Who better to send to an Italian winery than The Palladian Traveler? That’s where he is, standing among the barriques inside a state-of-the-art cantina that traces its roots all the way back to the Renaissance, as he files his 11th Country Roads dispatch as an imbedded scribe on an Insight Vacations’ journey through Umbria and Tuscany. Salute!

After catching some rays under the Tuscan sun around Cortona, our band of merry media — VIP guests on an abbreviated version of one of Insight Vacations’ (Insight) Country Roads of Italy itineraries — rolls further into Tuscany, over scenic hills and dales, into the middle of Chianti wine country: Fonterutoli.

Roll the “R” and repeat after me: fohn-tay-ROO-toh-lee. Bravo!

It is here, where Florence’s provincial border ends and Siena’s begins, that a noble Tuscan family planted its roots way back in 1435 and began to grow superlative Sangiovese grape on the rolling hills surrounding its picture-postcard perfect castle-village that would define a brand known the world over: Marchesi Mazzei Castello di Fonterutoli.

Today, we’re going to see firsthand the 21st century version of this Renaissance-era bloodline’s heritage of making extraordinary Chianti Classico wines.

Shorthand at the ready and camera lenses locked in place, we go inside the epicenter of the brand that begins in a mini art museum-like foyer and ends alongside a dark, tucked away grotto: Mazzei’s sprawling, 10,000 square meter, state-of-the-art winery. Impressively pristine, the mammoth cantina produces the award-winning varietals and blends grown from the vines that drape the nearby terroirs, along with other labels from the family’s emerging wine zones in southwestern Tuscany and on the island of Sicily.

Leonardo, the estate’s director of public relations, guides us through the plant, explaining in great detail all of the steps involved in getting the Mazzei brand from the vineyard to your glass: delivery chutes, stainless steel storage and blending tanks, bottling and labeling, and the cavernous underground cellar — complimented by the sounds of flowing water inside a grotto — where an army of oak barriques (barrels) envelops all of that luscious vino rosso under the lowest of light until its aged to perfection.

Back above ground, Belinda, our tour director-slash-storyteller, ushers us back on the motorcoach and announces to the peanut gallery that we’re going to be the guests of Dr. Francesco Mazzei at the family’s upscale Osteria di Fonterutoli for a special wine tasting-culinary lunch, followed by a stroll around Castello di Fonterutoli.
All together now: SI!

To learn more about traveling in style on one of Insight Vacations’ 12 Italian premium and luxury escorted itineraries — where you’ll meet great local personalities like The Etruscan Chef along the way — or one of its 100 other journeys around Europe, visit insightvacations.com, or call toll-free (888) 680-1241, or contact your travel agent.