Michael Gschleier, An Altoatesino Who Grows Organic Apples In Montepulciano

Apples at Fontefontecornino

Apples at Fontefontecornino

This time Roberto Giuliani takes the stand:

“Excelent apple juice! It’s been a long time since I encountered any this good.” It all began a couple of months ago, when I bought a bottle of apple juice at the Montecampana Farm, an organic farm located a few km from Nazzano Romano, where I regularly purchase organic foods from the farms in northen Lazio. One day my eye fell on a bottle whose label said, “Podere Fontecornino – Biologico in Toscana dal 1992”.

Fontefontecornino's Orchards

Fontefontecornino’s Orchards

Nothing strange, until I discovered that the farm belongs to Martin e Michael Gschleier, father and son from the Alto Adige. My brain, which isn’t as sharp as it once was, manages to activate some of the few remaining neurons I have, and Bingo! I remember Chiara Barioffi, the first-rate winemaker of Le Casalte at Montepulciano. Why? Simple: because it was she who showed me orchards under her property, and told me about a guy from the Alto Adige who had moved to Montepulciano more than 20 years ago to grow organic apples. Couldn’t be a coincidence; how many apple growers from the Alto Adige can there be in Montepulciano? One.

Good; since the apple juice literally bewitched me, I couldn’t resist and yesterday I visited the Podere Fontecornino, arriving at 9 AM as we agreed upon – I like to make good impressions – and was greeted by Michael, who was welcoming and also curious about why I was visiting. He told me of his father, Martin, who already grew apples and other crops in the Alto Adige, and in 1992 “descended” to Tuscany, where he found an area he held perfect for organic fruit farming. It takes a lot of work, however, beginning with the land; the conventional farm he bought stressed him, as it was invaded by weeds, compressed by tractors, and lacking the minerals and microelements necessary to feed fruit trees.

Fontecornino's Michael Gschleier

Fontecornino’s Michael Gschleier

He began the conversion; 11 hectares (about 26 acres) to be tilled and planted with alfalfa and clover, organic fertilizers, two-year old plants furnished by proven nurseries. In 1995 Michael arrived and work proceeded apace; they initially produced a variety of fruit: apples, kiwis, cherries (Chiara tells me they were wonderful) and then for organizational reasons decided to concentrate on apples, which they had been working with since the 70s. A dozen varieties: Gala, Gold Rush, Braeburn, Jonagold, Topaz, Stayman, Delorina, Fuji, Pilot, Pinova, Granny Smith and Summerred. The apples are sold fresh, or dried, and as juice. Some are used to make sparkling cider and vinegar, which are made by a concern in the Alto Adige.

When Martin decided to buy the land, he knew that it hosts a number of crystalline springs, which he has recently redirected to a reservoir next to the orchards, and excellent source of water for times of need. In addition, a photovoltaic plant supplies the farm with almost all of its energy. In 2004 he added the equipment necessary for selecting the apples and transforming them into juice and vinegar.

Selecting the Apples at Fontecornino

Selecting the Apples at Fontecornino

The goal for apple production is about 35 tons per hectare, which will be reached when all the trees are mature. Michael says that at first they were unable to sell their apples in the Alto Adige, because nobody believed it was possible to grow apples of sufficient quality in Tuscany. Now much of their crop instead goes to the Alto Adige, and this says a great deal about the quality levels they have reached.

Apple juice is one of my earliest and happiest memories, and in the Alto Adige I have often gorged upon it, given that it is a classic product – many small producers around Bolzano make it – but this is my favorite. Michael showed me the equipment and the process of selection and pressing; the juice from the apples (a liter of jiuce requires about 1.6 kilos of apples) is unfiltered, but rather worked with machines that reduce the diameter of the particles in suspension; in this manner the cider maintains its flavors and a good degree of transparency.

The Apple Harvest at Fontecornino

The Apple Harvest at Fontecornino

The formation of a thin layer of sediment on the bottom of the bottle is normal, and I suggest you shake the bottle to resuspend it, as it contributes to the cider’s complexity and flavor.

This juice’s strong point is the extraordinary balance between sweetness and acidity that comes thanks to the mixture of apples employed, which yields a nutricious 100% organic juice. Persistent, thirst quenching, fresh, and must be tried!

Podere Fontecornino
Via Fontecornino 2 – S. Albino – 53045 Montepulciano (SI)
Tel./Fax +39 0578 798279
Web Site: http://www.fontecornino.it

Published Simultaneously by IGP, I Giovani Promettenti.

Garantito IGP. We Are:
Garantito IGP

We Are:

Carlo Macchi
Kyle Phillips
Luciano Pignataro
Roberto Giuliani
Stefano Tesi
Lorenzo Colombo

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Garantito IGP: Lavaux, Vineyards On the Lake

Lavaux's Terraces

Lavaux’s Terraces

This time Lorenzo Colombo takes the stand.

Lavaux, a winemaking region between Montreux and Lausanne, is located in the Vaud, which is, of Switzerland’s six winemaking areas, the second largest after Valais (more than 3,800 hectares, and a production of about 285,000 hectoliters in 2012).

