Monday, December 26, 2011

Tripping around america

Happy holidays everyone!  Somehow, I made it to the USA with 13 bottles and 10 liters of wine, 12 liters of olive oil and 4 kg of cheese and customs just waved me on through.  Quite neighborly if you ask me.
I started out in St. Louis, where I caught up with the growth of my gr. niece and nephew and my brother and sis-in-law.  Then off to KC and a grand tasting of KS wines and timpano (amongst other wonderful things) at Casa Somerset near Louisburg and the next day a tasting at Jasper's restaurant of the wines I brought over from PS winery (my wines) and this year's olive oil.  It was wonderful to re-connect with family and old friends as well as meet some of my virtual fb friends for the first time.  In between the 2 cities on the E. and W. sides of MO, one finds my hometown of Carrollton, where I opened a bottle of Pecorino and shared it with my parents' final resting place. I also visited my childhood home to collect some pecans for planting in Italy.  After a 6 AM bible study with my old KC group and coffee with 2 old friends, I headed back to St. Louis for Christmas with the family and now I am in Chicago waiting to fly back to Rome and then on to the wedding of the year in Caserta!
Enjoy the photos.

Childhood home

Pecorino poured out on my parents' graves to keep them up to date on my activities and thank them for the help in this new life I am living

Cutting the timpano at Casa Somerset

The big night.

The Scout and the KC skyline

Liberty memorial; wow, is it ever a nice museum now! and the only WWI memorial in the USA, as far as I know.

At my buddy Jasper's eponymous restaurant for the debut of my wines in the states.

Friends at the tasting

Katherine and me at Jasper's

The lucky group who stayed for dinner.  It was wonderful getting to see my old friends!

Disregarding the rude t-shirt, which I think is a hoot; this is my niece and I trying to make mozzarella for the first time with Jasper's do it at home kit.

The budding cheese makers getting our hands burned!

Friday, December 16, 2011

End of year update for those who don't see my fb posts

Nearly 9 months behind schedule, the winery was finally finished and the grand opening held.  This is the Giacinto jazz trio helping us celebrate .

This is a chorale group who sang everything from O Sole Mio to traditional italian folk songs.  (And drank me out of house and home!)

Friends in front of the fireplace

My traditional and favorite pose

Some of my latest labors, other than pruning all the olive trees include fertilizing and plowing every other row of the vineyard.  These are the Pecorino vines looking up towards the winery.

Merlot and Cabernet vines.  Now, if it would just rain, I would be set.  We haven't had appreciable rain since July.

Sunset looking east down the Cab. Sauvignon vines

A day trip with Bacco towards the Sibillini mountains

Autumn colors near Force

I have had a bit of time to take Bacco swimming in the Adriatic the last few days.
I have also cleaned up the winery and the equipment, and the b&b before leaving for the states.  
I am looking forward to seeing friends back home and family for Christmas.  I plan to open the first bottled Pecorino wine and pour a bit over my parents' graves and let them know what I have been up to.  My luggage is packed with 13 bottles and 10 liters of wine and 12 liters of olive oil, 3kg of parmigiano reggiano and 1 mostarda.  There is no room for my clothes.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Moments from the Merano wine festival

7 Novembre
View of the hill behind city center

The Passer river which runs through town

view towards the newly snow capped mountains

Kurhaus-site of the event

After 3 months without a weekend off, I found a dogsitter and a great excuse to escape into the north of Italy for the Merano wine festival.  It is really a great event for wine lovers and I would definitely put it on your list of things to do in Italy worth a special trip.  Merano is in Alto Adige, not far from Bolzano where the German influence is much noticed.  All the roads are well kept, the streets and sidewalks are clean as a whistle and both German and Italian are spoken and almost all signs are in both languages.
It is well known for its house of cure and thermal baths and also the gardens of Trauttmansdorf Castle (none of which I visited, unfortunately)
The wine festival is by invitation only for the wineries and all wines must be judged by a panel to be accepted.  The clientele is much different than Vinitaly where there are mobs of the young and those who are there to get plastered.  Here, I noticed most visitors were knowledgeable wine types who were there to try new grape varieties and regions as well as famous vintners from France, Italy and the rest of the world.
My old friend, Matteo, from the slow food master's program and voted best young sommelier in Italy a couple of year's ago came over from Locarno to join me and he did his homework prior to arrival.  With 70 of the best wineries and wines written out, 2 men on a mission proceeded to find 69 of the 70 in one day with a few extras thrown in.
Matteo trying the Marche organic wines on Friday, this from Mida winery near me in Castorano

