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Valley Hunter

January 20, 2010

WINE: Find stops many will miss off the beaten path

FLORENCE, Italy — One of the great joys of wine is great wine experiences. I just returned from 10 work-related days in Italy but had a full day in Tuscan wine country and a couple of great wine experiences.

The highlight was visiting two wineries in Tuscany. Tour companies wanted up to 200 euros (or $300) for a day-long wine tour, so I kept looking. I found a U.S. transplant, Anthony Finta, who has lived in Florence for five years. He is trying to start a business bringing small production wines to the U.S. for Internet sales.

He arranged visits at two small wineries deep in the Tuscan hills. So while the column is about my visit, it’s also to suggest getting off the beaten path and finding stops many will miss.

Neither winery has a current U.S. distributor, but there are hundreds of small wineries in Italy, and other Old World countries, facing the same challenge. Our first visit was to Corzano e Paterno near San Pancrazio, about 30 minutes south of Florence.

The winery was purchased in the 1970s by a successful Swiss architect, Wendel Gelpke. His daughters Arianna, the wine maker, and Sibilla, who heads the cheese making, gave us a wonderful tour.

The estate included the ruins of three old homes the family has renovated as guest houses. They produce a Rosso (table wine), Chianti, Chianti Reserva, and a Tuscan. All Italian restaurants serve table wine but most during our trip was, frankly, terrible. The Corzano Rosso was better than many Chianti wines I tasted — and it sold for just 6 euros.

The Corzano Tuscan wine was a big, beautiful blend of Cabernet, Merlot and the traditional Italian grape, Sangiovese. The Tuscan was 23 euros, aged in new oak, with 14.5 percent alcohol. It was a dynamic bottle of wine. The Chianti Riserva was equally outstanding.

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