Sunday, September 30, 2007

Of drying grapes and cakes

30 settembre
It is hard to believe another month has slipped by and autumn is upon us. We still don't have leaves with color, but I imagine it is just a short time away. We will start and finish, I hope, picking olives tomorrow and have an appointment at the pressing facility for our 250 olives! Just joking, but as I said before, it is a horrible year also for olives. Hopefully the cornucopia year will follow.
We met with 2 new planters today and have one more appointment before we choose who to use for laying out and planting the vineyard. The 1st group was unable to help us because with high density planting as we want, the rows are too narrow for their tractor. We are hoping to do something quite a bit different from the norm in the southern Marche with our vineyard, grape selection, etc.
I spent 3 days making a birthday cake for a friend of Raffaele who stayed with us this weekend along with her family and 2 other families whom Raffa had met through the scouting program.. In the coming years, I hope to prove to Raffaele I can cook (and bake). Anyway, the experience reminded me why I dislike baking! It was a lemon-pistachio crunch cake in 3 layers and for the masochists who read my blog who want to try it, you can find the recipe on It took 2 cows and 1 hen a week to make the ingredients, so I probably took a week off of everyone's life who ate some.
The fotos are of a quasi full moon, drying grapes, the almost finished fermentation of my second harvest and my italian clothes dryer, which uses no energy and dries in 1/5 the time of a conventional dryer (if the wind is 40 miles/hour as it was the other day). Have a great week! I hope to get the pup a week from monday.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

why i need a dog

This beautiful picture of my friend's dog stomping Pinot Noir grapes needs to be viewed and enjoyed all by itself. Priceless!

Friday, September 28, 2007

29 settembre, a beautiful day in the Marche

It rained last night for about 20 minutes and then today was a beautiful, clear, windy day in the Marche. Raffaele and I got 3 rooms ready for his friends who are staying with us this weekend and after lunch we went to Ascoli to look at tractors. Now, that makes for a FUN day.. I was able to drive the tractors and can now teach you how to drive the New Holland tractor with tires or tank chains.
I am in the process of making a birthday cake for one of our guests which is a 3 day job with curd and pistachio candy layers. I am not used to baking, but I definitely have the time right now.
We talk with the planters of the rootstock saturday and sunday and get bids for that and soon will order the barbatelle which will be planted the last week of November, I hope. We have decided to blow the budget and advertise in Dove magazine which has a readership of 160,000 per month and 4 times a year comes out with a vacation edition. The special edition is in Italian and English so look for Dove vacanze in april or may at your favorite bookstore.
We visited one of our local wineries which makes a very nice Montepulciano called Mida and plan on inviting the owner and winemaker to join us for one or more of our cooking classes in December.
The pictures above are leftovers from the Nasxonciglio winemaking and from "Cheese"l Fabio will have to pay me to remove the last picture! Before that Paolo, Jen and Favian from the University, sheep which I salute for their Pecorino cheese, another pecorino wrapped in walnut leaves and finally our special wine filter (spaghetti strainer)
ciao dds

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


25 settembre.
Be sure to check out the next 3 posts all from today with more photos of cheese and Eataly. I took a little break from driving during the 4.5 hour trek back from Bra and finally visited the beautiful cathedral in Loreto which can be seen for miles in all directions as it sits conspicuously on top of a hill near the ocean and A14, the autostrada. The legend states when the traditionally recognized house of Mary in Nazareth was in danger of being destroyed by the Muslims (the above ground structure, as the subterranean structure is still in Nazareth), angels transported the stones to Loreto with I think a side trip to Croatia. Now it is widely accepted as near truth that a rich family paid to have it transported to the Marche and reconstructed and in the following years, the cathedral was built around it. Anyway, it is very beautiful inside and out.
I have placed some photos of the front of the Cathedral, the piazza with its fountain, and the rose window inside. Also, from the hill of Loreto one also sees the promontory of Conero, to the north which is famous for a beautiful secluded beach, bird migration site and eponymous wines. All in all, the city is worth a 2 hour visit if you are coming our way. Enjoy! dwight

Party pix!!!

I forgot to mention that I took a sample of our wine in a used Coop plastic tonic water bottle for everyone to try and NOONE died! The pictures are from a dinner we shared at the Friuli restaurant, the concert, Fabio and Phillip in front of Diego's foodmobile, Luigi with a glass of vino and a picture of guitar players who entertained at various venues during the day. More to come dds


