Italy, catching you up on what you missed!
We are finally home and I want to catch you up on what you missed when I did not have a great connection for the computer. I will keep it somewhat short (it’s all relative!) and hopefully sweet, so that you do not take days to read this.
Monday October 12-Maremma
We had a very long drive to the sea, the western-most region of Tuscany called the Maremma. Grossetto is the ‘largest town’ in the region and we went well past there to the estate of Terre del Marchesato, the smallest winery in their region. This area is ground zero for the “Super Tuscan” wines and the terrain changed significantly as we watched out the window and it was really beautiful. More Cypress trees, cacti, lots and lots of seagrasses. Fewer olive trees and more citrus. Super tall pine trees that Doumina called “Umbrella Pines”: their trunks were very tall and no foliage appeared until the very top. They were grown in rows or clusters so it looked like an unmbrella had opened high above the ground. For the first time during this trip it rained during the day.
We were quite happy to finally reach our destination, as many of us needed to stretch and breathe some fresh air. The winemaker’s son, Ricardo, greeted us as we gathered under a covered area where he showed us the machinery they use to crush the grapes and get the wine process started. We moved inside to the tank room and gazed with wonder at the rows of stainless steel tanks and their green glass tops. The next stop was the barrel room and it never ceases to amaze me that each winemaker has such different methods and processes to make their wonderful wines. I am not even referring to the types of grapes and barrels they use to make the wines; more like things as basic as how they turn their barrels and move them from room to room.
We gradually migrated to the house and the communal dining room where winemakers Maurizio and Giovanna Fuselli were preparing a marvelous lunch for us, using all things they make right there on their self-sustaining farm. We walked in to the room and saw the table set for 30! This table was amazing: all wood and custom ‘leafed’ as there was a large round table at either end, and a large rectangular table in the middle. The custom leafs (leaves?) they used to make it into one table butted up against the rectangular table at one side, and then curved around the round table on the other. It all came together as one table with no gaps! The family began placing plates upon plates of cured meats, cheeses, savory tarts, bread, their homemade olive oil and bruschetta on this work of art, and they were passed around and devoured hungrily by all. We should know by now that there is always more to come! My favorite taste was a piece of their bread topped with fresh tomatoes and olive oil. So simple and yet the most delicious bite there was! Next came steaming bowls of that wonderfully comforting dish ‘pasta e fagioli’ lightly drizzled with their excellent olive oil, and their version was luscious and filling and as wonderful as I expected. I was more than done by then and of course there was dessert: a rustic blackberry tart that I only had one bite of to taste (it was so beautifully perfumed with the berries and the taste was pure, with a wonderful texture by the tart dough. Mark happily finished it off for me! I cannot believe how wonderful this family was as hosts, since they do not normally have strangers of any kind visit their farm. Again, Doumina has forged these very special relationships and we are so lucky to be able to have these experiences!
This farm is located in a region called ‘Bolgheri’ and the Fuselli family has approximately 10 hectares, which are only 25 or so meters above sea level. They have over just 7000 vines with only 2 meters between each row, so they use very small tractors. Their vines range in age from 7 to 20+ years, and they get about 1/2 bottle PER PLANT!!! During this delicious repast we tasted 4 of their wines, including the Emilio Primo and Tarabusco. Emilio Primo is a smoky blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon/30% Merlot/20% Syrah that spends 6 months in French oak and 6 months in the bottle. They make 2500 cases of this wine. The Tarabusco is 40% Cabernet Sauvignon/40% Merlot/20% Petit Verdot and while it is tanked differently, it also spends 6 months in oak and 6 in the bottle. This wine was a bit more complex than the first and they only make 300 cases! We are lucky to be able to get both wines for the restaurant. After lunch and tasting we went outside to enjoy the grounds, make a few purchases, and love on the estate’s big black newfie. What a sweety!
We traveled to the next estate, happily not too far from Terre del Marchesato. Rigoloccio is very unique, situated on top of an old pyrite mine (fool’s gold, that is!) which lends a gun metal minerality to the estate’s wines. Here we were invited to tour the vineyards and we could see up the hills to the openings of the old mines. We made our way to the tank and barrel room and for the first time (ever, for me!) during this tour we got to taste wines from the tanks, and then taste them later from the bottle. It was one of the neatest experiences that I had! It was so cool to be able to see the wine poured from the tank, smell and taste and let it grown and keep tasting… then to go down to the tasting room and taste the finished product. Very cool!
Rigoloccio makes my very favorite rose, called ‘rosato’ in Italian. This wine is nothing like the American white zinfandel, which unfortunately has given good rose a bad name. 100% Cabernet Franc, they take the skins out very early in order to keep the color lighter. It is a beautiful pink and goes with nearly any meal, and they let us taste it while we were their. We have (I think) a little less than 2 cases left at the restaurant and I think it will be the perfect holiday wine. We also tasted a white wine and a couple of reds. The one that we got from the tank and from the bottle was ‘Sorvegliante’, equal parts Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Alicante and it was one of Mark’s favorites of the whole trip. The saddest news was imparted while we were there: They would no longer be sending their wines to the states for awhile. What is there is it and when it is gone we don’t know when we can get more. You can bet I have a message in to find out what I can get while I can. You must have some and I must get it for you!! Of course while we were tasting they put out MORE meats, cheeses and breads, all locally made of course and all amazingly good in spite of not being hungry. It is a must to have a bit of food with each wine and pretty soon you cannot believe that you are still eating! The drinking part is fine though…
We broke up the long drive back via Castellina in Chianti for a walk and a gelato; no dinner thank you! The town was pretty much closed up for the night and it was a lovely walk on a crisp fall evening. Much needed after a long time on the bus today!
I promised to try to keep it short and so I will break this entry up and do a second one. This is plenty for now! Thanks for reading and feel free to send me messages, comments, & questions!
Ciao for now.