Wine tasting in Gaiole in Chianti

Wine buffs will know we are staying in the Chianti Classico wine region. Within a few kilometres of our local town, Gaiole in Chianti, there are over a dozen producers ranging from the very large to the very small.

On Sunday night these local wine makers, together with the restaurants of Gaiole in Chianti got together and held a wine and food festival in Gaiole – Calici di Stelle. Loosely translated that means “Glasses of Stars”. For sampling were some fine Chianti Classico wines along with a range of other wines they produce.

Our dear friend Olga was assisting with the Ciona winery stand (our villa Diaccino is on the Ciona estate) and invited us along.

It was the perfect way to spend a Sunday evening. Starting at 8pm and running to midnight the event was a chance for locals (and visitors like us) to sample the local wines and try the local food. More than that, it was clearly a chance for families and friends to spend time together and catch up.

We got to sample some very fine wines as well as chat with the wine makers. Dinner was in the form of beautiful Gnocchi, roast pork and various accompaniments.

We had a great time but sadly the jet lag kicked in around 9:30pm so we had to leave early.

A week in Chianti

As part of our break in August we are staying a week in Chianti in Tuscany. Our dear friend Olga with her local contacts managed to find a beautiful villa for us called Il Diaccino. It is a villa located on a vineyard and olive farm and is just down the road from the village on Gaiole in Chianti.

With a pool just a short walk from the terrace and a very local vintage to sample, what more could anyone want?


It looks like a good vintage

vintage-2017Despite a rubbish summer our shared grapevine is doing well and is covered in grapes in various stages of ripening. The vine now runs the length of our boundary fence and still seems to keen stretch further.

Based on the last few years we should have many, many grapes available for friends and family in late March or early April.

Cloudy Bay meet Positano

Italy produces some great wines some of which we’ve sampled over the last few weeks, but on this trip we couldn’t resist bringing a little bit of New Zealand to Positano.

When we left the country we purchased, duty free, a couple of bottles of Jean’s favourite drop – Cloudy Bay’s iconic Chardonnay.

So evenings on the verandah have been spent with the two of us and, when we felt like it,  a friend from home.

A great vintage

Grapes 2013

One of the advantages of a long, hot and dry summer is that the country has many happy vintners. The 2013 vintage is shaping up as a cracker right across the country so if you’re a fan of New Zealand wine keep an eye out for some fabulous treats.

At our place we share a very old vine with our neighbours. Over the years it has spread it’s way down the boundary fence and now covers about half the length bringing that Italian feel from our back yard right down to the front door.

Every year it produces eating grapes and usually they are, how would you put it – sour, really sour. This year the long dry spell has been their saviour. Rich and sweet they have been a hit with our friends and rellies – so much so that friends planned  a pick and run mission last weekend to clean out the last remaining bunches.

As a result, our grapes may not be up for grabs this year but any bottle of wine from New Zealand with 2013 on the label will be worth grabbing – believe me.

A wee slice of New Zealand – Part 1


This gallery contains 9 photos.

Over the last few days I have had the chance to travel down the east coast of the South Island from Picton to Christchurch. Along the way I called into Blenheim in the heart of the Marlborough wine region and … Continue reading

An autumn night in the Campo


This gallery contains 8 photos.

Siena is full of restaurants and most of these are either fully or partially outdoor.  This is particularly true of those that ring the Campo. In summer outdoor dining makes perfect sense with umbrellas or awnings giving protection from the … Continue reading

Tuscany in three and a half days – day one and a half

Charlie and Isabel arrived on Saturday afternoon having travelled from north of Florence.  I had suggested they text us when they got close to our place which, in this case, meant texting from the carpark “I think we are here”.  The 3kms of dirt road make you wonder where the hell you are the first time you arrive.

We ambled out with the dogs and found them looking around wondering if this was our place or the home of some local family.  Either way they would have been made to feel welcome.

Dinner that night was at our local Pizza restaurant Le Campannia (other summer visitors will know this restaurant) which does excellent pizzas and provides endless free entertainment watching the antics of the locals.

