Wine Tasting Memorial Day Weekend Studio Tour ’10
We are just back from Italy, jet-lagged and jet-weary; flying is trying. By all accounts last weekend was a big crazy crowd. Not sure exactly what wines were poured in our absence, but rumors are that a good time was had by a large and boisterous crowd, about what we expected with Judy pouring…! Pictures!
This weekend is Artists’ Studio tour, and we are showing an array of really interesting photos by Kim Gardner; try to get here early, as many are already sold from last weekend’s preview.
In honor of our recent return from Italy, this week’s wines are Italian:
Avanti Pinot Grigio 08 Italy $9
Inviting aromas of pineapple, fresh lime, and crisp mineral notes that linger softly in the mouth.
Martorana Nero d’Avola 08 (Sicily) $12
Easy drinking red wine with crowd-pleasing notes of ripe plums, blueberry, almond, and sweet rhubarb
Bibbiani Treggiaia 07 (Italy) $10
A great value blend of sangio & cab, the ultimate pizza wine, serious but friendly!
Perazzeta Rita ‘06 Sangiovese Italy $26
From the southern fringe of Montalcino (Montalcino? Doh,, we coulda gone there!) comes this stunningly powerful, lush Sangiovese; aged in French oak barrels, and pushing the boundaries of the varietal; named after winemaker’s wife AND mother, he said of his wine: “I had no choice but to name it Rita!”
Tuscany is for Drivers
Never mind that the road signs are incomprehensible, with every manner of blue circles, red circles, blue P’s in white fields, and my personal favorite, the dreaded red X in the red circle and the blue field which seems to shout, “Stoppa the carra righta now, and steppa out witha your handsa uppa” and you feel that whatever you do is going to be a huge Mistake. And never mind that you get lost a lot, “Did you see that sign…was that our turn…??”
This place is made for driving. The cars are small and handle like go-carts. Our little Lancia has six forward gears, a torquey little engine with ready acceleration (and 40 mpg), wide tires, and suspension that takes you around tight curves without the slightest bit of leaning.
The roads are an endless series of S-curves that murmur a constant Yeeesssssssssssssssssssssss up and down undulating hills and valleys and twisty country roads that narrow to barely a single lane going through little villages, with narrow passages between old stone walls and buildings just wide enough for one tiny car. The roads are at best two narrow lanes. When they are paved, they are smooth like racetracks, perfectly flat, no shoulder, but paved all the way to the edge with driving surface.
This makes driving a very active process, definitely not like cruising the freeway, and it takes two hands all the time, don’t even think about pouring a cup of coffee from your thermos or talking on your cell phone, it just isn’t possible. So driving is very engaging; the country roads are beautiful winding over and around the rolling Tuscan hillsides, with their soft patchwork of well-kept vineyards, wide green wheat fields, and medieval cities and towns perched like little Avalons on the tallest hills.
And then of course you are always challenged by drivers behind you who want to pass or want you to go faster; for some reason the Audi drivers are particularly aggressive, along with the occasional Ferrari, which you are happy to let pass just to look at them, as well as the inievitable Alfas and Fiats.
We shot a couple of video clips that need editing…here’s the rough first one…as you can hear we are not even sure how to use the video function on our little camera..!
Tuscan Tour: Florence = Kyoto West??
We finally arrived in Florence in mid-evening, a little over a day after leaving Lummi Island, took a taxi to our hotel, checked in, and got a recommendation for a nearby dinner cafe. Around the corner were street musicians with amps, mikes, , he playing the accordion, she singing a range of standards in an operatic style, and under a long covered walkway so the sound echoed across the main square. Found a nice outdoor café down the street, shared a lovely bottle of Chianti Classico Riserva. The food was good. The wine was terrific (about 18Î ). Ahh…we’re here!
Our room is clean and pleasant, the desk staff friendly and helpful. Nrxt morning there is a breakfast buffet set up with many delightful choices. We are up early for our appointment at the Uffizi for 0815, and fortunately it is just around the corner. Second lesson in red tape Italian style (lesson 1 was waiting in a long painfully slow queue for lost baggage claims the night before). In this lesson you go to Uffizi, find the entry door and are told “ah, you have the”appointment?”…si, you must go across the street – see, over there— and get your tickets, and then come back.” Which is a good thing because there is a very long line of tourists from all over the world who do not have appointments and must wait to get in. We are among the first group of visitors for the day so have the luxury of not having to contend with crowds for the first hour or so.
