2020 is indeed a particular year. No matter where we go and whoever we meet, we need to always be concerned about the crowds, or be super cautious about getting too close to others. When I saw almost no people wearing masks during vacation in Austria, I felt unexpectedly insecure! It was insane to realize that the old normal now has become abnormal somehow! That was when it hit me that we had been socially isolated for too long. I need to go out and catch up with friends!
Luckily in September there was the last chance to join the vineyard dinner organized by Querceto di Castellina, a family run wine estate and agriturismo located in Castellina in Chianti. Their Dinner in Vineyard is an annual event, which happens in the Summer months (June, July, August & September) every year.
The idea of hosting dinners in their vineyard came casually 5 years ago, when a tour operator approached Querceto di Castellina with the proposal of a unique dinning experience for a group of 12 tourists. The manager of the estate then asked certain collaborative partners and made their first edition of Dinner in Vineyard happened.
Over the years it has grown into a landmark event. When we join the last dinner of 2020 in September, there were 60 guests. It has become not only a well-known affair by both locals and tourists, but also a great getaway, recharging and refreshing occasion!
Already driving from Florence to Querceto di Castellina was a pleasant experience. On the way we had stunning Tuscany country side scene passing by our sides. The olive groves were like bijou scattered on the green fields. On top of the hills, there were placed the cypress trees surrounded houses. Such Tuscan scenery had never failed to amaze me! And now after the lockdown, I refuse to take this postcard liked view for granted even more!
Aperitivo was served on the terrace. A glass of white and some delight finger food were served, meanwhile guests could walk around to visit the garden, chat with each other and soak in the countryside vibe. Specially for tonight we were lucky to have Betty Soldi to make on-site calligraphy!
Betty is a famous calligrapher from Florence. She has her studio in the city center, as well certain boutique hotels & restaurants featuring her work. I felt so happy to get a painting tailored for us done by her. A precious bonus!
Dinner Started at 8pm. A long table was placed to accommodate all guests. Flowers made an elegant center piece, accompanied by leaves with calligraphic words. Everybody arrived in front of the table but nobody went ahead to sit down. We all wanted to record this beautiful set-up before intruding.
The menu was specially designed and prepared by Ristorante Albergaccio di Castellina. Each dinner has its unique menu. For this September edition, there were a risotto, a plate of gnocchi, roasted veal as main, and zuccotto fiorentino for dessert. And to spice things up, Querceto di Castellina selected three wines to go with the dishes.
The three wines were: L’aura, which was in the name of the owner and was the very first wine produced by the estate back in 1998; SEI, meaning Six in Italian, representing many instances coinciding with the production of this wine; and Podalirio, a wine made of Merlot.
I seldom order either risotto or gnocchi in a restaurant, but the two dishes of the night left me no regrets at all!
The Soppressata, an Italian dry salami, gave a savory kick to the creamy risotto. While the candied lemon peels added a hint of sweet, which gave the taste of a single spoonful risotto so many layers.
The salty pheasant meat sauce with slices of sweet figs made a magical combination! And the gnocchi itself was light and soft, melting easily in the mouth.
Zuccotto, a semi-frozen, chilled dessert made with alchermes, cake and ice cream. There were basically a little bit everything here, a perfect ending for the night. Together with a coffee, we were ready to drive back home and have a night of sweet dreams.
The dinner lasted until midnight. Although it was a group dinner of 60 people (bearing all the necessary regulations for the COVID-19), we could feel the tranquility surrounding the countryside. It was such a long time missed and in-need experience to chat and laugh with friends over great food and wine! It was so worth the work of allocating two kids to grannies and driving all the way here!
Interested in take part of this special event in the next editions? Follow Querceto di Castellina on facebook to keep an eye on their event update: https://www.facebook.com/QuercetodiCastellina/