Chianti Wine Tour
Exclusive wine tour from Florence/Siena: VIP tasting at TOP Chianti wineries, gourmet lunch, Tuscan village visits, and private driver. Book now!
Friuli Venezia Giulia is undoubtedly one of Italy’s most enchanting wine-producing regions, yet remarkably it is one of the least explored. Its tranquil, uncrowded wine country is nestled in Italy’s far northeast next to the Slovenian border. Before Friuli -Venezia Giulia became part of Italy, its sub-regions were controlled by the Venetian Republic and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Consequentially, there is a very charming and eclectic “Mittel-Europa meets Italy” flavor here, in terms of architecture and cuisine. Trieste feels more like Budapest than Florence, for instance. Italians consider Friuli -Venezia Giulia as one of their best-kept secrets. The countryside is splendid, with uplifting landscapes of vineyards, medieval villages, and rolling green hills dotted with period villas. Ernest Hemingway buffs will also find it interesting that this area featured prominently in his books such as A Farewell to Arms where many Friuli -Venezia Giulia & bordering Slovenian locations are mentioned (Caporetto/Kobarid, Piave and Isonzo rivers), and it’s also where the movie starring Rock Hudson was shot. You have it all in Friuli -Venezia Giulia – sea, mountains, and unspoiled wine country!
White wines are king here, and Friuli -Venezia Giulia’s whites have even been coined “Super whites” by wine journalists. Varietals like Friulano, Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio, Malvasia, Picolit, Vitovska, and Ribolla Gialla produce fragrant, elegant, and captivating wines. Delicious reds are also produced. The unique red varietals in Friuli, such as Schioppetino, Tazzelenghe, Terrano, and Refosco, can be blended with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot to produce silky and spicy wines. Finally, the “orange” wines (macerated, prolonged skin-contact wines following ancient wine traditions) are increasingly appreciated by wine critics and wine lovers. The Friulian wine scene is home to real characters and wine visionaries, such as Josko Gravner, Alvaro Pecorari, Edi Kante, Marco Felluga, Flavio Pontoni, and Edi and Renato Keber. Their wines are sublime!
You will have the chance to taste some of the best wines being made in Friuli -Venezia Giulia today on this fabulous, private wine tasting adventure. Visit a range of contrasting fine wine estates, from noble villas to tiny cult garage cellars, and even take in a wine experience in Slovenia, just across the border. Enjoy a mix of sensational and memorable meals, from Michelin, starred gourmet blowouts, to Slow Food ethos taverns, to upmarket fish and seafood restaurants. Explore the region’s most striking cities like Trieste (historic port of the Habsburg Empire), Aquileia (Ancient Roman capital of Friuli -Venezia Giulia), and bewitching, lively Udine. Sleep in a fairy tale castle amid vines where Casanova sojourned for a few months in 1773, and a Neoclassic palace with views of a deep blue bay. Soak up the delightful surroundings and enjoy the wine tasting, as a private chauffeur will take care of all the driving. Please sit back, enjoy the scenery, and let us show you this unspoiled part of Italy on a luxury wine tour!
Venice/Trieste airport- Aquileia- San Michele del Carso- Capriva del Friuli
Your friendly private chauffeur will meet you at Trieste airport (or Venice) and sweep you away to the Friuli wine country. Your first stop is in the surprisingly magnificent, small ancient Roman town of Aquileia. Under Emperor Augustus, it was one of the Roman Empire’s most important cities, just after Rome and Milan, yet today it is nearly a secret and blissfully free of crowds. You will visit the great archaeological sites with your entertaining private guide, including the Roman Forum, 4th-century stunning mosaics, and Gothic Basilica. This stop is worth it! After a morning of fresh air, history, and beautiful landscapes, you will head to lunch. A Slow Food lunch awaits at Devetak Lokanda 1870. This is one of our favorite restaurants in Friuli for their innovative cuisine and their passion for their local Karst culinary traditions. Run by the Devetak family (now in their 5th generation), this trattoria is utterly homey and cozy and set in the bucolic countryside. You would never imagine that this area around Monte San Michele (Savogna d’Isonzo) is where a dramatic WWI battle took place. Today it is a cheery and peaceful place, you will enjoy the terrific lunch today, and we will arrange for you to visit their neat wine cellar, carved by hand in Karst stone by owner Avguštin’s father, Renato. Taste unique dishes like Herb spätzle with pears and walnut powder served on a Friulian gorgonzola cream, and Wild boar cooked in red wine and juniper with polenta, plums in cinnamon and Terrano wine.
