Saturday, July 21, 2018

Fantastic time in Umbria, Abruzzo & Le Marche - DAY FOUR

Our last day was a Sunday in Conero in Le Marche where we simply relaxed. I would probably have wanted to hit a winery there, but Sunday's a little challenging. So we just made sure to drink some local vino, and of course, take advantage of the location on the seaside to inhale some fresh sea breeze and certainly try the local fish specialities. 
My Slow Food guide let us to Marcello, a fun & energetic restaurant right on the beach. Food was great and the location was stunning overlooking the Adriatic and the cliffs of the Conero.

We then hit Castelli di Jesi region to meet the fabulous producer Riccardo Baldi at La Staffa. If you ever go to this area, do look up this young, dynamic winemaker who's hands-on and trying to rock the Verdicchio wine World! And yes, he's succeeding and we're looking forward to following his brilliant future...

La Staffa is the building on the left bottom

Tasting Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi - a white grape variety typical of the area in full renaissance at the moment...

Riccardo haves us taste all the wines that he makes including a rosato and red made from Montepulciano grapes

Also Riccardo prefers cement vats for his wines. He's recuperated most of them from small neighbouring farms and renovated them to use them for the ageing of his wines

Riccardo is passionate and compassionate, approachable and humble. The region is fortunate to have his young yet quality driven vision of the area and its wines.

 I can't believe it took us so long to get here... it's beautiful and rather untouristy...

 Oh, I miss it already... And here our trip ends. But hopefully, there'll be another one soon!

Friday, July 20, 2018

Fantastic time in Umbria, Abruzzo & Le Marche - DAY THREE

So we spent a whole day (see DAY TWO) not going to a single winery, so of course, we had to turn that dangerous trend around, so we leave lovely Ascoli Piceno on a warm summer morning and head into the hills of Abruzzo, very close by.
So first we went to visit Stefania Pepe ( who we had vivid memories of meeting at the IWINETC wine tourism conference in Sicily in 2017. She runs her own biodynamic winery where she produces natural wines from mainly Trebbiano and Montepulciano grapes.

Look, the sunflowers are greeting us welcome in Abruzzo!

Stefania Pepe's house & winery

Stefania Pepe with her two beautiful daughters

View to the South, the beautiful landscape of olives, sunflower fields & vineyards

We chatted a bit over a Trebbiano and rapidly moved on...I wanted to go to Offida for lunch and pick-up on the best Pecorino & Passerina wines. So half an hour later we find ourselves having lunch in the lovely village of Offida, drinking our first Passerina. I had eyed on Ian D'Agata's Native Grapes of Italy which producer he recommended for the best of those kinds, so we gave them a call and they delivered 6 bottles to us while we were comfortably having lunch. That's service!

Offida - super cute little village

Passerina is a local grape to the region (like Pecorino is)

Appetizers including of course the Olive Ascolane

This Pecorino deserves a post of its own, however, let me just conclude that grilled Pecorino with honey is my favorite!

Long before the World noticed Offida's white natives grapes, it was a town know for lace-making

A handmade pair of earrings like this will set you back 25 euro!

And now comes the part where we go to Emidio Pepe (the winery of Stefania's father - which is somewhat of a cult winery in the Abruzzo region. The family runs a B&B on the farm that we had decided to stay in. And lovely Sofia (another daughter of Emidio's) who's now the winemaker of the estate her father founded gave us an extensive tour of the winery & great tasting. No need to say that we were thrilled and came away with a few bottles...

View from the B&B over the nearby village

Sofia took hours out of her schedule to show us around (see the little dot to the left - that's Emidio tending to this garden)

Grapes are handpicked and pressed by foot before fermentation.

Wines are aged exclusively in cement vats - often 2-3 yrs of ageing until wines are limpid and mature to go into the bottle.

Half of the wines are destined for a long bottle ageing (the other half hits the market after a couple of years).

And after 7-10 yrs, bottles are rebottled with a new bottle & cork (to rid the wines of their sediments).

A further bottle ageing occurs. The oldest vintage for purchase is 1974 (my birth year, if anyone wants to give me a bday present one day?!)

Let's start the tasting. Sofia lets us taste their Pecorino and two vintages of Montepulciano. We're excited to see what this grape can do with time...

 The lineup...

Sofia and her mother

The view from the tasting Patio

Watching the sunset with some good vino in the glass is the life!

Long live the wines & people of the Pepe family!

After the tasting we headed down the hill and into the village, just a few minutes walk away, to what must be the best restaurant in Abruzzo! Ok, I've only tried this one, but seriously this was my favorite meal of the trip and I only hate the fact that I live too far away to go back as often as I like!

Baking some bread in the woodfired oven at Osteria dei Maltagliati

The best bruschetta ever!

Fresh fig and goat cheese

Fried...olive ascolane, zucchini flowers and potato chips

Just a great picture (we actually ate something else but I forgot to take pictures of it)

Next time I'll definitely want the steak!

I assume these two guys are the bosses - certainly passionate about what they do.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Fantastic time in Umbria, Abruzzo & Le Marche - DAY TWO

Waking up to a little cool air and mountain views does miracles to your perception of the Italian summer. After breakfast, we head towards Norcia which is only half an hour away, to be met by devastation after the earthquakes. The radius that was affected heavily takes around one hour to drive through from west to east and is really something else. Buildings (especially historical ones, or cheaper constructions) razed to the ground and rebuilding partly in the process... But you can tell that it's taking time and funds... And perhaps a lot of people are simply avoiding the area in terror of a repetition.

Norcia is well known for its prosciutto here in Italy with IGP status. This means that the ham has to age within this region that is high in altitude (at least 500 meters above sea level) for at least 12 months. The prosciutto very flavorful without being spicy or salty as such.

This is the main square of Norcia. During the earthquakes, people would come out and sleep in the square.

One of the many churches waiting to be rebuilt.

Someone's home - once upon a time...

Prosciutto di Norcia - an IGP well known in Italy

Jonathan owns one of the most popular Salumeria - a pleasure to watch him cut prosciutto by hand

Our trip continues towards Castelluccio where Umbria borders Le Marche, in a very high plain famous for its flowering period that stretches from May until July. The flowers are partly due the cultivation of lentils, but probably also has quite a lot to do with tourism as the area gets visited by a lot of people who are coming to see this paradise on Earth.

Castelluccio itself was also hit by the earthquakes and is momentarily a red zone that cannot be entered. We found a lovely little trattoria on the outskirts of town to have lunch tasting some local lentils, truffles, cheese and wine from Le Marche.

Once was a village

Once was a house

Supporting the local economy the best way we know!

Black truffle pasta (black truffle is native to the Norcia region also)

Lentil soup typical of Castelluccio and from lentils grown in the beautiful valley

This amaro (after-dinner (or lunch!) bitter) was a welcomed digestif!

And here are the flower photos. I think I took around 300 pictures, it's just impossible to stop because everywhere you look is so beautiful and you just feel you need to capture that beauty! Pierre was extremely patient, but in the end, he had to drag me out of there...

At this point, we head over the hills to Le Marche and next stop is Ascoli Piceno, where we will crash for the night and search out the best Olive Ascolani (giant local green olives that are stuffed and fried - yum!).

Not only Siena has Contrade. Many villages have yearly celebrations and competitions for the different neighbourhoods of their village, often accompanied by a good many parades.

More parading in Piazza del Popolo in Ascoli Piceno

While watching the parade, time for a local Aperitivo with the Meletti liquors (1 of the most historical caffe's of Italy)

And now time for some substinance! 

 A bowl of fried delicacies among which the olive ascolane... at Siamo Fritti