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Interview with Lauren Cicione, Owner of Tuscan Auteur

Lauren Cicione is an ex-New Yorker (former contemporary art dealer) Italian American who moved to Montalcino, Tuscany two years ago. She knew it was time for a career switch when her foodie tendencies to visit every new restaurant in NYC started taking precedence over her interest in checking out new installation sculpture. Growing up in an Italian American family, she had a long-standing passion for good food and Italian wine with a strong connection to all things local and organic. After spending much time cooking with brilliant renowned chefs, harvesting grapes, working in the vineyard, becoming close friends with many of the top Brunello producers in Montalcino, she started a company called Tuscan Auteur to share with other oenophiles and wine collectors, the fortunate, lush lifestyle she lives there. What is it that you do exactly?
Tuscan Auteur is a very specialized concierge service for the town of Montalcino, where I curate innovative itineraries for wine collectors coming to explore the world famous Brunello and the surrounding area south of Siena. In addition to the winery visits, I offer the complete luxury Tuscan experience, booking villas for clients, bringing in private chefs, organizing wine paired dinners, arranging cooking class, etc. I’m branching out this year to begin work with corporate clients arranging incentive trips to the area as well as wine retailers offering oenophilic travel to their top collectors. In addition to trip planning and touring with clients, Twitter, Facebook and PR for Tuscan Auteur (documenting Tuscan life and the majority of what I eat and drink here) constitute much of my time. I’m also continually visiting wineries in search of artisanally produced jewels to share with clients (in and beyond Montalcino.) I’m an avid eater and always trying out the hundreds of restaurants from Michlin stared establishments to mom and pop local trattorias sourcing the best tastes around. I never give a restaurant suggestion to clients without recommendations on which dishes to order. That being said, I have to revisit several times and seasons to cover the majority of menus. I also enjoy the simplicity of country life working in my vegetable garden and cooking with native friends learning about the local culinary traditions. Periodically I volunteer to work in the vineyards of my favorite producers to see hands on, exactly which stage of the growing season they’re at. For me it’s important to be in tune with what’s happening with the season and grapes in order to truly explain the place my clients are visiting, the wine they are tasting and the terroir it comes from. On a wine tour day with clients, we meet in the morning. If it’s our first day together, I explain the very strict growing and aging regulations that make Montalcino the most restricted winemaking zone in Italy. Depending on the group, we will visit anywhere from 2 – 4 wineries in a day. We visit only small family run vineyards mostly working organically, biodynamically or in an old fashioned farming method. I strive to open the eyes and pallets of my clients to the artisanal Brunellos being produced. At each winery, we meet personally with the owner, walking through the vineyard, touring the cellars and often barrel tasting in addition to current vintages from bottle. If we’re not eating at the kitchen table with the producers over a vertical tasting at lunch, we’re at one for my favorite Montalcino restaurants where I’m a regular. At the end of each visit, clients can purchase hard to get wines direct from the vineyards to be sent home to their personal cellars. Tuscan Auteur then organizes the grouping and shipping of these select wines for each client.
What do you enjoy most about what you do?
It’s hard to choose one thing that I love most about my job. In essence, I have chosen what, to me, is an ideal lifestyle and I share that with clients. That said, spending time explaining the town and wine I have fallen in love with never really feels like work. I love meeting guests coming from all over and always connecting seamlessly due to a common passion for wine and food. All this while I am concurrently promoting well made artisanal wines and honest producers whom I truly believe in.
What would you say are the 3 best places you’ve ever stayed?
A few years back I took an adventure vacation to Costa Rica. There we stayed at the Pacuare Lodge. The only way to arrive to this hidden river paradise is via white water rafting. It is the closest to jungle luxury one can get – private cabanas, stone swimming pools and outdoor showers hidden amidst the tropical flowers, birds and trees. My local go to is Il Pellicano on the Tuscan coast. Over the decades, this Italian tradition has been frequented by the likes of the Kennedy’s and Missoni’s. The dramatic sunrise over the sea is priceless. When visiting my native Ischia, an island off the coast of Naples, Italy, I often stay at a friend’s villa in Forio or hop over to the Mezzatorre, one of the island’s most beautiful hotels perched over the Mediterranean, where I sip caprioscas at the salt water pool build into the cliffside above the sea.
What’s been your most memorable dining experience to date?
One best meal?! Virtually impossible for me as there are so many variables that make for a good eating experience – company, location, food, wine. Memorable, though, would include a baby sucking pig roast paired with a vertical tasting of multiple vintages of Brunello and Rosso at one of my favorite vineyards in Montalcino; or a five course, romantic Champagne infused seaside dinner at La Pineta on the Tuscan coast, complete with pesce crudo and then spaghetti with sea urchin, my forever favorite!
Have you rubbed shoulders with the rich and famous, either through your work or your travels?
As for hobnobbing with the rich and famous, five years in the New York City international art world was the perfect platform. From artists, to collectors, to writers, I mingled and worked with it all. When engaging with high-profile clients here in Tuscany, it’s wonderful being on a more relaxed level as they are on vacation and enjoying life with good wine and company in a breathtaking setting. I have worked with several high profile clients, journalists and wine producers since moving to Tuscany. As one may imagine, the clientele of art collecting to wine collecting is expectedly similar.
What currently ranks highest on your travel wish list?
I’m hoping to make my way to northern India this winter but the specific plans are still not in stone. This summer, I spent the later part of July in Corsica visiting artisanal wine producers of the island.
Thank you for taking part in our interview, Lauren, and good luck with your trip to India. If you would like to be interviewed on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.

Paul Johnson

Paul Johnson is Editor of A Luxury Travel Blog and has worked in the travel industry for more than 30 years. He is Winner of the Innovations in Travel ‘Best Travel Influencer’ Award from WIRED magazine. In addition to other awards, the blog has also been voted “one of the world’s best travel blogs” and “best for luxury” by The Daily Telegraph.

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