For over 1,000 years (since 994AD), the Strozzi and Guicciardini families have been influencing history while making their delicious Vernaccia (dry white wine) and 21 other varieties of wine. Vernaccia di San Gimignano was first produced in 1200 and was exalted by Dante and Michelangelo, among others.
Having visited this vineyard during our honeymoon we wanted to return and share the experience with my parents during our Italian Wine Hunt of 2010. After a restful night of sleep above the Il Pino and a typical Italian breakfast of cafe latte (coffee with milk) and fette biscottate (crunchy cookie) in the village of San Gimignano we strolled through the San Mateo gate (built into the 12th century wall surrounding the village) to retrieve our car for the 15 minute drive to the Guicciardini Strozzi Vineyard.
During the rise in power of Cosimo dei Medici, Filippo Strozzi il Vecchio, head of the Strozzi family was exiled from Florence in 1434 due to the family’s extreme wealth and the threat they posed to the Medici. After his exile Filippo became a successful banker in Naples and a leader of mercenary soldiers. In 1466 he reconciled with the Medici and returned to Florence to begin construction of the Palazzo Strozzi which was completed by his son, Filippo II.
During the 1600s descendants of the Guicciardini Strozzi family married into the English house of Marlborough (of Sir Winston Churchill fame). The most illustrious member of this union was Lisa Gherardini del Giocondo, otherwise known as the Mona Lisa painted by Leonardo da Vinci. The current members of the family are 15th generation descendents of Mona Lisa.
Fast forward to the 1970s when Prince Girolamo Strozzi started selling the San Gimignano Vernaccia wine globally, a business he still runs with his two daughters Natalia and Irina.
We were sharing a few of the highlights of the Strozzi history and happy memories from our prior visit as we wound our way up the cedar-lined drive and even spotted a covey of pheasants before arriving in front of the gate to the Villa Cusona (Tuscan home for the Strozzi family) and production facility for our tasting. One of the advantages of traveling in the off season, when very few people are visiting the wineries, is that you are often hosted by a family member. Such was the case when Natalia greeted us at reception and began our tour of the centuries old cellars with built in ramps to haul up and down the large wine aging barrels and the production facility, culminating with a wine tasting in a graciously prepared room in the Villa Cusona.
Due to its uniqueness we were eager to try the Vernaccia Riserva and were not disappointed as this refreshing, light wine prepared our palates for the wine to come. As we sampled the charcuterie provided with the tasting we continued to sample the more complex wines, ending with the Millani, a blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot to celebrate the 1,000 year anniversary of the estate. During the tasting we mentioned the covey of pheasants that we saw on the drive up to the estate and Natalia quickly explained that they offer pheasant hunting in the Strozzi vineyard. After placing our order for wine Natalia graciously agreed to a photo to commemorate our visit.
When asked why the vineyard visit was an unforgettable moment, both my dad and husband said it was the combination of the family history, the continued dedication to making excellent wine, and the personal connection established with Natalia during our visit.
Note: The Guicciardini Strozzi also have apartments for rent in San Gimignano.
Mary Beth I have a passion for creating and experiencing unforgettable moments and sharing those with others. I hope that this story has helped you experience one of those moments.