After lunch, you will start your Friuli -Venezia Giulia Grand Wine Tour. Begin with a private, exclusive visit at top-notch winery Villa Russiz in the Collio DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata classification). Collio (which means “hillsides”) is an absolutely beautiful wine region with undulating hills located between the snow-capped Julian Alps and stretching down to the Adriatic Sea, straddling the border between Slovenia and Italy. Indeed, the wine appellation spills into both sides of the border. Learn all about the region when you visit the jaw-dropping Villa Russiz. This regal villa and wine cellar have a fascinating history. The property (which also included extensive gardens, vines, and stables) was built in the 1860s for the noble (and Protestant) Viennese Zàhony family and was gifted to daughter Elvine Ritter de Zàhony and Count Theodor de la Tour (French Catholic, from an ancient noble family). Theodor was a talented winemaker, and he imported French grape varietals and implemented cutting edge (for the time) practices to the viticulture and vinification practiced at Villa Russiz. Over time his excellent wines arrived at the Royal European / Tsar’s courts. Today, the wine estate is still one of the biggest and most influential names in Italian wine. After a private tour and tasting of their flagship wines and plenty of excellent photo ops, carry on to your hotel. You will be staying in an elegant yet congenial and very comfortable castle (with a visitable winery onsite) overlooking miles of vineyards and a scenic golf course. Relax and free evening.
Capriva del Friuli - Oslavia - Gorizia - Šmartno - Dobrovo v Brdih - Cormons - Capriva del Friuli
Today you will be visiting some of the region’s most exciting winemakers and try the renowned macerated “Orange Wines” of Friuli -Venezia Giulia. The term “orange” refers to the local winemaking practice of leaving white grapes in contact with their skins for extended periods (up to six months or more in some cases). The color thus deepens to an orange/amber hue, the aroma becomes more intense, and you can detect weightier tannins on the palate. Essentially this is a white wine made like red wine, and the result is unique! Your first wine estate visit is with the iconic winemaker Josko Gravner, who Wine Spectator’s Robert Camuto famously called “The wizard of Oslavia.” Oslavia is only a few kilometers from the Slovenian border, and many of the wine estates, including Gravner, have vineyards on both sides. Josko Gravner has been tending vines and making wine since he was a teen. Over the last many decades, he has traveled the wine world, planted many different grape varietals, experimented with technology, and observed with disdain the ever more prevalent wine “manipulation” and wine homogeneity. After his many travels and experiments, his personal winemaking journey finally went full circle to where wine began. A life-changing trip to Georgia (ex-USSR), considered by scholars to be the birthplace of wine, introduced him to the ancestral (over 8,000 years old) practice of fermenting wine in large, egg-shaped clay vessels. Similar to Ancient Roman amphorae, the Georgian “qvevri” differs in that an amphora has a base to stand “up,” and a qvevri has no base or stand and is buried in the ground upright during fermentation (which helps with natural temperature control). He makes natural, biodynamic, and organic wines with native grapes (in this case, Ribolla Gialla and Pignolo Rosso). His philosophy is that great wine should be made with great, low yield grapes in their perfectly suited terroir with minimal or no intervention. You will have a chance to taste his distinctive wines in situ and learn more about his passionate winemaking philosophy. This is very special, indeed.