OK, now I will talk about Cheese for real! There are booths for all the Presidi cheeses from Slow Food from all around the world which includes Yak cheese from Tibet! Also present were cheeses from eastern Europe-Bulgaria, Romania, Bosnia, etc. Of course the best cheeses in the world seconda Dwight are from Italy. France and England, so most of my time was spent exploring those areas. The favorites were (not in any particular order) Quickes Traditional unpasteurized Cheddar, Stichelton which is a Stilton type of cheese which is unpasteurized as well, Macagn which I brought back to the states last time and hales from the mts of Piemonte, Castel from the Latteria Perenzin from Treviso which is now tied as my favorite from Italy with the Macagn. for a better look.
The last cheese has a soft crust and a very creamy layer just under the crust which is properly stinky but incredible and then deeper it is of a denser consistency,,, very strange, but great!
Also making the list are the Pecorino cheeses of the Marche from Monte Sibillina, of course and our tasting weekends will include these cheeses and the Pecorino wines every Saturday in October.
I visited as many booths as my stomach could stand and interspersed those visits with a run to the Ascoli stand where they sold the stuffed Ascolana olives.
I was also able to attend a session with the cheese makers of the Netherlands and England who are carrying on the old traditions and making unpasteurized Cheddars and Stiltons which I mentioned above. If you go to London, DON'T miss Burrough's Market and Neil's Yard!! the latter for cheeses of incredible quality!
The traditional gouda cheese made from single producers and with unpasteurized milk (are you seeing the pattern here) are now limited to 2 of the 200 producers and their cheese is fabulous especially after 2 or 4 years. Find some if you can. The stuff you buy in the store in red plastic is Edam and not Gouda and is tasteless rubber!
Another dinner and concert Saturday night finished the day right and then Sunday, more cheeses, a tasting at the Piemonte booth and also at the blue cheese booth which were moderately disappointing and then a mini festa with Diego the mythical proprietor of Tabarro on via Farini in Parma. We sampled a slew of wines with him in the Piazza XX settembre after all else had closed down and then searched for a disco before retiring around 0200.
Party pix will be in a separate post.
Monday I returned to Nascondiglio di Bacco with a slight detour to Loreto to see the church famous for housing Mary's house from Nazareth. Those pix also on a different post.
Finally last night I had a real meal with real food but also with cheese made by Raffa with a couple of friends joining us and we tried the great Treviso cheese and also a cheese from the Netherlands with cloves inside (particulare!)
Today was a day of cleaning and now for blog writing. Stay tuned for the party photos, but these are showing the Perenzin stand, the eastern European cheese booths, the blue cheese sampling area, French chevre of all types and the educational area for the kids. dds

Cheese and old friends and Eataly

25 settembre
Ciao tutti! I have just returned to Nascondiglio di Bacco from "Cheese" at Bra, where Slow Food headquarters is located. I took off from Offida Friday and drove about 2.5 hours to Siena in Tuscany to see the puppy. Stupido io! I forgot to take pictures, but he is quite cute although he may need to go on a bit of a diet or exercise a bit more with me when he arrives here in 2 weeks! Be patient! I am sure you will tire of "Bacco" pictures before the end. Anyway, after a half hour of meeting his family, I headed north to Bra along the coast from Firenze (Florence) to Pisa, Carrada where the marble mines are located, Genova where my indicator for miles of gasoline in the tank read ----- or zero. I filled up for 95 dollars, 51 liters or about 6.40 a gallon US. Feeling much more secure after adding the benzina, I then took off a bit north for Bra finishing the autostrada which cost another 30 dollars. This big festival called Cheese is a must-do for anyone with a passion for coagulated milk products! I sampled cheese from all over the world for 3 days and now am on a strict 3X/day All Bran diet! Thank goodness for Kellogs.
Friday night, I met up with a bunch of my classmate, but 1st received some VERY IMPORTANT news "importantissimo" from Michele, my old roommate from Parma. He and Teresa are getting married next September!!! You will remember them as the 2 classmates I brought to America last August for vacation, so I will take all the credit or blame, hopefully the former!
We went to a concert Friday night in one of the Piazza with a group called the Blue Beaters and you can take that name anyway you want but they were definitely "CHEESY"! There were mates from the English master's program from the last 2 years and all 3 years of the Italian master's students were there as well, along with many of the tutors and University folks, so it was a fun party notwithstanding the terrible music.
Saturday, I got up early to find where my car was parked because Bra is disorienting at night and found a better parking space near the railroad station. Being in the neighborhood, I then hopped a bus and connected with a train for Torino where I visited the gastronomic paradise called Eataly. This is the italian version of Whole Foods, only bigger and with the special European products we can't get in the US. What a beautiful store and if you come to Terra Madre and Salone del Gusto next year, it is right across the street. It also is similar to Whole Foods in that all the products are picture perfect, (the fish don't stink as an example) and everything is marked up 50% over normal price or at least 30%! I do hear the meat is priced justly and of the highest quality, though. They have Jamon Iberica which costs about 30 dollars for 100 grams. That may finally arrive in the states soon and is better than prosciutto.
I also saw many products we studied the year of my Masters like Acquarello rice, gragnarola pasta etc. I then made the mistake of going into their candy store, I mean wine store, and had to pick up 6 bottles to lug back on the city bus, train and on foot back to Bra, but I found some really interesting stuff like sparkling wine from the north of Italy which is left with yeast in the bottle and you open it upside down under water to eject the yeast before drinking it. I will report back on that one. Enough for this post and check out the next one which will be more CHEESE. dds

