At 0900 we motored south to Montemiccioli near the more famous town of San Gimignano. Our first destination was Pinzani, a raw sheep's milk pecorino cheese production. The facility was beautiful with a wide terrace looking down over the valley where sheep graze. Perfect place for a wedding.
The facility was spotless, constructed with marble stairs and floors. Julie Panzani offered a tour of the facility. Her grandfather started the cheesery in 1969. Although no cheese was being made at this time, we put blue booties over our shoes to keep things sanitary. Christmas through Easter are generally when baby lambs are being born and growing, so mom's milk is reserved for them. In any case, this was not the ideal time to collect milk.
We saw several rooms where the milk is processed into cheese and then stored. Each step is done by hand here. Milk is collected from local shepherds and is unpasteurized. It takes 24-36 hours to process and then is aged for 2-15 months on oak wood shelves.
There are certification standards, and stamps are placed on the cheese to verify the process and traceability. The wheels were much smaller here than the parmigiana wheels, maybe weighed only a pound or two. The leftover whey is used to make ricotta cheese. Pecorino is slightly more salty and tangy; parmigiana is more nutty and a bit milder overall.
We moved on to the Cesani Winery with Letizia as our hostess. Here grandfather had started the winery in 1949. This is small organic winery. They have only 30 hectors of land and produce about 1,200 barrels of wine a year--half red and have white. Ten hectors of this is filled with olive trees and 5 hectors grow crocus for saffron.
We visited only the tasting room here. It felt like we were invited into her personal living room. We tasted five wines, along with another fabulous cheese and cured meats platter. Grandpa makes the salami. Bread on the platter is made without salt in this region. Many years ago salt was highly taxed and the people decided not to use salt to save paying the tax. That recipe stuck.
This is quite a labor intensive. About 150 flowers are needed to make one gram of dried saffron. The price runs 30-40 euros per gram. We have some at home, but we don't buy it often.
They also produce olive oil and grape cosmetics. Lots of things to keep the Cesani family busy all year round.