It's a bit early in the season for a drive through Northern Italy's wine country - with nighttime temperatures still in the 30s.
Let's not wait. Let's take a virtual tasting tour of the wine-intensive area's very real vineyards. Let's do it in our virtual Maserati GranTurismo (it's $126,000 in real life, but it doesn't cost anything when it's virtual).
Let's start in Florence, queen city of Tuscany, with a good night's sleep at my favorite hotel, Albergo Botticelli. We get up just early enough to make the 10 a.m. breakfast cutoff and depart in our 460-horsepower car, trying not to take advantage of its ability to reach 60 mph within 4.5 seconds.
From here it's a 90-mile drive south, much of it along the Mediterranean coast, to Maremma, the up-and-coming Tuscan wine region nestled between the Uccellina Mountains and the blue sea.
The locals call the area "Tuscany's Wild West" - complete with horses and cowboys. And really good grapes - growers say the nearby sea lends a salty, minerally tang to their wines.
Here a wine estate called Brancaia makes "Super Tuscan" wines - using the traditional sangiovese grape, but also international grapes such as cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc.
-2010 Brancaia Ilatraia Rosso, Maremma Toscana IGT (40 percent cabernet sauvignon, 40 percent petit verdot, 20 percent cabernet franc): hearty and intense, with aromas and flavors of anise and black raspberries; $60.
Nearby, within sight of the sea, Azienda Agricola Poliziano makes wines based mostly on Tuscan's traditional sangiovese grapes.
-2010 "Lohsa," Red Wine, by Azienda Agricola Poliziano, Morellino di Scansano DOC (85 percent sangiovese, 15 percent ciliegiolo): soft and rich, with black cherry and savory herbal and mineral flavors; $15.
Now let's head back past our starting point and on to eastern Tuscany, a 20-mile drive ride east from Florence. Here, we speed through Tuscany's shimmering sunlight and green, rolling hills, to the town of Rufina, home to Marchesi de Frescobaldi, which makes an Italian-style chardonnay.
-2012 Castello di Pomino Chadonnay, by Marchesi de Frescobaldi, Tuscany: deep yellow hue, aromas and flavors of camellias, white peaches and minerals; $15.
Next we drive 250 miles northwest from Florence via Italy's modern Autostrada, dodging its aggressive drivers, keeping careful note of speed limits because it does have those cameras that ticket you. We turn off just short of Torino and cruise into the foothills of the Alps to the Piemonte town of Alba.
Here, in sight of snow-covered mountains, the Vietti family winery makes its red and white wines.
The reds are from Piemonte's inky black grape called nebbiolo, probably from the Italian word "nebbia," which means "fog." Vietti also grows the ancient white grape called arneis. It's a finicky grape, and its name translates in the local dialect as "little rascal."
-2012 Vietti Roero Arneis, DOCG Piemonte: pale white color, aromas and flavors of ripe pears, light and crisp; $23.
-2010 Vietti Nebbiolo Perbacco, DOC Piedmont: deep dark hue, aromas and flavors of violets and tar, full-bodied, lusher and softer than its brother Barolos; $25.
Almost 150 miles east of Alba, not far from Italy's fashion capital of Milano in the rolling hills of Lombardy, also in the foothills of the Alps, lies Italy's important sparkling wine area called Franciacorta. Its primary grapes are chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot bianco. Styles range from dry to sweet, white to rose.
-Nonvintage Antica Fratta "Essence" Brut, DOCG Franciacorta (90 percent chardonnay, 10 percent pinot noir): persistent tiny bubbles, ripe lemon-lime aromas and flavors, full-bodied; $32.
-Nonvintage Antica Fratta "Essence" Rose, DOCG Franciacorta (60 percent chardonnay, 40 percent pinot noir): persistent tiny bubbles, pale pink color, aromas and flavors of red raspberries and jam; $38.
Our virtual Italian wine tour ends here. Now for the long drive back to Florence for another night at Albergo Botticelli. As a sendoff, let's have dinner at my favorite restaurant, Quattro Leoni, with my favorite dish, pasta with cream sauce and white truffle shavings. Oh, and a bottle of that tasty Vietti Arneis we've just discovered.
(Fred Tasker has retired from The Miami Herald but is still writing about wine. He can be reached at email@example.com.)