Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Passito 2

30 ott.
I wish everyone could read italian, because Raffaele writes in better prose than me. I am sitting in our breakfast hall in an empty agriturismo as we are now officially closed until December, and listening to "The Time Warp" coming from the kitchen. I am "borrowing" Raffaele's fotos from yesterday's work with the white raisins, so you can see our attempt to make a sweet wine. While I was in the vineyard cutting all those little ties we used to tether the white grapes to the cables, I espied some newly ripened montepulciano grapes and hand squashed them to make grape juice and for my 100th post which is the next one, I will show you pictures of the ice cream and cake, filling and icing I made with those grapes.
As Raffaele says on the N di Bacco blog, we pressed and pressed before ever seeing a drop of juice from the raisins, but now that we have a bit over 40 liters, the perfume is incredible and it is sooo sweet, I hope we make a nice sweet dessert wine and not a nice sweet dessert vinegar!
Sto scherzando!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Passito, vin santo?

29 ott
Today, we transferred the red wine from the stainless container into the oak barrel and unfortunately, we didn't have enough red wine to even fill the 225 L barrique. We will need to buy some special floating thingies (since i can't translate this italian word well), which emit argon or nitrogen gas to prevent oxidation of the wine.
I "repicked" all the white grapes and we pressed them today to make a dessert wine which you call vin santo or passito in italy. In reality, the wine doesn't qualify for vin santo status as you have to leave the grapes to dry until dec. 5th in one way or another (on the vine, on the cables or in the cassettes like amarone) If we left the grapes that long, we could press them with a bulldozer and not get enough liquid for 2 half-bottles!
It looks like instead we pressed close to 40 liters, which if we are lucky will yield 80 half bottles and I must say, the juice tastes delicious, like honey.
I need to buy some special fermenting yeast made specifically for dessert wines tomorrow. Then the challenge is to stop fermentation when you still have an appropriate amount of sweetness, but also an adequate alcohol content. A nice challenge.
Bacco got a bath today and now looks fat, so we will be dieting or exercising a bit more or both!
Enjoy the pictures, which show the raisins I harvested, Bacco in the vineyard and all the grapes I gathered today.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Daylight savings, dark too soon!

28 ott.
Hi everyone. It is time for a change. We changed our clocks back an hour last night which was a real blessing because I drove 80 miles up to Senigallia for dinner at one of the most famous restaurants in the Marche and we returned at 0200 old time, so the extra hour of sleep was much needed. (I had to make breakfast at 0730) I was planning to go with Rebecca and Marco, who were unable to come visit (poveri), but serendipitously, a student from the english master's program at Colorno came to visit with the same idea to try this place out. I met Andy and JP up in Senigallia and we ate a 4 hour, 13 course dinner together paired with wines from the Marche. The meal was quite good and the company even better. Andy and JP are from Taiwan and JP was voted one of the best 10 chefs in Taiwan, so we had a great time dissecting the dishes and comparing thoughts about each. I then drove them back to Nascondiglio where they spent the night and then after a great lunch today in Ascoli, they returned north to Parma.
Our english guests who stayed a week with us and in the end probably preferred Raffaele's italian cooking, although they were too polite to say so, also left today, so we are empty and it is time for our month of vacation.. (But 1st we have 4 rooms to clean)
Italian regulations dictate how many days per year an agriturismo may stay open, so we really have to close now and then to abide by their strange rules.
We are still thinking about and planning the vineyard, clones, rootstock, etc. and next on the agenda is planning and designing the swimming pool for the back yard.
I have included pictures of nascondiglio di bacco with all the land visible for planting. It doesn't seem like much, 6 hectares, but it will keep me very busy once planted..
I hope everone had a wonderful weekend!
Other fotos are of the restaurant called Madonnina del Pescatore and a few of the dishes we enjoyed.
Next time, more Bacco pix and passito making!!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Agronomo info

