A Little Wine Tasting…

Today was an ordinary day. I really am a local now. I go to the market and buy a few potatoes and one gorgeous porcini mushroom. Then off to the bakery for one roll – venti cinque (25 cents). I had already picked up some burro and latte (butter and milk) so I was able to make…. heaven help me… mashed potatoes!

If you had asked me anytime in the past 30 years what my favorite food is I would have replied, “pizza” or “pasta” or “lasagne” for sure. But now that I’ve been away from home for more than a month, all I want is a POTATO! Believe it or not, I miss potatoes! Must be an Ohio thing…

So I made mashed potatoes and cooked up some leftover roast beef. I had gotten the beef in a restaurant. Not once, but twice. Florentine beef is a specialty here so I figured it would be good. And because I’m anemic, I CRAVE beef.

Hrrmpphh. It did no good for the waiter to ask me how I liked my beef. I said “medium” but that is not what I got – either time. What I got was RARE, RARE, RARE. I’m talking just go out in a field and stick a fork in the cow because this stuff was still on the hoof. Not rare… it was BLUE, which I know (thanks to watching Food Network) means RAW!!!

So both times I ate around the edges and took the rest home. And I stuck it in the oven for a while to actually cook and it came out wonderful – especially with mashed potatoes. I am a happy camper!

So after my lunch of beef and potatoes, I did a bit of drawing and time on the internet (yes, I’m totally hooked) and then had to go out for a walk. I thought of the wine bar MB and I had stopped at last Sunday and decided to head there with my sketchbook.

The bar is Enoteca Calasto, just across from San Giovanni Church, and only serves local wines. They are so passionate about it that they also offer for sale the book “Lucca Wine Treasures” – which is the winner of the Gourmand Book Award 2010 for Best Wine Book in Italy. They even offer a copy of the book to look at while you taste the wines, so I asked for one to peruse.

I ordered the 3-wine tasting and asked if it was white or red. “Neither,” replied the waiter, “we usually serve a white, a rose and a red.” “Well, that’s perfect,” I replied. “That’s just what I would like to try.”

ImageAnd so the white came out. Along with a small tray of chips, green olives and red pepper stuffed with a tuna pate. Yum.

The waiter showed me the bottle and directed me to the chapter in the book that dealt with this wine. How wonderful to read about the history of the vineyard and the winemaker and the varietal itself!

This is “Malie” from Valle del Sole. It is a white composed of 40% grechetto, 40% vermentino and 20% malvasia and chardonnay. At least that’s what the waiter told me and I took a photo of it in the book for reference. Supposedly it has “vegetal sensations of holly, sage and chamomile followed by green apple and exotic fruit.”

I don’t know about all that, but it was light and refreshing – and very apple-y – so I liked it.

ImageNext was the rose. This varietal was from the local vineyard Buonamico. It consists of the local sangiovese grapes blended with caniaolo and syrah. It is a “rose pink with ruby hightlights and an intense bouquet of cherry notes.”

Hmmm. That’s not what I got. I thought it was completely tasteless. There was no aroma when you lifted the glass to your nose and although it had the taste of alcohol, it was bland and lifeless to me. After I read the description I slurped some more and tried to imagine cherries. I almost got them – but only to the degree that if you took cherry koolaid and watered it down about times ten. That’s all the cherry I could taste. And I was imagining pretty hard…

ImageFinally, the red. A Bernicchi from vineyard Maria Theresa. This one had fragrance and taste to spare. The aroma when you held it to your nose was deeply fruity – like the most purple delights available. I tried to narrow it down in my mind, but I’m not all that good at this. All I could think was black currents, but that didn’t seem right.

But the bouquet was wonderful and that tannin taste (which I am always aware of in a red) was sitting well. So I turned to the page in the book that described this wine.

It is a combo of cabernet savignon and cabernet franc (whatever that means). It has an intense ruby red color and a bouquet of blueberries, prunes and spice. I immediately could sense the prunes and spice. But blueberries? Hmmm…. need a few more tastes. I swizzled and held it in my mouth to explore it, but it took several more sips to imagine blueberries. Possibly they add a bit of sweetness to the mix? Not sure – and I am heavily influenced by the description. But it was a lovely red and one of the best I’ve tasted while here. MB might want to try it!

ImageSo that was part of my late lunch. I came back to the apartment and had some leftovers and got back on the computer for a while. Then I did a few sketches and tried to get something accomplished art-wise. Here is a sketch of my favorite leather store which is right below my apartment. Anna Maria, the proprietor, is one of the first people I met in Lucca. She is as sweet as they come and her family has been in the leather business for many years. After a look around, I have decided it is the best leather shop in Lucca. It is isn’t cheap – but it isn’t expensive either.

So they are making me a custom sketchbook and pencil case with my monogram on it. It will be ready on Saturday morning and I can’t wait! My current sketchbook is now full and I wanted to get one from Anna Maria. But all the ones the right size did not have the right paper in them. So they are making me the size I want with the paper I want. Fabulous!

Anna Maria loved the sketch and has already uploaded it to her facebook account for the business. How fun to be part of the life a business in Italy!

Ciao, everyone! More later!

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Ellyn
    Oct 24, 2012 @ 17:21:52

    I looked up the bookshop on FB and your sketch is already there! I’ll be excited to see your new Italian sketchbook!


  2. Paula
    Oct 25, 2012 @ 19:44:19

    Love the sketches! The wine tasting is right up my alley, minus the koolaid watered down times 10! You are getting wine cultured are you not? M-m-m-m-m-m!


  3. MaryBeth Tipton
    Oct 25, 2012 @ 20:52:42

    Ohhh, that wine sounds lovely! I miss you and Lucca already!


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