Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Summer Tour highlights

It has already been a couple of weeks since we returned from our first "company vacation," a trip that revolved around the wedding of Gaia Bucciarelli, the owner/winemaker of Santa Giustina wines.

We spent the first day and night in Milano, and had dinner with our Franciacorta producer, Tiziano, of Brutell. Essentially a garage-sized outfit located in the commune of Adro, Tiziano nonetheless shows king-sized graciousness, and treated us to an amazing dinner along with his exceptional sparkling wines. A magnum of '99 vintage Brut left no doubt of the nobility of Franciacorta.

The next day, it was off to the Piacenza area for the main event, Gaia's wedding. We
arrived in time for a typically leisurely and immensely filling lunch at the fantastic Ost'arcello osteria in Arcello. The fresh nettle ravioli were unspeakably delicious, and perfect with Santa Giustina Bonarda Vivace, a local specialty, sparkling red. Santa Giustina winery takes it's name from the 10th century chapel on the estate, and it was in this historic building that Gaia and Oleg were married, with about 400 of their closest friends!

Tiny as the chapel is, most of us watched the service via monitors outside the building, and then we retired to the renovated, former stable building for a multicourse dinner that would have been more expected of a Michelin starred restaurant than a banquet. Fantastic.

After plenty of dancing and lots of great wine, we found our way back to the B&B Podere Terra Vera at 4am! Departure was set for 8am, just four hours later...you can imagine the pain.

Our next destination was a visit with Lunadoro winery in the Tuscan, Montepulciano zone. Owners Dario and Gigliola put us up in their lovely agriturismo, where we lounged by the pool, and ate exceedingly well from Gigliola's kitchen.

Hearty Tuscan classics, rooted in her families long Montepulciano heritage included roasted ribs, homemade picci pasta, and Dario's unbelievably delicious homemade salamis. Between the vineyards and the extensive farm fields (grain, clover, etc.), I'm not sure how these two manage to muster such amazing hospitality, but I'm thankful for it...despite the additional 6lbs I put on in those two days!

An afternoon in Roma allowed us to do some walking, a little shopping, and take in a comparatively lighter meal: pizza and salad. We missed Benedict's papal address because we were back in the van and on the road to Abruzzo.

Roseto degli Abruzzi was a delight, were we dined with the aristocratic Savini family, swam in the Adriatic, and lounged on the beach.
Winery and vineyard tours the next day
introduced us to Savini's new Pinot Grigio, a real rarity in those parts, and an extra dry Prosecco made by winemaker Ottavio in the Veneto. These were must-buys, and will arrive here with amazing value. It was all going just, well, swimmingly, until our final night, when Team U.S. Wine Imports was due to take to the soccer pitch against Team Savini.

I would have said that both Jon and I are pretty youthful for being (more or less) 40, but believe me, when you're chasing a 16 year old around a soccer field, one's age has new significance! Yes, Savini pulled a fast one, and fielded a decades younger squad, one immune to fatigue and pain. Maybe it was payback for the great wine prices.

We said thank you and goodbye to the Savini family over an extravagant seafood dinner after cocktails at their gorgeous, historic, family summer house just off the beach in Roseto. The freshness of the seafood, with their marvelous Pecorino wine, was a stunning cap to the visit.

As we sat on the plane heading back to Detroit, pants a little too snug around the waist from a week of indulgence, I thought about how easily and impressively hospitality comes to the Italians, in a way that we, as Americans, can
never muster, no matter the expenditure. A lot of it has to do with how Italian's allocate time to food and socializing, and much to the gravity history gives to their surroundings. Their fierce pride in local wines, foods an
d customs means that every occasion is an expression of who they are and what they cherish, a kind of dialogue that we just don't have the opportunity to have here in America.