Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Our Adventure in Italy

My wife and I have finally decompressed from our two week trip to Tuscany. It was a great trip, with lots of wonderful scenery, food, art and yes wine. We spent a couple days at a 14th century farm house living with an extended Italian family while we learned some traditional Italian cooking. It was called Toscano Mia and was located in a small village near Gaiole in Chianti and our hosts were sisters Simonetta and Paola de Mari. We were joined at meals by Paola's husband and two daughters and the sister's father. It was quite an adventure since Simonetta and Paola were the only English speaker in the family. They grew most all of the produce used in the kitchen and even grew their own olives which they had pressed into olive oil for their own use. Each day started with breakfast and then Jan and I would take a short walk while preparations were made for that days class. Each day we had another couple join us for class. The first day was a mother and daughter from the states and the second day it was a globe trotting Australian couple on vacation. Both experience were delightful. After lunch Paola took us into several nearby towns and we did a little touring. Our bed room was on the top floor in what had been a tower until a conquering warlord took off about 15 to 20 feet for greater security, it still had a fantastic view of the surrounding countryside which was a patchwork of Olive trees grape vine and forest. We sincerely appreciate the thoughtful conversations we had with Paola and Simonetta well into each of the evenings we were there despite the mounds of dishes that had too be washed before the next day as well as the preparations for the next day's class. This was a wonderful introduction to Italy for both Jan and myself. I will write about the rest of the vacation in following instalments.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Back in the Saddle

I am finally back at my computer to talk about wine. We spent two weeks in Tuscany, and had a great time. More about that in a future post. Last night we shared a post blackout grill out with another couple who had meat that needed to be cooked. We had blackberry marinated pork chops, Caesar salad, garlic basil cous cous and mixed vegetables. Now for the wines, we started with a Brut rose from Shramsberg, a 2005 called Querencia (proceeds from this wine go to a fund that supports agricultural land preservation). This is a salmon colored sparkler composed of 82% chardonnay and 18% Pinot noir. It is a refreshing wine with hints of red and green apple and just a touch of citrus. All in all a great way to come down from a hectic day. With our meal we opened first a bottle of Papapietro Perry Russian River Zinfandel 2005. Papapietro is a great bridge producer for my wife and I because they make both great Pinot Noirs and great Zinfandels. The F\first is my favorite grape and the second is my wife's favorite, though even she likes their Pinot Noirs. Back to last night though, this was great Zin, big and bold, with currant and blackberry and hints of smoke and chocolate. It developed nicely in the glass and paired very nicely with the pork chops. One more word about Papapietro, I have found that these wines benefit from at least one additional year in the bottle after release, it is worth the wait, they become more complex and elegant with the additional bottle ageing. We then opened a bottle of Kay Brothers Amery Hillside Shiraz 2000. This one had enough power to follow the Papapietro, it was big and jammy, yet had developed sophistication with age and provided black and blue fruit notes and was surprisingly low in alcohol at 14.1%, very nice. Finally I got carried away and opened a bottle of Beeren Auslese from a producer I was not familiar with called Kafer Munchen from 1999. This was a nice bottle of wine, with a honeyed nuttiness, while not cloyingly sweet. All in all it was a great night with good company and good food and wine.