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26 March 2017 - 1 April 2017

Ribela in Frascati

Ribela was the very last stop on our trip.  We drove through the Appenines from Abruzzo into Lazio and to Rome.  Danielle and his wife bought a teenie tiny 3 hectare spot in a little pocket sized valley in Frascati.  They have 2 ha of vineyard and 1 ha of olive trees plus assorted other fruit bearing plants like cherries, apricots, apples, and peaches.  The previous owner was retiring and had owned the vineyard his whole life.  He never sprayed it or used pesticides so as far as Danielle knows the vineyard has never ever been sprayed.  


 Danielle talking about training the vines on the old traditional over head pergola system.  He said that Although it can make the vines more productive with proper pruning yields are still low.  And working upright with a canopy over your head instead of bent over all summer in the Roman sun is a huge plus when you spend all your time in the vineyard like he does!


 This is the view from the slope on one side of the tiny valley looking across.  Vines are planted down in the center with fruit trees here and there.  Then the olives are up on the tops of the valley sides.  




Over the winter Danielle intentionally hadn't pruned this vine back so much because the vines on either side had died.  So in a few weeks he will take those long branches he left and bend them down into the ground on either side of the vine.  Those branches will put out roots and eventually hell be able to cut the stalk connecting it back to the original plant and in this way hell have two new vines to replace the old ones.  This is the ancient way of Replanting a vineyard called Massale in France.  It gives you vines genetically identical to the original plant.  That preserves the unique varieties of Trebbiano and Malvasia that he has in his vineyard as opposed to buying vines from a nursery which would be more common bred clones.


Danielle uses no pesticides.  But he doesn't own all the valley.  An old woman owns about another ha and she farms conventionally.  Her's is the brown vineyard patch with no other plants.  Danielle's are all the green living ones.  

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 An old apricot tree propped up with another branch.  


 Danielle and his wife have only been here for 3 years.  So they don't actually have a winery yet.  This coming week though they're breaking ground on building a little winery and house for themselves here in the vineyard.  Danielle used to be an architect before getting fed up and deciding to become a farmer so at least it was easy to lay out the building.   You can see volcanic sand in the excavation here.  It's rich rocky soil with volcanic matter mixed in.  

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Another view across the valley.  Maybe 1000 years ago it had a little stream through the bottom but over the centuries the stream has sunk and is now a subterranean flow about 100 m down.  

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Danielle pouring the 15 and 16 vintages of his sparkling Ribolie


He only had a tiny one room building to work out of but the food he had put together was amazing.  



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This is his Cesanese red.


I climbed up onto the very top of the hill side above the vineyards and into the olive trees.  It's a quite, sunny, tranquil little hidden spot.  It was crazy to be in such a beautiful peaceful space and still be able to look out over the hills and see the craziness of Rome in the distance!   In the olive grove up on top of the hill all you could see was more olive trees and the vineyard below.  It was easy to imagine it could have been this way 2000 years ago.  



Ceppaiolo in Bastia Umbria

  We had lunch at Tiberi sitting at the kitchen table with the whole family and it was a great peaceful experience.  Matt had told us Ceppaiolo would be different though.  We piled into the van and followed Danilo out into the hot, flat, central plain of Umbria.  













Running Around Lago di Trasimeno

I ran around Lago/lake Trasimeno in Umbria.  It was about 30 miles because I got lost and ran up the wrong mountain.  Here's some pictures!


So I started here at Montemelino.  I toured the vineyards and olive orchards with Pierre, while Sabine made lunch.  After touring the vineyards everyone started tasting the wines, but it was almost 1 pm and i knew i had at least 4 hours of running so I decided to hit the road.  Pierre was worried about me, warned me about the roads, and drove me down to the start of a gravel bike path.  


I tried the Ciliegiolo Rose at least before leaving.

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Here's Pierre in the vineyards. 


This is the Malpasso. I started the run just before here and the bike path went right through it.   It's a small space along the lake where the feet of the hills cone down and form a cliff just a 100 feet or so from the lake.  This is where Hannibal ambushed the Roman Army about 2000 years ago and slaughtered the Romans, killing maybe 15,000.  Ever since it has been called the Malpasso, the bad pass.



