1. Seasonal Tour: November, White Truffle Fair San Miniato
2. Recommended Wine: Château Haut Garrigue Saussignac
3. Wine Tasting Tours: Sicilian Wine Odyssey
4. Food Tours: Biarritz & Pays Basque Culinary Tours
5. 5. Gourmet Day Excursions: Truffle Hunting in Umbria
6. Restaurant Review: Foz Velha, Oporto
7. Hotel Highlight: Casa Fuster, Barcelona
8. What’s in Season: Pumpkin
9. Cocktail Recipe: Hot Buttered Rum
10. Luxury Gourmet Tours in France, Ireland, Italy, Portugal and Spain
Colorful Vines at harvest time

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1. Seasonal Tour: November, White Truffle Fair San Miniato

Shaved White Truffle
White Truffle

San Miniato is one of Tuscany’s most delightful medieval hamlets, set in splendid countryside crisscrossed with vineyards and olive groves. Its main foodie claim to fame is the local white truffle, a delicacy revered by gourmets all over the planet. November is THE time to visit San Miniato as a vibrant, colorful annual truffle festival takes place. Pick up truffles and other elegant foods in the market, taste freshly shaved white truffle in the superb local restaurants, and check out the wine country too!

Sample Program for November White Truffle Fair San Miniato :

Day 1

  • Arrive to Pisa airport and Mercedes transfer to San Miniato village for the festival. Various activities and parades will be organized. Take in the heady aromas, relax and settle into the Dolce Vita. Tonight you will sleep at a luxury castle hotel set amid the vines.

Day 2

  • Tour the San Miniato wine country at the stunning Beconcini estate. The owners will greet you like long lost family, you’ll receive a fascinating and very intimate tour of the property and finish with a home cooked meal with your hosts. In the afternoon, enjoy a walking tour in Florence- Tuscany’s most stunning city.

Day 3

  • Enjoy a private cooking class today concentrating on cooking with truffles, and finish with a sumptuous lunch paired with fine Tuscan wines. In the afternoon visit the striking Leaning Tower of Pisa and then drop off at airport for your outbound flight.

If you are interested in this private luxury tour of Italian truffle country, contact us for more information on festival dates and pricing for custom packages at [email protected]

2. Recommended Wine: Château Haut Garrigue Saussignac

Château Haut Garrigue La Source
Château Haut Garrigue La Source

What an extraordinary find! This summer we toured the vineyards of Southwest France on a fruitful research trip and this estate was one of our favorites. Caroline & Seán Feely, South Africans descended from the famed Irish wine geese, have all but revolutionized this friendly and beautiful little winemaking area, near the famed Monbazillac vineyards with their organic biodynamic winemaking and progressive ideas. The wines are even vegan friendly! They are making a wide range of wines including a stylish Sémillon/Sauvignon Blanc blend, a luscious Rosé, sweet Saussignacs and even a Methode Traditionelle Sparkling Wine.

With the colder months of autumn coming though we thought we would highlight their red. Less than a thousand cases are made of this, and the flavors are rich and concentrated (dark berries and chocolate mocha on the nose and spice and forest fruits on the palate.) Southwest France is a gourmet hotspot and an absolute gastro paradise in the autumn what with truffles and olives in season. The estate itself is very pretty and if you want to visit and even stay over, they run a cute farmhouse. Above all, the wines of Château Haut Garrigue offer incredible value for money. Recommended.

Wine Style: Dry red (they also make a “La source” white)
Appellation: Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée Saussignac
Region: Monbazillac area, Southwest France
Grape Varietals:Merlot & Cabernet Sauvignon (barrel-aged blend 2006 & 2007)
Food and Wine Pairing: Earthy autumnal risottos with mushrooms and butternut squash, cured cheeses, Duck dishes

3. Wine Tasting Tours: Sicilian Wine Odyssey

Marsala Wine
Marsala Wine

Sicily, Sicily, do we ever love Sicily! Where else can you find Norman, Moorish, Ancient Greek, Ancient Roman, Spanish and French influences in the same place? This island has it all- stunning coastlines, volcanoes, striking towns and villages (many immortalized in film, from the Godfather to Ingrid Bergman’s Stromboli)- and above all, outrageously terrific food and wine. Mama mia, one must eat and drink in Sicily before they die! We have designed this “best of the west” tour of some of the lesser explored areas of Sicily including the wine country, lone Greek temples and atmospheric medieval hamlets. And if you have more time (Sicily is a big island!), we can create a magnificent discovery tour taking in the better known eastern side of the isle (Taormina, Syracuse and Ragusa) along with the jetset Aeolian islands. Mental note- Sicily makes a superb winter destination!

