Champagne Tribaut-Schlosser

This story begins in the province of Québec and ends in France.  About a year ago, a friend in Québec City told us about a great value for an inexpensive champagne she had tasted and liked very much.  It was called Tribaut and it only cost 40 Canadian dollars or roughly 30 American.  We tried it and liked it very much and have been buying it since then. So when we took a recent wine tasting trip to the Champagne region of France, we made a special point of visiting their winery.

The Champagne wine trade is concentrated in two cities, Reims and Epernay.  But the Champagne region is quite large and there are thousands of wineries there.  Many of them are small producers located in countryside villages.  So we did the usual 21st century thing and looked up Tribaut on the web, got their address and used Google Maps to lead us there.  Unfortunately, that led us to a winery called G. Tribaut in the village of Hautvilliers.  When we realized we were not at the place that we were looking for, they were kind enough to point us to Tribaut-Schlosser, not far away in Romery. Fortunately, the scenery in between was gorgeous. We were there during the vendanges (harvest) and were able to see the workers in the vineyards hand-picking the grapes, which we had the pleasure of tasting directly from the vine.

Between Hautvilliers and Romery

On arrival, we found a pretty house but hardly what we Americans think of as a major winery when we go wine tasting.  Tribaut-Schlosser is hardly small – they produce 350,000 bottles each year – but they are tiny compared with grandes maisons like Moet & Chandon or Taittinger.  Still, everything is low key at Tribaut-Schlosser.  When we entered, we found an empty reception area. We called out to see if anyone was there and a woman came down to greet us.  She was pleased to offer us a dégustation, since evidently they don’t receive many visitors who just happen to be passing through Romery.

Tribaut-Schlosser makes an impressive number of Champagnes.  Their basic offering, Origine, is an Assemblage (in this case, 50% Pinot Meunier, 30% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Noir).  Their Blanc de Blanc (which they call Blanc de Champagne) is the one we had tasted in Québec.  There’s also a rosé, a Blanc de Noir and a tête du cuvée they call Cuvée René.  They also have two limited edition Champagnes, a brut and a rosé they refer to as Les Cuvées Authentique which we did not try.  After a pretty thorough tasting, we found we preferred the Blanc de Champagne that we were already familiar with and which is available in Québec.

Even though they were all so busy with the harvest, we were treated like visiting royalty.  We were seated in a cozy tasting room, more like someone’s living room, on a sofa in front of a barrel that served as a cocktail table.  Our host thought nothing of opening bottle after bottle; she didn’t want us to sample any wines that had already been opened.  The assistant winemaker stopped by as did a member of the Tribaut family.  (It seems that a Tribaut ancestor married a Schlosser back in the early 20th century.)  They were all so charming, it was as though we had dropped in on old friends.

You’re really going to have to drive a bit to find Champagne Tribaut-Schlosser.  But we certainly found it worth the effort.




Louis M. Martini Winery

There are few if any wineries in Napa Valley with a heritage as long as that at Louis M. Martini, tracing back to 1922.  Visiting this winery was among our earliest experiences in wine tasting.  And the familiar bottles with a horse pulling a cart full of grapes were staples in many wine stores around America.  Today, the horse and cart are gone, replaced by a prominent crown.  This is emblematic of the change at Martini, just as the new Louis M. Martini is emblematic of the changes in Napa Valley.

The old and new labels of Louis M. Martini Cabernet Sauvignon, with and without a horse drawn cart

There is still a Martini winery on the same property, a recently opened building covered in terra cotta tiles, with a large garden alongside.  The interior has majestic ceilings, beautiful appointments and some rather interesting wines.  Perhaps not so much on the outside, but this is truly a Napa Palace.  It is still named Louis M. Martini but the Gallo company that owns Martini has reinvented it; only the name remains.

That is not quite fair.  There is still the Monte Rosso vineyard just across the county line in Sonoma.  It had long been the source of the finest wines produced by Martini and still is today.  It was always best known for the Cabernet Sauvignon grown there and Martini still makes that wine.  But now Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Zinfandel and a red blend also come from this historic vineyard.  The Cabernet Sauvignon remains our favorite, but the others are quite good as well.

