Friday, April 22, 2011

Sunday De-BOCCE-ry in Montaldo...

So as I mentioned in my first post... not every single post is going to be about wine, but low and behold I couldn't keep it out of this one either, however there is a touch of 'Italian Culture' sprinkled in.

Sunday; we all have a different reason for the love hate relationship.  For the majority of the working public it is a 'relax' day, but at the same time, the LAST day of the weekend which is in the air all day - the fact that the dreaded Monday is a nights sleep away.  For many Sunday is either adored (men) or abhorred (most women) for the American pig skin, aka Football, and the same goes for the fried food and beer that seems to be a mandatory 'pairing'.  Sunday seems the perfect day to run errands with your partner, but as you arrive at your destination you utter, 'what the @#@$^$% was I thinking', EVERYONE had the same brilliant idea you did, so the parking and lines tend to send those of us with low tolerance for crowds over the edge.  As a child I remember hating Sundays because it meant dad watching football all day, so there were no cartoon's for us or outings because he had to see the game, and it was early to bed because school was the next day.... nothing fun about any of that!

My dear mother however helped change Sunday's when we decided to start using the day as a 'cooking' day, and together we baked bread, made soups, and baked desserts.  Well... Mom was unknowingly getting me ready for life here at Cascina Iuli.

On the table above:

  • Peach tart I made with peaches from the 'La Colombera' orchard, cookies from the left over tart dough, and homemade pasta Fabrizio's mother and I made.

Sunday in Italy is about cooking all morning for the big 'pranzo,' and then sitting down for hours and hours eating and drinking, talking and smoking, drinking some more, maybe some coffee thrown in, and then maybe the cheese and meats even come back out again depending on the crowd and the wine consumption.  This past Sunday, Fabrizio and I invited the owners of our favorite restaurant in Torino, Il Consorzio,, our Italian national distributor from Les Caves de Pyrene Christian, and his lovely girlfriend Hanna, as well our neighbors and fellow wine lovers the Cesca brothers, Cascina Tavijn producer Nadia Verrua, and Roccalini Barbaresco producer Paulo Veglio and photographer Laura Tessera, and Fabrizio's daughter Sofia.  Fabrizio decided he wanted Bollito (which you can refer back to the blog about the cold morning with the Bue grasso for the recipe), and so Bollito it was:

In the picture:

  • Tongue, head and intestine... needless to say I was less than thrilled with this part of the meal, Fabrizio's daughter courageously 'peeled' the tongue before serving... GROSS!   
The lunch started at 1:00, and the first bottle was opened... and here is the WINE part:

  • A Saint-Aubin 1er Cru '"En Remilly,"  a mag, that Christian brought, it was lovely.  Beautiful expression of Chard.

  • From there we opened a Grignolino from Cascina Tavijn that Nadia brought.  Nadia is the producer, and she is a very talanted one at that... it is not easy to find GOOD Grignolino, but she makes it seem easy ... the color and body of a Pinot, but while still floral, more rustic and simple than Pinot, great acidity, and a great red for a first course and for warm weather.

  • Then a mag of 2007 Roccalini Barbaresco was popped, absolutely beautiful, a Barbaresco 'for the people,' charming and friendly with just the right amount of complexity.  Even in a mag it was drinking 'now.'

  • Finally the famous 2004 Iuli Barabba in mag was brought out.  Fabrizio bottled 400 mags in 2004 that he wanted to set aside for release in 2014 (I don't know how many will actually be left in 2014 at the rate we like to consume them ourselves with our friends).  He states that a vintage like 2004 may come around only once in the lifetime of a producer, and so he wanted to do something special... this bottling was from a certain section of the old vineyard that had an incredibly high fixed acidity and incredible concentration.  This is a wine that you start worrying about the prospect of there being none left before you take your second sip.

From here I lost track (because I was busy trying to keep up with the dishes and back end of the lunch)... and bottles started getting popped left and right.  A quick coffee, and the BOCCE balls came out.  Two teams, two hours, one throw, and then 10 minutes playing, and in good Italian spirit, 20 minutes debating over whether team A or team B's ball is closer.  My team won, 13-3 (I've grown quite affectionate towards the game, it's not just for old Italian men :).

The eating, drinking, eating, drinking more, and then the 2 hours of 'exercise' chucking metal balls in our courtyard, finished around 7:00.  Half the guests left, and the other half moved inside and I used the broth from the boiled meat to make a pastina in brodo for dinner with a salad and some 48 month old parmigano.  It was the meal that kept on giving...

Moral of the story, the idea of a 'relaxing' Sunday here in Italy, forget about it... I'm not saying it wasn't fun, but let's just say it reminded me a little too much of my waitressing days when I worked doubles to pay the bills - only this time there was not a 'dishwasher' in the back to help me out!



Our recycling bin see's no sleep...

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Lessons of Veal Tartare

A breathtaking lunch in Barolo hosted by Eugenio and Cinzia Bocchino last week. Wines were pulled back to the 2002 vintage. Many have reported a tough vintage in 2002 for Piedmont in general, but the Bocchino's 2002 La Perucca simply brought the house down at the end. As Kermit used to say: COMBAT VINTAGE CHART MENTALITY!