More info on this sample luxurious Wine Tour of Sicily

4. Biarritz & Pays Basque Culinary Tours

chef Alain Bryant
chef Alain Bryant

The French Basque Country, or “Pays Basque” is one of the most picturesque corners of France. Gentle narrow roads lead into soft green hills dotted with white, red and blue postcard cottages adorned with dried red peppers and Basque flags. The coastal towns are delightful- from the colorful fishing village of St Jean de Luz to the aristocratic town of Biarritz. It is also extremely friendly, characterful, and nestled in between the gastro paradise of Spanish Basque Country and the wine country of Bordeaux- what more could a food and wine lover ask for?? We have created some truly exciting itineraries for gourmets looking to travel in style in this part of the world. Highlights of a sample private VIP food tour in this region include: chocolate making classes, market tours and hands on Basque cooking lessons with the exuberant local chef Alain Bryant (pictured); an Oysters and Champagne breakfast; Three Michelin starred dining on the other side of the border in San Sebastian; ham tasting in Bayonne; visits to a traditional cheese producer in the Pyrénées; and sipping on the unique Irouléguy wines- all with your own personal chauffeur and with the most charming accommodations selected.

If you are interested in culinary tours of Biarritz & Pays Basque contact us for more information at [email protected]

5. Gourmet Day Excursions: Truffle Hunting in Umbria

Black Truffles
Black Truffles

Truffles are a running theme in this edition of our newsletter as to us they really epitomize all that is fabulous about autumn! No other food has such an utterly seductive aroma or knee bending flavor. And what better way to learn more about truffles than on an authentic truffle hunt in Italy- truffle hound and all? We work with a variety of professional truffle hunters around the country from Piedmont to Tuscany, although one of our favorite suppliers is in Umbria, near the historic village of Citta di Castello. You will hit the trail with doggie leading the way, and learn about what truffles are, how they grow and where to find them. Finish with a cooking class using truffles and gourmet tastings. This can be organized as a full day excursion from your hotel or villa in Umbria (or eastern Tuscany), or incorporated into a greater food and wine tour (in this case also including wine tasting, olive oil tasting, chocolate tasting and fascinating tours of Assisi, Perugia, Orvieto, Montefalco and Bevagna).

More info on Truffle Hunting

6. Restaurant Review: Foz Velha, Oporto

Tragabuches, Ronda
Foz velha, Oporto

Foz velha, Oporto,
Esplanada do Castelo 141,
Oporto, Portugal,

Tel: + (351) 22-615-4178

Oporto, Mecca of Port wine, is justifiably famous for its traditional, rustic and sometimes rough-and-ready seafood eateries where you can taste sublime cod, clams, octopus, scampi, goose barnacles, mussels and just about every other kind of edible sea creature imaginable. These restaurants, while often fabulous, could hardly be called romantic or “date restaurants” though, with their bright lights and kitsch décor. So, where do you go if you are looking for a fancy, dimly lit restaurant conducive to romance while vacationing in Oporto? Well, Foz Velha of course. Located in the snazzy Foz do Douro quarter near the castle and overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, this elegant spot also boasts some of Northern Portugal’s finest cuisine. Chef Marco Gomes is revered for his creative interpretations of the best of Portuguese cooking, beautifully presented. The wine list is extensive and apart from famed Portuguese cellars, they also feature (not commonly in Portugal) wines from New Zealand, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Argentina and Australia. Apart from tasting menus, they also do a daily “gourmet express” menu, a good value way to eat here. Another selling point for us about Foz Velha is they offer tantalizing options for Vegetarians, not an easy feat in Portugal where fish and pork rule. Highly recommended!

7. Hotel Highlight: Casa Fuster, Barcelona

Casa Fuster
Casa Fuster
Casa Fuster,
Passeig de Gracia 132,
Barcelona, Spain ,
Tel. : +34 932 553 000

Our clients always ask us for the best place to stay in Barcelona. The “best” is of course different to each of us as we all have our different priorities. For example the Arts is reliable for biggish rooms and an “international standard”. For trendy factor, the Omm and Murmuri are very hot right now. For business travelers, the AC Diplomatic or Juan Carlos are good bets. For bohemian Ibiza style, the “W” just opened. However in our opinion, the “best” hotel in Barcelona for couples looking to visit Barcelona and stay in a beautiful, stylish, unique, service orientated hotel set in a chic location, then Casa Fuster is the winner. While the hotel does not have all services you may expect of a 5 star (irons/coffeemakers in room, so forth), it more than makes up for it with the stunning architecture, atmosphere and friendly staff (not to be under- appreciated in Barcelona!).

