Saturday, November 29, 2008

Fontodi Winery: Drinking in Chianti

A couple months before leaving for Italy, the owner of Fontodi winery visited our wine shop. After learning that my mother and I would very soon be in his neck of the wine world, he invited us to visit his Chianti hills haven.

I knew that, similar to how French cheese exhibits more flair when consumed in the motherland, and how Kettle Korn tastes better at the California State Fair than when popped at a mall, that his wines would be even more enchanting when poured on Fontodi grounds. I also thought that my mother, always appreciative of a fine dresser, might enjoy seeing the owner in his immaculate Italian three piece suit among his vineyards. So I said yes.

Pictures of the winery follow. Unfortunately for those readers hoping to spot an Italian suit among the collection, we missed the owner on our tour. But I have included a picture of our kind and dapper tour provider, who closely resembles an unnamed Italian-American actor. All in all, the grounds were gorgeous, our tour guide was incredibly nice and informative, and the wines were fantastic. We had a great time.

The winery office and tasting room.

Carts used to pick grapes next to the crushing facilities.

Fontodi buys their oak barrels from several French barrel makers in order to evenly distribute the differing flavors and attributes characteristic of each barrel maker's oak.

Our lovely tour guide, who my mother and I refrained from telling looks like one of our favorite actors so we wouldn't sound like all the other silly American tourists. Because we're not silly.

Interested in learning more about Fontodi? Check out some of the links here, here, and, a video of harvest here . If you plan to be in their area, tastings are limited, by appointment only, and worth every twist and turn to reach the property.

The view from the winery office.

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Driving, Getting Lost, and Then Drinking in Italy

I, um... left the cord that transfers my photos from my camera to my computer in Italy. Inside the house whose balcony was the staging grounds for the above photo. Don't tell my husband- I'm hoping he won't notice that the temporary cord I just ordered is small and grey and the old one is long and black. Anyhow, the people whose apartment we stayed in will be returning to their lovely home in a couple weeks and might be inspired to ship me the one that's resting on their computer desk. Or in the kitchen. Or under their bed? So, although I was hoping share oodles of pictures and Italy stories with you, I won't be doing so for a while. Until then, I'll distract you with a wine pairing story relating to cars in Italy.

We drove in Italy. Well, my mom drove in Italy. I was useless because I can't drive stick. And the "automatic" cars in Italy, they aren't really automatic like we have the states. While they don't have clutches, they still shift sticks that need to be vigorously jiggled when driving.

After driving for hours in Italy, we got lost in Florence. In the future, when I learn how to drive stick, I'd happily drive in the Italian countryside. It's gorgeous (see below) and serene. But I will never drive in an Italian city. Nor would I sit in the passenger seat of a car steered by a foreigner who is simultaneously trying to navigate the city's signs, one way streets, blockades, and considering whether the many honking cars around her mean anything besides, "i have a horn!"

The driving situation in Florence was intense. So was asking directions in extremely limited Italian in the very outskirts of Florence at night while wearing a skirt and looking lost. The medieval town of Siena, on the other hand, was relatively calm and compact and there weren't as many bridges to cross. This made for easier navigation once you got outside the city walls, as cars aren't allowed inside the huge, bricked walled of the inner Siena fortress.

Anyhow, if one ever gets lost while trying to drive in Florence then waits for a taxi for an hour that doesn't come and then has to park in an underground station because they can't find the rental car return garage, they should have a wine and food pairing experience to help them through the rest of the night.

I suggest salami, prosciutto, crostini with pate or liver, olives, and wine. At this point, any type of wine will do, but one should go in either of two directions when pairing on this night. First, if you want to gently relax, choose a regional red of the area that you are visiting, such as a Chianti, and enjoy a glass with your charcuterie. Or, if one would rather drink with the aim of forgetting the entire night, and quickly, choose a high alcohol Zinfandel that you packed in your suitcase just for this occasion, pour the wine in plastic cups provided by your hotel, and consume. Then turn down your bed, because after quaffing two glasses or three glasses of the high-octane jammy juice, you'll sleep like a baby. Then return your car in the morning.

More photos to come.

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Saturday, November 8, 2008

Florentine Sweets

White chocolate-coated torrone

Pistachio gelato topped with a waffle piece, and held by mia mamma

Vivoli Gelateria, the best in Florence

Oh, pan forte and marzipan, I love you

Food prep

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Yogurt Adventures in Italy

Bunnies in Oakland, California, reindeers in Reykjavik, Iceland, and yogurt in Florence. A major source of protein in different culture's diets? No. Graffiti and stencils across the globe. For the first of my Italy series, meet Yogurt graffiti. It's Florentine.

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