When you arrive at the winery, you are greeted by a host who directs you either to the Crown Bar or the Heritage Lounge.  While both rooms, as well as others in the garden and the library, are officially by appointment only, our experience is that visitors can just walk in.  However, we were there on a Thursday.  We are sure it would be tougher on a weekend and even more so in the summer.  So either reserve or call ahead.

The Crown Bar.  Photo courtesy of Louis M. Martini winery.

The Crown Bar is a beautifully appointed room with a wide bar and dramatic lighting.  This room features Martini’s recent releases, where you can sip some of your old favorites such as the Sonoma and Napa Cabernet Sauvignons.  We have nothing against these wines and have often bought them, but when we go wine tasting, we prefer to focus on the reserve wines.  These are served in the Heritage Lounge.

The Heritage Lounge

This room is also expansive and is furnished like an assemblage of living and dining rooms.  All tastings are seated.  Here you can taste the Monte Rosso vintages as well as Martini’s top wine called Lot No. 1, sourced from various vineyards around Napa Valley.  It is pure Cabernet Sauvignon and is twice as expensive as any of their other wines.  It is well worth tasting, but we will leave it to your tastes as to whether it is better than the Monte Rosso Cabernet Sauvignon.

The new tasting room replaces a rather nice but more modest one on the same property, which in turn replaced the working winery where one tasted in the more distant past.  Our server told us that they refer to the new tasting room as Louis M. Martini 2.0, referring to their new tasting facility.  We reminded her that Louis M. Martini goes back to the 1920’s, so no, it is 3.0.


Pellegrini Vineyards

Wine tasting in New York’s Long Island is just like tasting anywhere else in Wine Country, except that almost anywhere else there is a long tradition of winemaking.   But Long Island’s North Fork has only been producing wine since 1973, when Alex and Louisa Hargrave opened their namesake winery.  Today, their son Zander is the winemaker at Pellegrini, so you might say their vines have roots.

The tasting room is a handsome place, with exposed wooden beams and a balcony overlooking the main room.  The tasting room lets out onto a colonnaded atrium with the working winery occupying two other sides, with the fourth opening to the road.  Some of Pellegrini’s vineyards (they have others elsewhere in the North Fork) are to the rear.  The total impression is that of a prosperous Northeastern farm whose owners hired an architect with a sense of place and tradition.

The tasting room at Pellegrini.  Photo courtesy of liwines.

You can stand at the bar and sip your wines or take them to a table (which for some reason calls for an extra charge) where you can sit and spend a while.  In fact, the whole atmosphere at Pellegrini is more like going over to a friend’s house for a few glasses, rather than walking into a commercial establishment.

One of Pellegrini’s strengths is the wide variety of wines available to sample.  It is also one of their weaknesses.  On our most recent visit, there were sixteen wines to choose among: six whites, seven reds and a rosé, plus two library wines.  It is very hard for vineyards anywhere to produce so many different grapes, with quality, and Pellegrini does not succeed with all of them.  (We find this a problem with many Long Island wineries.)  So choose among them wisely.  One of the advantages of standing at the bar is that you can ask the server to describe each wine before selecting.

Their tastings are limited to three or four glasses, both as a matter of prudence and to control the crowds on summer weekends.  If you visit most other times, especially out of season, the servers are not so punctilious; they’ll keep pouring as long as you look like you’re not over-indulging.  You can also buy wines by the glass.

One of the advantages of tasting at Pellegrini, in our opinion, is that it is all about wine.  There are no rock concerts, food trucks or picnics.  You come there for tasting the local product and that’s all.

The gazebo at Pellegrini Vineyards.  Photo courtesy of Newsday.

Well, not exactly all.  As with many Long Island vineyards, Pellegrini is the venue for many weddings.  The beauty of the winery and its atrium layout lend themselves to festive occasions.  Moreover, there is a gazebo nestled in the vineyard that has long been an attraction at this winery.  Whether you’re there for a wedding or not, it’s a pleasure to amble among the vines towards the gazebo, a North Fork landmark.


At the end of a long boulevard in Reims sits the Taittinger headquarters.  It sits on the site of a former Abbey of St. Nicaise that was destroyed by some zealots during the French Revolution.  Nothing remains of the Abbey, or at least not above-ground.  The ancient monks were winemakers themselves and they dug their cellars below their Abbey’s grounds, utilizing in part cellars created in the Fourth Century by the Romans, who were quarrying stone for buildings in the town.  So while all cellar tours are pretty much the same, a visit to Taittinger has quite a lot of history to it.

