Thursday, September 17, 2009

Ciao dall'Italia!

Hello from Italy! It's my annual visit to see Mom in Umbria, smack-dab in the center of the country. OH, you weren't aware that she lives in Italy? Allow me to get you up to speed with an excerpt from an article I published in Flavors magazine in early 2005:

My mother moved back to her Umbrian homeland in 2003 after many years of living in various places, most recently Alabama. After my father died a few years before, she found that she could be more useful to herself living in Italy full-time. Among her reasons was the open space afforded by the property she had already started “to bring back to life after decades of neglect.” The house on that property, now fully renovated, previously served as a summer villa on whose surrounding land the owners cultivated wheat, sunflowers, olives, and grapes for winemaking. Going back even further, the original structure was built in the early 1700s around a medieval tower. Like so many in Umbria, the tower itself was built to keep an eye on neighboring enemies. At that time, long before Italy became a unified nation, even small villages were, in a sense, on their own as self-contained city-states ruled by a count or duke.

The land, including the villa, was purchased by an ancestor of my mother’s, a real-estate lawyer by the name of Innocenzo Mariani, who bought the property along with his three brothers in 1774 to increase their land possessions. For the past 30 years, however, the land (now belonging to my mother) has been divided into parcels for residential use; as a result, little is left for agricultural purposes and is limited to those crops for which there is a healthy demand. There’s always a healthy demand for wine grapes, but the vineyard was about 30 years old and needed to be replaced. Mom bought a bit of extra land to enlarge her holdings, then shifted the location of the vineyard itself so that new vines could be planted on virgin ground."

We grow a total of six grape varietals on a little more than 4 hectares of vineyard land (one hectare equals 2.47 acres). Besides Pinot Nero (Noir), Merlot, and Chardonnay--all occupying roughly one hectare each--a healthy share of the space is devoted to Grechetto, a white grape considered native to Umbria and possibly related to the Greco varietal found elsewhere in the country.

Monday, September 14, 2009

"R" is for Roccafiore

Looking at the labels on bottles of wine from Cantina Roccafiore, the first thing that comes to mind is smart marketing. The logo of the estate (a black "R" with a red stylized flower beside it) as a whole is simple, colorful, and identifiable. Anyone searching for their wine in a shop need only look for that flower--not in shops in the U.S. though, as they haven't made it across the pond (yet?).

Mom and I visited the winery during my trip and spent a couple of hours chatting with the 24-year-old winameker named Cristian. All the while we toured the facility, snapped pictures, asked questions, and finally engaged in a tasting. We tasted only three of their wines--two reds and a dessert wine--due to unavailability of the rest, but to my delight, they were quite enjoyable:

2007 Rosso Melograno IGT -- Sangiovese, Merlot, and Montepulciano

Lovely ruby red color, with a very fresh nose of lively cherry. Fresh cherry echoed on the palate along with a hint of earth and a crisp, fruity finish. A very pleasant, easy-drinking red.

2006 Rosso Roccafiore IGT -- Sangiovese

Medium garnet color, with a nose of cherry fruit, a bit of earth, and a thread of toastiness. Palate full of dark cherry, earth, and spice from the oak aging. Definitely a food-loving, classic Italian red.

2006 Collina d'Oro Passito IGT -- Moscato

Medium gold color, with a nose of flowers, dried fruit, and honey. Flavors of honey and raisins, delicate and not fully sweet. Good acidity ensured a nice balance--yum!

The property, the buildings, and the landscaping were all lovely and thoughtfully designed. Check out the site for a more complete view of what I'm talking about!