Azienda Agricola Il Ciliego, or "The Cherry Tree Farm," is a farm and winery that family patriarch Mario Pattaro opened in 1952, and is still currently operated by his sons and grandsons. Upon our arrival at the farm, we were greeted by grape vineyards and some chickens and turkeys roaming about. Luca, one of the grandsons who is a viniculture engineer, gave us a tour of the property and a little backstory about the farm. He explained that the name of the farm came from the five cherry trees that once stood at the entrance of the farm; today, only one tree remains. The guys do all the work themselves, from working in the fields growing various crops, to butchering their own pigs and poultry, to producing their own wine in-house using the grapes they grow themselves. Not only is the farm completely self-sufficient food-wise, but they even generate their own electricity from the solar panels they installed a few years ago.
We could tell that Luca was very passionate about his work. He talked about thinking with your heart as well as with your eyes. With the heart, one has to love the land and the work, to be able to work the long hours in the fields, rain or shine. With the eyes, one has to have foresight, to be able to follow the market and know what people will want.
|Luca explaining his family's work at the farm & winery.|
|This photo doesn't do justice to the tremendous size of Italian grapes!|
|Where the wine magic happens.|
Following the tour, we had a mini wine-tasting with two sparkling wines; one was a Vino Spumante Dolce which was sweet, and the other a Vino Spumante Brut which was the drier of the two. I definitely preferred the sweeter one myself.
|Vino Spumante Dolce (left) and Vino Spumante Brut (right)|
Following the spumante tasting, we went upstairs to the restaurant for dinner and drinks made from food grown right on the property. It doesn't get fresher than that!
We started with two different types of wine from the farm, with a third (a reserved version of the red wine) to be served later in the evening.
|Course #1: Antipasto|
The second course was Spelt, which I had never even heard of before this dinner. It's a type of wheat that seems to be common in some parts of Europe. This amazing dish came with olives, red peppers, yellow peppers, zucchini, egg white, capers, cheese, basil, and other herbs.
|Course #2: Spelt|
The third course was a pasta with sausages, zucchini, and tomatoes.
|Course #3: Pasta|
Then came pork that actually tasted like beef, and some out-of-this-world-amazing baked (broiled?) potato.
|Course #4: Pork|
The next course was a delicious veal.
|Course #5: Veal|
And because R.'s mom is a pescatarian, they brought out some eggplants for her in place of the meat. I tried a piece and it was fab. I'm really liking this eggplant business.
Course #6 was actually a light salad that I didn't get a picture of because it came in a large serving bowl for the table to share, and I didn't want to make other people wait just so I could snap a photo. I didn't end up partaking in the salad anyway as I was already more than full by this point!
But wait...what full belly? Dessert is on the table! We had a slice of pie made with fresh peaches and ricotta cheese. Yum!
|Course #7: Peach and Ricotta Pie|
And finally, some Vin Santo wine and biscotti to wash everything down with. Vin Santo is a strong dessert wine that's popular in the Tuscany region, as we discovered during our olive oil tasting two days prior.
Overall, the food was most delightful - every single course was tasty, fresh, natural, and made with love by the mother and granddaughter-in-law of the family (and served by another grandson). It kind of reminded me of that Mexican movie Like Water for Chocolate, in which the heroine's love and emotions seep into the meals she prepares and cause those to consume her cooking to be ignited by passion, sometimes quite literally. OK, reality wasn't nearly so dramatic as no one caught on fire by spontaneous combustion from our meal, but I just imagine these two little lovely ladies in the kitchen wearing their cute country aprons preparing each course with tender loving care as though the food were their babies. By the end of the evening, we were all happily rubbing our bellies. A meal that can satisfy 18 people all at once is nothing short of amazing, and it truly speaks to the quality of the work that the Pattaro family puts into their farm and their restaurant. The service was also very friendly. This was far and away the best meal we had in Italy (all three of us agree), and undeniably the highlight of our vacation the summer of 2011.
Azienda AGricola Il Ciliegio
Via Uopini, 94, 53035 Monteriggioni (SI), Italy
Phone: +39 0577 309055
On the web: http://www.ilciliegio.com/
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