Do It For The Vine

Class the Monday after our Pisa and Florence trip was relatively uneventful, but we got our tests back and I got a 99, so I’m clearly well on my way to wine connoisseur status. We tasted white wines of Southern Italy in our lab, went to dinner at a local restaurant, then decided to venture to The Lion’s Well for Monday Funday. Monday Funday turned into a successful night as we finally made friends with some Italians and hitched a ride up the hill at the end of the night. Tuesday’s class and lab went about the same, but we tasted red wines of Northern Italy.

We had our second field trip on that Wednesday (the 21st) to Chianti, Arezzo, and the Il Falconiere Estate down the hill from Cortona, which was a blast! We visited the Brolio Estate in Chianti where we got to see the vineyards and learn a bit more about the terroir in their region.

Vineyard in Chianti

Vineyard in Chianti 

We had a quick lunch stop in Arezzo where I had had a slice of pizza with hot dog and French fries as toppings, and it was actually divine. Gelato was a must, and was also one of the best cups I have had while I’ve been here. Our final stop of the day was to Il Falconiere Estate and Baracchi Winery, which was unreal. We all thought it was hilarious that the owner was wearing white Prada pants, but I guess when you own a vineyard and winery in Italy you can wear whatever you want and rock it. We visited the vineyard, the fermentation and aging rooms, and had a wine tasting.

Oak barrels from Baracchi Winery

Oak barrels from Baracchi Winery

The vineyard was beautiful, with pink and red roses at the head of each row of vines and looking out over Tuscany. While the roses are beautiful, they do serve a purpose; vineyard owners plant roses at the beginning of rows to be able to determine when phylloxera (a deadly bug to grape vines) is present. If the roses start dying, they know that the bug is present and will need to take alternate measures to protect the vines.

Roses are red, grape vines are green...

Roses are red, grape vines are green…

At the wine tasting, we had five of the best wines I have ever had. The first we had was a sparkling Sangiovese wine, and Riccardo Baracchi was apparently the first enologist to create it. This was followed by O’Lillo!, which was a crowd favorite…and only 10 euro! I rated every one of these wines as a 5 out of 5 in my wine journal, and ended up ordering a bottle of O’Lillo to send home.

Some of us with Riccardo Baracchi

Some of us with Riccardo Baracchi

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Pisa and Florence

I apologize for the complete lack of updating! I’m going to play catch up now that I’m DONE! So I’ll start where I left off. We had our first test the Saturday morning after our first full week here, then had the rest of the weekend to ourselves. We decided to take a trip to Pisa and Florence, and it was a blast. We left Cortona around 12 after our test, and took the train to Pisa for the rest of the afternoon and evening. This was my first time on a train and it turned out to be a fun adventure…I ended up sitting by a man who was watching The Lucky One on DVD so I caught the tail end of that, and after the movie was over he actually chatted with us a little which was a fun way to pass the time. His name was Flavio and he was on a trip to see his family for the week. He was definitely what you’d call a silver fox. Anyway, after arriving in Pisa we checked in to our hostel before making the trek to the Leaning Tower! I’m not going to lie, it was pretty awesome to see in person. We probably stood around on the lawn for 30 minutes taking different pictures before finding a restaurant for dinner. We ended up finding a cute bar/cafe with outside seating for all nine of us where the waiters loved us. I had gnocchi with tomato and mozzarella for dinner, and split a bottle of Chianti DOC with a friend. I think my mom is rubbing off on me, because Chianti has been one of my favorite wines since being here. (Fun fact, it is called Chianti because of the region where the grapes are grown. The grapes themselves are not the “Chianti” grape). After our waiter brought us all a free shot of limoncello, we headed back to see the Leaning Tower one last time at dusk, then walked back to our hostel to what turned out to be an interesting night. Our hostel was super nice (shoutout to Hostel Pisa!) and had an awesome lobby that had food and drinks, so we ended up staying up until around 1:30 in the morning hanging out with a lot of the other people that were staying there. We made friends with some Italian military guys (the red headed Italian I’m sure you saw on my facebook…he insisted I upload it on the spot), drank some more wine, played pool, and sat outside on their patio.

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Our train to Florence was set to leave at 7:39 the next morning, so that was fun to wake up for, but we made it! We got to Florence around 9 am and stopped for breakfast where I got the best ham and cheese omelet I have ever had. We were in Florence for a total of around 12 hours…we saw the David, ventured through the leather market, ventured to the Ponte Vecchio bridge, and pretty much walked from one end of the city to the other. After a night of minimal sleep, we were all completely dead by 5 p.m., but it was still a great time. We tried to go to dinner at a place called Acque al Due (thanks for the recommendation Holley!), but they were completely slammed with reservations until 9.30 that evening so we ended up going to a random place on our walk back to the train where I got a greek salad.

I enjoyed Florence, but it was a little too large for my liking…but that could also be because I was a walking zombie and my feet were killing me. Guess I’ll have to go back sometime to give it a second chance. We ended up getting back to Cortona around 11:30 that night and took a cab from the train station to our dorm, in which I’m pretty sure our cab driver scraped the side of his car on a building on the way up.

