Russ and Elke's European Travel

It's not only what you see, it's how you see it

Russ and Elke's European Travel is a small company run by husband and wife team Russ and Elke Beck, a professional travel agent.

Over the years we have experienced some fantastic places, people, food and wine.  Out of our love for travel developed the idea to create very exclusive, intimate and interesting itineraries and let our clients experience, taste, smell, touch and hear what has given us so much joy in our travels. 

Un bicchiere di vino Chianti, per favore

Sangiovese Grosso - Greve in Chianti

     As all of you surely know by now Russ and I are big wine lovers.  In our travels to Italy we were fortunate to discover, taste and enjoy some remarkable vintages.  Most Italians are more than happy to share their treasured nectar and the locals from each region, of course, claim to grow the best grapes and produce the best tasting vino.

     As for Russ and I, we've grown to love big, full-bodied red wines. Nothing can put a smile on my husband’s face faster than the memories of old wine cellars.  He loves the smell of leather, forest floor and cedar rising from the garnet liquid deep within the crystal globe softly swirling in his hand.

     We were fortunate to book and stay at an incredibly charming Agriturismo, outside of Greve in the Chianti region, when we were traveling with our sixteen year old son. As an added bonus our accommodations were part of a working organic Chianti vineyard.

While taking a tour of the property we were told that the owner produces four types of wine.

     The Chianti Classico is made mainly from the Sangiovese grape with a small percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon.  Its deep ruby color and flowery and woody flavor are trademarks of this varietal.  On the palette it remains well structured, soft and full. Chianti Classico is the best known and easiest wine of the region. We liked to sip it while enjoying some hard cheeses and watching the sun set from our balcony over the valley with the rows of grapevines stretching in the distance below below us.

     The Chianti Classico Riserva is made only from the best grapes of the harvest, providing more intense color, body and structure. It is matured for 12-16 months in oak after which it is returned to stainless steel vats for a bit longer and finally into the bottles for its last refinement. This wine gets better with age and can be easily saved for a special day.  It has a deep ruby color with shades of garnet, an ample, flowery perfume and is long and lingering on the palette. While staying at our quaint apartment at the vineyard we did our shopping in town for fresh, local produce. One of our favorite meals to cook was salcicce di cinghiale with olives and fresh tomatoes. The Riserva was a lovely addition to that meal as it drinks well with meat dishes, especially game meat.

     The IGT Rosé is made by removing juice from the vats of the best wine in the first day or two of fermentation. The removed liquid  produces the Rosé. It’s best served chilled on a hot summer day or as an aperitif.  Italian Rose's tend to have the flavor of a red just a tad lighter and not as sweet or flavorless as some of it's California cousins. Russ and I usually enjoy a nice glass of Rose during the hot summer months on our deck and it drinks well with shrimp and white fish dishes.

     And the fourth and final wine produced on this vineyard was the Sangiovese, made from 100% Sangiovese grapes. The wine is aged in stainless steel vats at the vineyard before being bottled.  It’s ready to drink within a year and is less complex than the Chianti Classico.

     So as you can see we had a nice selection to choose from. The wine cellar was open to all guests on an honor system; take your wine, write it down and pay when you check out. That certainly worked for us.

     On one of our ventures into Greve, an early morning trip to simply watch the town come to life in the early morning hours, and after a cup of cappuccino and a pastry, we decided to check out one of the largest Cantine in Chianti.  "Le Cantine di Greve" is located in the old town center of Greve below street level in an ancient wine cellar. What makes this wine shop special is it's unique tasting system, which let’s the customers taste 140 different wines and more than 20 olive oils. In the store one can find more than 1000 different labels from all regions of Italy with a focus on the regional Chianti. Once you have selected your favorite bottles you can chose to have them shipped to your home. Inside "Le Cantine di Chianti" you’ll also find a wine museum with permanent exhibits free of charge.

     Well Russ and I, with our son in tow, entered this cathedral of wine at around 10:30 in the morning and decided to have some fun… heck we were on vacation and somewhere in the world it was already noon. We familiarized ourselves with the concept of wine carousels, each displayed a number of different bottles for tastings and each taste was purchased via a pre-paid card that was inserted in a slot on the carousel.  

     We purchased three wine cards, one for each (yes our son was legal to drink wine in Italy at sixteen). What we hadn't taken into consideration was the fact that we all had a fairly empty stomach and some of the tastings merely required a 0.50 cent charge. Our son, not a groomed wine snob yet, found the least expensive wines. For about 1 Euro he managed to fill his glass almost to the top. Russ and I, intrigued by the concept of so many fabulous wines to taste, took a while to catch on. But after our son became oddly giddy we made him try the olive oils which come with small pieces of bread and confiscated his card.

     We had an amazing time and arrived back at our Agriturismo in high spirits and it wasn't even lunch time yet.

     We will take our clients to ‘Le Cantine di Greve in Chianti’ on our Bella Toscana tour and any wine lover will feel like a kid in a candy store. So what are you waiting for? We only have room for one more couple. Come with us and tell your friends and family that you experienced Tuscany to its fullest.



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