The Terraces of Lavaux

The Terraces of Lavaux

Let’s backtrack slightly to take a quick look at Swiss viticulture, which is little known outside Switzerland because the country doesn’t produce enough wine to satisfy internal demand and consequently doesn’t export much wine. According to the figures released for 2012 Switzerland’s vineyards extend over about 14,915 hectares, which, by comparison with Italy, is about the same area covered by the Oltrepò Pavese Appellation, while total production is slightly less than a million hectoliters, about the same volume produced in the Regione Marche Most of the vineyards – and production – are to be found in Romandy, the French speaking area, which accounts for about 75% of vineyard area and 81% of production, followed by the German speaking part of the country, with about 17% of the vineyard area and 13% of production, and finally the Italian speaking cantons, with about 7% of the vineyard area and slightly more than 5% of production.

The Vineyards and Towns of Lavaux

The Vineyards and Towns of Lavaux

The Vaud’s vineyards begin in Bex – midway between Martigny and Montreux –  and extend along the northern shore of Lake Geneva as far as Lake Neuchâtel, which hosts the winemaking areas of Bonvillars and Côtes de l’Orbe.

In mid August, when we were in Sierre for the Mondial des Pinots, we took the opportunity to view the vineyards of Lavaux from a superb vantage, the lake: The directors of the meeting organized an excursion by boat from Château de Chillon to Lausanne, a 30-km journey paralleling the terraced vineyards that make up the six “lieux” and two “Crus” of Lavaux.

A spectacle of rare beauty; beginning in the XI Century the farmers built more than 400 km of dry wall masonry at 40 different levels, which support about 10,000 terraces that extend from the shores of the lake to an elevation of 600 meters, where the forests begin: these are

The Terraces of Lavaux

The Terraces of Lavaux

the 820 hectares of the Appellation Lavaux, which were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007 with the following justification: “…An outstanding example of a centuries-long interaction between people and their environment, developed to optimize local resources so as to produce a highly valued wine that has always been important to the economy.”

Viticulture in Lavaux – as in many other parts of Europe – owes its origins to the monks of the many abbeys who modeled the landscape and built the roads that made possible the exchange and sale of foods; there are documents dating to the early 1300s that discuss the techniques for building the terraces and walls that made the cultivation of steep slopes possible.

The Dezaley Zone

The Dezaley Zone

Other documents from the second half of the 1300s establish rules for preserving the quality of the crops grown and encouraging the consumption locally produced rather than imported wines. The construction of modern roads and railways in the 19th century made the area much more accessible, while regulations drawn up in the second half of the 20th century better defined winemaking techniques.

Lavaux is essentially synonymous with Chasselas – Switzerland’s most important white wine grape – which in this Appellation accounts for more than 75% of the vineyard area; the grapes profit from the “three suns,” in other words direct sunlight, light reflected by the lake, and light reflected by the white stones that make up the walls. The other grapes grown are Gamay and Pinot Noir.

Chateau Chillon

Chateau Chillon

The soils formed by the withdrawal of the Rhone glacier are light morenic soils with varying percentages of clay, carbonates, and various minerals; they change with changing altitude, and as a result the characteristics of the wines also change.

The first “lieux” one encounters upon leaving Chillon is Vevey-Montreux, 100 hectares of vineyards between Chillon and Vevey; the town of Montreux is famed worldwide for its Jazz Festival, held annually in July since 1967.

There are then the 122 uninterrupted hectares of Chardonne and the 128 hectares of St. Saphorin; the wines of the latter area are among the most highly regarded in Switzerland.

One next comes to the Grand Cru Dézaley, perhaps Switzerland’s best known wine area: 54 hectares, with slopes of up to 100% and terraces so tightly spaced that in some areas they can only host one row. The wines show best after at least a couple of years of aging.

The other Grand Cru, Calamin, is next – the smallest of the Lavaux Denomination, 15 hectares between the Lieux Epessis – 133 hectares –  and the lake; it is followed by Villette, with 176 hectares, and Lutry, with 95 hectares that extend almost all the way to Lausanne.

The Steamer

The Steamer

As I said, we saw the vineyards from a boat, the “La Suisse,” the flagship of the steamer fleet that plies Lake Geneva. The fleet consists of steamers (see here) built during the first two decades of the XX Century, which have been completely restored in recent years, with the furnishings of the halls returned to their original splendor.

One can anjoy a closer view of the terraces, by taking the “Lavaux Express,” a special train with rubber tyers that follows a route through the vineyards from April to October.

Finally, if you visit Lavaux you won’t want to miss Rivaz, home to “Vinorama,” a museum dedicated to the viticulture of the region where you can of course also taste the wines.

Published Simultaneously by IGP, I Giovani Promettenti.

Garantito IGP. We Are:
Garantito IGP

We Are:

Carlo Macchi
Kyle Phillips
Luciano Pignataro
Roberto Giuliani
Stefano Tesi
Lorenzo Colombo

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Garantito IGP: Churches, Abbeys and Secrets On The Hills of Siena

A Tabernacle

A Tabernacle

This time I take the stand.

As you may know, my father was an archaeologist, and I grew up spending summers in the Tuscan countryside south of Siena, where he directed the excavation of Poggio Civitate, one of the most important Etruscan sites to be discovered in the past 50 years. While many modern Italian archaeologists have identified the complex he discovered as an Etruscan patrician villa (similar to the villas of Roman or Renaissance landed gentry), Dad was less certain, and hypothesized for a number of reasons that it might have been the seat of a political league of some sort.

