Aged, Affordable Wines to Drink Now

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I love older wines, those savory notes of earth, stewed fruits, honey, spice. But space is limited in my home, and I’ve yet to get into the good collector’s habit of buying wines by the case and slowly working my way through the bottles as they evolve. Instead, I hold on for dear life to the one or two bottles I have of a wine in a vintage, never quite sure of what occasion deserves them, and I count my lucky stars when I have the opportunity to taste wines others graciously open for me, as the experience is always memorable, however large or small the occasion: a 1934 Simi Cabernet to celebrate 150 years of uninterrupted production, a 40-year-old Kopke white port alongside the Douro on a trip to Portugal, a 1986 Latour popped the first time I tasted grass-fed beef from my aunt’s farm. Continue reading

Cinghiale. 
{pron. cheen-ghee-Al-eh}

Cinghiale. Wild boars. Tuscany is known for them, and in the fall, it’s impossible not to see wild boar ragu across restaurant menus throughout the region. It’s a dish I love, rich with the earthy, gamey meat of the fresh pig.

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What I do not love is seeing the cinghiale in the flesh. Up close. Particularly in the middle of hunting season. Continue reading

Plum, Vanilla, & Honey: Grapes Ripening at Tenuta di Trinoro

Trinoro VinesArriving at Trinoro was like driving across a moonscape, with the rich, clay-filled earth cracked and churned from the recent wheat harvest. Only after cresting the hill from Sarteano into the Val d’Orcia and winding our way down the gravel road did we begin to pass by plots of land filled with vines. Andrea Franchetti, owner of Tenuta di Trinoro, explained to me that, of his 200 hectares, only a small portion is under vine – he’d planted what land he could to which the grapes would take, the rest dominated by the thick clay or hidden under the growth of the thick forests that surround the property.

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A Weekend in Florence

santa-maria-novella-exterior

After a few days on Etna, I flew north to see my mother in Florence, there with her garden club from Atlanta (it was a long day, with planes, trains, and automobiles in between after I missed the one direct flight from Catania to Florence that day). I arrived hot and sweaty at the Croce di Malta hotel right off the piazza Santa Maria Novella, showered, and hurried to meet mom and her friends at Buca Lapi on the nearby via del Trebbio.

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A “Fussy” Harvest on Mt. Etna

IMG_5889I spent my first few days in Italy down on Mt. Etna, observing the harvest at Passopisciaro. Andrea Franchetti, its owner, showed me how the color of the leaves and slope of the hills could allow him to predict what would be ready first – the vines with yellowed leaves were already bare, the sugars directed to the grapes on the areas where the soil wasn’t as rich (the deeper the green, the later the ripening goes his approach); and where there were depressions in the vineyard, however slight, those grapes too were still left to ripen, while the edges of the rows on higher ground were already plucked. We tasted from plant after plant, and for the first time I could really understand how much a single vine could vary from its neighbor. Some were just on the cusp of ripeness, with sweet juices bursting in my mouth and the seeds easily falling apart, where as others still maintained a tart, green edge.

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#inspirationtrip

A few months ago, I took an amazing two-week trip through Sicily with my mother. We traveled from Rome to Agrigento, through Enna and Piazza Armerina, up to Mt. Etna, down to Ragusa, Modica and Donnalucata, and over to Noto and Siracusa. Driving through the island, we were amazed by the sheer diversity of this Maine-sized plot of land in the middle of the Middle Sea – from red sandstone temples high on the hillside of Agrigento to the southwest, to the white limestone walls lining the countryside of dusty Ragusa’s farmlands, to the Baroque gems of Noto and Siracusa in the southeast, and finally to the black lavic stone of the Catania region, with Mt. Etna looming above us.

Temple of Concordia, Agrigento

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Zesty Wines to End the Summer

This has been a strange summer, with its waves of 70-degree days and chilly nights. Not that I am complaining  I hate the stickiness of New York summers almost more than its winters  but it has made it a little less enticing to dip into the racy whites I stocked up on at the start of the season. However, with the last days of August up in the 80s and 90s, I plan on breaking into a few of my favorites over the holiday weekend. Continue reading