Sono Montenidoli: Ageless in San Gimignano, Tuscany

Whatever happens in Elisabetta Fagiuoli’s life, she responds with boundless, vivacious and contagious joy. It makes her seem as ageless as her Triassic Era vineyard filled with 200 million year old rocks.


I first visited Montenidoli (which means “mountain of little birds’ nests”) three years ago. (Read profile.)
E in van
We piled into Elisabetta’s van to tour her organic vineyards. She drove us up to her Triassic vineyard, Primo Sole (First Sunlight), which she planted in 2001. It is in what she calls her “Isola di Felicità”, Island of Happiness, a small “island” of vines in the midst of a large tract of forest. She has donated the land and is renovating several old farm buildings there to serve as the center for her Sergio the Patriarch Foundation, named for her late husband. It will offer stays and seminars for troubled young people with the goal of helping them feel connected, befriended and a part of humanity.
Triassic Wolf
The soil is a distinctive iron-rich, red color and the eons old rocks appear to be modern sculptures. This one, she calls “The Wolf”. The silence and peacefulness of this place is hard to describe. Montenidoli Triassico Rosso di Toscana IGT is a cru, 100% Sangiovese, produced only in magnums and sold to support the Foundation.


A little way down the hill toward the house and cellar, are Montenidoli’s white wine vineyards planted with the native variety, Vernaccia di San Gimignano. They overlook the towers of the town of San Gimignano…

vineyards San Gim

…and are filled with fossils from a more recent geological era when Montenidoli was under the sea. Montenidoli’s limestone soil formed from crushed shells which gives Montenidoli’s Vernaccia di San Gimignano it’s distinctive minerality and crispness.
fossil shells

On this visit, Elisabetta invited me with other guests for a tasting dinner. We began by drinking Montenidoli Fiore Vernaccia di San Gimignano DOCG for an aperitivo in the garden…

It’s the lightest and most delicate of Montenidoli’s Vernaccia, made from the “first run must” which means not from pressed grapes but juice that runs naturally out of the grapes when the skins break from their own weight. It was lovely and fresh on a steamy, hot summer evening.

We continued at the table with Montenidoli Tradizionale Vernaccia di San Gimignano DOCG, slightly rounder and more complex than Fiore but with the same bitter almond finish…a nice pairing for this cold, vegetable purée soup.

Elisabetta served the next course, cold rice salad with tomatoes and stuffed grape leaves with Montenidoli Il Garrulo Chianti Colli Senesi DOCG 2013 (70% Sangiovese + 30% Canaiolo) It has the crisp acidity and red fruit aromas and flavors of a classic Sangiovese.

The main course of venison was paired with Sono Montenidoli Rosso di Toscana IGT, (100% Sangiovese, aged a year in barriques). Elisabetta opened a precious bottle from 2007, one of the best vintage years ever in Tuscany. The wine was an elegant combination of complexity and freshness…one of the highlights of the evening.


For the cheese and nut finale, we drank Montenidoli Il Templare Bianco di Toscana IGT (70% Vernaccia, 10% Trebbiano, 10% Malvasia Bianca), named for the “warrior monks”, the Knights Templar of the Middle Ages. It ferments and ages in barriques and has rich, aromatic, roundness that finished the meal perfectly.


At the end of the meal, we all rose from the table and Elisabetta opened a bottle of champagne, given to her as a gift. With that, we toasted the many gifts she has given us: her friendship, her wines, and her joyous vivacity. It was an evening to remember.

San Gimignano (SI)

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