Save Lugana (wishing I’d known about this sooner…)

We generally avoid political discussions here, but this is important:  one of the best white wine producing regions in the world, let alone Italy, is in jeopardy because of the intransigence and ineptitude of the Italian political monster.

It’s too late to sign the petition, but it’s not too late to be aware of the issue and, if you value Italy as it is and should be, to stay abreast of current events and upcoming initiatives.

Be sure to like this FB page:  Consorzio Tutela Lugana DOC.  


They can reroute a train a heckuva lot easier than they can relocate a wine region.

Fun With Google Earth And Wine, Badia e Coltibuono Edition

One of the more lovely treats Doug Sassi brought home with him from recent set of tours was a bottle of Badia e Coltibuono’s Chianti Classico.  The 2010 is a perfect expression of the Sangiovese/Canaiolo blend style and the strong nose is instantly transportative, reminding the taster of the sights, smells, and tastes of Italy.  Not content to just imagine?  Let’s dig in via Google Earth:

Badia 1

As you can see they enjoy a woodsy area of Tuscany northeast of Siena and south of Florence–the heart of the Chianti region.  This is the sort of place that has made traveling authors swoon for generations, and end up finding a way to move there.  It’s not an accident.  Scrolling in:

Badia 2
Italy isn’t a huge country (about the size of California), but it still makes more wine than any other country by a long stretch, and it is because they still respect the old ways of doing things while managing to incorporate them and improve upon them with modernity.  Because they live predominantly in well developed and livable urban centers, they can preserve these large swaths of wine producing country nearby the big cities–they have managed to avoid suburban strip mall sprawl in a way that we Americans have not.  Moving in:

Badia 3

To get there from the main road, you have to navigate through that lush Tuscan forest.  Does not sound like a chore to me in the slightest.

Badia 4

Now you’re talking.  I love the pool nestled on the property by the entrance to the woods.  As you can see from the higher up shots, most of the grape growing appears to happen a bit further out.

Badia 5

Well, that’s awful.  Cannot imagine any of our clients will want to go here.  🙂  But just to make sure, we will go inspect the place personally to make sure it is up to snuff and report back shortly.  If we are not heard from in six months, send risotto, porcini mushrooms, prosciutto, and help in the form of wine fund replenishment….as we’re likely to offer to pick grapes and handle the landscaping for free and possibly sell off everything we own in order to get to live here.  Wow.

Badia 6

Imagine touring this place, tasting their wines, and then taking a bottle for a walk in the woods here.  You too will be looking for a black market organ harvesting operation to sell a kidney to in order to expatriate yourself here.  It looks that amazing.

The kicker:  they offer a cooking school and overnight accommodations, and a restaurant that opens March 15th and runs through early November.  Sounds like a place worth investigating.

Fun with Wine and Google Earth, Tuscany Edition

It’s been cold (as in single digit temps, dipping into the subzero range) and snowy here in The Springs, whereas Doug Sassi and his clients have been enjoying balmy mid to upper 50s in Venice this week.  Did we mention we’re jealous?

It was time to feed the kids, and nothing is more likely to please the palate of cranky two and three year olds than daddy’s homemade cherry tomato porcini mushroom garlic laden red wine tomato sauce over some noodles with lots of reggiano cheese.  And for the grownups, a taste of the Italian countryside courtesy of our friends over at Sovereignty.  We went for one of our very cost effective and reliable favorites, the Rosso Toscana IGT from Fattoria il Palagio.  80% Sangiovese rounded out with some Cab, it really sings (and for around $9) with a savory red sauce.  Nothing fancy or complex, just a harmonious red table wine that like most of the wines we favor reminds you of, well…being tableside in Italy.  Time to take a look at where our wine hails from:

Palagio 1

About halfway on the road between Volterra and Siena and south of Firenze, Fattoria il Palagio is smack in the middle of Tuscan wine country, nestled in the triangle formed by Firenze, Siena, and Livorno.  It’s really where you want to be instead of being snowed upon.  Another click inward reveals lots of woods, naturally, and rolling farmland.  Tuscany’s agrarian roots are readily apparent.

Palagio 3

Another click closer shows us the 10,000ft view of a small vineyard near a small town; you can tell already this is a place that has reverence for doing things in a traditional fashion.  There’s nary a WalMart or BestBuy to be seen.  No parking lots, no strip malls, no Starbucks.  Just Tuscany.

Palagio 4

Imagine the patience and love it takes to tend to neat rows of grapes trained so tidily for the seven generations Fattoria il Palagio has been in operation.

Palagio 5

Time for the street view:

Palagio 6

I don’t think it gets any better.  Cypress trees, long gravel driveway, clear blue skies…you can smell and feel the warmth of the place.  Google’s robot-on-the-car unfortunately didn’t make it any further up the road, but a glance at Fattoria il Palagio’s website makes the place look even more inviting.  Huge upside:  they offer locally pressed olive oil as well.  Definitely adding this place to the list of places to send clients who want an authentic Tuscan wine tasting experience.  The view to the right as you head into town from the vineyard is elegant:

Palagio 7

More Tuscan goodness as you make your way into the hamlet of Castel San Gimignano:

Palagio 8

Time to go *here*…pronto.