Next morning was the All Black quarter final game so the entire team headed to the Campo at 9am to watch the game.  Clearly word about our World Cup venue is getting out as there were already two holidaying kiwi couples waiting for the game – and with us that meant the crowd swelled to a record eight people.  Nine counting an elderly Italian gentleman who joined us to support the French. He was a day late but still enjoyed the game.

Ninety minutes later it was “job well done” by the lads.  Well sort of well done as there is still some work to do before meeting Australia – and a chance for a wander around Siena before lunch in the sun at Osteria del Bigelli which, once again, did not disappoint with the food.

Jean made her famous kiwi roast pork with gravy for dinner and we washed it down with a very nice Chianti courtesy of our guests.

Rugby, beer, wine, sightseeing and roast pork with gravy.  A top day and a half.

Visiting Buonconvento and other things

In the last few days summer has really arrived in Tuscany. Temperatures have been around 30 degrees and the pace of life has slowed accordingly. Today we spent the middle of the day beside the pool and only when the temperature had dropped in the early evening did we venture out.

Jean and the girls at a cafe in Buonconvento

About 15 minutes down the road is the town of Buonconvento, a delightful place with an old town centre that has been developed over the years. We stayed in a villa only a couple of minutes from the town in 2004 and remember the town as utilitarian at best. Now it is a thriving tourist and artistic centre and definitely worth visiting if you are in the area.

The trip there and back is through farmland much of which is now planted in Sunflowers which are starting to bloom. When our visitors arrive in mid July, they should be looking great.

The girls

When we arrived back at the cottage the daily display that is the sunset was well underway. Although a camera can never do justice to this spectacle, here’s my best attempt.

Sunset over Siena - June 28

A weekend with Gill

Our dear friend Gill popped in for the weekend. It’s easy to say, but “popping in” meant a ridiculously early flight for Gill from the UK on Friday morning to Pisa where the entire Mowday clan went to pick her up.

It was great to see her and the girls got straight down to business. Three bottles of Moet disappeared almost immediately followed by a couple of bottles of Chardonnay (one a kiwi chardonnay saved especially for the occasion) over a dinner of Jeans famous roast chicken and potatoes. Suffice it to say Saturday started slowly in the cottage.

There was a little “pool time” and then dinner in the Campo at Al Mangia. Because the Campo is being prepared for the Palio on Saturday 2 July, barriers and stands are in the process of being erected and we had dinner in what is soon to be the middle of the racecourse on 3 inches of hard packed clay with race barriers on each side. Imagine having dinner on the finish line at Trentham racecourse and you’ll get the idea.

Dinner at Al Mangia sitting in the middle of the Palio track

All around us Campo life continued as always with bars and restaurants doing their usual business – but all in slightly surreal surroundings. It wasn’t quite what we expected or had planned. Jean being the control freak she is spent the first 15 minutes saying “this isn’t right, no, this isn’t right” repeatedly and wanting them just to “put it back the way it was” but Gill pointed out it was a truly unique experience. A couple of bottles of wine and an excellent meal helped everyone mellow somewhat.

We will see Gill and family again in late July and can’t wait.

Our photo album

Jean and I have taken hundreds of photographs over the last few months.  We’ve put a selection of them into an album on our MobileMe site.

There are some shots we have used in the blog but a lot of new ones.  Follow the link and have a look.

Visitors from distant shores

We are starting to plan for the arrival of summer visitors. Today we bought a small freezer which now holds pride of place in the kitchen (and the dining room and part of the lounge) so we can do ice cubes, gelato and actually store meat for more than a day or two. And get beer really cold in a hurry.

The barbecue is being specified at present. We are thinking charcoal as that seems to be the accepted norm. Around here gas seems to be for gattino – look it up. Also a slew of other home comforts are being put in place because it’s the beginning of the visitor season.

In the next month and a half we have visitors galore.

Villa Crognole outside Radda in Chanti.

First up we catch up with Jean’s friend Kate Maclean who worked with Jean at Clemenger. Kate and her partner are working in the UK. Kate’s family are coming over from New Zealand for a holiday which involves a week in a villa in Chianti. It has been arranged through our villa wizard Olga and is the same one we stayed at in 2006. A fantastic place. We are popping up for drinks and dinner in mid June.