Stairs used by the monks of St. Nicaise to enter the cellars

Taittinger is one of Champagne’s largest houses, based on the number of cases produced.  Their wines are noted for their elegance and floral notes.  It is also the parent company of California’s Domaine Carneros.  Although anyone can reserve a tour and tasting, we used our membership in Domaine Carneros to obtain a private one.

Note that this storage cave contains 99,000 bottles of Comtes de Champagne

Today, the cellars in Reims are used solely to mature their top Champagne, the Comtes de Champagne.  Deep below ground (18 meters or nearly 56 feet) you will see stack after stack of bottles that they age for at least 10 years.  It is quite imposing.

But there are some things that you will not see.  For one, you won’t see the facilities for storing their other Champagnes, such as their Brut Reserve or their rosé.  For another, you won’t see the location where they actually crush the grapes and vinify their wines.  And you won’t see the Château de la Marquetterie that appears on their bottles, just as the Domaine Carneros winery appears on the labels of the American sparkling wines.  The château is actually in a small village called Pierry.  You cannot visit it, but you can look at it.

Château de la Marquetterie in Pierry

What you can see in the caves in Reims is a lot of history.  It does look yellow, because they use sodium lights to do the minimum damage to the Champagne.  You see stairways that the monks used to descend into the cellars.  You see beehive shaped vaults where the Romans excavated stone.  And you see the convocation area where the monks gathered centuries ago.

After touring you do get a chance to taste the Champagne.  The least expensive tour gets you a glass of the Brut Reserve, while the top-priced tour includes that wine plus the Comtes de Champagne, both white and pink.

Every trip to Champagne should include a visit to one of Grandes Marques, of which Taittinger is one of the leaders.  Alas, some of these are rather industrialized; the historical interest of the Taittinger caves gives you a reason to choose this one.

Oh, and by the way, Americans.  It’s not pronounced TAT-in-jer.  You should say tet-ahn-ZHAY.  It’s good to know if you go.



Located in the heart of the Valpolicella region in northern Italy, Zýmē ( offers a rather unique wine tasting adventure.  First, though, the name needs explanation.  Zýmē is a Greek word for “yeast”, which aside from being a critical ingredient in wine is, according to the winemaker, Celestino Gaspari, a symbol of naturalness, a leading value of this winery.  It’s pronounced ZEE-may and is located in the village of San Pietro in Cariano, not far from Verona.

We have to be truthful and say that the winery you will visit is not the same one we did.  Zýmē has recently opened a new winery, very modern on the outside and ancient in the interior.  When we visited not very long ago, it was literally a hole in a hill and the winery itself was in a cave.  The cave-like atmosphere is still maintained but it is now carved out of an 15th century limestone quarry.  Like the prior winery, walking through the cavern is a unique and rather thrilling experience.  The pictures accompanying this article, courtesy of Zýmē, are very reminiscent of what we saw and give some idea of the impact of a visit there.

The décor provides the wine tasting experience, but it would matter little if the wine weren’t interesting as well.  Power Tasting does not review wines as such, but we can say that Zýmē makes excellent wines in the Valpolicella style from the corvina, corvinone and rondinella grapes.  These are only to found in the Valpolicella region.  But Zýmē goes further, making wines from rarely encountered grapes as well as more common ones not usually found in that region.

This level of quality might be expected once one knows the background of the winemaker.  Signore Gaspari worked for many years at Quintarelli, thought by many to be the premier Amarone maker.  In fact, Giovanni Quintarelli was his father-in-law.  Zýmē’s wines have a different character than Quintarelli’s but you can tell in a simple tasting that they are made with craft and pride.

In addition to the traditional wines of the region, Zýmē makes a wine called Oseleta, from 100% grapes of the same name.  According to Wine-Searcher, there are less than 20 hectares of these vines anywhere in the world, almost all grown near Lake Garda.  Once almost extinct, Zýmē now makes this unique wine, keeping a distinctive taste, unlike anything else we have tasted, alive for future generations.

Another special wine made by Zýmē is Kairos, a Greek word (again) for “the opportune moment”.  This wine is a power hitter, weighing in at 15% alcohol and is made from the kitchen sink of grapes: Garganega, Trebbiano toscano, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Syraz, Teroldego, Croatina, Oseleta, Sangiovese and Marzemino.  There has to be something in this wine to please everyone…or no one.

