The first sight of Villa Nottola is stunning: a gentle hill in the countryside of Valdichiana, from where you can see all around, from Montepulciano to Montefollonico; from Cortona to Mount Amiata. Villa Nottola isn’t just a place where the wine is made and sold: it is, at the same time, a farm, an agritourism and a restaurant that can offer a complete and authentic experience.
At the start of my tour I’m welcomed by Daniela and Giuliano Giomarelli, the owners, who tell me the story of Villa Nottola. The property is ancient: back in the 18th century it was the country residence of the Bracci Counts; it was a complete farm with its own olive groves, granary, mill and cellar that was a reference point for the whole area. Through the centuries, the farm, of which the present structure represented the central building and the manor house, has been split in several plots, until it was bought by the Antinori Marquises.
The Giomarellis came to Villa Nottola in 1987, when Giuliano’s father, Knight Anterivo Giomarelli, bought the farm and started his agricultural activities. Initially he was only interested in the farmhouses, but a big passion for wine persuaded him to buy ten hectares of vineyard besides the Villa to start his own production.
The choice was spot-on: through the years Villa Nottola planted new vineyards, up to the present twenty, so that the passion for wine could be turned into a daily job that well blended with reception and restoration. Villa Nottola officially opened during the ‘90s, when the farmhouses were restored with apartments and suites and a tasting room was arranged, to grant a high quality reception.
Daniela and Giuliano lead me to explore the apartments and the many rooms of the villa: there’s a feeling of great excitement, for the tourist season, that lasts from March to January, is at the doors. We visit the pool among the olive groves, the gym and other annexes to the structure. The reception job is demanding but it is also very rewarding: thanks to their 70 beds, last year they registered about 7.000 guests.
“Through the years, the people that came to Villa Nottola for a tour or for a night came to know our wines and our work. It’s a fundamental partnership between the agritourism and the farm, which are strictly tied to each other: the guests can experience first hand the reality of the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. This is what matters; our building is our best form of adverstising, because it enhances our product.”
With the help of Alfredo, the reception manager, we move on to visit the tasting room and the cellar. The selection of the wines of Villa Nottola was made by the enologist Riccardo Cotarelli, who was able to give them a great character, exalting their territorial features.
Villa Nottola produces a white I.G.T. “Pergloria”, two red I.G.T “Nottolino” and “Le 3 Vigne”, a Chianti Colli Senesi and the Vin Santo di Montepulciano. Obviously, most of their production is represented by the Rosso di Montepulciano, the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, the Riserva “Il Fattore” and the Supertuscan I.G.T. “Anterivo”. They produce about 140.000 bottles per year, using their own grapes only, and sell abroad a good 65% of their wine. Some of it is sold directly by the farm, which is an activity they particularly want to expand to make the relationship with their customers more direct, and offer a whole, authentic experience of their territory:
“The people who come to the farm are the most curious about how wine is made, – Giuliano explains – they want to know the steps from the vineyard to the cellar. When you come to the farm you understand why a single bottle can have a certain price, and you can better appreciate it.”
The guests at Villa Nottola, as said before, can also try its restaurant, managed by Cristiano, and taste its specialities: cheese and black pepper pici, oven cooked duck with fennel, vinsanto and cantucci semifreddo. The restaurant also offers culinary classes to learn to make pasta and to cook tuscan duck ragù: rustic experiences that foreign guests will love. Cristiano was formerly a worker at the farm, but he was brave enough to take responsibility for the restaurant, believing in the spirit of Villa Nottola and embarking in their big adventure:
“The best promotion for the farm is to improve its reputation – Daniela explains – people come, they enjoy their stay and say good things about it. We share the spirit of the farm with our coworkers, we give love to our project just as we were a big family: this way, things get better with time, not just for us, but also for the Vino Nobile and for all of Montepulciano. We must believe in it even when the times are rough, avoiding selfishness and parochialism. To develop a collaborative mentality isn’t easy, but it’s the winning choice.”