Next up is a flying weekend visit by Gill from the UK. We are thinking pool life combined with excellent meals in Siena. And the odd bottle of New Zealand Chardonnay mixed in.

At the start of July the Mowday family packs the car and leaves Tuscany heading for Positano where we have rented an apartment off the lovely family who own and run Eden Roc Hotel. The really good news is we get full hotel privileges (pool, bar tab, meals on the terrace, Tony’s cappuccino for breakfast, etc) but stay off site so the dogs don’t disturb the hotel’s peace and quiet. We are there for two weeks and Jean’s sister Charmaine, brother-in-law Mike and their baby James arrive towards the end of the stay.

Jean, Josh, Andre, Gill and Jordan around the pool in 2010 while the dolphin watches on.

Back to Toscana with Charmaine, Mike and Jimmy for a week and then Gill, Josh and Jordan arrive from London with Andre following after his pilgrimage to the German Grand Prix at the Nurburgring. We are still looking for large, slightly disturbing, inflatable animals to go in the pool prior to their arrival.

We are also expecting a mate from work, Danny Malone, to put in an appearance at the end of July on his 2011 European trip to round things out. An excellent month at our place.

We then head south to Rome for a weekend at the end of July with Charmaine, Mike and James before aiming the Peugeot at Nice for a car swap in early August – and a week at the delightful Hotel Welcome in Villefranche sur mer. See an earlier post for rave reviews.

After that we are ready to welcome other kiwi visitors – you know who you are – through August and September as the summer crawls to an end and our thoughts turn to autumn.

Excitingly it looks like our old friend Isabel and Charlie will be visiting in late September/early October as well. I think I can call Isabel an “old” friend as we both have had very significant birthdays this year.

Let the fun commence.

Rainy afternoon in Siena

Yesterday we had our third language lesson in Siena. The day started out sunny but with thunderstorms rumbling around the hills in the distance. By 4pm our lesson had finished and we adjourned to a bar in the Campo for a well earned drink or two. The thunder was closer and the sun had been replaced by clouds although the temperature remained in the low 20s. Clearly the locals expected unsettled weather as the awnings and umbrellas that protect the bars and restaurants around the Campo from the sun had been kept in place.

Rain falling in the Campo.

At 5pm the heavens opened and the rain came down. Big, fat drops and unusually for someone from Wellington who expects rain to fall horizontally, they came straight down.

The crowded Campo emptied immediately as tourists rushed for shelter, some in shops but the majority straight to the nearest bar – all forced to buy drinks they didn’t really want at Campo prices. The Sinese locals produced umbrellas and continued going about their business as if nothing had happened. After 10 minutes the rain eased, the skies lightened and tourists flooded back into the Campo. All about €10 poorer for their drink.

More rain.

We took this opportunity to make our way back to the Peugeot congratulating ourselves on our timing. Not so fast, about halfway to the car the rain started again and, like everyone else we headed for the nearest shelter. In our case it was a bag shop in one of Siena’s small side streets. But for the period of the rain it sold umbrellas – as did every other shop in Siena. Bins of brightly colored umbrellas had appeared from nowhere and were prominently displayed just inside the shop doors. We took two – €16, Grazie.

Yet more rain.

However Siena is described it is, above all, a city of merchant traders.

Please note: photographs used have been digitally enhanced to highlight moody weather.

Our place.

In the last post about our home for the next six months I may have given the impression that it is small – and it is.  But, at the end of the day, it’s what we were expecting.

Of course it only took a week for Jean to perform a “tardis” like transformation on the place.  Two furniture shifts later and with a little interior decoration our place now feels like – our place.

There’s a list of stuff we’ll get over the next few weeks ranging from decent wine glasses (those of you who have rented a villa previously will remember the thimble sized wine glasses that inevitably are found in the cupboard) to more coat hangers and various kitchen tools and, as mentioned previously, that barbecue.

As predicted, the weather has warmed up – 26 degrees today – the front verandah has become the major living area in the mornings and afternoons.  Maybe we need to get a bigger table out there – something else to add to the list.