An insider's view of the Connecticut dining scene
May 23, 2014
05:54 AMThe Connecticut Table
Meet ‘Tuscan Sun’ Author, Sip Her Italian Wines, in Connecticut Events
Frances Mayes' villa, Bramasole, in Tuscany, the storied region of Italy whose lifestyle inspired her bestselling memoir "Under the Tuscan Sun" and now a line of Italian wines.
UPDATE: Another event was just added to the roster for Under the Tuscan Sun author Frances Mayes, who is debuting her new line of Italian wines in Connecticut this month. If you act fast you can sign up for a wine lunch with Mayes at noon May 30 at Zingarella Pizzeria in the Plantsville section of Southington (84 West Main St.) The cost is just $30 per person, plus tax and gratuity. Call (860) 628-9464 for reservations.
If you can't make the lunch, there are other opportunities to meet Mayes: On May 29, she will lead a wine tasting and bottle signing at Twisted Vine in Fairfield (3 to 5 p.m.) and do the same kind of event the next day (May 30) at the same time at Worldwide Wine & Spirits in Southington.
A wine dinner in Mayes' honor at L’Orcio in New Haven May 29 is sold out, but at 7 p.m. May 30, Mayes will be at The Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center in Old Saybrook for a wine tasting, followed by a screening of “Under the Tuscan Sun.” Tickets are $15 at katharinehepburntheater.org
See our full original story below on Mayes and her new Tuscan Sun wines.
“The wine in Tuscany tastes like the earth it came from,” says Under the Tuscan Sun author Frances Mayes, who is releasing her own line of hand-selected Tuscan Sun Wines in the U.S. to help better present a fabled European lifestyle to Americans—who could benefit from slowing down and embracing the Italian ethos of centering life on the joys of the table and celebrating food and wine as integral parts of life. (As part of introducing the wines, Mayes will participate in a quartet of Connecticut events in May; details a bit lower.)
We all have heard, and envy, Mayes’ story, which the world has come to know through her books and also through the 2003 film “Under the Tuscan Sun,” based on Mayes’ 1996 memoir and starring Diane Lane as a recently-divorced author who impulsively buys a villa in Tuscany in order to change her life. (Mayes bought the villa but the marital rift is a fictional embellishment of the screenplay.)
Here’s part of Mayes’ story, from her website:
Frances Mayes has always adored houses, and when she saw Bramasole, a neglected, 200-year old Tuscan farmhouse nestled in five overgrown acres, it was love at first sight. Out of that instant infatuation have come four marvelous, and hugely popular, books. The bestseller Under the Tuscan Sun, remained on The New York Times bestseller list for two and a half years. The other international best sellers are: Bella Tuscany, and Every Day in Tuscany, the last in her Tuscan trilogy. She has published two photo-texts, In Tuscany, a collaborative photo-textbook with her husband, the poet Edward Mayes and photographer Bob Krist, and Bringing Tuscany Home: Sensuous Style from the Heart of Italy, another collaborative book with Edward Mayes and photographer Steven Rothfeld. All five highly personal books are about taking chances, living in Italy, loving and renovating an old Italian villa, the pleasures of food, wine, gardens, and the “voluptuousness of Italian life.” The books are translated into more than forty languages.
Recently, Frances and Ed published The Tuscan Sun Cookbook: Recipes from My Italian Kitchen, a collection of their favorite Tuscan recipes.
Knowing that much is enough to also know that the wines matching her “Tuscan Sun” lifestyle are worth seeking out, and Connecticut residents are among the first in the nation—just the third state—to gain access to these authentic and distinguished-but-affordable wines that reflect the best vino da tavola, or table wines, from her favorite Tuscan restaurants.
Four of the Tuscan Sun wines are now available in Connecticut:
Pensiero (A little gift) 100% Pinot Grigio; $13.99
Tasting notes: Light green luster runs through the radiant straw-yellow color of this wine, whose aroma is rich in fruits … [like] pears and apples. Excellent balance, smooth and with a mineral kiss at the end.
Permesso (May I come in?) 100% Cabernet Sauvignon; $13.99
Tasting notes: Deep ruby color and a mature and intense nose … complex bouquet of cherries, licorice, and dried berries, with an elegant finish.
