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We can spend a lot of time talking about all the variables that go into the making of a good glass of wine. Does it have more to do with a good vintage year or with the person making the wine? Does it have more to do with which side of the hill the grapes grew on, or how much water they received….or didn’t receive? What if the barrels were made from different kinds of oak? What if the wine had aged longer?
There are so many things that can affect the flavor of the wine. But to me, there is something else that is important to the taste as well. It’s much more subjective and much more emotional. It is the memory of where I had it for the first time. I love thinking back……. “Remember when we had that Sagrantino in Todi? We were eating those crostini with melted gorgonzola and honey and that wine was perfection, wasn’t it?” Or, “Remember when we were in that restaurant in Montefalco, and that guy kept bringing us all this great stuff we hadn’t ordered and telling us it was ‘on the house’? And then he poured us that huge glass of passito? It was so delicious, we bought a bottle to take home, remember?”
I have been lucky enough to have had some incredible winery experiences in Italy. I’ve seen the amazing diversity of Italy’s wineries; from small, rustic operations to architectural beauties to technological wonders. They have all been family-run, with most still having multi-generations living on or near the winery. I’ve tasted some truly beautiful wines, poured by people who are passionate about their product.
On many occasions, my “first time” with a wine has been at the winery. After a deep whiff, I take a sip, let it roll around in my mouth, swallow, savor the after taste, and break into a smile. My eye meets that of the winemaker, and he breaks into a smile as well. He doesn’t have to tell me all about how he grew the grapes, where he grew the grapes, when he harvested the grapes, he just has to know that I loved his wine. In the end, it makes us both happy.
Join me, won’t you…..on an Italian wine trail? Let’s meander the rolling hills of Tuscany or the hearty Umbrian countryside. Let me take you through lesser known areas like Lazio and Campania so you can discover something new and wonderful. Every, and I do mean every region of Italy has great wines, and most of them are not sampled outside of the country. You will find wines to fall in love with, and you won’t care how they were made, when you meet the eye of the winemaker.
Drop me a line at:
Let's start planning your next wine experience!
Tour Journal 5.0: Wine, wine, wine, wine, wine….that’s all this group does (besides shop, eat and sightsee).
We start October 8th by boarding our lovely vehicle and making our way to Deruta; land of ceramics. What fun to stroll from shop to shop perusing all they have to offer. Then, as luck would have it, we are offered a spur of the moment backstage tour of the Gialletti Giulio shop and studio!
We watch as the potter makes a vase lickety split, followed by a bowl with scalloped edges….all in about 2 minutes. We’re shown the giant kiln and are then amazed by the ginormous vat of underglaze each item is dipped into. The best part is getting to watch the artists at work. They are amazing…painting all the very delicate and intricate designs with a steady hand. Maybe they don’t drink as much espresso as I do.
After hauling our purchases to the van, we make our way back to Todi for lunch and to get ready for cooking class. We have a delicious lunch in a restaurant with a stupendous panoramic view of the valley. It’s such a fabulous day to eat outside and soak in the natural beauty of the area. Everyone opts for something different; pizzas, various salads. We’re trying to eat light in anticipation of cooking class tonight.
Our cooking class is held in a beautiful winery called Decugnano dei Barbi between Todi and Orvieto. It’s perfectly perched on a ridge with a view of Orvieto in the distance and row after row of grapevines falling away from every side. We take a tour of the winery and even get to see how sparkling wine is made and stored in the old Etruscan tombs. After the tour, we’re off to the restored chapel for cooking lessons. We’re joined by another small group to make: Focaccia bread, tagliatelle pasta with tomato and mushroom sauce, stuffed zucchini and brutti ma buoni cookies. What a great name for these cookies! It means, “ugly, but good”. Along with each course, we get to taste the wines made here.
We had a long night last night. We spent five hours at the winery and made our way back to the hotel rather late. So Oct. 9th is a sleep-in morning. Yay! No alarm clocks. But by 11:00, we are off to Montefalco. For the first time, the weather is not cooperating. Since its raining so much, it’s hard to sightsee. What should we do? I know…let’s eat!
We have a fantastic lunch; pasta cooked in Sagrantino wine, lentil soup…everyone chooses something different. But there’s one thing on the menu that we ALL seemed to want: roasted artichokes. Oh my! They melted in your mouth leaving the crispy brown edges to crunch on. Oh. So. Good.
After lunch, we’re in for a real treat. We have a wine tasting at a winery that is so passionate about natural wine making. We tour the facility and are amazed to see the freshly picked Sagrantino grapes drying on their racks. Soon they will begin the process to become Sagrantino Passito, the famous sweet wine of the area. I have tasted many passiti from Umbria (I am either proud or ashamed to say), and the passito from Paolo Bea is simply the best.
We’ve been busy the past two days and the trip is winding down….only two more days left on the tour, but there is still so much to see and do!
More coming soon,
Montefalco has it all.....food, wine, art, history. But actually, I think the same could be said for all the hill towns of Umbria. This bit of fresco is in the underground church below the current museum in town. Once, I waited out a terrific thunderstorm while visiting the church. Imagine....crashing thunder, and flashes of lightning illuminating scenes like this. It kind of made my hair stand on end.
This time I am visiting in February, and though Italy has had a brutal winter, I think I must have brought the sunshine. You can still see the snow in the hills and mountains, but the days have been pretty glorious since my arrival. This photo was taken on the outskirts of Montefalco showing the surrounding olive groves.
Two Words: Wild Boar.
Need I say more? I love it in every way. It makes the most delicious stew. It's my favorite kind of salami. And here, you see it as a ragu sauce served over gnocchi. It is simply, oh, soooo delicious. Umbria is wild boar country. It's very often on the menu, and if you see it there, you should order it. Please.
Okay, this one was a little different, even for me. This is salt cod (which I have claimed my love for in a previous blog) served on a bed of lentils with chestnuts, and cooked in a vacuum. What was "different" about it was the nouveau way in which it was prepared. In the end, it was still salt cod with lentils. It was a wee bit odd to eat out of a jar, but it was very tasty. I absolutely love chestnuts, and there were bits of them scattered throughout the lentils. Umbria is also very famous for its grains; lentils, farro, orzo....all delicious and having the added benefit of being good for you.
How should every good meal end? I know.....we were both thinking, "with dessert!". But, alas, no. I simply can't taste test every dessert in Umbria for you or I wouldn't fit in my airplane seat back to the U.S. On the other hand, every meal should definitely end with a good coffee. In this bar in Montefalco, I had the best cafe machiatto of the trip yet. It was so good in fact, that as soon as I finished it, I ordered another one. The coffee was deliciously dark and full of crema, and there was the perfect amount of milk "stain". sigh. Looking at it now makes me want to drive back there and get another one.