Hi Jade! I'm happy to help out with some ideas.
Here are a few things to think about on your trip, plus a handful of recommendations. If you need help booking them, let me know and I’ll draft up an example tasting tour + make some introductions to the wineries to get things booked:
- If you want to do a single day of tasting, that’s easy. I’d suggest 2 wineries in the morning, a nice lunch, and 1 in the afternoon. You should budget at least 90 minutes per winery visit, as they winemakers are quite excited to share their passion for winemaking. After 3 wineries and a grand lunch, you’re going to be beat. Plan on a light dinner.
- I generally recommend small- to mid-size wineries. The big ones and cult producers are good fun for tasting, but you can miss the ‘human element’ of winemaking when it’s just a corporation pumping out a zillion bottles.
- The Chianti Classico region is the easiest from Firenze (Florence), as it’s a relatively short drive by car to some great producers around Greve in Chianti and Panzano. Radda in Chianti is a little further down the road, but worth it for tasting some unique higher-elevation wines.
- You will always want to make a reservation in advance of your tasting, as they may have limited time, and they all prefer to do small groups of visitors at a time.
Here are three wine producers I often recommend for a first hand experience of meeting the winemaker, tasting the wines, and touring the winery:
- Savignola Paolina: Ludovica (“Ludo”) is kind, gracious, and a darn good winemaker. She and her husband Antonio make a small number of bottles of Chianti in a “classic" Classico style — easy drinking, fairly priced, and delicious. She’ll give you a tour of the small cantina to taste some wines and her olive oil (if she has any left), and you can check out the grounds. The view of the vineyards from the terrace is lovely. You’ll find the Savignola Paolina contact info here.
- Le Cinciole: Another small producer just down he road from the little hill town of Panzano, Luca and Valeria make natural wines, and a good number beyond Chianti Classico. Definitely check out their Petresco wine — it’s made in the Chianti Classico Riserva style, but is one of the top Chianti wines (hence it deserves a special name). Check out Le Cinciole’s contact info here.
- Badia a Coltibuono: If you’d like to check out a mid-sized producer that’s pretty well known in the States (and wines readily available), check out Roberto & Emanuela’s “biologico” winery outside of Gaiole in Chianti. They make some delicious wines and have a nice tasting room. You can read more and book an appointment using my notes on Badia a Coltibuono here. You would need to book these folks in the afternoon for a tasting visit.
Here are a couple more that are definitely worth a visit if/when you have time:
- Tiny producer Altiero just outside Greve makes just 10,000 bottles, and is a gem to visit if you can coordinate a time to visit Paolo. More info about Altiero here.
- I love the wines of Val delle Corti in the mountains outside of Radda. Roberto is the winemaker with a good amount of help from his wife Lis. He speaks English perfectly, and might be available for a visit. If you want to visit a Radda producer, these guys need to be on your list. The Val delle Corti website is in Italian or German, so I’m happy to make an introduction to Roberto.
- If you want to visit a producer in a grand Villa, check out Cigliano, just outside San Casciano in Val di Pesa. Very nice wines, with Niccolò as the fanatical winemaker doing some cool stuff with Chianti Classico. You’ll find the Cigliano website here — let me know if you’d like help making a tasting appointment, I’d be happy to introduce you to Niccolò.
- For lunch on your tasting day, definitely GO GO GO to Osteria Le Panzanelle just outside Panzano on the road to Radda. This is ultra-local Chianti food, and not many foreigners (except us importers) know about it. I’m almost reluctant to promote them because they’re so good, and if many travelers find out about them, I won’t be able to get a reservation. 😉 Seriously, you must have a reservation to eat here. Do a lunch and don’t hesitate to splurge on the wine, prices and selection are great. Read through and book with the information on my travel notes for Osteria Le Panzanelle here.
- For car service, you can use my friend and super-friendly Gionata (and his beloved 8-person mini-van Giove) to cart you around the Chianti Classico landscape, from winery to winery, and at remarkably good prices. You definitely need to reserve him, and I’d be happy to help you — or you can contact Giona (his short name) directly from the info on his Gio.Ve website. Giona speaks English very well.
Let me know if i can help you draft up an itinerary, and I’d be happy to do some intro emails.
By the way, would you mind if I posted this thread to my Dall’Uva Forum under “travel itineraries” and mention you? It won’t use your email address, just a short thread on the topic. I try to post these things there so others can benefit from collective planning.