My first harvest with Passopisciaro was for the whites on Mt. Etna in 2014, so I love revisiting this wine. We grow Chardonnay on volcanic soil between 820-1,000 meters (that’s 3,300 feet, folks) and go through the vineyards up to 20 times over the 2-3 week harvest period, through densely planted vines. It’s a fussy, even neurotic, approach to getting every bunch at its optimal moment of ripeness (read more here), but it makes for damn good wine. Texturally complex with its creaminess and minerality interacting, bright acidity, and at the moment singing with its rich fruit. It was perfect on yesterday’s first real spring day in New York.
One year ago today, I got on a plane to Italy without a job and no clue what the future had in store. My life since that moment has changed in a hundred ways, both large and small. The past year has been exhilarating, challenging, painful, rewarding, immensely draining, utterly uplifting. In short, it’s been the best year of my life. I am ever grateful for the support of my wonderful friends and family for encouraging me to take a leap of faith, for putting up with me (and for putting me up), for being my anchors when I felt adrift, and for helping me along the journey to realize a dream.
Last May, my mother, brother, and I hit the road in Sicily to explore the island’s treasure, gastronomic, historic, and otherwise. I spent a good six months planning the trip and have since been asked for my itinerary on several occasions, so I thought I’d share it here.
First stop, Agrigento. Continue reading
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.
What I do not love is seeing the cinghiale in the flesh. Up close. Particularly in the middle of hunting season. Continue reading
Arriving 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.
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.
I 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.
It had been a long day in the car – my mother driving, me navigating, and my long-legged brother in the back seat trying not to get car sick – as we drove up from Agrigento in the southwest, through Enna and Piazza Armerina, home to the lovely and well-preserved Roman mosaics at the Villa Romana del Casale. With Mt. Etna’s peak long looming in the distance, we were happy to finally have arrive on the lower slopes of the volcano. Just past the tight, black stone-cobbled streets of Santa Venerina, we stumbled upon the road sign leading the way to our destination, the hotel Monaci delle Terre Nere.
Living with a white wine drinker, I have a whole collection of red wines I never drink. They’re usually too heavy, dense, or “meaty” as he likes to say. But on a recent date night to New York’s Maialino, I thought I’d make a push for something we might both enjoy, given the chill in the air. I gave sommelier Erik Lombardo my challenge: help us find a light-bodied, acid-driven red that even a white wine drinker could love. He came back with a grape I’d never heard of—Rossesse from Liguria, the thin-strip of land in northwestern Italy that hugs the Ligurian sea and best known for playing host to Genoa, the capital city for pesto-lovers everywhere. Lombardo described the wine as having a briny acidity, and I was immediately intrigued. Continue reading
A beautiful, rich, salmon-colored wine, the Conti di Buscareto Rosé is made from the Lacrima di Morro d’Alba grape in Italy’s Marche region, an ancient varietal rarely seen from outside of this region. Its name comes from its shape, which is reminiscent of a tear. Continue reading