26 Ottobre
Today we met with 2 different specialists in agronomy and they talked my language a bit better.. and I don't mean english!
The other guys wanted me to believe that there were no differences in microclimates on our hill, whereas I imagine a sheltered wet valley section must be a bit different from the top of the hill which is exposed to stronger winds and is always drier. They also have more experience with vineyards and less with orchards, which makes me feel a bit more secure.
Bacco and I explored Ascoli yesterday after he was given a clean bill of health by the vet and got his second batch of vaccines. I made the mistake of looking up literature on the internet about best puppy and dog foods and most sites recounted how all the industrial dog foods are poisons for our pets and the animals live about 40% longer on food specially prepared from raw meat and vegetable or organic products without the preservatives found in the major brands. Finally, I chose a biological product made in Italy, but still containing byproducts from fish (byproducts being a no-no). Oh well.. as he gets older, maybe I can mix a bit of raw in with the dry dogfood.
Bacco and I are going to try to visit a "chestnut festival" in one of the neighboring towns near the mountains tomorrow and tomorrow night I am going to drive to Senigallia, north of Ancona, to eat dinner at one of the most famous restauants in the Marche called Madonnina del Pescatore. I will report back maybe Sunday on my experience. I am meeting a student from the other master's program at Colorno who is doing his final stage researching the Marche and other zones.
Tonight, I plan to travel to Carassai to borrow a little wine press to smash our "raisins" which seem dry enough and concentrated enough for our attempt to make a passito. I hope there is some liquid left inside them!
Bacco is back to his chipper young self, thankfully, and we have had 2 peaceful nights.
The pictures show our oak barrel made in France, but reconditioned, which is now filled with water to swell up the little holes in the wood which would allow exit of our precious Montepulciano; our land which was plowed, and now is wet and ready to plan. The agronomists did recommend waiting for our planting until january or february to avoid a warm spell which might allow premature germination of the barbatelle, which if followed by a freeze would kill the plants. Finally, you see a foto of Bacco sniffing for more poisonous plants to ingest.

Have a nice weekend everyone!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Worse than a baby?

24 ottobre
Bacco is sick with what i can only guess is a partial small bowel obstruction. He has one more day to get well as we are visiting the vet for his shots tomorrow. 2 nights of no sleep for daddy as his intestinal tract has been rejecting things in every possible mode, if you know what i mean. Last night I got up 14 times between 1 and 5. I would have taken him to the emergency vet last night in KC if I lived there, but that is not available here. We just toughed it out and I did a bunch of laundry today. He eats everything including stones, acorns and olives and I fear there may be something stuck at his ileocecal valve. Now, before everyone accuses me of dragging my feet, I must say he is perfectly normal during the day, eats like a champ and is happy and seemingly healthy... I know-like the nurse's or doctor's kid whose appendix ruptures because the kid's complaints fall on deaf, hardened ears.. Tomorrow, I promise!!
I filled up our oak barrel with water today to seal the micro holes and hopefully we can transfer the red wine into the barrel and press dried grapes soon and ferment that juice in our stainless tank to make our "vin santo" or passito.
We have 3 rooms full of english speakers, so I am gabbing a bunch and also trying my hand at baking as Raffaele is on vacation.. grandmom would be proud.. last night lemon pound cake with lemon glaze. Brutta ma buona as we say.. ugly but tastes really good.
The 1st picture is of Bacco and I learning to walk together on a lead in Offida yesterday and another of me in the Sibillina mountains which are now covered with snow. Bacco is far in the lead.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Broken Clothes Dryer