The view looking down the path by the Malpasso.


A little further on running through empty fields.  I think this was about an hour in.  


Eventually I got back on roads and went through the town of Castiglione del Lago over on the west side of the lake.  I detoured to run up around the castle.  


Running down Via Romana towards the SP 599


This was 2 hours in


 Coming around the southern edge of the lake they were building a new running path so I got to get off the road for a bit.  


Pretty normal road.  There was a ton of truck traffic so I'd have to jump into the bushes periodically. 



There was an over look I ran through near the southeast corner of Trasimeno 



 I had put the road into Google.  And Google took me to the road, but it was the wrong end of the road in the wrong town.  And there was even an agritourismo at the end of the road, so I ran way up this gravel road to the end of it in the hills only to realize I was in the wrong place and La Staffa was actually like 9 K away across a bunch of other hills.    

An old man told me the Agritourismo was closed and it was not normal for the owners to mix things up if they had a guest coming.  I told him that normal people don't run around Lake Trasimeno and it would be ok.   He was worried though and asked if I needed help and if I was always like this.  I said no, I can figure this out on my own, and that yes, I'm always like this and that I was having a wonderful time running across Umbria.  He said that made him happy and wished me well and went back to pruning olive trees.  


 So there wasn't any good way to get where I needed to go and Google maps ended up taking me on a winding path overland on abandoned trails and washout through the hills.  

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 This seems to happen every time I journey run in Italy.  I end up just running/bush hacking somewhere in the hills.  This was at about hour 4..  


I kept imagining the rest of the NotVinItaly group was on top of one of the hills I was running past watching me.  I kept trying to guess which hill I was going to have to run up.  


 Finally I saw a sign for La Staffa!  They also had stables and a riding school so I found those first and then eventually the winery.  I walked in to everyone in the winery barrel tasting with Danilo Marcucci and just launched right into tasting wacky sparkling Trebbiano!  I felt a little weird, but with some prosciutto, bread and olive oil I snapped out of it.  

With all my dumb getting lost and detours I ended up covering 30 miles.  It was a pretty awesome run through the center of Umbria and I got to see a ton of cool stuff.  Feeling the impact of the lake on the temperature Depending on where I was and the wind was really interesting.  





A whole lot of raw photos from Collecapretta.  They're am old family winery in southern central Umbria.  Sur ounces by mountains on all sides they're in a sort of geographic bowl, but on top of a hill.  They have vineyards with vines dating back into the 50s in different small plots around the sides of the hill.  Most are south facing but they all vary slightly.  The soil is pale dry and chalky.  Collecapretta has never planted cultivated clones in their vineyards so it's all old locale grapes.  They have Trebbiano Spoletino  (a local version) Malvasia, a local version of Greco, and Sangiovese.  Periodically they'll select some of the best most productive and reliably healthy vines and then send cuttings from those vines to a nursery to be cultivated and then get them back in the spring to replace vines that have died.  In this way they ensure they have healthy vines but also that they're only using the unique grape varieties that have always grown in their vineyards.  


















Paterna in Chianti Colli Aretini

Sunday evening I was totally wiped out from being up all night in Modena and then running the hills around Florence.  It was a huge relief to get out into the hills behind Arezzo and arrive at Paterna.  

Paterna was originally a family farm, but in December 1978 it was turned into a small commune by a group of friends that wanted to go back to traditional Tuscan farming and get out of Florence.  


A busy afternoon at Paterna


Looking up into the foothills of the Appenines above the vineyard.  Paterna is on some of the highest land in Chianti so they have more wind and it's colder.  They call the wind the Tramontina and it was blowing down out of the mountains the whole time we were there.  


Claudia (pictured on the left) was a student of one of the members Marco, one of the members of the commune who is also a professor, back in 1996.  She was studying traditional farming and products of Tuscany and ended up working on the farm.  She now does most of the vineyard management and wine making.  


Claudia talking about pruning the vines very close to limit vigor and tying the vines in the old way with the cuttings from the previous vintage.  


