In September 2008, my wife and I packed our car and left coastal Liguria to make the drive east toward Florence, where we were spending the next leg of our trip. We planned to take a detour for lunch, with only one goal -- find the best view in Tuscany. I had read about a little spot in the hills surrounding Greve in Chianti. A small village called Lamole with a historic winery dating to the 14th century. The restaurant, I read, had a terrace with a panoramic view of the Tuscan hills, looking out toward San Gimignano's famous towers.
Lamole isn't easy to find. As we made our way past Greve, winding through olive groves and steep switchbacks, we were amazed at the beautiful landscape. We kept climbing but couldn't find the tiny village. We finally arrived after circling the area for almost an hour. It was worth it. This was it.
The Cradle of Sangiovese
Sangiovese is Tuscany's most famous grape. It is the grape of Brunello, Chianti Classico, and Vino Nobile. It remains the major grape of some of Italy's most famous Super Tuscan wines, such as Tignanello. But where did the "Blood of Jove" originate? The answer, in part, is Lamole.
It is generally accepted that Sangiovese divides into two families: Sangiovese Grosso and Sangiovese Piccolo. The former is generally thought to be superior and includes Brunello (Montalcino), Prugnolo Gentile (Montepulciano) and Sangiovese di Lamole (Chianti). There is evidence to suggest that Sangiovese di Lamole is the oldest of them all, with references dating back to the 16th century. The history of winemaking in Lamole dates back even farther when its potential for planting vines was first discovered by the Romans. In the Middle Ages, grape production became so important that Lamole was protected by a castle built by the Florentine Gherardini family in 1350. The ruins of the castle can still be seen today among the vineyards and olive groves that it once protected.
A Sensory Experience
Dining at Ristoro di Lamole is a sensory experience. From the terrace, you can see for miles and understand why the Tuscan landscape is special. Hills roll differently here. The colors are different. From high above, olive groves and vineyards take shape, and San Gimignano's distant towers point toward the heavens. The breeze carries aromas of rosemary and flowers, and the scents from the kitchen and the tables beside you are a sign of good things to come. This is my favorite restaurant in Tuscany, and I decided that before I took a single bite or poured a single drop of wine.
One of the challenges at Lamole is deciding whether it is the food or the local wine that makes the meal so special. In reality, it is the marriage of the two. This is traditional Tuscan fare, combining homemade pasta with wild boar, hard cheeses and other local specialties.
At center stage is the local Lamole di Lamole wine from vineyards 350 and 550 meters above sea level, dating back to 1945. I fell in love with this Chianti Classico the moment I tasted it. The 2004 Riserva that we ordered was darker and more mineral-laced than other Chianti Classico I was used to drinking. The unique style of Lamole continues in current vintages. These are full-bodied and focused wines, packed with dark fruits, structure and tremendous depth. If you are a fan of Brunello, Lamole's Chianti Classico, Riserva, and Gran Selezione will delight you. And as with most great Chianti Classico at this level, you will find that it delivers value when compared with its Brunello counterparts. Lamole is a special wine from a special place.
After a memorable meal, we lingered for a bit on the terrace. This was the longest lunch of our trip and we still had to drive to Florence. Still, we took a walk through a nearby olive grove. For that moment, we didn't need to be anywhere but here.