In Uffizi in an hour or two you can follow the unfolding of the Renaissance in art, the evolution from the two-dimensional style to three dimensional perspective, to faces that actually belong to real people of the time. Which also raises the interesting issue of whose faces were in the paintings, who turn out to be either patrons or politicians or clergy, or some combination of all three. So it dawns that all of this wonderful art we have been seeing in pictures and museums and books are not only art as art, but records of the politics of power of the day. Yes, you too can be immortalized in marble or on canvas or wood, with pose and positioning wholly dependent on your place in the pecking order.
Florence is a medieval city in the center of a modern city, and it is an uneasy blend. Since we have been in Italy for awhile as I write this, we have been to many of the medieval, walled hill towns that occupy virtually all of the tallest hills in a rolling landscape that is all hills and valleys. From almost anywhere you can almost always see at least one old walled hilltop city within a few miles. And it is this more or less constant juxtaposition of the modern with the medieval that is the backdrop for everything here. There is no direction you can look that doesn’t have these elements, usually in old stone walls that have been built and repaired and rebuilt and reconsidered over hundreds or even thousands of years. Curiously, this creates a strange balance of wabi-sabi that is reminiscent of Kyoto. “When I’m in Kyoto, I am homesick for Kyoto”…When I am in Tuscany, I am homesick for Tuscany…even though I have never been here before. Or have I…??!!
The blend of the medieval with the modern leads to the strangeness of narrow alleys that are mostly traveled by pedestrians, but also little cars and trucks and a constant stream of motor scooters, some quite plush, with roofs even, whining past in twos and threes at speeds that seem out of all proportion to the situation, which is that they clear the pedestrians by only a foot or so, and each other by less. So this is a city adapted to close quarters and a range of stylistic contradictions.
Tuscany and the Volcano
The first thing you need to know about Italy (43N, 11E) is that it is a long way from Lummi Island (48 N, 122W). Central Italy isn’t much further south—a few hundred miles—but is 133 degrees east…about a third of the way around the world, about 8000 miles directly, more like six or seven if you follow a great circle, which is what most long-haul flights usually follow. A Great Circle is the shortest distance between two points on a sphere, represented by the arc traced out by a plane sliced through the sphere (Earth in this case in such a way that the beginning and end points on the surface and the center of the sphere are all in the same plane. Looking directly down on a Great Circle from above, it looks like a straight line. But on a map which is a plane projection of the surface of a sphere it looks like a long, sweeping curve. (http://www.gcmap.com/mapui?P=SEA-FLR&MS=wls&DU=mi)
All YOU need to know (if link works, it will be clear) is that the Great Circle route from Seattle to Florence (Actually Paris was our first stop) goes directly over Iceland. Which really tells the story of our first very long day of travel.
The Good News was that we made the 8 am ferry from the Island, headed to Tulalip Casino in Marysville. Why there? Because the Airporter bus that runs from the border to Seatac stops there, and there is (I’m not making this up) Free Parking. And because our “scheduled” return flight gets us back to Seatac too late for the 7pm shuttle, we decided to hedge but getting off at Tulalip and racing for the ferry from there, since the shuttle arrives at Bellingham airport at 11:40 pm, a tight connection for the last ferry. (These things are important to Islanders!) So we’ll see how it works out on our way home.
Bottom line: we got to Seatac two hours ahead of our scheduled departure (2pm) to find that our flight would be delayed five hours because of, you guessed it, the Icelandic volcano that no one can pronounce. Flights were being rerouted north of the great circle route to avoid the ash cloud, so we went over Copenhagen, and that added a hour or so to each flight, which messed up a lot of connections, which meant a lot of airplanes were not in the right place at the right time, like ours. So we arrived in Paris hours too late for our direct flight to Florence, and were routed to Geneva after a several-hour wait.
At Geneva we were met by Air France reps who hurried us via secret byways to a waiting plane from Baboo (I’m not making this up), a little Swiss commuter airline (same planes as Horizon brings to Bellingham, except new, clean, pleasant, and comfortable). On a one hour flight they managed to serve little tiny but lovely and tasty portions of about five different things, from a cold carrot soup to fresh melon chunks, a bit of chocolate…all very pleasant. After the long, incredibly uncomfortable Air France flight (we’re talking sardines here…very nice staff and food, but way too cramped) this little Baboo flight was truly a Breath of Fresh Air…Highly recommended! And so we arrived safely in Florence about 8 hours late. Unfortunately, our bags wound up in Frankfurt. But that’s another story. We were in Italy!
|From Tuscan tour|