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Friday, September 30, 2011

Wine Festival day 1

So here we go. After work, we packed a few things and "moved" to Daniela's house for the weekend. We got there just in time for the opening ceremony, which included the mayor (who they call the "major"), talking and kids from the local schools presenting this year's wine. After all that mumbo jumbo, the kids shook up champagne bottles and proceeded to have a champage war. It was awesome. Then they served champagne and little foaccia bread pieces to everyone around. It was great!
After the fireworks, we proceeded to head to the best street food stand. Corrado and Valeria say that this has the best food. I was just impressed with the tambourine windows! :) We sat down in this awesome old is a photo of Giaccamo climbing on the stairs to give you an idea of what setting. I also snuck a picture of a cook tasting the food in the kitchen! First wine of the night. Giovanni got some kind of pork dish with Polenta. I got the Gnocchi papera (duck). It was basically a duck ragu sauce. It was AMAZING. the sauce was incredible, but the Gnocchi was even better. I have never had Gnocchi like that. It was so fresh and soft. It almost didn't need to be chewed, it almost felt liek ti would just melt in our mouths. I can't even describe it. It was light but dense at the same time. All I know is that I am pretty sure I'm never having Gnocchi in the states again because it will never be as good. I can't go back! Lisa had Gnocchi with a mushroom sauce. It was pretty incredible as well. My newest discovery were these deep fried stuffed olives. Olives stuffed with a meatball sort of thing, breaded and deep fried. Pretty amazing! After dinner, we wandered around checking out the vendors and music. I have to say, music is there was quite terrible. I enjoyed the old traditional stuff we saw, but the 40 eyar old Britney Spears wannabe and angsty teen band really didn't do it for me. But I did enjoy the people watching. Line dancing and everyone having a good time made for a good night. Here's a video of a guy I saw dancing throughout the festival. I was totally standing about 20 feet away from the person that made this video. It was so great.
Crazy tambourine man! Woot! Another not so crazy tambourine man. And then there was this 40 year old Britney Spears wannabe. I was not very impressed.

We ended the night with lots of silly dancing right outside of the house. It was great. I was starting to learn all the great Italian 80's songs. Having the house right there was awesome because we could run in and get water or use the bathroom without a line or any hassle! Dancing the night away with Hillary and Giovanni was a great way to end the night. I didn't get any video but I did find a video of the dance party that took place RIGHT outside the house! So hilarious. Yeah this is what we listened to till 4 a.m...

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Day 16: Bottling

I finally felt like I was coming around when we started bottling today. We harvested, we pressed, we analyzed, we moved wine, we bottled, labeled, boxed, and shipped the wine out! The only thing I felt like I was missing was pruning the vines and weeding! But there's always a chance I could come back in the spring for that... :)
It was an easier day than our other days, but the highlight for me was watching Corrado at work. He produces about 12,000 a year, and he actually sits there and bottles them himself! I cleaned the bottles, he bottled the wine, Lisa corked the bottles, and Hillary and Giovanni stored the bottles away. Here is a photo courtesy of Hillary of us working:We were definitely in a groove once Corrado brought out his ancient Mac computer. The thing had kid pix on it! I just had to take a photo.

Talk about adding the personal touch, he literally touches every bottle of his wine!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Day 15: Making Passito (dessert wine)

One of the vineyards I haven't shared with you yet is Specia. Specia is a gorgeous small vineyard that Corrado rescued 4 years ago. I heard him talking about the soil and how it was basically "gold" for the vines, rich with nurtients, not dry and crumbling. I wish I had gotten a photo of him grabbing a handful of the soil and smelling it the first time we came to harvest. Here is a photo from the vineyard. The town you see on the top of the hill is Cupramontana, and you can actually see the cellar to the right when the picture is blown up. I've kind of pointed it out here for you:

On this day we harvested some grapes to make passito, a special sweet wine. Instead of pressing them right away, we layed them out to dry in baskets and hung the extra clumpy ones in the attic of the cellar. This made for some great photos. There is something beautiful about grapes drying in a line in an attic. After 3 months, the water will be evaporated and the only thing left will be the natural sugars, so whatever they press will be extra sweet.