Tondo Tondo (Just perfect) 100% Sangiovese; $13.99
Tasting notes: Bright red, with a broad, intense and fruity nose. On the palate hints of red berry, cherry and floral tones … harmonious and well-balanced with a distinctly Tuscan taste.
Auguri (My best to you) 80% Sangiovese, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot; $24.99
Tasting notes: Intense ruby red color with light garnet hues … bouquet with hints of violets, ripe fruits and spices. … robust, velvety structure … This beautiful Tuscan blend has a long, balanced finish … .
(Full details on the wines can be found at www.tuscansunwines.com/wines; a list of some stores around Connecticut carrying the wines is at the bottom.)
Giving the wines names is meant to deepen the sense of integration with aspects of the Tuscan lifestyle. Calling the Cabernet Permesso, meaning “may I come in,” is a way of honoring the house, for example. The premier wine’s appellation, Auguri, is “a toast to the Tuscans, who inspire the world to live like kings!”
“The Auguri is, to me, the standout of the line,” says Jillian Simms of Essex-based Cellar Fine Wines, the Connecticut distributor for Tuscan Sun Wines that was founded in 2012 to help adventurous wine drinkers fall in love with exciting, high-quality wines that have been previously unavailable in Connecticut.
“The Tuscan lifestyle is about celebrating the beauty of each day, and the other three wines are perfect for doing just this,” Simms says. “The Auguri, as the Riserva wine of the line, has a full richness that complements an extra special occasion. It really is, as the name says, ‘my best to you,’ offering complexity with spice notes and nice tannins.
“These wines are meant to be enjoyed with food,” Simms adds. “As the days get longer and warmer, I think the Pensiero Pinot Grigio (which is full of bright flavors and delicious) would be a great way to kick off that first outdoor meal on the patio or deck when you just can't believe it's finally warm enough to drink a chilled wine outside and the golden light makes everything a little surreal. Recently, I was pouring this wine at a charity event, and a woman tasting the Pensiero said, ‘It's been so long since I've actually wanted something cold!’ I knew exactly how she was feeling. A few months from now, when the tomatoes are ripe, would be the perfect time to break out the Tondo Tondo Sangiovese with that first delicious batch of homemade sauce.”
The wines will be officially presented in Connecticut with a splash—four events over two days at which Mayes will appear.
On May 29, Mayes will lead a wine tasting and bottle signing at Twisted Vine in Fairfield (3 to 5 p.m.) and do the same kind of event the next day at the same time at Worldwide Wine & Spirits in Southington.
At 6:30 on the 29th, Mayes will attend a wine dinner in her honor at L’Orcio in New Haven. The cost is $50 per person and includes four courses with wine pairings and cantucci. For reservations and more information, call L’Orcio at (203) 777-6670.
And at 7 p.m. May 30, Mayes will be at The Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center in Old Saybrook for a wine tasting, followed by a screening of “Under the Tuscan Sun.” Tickets are $15 at katharinehepburntheater.org
Mayes, who is also a cook, designer and “diva of all things Tuscan,” says in a video on the website for Tuscan Sun wines that she’s always wanted to make wine. “For over two decades,” Mayes says on the site, “we have feasted and sipped across the timeless fields of Tuscany and beyond.”
The author personally selects the Tuscan Sun wines, assuring that each one conveys the joys of the table and the true taste of Italy. “Frances set out to bring this casual, beautiful, every-day expression of wine to her fans. With Frances personally selecting the house wines from her favorite Tuscan restaurants, the lineup of Tuscan Sun Wines was born,” the site explains. The labels are original paintings inspired by Mayes' favorite places in and around her famous villa, Bramasole.
As in her seven books on Tuscany, and the film “Under the Tuscan Sun,” the Frances Mayes brand centers on friendship, discovery,
restoration, and ultimately renewal through daily pleasures and an appreciation for the good life well lived, the site says.
“These wines bring to life a sense of wonder through the simple joys that my life in Italy has given me,” says Mayes, who settled in Tuscany 20 years ago and has gone from being a proud resident of Cortona to one of its most esteemed citizens. “I hope that by sharing them with the world, others can also attain a bit of the enjoyment I've gained from my experience here, if only for a moment as they sip these glorious wines.”
To learn more about Cellar Fine Wines and its other great selections, artfully produced wines from Italy and Oregon, see the website.
The Tuscan Sun Wines were created in partnership with Curious Cork Imports. Learn more about that aspect at www.curiouscork.com.