My quest to meet author and wine enthusiast Dario Castagno actually began a few months before my second trip to Tuscany.
I had read one of Dario’s books, A Day in Tuscany – More Confessions of a Chianti Tour Guide, an entertaining collection of short stories about Dario’s mischievous “formative” years in Tuscany sprinkled with colorful folklore. The stories were both amusing and cleverly written with tidbits of historical facts thrown in the mix. Touted by many as a keen observer, Dario artfully embraces the anima (spirit) of the characters in each book, bringing the stories to life with wit and ease.
Besides being a great storyteller, apparently Dario was also a bit of a free spirit in his younger years! He had formed a wine tour company called the Rooster Tours, aptly named after Chianti’s Gallo Nero (Black Rooster) signature wine consortium symbol. His zany adventures toting American tourists around the Chianti countryside for more than a decade was the catalyst for several other books, Too Much Tuscan Sun – Confessions of a Chianti Tour Guide, Too Much Tuscan Wine and An Osteria in Chianti. Light, fun reads!
From the start, I was enthralled with Dario’s stories of Tuscany and wanted to meet this man who shared my passion of writing and great love of wine! Up to this point, I really had no preconceived ideas of who Dario Castagno was or even if he was still in the wine tour business. However, It didn’t take long to find Dario! Yes, he is still in the wine tour business, very much so as a matter of fact, and has a great website showcasing his books and tours www.dariocastagno.com
I emailed Dario and made arrangements to meet him for a private wine tour at Fattoria Tregole, which is in Tregole (population 21), in the heart of Tuscany, 4 km from Castellina in Chianti.
Driving down the narrow “white road”, (unpaved and rather remote as most “white” roads are in Chianti), I thought to myself, “this is crazy”! but my little Fiat kept pointing toward Tregole.
I was greeted by Edith Kirchlechner, the owner of Fattoria Tregole, a lovely agriturismo (Bed & Breakfast) and boutique winery. Edith and I shared a hearty laugh because I had emailed her a month earlier trying to arrange a winery tour at Fattoria Tregole, not knowing that Dario was basing his own wine tours there. I said, “It’s funny how things work out,” and Edith replied, “Yes, sometimes things go by themselves,” –referring to my meeting with Dario at Fattoria Tregole that day.
With a few minutes to spare, I strolled around the beautifully restored 16th century farm grounds, camera in hand… unspoiled beauty surrounded me. It was a spectacular moment in time. www.fattoria-tregole.com
Spending a few hours with Dario was certainly one of the highlights of my trip to Tuscany!!!
Dario exudes a rugged charm and, yes, is a great historian and storyteller, not to mention that he is “very easy on the eyes”.
We talked of many things….the feudal wars between Siena and Florence, the Etruscan tombs that he unearthed as a young boy across the valley, the origin of Tregole (translates to “Three Throats” — a convergence of three pristine wooded valleys)…we talked of the olive trees and olive oil production, of the grape varietals and of the wild boar hunters in “District 9” toward Vagliagli as we gazed out over the rugged terrain.
Following Dario’s lead, we explored the 16th century chapel and the ancient wine cellars by candlelight, sampling the four estate wines, Chianti Classico DOCG 2008, Chianti Classico DOCG “Le Pigole” 2008, Chianti Classico “Riserva” 2007 and IGT (Colle Toscana Centrale) “Fanero” 2005, which were, of course, all quite excellent! Fattoria Tregole is a small family-run winery, gently positioned on almost 20 acres, which produces only 57,000 bottles of wine each year.
At the tour’s end, we talked about Dario’s books and his quiet life in Tuscany. I was flattered to have him read me a funny excerpt from his newest book, The Miracle of Belpoggio. I told Dario I would let him know what I thought of the rest of the book (as he was signing two other books for me)! I could have stayed all day listening to him read, in his mesmerizing British accent mixed with excerpts in Italian, but like all good things, unfortunately, it had to end.
What more can I say….
I’d like to think that the candles and ambiance were set just for me….but I’m sure Dario charms all his wine tour guests the same way.
Regardless, the private candlelight wine tour at Fattoria Tregole with Dario Castagno was absolutely priceless!!!!