Designed by Lluís Domènech i Montaner a contemporary of the great Gaudi (who also designed the Palau de la Música Catalana and the Hospital de Sant Pau, both in Barcelona,), construction of this outrageous palace began in 1908. At the time it was completed 3 years later, it was the most expensive palace in town. Just under a decade ago it opened as a boutique hotel. Set right on the glamorous Passeig de Gracia in the Eixample district, you have high-end boutiques and art deco buildings everywhere you look. The best rooms look right out over the boulevard. El Café Vienés is the sumptuous bar which has held impromptu jazz sessions and celebrity guest performers like Woody Allen. And the Galaxó restaurant has gone from strength to strength with its contemporary dishes and stellar presentation.

The Fuster´s postage stamp sized roof pool wouldn’t be worth mentioning except for the fabulous laid back ambience at the terrace bar and the views at sunset. The only downside of this hotel is that the rooms are on the small side but this is a reality with historic buildings in Europe as they have laws in place to protect the integrity of the structure. A small price to pay to stay in such a lovely hotel in our view. Highly recommended and of course featured in our gourmet tours of Barcelona.

8. What’s in Season: Pumpkin


Mama mia, it seems as soon as summer ends we start going “squashy”. From butternut squash risotto to calabash squash soup, we start digging out the cookbooks and getting creative. And of course the king of all the autumn squashes is the pumpkin. The beautiful bright orange pumpkins are members of the Cucurbitaceae family of gourd-like squashes. They have thick skins (perfect for carving at Halloween) and squishy orange pulp and seeds inside. They are generally thought to originate in North America (probably in modern day Mexico) as far back as 7000BC. Nowadays they are cultivated on literally all of the world’s continents except for Antarctica. Low in calories, rich in fiber and Vitamin A, pumpkins are incredible healthy (apart from being mouthwateringly delicious). They can be roasted, steamed, boiled and baked and they are used in a wide variety of both savory and sweet dishes (an American classic is of course pumpkin pie). The seeds are delicious when toasted.

Called Zucca in Italian, Calabaza in Spanish, Citrouille in French, and Abóbora in Portuguese, pumpkins are enthusiastically consumed all over western Europe and you will likely see them on restaurant menus if traveling in the autumn months. Tantalizing dishes you can seek out recipes for to make at home include: Lasagne con zucca e mozzarella affumicata (lasagna with pumpkin and smoked mozzarella), Zuppa di zucca con arancio e coriandolo (pumpkin, carrot and cilantro soup), Arroz con calabaza (pumpkin rice), and Gratin de citrouille (cheesy pumpkin gratin). What pumpkin dish are you cooking this weekend?

9. Cocktail Recipe: Hot Buttered Rum

Hot Butter Rum
Hot Butter Rum

When autumn is in the air, and you want a delightful way to beat the chill, hot buttered rum is a fabulous idea. Forget about the calories, consider this an occasional treat and indulge! This classic is always a party pleaser and perfect over the holidays in the coming months.


  • 3/4 cup spiced rum (Captain Morgan, Montecristo, Foursquare, Parrot Bay Coconut Rum, Crisma Rum Cream, etc)
  • 2 cups of boiling water
  • 2/3 cups of brown sugar (darker the better)
  • 1/2 cup or 1 stick of unsalted butter (room temperature is best)
  • 1/4 cup of honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon (ground)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • 4 sticks cinnamon, for the garnish
  • dollup of cream, for the garnish


In a blender or with a whisker, blend the brown sugar, butter, honey, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and salt in a medium sized bowl until smooth. Pour the mix into a large measuring cup . Add the rum next and gently stir in 2 cups of boiling water until the mix is smooth. This should be enough to make 4 buttered rums (serve in Irish coffee style mugs) and garnish with the with the cinnamon sticks/ drop of cream and sprinkled cinnamon and serve.

10. Luxury Gourmet Tours in France, Ireland, Italy, Portugal and Spain

charming restaurant

If you would like us to customize a luxury private tour for you in France, Ireland, Italy, Portugal or Spain, contact us and we will prepare a tailored itinerary just for you. Let us show you our favorite gourmet corners in Europe!

Cellar Tastings S.L.
Address: C/ Monte Esquinza 24, 5C ,
28010 Madrid, Spain
Spain Headquarters Tel: 34 91 182 9790
Calling from USA (310) 928-7559
Calling from UK 020 8144 6806

Email: [email protected]

Contact us today!

CELLAR TASTINGS S.L. is a Fully Licensed and Bonded Tour Operator and Travel Agency, and a proud member of ASTA and the IACP.