After an intriguing morning in this beautiful part of the world, continue with your “orange wine” education at the next estate- Castellada. This fellow cult estate in Oslavia, just over 1 kilometer from Gravner, is run by brothers Niccolò & Giorgio Bensa and Niccolò’s sons Stefano and Matteo. They followed Gravner’s lead in the last few decades by returning to the traditional Friulian wine methods like long macerations for the local Ribolla Gialla and making fabulous “orange wines” which you will have the opportunity to taste. Contrastingly, they also make more commercial and aromatic white wines with Friulano, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay. Their red wine “Rosso della Castellada” is lovely, made with 50% old vines (over 50 years), and is Merlot-based with 15% Cabernet Sauvignon rounding it out. Enjoy a private visit and tasting, and then pop over the border to Slovenia for lunch. We will make a reservation for you at Marica, a super cute traditional tavern in the idyllic, medieval village of Šmartno. The interior is so cozy with its timber beams and stone floors, and they specialize in seasonal cuisine. As dinner is included tonight, we suggest you order a few light plates of their exceptional homemade cured meats and try the local Slovenian wine from Goriška Brda.
After lunch, then you will visit our favorite cellar in the area- Movia. The wine region is the same as this morning, “Collio,” but on the Slovenian side, it is called “Brda.” Dating back to the year 1700, the Movia wine estate has been in the Kristančič family since the early 1800s. Ernest Hemingway is said to have enjoyed the wines made at Movia; locals say he drank a lot of it! Aleš Kristančič, the winemaker, is referred to as a wine genius by many wine journalists and critics. He is undoubtedly passionate about natural wines and is at the forefront of quality Slovenian winemakers. Learn all about biodynamic winemaking and his family’s 200-year winemaking tradition while sipping on glorious, expressive, “nectar” wines while soaking up the scenery. After this full day of great food and wine, head on back to your hotel for a rest and to freshen up. Dinner is only a few minutes from your resort at the mythical La Subida restaurant. This Michelin starred restaurant is one of our favorites in Italy and feels like a magical forest, extraordinarily local and rustic chic. Terrific experience!
Capriva del Friuli - Prepotto – Kobarid - Cividale del Friuli - Capriva del Friuli
Your driver will meet you this morning after a relaxed, satisfying breakfast and perhaps a stroll through the vineyards and gardens, and take you to visit the majestic Colli Orientali del Friuli wine region. The first stop is La Viarte winery in Prepotto in the province of Udine. Founded by Giuseppe Ceschin in the early ’70s, a man with a passion and the overwhelming dream of producing fine wine, the sweeping vineyards and terraces took years to finish, and the first vintage was not until 1984. Today La Viarte is making some of the most fascinating whites in the Colli Orientali del Friuli, along with some excellent reds. His son Giulio is in charge now and determined to excel to an even higher level of excellence. Enjoy a warm welcome at La Viarte and a tour of the vineyards and barrique cellar. Conclude your visit with an extensive tasting of their wines in a dreamy, Italian farmhouse style private room, accompanied by some local specialties. After a pampering morning of wine tasting and pastoral scenery, an unforgettable treat is in store- lunch at Two Michelin starred, Hiša Franko (House of Franko), Slovenia’s highest-rated restaurant. Netflix showcased Chef Ana Roš in an episode of their series “Chef’s Table,” which was nominated for an Emmy. Ana was named the world’s best female chef by The World’s 50 Best Restaurants academy, too, and it’s hard to believe that she is a self-taught chef! Settle into an extraordinary, playful gastronomic experience, unhurried and sublime. The décor is sophisticated but unfussy, and you can see Alpine trees through the windows all around you. A fire is roaring right in the dining room in cold weather, and the atmosphere is comforting and cheerful.