The Valpolicella region is not exactly unknown, but is generally not as well-regarded as Tuscany and the Piedmont.  That’s a shame, because there are some really spectacular wines to be tasted there.  And if you do go, you really should not miss a visit to Zýmē.

Domaine Chandon

For us, it is impossible to think of our experiences of tasting wine in Napa Valley not to think about Domaine Chandon.  It was the first place we visited on our first wine tasting trip to Napa Valley.  The site was beautiful; the education about making sparkling wine stayed with us forever; and the wine was first rate.  This was in the late 70’s and everything was new and wonderful, only enhanced by the haze of time.

It was the beginning of an avocation that has led to this e-magazine.

There are differences between that experience and the one you can have if you visit Domaine Chandon today.  At that time, the winery included a restaurant, Étoile, that closed in 2014.  Back then, the restaurant was the seat of haute cuisine in Napa Valley, and people flocked there to taste real French food (!) in America, washed down with real French Champagne (!!).

But real Champagne comes only from the section of France by the same name.  Domaine Chandon is a subsidiary of the French company Moet et Chandon and so they never describe their American product as Champagne (with or without a capital c).  Their labels eschew any description at all, except to say that they are Brut (or rosé) and Méthode Traditionelle.

The tasting room overlooking the gardens.

The educational experience at Domaine Chandon is also diminished from the olden days.  Then, a guide walked you through the winery and explained double fermentation, dosage and how they got that big cork into the bottle.  Today, you can walk through yourself and read the plaques as you go, but it’s not the same thing. After the tour you were invited to sit in the charming little garden under umbrellas and they would bring you a glass of sparkling wine, a little bowl of spread cheese and croutons.

After all about what it was, Domaine Chandon is still worth a visit today.  There are far more sparkling wines to taste than in the past, including Pinot Noirs that were not even thought of then.  The tasting room offers many wines to compare, including the Bruts from around Napa Valley.  Depending on the day, they may open wines from Yountville (the mother ship), Carneros or Mt. Veeder.  Their top wine was and is Étoile, in Brut and rosé, as well as the top of the top, the Tête du Cuvée (which is rarely available for tasting but is, of course, sold there).

The grounds are gorgeous, a sprawling campus with fountains, ponds and greenery that invite a long, lazy afternoon, sipping Champa…, oops, sparkling wine.  And Domaine Chandon makes that easy with a spacious veranda and seats around the gardens.

Unfortunately Domaine Chandon is to an extent the victim of its own success.  It was the first French winery to open in the United States and it has been a landmark for more than 40 years.  So people arrive in great numbers, especially on beautiful summer weekends.  If you are there on a busy day, you will be given your tastes but will feel rushed and you won’t be able to engage in much conversation with the server.  Maybe a rainy day in November is the best time to visit.  Our last experience at Domaine Chandon was not enjoyable because of all those inconveniences.  It was also so crowded that getting to the bar to ask for another tasting was almost impossible.

But try it, take in the beauty of the site and of the architecture of the tasting room and enjoy the wines.  You’ll become a part of California history.


This is going to get a little complicated.  In the heart of Tuscany’s Chianti Classico region there is a castle named Brolio (  It is owned by the noble Ricasoli family and they make wine there.  Some of their wines are named Brolio and others are called Ricasoli and some say both, hence the complication.  If you want to visit, go to the town of Gaiole and look for signs pointing to either name.

The Brolio Castle.  Photo courtesy of Ricasoli.

Power Tasting is all about going wine tasting and we’ll get to that in a bit.  But we can’t overlook the fact that the tasting room is at the foot of a hill and on top of that hill is a castle.  It is a major tourist attraction in the region.  It is rather grand, with beautiful gardens, and it is available for tours.  There is even a restaurant there where you can dine in some splendor.  If your wine tasting schedule allows the time, you really ought to see it.

Photo courtesy of

Brolio/Ricasoli makes a lot of wines, some of which are available on store shelves in the United States.  The best known, naturally, is their Chianti Classico.  [A few words about Chianti, since we’re getting a little complicated. Lots of areas in Tuscany make Chianti but only those in a specified region around the villages of Radda, Greve and Gaiole make the Classico, known for the black rooster (gallo nero) on the label. A Chianti Classico must be at least 75% Sangiovese and up to 10% Canaiolo, with the rest usually filled in with international varietals. Is the Classico any better than any other?  Who’s to say? (Well, Lucie thinks so.)   But it is marketed way better.]