For lunch we had lunch with some journalists that were in town for the wine festival. I had grilled pork here for the first time. It was pretty tasty!

That night for dinner, Lisa, Hillary and I made dinner for everyone. I made a pasta dish (garlic parmesean cream sauce with spinach, sundried tomatoes, spinach and basil). Hillary made a garden salad but I failed to take a photo of it. For dessert I made apple turnovers. With each course we had a different bottle of wine. It was so great. I forgot to take photos of the wine that. How lame am I? But everyone seemed to think everything was tasty so dinner was a great success!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Day 12: Colonnara Wine Tour

So what we thought would be a work day turned into a great exploration day. Corrado dropped us off in the village to explore and have a second breakfast while he went to the cellar to do a little bit of work with Giovanni. We enjoyed the was quite small so the exploration was short but still enjoyed. I love this photo. I captured it when I saw the man poking his head out to fix his door as we were walking around town.

Then it turns out Corrado got us a private wine tour of Colonnara, a cooperative regional winery. Meaning multiple farmers give their grapes and the winery produces wine under one name. Then the farmers get a portion of the profit based on the grapes that are used. Colonnara, it turns out, makes the best sparkling wine in the region. It recently one some type of award, I can't remember what it was but it was fairly significant. Anywho, the winery was beautiful. And large. Very much Chateau St. Michelle -esque. Everything was big and in large quanities. The highlight of the tour was the cellar where they kept the sparkling wine to let it age properly. Some of the bottles sit for 5 years before they are ready to sell. They also showed us a cool machine that froze the tips of the bottles, where the yeast is, so they can pop it out and top it off before bottling it.

It was very interesting and informative. Luigi, our guide, is from Cupramontana and spent some time studying in Finland. So he is fluent in Italian, and then when he speaks English is sounds very british. It was very entertaining. We ended the tour with a tasting. Which was a great way to wet our pallets for lunch!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Day 11: Randomness

This week has been pretty uneventful. It rained Monday and Tuesday, so we couldn't harvest. Instead we were stuck inside labeling bottles...and labeling 500 million bottles can be very monotonous. I think Hillary got high from the rubbing alcohol from cleaning the bottles. So I spent many hours humming songs and playing some great music from home. It got me thinking about all of my friends at home and I started to miss them! I wish I could just package you all up and bring you here. For all my musician friends...there is a stage set up by the pool for the music festival that is held here every June...just sayin'...

We did get to go out one night in the village to get gelato and beers. I was so stoked. Oh how I have been craving a great microbrew...but turns out I ended up with a whiskey sour instead because none of the beers at the bar sounded appealing. The great thing about the gelato cafe's here is that they are also wine bars. So you get your gelato and alcohol of choice. But first we got gelato. Then we went for an adventure through the village. Giovanni showed us the house he was staying at (which is Daniela's but it's just her summer home). I should've taken more photos of the house but I was distracted. I tried my very first Grappa, which is a distilled liquor made from grapes. The house is beautiful and has a great view of the surrounding valleys and villages. We could hear band practice across the street (a group getting ready for the festival). I snuck over and peeked in. They were playing Al Green's "I love you baby"....which is one of my favorite was great. Then we went to a bar (The Fashion Cafe) where I couldn't find a good microbrew so i settled for a whiskey sour since they didn't have gingerale. The place was weird. Again I probably should've taken photos but I was just so confused I didn't even think about it. The upstairs has this funky club feel to eat. Purple walls, zebra photos, and barbershop/space chairs. There was another wall with some sort of pyschadellic indian mural. It was all rather confusing. And the music..the music was like instrumental karoke...and every other song was the complete opposite genre from the next. It was strange but we enjoyed some good conversation. Then Corrado met up with us and we had another drink back at the gelato shop. Here is a photo of grappe and Corrado's reflection. I also found some weird chips on display that I took photos of here: I'm sure what the second bag is advertising. It looks like a frat party or something...
Once the weather was suitable, we played the make up game and spent some long days harvesting. Above is a photo of freshly opened walnuts that Giovanni taught us how to harvest and open. By Friday, we (the girls) were spent. My allergies kicked in like crazy at a new vineyard we went to. I spent the next 6.5 hours sneezing and wanting to rip my nose off. Luckily we did not go for a second harvest that day. We came home early and I pretty much just went straight to sleep for a nap. We were all exhausted. All three of us were nodding off at the lunch table so maybe that's why Corrado had I us go home a little early.