The venue has quite a history. Before it was a fine dining restaurant, it was a village mill, a roadside inn, and even a hospital during WW1 when a battle took place in Kobarid (called “Caporetto” in Italian), which is featured in “Farewell to Arms.” Legend has it that Hemingway wrote chapters of the book while being treated for wounds here. Following a memory making, extended, wine-sprinkled lunch, cross back into Italy. Stop for a digestive walking tour of the historic and ancient city Cividale del Friuli. Julius Caesar founded this striking town around 50 BC as “Forum Iulii” (Latin for “marketplace of Julius”). The Germanic Lombards invaded the town in the 6th century and established it as the Lombard Duchy’s capital. In 776, it was conquered again by Charlemagne’s Franks, who then renamed it “Civitas Austriae” (the origin of its current name, Cividale). There are so many architectural marvels to enjoy here, and your local art guide will lead you on an entertaining tour peppered with anecdotes and hidden gems. Admire the engineering of the “Devil’s Bridge” and ponder the purpose of the mystical, subterranean Celtic Hypogeum. If you had a particular interest in the Great War, there is a poignant, tiny WW1 museum that you could visit. Finally, in the early evening, after a full day, head back to your wine resort for a free evening to dine onsite if you have any room left! You can also taste wines in the stunning cellar here and order a few light appetizers.
Capriva del Friuli - San Daniele Del Friuli - Udine - Capriva del Friuli
Switch gears today and spend the morning learning about the art of cured “prosciutto” in the darling, hilltop town of San Daniele, the home of Friuli -Venezia Giulia’s world-famous ham. Prosciutto di San Daniele is recognized with a Protected Designation of Origin/Denominazione di Origine Protetta (DOP), which certifies its origin, its native Italian breed of pigs (Landrace and Duroc), and its characteristic processing techniques. You will be visiting the delightful “Casa del Prosciutto – Alberti 1906”, a historic producer run by the fifth generation of the Alberti family, Marco, and Luca Alberti. While they have and use all of the modern technology available for their high-quality hams, it is still an artisan operation, and the hams are lovingly cared for by hand. You will be hosted on a private tour of the workshop and see how they massage sea salt into the hams before pressing them and then resting them to dry out (called “toelettatura,” which means “grooming”). After four months from the start of the whole process, the ham legs are gently washed and then hung in a drying cellar for another number of months. After a few more essential steps, the hams head to the final aging rooms where they mature, absorbing natural humidity while being aerated by the cold Carnic Alpine and warm Adriatic winds that meet and rollover San Daniele. The seasoning rooms with hundreds of hams hanging overhead make for a fun photo! Sit down to a delicious tasting of their handcrafted hams, along with other local delicacies. Then you will have free time to wander around this cute village, pop into the gourmet shops, etc. On the way to your exceptional lunch today, make one more quick stop in medieval Fagagna. This hamlet is on the way to the restaurant and is well worth a visit as it is one of the most beautiful villages in Italy. You will have some free time to see the castle and quaint streets.
Lunch today is at the iconic Agli Amici fine dining restaurant, awarded with two Michelin stars and a member of Relais & Chateaux. The venue (which was a small shop before becoming a gastronomic eatery) has been in the Scarello family for over 130 years, and they are currently in their fifth generation. The cuisine is a modern and creative interpretation of local cuisine. The whole operation is a family affair with son Emanuele at the helm as the head chef alongside his mother in the kitchen. His sister Michela is the head sommelier and front of house manager. Signature dishes include their dumplings, scampi with sauerkraut “brovada” and gnocchi gratin. You will be served one of their terrific tasting menus, with wine pairings to accompany. You can choose from their terrific full vegetarian, gourmet tasting menu, a seasonal, Friulian tasting menu; and an “Italian Grand Tour” tasting menu with dishes inspired by other regions. After a pleasurable and lengthy lunch, stretch your legs in nearby Udine. This graceful city with a romantic Renaissance and medieval historic center is refreshingly free of the tourist crowds. You will have free time with our suggestions to explore on your own for an hour or two, with your driver at your disposal. Grab a late afternoon coffee, visit the wonderful Duomo cathedral with exquisite frescoes painted by Tiepolo, or cruise around the lively streets lined with Venetian style piazzas, Gothic arcades, art galleries, and elegant boutiques. The evening is yours then to relax at your resort. If you would like to play a round of golf, we could work this into the program during your stay.
