Friday, February 24, 2012

Toto, We're Not in Tuscany Anymore!

To say I love Venice would be an understatement! I often go alone to soak in the city, the Venetian accent, and a considerable amount of "ombre," or little glasses of wine...
This time I decided to treat myself to a first class view of the city and surrounding areas.
I contacted certified Sommelier Giulia at From Venice to Wine to show me around town, and to hire a private NCC for me to visit some wineries in Soave and Valpolicella (ie: the homeland of Recioto and Amarone, and the widely popular Ripasso).

Sommelier Giulia
She got me in contact with a travel agency she uses and they handled all the transport details. A private boat, and a "NCC" car were arranged to get me from point A to point B and still be able to taste wines without worrying about drinking and driving.

I arrived in Venice on Wednesday to find Giulia waiting at the station. She'd planned a surprise extra trip to a small island where a French man is making an unorthodox but incredibly complex white wine. We hopped on a boat and arrived on a tiny island where most of the inhabitants drive bicycles or tiny trucks (that I love!) called Api.
Api parked on the island.
Sommelier Giulia came along to teach me about the wines. She is not only a Venice native, but she also worked in a prestigious winery in Tuscany's Montalcino zone. Who better to teach you about wine than someone who knows how to make it with their own hands?

Arriving at the winery, a cross between an old farm house and a beach house.

Michelle, the owner, promptly showed us the vines and explained the way they work the soil. No chemicals are used at his winery.
Skillfully talking with cigarette in mouth.


Then we headed inside to see the first of two buildings and visit the fermentation and aging rooms. I got distracted by this amazing image:

Venetian light meets French ingenuity and style. I couldn't resist snapping a photo.

Above you'll see a photo of wine bottles that formed a perfect photo. These are the kinds of things the French are great at. Utilizing light and found objects and bringing them to life. I was already sold, then Michele announced he'd be taking us to the other building by Ape. I squealed with joy and hopped in the back!

My dream come true: riding in the back of an Ape.
View of the main building from Ape truck. Note vines along road, mountains in the distance.

Arriving at the second building, I was even more impressed and excited by this crazy mix of wine country and fishing and gardening community. I felt like I was on another planet from Florence's stones and Tuscany's rolling hills. Toto, we're not in Tuscany any more.

Stuff that Van Gogh paintings were made of...
Michele served us a glass of wine, and we passed the afternoon talking about wine, the superiority of French pastries (in Michele's defense, I brought it up!), wine making, wine tasting, beautiful women...
This wine is young but has a vibrant golden yellow color.
This wine has nice body, persistence, and longevity. It would be fantastic with soft shell crabs, which the locals eat when the crabs are in molting season. I plan to bring a bottle back to the States and try it with friends in North Carolina over a crab dinner.

The day was quite warm for February, and we were able to enjoy the breeze with our coats off. Isn't that the greatest moment of the year? The first time it warms up and you have to take your coat off...

Michele simply being cool. He was born that way and it shows!

As the sun began to set, Giulia and I hopped back on our hired boat and headed to Venice to drop off the wine I got from Michele and get ready for dinner. On the way out of the hotel I noticed gondoliers having dinner and couldn't resist snapping a photo. I love seeing people off duty in their uniforms. Kind of like when you were a kid and you ran into your teacher somewhere outside of school.

Gondoliers on their dinner break!
Giulia walked us to her family's photo shop, which has been around for decades. During our time together, we discovered we both have similar interests, including black and white film photography.

This famous photo was taken by Giulia's father and colleague!
We waited for her father and brother to close the shop, and I passed time looking at all the camera gadgets, old cameras, and photos in the store. That's when I discovered that Giulia's father was one of the photographers who took this famous photo in San Marco Square!

Like all true Venetians, her father closed up shop and suggested we go for a cicchetto, a bite to eat, with a Spritz, a typical aperitif of Venice. We had cicchetti in two different places.

Then, her other brother called and asked if we should all grab dinner. After much consideration, they decided we'd go to a place called I Promessi Sposi, not far from my hotel.

Chatting over cicchetti.
We were all in the mood for seafood, and mostly ordered pasta and fried fish. The fried fish was well executed: not too heavy, not too greasy, and piping hot. The julienne cut carrots and zucchine were a nice contrast to the shrimp, calamari, and blue fishes.
Fried fish, baby!

Needless to say, I was ready for bed after a full day of fresh air, lots of wine, new friends, and a hearty dinner. When I got to my room, I heard several men singing opera somewhere below the hotel.

Frustrated that I would probably not sleep well, I text messaged my friend to complain that yet again I'd be having a sleepless night in Italy due to random people singing. She replied, "why not go down and join them?"

I decided she was right. By the time I got out of the shower though, they'd stopped singing. Oh well. At least I got a good night's sleep!

I'll continue this story in another blog entry, since Day 2 is pretty intense!

1 comment:

  1. You DO take my insane pieces of advice seriously then! :D :D :D
    Good capo, good <3