22 Ottobre
I am sure this link won't work, but if it does, you will see our forecast for the next 10 days is more like London than the Marche. We are expecting cold, rainy weather for almost the entire forecast!
Bacco has his good days and bad days and after one particularly frustrating episode, he is consigned to the room I am in with all the doors closed as the eyes in the back of my head are not yet X-ray qualified, so they are only good inside 4 walls.
I met today with the travelling salesmen who talked me into some barbetelle or rootstock.. 2 cab. sauvignon, 2 cab franc, 2 merlots, 1 syrah, 1 petit verdot and 2 montepulciano varieties.
Now I will start to get nervous. This begins our dive into deeper waters. I am hoping for a miracle and some temporary strength for the dollar!!
Anyway, I have 2 rooms full of nice folks from England and America (grandmom is from CA) and I cooked 7 hours for them yesterday with a roast chicken ala Emeril as the main course, my by now famous lentil soup, sorbet of montepulciano grapes (some of which can still be found on the vines), Honey pound cake with honey frosting, and the antipasi were olive taponade with tenere olives (the famous local variety with which they make....), olives-Ascolane (stuffed with meats and cheese and battered and fried), the Beast (our 4 y.o. prosciutto-now about 40% eaten), and bruschetta. The contorni or side dishes were battered and fried zucchine and french fries cut with all cutting done with my mandolin.
I think they really enjoyed the dinner, so the gauntlets have been thrown down and we will have a vote friday after the dinner cooked by Raffaele!! Who says americans can't cook?
The pictures are of some of the early Autumn colors, Bacco nascosto, and the rain. I hear El Nino is dead and La Nina has taken over or vice versa. Ciao for now. dds
PS, you have to go back a few posts or many to see the significance of my title.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Photos from america

20 ottobre
Here are some fotos from our friends John and Dolores in america. The dog on his 1st day, kitchen work, putting the olives under salt and all of us in the mess hall.
Another quiet day as I am trying like crazy to figure out how to turn the heat on around here. I will be fine, but I think our guests might like some warmth.
It is not like america where you just have one switch to flip, Here I turned 4 valves and turned on a circuit breaker. Still doesn't seem much like heat although it smells a little like heat. Beh, as we say in italy!
Last night I hosted dinner for 3 Dutch and one americana and we opened a very nice 93 Brunello. Too bad, one of a kind purchased from ebay.it.
Next week, we will press the vin santo, I think, and on the wine making front, we have finally decided on the rootstock and clones for the planting in November.
Now we will see if they are available in the quantities we need.
A dopo. dds

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Winter weather on the way

18 ottobre
Bacco and I kept an eye on each other and with 3 hours to go, he has been accident free and actually brought a stick back to me 3 times. A veritable genius in the making. Today, not much to do, laundry, cooked a bit as some americans are coming over for dinner and I want to plan cooking classes with Elizabeth for our December offering at Nascondiglio.
I also called the agronomist, the fertilizer guy and the enologist, so now we will put down a few tons of Humoscan (a biological fertilizer), add some base minerals and pick clones to plant.
For the next few days the high temp will be 9 centigrade and the low around 3 with snow or sleet likely on the weekend. I need to start scouting out some firewood and figure out how to change this place over from A-C to heat!
I got up before dawn with my new alarm begging to go outside and saw a strange Venus which seemed to my failing eyes to be superimposed planets, but the enlarged image shows I think just a partial eclipse of the planet. Then, you see the crescent moon between the branches of the pine tree outside my room, sunset last night and the pup eating daisies!
ciao dds

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

more Bacco photos

Bacco at the beach, at home and in Ripatransone. It looks like he will be able to dig the hole for the pool in the back yard with those paws!
Everyone come visit as he needs Aunts and Uncles and I will need some rest! The post following this one is an update of the last few days

Ivo e Bacco

16 ottobre
Bacco seems to be getting bigger by the day! At least I am having trouble carrying him about for very long. He is doing better in the house as long as I am vigilant. I need to start training him to retrieve so he can live up to his ancestral name.
I was a willing tour guide for Ivonne who visited us from Costa Rica and we three toured the beach and the mountains which reminded me I need to escape more often from the end of the road here and experience the local activities and scenery.
The Marche is green again after our rain and very beautiful. I am still awaiting the changing colors of the leaves; just beginning to see a bit of red in the vineyard across the way.
Raffaele is off with Elisa for a week of vacation to celebrate her graduation from medical school. I am a bit jealous as I have never been to the Dolomite mountains, but hopefully there will be plenty of opportunities in the future.
The pictures today are of Arquata which is your entrance into the mountains of Sibillina. From the mountain pass above at 1600 meters you look into the plateau where Castelluccio is located and there you find the famous lentils which are really wonderful and are a Presidi Slow Food product. Then you see a terrible photo of me explaining the Pecorino cheeses and wines to John with Raffaele at my flank to correct my errors. On to the beach where Bacco made his own bed (I promise more beach and Bacco photos will be forthcoming), then one of me and Bacco in the side yard and finally Ivonne and Bacco above the mountain pass, a beautiful day trip on the way to the altopiano and Norcia.
A dopo. dwight

