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March 2017

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.  

Caneva da Nani Visit


We rolled up to Caneva da Nani and Marcello,  one of the two brothers that runs the winery, was ready and waiting with pitchers of Col Fondo prosecco!


Marcello uses a little tiny electric lees stirring machine, the head of which can fit in through the spigot on the cements tanks so that he can stir the lees with out having to open the tank and expose the wine to more oxygen.  


Marcello explaining how super productive the Glera grape variety naturally is.  He said that if he doesn't leave 4 grape bearing shoots the plant will still just shoot out more branches during the vineyard and waste energy on extra leaves.  So the best compromise is to leave 4 arms per vine as opposed to the 1 or 2 arms that are normal on other grape varieties in other places.  He still gets only half as many grapes per vine as all the big prosecco producers down on the flat lands.  


Caneva da Nani has about 4.5 hectares in Valdobbiadene, around the corner from the Cartizze.  The vineyards are absurdly steep.  This is most of their vineyard, located in a southwest facing amphitheater that gets perfect sun.  


Matt and Marcello in the bottle aging room.  After bottling Marcello waits at least three months for the fermentation in the bottles to finish, the malolactic fermentation to finish, and then for the wine to calm down and the lactic flavors to fade and the fruit flavors to re-emerge.  You can see one bottle that has a pressure gauge closing it instead of a crown cap so that he can see what pressure the bottles are achieving.  


Ever wondered about the name Caneva da Nani?  You heard the explanation that it's wine for their grandfather Nani?  That's Nani in the blue shirt and Nonna sitting on the bench.  Hanging out relaxing in the sun, drinking their wine, and grilling meat.  Caneva da Nani makes two wines from their 4.5 hectares.  75% of what they make is the Caneva da Nani Col Fondo.  Next we went inside their house, all sat around a big table with the family, and ate all the platters of grilled meat.  

It was awesome to visit and experience Caneva da Nani.  They're just a relaxed little winery with the while family involved.  They don't want to grow, they don't want make crazy new wines, they love what they're doing and they do it super well because they've spent life time perfecting it and they love it.  


Start of the Not VinItaly Tour

It's the morning of day 2 of the Not VinItaly Tour with Matt Mollo.  Basically, Matt Mollo and a bunch of wine people from the North East are touring around north and central Italy visiting small family wine farms as a counter point to VinItaly.  We made it to Venice on the morning of April 23rd and immediately jumped in a van and hit the road for Friuli and Marco Sara's place.

We met up with Marco and then headed around Povolento and Collio Orientali Friuli to check out a bunch of his vineyards.

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The crew



Old Vine Refosco on terraces facing west.


Marn and clay soil in the vineyards


Tasting in Marco's winery

I got in 3.5 miles of hill repeats before dinner but then I got up at 5:45 on Thursday the 24th and got in a hour and a half run through the hills.  The hills in Collio are steep!  It was maybe the slowest 8.5 miles over ever run!


That's a steep hill

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I got the sun coming up over the Julian Alps.


Vigneti Campanino Rosso dell'Acero


Grape: Sangiovese

I stumbled on this writing by Matt Mollo about Campanino and I'm just going to use it because I can't do any better.  

"Campanino is little more then a collection of around half a dozen tiny vineyard plots scattered around the crest of a mountain ridge high in the central Apennines of southern Umbria.  But here, high on these steep, rugged plots of land the Terroir speaks loudest.  The winemaking is ancestral, rudimentary and completely unfettered. Guided by a winemaker I can only describe as the Yoda of Italian natural wine, Danilo Marcucci, the land and wine can barely be contained in each bottle.  The 'winery' is simply a cement refuge high on the mountain overlooking the plots.  It's mostly empty, spare a few cement tanks, glass demijohns and some old barrels.  The winemaking is as stark as the place, yet this is where it becomes courageous."

the Acero is a single vineyard plot that is just a small group of vines under one huge old maple tree.  Yes, this is vineyard is defined by a maple tree.  As such it's tiny and they only made 54 cases of it.  The grapes don't always ripen so it's not made every year.  It's 100% Sangiovese but I've never had a Sangiovese so elegant, light, racy, and aromatic before.

Aroma: Roses, tart raspberry, cranberries, sun dried tomatoes, cooking bacon, kim chee....this is a very powerfully aromatic red wine.  The aromas are intensely wild and all over the place with flowers and spicy food flavors all at once.  The roses and raspberry seem to be the most dominant and make it a compellingly beautiful aroma, but it's exciting and intriguing because there are so many other smells hiding in there.  

Palate: lush and electric at the same time.  The Acero has some volatile acidity that gives it a zing, but the texture and finish are so smooth!  There aren't really any tannins to speak of; the wine is so supple and elegant and light on it's feet that I think I'd peg this as a beautiful older cool climate burgundy if I was blind tasting it.  The fruit is very vibrant and a lovely fresh raspberry strawberry cherry combination.  The mid palate and finish has some earthier flavors lingering.  Think strawberry seeds and sesame, but the mid palate and finish also have a beautiful fatness to them: a silky smooth touch that fills our palate oh so gently.  This wine is just flat out crazy.  Every mouth full is slightly different from the previous but each is so vivid and compelling and sexy!  The more I drink it the more it seems to be morphing into something like a beautifully mature Santenay or Volnay.  Gad damn this is good.


That's the last glass form the bottle, so it's particularly cloudy, but yes this is obviously not a filtered or fined wine.

Peppucci l'Altro io

The Peppucci family stumbled on the abandoned Benedictine Monastery of S Antimo in the town of Todi in the early 80's when they were looking for a place to settle and raise children.  They fell in love with the medieval buildings and embarked on a years long project of restoring them.  The vineyards and monastery are on a ridge overlooking the town from about 400 M of elevation.  

Altro Io is a new project the family has taken on.  This is 85% Sagrantino; one of the most tannic grapes known.  Sagrantino is very highly regarded because of it's thick skins and low yields which produce very powerful and age worthy wines.  The problem is that most people don't want to wait 10 years for a wine to be drinkable.  So the Altro Io is the Peppucci's attempt to make a Sagrantino in their own way to be a little bit more accessible.  The small addition of Cabernet Sauvignon helps round it out plus extensive aging in wood and in bottle.  At 8 years old this wine has had some serious time to come together and mellow, and it shows! 


Vintage: 2009

Grapes: 85% Sagrantino and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon

Aroma: the deep dark woods.  This smells like an old oak tree.  There's wood smoke as well as some serious dried cherries.  I can also smell a bit of roasted poblano pepper to the Peppucci.  It's seriously a dark and spicy smelling red wine.    With the wood smoke, seared meat, dried cherries, and roasted peppers it just smells like the things I would want to have around during a snow storm.

Pallet: Sagrantino has a reputation for power and inaccessibility.  The l'Altro io has the power certainly, but it's pretty drinkable now.  The wine is deep, dark, chewy, and layered, but the tannins aren't aggressive.   There are tannins that close the wine out, but they're balanced by the rich dark fruit and supporting acidity that keep the wine from being too soft.  This is a pretty excellent expression of Sagrantino that's powerful and very satisfyingly deep and lush.

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the Altro Io is priced at about $30 retail