Candles in the Pieve of Pievescola

Candles in the Pieve of Pievescola

What we can be sure of is that it was not a town – there are none of the streets, houses and other buildings one would expect to find in a hamlet. So where did the people who presumably farmed the area live? Probably where there are towns today, towns that we might call medieval, but that were one to dig under the foundations, would reveal traces of a far more distant past. Traces we alas can no longer see, but we can see the changes made by the medieval inhabitants, /and in particular the Pievi, or parish churches at the hearts of many of the towns, and and this brings up Annalisa Coppolaro and Göran Söderberg’s Chiese, Pievi e Segreti Sulle Colline Di Siena (Churches, Abbeys and Secrets On The Hills of Siena).

Monte Amiata From Lucignano

Monte Amiata From Lucignano

It’s a fascinating book that – as one might guess from the title – looks at much more than just Parish Churches; Southern Tuscany boasts a great many chapels and shrines, some in the towns and others in people’s fields, and is also host to many abbeys, some in isolated spots monks chose to withdraw to, and others along the roads, which either provided shelter to travelers, or care to the sick.

Discussing every church and every chapel would have made for an unmanageably long book, and therefore Annalisa and Göran, selected, by Comune, with her providing the texts and he providing the photographs; what emerges is the sort of book you will want to keep in your care if you frequent Murlo and the area around it, checking the table of contents to see what discoveries a detour might lead you to before you set out.

Villa Cetinale's Romitorio

Villa Cetinale’s Romitorio

At least that’s what I did; and before I go further I should say you will also want a satellite navigator; some of the places are on nameless roads and to help people reach them Annalisa and Göran give their  GPS coordinates. Since I was driving south from Florence my first stop was in Sovicille, to see the Pieve di San Giovanni Battista a Pernine, which turns out to be a long ways down a narrow rocky dirt road; as you begin the dirt road you will see a rather large building with a cross set into its façade most of the way up the hillside before you: the Romitorio a Villa Cetinale, another of the abbeys Annalisa and Göran selected – it was built in the early 1700s by a group of hermits who withdrew to an isolated hillside where there was a 500-step holy staircase carved into the stone that the faithful would do on their knees for penance. In addition to praying, they were required to say Mass at the villa where the owners of the land lived, perform charitable acts, and care for the sick; though the Romitorio is no longer accessible it is impressive to look at.

The Pieve di San Giovanni Battista, at Perninaesterno

The Pieve di San Giovanni Battista, at Perninaesterno

You’ll reach the Pieve after passing a small roadside tabernacle. Matilde di Canossa listed the Pieve among the possessions of the Bishop of Volterra in 1078, and in the 1500s it was home to two lay brotherhoods that enjoyed wide followings among the faithful. It was renovated in the 1700s, but a careful restoration carried out in the 50s returned it to its Romanesque lines, which display a cleanliness one rarely sees, as does the imposing bell tower. Wonderfully peaceful interior too, and the view towards Monte Amiata is spectacular.

The Pieve di San Giovanni Battista at Lucignano

The Pieve di San Giovanni Battista at Lucignano

From here I decided to visit another Pieve dedicated to John the Baptist, in Lucignano, a walled town just off the Cassia that I have driven past hundreds of times but never had occasion to drive up to. The Pieve, which dates to the X century, and boasts one of Simone Martini’s first paintings, was closed by the time I got there, but the façade is beautiful, with a pretty black and white arch over the door and a rather quirky bell tower, while the view of Monte Amiata through the gate that faces that way (look to the right while facing the church) is again spectacular.

Heading back down to the Cassia you will find yourself at the intersection for Murlo, and if you look up the hill you will see, on the skyline, an octagonal chapel rising up in the field: The Cappella Pieri Nerli, a funerary chapel whose construction was begun in the 1850s by Giulio Rossi, and which was completed in 1861 by his disciple, Giovanni Parrtini, who went on to become Siena’s leading architect. Partini also did the drawings for the tomb the building was built to house, and many other

The Cappella Pieri Nerli

The Cappella Pieri Nerli

Sienese artists and sculptors contributed to the decorations, leading “La Provincia di Siena” to say, in 1863, “This gentleman (Count Neri, who owned the estate) has in that chapel erected a monument to the Sienese art of our times, because he has asked all of our artists for their works”

Alas, in the century and a half that has passed since then the artworks have almost all disappeared, while the chapel itself has been deconsecrated and is now closed to the public. But it is still beautiful.

Following the road past the Cappella, you will come first to Vescovado, and then to Murlo,

The Sienese Countryside

The Sienese Countryside

whose museum I highly recommend. And if you continue past Murlo, you will eventually come to the intersection with the road to La Befa, a tiny hamlet that was gradually being abandoned when I was a child –  one of the workmen at Dad’s excavation who lived often invited us to Sunday lunch, and I remember there being more shuttered houses every year – but that is now enjoying a renaissance.

The Cappella Santa Maria Assunta

The Cappella Santa Maria Assunta

And what was I going to see? The Cappella di Santa Maria Assunta, a tiny 15th century chapel at the far end of town, which hosted a lay brotherhood called the Celesti, who were primarily artisans, and who organized a major country fair and procession to celebrate the Pentecost until about 1800, when the chapel’s importance seems to have declined; it was left to its own devices until this century, when the town of Murlo purchased it and transformed it into a museum, which is now closed. But they are maintaining the building, and it is a refreshing sight of the sort one really doesn’t expect to find in a tiny farming village.

The Pieve of Pievescola

The Pieve of Pievescola

It was by now late afternoon and time to head home, but as I flipped through the book my eyes came to rest on a nice photo of yet another beautiful Pieve that required just a slight detour on my part to reach: The Pieve of Pievescola, which is said to have been built by Countess Ava Zenovi in about 1030; the Countess, who was the Lady of Staggia and had a major influence over a large swath of the Sienese countryside, is said to have wandered the land, solving the problems of those she met with a simple glance, and is also associated with a number of other churches and monasteries built at the time, including the Benedictine monastery of Abbadia a Isola.

