. Vite Vinifera De Vino's Blog: Back to my trip Days IX and X

Friday, June 08, 2007

Back to my trip Days IX and X

I'm ready to go on the road again! The first stop is the Fiumicino Airport where my friend Piers is about to land, in the afternoon.
The schedule will take us to Umbria for the first day, and then once again to Tuscany for some more winery-seeking.
After a little delay (British Airways lost Piers luggage), we were on the way to Orvieto to have dinner with Gigi Maravalle.
Gigi's family owns a vineyard called Tenuta Vitalonga in Ficulle. They've had the property for many decades, but it was just recently that they've decided to renew their estate.
We arrived in Orvieto a lovely little town that sits on top of a steep hill; this particular hill was the natural defense system for the city during the medieval period.
Piers, Gigi and I had dinner at Vinosus, a cute winebar with a great list and delicious food in the Piazza del Duomo.
I spent endless hours in that piazza, back in the days of yore. I had my training period there while I was serving in the Italian Army for my mandatory period, with my military buddies. We spent so much time there that we actually started to count the Duomo's marble lines on the side facades, a clear indication of how boring the town was at that time.
Now the barracks are closed, and the town is planning to build a university in there. The town itself is now filled with nice little restaurants and bars and it looks much more happening than it did 13 years ago.
We sat outside and ordered the local specialties on the menu - Porcini mushroom Tagliatelle was one of them, and a great Barolo with it.
After dinner we went to sleep at Gigi's estate that has also two guest houses, which he rents out. the place was a typical country house; two stories, with a huge dining room, a very big kitchen several bedrooms and a living room with a fireplace so big that I could almost stand in it; the house also had an outside pool, a huge lawn and a great view.
We got there around 1 in the morning and we still had some energy for a quick tour of the cellars (and for a night cap). Gigi picked up a Magnum of Terre di Confine for the occasion. The wine is a blend of Merlot and Montepulciano. The estate vinified every parcel of the vineyards separately - first in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks, and then in 3 different kinds of barriques.
2004 is the first release of this great (and inexpensive) wine. The vines are still very young (around 5 years old), but the wine is already showing the rich and complex character of a much older vineyard.
We had half of a bottle before passing out in Morpheus hands, that took care of our dreams until the morning.
We set the alarm for 8 AM and by 9 we were already on the way to Montalcino, where I'd left some unfinished business. It was another great day, and as you can see in the picture, the top was down and we were ready to go. It took us couple of hours to arrive in Montalcino, but I stopped first at Wine Circus to show it to Piers, and then we proceeded to the site of my unfinished business; lunch at Boccon Di Vino.
The restaurant is owned by Marina's (Roberto Cipresso's wife's) family; it's on the way up to Montalcino from the Cassia and has a stunning view of the Val'd'Orcia. The menu is filled with delicious Tuscan specialties like the "Crostini Toscani," the "Antico Peposo", a plate from the 400's, made from cow cheek, Filetto di Maiale al Brunello, pasta with various game meat sauce, and their infamous "Zuppa di Cipolle"; to drink I choose a bottle of Achaval Ferrer Malbec Finca Altamira 1999, probably the best Malbec produced in Mendoza, full with round flavors of raspberry, leather, hints of mint leaves and some smoky flavors of ashes. The vines are over 80 years old and the production is very limited, in 2002 I went to visit the estate with Cipresso and spent 2 amazing weeks during the harvest time and just by smelling the wine I went back to Argentina for a minute or two. Now if you ever going to be in the vicinity of Montalcino you need to treat yourself with a meal here.
Le Ragnaie was our next stop; the estate, is on the highest part of Montalcino near La Magia and Soldera vineyards, some of their vines are 600 meters above the sea level, the property also have an "agriturismo" which is going to be improved and renovated in the next few years as well as the cellar facilities.
We tasted a nice a refreshing rose vintage 2005, a Rosso 2004 and their Brunello 2001, we also tasted the Rosso 2005 and 2006 from the barrels and the Brunello 2005 and 2006 from the barrels. The wines were all traditional not too heavy with good acidity and sweet tannins. From what I tasted in Montalcino I can say that 2004 is a traditional vintage with a long life in front, the heat of 2005 didn't really bother the Montalcino vines and 2006 looks like an excellent vintage.
It was time to get to our next stop Castello di Vicarello in Cinigiano (Grosseto).
It took us a couple of hours to get there and on the way we went through Banfi Vineyards, I'm not a big fan of them and looking at vineyards place on the low and flat part of Montalcino on the road to Grosseto I remembered why I'm not...
The castle is literally in the middle of nowhere, we traveled for almost 20 minutes on a dirt road not sure if we were lost or not; but then you'll see out of the blue the vineyard 1 hectare with 9000 plants of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petite Verdot and Sangiovese (look at top picture) "alberello" system (every plant has his own support and look like a small tree). I must say that Roberto Cipresso is a genius here he goes for the highest quality standards I ever saw; the yield is very low (4 plants per bottle) the plants are so close to each other that all the intervention has to be made by hand, but the result is worth the work and the efforts.
We were welcomed by Carlo Baccheschi Berti which had used his experience in Indonesia to built this 5+ star hotel, every little detail was perfect; the huge gardens were perfectly groomed and the view was breath taking.
Carlo took us in the living room where he opened up the Castello di Vicarello 2004 and cut some Salami flavored with white truffle to go with it. The 2004 vintage was the first release, the plants were still fairly young (5 years of age at the time of the first harvest) the wine was full and balanced, already complex and structured with very charming flavors of red berries cherries and leather. Impressive wine especially being made from still very young vines, the production is tiny (1700 bottles) and I'm currently working on have the wine imported in the states.
Then Carlo gave us a tour of the property, the suites looked like real apartments and every room had a different scent, outside facing south west there is the infinity pool that serve the suites.
Then he showed us the villa with private infinity pools and gardens, then we walked around the vegetable garden and by the olives trees, what an amazing place so quiet that sound like the birds are screaming, so peaceful that you can hear the sound of a roe deer from several hundred yards of distance.
We end up on the top terrace of the castle were we enjoyed the last rays of sun lighting the hills behind the property.
Last stop was the kitchen, where the meals for the guest are prepared using just what is organically grown on the premises, with the exception of meat and fish that Carlo personally buys every 2 days from trusted sources.
It was getting late and we had to go back to Ficulle which was good 2 hours away. The road took us in the heart of the Maremma, in these places I spent many summers growing up, we passed by a great restaurant named Petronio that was sadly closed that day so we kept going until after one of the many sharp turns Pitigliano reviled itself in all his splendor with the steep natural wall of tuff, a particular kind of stone where the town is built on.
Now I'm really time traveling, here my mother used to have a vineyard many many years ago and here is were I had my first wine experience cutting grapes looking at the cellars and have small tastes of the god's nectar.
Another long day was about to finish, we finally arrived at Ficulle around midnight with enough energy to cook some pasta with tuna sauce and to finish the half bottle left from the day before of the Terra di Confine, which now showed much more complexity and balance.
I finally crashed on the bed with a really big smile on my face, part because of what we did today and part for what is going to happen in the next couple of days our compass is going to direct us to the Chianti area.
To Be Continued...


Terence said...

Man, your life sucks. It really sucks.

De Vino said...

Life is hard man... :)