Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Il Falconiere, June 2013

One cold winter morning I was watching some foodie show and was intrigued by the near location of this Michelin star restaurant in Cortona.  I instantly scribbled down the name and said to myself I'm going to go eat there someday.

Signature dishes are kept warm from kitchen to table

Then, one rainy spring morning, in June 2013, I had plans with my dear friend Natasha to do our usual thing, explore some beautiful place we have never been to before, get an aperitivo, lunch, a little walking a little shopping, whatever we do it's always an experience.  This day was special though because we were celebrating her birthday, and my birthday gift to her was the gift of a leisurely Italian lunch.

Direction-Tuscany,  we headed out toward Castiglione del Lago, where we met a friend for an aperitivo at Michele & Co. We started brainstorming about where to go for lunch.  Then I randomly remembered Il Falconiere.

the grounds of the estate are filled 

with the most beautiful roses

I asked our friend Riccardo where it was, and if it was good?  He said, “Certo che è buono, è uno dei migliore!” (Of course it’s good, it’s one of the best!)  
Seconds later Riccardo was making a call to the other Riccardo and made us a reservation for lunch.  Riccardo also told me to try their Pinot Noir.  Famous last words.
On the road to the Falconiere, with an image of a big crystal balloon glass full of this questionable Tuscan Pinot Noir.  I love Pinot Noir, in fact it's one of my favorite varietals.  After 2 trips to Burgundy it's hard to top my favorite appellation though...Volnay, no Pommard.  
Allora, back to Tuscany.
Thirty minutes later we were crossing the Umbrian-Tuscan border, passing below the hilltop town of Cortona and on the driveway of the estate of the Falconiere Relais.  There was an immediate sensation of being a guest in a secluded country villa. 
We were warmly greeted at the door by Riccardo Baracchi and saw his wife Silvia busy in the kitchen.

a warm scallop complimentary sample

a creative version of panzanella

We were escorted to our table in front of the Lemon Grove window.
The ever so polite Filipino waiter presented us with the menu’s in perfect English and took our wet trenches away.
When it came time to order the wine I leaned over to Riccardo’s table, where he was having what seemed to be a casual business lunch, and inquired about his Pinot Noir.  He said, “Oh, I’m so sorry but it’s finished.”

dessert detail of a grape 

on a vanilla custard

warm creamy espresso

dessert detail

seafood gnocchi

my beautiful fish dish

a dessert sampler

winery details

meeting the falcon after lunch

preparing the bottle

Riccardo demonstrating how to slice off the cork with the saber

Riccardo suggested their sparkling wine, a Metodo Classico, a Sangiovese based Brut Rosé.  

Since Natasha is a big fan of Bollicine we accepted his offer. Riccardo whisked us off our chairs and brought us to the patio with an huge sword and guided me through my first saber.
A saber is a heavy cavalry sword with a curved blade and a single cutting edge.  Honestly it was one of the biggest knives I ever held.
I perfectly sliced the cork off and then we toasted with our glasses full of some really nice sparkling wine.

Lunch was wonderful.
After lunch we got to do the petting zoo thing and pet the mascot falcon. 

Then Riccardo lead us on a complete tour of the estate, the spa, cooking school and winery.

one of the best wines from the winery is  their Pinot Noir a real surprise from Tuscany

a glass of red

After the 4th request to try the Pinot Noir, Riccardo finally let me.  It was good, really good and in Italy it’s hard to find a good Pinot.  In fact the only Pinot’s that I like come from Alto Adige.  This tasting proved that wine needs to be tasted, tasted and tasted, again, again and again with an open mind and palate.

If you are curious to see how Riccardo does this, you can check it out on youtube, fast forward it to 3:50 


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