Brolio’s top wine is the Chianti Classico Gran Selezione, which is rarely available for tasting.  However, the Riserva is there and is definitely worth trying.  To our tastes, the best part of a tasting at Brolio are the wines generally less associated with their name(s).  Among these are their 100% Sangiovese wines, which can’t be called Brunello because they’re not from Montalcino but are made the same way.  We particularly liked their Vin Santo dessert wine.

An unusual attraction of wine tasting at Brolio is the stemware used in the tasting room.  They are light and beautifully shaped and add an unexpected pleasure to a wine tasting visit.  We thought of buying some and bring them home, but they are so thin and fragile, we changed our mind.

Overall, a visit to Brolio/Ricasoli is an event.  If there were nothing more than the tasting room and the wines alone, it would be very satisfying.  There are the castle, the vineyards, the restaurant, the tours which taken altogether can be a bit overwhelming.  We’re not trying to discourage anyone from visiting Brolio – far from it.  It’s just that if you want to take full advantage of everything that Brolio has to offer, plan on spending some serious time there.

One thing that Brolio offers is a sunset tour.  We have never done it, but the idea of watching the sun go down over the Tuscan countryside is an attraction we might take up on another occasion, and spend the night in the village instead of driving back to wherever we stayed in the past.

Gary Farrell Winery

If you want to know about California winemaking in the 21st century, you need to get acquainted with the Russian River Valley.  The history of nearby Napa Valley is more renowned and California would not be the powerhouse on the world’s wine stage if it weren’t for Napa Cabernet Sauvignons.  But that is certainly not the whole story; Russian River’s Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs deserve just as much attention.

We say this because we love visiting this corner of Wine Country.  We also have to be honest and say that we actually prefer Pinot Noirs from Carneros and Santa Lucia Highlands.  But Power Tasting is all about the wine tasting experience, and there are few as pleasant as driving the small meandering roads of Russian River Valley.  And there are few wineries where the tasting experience is as pleasant as at Gary Farrell Winery (

Mr. Farrell began the winery in the late 1970’s and produced wines under his own label in 1982.  He has long-since sold it and the team that owns it now has considerable winemaking chops.  None of this is necessary knowledge for you to enjoy your visit there.  The winery is a wee bit hard to find.  First you have to find Westside Road, naturally enough on the west side of the Russian River.  You will love driving along this shady road, really feeling that you have discovered Wine Country.

The view from Gary Farrell Winery

Then keep your eyes open for a sign announcing the Gary Farrell Winery.  Take a narrow road up a hill and the tasting room is right before you. It’s a handsome, modernist building and most importantly it is nestled above the trees.  If an eagle wanted to go wine tasting, it would land at this winery first.

The interior is also a welcoming blend of wood and windows, with an ample terrace where you can sip your wines.  There’s something about Pinot Noir and treetops that go together quite well.  What you won’t see from the winery are vineyards.  Gary Farrell sources its grapes and does so from some of the better-regarded vineyards in Russian River, such as Rochioli, Baciagalupi, and Martinelli.  They have recently begun sourcing from further afield and now make wines from the great Bien Nacido vineyard in Santa Maria county.

As a result, a tasting at Gary Farrell can be a tour of different terroirs in the hands of a single winemaking team.  That too is an important part of the wine tasting experience.

The winery’s web site now says that they are open by appointment only.  We have never had one and have never been turned away but they do seem more insistent now.  Their web site also says that the tastings take quite a lot of time, a minimum of one and a quarter hours.  We certainly don’t advocate gulping down your wines, but their estimate seems a bit sluggish to us, even with time to admire the view.



There is an on-going debate as to whether better wine is made on mountain slopes or valley floors.  There are enough great wineries, high and low, that the issue will probably never be settled.  But this much can be said: Mountain wineries offer better views.  So even if Chappellet didn’t make excellent wines – which they do – it would be worthwhile to take the drive up Pritchard Hill just for the sake of the views you’ll get.

