LENOX, Mass. — Bordeaux, the Napa Valley, the Finger Lakes — the Berkshires?
Our backyard hardly ranks with the great wine-growing regions of the world. But that hasn't discouraged Ellen and Tobi Levi-Lanciano of Lenox from setting up what they believe is the first wine tasting tour of Berkshire County.
With the poor economy slowing demand for their Tobi's Limousine Service, the couple decided "to be enterprising and come up with new ideas to bring in business" Ellen Levi-Lanciano told me last week.
The tours are a way to add value to their existing limousine service by joining it with a long-standing personal interest. "We're both wine connoisseurs," she said.
The tours, inaugurated in June, take in two Berkshire County wineries -- Furnace Brook in Richmond and Les Tois Emme in New Marlborough -- plus one other, the big Millbrook Winery in Dutchess County, N.Y.
They can accommodate one to 14 people in either a sedan or a van. The price is $175 per person (discounts for large groups) and includes transportation, tastings at the wineries and a catered lunch at Millbrook.
With the rainy summer so far, business has had a slow start, said Levi-Lanciano. "No one wants to go on a tours in a downpour." But she is hopeful demand will crest with the harvest season in September and October.
On a typical tour, she said, the driver will pick up clients at their homes or hotels around 11 a.m.; take them to Furnace Brook (which produces wine from both apples and grapes) for a tour and tasting; then to Millbrook for lunch and a "more intensive tour" lasting about 11/2 hours; then back through New Marl-borough to Les Trois Emme for a final tasting and tour before returning home about 4 p.m.
The two Berkshire wineries rely on varietal grapes, Levi-Lanciano said. Furnace Book produces red, white and sparking wines and ciders and Les Trois Emme makes reds, whites, blushes and pumpkin wines.
Millbrook has vineyards for chardonnay, cabernet and pinot noir wines.
BerkshireWine Tasting Tours will take clients — many of them expected to be visitors to the Berkshires, Levi-Lanciano said — through very scenic country and while the driver is not a "tour guide" he or she will answer questions while driving.
Levi-Lanciano said advance reservations are necessary since the lunch at Millbrook is catered and must be ordered ahead of time.
For more information and to make a reservation, call (413) 637-1224 or e-mail email@example.com
Source: The Berkshire (Mass.) Eagle