To reach Pievescola from La Befa you return to Murlo and bear right, towards Crevole (where you will find

The Towers of Crevole

The Towers of Crevole

both a Pieve and the ruins of a tower in the woods, both of which Annalisa and Göran discuss), then descend into the Merse Valley, head towards Siena, turn left towards Casole D’Elsa, and then right for Pievescola. The church was open, so after admiring the façade, which has a beautiful trifora over the door, I entered and simply enjoyed the calm and quiet of the knave.

Inside the Pieve of Pievescola

Inside the Pieve of Pievescola

Is this all? Certainly not; as you flip through the pages you’ll read about the child bride who fled her wedding, a haunted villa, the ghost of a warrior bishop, a mysterious nun, and much more. As I said, it’s a book to keep in the car and consult as you drive.

Annalisa and  Göran cheerfully admit that they have just scratched the surface of what Southern Tuscany has to offer, and I eagerly await their next installments.

More about Annalisa Coppolaro
More about  Göran  Söderberg, (his professional site, in Swedish)
More information on their book, whose text is in both English and Italian

Published Simultaneously by IGP, I Giovani Promettenti.

Garantito IGP. We Are:
Garantito IGP

We Are:

Carlo Macchi
Kyle Phillips
Luciano Pignataro
Roberto Giuliani
Stefano Tesi
Lorenzo Colombo

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Garantito IGP: The Maremma of the 70s, and Tortelli worth a Journey

Casa Migliorini

Casa Migliorini

This time Stefano Tesi takes the stand.

There are many good reasons for writing this article.

First, this is the week of the Controesodo, or journey home from vacation spots, with backed up traffic on roads and highways, forced stops and changes in itinerary, and this spot is perfect should either happen.

Second, this was one of my grandmother’s favorite places, and despite all appearances I am sentimental.

Third, my experiences with socio-architectural modernity (i.e., places that have maintained the ambiances, atmosphere and ways of doing of 40 years ago) are invariably pleasant.

Campagnatico, Town and Countryside

Campagnatico, Town and Countryside

Fourth, that any restaurant but this would have been swept away when  the old state road upon which it based its fortunes was replaced by a 4-lane highway with a snarl of exits and unhelpful signs.

The fifth, and most important reason, one that justifies all the others, is that this place makes the best tortelli alla maremmana in a radius of at least 30 km. And have always made them, as I used to enjoy them when as a child we’d stop on the way to the beach.

I’m having a hard time getting to the quick of things, because I’ve said restaurant when we’re actually dealing with a trattoria, or to be more exact a trattoria-bar-tobacconist. The classic sort with a display case full of cheeses and cold cuts, a metal bar, liquor bottles on the shelves, and an unmistakeable 70s feel. Where the locals go for a coffee and to read the paper on formica tables; some come in four-wheel-drive vehicles (not  SUVs!), or even on tractors. A slightly old style cement structure, a packed earth lot for parking, and one really feels one is in the countryside. Behind it, scrub forests climb towards Campagnatico, a town of farmers and hunters, and this means a lot.

Casa Migliorini Cold Cuts

Casa Migliorini Cold Cuts

We are, you may have realized, on SS 223 Due Mari, the road from Siena to Grosseto, just past Paganico. And you may be wondering what the place is called. Answer: Who knows!

I have always called it Case Migliorini, but others call it Casa Migliorini, in the Singular, and the bill, which has printed upon it “Ristorante Bar F.lli Serafini snc, loc. Migliorini”, doesn’t help. In any case, to get there you have to exit the highway at Montorsaio (the exit after Campagnatico, if you’re coming from Siena), continue about 800 meters to the roundabout, take the first right, which is the old state road, and continue for a bit more than a km; the trattoria is on the left.

Casa Migliorini's Hall

Casa Migliorini’s Hall

And here we are. The layout is sober. Quite sober. Ample hall, but few tables (simple, square) widely separated, and one can talk without fear of disturbing other patrons. Simple settings, a shelf with bottles of Morellino di Scansano –  older Tuscan bottles, and a sign atop the piece of furniture says “Not for sale.” There’s no menu; the offerings are announced by one of the three Serafini brothers (Paolo, I think he’s called), the current owners of the trattoria, which was opened by their grandfather in the 30s.

On the other hand, there’s not much need for a menu, because the dishes are always the same: tortelli, pappardelle, stewed wild boar, rabbit, beabs, and that’s about it. All cooked traditionally, home cooking almost, with sauces cooked down tot he limit but never exceeding it, full flavors, proper textures, and abundant portions. All good, excellent, even.

Casa Migliorini's Tortelli

Casa Migliorini’s Tortelli

And the tortelli are especially noteworthy. The ricotta-and-spinach stuffing is perfect for fragrance and freshness, and they are perfectly cooked in the Maremman style, i.e. slightly more than elsewhere, though the pasta, which is thin, but not so thin as to resemble tracing paper, is not overcooked. Tradition. Intensely flavored, with the flavors displaying both harmony and the individual ingredients, whose freshness thus emerges. The sauce plays its part too; it has the proper grainy consistency, no excess oiliness, and it blends perfectly with the tortelli.