The first course of the lunch was veal tartare prepared in two ways. The first, on the left, was a modern expression. Perfect veal, finely chopped, seasoned with salt and pepper and finished with sea salt. The second, on the right, was the old Piedmontese preparation in which the veal is ground several times, and in the preparation a small amount of finely chopped garlic is added along with both lemon juice and olive oil.

There is no right way. I finished both preparations and was satisfied by both equally. Some slightly preferred the modernist version, some the more traditional. But, what everyone did discuss was the quality and the subtle but very obvious distinctions in both. I don't think I saw a single plate that wasn't empty.

I saw this picture yesterday and thought- there's a greater story here regarding wine and choice in general. There are many schools in wine these days. The Modernists. The Traditionalists. The Natural Wine School. The small grower school. Etc...Each of these distinctions and schools has little to do with identifying a wine's quality, and has everything to do with selling wine. Yes, even the natural wine to winemakers who work naturally and the one's who've been doing it for a long timesimply talk about their farming techniques; they rarely if ever mention natural farming or winemaking in order to qualify what they are doing. That's a sales / marketing thing.

Summer and I constantly look at our growers and our portfolio in the frame of how we tell the story. I think it's best told like the veal tartares. Taste! Taste! Taste! Just taste. You may find you prefer the more old school, traditional winemaking. You may find you like the modernista style. I think the more you taste the less you will try and categorize a grower's work, and the more you will fall in love with the grower themselves and their body of work. You will be excited to see how that grower fares when the next 2002 comes around.

No its not about modernists or traditionalists, natural or conventional here at Indie. It's only about one thing here at Indie- the quality of what's put in front of you.

Taste and enjoy, and decide for yourself.



Monday, April 4, 2011

Delicious Sicily

It started with fresh tuna crusted in local pistachio's, and ended with an oversized cannoli that I'll never forget... and in between- lot's of amazing people, colors, wind, sun, rain and of course, indigenous grape varieties that stole my heart!

How do I not ramble on about the last 48 hours that I spent in Sicily, this is my present challenge.  I will do so by doing a top 10, just like Letterman - who doesn't have time to read all ten!  Then, I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.

In chronological order, not in order of importance:

1.  Our first day with producer Corrado Gurrieri of 'Vini la Favola,' exploring and breaking into an old abandoned, ingenious wine making facility called a 'Palmento' built in the 1700's.  Over 300 years ago in Sicily they were already making wine working with gravity on four levels, all in cement.

2.  Stealing 'roadside' artichokes with Corrado.  'Roadkill' for vegetarians??

4.  The homecooked lunch Corrado's wife Valeria prepared, which we added a last minute menu addition of our vegetarian roadkill to, aka, Artichokes.  Their own olive oil doused all over everything was absolutely incredible... and we had 'Italian Bread' done right, what a difference to that stuff you buy already bagged in the grocery store!  It was like crack... we couldn't stop eating it!

5. Frappato; it's incredibly expressive and pleasing fruit filled nose that jumps out of the glass, a super playful easy wine that is immediately likable.  It is believed that Frappato is a cross between Sangiovese and another unidentified Italian variety.  Frappato also is 30-50% of the constituent of Sicily's ONLY DOCG, Cerasuolo di Vittoria, the rest being Nero d'Avola.  ALL three of Corrado's wines (his 100% Nero d'Avola is amazing, Noto is the home and birthplace of Nero d'Avola, and it is evident in this wine) were intriguing and exciting, especially for two 'northern Italianer's'.  We have a new member of the Indie Wineries club - and I can't wait for you all to taste!!

6.  The Colors:

7. Our fearless leaders, our own Stefano Borsa (of Pacina), and enologist Fabrizio Tomas... who were a constant source of laughter and information (they have been friends since 'boydom') - and grazie to them we were able to meet these talented and special producers and enjoy Sicily from the backseat of our rent-a-car with no stress of getting lost.
Here they are, frick and frack, with producer Marchesi De Gregorio (Marchesi is in the middle):

8.  Our visit to the absolutely breathtaking estate of, 'Porta del Vento,' with producer Marco Sferlazzo.  The, 'taking of our breath' was due to the incredible backdrop of this estate, combined with the 39 knot winds blowing - threatening to lift us off our feet.  Porta del Vento means "door of the wind," ... wan't hard for them to come up with that name.

9.  Our visit to Valdibella... a cooperative of 6 partners that all have their own vineyards built as a project combined with a 'community' that houses boys from 14-18 that come from troubled families.  The boys help in the cellar, and the cooperative helps finance the community house.  Five of the 6 partners showed us around, tasted us through the new vintages in the cellar, and then we all sat down for a 'grilled lunch' prepared for us by the boys.  We found a Rose that was just perfect, some very cool Grillo and Cataratto, and a single vineyard of one of the most elegant Cabernet's I've ever tasted. The entire visit was like a scene out of a movie, Camporeale is in the heart of 'mafia' country, and these guy's are not without related problems, but they have a spirit and sense of humor and vigor for life here in their hills that they adore that is contagious.