rental units (completely restored in 2011) using classic terracotta floors, original artwork, and tasteful antiques. A few of the comfortable and cozy rooms of the units are shown below.

A glimpse of interior rooms of Borgorosa units

A glimpse of interior rooms of Borgorosa units

Five units accommodating up to 22 people in 11 bedrooms are located in the restored buildings — three in the former olive oil mill and two in what was previously the barn. The units can be rented separately or together. Each unit has full kitchens, living areas, and private outdoor areas for al fresco dining in addition to outdoor common areas for all guests. Below the units among the olive trees is the inviting pool. Nearby activities that may interest guests include horseback riding, golf, and tennis.

Lawn and terrace of a Borgorosa unit overlooking pool surrounded by olive trees

Lawn and terrace of a Borgorosa unit overlooking pool surrounded by olive trees

Borgorosa seemed a great spot for a couple’s getaway or for large group and family gatherings, especially with the elegant loggia in the villa that would be perfect for special occasions

 

Casa Mattei

At Borgorosa, we were met by Babeth, the lovely property manager of Casa Mattei, the next villa we would be visiting just a few minutes away, partially along an unpaved road. At first sight, I knew I would be taken with Casa Mattei, a former monastery that dates back a thousand years

Casa Mattei

Casa Mattei

The building was completely restored in 2006 and its rooms were meticulously decorated in contemporary fashion. Enjoying refreshments with Babeth on the terrace with expansive views of the wooded countryside, I could easily envision a festive family gathering or vacation with friends here.

 

Enjoying refreshments on the terrace of Casa Mattei

Enjoying refreshments on the terrace of Casa Mattei

Casa Mattei’s spacious and beautifully-designed interior looked ideal for family and group gatherings, accommodating 5 to 6 couples or a family of up to 14 people. The main rooms include a large dining room that opens onto the terrace, two kitchens, a spacious living room, cozy sitting rooms, five bedrooms (each with a private bathroom), and a wine cellar.

Spacious living areas, large kitchen, bright dining area, and wine cellar of Casa Mattei

Spacious living areas, large kitchen, bright dining area, and wine cellar of Casa Mattei

Next to the villa is a separate small and charming building (shown below bottom left) that can sleep 2 additional people.

Olive trees and flowers on the grounds; outdoor pizza oven (top right); separate unit (bottom left)

Olive trees and flowers on the grounds; outdoor pizza oven (top right); separate unit (bottom left)

I felt the peaceful character of Casa Mattei as we strolled with Babeth on the lawn outside to the organic gardens (where they grow artichokes, tomatoes, zucchini, and other vegetables), the olive groves, and next to the freshwater mosaic-tiled swimming pool. The view of the pool and villa below seems to epitomize the luxury of life in Chianti

the pool

the pool

And so a day in Chianti ends

We would have liked to spend more time relishing the ambiance of Borgorosa and Casa Mattei, tasting wine, and enjoying the company of the gracious people we met this day. Passed by an occasional Ferrari (apparently a popular tourist driving experience in Tuscany), we were on our way through the beautiful countryside while reflecting on our day and looking forward to the next day’s exploration in Tuscany.

Ferrari-spotting on the country road in the Chianti hills of Tuscany

Ferrari-spotting on the country road in the Chianti hills of Tuscany

 

by Catherine Sweeney  nov 2 2015

Grazie to our hosts at Borgorosa and Casa Mattei for making our day in Chianti so enjoyable.

Take a look at the EsteVillas website for details, more photos, and booking information for Borgorosa, Casa Mattei, and other properties in their collection.

 

Antinori Winery via Cassia per Siena 133
Loc. Bargino 50026 San Casciano Val di Pesa -Firenzeto book a visit  http://www.hospitalityantinorichianticlassico.it/Default.aspx

 

Corzano & Paterno – Via San Vito di Sopra, snc – 50020 San Casciano in Val di Pesa – Florence – Tuscany – Italy – tel. +39 055 8248 179

 

Borgorosa  and Casa Mattei  are both located in the heart of Chianti