Capriva del Friuli - Villanova del Judrio - Duino-Aurisina - Trieste
You will be visiting one of our favorite wineries in Northern Italy this morning- Vignai da Duline. Young owners, husband and wife team Federica and Lorenzo, took over his grandfather’s old vineyards in 1997. They are passionate believers in the importance of biodynamic viticulture in making healthy, super high-quality wines. The proof is in the pudding, as their wines are some of the most highly rated and appreciated in the region. You will enjoy a private tour and tasting of some of their best bottlings like Friuli Colli Orientali “Ronco Pitotti” Pinot Grigio (from their renowned, historic old-vine plot), Fruili Grave Friulano “La Duline” (40% Tocai Giallo, 60% Tocai Verde) and Friuli Colli Orientali Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso “Morus Nigra”. This is a great visit. Next up, you will travel to Karst. Depending on the time of year, we can organize a stop to experience a super fun local tradition- “osmiza” (osmica in Slovenian). This food and wine tradition is thought to date back to Charlemagne’s time when he permitted local winemaking families in the regions of Tergeste and Istria to sell their wares directly to the public for eight days per year, from their place of business or home. They were instructed to advertise it with ivy branches along the road. The tradition was popularized in 1784 when Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II issued a decree making this practice official, allowing winemakers and food producers to sell their wine, fresh eggs, cured hams and salami, artisan cheese, etc., for a period of eight days to the direct public. In Slovenian, the word “osem” means “eight.” Today, this tradition means that during the osmiza” period, you can visit local wineries and farmers and enjoy their delicacies in situ (generally in casual, long communal tables). If you visit during this period, stop for a glass of local wine like Vitovska, Istrian Malvasia, Terrano, or Refosco and a savory snack.
Next up, get ready for an extraordinary cheese tasting. You will have a private visit and tasting arranged at Zidarič, a famed cheesemaker who matures his precious, unparalleled cheeses in a 70-meter deep Karstic cave! They use raw cow’s milk and practice holistic, natural processing techniques to create their award-winning cheeses, which you will have the opportunity to taste today. Try their soft “Caciotta” cheese flavored with seasonal herbs like wild-fennel flowers, juniper, or walnuts; piquant, crumbly “Jamar”; mature “Tabor”; pepper-flavored “Mlet”; and their smoked Ricotta. After a terrific morning and cheese “brunch,” you will be exploring the premium Carso wine country. The Carso DOC wine appellation (called Kras in Slovenia) spreads over the in the Istrian Peninsula, near Trieste, and is named after the “karst” topography of the limestone heavy soils. White wines made here within the “Carso– Kras” DOC include Glera, Malvasia (Istrian Malvasia), Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, Traminer, Vitovska, and Chardonnay; and reds include Refosco, and Terrano Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot. You will be visiting Edi Kante and the self-professed “Mad Genius of Carso”! He is a brilliant, effervescent, and highly driven winemaker. Kante is wine royalty, having pioneered world-class winemaking in the harsh Carso terrain and achieving international attention and wide acclaim for his wines and the Carso wine region.
His cellar is incredible, 18 meters deep, and carved through solid, natural Karst rock. On a private tour at this cult estate, you will learn all about Kante’s philosophy and, of course, taste some of the best wines from their selection like Spumante Metodo Classico “Dosaggio Zero” (sparkling wine made with 50% Chardonnay & 50% Malvasia), Vitovska IGT Venezia Giulia, and Sauvignon Selezione. Enjoy these last moments in the wine country as this late afternoon you will be traveling from the countryside to the bustling, beautiful city of Trieste. Before dinner, you will have a few hours of free time to freshen up, relax, and go for a walk along the sea. Your 19th-century palatial hotel has a fabulous location overlooking the Bay of Trieste. Tonight, you have a fish and seafood spread, with a sea view naturally, at Pier The Roof. The atmosphere is romantic, right in the marina lined by neoclassic palaces and full of chic yachts. After sunset cocktails over candlelight, you’ll feast on fresh mussels, Tagliatelle with scampi or Spaghetti with clams, and Pesce intero al forno (whole baked fish)- this is fish bliss!
