Gina Launches Premier Vineyard Tours

For those of you who missed my Italy blogs last fall (“Where is Gina?” Part I-V … Days in the life of a Tuscan wine-focused tour guide!), I’ve been making trips to Italy over the last few years doing prep work for a new wine tour business I’m starting. 

Visiting the cellar at Camigliano in Montalcino

On my most recent trip this past June, I spent a week in Tuscany visiting wineries in the Chianti, Montalcino & San Gimignano wine regions. We visited several new wineries and tasted some remarkable Sangiovese-based wines.

The new cellar at Castello di Fonterutoli

My new wine tour company, Premier Vineyard Tours, has its first tour set for this fall, Sept. 25th – Oct. 2nd.  Our wine tour is geared for those who love Italian wines and want an exclusive, intimate experience in Tuscany.  Over the course of a week, our small group (max 8 people) will be chauffeured around the Tuscan hills, visiting small family wineries as well as several historic and larger ones.  On the tour you will visit the Chianti Classico region, Montalcino (famous for Brunello), Siena and our home-base in San Gimignano.

Enjoying an aperitivi with the winemaker at Marchesato degli Aleramici

Kenny Wilson (Gina’s husband) enjoys some classic Tuscan dishes.

We still have a few spaces left in our September tour, so if food & wine is your thing and you’d like to explore what Tuscany has to offer in this area, contact me: or visit our website


Staying True to the Old World

Monte dei Paschi di Sienna, founded in 1472, it’s one of Italy’s oldest banks. William Woodruff (pictured above) lived in Tuscany and worked for Monte dei Paschi as a relationship manager for agriculture. Agriculture in Tuscany is primarily grapes & olives, and through his work at the bank, William developed relationships with his customers and on returning to the Seattle in 1997, he founded Chloe Wine Imports, an import company dedicated to bringing wines from Italy (Tuscany) and France (Champagne, Burgundy & Rhône) into the northwest marketplace.  His focus is to bring in wines that represent the true winemaking traditions of their respective regions and not wines that have been made to suit the taste of the American marketplace. 

That said, William strikes me as a renaissance man.  He speaks French & Italian (without an accent as far as I can tell) and he has this unpretentious depth of knowledge that allows him to lead a backroom tasting with ease.  The guests at his tasting last May raved about him and his wines:

Jacques-Copinet NV Brut Rosé $50.99 | Case $40.79
Estate bottled Champagne. Winery founded in 1890. 75% Pinot Noir, 25% Chardonnay blended from the 1998-2000 vintages. (Recent vintage Champagnes were in 2002 & 2004.)  Flavors of light crushed strawberry, subtle bing cherry, juicy.

Domaine du Prieure 2007 Savigny-les-Beaune $25.99 | Case $20.79
Produced by Jean-Michel and his son, Stephan Maurice. Situated at ‘les Vermots” at the north end of the village of Savigny. Made from grapes of 2 parcels: Vermot (34 year old vines) & Gollards (80 year old vines).  Aromas hawthorn blossom & hazelnuts. Flavors of white peach, wet stone, floral. Soft, with lovely minerality, lemon/citrus acidity.  Develops into a sophisticated almond taste as the wine matures.

Capitain Gagnerot 2006 Côtes de Beaune Chardons $25.99 | Case $20.79
500 cases per vintage (from less than 1 acre of land). Totally different animal than previous wine.  Different village, different family, much older vines.  William has asked the producer repeatedly.  “I get butterscotch … Pourquoi?”  (Why?) And the answer comes … “Je ne sais quoi.” (I don’t know.)  We’ll leave it that it’s just the mystery and the magic of the land.

Domaine de Couron 2006 Côtes du Rhône Cuvée Marie Dubois $17.50 | Case $14
This parcel of Syrah is on the estate (AOC) and was planted in 1946. This 0.0 hectare (2.1 acres) was blended into the family’s Cotes du Rhone, until 1978. Whereupon the 250 case production became its own wine. Christened “Cuvee Marie DuBois” after Marie DuBois, the winemaker and vineyard owners mother, Marie DuBois.  Lots of dark black fruit, discreet spice.

Domaine de Couron 2008 Marselan $11.99 | Case $9.59
Owned by Jean-Luc & Marie Elise since 1976. 9 hectars produces 825 cases. Marselan (the grape) is a cross between Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache created in 1961.  In France, wines that are heavily oaked are considered vulgar, and by that definition, this one is definitely not vulgar. Very floral, not heavy.  The wine is unoaked, destemmed, a true expression of Marselan grown in granite soil.

Domaine de Cristia 2006 Chateauneuf-du-Pape $52.99 | Case $42.39
 Estate founded in 1890. 75% Grenache, 15% Mourvedre, 7% Syrah, 3-5% Cunoise. The vines are an average of 60 years old. Since the mid-80’s they have not used herbicides or pesticides.  Beautiful flavors of discrete spice, a mélange of red & black fruit, delightful streak of licorice.