Oh man the food here has been so amazing. The other day Valeria made a lovely pie pastry with fontina cheese and zuchinni! Drool...The other day, Corrado picked us up a treat that is unique to the area. It's basically a fig cake. Pressed figs with licorice and anice spices. I am not a fan of licorice so I didn't enjoy it as much but it was still very interesting! I love to try new foods...especially when they are unique to the area. Having 3 course meals twice a day has been a bit overwhelming. Last night I kept talking about how I would be happy with mac and cheese from the box and then Valeria ends up serving this amazing creamy shell pasta dish with peas and sausage. Followed with a pastry stuffed with gorgonzola, motzarella, and piccolio cheese. There is barely room for veggies!

So that's what I've been up to during the weekdays. More to come soon. Ciao!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Day 7: Catch up time

Yesterday we went to the Adriatic Sea. Giovanni, Lisa, Hillary, and Corrado's family all went to the beach. It was great. HOT...relaxing...salty. We went to a beach in between Senigallia and Ancona. It sort of reminded me of Malibu or Venice Beach minus the douchebags. I mostly enjoyed spending time with Corrado's children, Julia and Giacomo. I really wanted to take photos of them because they are so precious and incredibly photogenic. Giacomo is a stud. Julia is just so sweet.
Daniela turns out left to go back to Milan and I was very sad to see her go, but here you can see her with the children. So precious. We did eat at a lovely beach side seafood restaurant so I grabbed some food photos for you foodies.
Penne with an Arabiata sauce.
The special for the day. Ravioli stuffed with some kind of fish. Tossed with clams.
Tortellini with Bolgense Sauce and sour cream.
Breaded and deep fried anchovies, shrimp, carrots, and zuchinni.
This is the best thing I've seen so far. A cozy for a wine bottle! Niiice. :)

After lunch we enjoyed some beach soccer, and I tried some harmonica tunage (Hillary snapped this photo of me falling asleep after playing), we all kind of passed out and took a nap. When I woke up it looked like a storm was a brewing so we got moving. But not before a gelato hunt! I finally got some tasty gelato in Senigallia. I will have to say that I do believe that D'Ambrosio's gelato is tastier than this one. Although it was still tasty nonetheless. I was a very happy camper!

Today we slept in, did laundry, and went to the cellar to do some bottling. We enjoyed a deliscous dinner of minestrone soup and homemade foaccacia bread and a homemade pastry dish filled with fontina cheese and zuchinni from the garden. It was AMAZING to say the least. The weather has been cooler and a bit spotty. We haven't been able to harvest because of the rain...but I am welcoming the cooler weather just got a moment.

Turns out that there is a big wine festival coming up in a couple weeks which I am really looking forward to. The village has been busy preparing for the festivities, working at night since everyone else works during the day. Apparently, this town that normally has around 10,000 people explodes to 25,000 during the 4 day festival. They village which is at the top of the hill is completely closed off and to get in you have to pay. Lucky for us, Daniela has a house in the village that she won't be using. So we're staying there and apparently not sleeping for four days. Valeria says the music goes until 4 a.m. and people are running around being crazy. Corrado told us that one year, one of the WWOOFers got drunk and lost and he found him at 5 a.m. stumbling around....haha....I am not sure what to expect of this but it certainly sounds entertaining! So look forward to that entry! I'm also looking forward to learning how to make homemade lasagna noodles from Helena. Also a very lovely elderly Italian woman who has been helping us harvest once in a while. Valeria has asked her to teach her and since I am interested in learning how to cook, that's where I will be as well!

Well I'm running out of some writing juices. I may get around to some bottle photos tomorrow. Also, just in case you're interested, I've been listening to this song all night. It just really fit the mood for tonight. Buona Notte!