Pugnitello vines.  Paterna works with exclusively old Local Tuscan grape varieties like Canaiolo, Colorino, Ciliegiolo, Pugnitello, and Sangiovese.  Pugnitello is an old very powerful variety that's thick skinned and low yielding.  It makes "punchy" wine that huts you in the face and the root word of the name is the Italian word for Fist.  They have about .8 of a hectare.  Only 15 producers are growing Pugnitello.  


Classic dense dry clay based Tuscan soil.  There's some sand mixed in so it's not rock hard or as dense as clay based soils can be.  


Walking back talking about the difficulty of growing grapes totally naturally.  She said she envies her neighbor who sometimes has twice as many grapes by farming conventionally, but she believes in her wines, their liveliness, the life in her vineyards, and the generations old wine making techniques.  


 The old school cantina at Paterna.  Fermentation happens in the stainless steel and then pretty much everything goes into cement to rest.   The Il Rosso and Terraio don't spend any time in the oak casks (none are new) while the older vine cuvees like Pugnitello and Vignanova spend varying amounts of time in barrel.



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Marco, one of the founding members talking about why he chooses to grow old unusual heritage grape varieties. 


 Tasting the newly bottled wines and talking with Claudia about how she's excited to try the biodynamic treatment 500 to stimulate microbial life in the soil.  She had it stored in the clay pot in front of her.  


An old over grown stream bed next to a vineyard at Paterna.  Their vineyards are broken up into lots of little plots to make it easier to tailor their farming methods the each particular situation but also to leave wild space like this providing room for birds, animals, and insects that balance the overall ecosystem.  The bird song at sunrise the next morning was awesome and a clear demonstration of how alive their vineyards are.




Poderi Cellario Visit

Saturday we drove across from Trento, up through Piedmont and into Dogliano to visit Poderi Cellario.  Fausto Cellario was all fired up and waiting for us at this winery in Carru.  We tasted his new white table wine called E Bianco in Liter bottles and then jumped back in our van to head out and visit a bunch of his vineyard sites.  

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Fausto has vineyard sites all over the Langhe and Dogliani.  He and his wife's families have been there forever so they both had inherited little parcels all over.  First we drove to a Favorita vineyard he had recently planted and looked at how the vineyard was laid out and the exposure.  


Then we headed over to several vineyard plots around an old farm.  the old farm was still owned by someone else but Fausto had bought the vineyards.  There were south facing 50 year old Nebbiolo vines planted by the farmers father.


New Nebbiolo vines planted a few years ago by Fausto facing south west and ore down the slope so they'd be warmer. Up on the other side of the hill he planted  Dolcetto vines facing east at the top of the slope so that they'd only get morning light and be fresher and brighter.

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Dolcetto from up on a ridge with a particular red soil in Dogliani that Fausto had named Sabinot after an old vineyard that had once belonged to the Cellario family but had been sold out of the family by his grandfather to keep his sons from fighting over who would inherit in .


Eventually we made it back to the winery and walked all through the cellars with Fausto.  What really came across was Fausto's personality and approach to making wine.  Fausto Cellario is a super relaxed energetic kind of go with the flow guy.  Cellario doesn't employ an Enologist.  He's been there making wine in the Langhe for his whole life so he has an intuition that's well grounded in his and his ancestors experiences vintage to vintage farming in Piedmont.  He exclusively uses wild yeast for the fermentation, but loves tinkering within those boundaries to keep improving what he does.  He takes samples to friends and neighbors, his father and relatives regularly to get their input as well as to taste what other people are doing and see how they're handling the ever changing weather conditions.  


 All the reds get transfered to cement after initial fermentation where they go through natural malolactic.  

He said he loves to always be discovering new details and ways of working.  


While we talked his younger son and daughter were chasing around the cellar using it as a giant indoor playground.


You know a winery isn't using pesticides when they serve you and their family a salad made with wild greens they in the vineyard picked earlier in the day.  


Finally we went back upstairs and sat down to a dinner with him and his family.  We tasted so many wines.  Indicative of his love of experimentation there was an unending procession of different grapes, blends, and vineyard sites.  Some particular standouts were his Langhe Nebbiolo, a Grignolinio, and his Sabinot vineyard Dolcetto.  


It was awesome to meet another wine maker who's whole family is intimately involved and so obviously loves what he does.  It's how wine should be: it should be fun and positive and fueled with passion and collaboration.