A cuisine that requires time, in the kitchen and therefore at table; there’s no point in trying to hurry the Serafini brothers, who are – as one would expect of Maremmani –  courteous with  clients, but much less so with those who demand. One passes the time enjoying the atmosphere and the patrons, few of whom have come by chance.

The cost of the trip back in time to discover the flavors of the non-postcard Maremma ends up being about 30 Euros per person.

Money well spent.

Ristorante Bar F.lli Serafini,
“Case Migliorini”,
Località Migliorini 1, Campagnatico (GR),
tel. 0564/996448.

Published Simultaneously by IGP, I Giovani Promettenti.

Garantito IGP. We Are:
Garantito IGP

We Are:

Carlo Macchi
Kyle Phillips
Luciano Pignataro
Roberto Giuliani
Stefano Tesi
Lorenzo Colombo

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From Ponza to Castellabate: Visiting Some of the Most Beautiful Italian Wineries by Sail, with Garantito IGP

Wineries From Ponza to Castellabate

Wineries From Ponza to Castellabate

This time Luciano Pignataro takes the stand.

Wine critics and writers, those who taste live and not just at events, spend much of their lives in their cars. Given the cost of fuel, tickets, mechanics and insurance, I would say one way to cut costs would be to take a healthy sip and go by boat. And I’m only partially in jest; this is a different and extraordinary itinerary that departs from Ponza and ends in the Cilento, passing a few randomly selected places: Ischia, Capri, Napoli, Vesuvio, Sorrento, Positano, Amalfi, and Paestum. In other words, the most famed tract of the Italian coast. Capitan macchi is in the cabin tasting the wines, Roberto Giuliani is minding the sails, Stefano Tesi mans the wheel, Kyle Phillips jibes, Ettore Colombo, good Northerner that he is, handles navigation from ashore via Skype, and I take the post of Cabin Boy (i.e. I enjoy the crossing), and we also have a stowaway, Pasquale Porcelli. In short, a great time for all.

 

Wineries From Ponza to Castellabate

Wineries From Ponza to Castellabate

Ponza, Antiche Cantine Migliaccio
Truth be told, we depart Ponza after resupplying from Pascucci in Fiumicino. The islands belonged to the Kingdom of the two Sicilies, and are one of its most extreme beauties. Fieno di Ponza is on a small hill between Chiaia di Luna and the lighthouse, and has survived untouched thanks to the lack of navigable trails; the only way to reach it is a 40-minute walk down a rugged mule track. The Migliaccio Family has cultivated 2 hectares of vineyards here since 1731; they were permanently donated by Carlo di Borbone, and are planted to Biancolella, Per’ ‘e Palummo, Forastera and Aglianico, the classic varietals of the island of Ischia, from which the owners hail. We enjoy a Fieno with Octopus Salad.
www.fienodiponza.com

Ischia, Giardini Arimei

Wineries From Ponza to Castellabate

Wineries From Ponza to Castellabate

From Ponza we set a course to Forio on Ischia. Here, on the slopes of Mt Epomeo we admire the Fratelli Muratori’s shiny new Azienda Giardini Arimei. We are upon Mycorrhized terrains, and therefore in the presence of eco-simbiotic viticulture; no chemical treatments or fertilizers, and only green manure. Part of the vineyards, about 1 1/2 hectares, has  Mycorrhized leaves: No treatments with copper or sulfer, and the work in the winery, which is carried out by Francesco Iacono and Serena Gusmeri, is carried out so as to be ecosustainable following the biodynamic phases of the plants. The goal is to reduce human impact as much as possible, and to return humanism to the vineyards, making people conscious protagonists. Distracted by the beauty of the landscape, we note behind us the slopes of  Monte Epomeo. And as we raise our eyes to the imposing stones see puffs of white that slowly dissolve: fumaroles, which lead Francesco Iacono to talk about Thermal viticulture. We enjoy the panorama and the sea. All is still, and only the expectation of the wonders that await us leads us to return to our boat.
www.arcipelagomuratori.it

Napoli, The Rosiello Vineyard at Posillipo

Wineries From Ponza to Castellabate

Wineries From Ponza to Castellabate

Navigating the slack winds we take advantage of the summer Maestrale and quickly reach Mergellina, passing by Procida and Capo Posillipo. I tell the crew that Naples has the largest vineyard area of any European city: There are the vineyards of Gallerista Morra at Castel Sant’Elmo, of Cantina Astroni and Raffaele Moccia at Agnano, and upon the Camaldoli the Vigne di Parthenope. We head for Salvatore Varriale, patròn of Rosiello with his four hectares, from which one can almost touch Capri. We quaff his Piedirosso Santo Strato with spaghetti in a marinara sauce, and stock up on Uva Rosa for the crossing to come.
www.aziendavarriale.it

Vesuvio, Villa Dora

Wineries From Ponza to Castellabate

Wineries From Ponza to Castellabate

Navigating from coast to coast we reach Castellammare, one of the most touristy places in the world: Vesuvius and Pompei. I want the crew to experience the cradling effect one feels when looking upon the Golfo from above, when during the climb one can see  Capri, Sorrento and Naples. We’re hosted by the Ambrosio Family, which works primarily with olive oil, but here, a stone’s trhow from the excavations, has bought a property it farms organically. Extraordinary white wines, one from the two estates, while the other is a Mastroberardino,  who has many older vintages of Vigna del Vulcano, from Uva Coda di Volpe and Falanghina, which change the perception of Lacryma Christi. We drink it with about sixty maccheroni frittatinie made with the bucatini made by Gerardo di Nola da Salvatore Salvo, a young and capable pizzaiolo from San Giorgio a Cremano.
www.cantinevilladora.it