Sunday, October 14, 2007

14 October Buon compleanno, bro

Good Day everyone, Today is the 1st day of the 50th year of my brother's life and I wish him and his family a great year! I took some dawn pictures for this momentous occasion and the other 2 are showing Jim and I in Colorado. As you can see, he acts young like me.
Bacco is "in the doghouse" right now as he forgot to pee outside last night, instead deciding to display his bladder capacity to my guests at the wine and cheese tasting.
I am sure he will be released from confinement soon and more pictures will follow.
Also congratulations to Elisa, Raffaele's girlfriend who graduated from medical school yesterday, earining an A+ for her thesis on occular manifestations of thyroid disease! Now she must choose between family practice and endocrinology...
We will have guests, though not a full house, through the end of the month and then we are closed in November. Evidently in Italia you have to be closed a certain percentage of the time to show you took a vacation and are not overworked or some such thing. We hope to use the time wisely in planning out our course for the vineyard, pool, winery etc for the next year or 2.
Ciao and Happy Birthday Jim

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Bacco, tests and trials of fatherhood

11 ott.
Bacco is settling right in at Nascondiglio. It is nice to finally have a living entity named Bacco so our agriturismo really is Bacco's hideout, now. He is still not aware that his bathroom is outside, but I caught him in the act this morning and maybe a sharp "NO" will be remembered at least for today.
We had some delightful guests from america the last 3 nights. Dolores was visiting Offida to trace her great grandfather's roots and we had some help from Liliana in the mayor's office who found a 2nd cousin who is 76 years old and her 3 daughters who would be 3rd cousins and 3 of their babies, etc. They all had a nice reunion at Nascondiglio and it was really a special occasion!
Last night, we had dinner for our 2 guests and a previous guest who is rebuilding a house down the road, and tried some really good wines they had brought including a 98 Brunello. In recompense, I opened a 75 Barolo which was from Dolores' and my year of high school graduation. It had some life left yet, but I am happy to say we have more left in us! There were notes of liquorice and prunes and at the least, it was quite interesting. The only glitch in the meal was the beef from Poland and i am sure there are some wonderful cows in Poland, but maybe not this one. I made the antipasti, offering both an unpasteurized Cheddar and Stilton, our now famous 4 year aged prosciutto, and i thawed some of our last crop of tomatoes to make a bruschetta. Next came my soup of lentels from castelucchio (Slow Food Presidi product) with a pureed bean base, some meat bits and white truffle oil, a primo with pasta and zucchini and red bell peppers, my orange and lemon sorbet, the meat course and the dessert was a towering cake with a special icing between 4 layers.
John, who is Dolores' husband helped me pick olives yesterday afternoon while the Mrs. took a nap and we cleaned out another 4 trees. It turns out we had more olive trees than we thought, so the olives from the "second harvest", I am putting sotto sale or under salt to make olives we can eat. Another N. di Bacco experiment. We picked by hand, but I included a foto of our neighbor Tiziano who uses an air compressor powered "comb" to shake the olives loose which then are collected in a net on the ground. That would be a luxury for us as we only have 104 trees, but it was fun to try it out.
It is sprinkling today as it did yesterday, so it is a bit cold and gray. This must be the rainy season, which means my clothes dryer is out of order, but tomorrow we should get some sun and then drying will recommence. The dog is asleep on the biggest bed in Italy, lucky guy, but at night he sleeps in a kennel. I just needed a nap today as he requires 2 vigilant eyes 24/7 and I was worn out!
ciao dds