More Fun With Google Wine Tours…Lazio Edition

Tonight we did some broiled tuna steaks with radicchio and capers in olive oil, and I thought it called for some vino bianco for the sauce.  A quick trip to Sovereignty Wines was required, and I noticed they had a special on Seiano Bianco, a dark straw colored IGT offering from a little town called Teverina in the Viterbo area, just south of Orvieto.  It’s on a ridiculous sale for a price I won’t even mention, but expect to pay $9 or so on average.  11.5% ABV, and very much the right wine for a dish like this.  As you can probably guess, after dinner we were dying to learn more about the village where this came from.

seiano 1

As you can see above, looking up Teverina gets you to the rolling hills east of Lago di Bolsena, a glacial lake carved into the Lazio countryside.  Let’s click onward:

seiano 2
Looks pretty agrarian with a decent sized town at the core.  You’ll notice it’s right on the edge of what’s considered Lazio and what’s Umbria.  Neat.

seiano 3Lovely.  The city center comes into view, as do some rows of local vineyards tucked neatly into the hillsides.  Time for a street view:

seiano 4

As you meander down a few clicks from where the offices for Seiano are reported via Google, you arrive at a little bend in the road where the local vino is sourced.  Check out those well-trained grapes growing on the sun-drenched Lazio slopes with Umbrian hills in the background.  Another town that looks like it’s worth a visit.  Checking out the rest of the town, you can’t help but love the narrow decidedly *not* SUV friendly streets:

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This place looks pretty livable:

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The hills off in the distance from the city center:

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To borrow from Tony Bourdain, this place does not suck.

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A side benefit–if you were to make it here, you’d be a short jaunt from Orvieto (also known for great white wines, which, if you’re reading this, you probably already know), and not too much further south to go explore the Tivoli Gardens.

EDITED TO ADD:  Looks like the wine makers run a small overnight accommodation that looks very, VERY inviting.  If you want to go, Sassi Italy Tours can get you there.  Let us know.

Want To Learn To Draw Like This?

little boy portraitWell….odds are pretty strong that unless your name is Raphaello Sanzio or Michelangelo Buonarroti, you won’t ever be this good, but we can guarantee we’ll be able to show you what it takes to do this sort of thing and be able to appreciate the ridiculous level of talent Raphael Sassi has.  There’s no better way to do so than to stand in front of the works of the masters themselves and have a modern virtuoso painter and drawer like Raphael pointing out the genius and the technique of the Renaissance masters.

Fun With Wine And Google!

While Doug is off in Italy running tours, we’re home working and having a relaxing family night.  While we don’t have the luxury of being in Italy tonight, here’s a fun alternative that just might be the next best thing.

It’s Friday, and thus we are enjoying a late dinner and a bottle of Giribaldi’s Dolcetto d’Alba (Crottino, 2012…an *excellent* buy at $10 at my local fine wine purveyor), which just tastes like…Italy!  Tannic, little of the frivolous fruitiness sometimes ascribed to Dolcetto, and perfect with food.  On the back of the bottle, I note that it is produced and bottled in Rodello, Italy, a sleepy little village in Piemonte.  Using Google, you can actually go see exactly where your grapes are grown.  It is a way fun to brainstorm for places to go exploring in Italy AND feel connected to the artisanal nature of wine making in the foothills of the Alps.  Looking up Azienda Giribaldi, Rodello, Italia, Google takes me here:

Screen shot 1
Green hills, curvy hillside roads, and terra cotta roofs, what’s not to like?  Needless to say we’re intrigued, and it’s time to click the zoom in button:

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Even better.  Rows of grapes and plots of farmland can now be made out from what feels like a 20,000ft view.  I feel the aura of the place already.  Lovely.

Screen shot 3
Another click or two and our virtual tour of Rodello clearly shows the individual houses near the farm plots and rows and rows in the vineyard.  Yes.  Time to click for the street view:

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And there it is–not overly dramatic, just an understated structure but with vaguely Palladian symmetry about it that certainly looks inviting.  That’s where our wine comes from!  A small vintner on a hillside in Piemonte labors to produce something in the crowded marketplace that is our wine, and thanks to the distributor’s efforts and the sharp eye and palate of our friends across the street at Sovereignty Wines here in Colorado Springs, we’re able to enjoy it.  It’s neat when you think about it for even a moment.  Let’s explore further:

Screen shot 5

And we see minimalist sign inviting us into explore Azienda Giribaldi.  Most of the places that are “must see” for first or second Italy visitors are within walking distance of train stations.  I’m sensing that a visit to Piemonte to visit local grape-growers is as good a reason as any to rent a car!  You can see the shadow of Google’s robot-on-the-car in the lower left.  Moving deeper into the vineyard:

Screen shot 6Well…that’s certainly not ugly.  That’s where my Barbaresco, my Dolcetto, my Gavi are coming from?  Yes, let’s go visit, and soon.  (Composes email to the Giribaldi folks about a visit this spring–who’s in?).

Screen shot 7

Spring 2015:  who wants to visit Alba and taste the best wines in the world?  Taking applications to go on an adventure here.


This is so important to understanding Italian culture and culinary acumen.

It’s a hard to explain to folks who haven’t experienced it, but enjoying food in Italy is a process as much as an event–it’s time, place, environment. It’s taking in your surroundings and absorbing the local atmosphere. It’s taking time to reflect while savoring.

It’s not meant to include styrofoam.

It’s everything a meal should be.

I’d be surprised to learn the Italians even have a phrase for slow food–for them the concept is just what they call “eating.”