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I Love Cab Sav

Okay so I lied. Yesterday was actually the best day ever. I woke up excited for the day ahead, as we had our second sensory lab wine tasting, a free wine tasting in the piazza, and a special wine dinner open to anyone that was offered at a restaurant in town. Thursday’s sensory lab focused on four international red wines: a Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and a Syrah (or Shiraz, they are the same!). I absolutely died after having the Cabernet—it was hands down my favorite. It was a 2009 vintage with a pretty medium-full body that went down so smoothly. It was also the most expensive. I think I’m starting to get a little better at picking out different aromas and tastes as the course goes on, but I still need more practice. Following our sensory lab, we ran up to the dorms to change before heading down The Hill to the main piazza for a free wine tasting that highlighted the five wines that were to be served at our dinner later in the evening. Out of these, my two favorites were the Chianti Classico and the Cabernet Sauvignon. We had some time to kill after the tasting, so we stopped by the pub for some free wifi before heading to dinner.
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[The Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah]
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[Wine tasting on the Piazza]
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Dinner was to die for. I used to think Last Resort was my favorite restaurant until last night. The five course dinner was held at ­­­­­­­Osteria del Teatro, and had each course paired with a specific wine. Pictured below are my favorite dishes; one was a very rare, thinly sliced steak with a type of mushroom-potato cake, and the other was bowtie pasta with some type of ground meat. I didn’t get a picture of my third favorite (probably because I was too busy drooling), but it was the most tender and moist piece of lamb on a bruchetta, with the best Cabernet Sauvignon. I wasn’t a huge fan of the dessert, but the Moscato they paired with it was phenomenal. We sat at dinner for probably a little over three hours just laughing, drooling over the food and wine, taking silly pictures, and making friends with Marco, the local wineship owner. That dinner was probably the best 45 euros I will spend on this whole trip.Image

[Steak & mushroom-potato cake course]

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[Bowtie pasta + ground meat…don’t know what exactly, woops]

The general trend after dinner seemed to be to head back to the pub for a little social hour, so that’s what we did. Marco showed up not too long after, and we sat at talked with him for probably 30 minutes. He actually went to UGA, so it was fun to compare stories between the years. Amidst all of this I think I found the Italian of my dreams…we even made eye contact a couple of times. I’ll keep you updated. Having class at 8:30 a.m. was looming in the back of our mind, so we headed up for bed around 12:45.
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[Becoming BFFs with the local wineshop owner & UGA grad, Marco]

We have our first test tomorrow morning (on a Saturday!), then we are heading off for a weekend in Pisa and Florence!

Ciao!

 

 

Playing Catch Up

Ciao! Sorry it’s been a while, wifi is horrible and we’ve been pretty busy. Monday was our first introduction to sensory evaluation of wine! We had our usual lectures in the morning followed by a lunch break, then came back in the afternoon to learn about the multitude of aromas that can be experienced through wine tasting and smelling. Despite the 100,000s of different aromas and compounds that exist, it’s not likely that someone can pick out more than two or three at one time when smelling a wine. We had the opportunity to participate in an activity where 28 different aromas (such as mushroom, citrus fruit, green bell pepper, grass, white pepper, peach, vanilla, clove) were placed in a glass of red or white wine. We had to sniff it, determine what we thought the aroma reminded us of, and decide if we enjoyed how it smelled. It was supposed to start guiding us to the types of wines that we would most likely enjoy; I racked up on Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Grigio, and a few other mature red wines. After our sensory evaluation lab, we had a little free time before dinner. We had to be ready for a field trip at 8 am on Tuesday morning, so most of us came back relatively early.

Tuesday we were up and on our way to Torgiano and Assisi by 8:30. We stopped by the Museo Del Vino (Wine Museum) in Torgiano first. The museum was once used as a wine cellar but has since been made into a wine museum to honor the past owners and their business. Torgiano was a quite town, but the walkways smelled like fresh flowers and I saw some amazing doorways (guilty pleasure).
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[Painted pots that held medications and other medical needs]

 

After leaving Torgiano, we were Assisi bound just in time for lunch. Assisi reminded me a lot of Duloc in Shrek: castle-like buildings, large archways, and flags hanging from the buildings. Just like Cortona, Assisi is placed on a hill overlooking the valley. We stopped in a little café for lunch and gelato before exploring the winding streets a bit. Assisi was the birthplace of Saint Francis. While he was never ordained to priesthood, he was still highly followedand looked up to by others for his outlook on life, as he chose to live in poverty and took part in restoring rundown chapels upon having a vision from God. So for the last few hours of our trip to Assisi, we toured the Basilica di San Francesco which housed his tomb. The basilica was absolutely beautiful; I am always blown away by how intricate church buildings are in Italy. We left Assisi in the rain and got back to Cortona a litte before dinner, so we stopped by the little pub for a drink (and wifi). The weather was cold and rainy and pretty miserable, so we decided to come in for the night after dinner.
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[Main Piazza in Assisi]

Wednesday was probably one of my most favorite days thus far. It started off as usual with our lectures and lunch in the piazza, then I went on a short run around the outside of the city walls before our first wine tasting lab! We tasted four international white wines this afternoon: a sauvignon blanc, a Riesling, and two chardonnays (one oak aged and one not). My favorite was the sauvignon blanc. For each tasting, we were told the producer, region, grape variety, vintage, and alcohol content, then we were to determine on our own the aroma, color, clarity, taste, body, and any other distinguishing characteristics. At the end of each testing we rated each wine based on how we liked it overall. I had such an enjoyable time that the two hours flew by. We were assigned tables based on our preference to bitterness (we had done a bitter taste test the previous day) so that we could converse with others that had a similar taste palette to us. We got out of lab around 5:45, so a few of us went up to the dorms to change before heading down for a happy hour at the pub before dinner.
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[Wine aroma wheel, Tasting exam, & Wine Journal for sensory lab]

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[Sauvignon Blanc (YUM), Riesling, Chardonnay (no oak), & Chardonnay (oak)]