175 Euros For A Fish

We had class and lab tasting for oak aged wines on Thursday the 22nd, which was one of my favorite days. We tasted 2 Chianti Classico wines, a Rosso di Montalcino, and a Brunello di Montalcino, which was one of my top 5 favorites for the whole month. Marco had a free wine tasting at the piazza, so naturally we went to that before dinner at Tonino’s. It turned out to be Marco’s birthday at midnight, so despite having a test the next afternoon, we ended up going out to The Lion’s Well to celebrate. In the end it was definitely worth it, because I ended up making a 100 on my test 🙂

Do you think I enjoyed the Brunello?

Do you think I enjoyed the Brunello?

Wine tasting on the piazza

Wine tasting on the piazza

After our test on Friday afternoon we were free for the weekend. The town had some sort of wax ceremony on Friday night in the main piazza that involved a play of some sorts, dancing, and a marching band. That went on for about an hour and a half, then we headed to The Lion’s Well to ring in Margaret’s 21st birthday at midnight!

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We woke up bright and early Saturday morning to leave for another weekend trip, this time to Cinque Terre!! Three train rides later, we got in around lunchtime to Riomaggiore, where our hostel was. I was itching to hike one of the trails that ended with a beautiful view of the neighboring town, and thankfully a few others wanted to do the same! Macey, Hoopie, Caroline, and I set out to hike to Manarola from Riomaggiore, which wasn’t too horrible. The hike ended up taking us about an hour and a half or so, water breaks and picture-taking stops included. The weather was great, perfectly sunny and not too miserably hot, which made for a more enjoyable hike as well. Reaching the peak of the small mountain was one of the coolest views I have seen in my 22 years of living. After trampling down the other side of the mountain into Manarola, we then took the ferry to Monterossa where the rest of our group had found a nice beach to lay out on. Talk about a nice reward after a long hike, I have never been so content with life. We headed back to Riomaggiore by train around 5 to get ready for a birthday dinner for Margaret back in Manarola. The five towns of Cinque Terre are all about a 2-5 minute train ride from each other, so travel is relatively quick when you time the train rides correctly. We got showered and ready in record time (I think it took me all of 12 minutes), before hopping back on the train to Manarola where we had a dinner reservation at Trattoria del Billy. The beginning of dinner was interesting, as the owner essentially came to our table and told us what to order with almost no option…we were all a little taken aback, but it turned out to be one of the best meals I had in Italy. Five or six antipasti plates, zucchini pasta, lobster pasta, roasted potatoes, and the biggest cooked fish I have ever seen. Seriously, the fish was at least 2 and a half feet long…and also 175 euro. Since it was Margaret’s birthday, the waiters felt it was necessary to bring out not only limoncello, but strawberry grappa and some type of licorice drink that tasted like tar. It turned out to be a great night, and we had an amazing view of the sunset from our private room to top it all off.

The next day we were able to sleep in until 9 am! We grabbed breakfast before heading off for the day’s adventures. We took the train to Vernazza, where I opted to take another hike up a mountain in hopes to finally see the view that I have seen from so many of my friends’s instagram pictures. Margaret, Hoopie and I trekked up the hill, then paid the 7.50 euro price to trek the rest of the way up the mountain to get the best view. It was worth every sweat drop and every euro spent, as the view was spectacular. Actually, spectacular doesn’t even cover it. Despite being flooded with other tourists and backpackers, the hike was an enjoyable time, and actually very relaxing. After snapping about 80 pictures at the top, we headed back down to Vernazza to meet up with everyone else for some shopping, beach time, and food before we headed back to Cortona around 4.

This was probably my favorite weekend. Yes I have wanted to visit Cinque Terre for myself for over a year, and yes, it lived up to what I thought it would be, but it was just awesome because it was literally a group of about 16 of us from the Viticulture group that decided to still spend the whole weekend traveling together. Our group throughout the whole month was so awesome, so it was great that we all wanted to travel on weekends together as well. Okay, picture time:

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Fishes fresh and ready to eat off the boat

Fishes fresh and ready to eat off the boat

Day 1 hiking crew

Day 1 hiking crew

View of Manarola after hiking from Riomaggiore

View of Manarola after hiking from Riomaggiore

Zucchini & shrimp pasta. Unreal.

Zucchini & shrimp pasta. Unreal.

Me and the birthday girl!

Me and the birthday girl!

We made it to the top!

We made it to the top!

Pinch me. Vernazza in all its glory

Pinch me. Vernazza in all its glory

Vernazza

Vernazza

 

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!