Photo courtesy of Chappellet

If you’re coming from the south, turn right on Sage Canyon Road in St. Helena on the Vaca range side of Napa Valley.  You’ll soon see the vista, not so much into Napa Valley but on the other side towards Lake Hennessy, gleaming off in the distance.  We have most enjoyed this view in autumn, when the grape leaves turn color.   Keep going and you’ll arrive at Chappellet, a towering wooden edifice which, if viewed from above, is shaped like the winery’s logo.  As you enter, you will enjoy the architecture of soaring ceilings and mellow wooden walls, ceilings and beams.

Photo courtesy of Chappellet

As with many wineries these days, Chappellet offers several different tiers of tastings.  Tours and tastings at Chappellet are by appointment only.  Some smaller and less well-known wineries say that but don’t really mean it.  Chappellet is a popular destination and so they do.  We have enjoyed the estate tour which not only includes a tasting in the barrel room but a tour around the vineyards (and more excellent views).  You start out with a glass of white wine and then are offered other wines as you go along.  At the end, you’re in the barrel room sipping Chappellet’s better known wines.  And if you know what to ask for, you may get a chance to try some of their more restricted releases.  Look for their Cabernet Franc which is really a Bordeaux blend, or more properly a California expression of a Pomerol blend.

Photo courtesy of Chappellet

Chappellet’s guides/servers have always been quite knowledgeable on the occasions we have visited there.  Unless you pay for a private tour, you will be with other visitors.  This is not usually much of a drawback, but if you are quite knowledgeable about winemaking already you may find the tour somewhat elementary.  Wonky questions aren’t discouraged, but your tour mates may feel you’re slowing them down.  We have found that to be fair to everyone, it’s best to save these sorts of questions for the end of the tour, when you’re back inside and there is no need to move onto the next spot.

The late Donn Chappellet founded the winery in 1967, which makes it one of the pioneers of the current era of Napa Valley winemaking and one of the first to exploit the mountain slopes for planting vineyards.  Still family-owned, the Chappellets have demonstrated a commitment to quality for decades.  For the visitor, the combination of quality wines, vistas and history is hard to beat.




Val di Suga

If you travel to Montalcino from the north, which is what you would do if you were to approach it from Siena or Florence, you will pass several wineries as you get close to the village itself.  One of these is Val di Suga (, which with its long row of towering cypress trees seems to draw you in for a tasting.  By coincidence, the night before we visited there we had had a bottle of one of their Brunellos with dinner, so we were very interested to learn more about them.

The Val di Suga winery.  Photo courtesy of Bertani Domains.

You enter the property on a long driveway lined with the aforementioned cypresses.  The winery building looks, well, Tuscan. It sits among broad, expansive vineyards some of which are theirs.  The tasting room is modern, airy and offers a view across the Val di Suga’s vines, all bearing Sangiovese grapes.  This vineyard, called Vigna del Lago (Vineyard of the Lake) is one of three owned by Val di Suga.  The other two are Vigna Spuntali, south of Montalcino, and Poggio al Granchio (Crab Hill) high above the village, also to the south.

These three vineyards are important to the taster because Val di Suga makes single vineyard varietals from each one.  They also make a blend of the three.  If ever there was an opportunity to experience the relative influence of terroir versus the winemaker’s hand, this is it.  You can taste the same grapes from the same region, no more than 15 kilometers apart, vinified in the same way by the same winemakers.  Even though they are near one another, the three vineyards have different soils and microclimates so the comparison on your nose and in your mouth are distinctive.  We preferred the blend, but that’s in keeping with our overall preference for blended wines.  You go; you taste; you make up your own mind.

In our early days of wine drinking, Italian wine meant Chianti in straw-wrapped bottles.  (The bottle itself is still attractive and brings back good memories.)  It was inexpensive, acidic and of uneven quality, to be generous.  We were left with a distaste for Sangiovese that lasted for quite a while.  And then we discovered Brunello! This wine is 100% Sangiovese and is one of the great achievements of the winemakers’ skill.  It is amazing what great soil, careful production and winemaking pride can do.  And yes, we drink better Chiantis these days as well.

We found the service staff (actually just one young woman the day we were there) to be courteous, eager to show off the comparison of their wines and able to speak English quite well.  You will find no shortage of wineries to visit in and around Montalcino and will be amazed at the variety these Tuscans can create from a single grape in a single locality.  When you visit, we recommend that you include Val di Suga in your itinerary.