Capri, Scala Fenicia

Wineries From Ponza to Castellabate

Wineries From Ponza to Castellabate

Here Pasquale finally comes across someone he can talk with in Barese: Winemaker Giuseppe Pizzolante Leuzzi. Making wine on Capri requires above all passion; here people become millionaires selling candies to the tourists. It instead takes powerful drive for one to measure oneself with terrains that alas belong to the distant past, and farming traditions that have almost completely vanished. And this is why we are interested in this winery, which belongs to the Koch Family, and in their willingness to make wine without playing the easy Capri DOC card. The white is from Ciunchese (Greco), San Nicola (Biancolella) and Falanghina, and is fresh. Perfect with the cheeses of the Penisola Sorrentina, which is just a short swim away.
www.scalafenicia.com

Furore, Marisa Cuomo
But the best is yet to come; we sail over the seas of Punta Campanella, whose bottoms are littered with Roman, Greek and Phoenician amphorae, passing by Positano. In the course of the trip we enjoyed a delivery of Spaghetti alla Nerano, and drank the last bottle of Pietra Box dei Giardini Arimei, which had survived because Stefano Tesi got seasick. We dock at Amalfi and immediately head for Marisa Cuomo and her husband’s cellars, experiencing the spectacular verticality of the Costiera, which goes straight up from 0 to 300 meters. The great vaunt of ths winery, overseen by Luigi Moio, is to have reaffirmed the image of the wine, producing masterpieces while maintaining firm bonds with the traditional indigenous grapes.
www.granfuror.it

Maiori, Raffaele Palma

Wineries From Ponza to Castellabate

Wineries From Ponza to Castellabate

An example followed by many. From Amalfi we sail along the coast, stopping to swim at the Spiaggia del Cavallo Morto and enjoying the Pansa di Amalfi Bakery’s spectacular babà, dipped in Giardini Arimei passito. The last bottle, because Stefano is still seasick… Vincenzo Mercurio awaits us for a hill that really does require 4-wheel drive. On the ridge crest  Raffaele Palma has embarked upon a new path, using the money he made selling wood to build a fable, a property where he produces Limone Sfudato Amalfitano DOP lemons, Olive oil, Colline Salernitane DOP, and wines of the Costa d’Amalfi DOC, all organically. Three wines: Puntacroce from Falanghina, Biancolella, Ginestra and other indigenous varietals (Fenile, Ripoli, Pepella). Rosato Il Salicerchi from a soft pressing of Piedirosso, Aglianico and Tintore, an intensely colored rosé, with cassis licorice aqnd clove aromas. The red Montecorvo from the same grapes, of which you will hear.
www.raffaelepalma.it

Vietri sul Mare, Vigne di Raito

Wineries From Ponza to Castellabate

Wineries From Ponza to Castellabate

Another leg, from Maiori to Vietri, the land of ceramics. We climb to Raito immerge ourselves in a vision from a white creche, colored by bouganvilles. Once again life that has changed: Patrizia Malanga and her husband decided to take up residence in a property behind Villa Guariglia, the seat of the Badoglio Government after the Allied landing. The red, from Piedirosso and Aglianico, is extraordinary, offering a view of the Infinite. We tarry until the evening,  enjoying the cool breezes from the Monti Lattari. And now, the longest leg for our grand finale.
www.levignediraito.com

Castellabate, San Giovanni

Wineries From Ponza to Castellabate

Wineries From Ponza to Castellabate

Giancarlo Gariglio, a man who has seen vineyards and estates over the course of his life, says this is one of the most beautiful in Italy. T reach it we cut across the Gulf of Salerno and docked at Santa Maria di Castellabate. Welcome to the South, and to the lives of Ida and Mario Corrado, who have lived in this area protected by land and by sea for decades, many of which without so much as a phone. Here, under organic farming and with the assistance of the young Michele D’Argenio, they have produced extraordinary whites from Fiano and Castellabate, and  Maroccia from Piedirosso and Aglianico, good very drinkable reds. Everything is suspended in time, in the Parco del Cilento, where doing anything takes twice what one would expect. But it’s nice, we drink Tresinus with Raffaele Barlotti’s buffalo milk mozzarella, and we realx amidst oaks and olives: The trip is over, but we understand why we like these wines and the people who make them.
www.agricolasangiovanni.com

Published Simultaneously by IGP, I Giovani Promettenti.

Garantito IGP. We Are:
Garantito IGP

We Are:

Carlo Macchi
Kyle Phillips
Luciano Pignataro
Roberto Giuliani
Stefano Tesi
Lorenzo Colombo

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Garantito IGP: Il Presidio a Portomaggiore – We’ll Hear More Of Them

Ferrara's Canals

Ferrara’s Canals

This time Carlo Macchi takes the Stand.

Prologue.

Today’s story started from a Festa dell’Unità (the local Communist Party Festival), but don’t worry, because this isn’t a review of “fair food.” In the course of the tale we’ll also meet people who worked with frozen fish, but again don’t fear, because we won’t dwell upon them. We will discuss a Presidio, which has nothing to do with Slow Food, and last but not least, this Presidio is located in a place called Poertomaggiore despite the sea’s being at quite some distance. Hoping to have confused you sufficiently, let’s begin.