The morning and lunchtime are free at leisure to relax, sleep in, go shopping, or get in a workout. If you are lucky enough to be visiting Trieste in October (which is also the best month of the year for visiting the vineyards as they are at their most beautiful), then you can watch some of the Barcolana. This historical regatta is the largest sailing race in the world-class and very exciting to see. And if you love coffee, a fun option for this morning that we can arrange for you is a coffee tasting workshop and tour of Illy Caffè. Coffee culture has been huge since the 1700s when Trieste belonged to the House of Hapsburg (the Habsburg Monarchy ruled the city for over 500 years ) and when its port had a “free port” status. All of the coffee imported from the plantations in the Caribbean to Vienna passed through Trieste’s port. This created a coffee “boom” and much of Trieste’s wonderful architectural treasures back to this period. For lunch, a quirky, authentic thing to do is go for a “buffet.” This food tradition goes back to Austro-Hungarian days and is essentially a meat extravaganza! You can expect luganighe e capuzi (sausages and sauerkraut), porzina and cotechin (boiled pork sausages), Russian salad, pickles, goulash, Trieste cooked ham with mustard and horseradish. Our favorite historic restaurant specialized in “Buffet” is Buffet da Pepi and has tantalizing its patron’s palates since 1897.
After you enjoy lunch on your own, your guide will meet you in the hotel lobby to take you on a fascinating, private walking tour of this stunning, wealthy, multicultural city with its melange of architectural styles. You will visit the main sights in central Trieste, including the Grand Canal, Roman ruins and arch, Castello di San Giusto, Piazza Unità d’Italia (reminiscent of Piazza San Marco in Venice), and the Piazza della Borsa (where you can see Trieste’s first stock exchange). Trieste has so much to see and do. We can tailor your tour based on your specific interests; such as literature (James Joyce lived here for ten years and wrote Ulysses in the city’s grand cafès, poet Umberto Saba ran an antiquarian bookshop in town while writing famous poems, and many other writers like Ernest Hemingway, DH Lawrence, and Stendhal wrote or resided in Trieste); Jewish heritage (Trieste has a synagogue and Jewish museum); WWI and WWII history; art and architecture; and as per above, coffee culture and historic cafès of the city. After your city tour of Trieste, your driver will take you out of the city to the seaside, where you will visit the gorgeous 19th century Miramare castle. The castle rests regally on the tip of the peninsula of Grignano, facing the deep-blue Gulf of Trieste, amid botanical gardens and manicured parkland. The castle is more of a pleasure palace and was built by Archduke Maximilian of Austria (who later became Emperor of Mexico) in the 1850s. You can visit the interior of the castle if you like or soak up those fantastic views and stroll through the gardens. Don’t forget the camera today!
Before your guide drops you back at the hotel, stop in a historic cafè like dreamy Caffè Tommaseo for an aperitif or coffee at the end of the tour. Freshen up then and get dressed for your farewell dinner tonight at delightful Al Bagatto. The ambiance is intimate, elegant, and cozy. A chef’s tasting menu will be organized for you with a creative fish focus and accompanied by top wine pairings. Let your hair down tonight and enjoy this memorable dinner to the fullest!
Trieste- Trieste/Venice Airport
At your preferred time, your chauffeur will take you on to Trieste’s (or Venice’s) airport for your outbound flight or your next port of call (train station, etc.). If you want to explore more of Northern Italy, we can build in more private touring days, for example, in the Dolomites, Venice, Verona, Lake Garda, Prosecco, or the Valpolicella wine country.
We hope you had the time of your life on this luxurious food and wine adventure in Friuli Venezia Giulia!
If you would like us to customize an exclusive luxury tour, contact us and let us know your travel plans. We offer luxury food and wine tours for private groups of a mininium two guests. In addition, all of our private, chauffeured tours are available year-round upon request.
Welcome to Cellar Tours, the premier Luxury Travel Specialist since 2003. Our goal is to provide you with the ultimate food and wine vacation experience, with exclusive Mercedes chauffeured tours that showcase the best of local cuisine and wines.
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