“Wine has long been a passion of mine,” says Italian fashion mogul Massimo Ferragamo, “but it was when I first laid eyes on the Capanna vineyards at Castiglion del Bosco that I knew my dream of making my own would become a reality. I quickly realized that not only would I be able to create an unparalleled wine from this land, but there was also an opportunity to share this unique and breathtaking place with wine lovers and tourists.”
It was already working as a winery when he purchased it, nearly two decades ago, but it “needed a lot of restoration when I discovered it, as did the borgo in which the hotel is situated,” recalls Massimo, the founder of the current incarnation. (After a recent change in ownership, he remains closely involved and has an ambassador-type role.) “The reason I bought the property was its winemaking potential, as I am passionate about Brunello. However, the combination of winemaking and hospitality at its highest level is now at the heart of the Castiglion del Bosco project.”
The Brunello that the winery now produces is outstanding enough to inspire plenty of passion. Like any smart owner of a winery, Ferragamo surrounded himself with knowledgable oenologists and agronomists, including resident winemaker Cecilia Leoneschi, who “takes incredible care in both the vineyard and the winery.” He continues, “Creating a team of experts is indeed necessary—we tend to hire local staff, in order to guarantee that they are familiar and experienced with the particular area and its particular land, both in Montalcino and in Riparbella,” the elevated region of the Tuscan coast that’s home Ferragamo’s second wine project, Tenuta Prima Pietra.
“Patience and time are also two essential factors needed for the production of quality wines,” he says, “alongside a commitment to never compromise.”
For example, when it came time to choose corks for the Tenuta Prima Pietra wines (which can be more experimental than the Castiglion del Bosco wines, which are governed by the rules of the Brunello di Montalcino DOCG, one of the oldest DOCGs in Italy) they ordered 100 cork samples from Sardinia and Portugal and tested each one individually to see how it would impact the wine’s evolution.
Both wineries are nice places to visit, but especially Castiglion del Bosco. It’s open to the general public, not only guests of the hotel, and they receive everyone from wine-clueless honeymooners to masters of wine who know more than the staff. It’s a point of pride that they can customize the experience for anyone who comes.
As for the wine itself, the critics can explain it far better than I. But the tour and tasting experience is quite pleasant, neither too technical nor too party-minded. One highlight is seeing the artwork that’s used in the Zodiac collection, a very limited edition—never more than 1,000 magnums—of the very best wine. (“The fullest expression of out terroir and the nuanced characteristics of each vintage,” he says.) Ferragamo himself selects the artists, and their works related to the Chinese zodiac end up on numbered bottles that are sold partially as a fundraiser for local charities.
Castiglion del Bosco’s other standout feature is its wine club, a private lounge inside the wine cellar with lockers for 150 members. The lockers store up to 100 bottles at the correct temperature and humidity, and those bottles don’t have to be from Ferragamo’s projects. Members can have their wine shipped in from anywhere in the world, and rely on the winery’s team for advice about when to drink the wines. The club also organizes events around the world, and has been the site of the formation of many friendships.
The membership criteria are vague but intriguing: Members must love wine and be willing to share it socially. Not every applicant is approved.
But for those who are in, it’s a good set-up. “Our members can come back whenever they want and organize private dinners and events, or just enjoy a good glass of wine in the company of their family and friends,” says Ferragamo. “A second home in Tuscany, an extended family in the Castiglion del Bosco team—we want our members to really feel as though this space belongs to them.”
And it’s a handsome space, with the level of style and design that you would expect from the Ferragamo family. So does the hotel that complements the winery. (And a few days’ stay is less of a financial commitment than joining the club.)
The hotel was fabulous when I visited eight years ago. Shortly after that, the hotel was acquired by an A-list hotel group and is now the Rosewood Castiglion del Bosco. The service was good before, but now it’s up to the brand’s exacting international standards. On my last night, housekeeping left a fresh zip-lock bag beside my toiletries, and after someone noticed my dusty laptop screen, a cleaning cloth appeared discreetly on my keyboard. (“I think I just had an orgasm,” said a friend who plans travel for a demanding clientele, when I told her about the above-and-beyond touches.)
Details like these, of course, are what add up to make a stay remarkable. But Ferragamo’s original work and Rosewood’s physical updates do a pretty great job of setting the stage.
The borgo that he was talking about is the remnants of a neglected, 800-year-old village on a 5,000-acre estate. They don’t call it an albergo diffuso—that uniquely lovely Italian hospitality concept that reinvents abandoned old villages as a sort of time-travel tourism project—but they admit that it’s pretty close. Massimo’s wife, Chiara, styled the interiors. The 42 suites and 11 villas have an out-of-time feel, as if you’re stepping into history, not some sterile hotel room.
An organic kitchen garden fully supplies the gastronomic restaurant, Campo del Drago (an homage to the Piazza del Campo in Siena), and a good part of the menu at the casual restaurant, an alfresco osteria that serves impeccable pasta pomodoro, for instance, made with six kinds of tomatoes.
Even better is when they pack salads, bread, olive oil and a couple bottles of white into a picnic basket, and then leave you alone with it at one of the villas. The view over the Capanna vineyard is stupendous—and, in fact, one reason that Ferragamo was inspired to buy the property.
Sitting there on the lawn, looking out at the vines unfolding below, a glass in one hand and forkful of fresh tuna salad in the other, it’s not difficult to see why he did.