Il Presidio, In the Flatlands of Ferrara

Il Presidio, In the Flatlands of Ferrara

It all started when a dear friend went to help her sister, and ended up working as a waitress at Bologna’s Festa dell’Unità. The food was supplied by a man who dealt primarily with frozen fish, and also cooked for the festival. We all know how these festivals work – after serving the customers the people of the stand gather to eat and talk, and during one of the conversations the fish man, who I will call “Surgelator” says he’s planning to open a restaurant, and my friend lets slip that she knows a food and wine critic (me!). One thing leads to another, and thus I found myself invited to try the restaurant, newly opened in the lower Ferrarese, the land of, as Ligabue says in a song, “canals and mosquitoes.”

Il Presidio's Presentation

Il Presidio’s Presentation

I don’t want to come across as a snob, but sometimes there’s no other way to go; the invitation to go to a place run by a guy who sold frozen fish and cooked at the Festa dell’Unità didn’t convince me at all. But I couldn’t get out of it, and thus on a Sunday night I found myself in Bologna ready to discover what I expected would be a simple eatery with paper tablecloths and cups, and local dancing music of the sort called Liscio in the background.

After a long drive bordering canals with (I imagined) clouds of mosquitoes waiting to attack anything that moved, we came to Portomaggiore. The place is in the open countryside, far from the sea, but, I think, surely swamped by mosquitoes. However my curiosity was whetted, because the painstakingly restored two-story stone house I beheld didn’t fit the concept of “eatery” I had expected. Nor did the table outside where Surgelator and his staff were seated fit the concept of eatery. Perhaps inside, but in the meantime, presentations.

Il Presidio's Marco Dalla Fina

Il Presidio’s Marco Dallafina

Surgelator is a pleasant 40-something man who seems to have emerged from a Pupi Avati film; his name is Marco Dallafina: The first surprise is that he’s not dressed as a chef, because he has called on someone else, whom I am introduced to. Truth be told, the other guy isn’t dressed as a chef either, but (I think) one can expect as much in informal settings like these. I also meet Marco’s SO, the delightful Attilia, and a very well educated couple I can’t quite insert into the mental picture I had made myself of the place; the may be someone’s parents…

Enough talk; we go in! And the surprises begin. Furst of all, it’s not an eatery, but a well laid out very welcoming restaurant. Air conditioning, perfect table settings, excellent glassware, and all my preconceptions vanish. We sit, and the devil always in me starts to waken: I start seeking the “hidden eatery,” the one they don’t want me to see.

Place Settings at Il Presidio

Place Settings at Il Presidio

The first sign, I think, will be the absence of a menu and a wine list. They instead appear promptly . I open it, not knowing what to expect, while the kitchen sends out a small sample of vegetable tempura whose crunchy tastiness and quality of the vegetables are simply fantastic. They are followed by bread gnocchi with garden vegetables and a zucchino stuffed with shrimp,  and baccalà with eggplant mousse . Each is superior to the one it followed, and what really strikes me is the deftness with which the chef handled the ingredients; since Marco is oten at our side to change bottles (which go surprisingly fast, and I’ll get to the wine list soon), ask him if I can talk with the cook – who wasn’t dressed like a cook – again, and this leads to the heart of the story.

Il Presidio's Fabrizio Albini

Il Presidio’s Fabrizio Albini

Out comes Fabrizio Albini, the cook, who after five years at the Ristorante del Relais Franciacorta (owned by the berlucchi family) decided it was time for a change. After wandering the world for a time he returned to Italy; here his friendship with Pino Cuttaia, with whom he agrees on many points when it comes to culinary philosophy,  came into play, as does the work he does with Gualtiero Marchesi’s staff, when he’s not here.

I don’t know how Marco and Fabrizio met, but at some point the spark lit and they decided to open a restaurant, following a few precise rules. The cooking revolves around the vegetables from the large vegetable patch behind the house, and absolutely fresh fish (Marco, whose pardon I beg for calling him Surgelator, is always first in line in seeking it out) in summer, and local game or even eels in the fall and wither months.

Il Presidio's Fried Veggies

Il Presidio’s Fried Veggies

Thus was born Il Presidio, a beautifully elegant restaurant with superb cooking and top quality ingredients. You may find zuccini blossoms, or cuttlefish and zucchini in scapece, but I suggest you let them choose what to serve, limiting yourself to selecting “dishes from the sea” or “dishes from the land.” You’ll be served Fabrizio’s masterful interpretation of the best the markets had to offer, and among the desserts his pistachio ice cream with olives and caper dust and spritz is absolutely divine.

And we now come to the wine list: God willing, it’s quick, with 20 wines for the summer and another 20 for the winter. A few wines, more than reasonably priced, selected by people who have tasted lots of good wines (Marco, especially) and settled on those they liked best. Do you know of a better way to draw up a manageable wine list?

Il Presidio's Bread Gnocchi

Il Presidio’s Bread Gnocchi

Someone might wonder why a restaurant like this is called Presidio. I can see you thinking: To link to Slow Food, or because they feture foodstuffs that are Slowfood Presidia… Nothing of the sort.

Remember the well educated people I met at the beginning? They own the painstakingly restored building (which isn’t a simple house; get them to tell the story). They are by now retired, but they both worked as presidi (a sort of overseer), and what else could they call their building if not Presidio?

Especially seeing that one of them oversees the vegetable patch and is therefore responsible for all the vegetables Fabrizio works.

Il Presidio, In the Flatlands of Ferrara

Il Presidio, In the Flatlands of Ferrara

In short, after one of the best meals I’ve had in months, perfectly served, I stood feeling both light and satisfied, in part because the bill per person didn’t surpass 50 euros, wines included.