Thursday, September 20, 2007


20 SETT.
It was a fruitful day, literally and figuratively. We started out with a meeting with our winemaker (future) and our agronomist and decided what wines to plant initially on our 3 hectares in november. 1/2 hectare of 6 different varieties to make something special and unique from this area. I will let you know as soon as possible which rootstock we are able to procure. We then made our 1st pressing of grapes! They had been fermenting, as you may recall if you have been following along, for over a week and the sugar level today was 0, so all the grapes' sugars were fermented into alcohol. We had to carry the must about 50 meters to our neighbor's shed where the "torchio" was located (or press in "american"). We probably pressed about 200 liters or a bit less of some really fine tasting juice which now will repose a bit in stainless steel before getting a chance to rest a bit more in barrique (french oak, of course). We then had the bright idea, actually Raffaele had the idea, to make a sort of Ripassa by pressing the not completely fermented must (remember my second harvest?) through the solids we just pressed and then continue a clean fermentation without skins and stems etc. This will save us cleaning the neighbor's press a second time, and should make a fine addition for our 1st 200 liters. Our hope after all this work is to have a full barrel of 225 liters with some left over for topping off when evaporation occurs. Then we will press the vin santo and put it in the stainless steel after the red is in barrique...
Much fun and excitement...
I get an early start tomorrow for puppy viewing and cheese.. I may be out of touch for the weekend, but here are the initial pix of the pressing.. we added a special filtering as you may see with spaghetti strainers! Ciao. buon weekend di nuovo! dwight

20 settembre

It is a beautiful morning here with the wind whistling through the large pine tree outside my room and a temperature which reminds me of Estes Park. I woke up early enough to watch a dove and a magpie "playing" together in the yard; almost a mating display but obviously it will never work with such a mixed couple! Today, I am preparing a little flyer to hand out at "Cheese" with our brochure for Nascondiglio di Bacco. It advertises a bit our weekend tasting program of Pecorino cheese and wines. My feeble attempt to enter the Ad biz.
We meet today with the winemaker and agronomist and hopefully will come up with a time table and a concrete plan for planting: when, what, where, etc. I am a bit anxious to have that behind us as we need to order the rootstock with plenty of notice, etc.
Off tomorrow to Siena to view the puppy and then up the coast to Bra, just south of Torino. It will be a long day of driving, perhaps 8 hours or more depending on traffic.
It will be great to see my old classmates from the University, some coming all the way from England and others from Venice, Colorno, and Naples!
Here is my little flyer-let me know, but quickly if you spy any mistakes... unfortunately it is in Italian! Abbracci a tutti!
Dove: Nascondiglio di Bacco,
Contrada Ciafone 97, Offida
Quando: Il Sabato in Ottobre
Alle 17:30-19:30
Perche: PERCHE NON???
Quale: 2 presidi Sopravissana Diversi stagionatura-2 e 5 mese; Pec. Del Cavaliere-Matelica-3 mese
DOC Pecorino di San Filippo 2006
DOC Corte Ophites 2006
Prezzi: 15 euros-degustazione
Il weekend (2 notte) per 2 al agriturismo col degustazione
150 euro con primo colazione

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Just pix

19 sett.
pictures of the monastery south of macerata, then that city, and finally sunsets from here and a heat lightning storm. Enjoy! dds

More catching up

19 sett.
I took a road trip Monday to Visso to pick up some more of the best Pecorino cheese from these parts and since I needed said road trip in the mountains, I took a bunch of back roads and had a blast. 1st you see the nearby town of Castignano which is on the way towards our mountains to the west. I then went by the bigger of the 2 neighborhood ski slopes in the region and this one appears a bit larger than the one I visited last winter when there was absolutely noooo snow. I then spotted a little white line on the map which turned out to be a gravel road over the mountains peaking out at 1780 meters..... a short cut!!! Well.. in a z4, this might not have been a wise choice, but luckily, I made it up the little windy road you see in the pic in 1st gear most of the way and avoided holes in my gas tank, etc. I arrived in Visso at 12:34 expecting my little cheese shop to be closed at 12:30 but fortunatemente, they stayed open until 1:15. I bought 3 wheels of Pecorino cheese in preparation for our tasting weekends in October called Pecorino, Pecorino, Pecorino, which will also include the wine of that name. I then found a little agriturismo off the beaten track for lunch and talked with the owner about different breeds of tourists and why americans were yet to discover the Marche (to their loss). Lake Filastra is quite beautiful and might be compared to one of our little lakes like Jacomo in KC, but it is the largest in the Marche with beautiful tourquoise water and noone using it. The canyon below the dam looks right out of the rocky mountains as do the mountains themselves.
I next went to a monastery with a large park and explored its environs (pix later) before finishing in Macerata, a town and province north of Ascoli which I wanted to visit and explore. I was exhausted after and headed back to Nascondiglio di Bacco for a bit of light reading..
In the last week, I have finished the last Harry Potter book, the hobbit, and 1.5 books in the Lord of the Rings trilogy... sounds like I need some work, huh?
Tonight there is a lecture on local olive oils at Borgo Miriam, our nearest village which I will attend and I hope to update my blog later with more pix etc. (soon!, maybe even today).. Ciao. dds PS the dog is guarding a little pasture with sheep near the mountain pass