Wednesday, July 28, 2010

3 concerts in 3 day: My trip in Umbria and Tuscany, Mark Knopfler at Perugia jazz, ZZ Top at Lucca and Robin Eubanks at Montalcino Jazz

I had a whirlwind tour in Tuscany a couple of weeks ago, starting at Perugia jazz where I was able to hear  a married couple from Texas via New Orleans, Kim Prevost and her husband Bill Solley, then off to

hear Mark Knopfler who may just be the laziest performer I have ever seen live.  He got off his stool just once, but the man can surely play guitar!  Day 2 I was off to Lucca to hear Jeff Beck and ZZ Top, but not without 1st stopping at Gaiole for a visit to the Chini butcher shop where you are assured of getting top quality Cinta Senese (black pig) salami, prosciutto, guanciale, etc.  He and his brother and nephew slaughter just 5 a week and then spend the week preparing the cured meats which I think are some of the best in Italy, right up there with the culatello of Spigaroli near Zibello.  Then it was off to the Parco Scolture di Chianti which is a sculpture park on 15 acres of forest land which years ago housed wild pigs which were raised for meat. Sculptors from 5 continents have contributed works to the park and nearby is an art gallery run by the couple who started this dream years ago.

 It is up a long gravel road from Gaiole or you can reach it from the road to Valiagli up from Siena.  I didn't want my day to be empty, so the next stop was Fattoria Corzano e Paterno where you can find some of the best pecorino cheeses in Italy.  Everything from a creamy concoction called Lingotto to a blue, fresh ricotta or aged and fresh regular pecorinos.  It is well worth a trip, but be sure to arrive before 13:30 and ask for Sibilla who was in the Slow Food master class in gastronomic science the year before Raffaele and me.

 Finally, errands complete, I arrived at a wonderful little B&B between Lucca and Pisa called Marta Guest House where I met a charming couple who helped me plan an excursion, however brief to Lucca before the concerts.

 Lucca was pretty much left untouched by the Siena-Florence battles and has an intact wall you can walk, jog or bike around as well as some interesting towers, churches and shops.   Be sure to try out the restaurant Cantine Bernardini run by an old ducal family of the same name with refined cooking, a local wine list which will help you explore Luccan wines and they hand pick all the cured meats or cure them in house.
All the columns on the duomo are of a different design, mostly pagan, a view from one of the towers of lucca, the wall by night and the unforgettable ZZ Top

Day 3, I was off to Montalcino to visit my friend at Banfi, Claudia and her beau where we listened to the 1st night of the Montalcino jazz fest in the environs of Castello Banfi with the incredible trombonist, Robin Eubanks.

 It all came to an end early the next day as I had to return to Ascoli to check in with immigration at 11, but it was a nice break.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

July 11 already! Today's topics, why italians yell, la cimatura, peaches and cream with tassles, fig newtons, l'oidio e la peronospera (the mildews)

I am embarrassed to see that almost 2 weeks have passed since my last posting.  Here at Nascondiglio di Bacco, we are full and have the full time job in the vineyard as well, so time flies.  I did get to spend the 4th with 3 other americans, some Brits and germans and italians and we had a grand old time, but no fireworks.
The vines are growing to the sky which means it is time for a cutting called the cimatura which involves cutting the branches which have grown passed  their ability to support themselves and the fall into the middle of the row, thus blocking my vision when I pass with the tractor and also shading the grape bunches too much.  We asked our neighbor to do that for us with his new vertical multi-blade attachment for his tractor and now we look pretty neat and tidy except for the grass which has not been mown for a month because of a broken mower.  This is a fine example of why people yell at each other in Italy as the part was supposed to be available inside a week, but we are now at a month and no part.  Also, our neighborly vendor who asked for 6 months notice for our order for a trailer to cart our grapes behind the tractor which I duly gave in March looked clueless when I went in for the 10th time since March to ask him if he had started on it as we need it for the harvest.  After explaining how the price of steel had risen sharply since he quoted me the price, blah blah blah, I was able to use my old expertise at hollering also with him.
We had a very few grapes (not whole clusters) with the dangerous powdery mildew and the downy mildew has been under control, but is also present.  With the former, I had a bit of panic as I have been dutifully following a 7-10 day treatment program with our permitted copper and sulfur products and was disappointed despite my best efforts, I can't keep this troublesome maladies at bay.  Our agronomo came and held my hand and told me our vineyard looks marvelous and healthy and not to worry, so I can sleep well once again.
Above are some of our merlot grape clusters.
Our first figs ripened this week, so I made fig newtons for our guests.  MMMM, good, just have to be careful and not eat too many.  The next harvest will be the little yellow plums which someone told me has the name mirabelle in french,  so more jam needs to be made.
The winery is now shelled in on the bottom and the supports removed for its roof or the floor of the upstairs if you will.  Time for the electicians, plumbers and refrigerator guys to get to work.  We have a tight schedule!
At left we see the room for the barrels and at right, Raffaele with the engineer for the electrical plant in the fermenting area.
Finally, here are some pictures of my little corn field of which I am very proud.