Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Wine, Sausage and Melanie from Munich

We are sticking close to home today, venturing in to Greve In Chianti (pronounced greh-vey), which is about 3 kilometers from here. There is a large wine shop with varietals from the entire region and a butcher that has been in business since the 1700's. 

Mom's couch adventure will last exactly one night. I'm not sure if that's because it's about two feet too short, or her fear of the long incredibly nasty looking black bugs that crawl under the door from the back yard. I have relocated several wasps that have made their way in to our humble abode through a unique catch and release program. This entails me screaming, scooping them up in a plastic bag while dancing around, tossing said bag out onto the porch and slamming the door. Dont worry, my love... I retrieve the plastic bags later so as not to add insult or injury to the beautiful surroundings.

Speaking of, the yard overlooks an olive grove and is situated atop a hill which provides an amazing view. The sunset last night was awesome, and I hope despite our creepy crawly and beastly winged neighbors to enjoy a meal out there before we leave. I bought gorgonzola pasta for one night and chicken for another. And eggs... picked up right off the shelf, unrefrigerated, with the yolks as dark yellow as I've ever seen them. Yum.

Our first stop -- finding an internet cafe. I send mom into a store to ask and she uses all her Italian words to discover that it is located right next door. Still, job well done. She is much better navigating than she gives herself credit for. Here is a hint I plan to remove from this post later... please send her an email or post on Facebook. I think she's a bit sad she hasn't heard much from folks. I keep reminding her we are in Italy, but I think she would love to get a note. Or several. 

Next up is La Cantine de Greve in Chianti. It is a massive wine store with tasting stations and a plethora of wine from all across Tuscany. We buy a card with 25 euros in credit on it. Tastings range, based on the price of the bottle, from ,60 euros to 12. We exhaust the card in about an hour, which means that by 12:30 PM -- mom and I are a wee bit hammered. Happy, but hammered. I've earmarked a few bottles to pick up before we leave this area on Wednesday. That way I can ship all the bottles home from here and take advantage of the discount you get on bottles when you ship, I think something like 16%. 

We venture out into the main square to pop into the shops that are open -- where I find this killer bracelet -- and then sit down in an open air cafe for lunch. We order pasta with truffle sauce (seriously, I can't get enough of this stuff) and possibly the worst bruschetta in all of Italy. Mom says it's my fault because I made her order it. I'm not saying anything, especially since she treats me to gelato afterward. 

Who can be mad while eating gelato?

Then we head to Antica Macelleria Falaroni, a butcher shop that has been in business since 1729. This place is amazing. I swear, if I could figure out how to smuggle meat back into the United States, I might risk jail for this mouthgasm. Yes -- that good. Sadly, despite my newfound old age, my boobs do not sag enough to hide a salami let alone a slab of proscuitto. Still, the meat hooks and cleavers hanging on every wall and the hind quarters lining the ceiling from Porky The Pig and his fifty cousins are quite entertaining. Mom is a bit grossed out by the bits of hair, but I'm fascinated by the hip bone sticking out the side and am dying to touch one. I don't think I should elaborate on the ecstasy I find myself in upon discovering the cheese cellar... 

I mean, this is a PG-13 blog after all.

We buy a few snacks and head to the car and then for home. Or not quite. Don't tell mom, but I'm driving in the wrong direction specifically so we can hit a few wineries on the way. The first one we stop in, Castello Vicchiomaggio, doesn't have wine I love necessarily, but they are sweet and one of the girls gives us an amazing tour. First we stop in the fields to learn a bit about the vines. They don't start harvesting them until they are five years old. When they are 45, they are destroyed. The older vines produce less grapes with more juice and these are used to make the reserve wine. She describes how you can tell what varietal the vine is from how the leaves look.

Then, it's on to the distillery, where she talks about the giant oak barrels, and how every few years, they have to pay someone to come in, crawl INSIDE these monstrous casks through a tiny hole, and scrape the insides to remove sediment. She has never been in one. Of course I asked. The smaller French Oak casks can only be used for a few years and cost 800 euros a piece. They can be used about twice. The trees used have to be a hundred years old and only the heart is used. I wish I could remember everything she was telling me, but sadly, we did the tour AFTER the tasting.

Next, we stopped at another winery -- Castello di Verrazzano. The woman behind the counter had the most unbelievably sour disposition. I am sure the people coming in and out of these places all day aren't fun, but lady... you sell wine for a living. Being more of a people person might increase profits. This theory is proven ten fold by the next place we stop, where Melanie from Munich is an absolute doll. She came to Italy to paint, but has made a little segeway, selling wine at Fattoria Di Calcinaia. The white is delicious, and we even manage to swallow the grappa without too much trouble (I am not convinced this stuff isn't actually made of turpentine), but it's her personality that is delicious... and we are drinking. There are some lovely folks from Tennessee in the shop when we arrive who have also had the same experience with the surly seƱora down the road, and we all have a really nice conversation about the importance of costumer service and smiling. Melanie has plenty of the later and is thus nominated as the patron saint of today. 

So here's the score... 

Castello di Verrazzano -- 0 bottles purchased
Fattoria Di Calcinaia -- 5 bottles purchased

Melanie wins, and I think we've had enough fun for today. Tomorrow, the market in Siena and San Gimignano.

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