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Report 1104: Perfect Piemonte and Bella Bologna: A Succulent Journey for the Senses and Soul

By Palma from California, Fall 2006

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Page 8 of 18: Organic Wine, and the Endless Dinner

photo by Palma

Vini di Acqui

After a week in Italy, we finally slept in until 8:00, and found a cooler, and slightly overcast morning. It felt wonderful to have a slight break from the very warm days. I read with my coffee until 9:00, when we purposely had a very light breakfast of juice and a croissant.

Diana and Micha had scheduled a wine tasting for us at a neighboring small vineyard, and there would be snacks! We also had reservations for dinner with the Baurs tonight at a restaurant where Diana warned; we would want to arrive ready to eat for hours!

We arrived at 11:00 at the nearby small winery run by Elisabetta Castelucci, her husband, Renzo, and sister, Rafaella. They had a beautiful table spread out and decorated for our wine tasting. They make only organic wine on their 17 hectares of vineyard. Renzo is also a chemist. Elisabetta told us the story of her father, a biologist, buying the land, growing grapes, and dying of stomach cancer from all the chemicals used to treat the grapes. She and Renzo decided to produce organic grapes for organic wine…a five-year process. Their annual production is 15 thousand bottles.

On the table in the small room filled with winery equipment, were matching country placemats, lots of glasses, platters of salami, cheese, breadsticks wrapped in mortadella, and platters of cookies. There was also a wonderful grape jelly made from the wine. We began with the Dolcetto di Acqui, then two barberas: the regular, and premium version called “Aicq.” Lastly, with the cookies, we drank Brachetto, a sweet and slightly fizzy red wine that is delicious chilled with cheese or sweets. Renzo let us taste his “mistake experiment.” He had a half demijohn of very sweet wine he had forgotten about. When he stumbled upon it, he found a very sweet liquid that tasted like honey-raisin liquor. This was a good "mistake." We purchased four bottles of wine, and Diana and Micha bought cases for the B&B. Elisabetta showed us the house on the upper floor, which would make a great vacation rental apartment. The sun was again blazing, and we returned home to read by the pool, and take an extra-long wine-enhanced afternoon nap.

We got ready for dinner with Diana and Micha at Il Gardiniere. They suggested we pace ourselves, as the food would just keep coming. We ordered a bottle of Dolcetto, and one of Aneis to begin. We were brought fresh, hot focaccia, and the waiters began to circle the dining room with platters of antipasti. Let the games begin! We sampled salumi crudo e cotto, chicken-herb salad, tiny meatballs in olive oil, roasted peppers with bagna cruda, and crepes with porcini. Next came the pastas: full servings of tagliatelle with porcini, and meat-filled agnolotti in a light tomato sauce. We were all past full at this point, and ordered more wine. As our secondi orders were taken, I took a smoke break, walking laps in the parking lot.

I returned to the table before the next plates arrived. Micha had vitello arrosto, Diana had veal scaloppini con limone, and Brad and I both ordered veal scaloppini in vino bianco. It seemed like we had been eating for days. (Well, we HAD! I was still distended from yesterday’s breakfast!) It seemed we had been at THIS table eating for days! Micha was moaning, Diana was laughing, Brad was contemplating dolci, and I needed to walk some more. I took another cigarette break, trying to figure where I could put a much-needed cup of coffee.

On the outdoor patio where the smokers congregated, I met two delightful local gentlemen. I stood off to the side and smoked, and then I again paced the large parking lot. When I came back to where they were sitting, I boldly asked in Italian if I could join them. I’m sure they were surprised to see a blond dressed up tourist type begin talking to them in shaky Italian. They had been speaking their Piemontese dialect, of which I understood nothing. They switched to Italian, and we had a delightful 10-minute conversation where I proudly held my own and was able to answer all their questions and ask a few of my own. I thanked them and returned to the food orgy upstairs.

When I got back to the table, coffee had been ordered for Diana, Brad and I, and I had a glass of Brachetto waiting. Micha was pouring Brad some Chinato (a Barolo liquor), and next came some grappa. Micha was still stuffed, Diana and I enjoyed our coffee and watched in amazement as Brad ate much of his dessert sampler plate: torte di nociola, budini di cioccolato, budine di limone, torta di pere, and vanilla gelato. Three and a half hours after the meal started, we returned to our beds in a “fat and happy food and wine coma.”

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