My friends who were kind enough to bring me along to Merano, Brenda and Graziano

Matteo enjoying a nice wine from a father and son team from Sicily and the Marabino winery; I loved their reserve Nero d'Avola called Archimede.
The first day of the festival was dedicated to Organic and Biodynamic wineries and someday I hope to be included with my wines.  The biodynamic wineries were few in number and mostly were outside of any control organization, meaning if they wish, they can call themselves biodynamic, even if they farm organically like me.  In the USA, the rules are fairly clear and there is a control body which certifies a vineyard as biodynamic.  Also, just to clear up another difference between the US and Europe; I can call my wines organic here, but in the states I can only say organically farmed, as a wine labelled "organic" in the states includes a "no sulfur added" stipulation.
Saturday and Sunday are the "grand tasting" days with wines from around the world and the first stop for us was in the Bordeaux room where I relived my youth.  I first starting drinking wine in my early 20's and rapidly advanced from German whites to French whites and then Bordeaux.  The aromas were simply wonderful and I was reminded how long-lived the top wines are.  My favorite of the whole weekend, in fact, was a 1996 Ch. Figeac which is 1/3 each of Cab. Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cab. Franc.  I enjoy wines with a good dose of Cab. Franc!  Also excellent was Angelos, Ch. Lynch Bages, Gruaud Larose and others too numerous to mention.  Then it was "off to Piemonte"  for Barolos and Barbarescos, followed by Tuscany including Brunellos, Chianti Classico Riserva, Bolgheri, etc.  Ornellaia was, as always exceptional, as were all the major houses from the west and south.  I found myself liking the 100% Sangiovese wines from the Chianti region more than their regular offerings. We ended up with the crowds in the Champagne room and then finished with some miscellaneous offerings from other areas including South Africa, Austria, and the US.  I used my ticket Sunday to check on some of the lesser known regions in Italy like Molise and Basilicata and Puglia, trying Aglianico, Primitivo and from Lazio, Cesanese.  I discovered a couple of grapes I didn't know about, like Blaufrankish from Austria, Grapello from Lombardia and Perricone from Sicily, all interesting.  Just to clarify, I spit everything I tried, which doesn't mean you won't feel some effects of the alcohol, but you need to do that to survive a day of tasting.  Also there was an entire hall with food products to try which helped a bit.
One of the few americans in attendance and she was working for a Tuscany winery, providing the english speaking explanations for the non italians

What can I say-only in Italy!

Brenda, Graziano and me in front of the grape sculpture in Merano

I am excited to get into the Bordeaux room!

Matteo in the biggest hall on Saturday

View from the balcony
My wonderful dinner at Sissi with chef Andrea

After the amuse, a "carpaccio" almost of wild boar hunted in Germany/Hungary with mushrooms and truffles

Gnoccheti stuffed with mushrooms and liberally covered with black truffles.  colors of the italian flag provided by Parmigiano grated and toasted (red) and parsley

Cap of the priest, the best cut of this free range German veal with black truffles over a puree of peas and potatoes.  Stacked neatly nearby are not french fries, but celery root battered with rice flour and fried

The surprise dessert which is vanilla ice cream surrounded by a dense whipped cream flavored with-boh-I forgot and kumquats

Andrea Fenoglio, the chef and me
While I was there, I had a superb dinner at ristorante Sissi, orchestrated by the maestro chef Andrea Fenoglio who makes sure everyone in the dining room is happy, cheerfully answers all your questions and then runs back into the kitchen to oversee the work there. I had a blast and enjoyed everything he served, including the wines by the glass which paired nicely with the courses.  

Friday, October 28, 2011

Vine trellising techniques of contrada Ciafone di San Filippo

28 October
This is what I am studying now in my last class at UC-Davis on Viticulture.  I have gone well outside of the norm for my area with normal planting being 3 meter wide rows and plant spacing of 1 meter, while mine are 2m20cmX70cm.  Here you will see some strange combinations, but it seems everyone has their own idea what will work best. If you are not interested in the technicalities, enjoy the photos of Autumn in my area.
vertical shoot positioning, quasi guyot

fall colors with the preceding vineyard in the foreground

new vineyard in the foreground planted in the most economical way possible, a one wire system, I guess this would fit the mold for a single curtain, but at 1 meter and a bit more of height, which is a bit low

These vines have 2 directions to grow, down the row or across with a connecting wire. These stand at just under 2 meters in height, which is a bit low for an american, but perfect for most italians

almost "head trained', but really more guyot with 4 single wires and the usual 3mX1m spacing 

new and relatively inexpensively planted vineyard at 3X1m, 2nd year growth, concrete anchors and stainlesss steel poles, 4 single wires

a view of my b and b and winery with the drier uphill vines just changing colors to yellow

3 meters by 2 meters but with 2 plants at each tutor, don't know how this will work out for them as this is unique around here.

Traditional single curtain at about 1.5meters of height, quite inexpensive and they picked this by machine this year

Same new vineyard as previously seen with a low single wire system

my tightly space vineyard, with a single cordon, 70cm spacing for the plants and 2m20 distance between the rows

Grass planted to decrease vigor all has crumped with the drought we had this summer, hoping for something to come back next spring as it was  expensive to put in

single anchor wire followed by 2 couples in my vineyard and this is a handy took which opens and closes the first couple to allow spring growth to enter and then to hold it there, then open again for pruning

This is the field across from me in red which had me worried, but not really, it is always the first to turn and has not spread at all in 4 years, it is just the Sangiovese, I think which turns earlier than the others

Finally my neighbor's 3X1 meter spacing with guyot and a single wire and 2 couples above