About fifteen years ago we first visited the Tornesi winery on a Brunello wine buying trip. Since then we’ve been back every year. The owner, Maurizio Tornesi, has become a friend, and we’ve watched his winery grow and transform…always for the better.
On our visit last week we joined the family for lunch in their home. Maurizio’s almost ninety year old mother, Renata, showed us her chicken coop and introduced us to each of her chickens. Although she gets around supported by a cane she still manages to clean the chicken coop early every morning, and collect eggs for the family’s home-made pasta and scrumptious frittate. Renata made sure we knew that our delicious potato frittata served at lunch owes its flavor to the freshness of her eggs. I can hardly disagree; anything made with fresh eggs is distinctly better.
Lunch was simple and delicious: fave & pecorino, homemade pasta, potato frittata, fruit for dessert, and minestra for the nonna. All accompanied by some Rosso di Montalcino.
Fave just picked from the garden, with pecorino cheese:
Minestra for Nonna Renata:
Melon & strawberries for dessert:
Renata and I sat next to each other at lunch and she was curious to understand what I was doing with my iPhone and Snapchat story, so I gave her a lesson in Snapchat…bridging the generations! How fun!
Maurizio’s wife…also Renata…loves having guests with the family for meals and it’s something she’s used to. Renata comes from a family of six sisters, all with families of their own, and most of the time impromptu get-togethers happen at her house.
When we first met Maurizio his father was still alive, although frail, and Maurizio was taking over the full management of the winery. Years passed, and as Maurizio and Renata’s two daughters became adults, Maurizio pinned his hopes on their eventually taking over the family winery. Instead, they opened a coffee bar in Montalcino and it looked like the family-owned aspect of the business might be coming to an end.
Instead, daughter Elisa, has drifted back to the business, drawn by a lifelong love of winemaking that she has lived and breathed since she was a little girl. Maurizio is thrilled and is grooming her to take over every aspect of the business. The instinct and passion for producing great Brunello is something she has always felt, first with her grandfather and then her father, as she trailed them in hand-picking the grapes, the harvest, care of the vines. Elisa now travels with Maurizio to wine fairs worldwide, most recently to Los Angeles.
Elisa demonstrates a cleverness beyond her wine-making expertise. She designed these chairs made from old Tornesi wine barrels:
Bottling, labelling and boxing is done on site at the winery.
Tornesi wine-making has existed since the mid-1800’s, and Maurizio’s antecedents (I’m not sure exactly how many great-great-great grandparents ago) have been making wine for the past 500 years…half a millenium ago! Last week Maurizio shared his family story with us, dating back to the siege upon Montalcino in the 1500’s. I don’t think I know anyone else who can directly trace their family back so many years. In 1969 Maurizio’s father Gino was one of the first to register his vines as Brunello within the Brunello Consorzio. Later on in 1993 Maurizio began production and bottling with the first vintage of Rosso di Montalcino and then in 1998 with Brunello. Initially their wine was stored in a cellar beneath the family home, then in 2009 Maurizio built a much larger cellar with a gorgeous terrace overlooking the Montalcino hills and a tasting room for visitors.
The Tornesi family has five hectares of land and produce 60 quintals of wine per hectare. The vines are from seven to thirty years old. Only organic fertiliser is used and no herbicides. The harvest is done manually in October and November, mostly by Maurizio and a few local workers.
Maurizio’s winery produces Brunello Riserva, Brunello, Rosso di Montalcino, IGT (a step above table wine), Brunello Grappa and olive oil. The winery is walking distance from the town center of Montalcino; well worth a visit!