The restaurant has been open just a few months, but I’m certain we’ll hear a lot more about it. It’s open from Thursday to Sunday for lunch and dinner, and has a few rooms on the first floor, for those who have overindulged.

Last thing: I didn’t see one mosquito!

Ristorante il Presidio
Strada Prafitta Bertolina 17/A
Portomaggiore (FE)
Tel. 3383093500
http://www.presidioferrara.it

Published Simultaneously by IGP, I Giovani Promettenti.

Garantito IGP. We Are:
Garantito IGP

We Are:

Carlo Macchi
Kyle Phillips
Luciano Pignataro
Roberto Giuliani
Stefano Tesi
Lorenzo Colombo

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Garantito IGP – Montefusco’s Ristorante Beatrice at Montefusco: Food and Lace

Montefusco

Montefusco

This time Roberto Giuliani takes the stand.

No, the photo is not the sign of the Ristorante Beatrice, but rather that from a scene of Leonardo Pieraccioni’s “Il Ciclone.”

And the connection? Direct; Bruno and Maria Teresa, who had decided to open a restaurant in the town of Montefusco, in the heart of Irpinia, happened to see the film and were struck by its carefree air, comic scenes, and pretty girls. So they decided to give their restaurant the same name, “but we opened on the same day Bin Laden carried out his attack n the US, September 11 2001.”

Ristorante Beatrice Il Ciclone

Ristorante Beatrice Il Ciclone

I visited the risotrante Beatrice on July 19th, after calling upon Raffaele Troisi of the Vadiaperti winery; Raffaele hadn’t been in a number of years and I must say going was a good idea. Not just because of the quality of the food, which is absolutely traditional and “cooked the way we cook it at home,” but the natural sincerity with which we were greeted was decidedly uncommon.

After eating very well – we’ll get to the dishes anon – Raffaele and I wanted to see who was working the kitchen, and met Maria Teresa, a woman who is both very sweet and somewhat reserved, and wasn’t the least bit afraid to tell us she had never taken cooking classes, nor consodered herself to be a chef; rather she simply liked to cook and had been doing it since she was a girl.

Ristorante Beatrice: Raffaele And Teresa

Ristorante Beatrice: Raffaele And Teresa

But that’s not all. Teresa is also an expert in the tombolo, the instrument traditionally used to weave lace, one of the many crafts that is, alas, vanishing. Why? Simple, because like many hand crafts it’s not remunerative, To weave lace on the tombolo, using the wooden spindles upon which the string that will serve to produce the pattern is wound requires experience and dexterity, hours of work, and the finished product has a cost that few in today’s world can understand.

In addition, it requires sacrifice and dedication copled with continuity and force of will, and if one isn’t repaid for the difficult labor carried out, it’ not worth it. Maria Teresa continues to do it, however, out of principal, and because it helps her relax and shed the tensions of the day. It is of course frustrating to think that these arts are vanishing, taking with them history, passion, and culture, and the past few years have given little reason to hope for a change in direction. Indeed, I had the impression that Montefusco provides a perfect example of what is happening all over Italy.

Ristorante Beatrice: Teresa Weaving Lace

Ristorante Beatrice: Teresa Weaving Lace

Indeed, the economic crisis is hammering small family business of this kind. When the restaurant opened 12 years ago, things looked rosy: “We had two cook’s aids in the kitchen and two waiters until 2009, but then, for reasons beyond our control we were forced to let everyone go. Now it’s the two of us and our children, Marcella and Aelia, who give a hand when we need it.”

Now the restaurant has to struggle to fill its tables, despite the excellence of the food. I tried Lagane e chick peas, pasta midway between fettuccine and pappardelle prepared with just flour and water and served with a legume sauce, which were a delight. Just as good was the platter of grilled veal and lamb. I could have opted for Fusilli with sausage and rucola, or baccalà and onion soup with olives and capers, or Lagane with beans and cotechino (the local cotechino has nothing to do with what’s made in Emilia; it’s a pork sausage seasoned with red pepper), and then pork shank and other classic local dishes, all cooked to order and priced quite reasonably.

Bruno had a nice wine list with wines from all over Italy, but has been forced to reduce it because the demand for unusual jems has decreased considerably, though he does still have some.

Ristorante Beatrice: Lace

Ristorante Beatrice: Lace

And then there is Montefusco, a fascinating town with less than 1500 inhabitants, at an altitude of 707 meters above sea level, with breathtaking panoramas and a strategic importance that the Sannites understood all too well. One need only take a few steps along one of the main roads to discover churches dating to the Lombard occupation, for example San Bartolomeo Apostolo, and others from the XII Century, such as San Giovanni del Vaglio. A town well worth discovering, and of vital importance for the production of Greco di Tufo.

In sum there are many excellent reasons to visit Beatrice, not the least of which is to see how Maria Teresa works the tombolo with passion and skill.

Ristorante Beatrice di Lepore Maria Teresa
Via Pirro De Luca, 28 Montefusco (AV)
Tel. 0825 1735251 – 339 -6685681 Fax 0825 1735251
Email: ristorante.beatrice AT consulsat.it

Published Simultaneously by IGP, I Giovani Promettenti.

Garantito IGP. We Are:
Garantito IGP

We Are:

Carlo Macchi
Kyle Phillips
Luciano Pignataro
Roberto Giuliani
Stefano Tesi
Lorenzo Colombo

Posted in Garantito IGP | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment