Tuesday, July 2, 2013
After we spent the morning in Puglia, craning our necks at the wonder of Castel del Monte and kicking rocks in the vineyard we hit the road for a few hours’ drive, straight up the Adriatic Coast towards Le Marche. Le Marche is a gorgeous, seaside region and the views up the coast were breathtaking. The teal blue waters of the Adriatic flanked the highway to our right and out the left-hand window we could see peaks of mountains covered in snow. One of our tour leaders mentioned that you can snowboard in the morning and surf in the afternoon in Le Marche. Not a bad way to spend a day if you’re into extreme sports. Me, I spent my time in Le Marche doing MY favorite extreme sport: seeing how much fried food I could eat before something bad happened.
We rolled into our hotel in the late afternoon, and had time to clean up before dinner. We stayed at a place called Hotel G, which were definitely our most posh digs over the course of the trip. Unfortunately, my shower door was dangling off its track and when I tried to right it, I almost lost the suck all together. Not wanting to smash a 70 pound glass door and sustain a life threatening injury abroad, but wanting very much to be able to take a shower in the morning, I was faced with one choice: explain in terrible Italian to the front desk what was happening in my room. I practiced "el porto del la doccia es rotto" about 17 times out loud before heading downstairs. At the front desk, I shyly inquired first "parle Inglese?" and naturally she did. So all my preparation was unnecessary, but still I felt some what more worldly since I could now say "shower" in Italiano. Once everyone was ready, we rolled just down the road to Umani Ronchi where we were greeted by Massimo, the owner, and Giorgio, their marketing manager. We toured their facility and checked out their stunning cellar, which was designed to look like a mine. The symbolic idea being that the wine they create is their gold. A cute idea that resulted in a remarkable structure. We ran through the typical information about the wines in their portfolio and had a formal seminar and tasting followed by a hop back on the bus and a ride through the hills about 45 minutes away.
Now the last thing that a group of people who have been on a bus for five hours really want to do at the end of the day is get back into the bus for close to another hour. But this trip was worth it. At the end of our journey, Bruno edged our giant bus up a 45 degree incline lined with trees and at the tippy top of this steep hill was the beautiful villa where Massimo and his wife make their home. Stretching out in every direction were rows of Verdicchio vines and we watched the sun sink behind them as we finished our tour. On the back patio of the house we were greeted by what I can only describe as the most indulgent and amazing cocktail hour of all time.
Now I had been prepared by my friend Tim about this particular cocktail hour, but that didn’t make it any less awesome when I turned the corner to see two dudes manning big kettles of red hot olive oil preparing various fritto misto right on the spot. They were just throwing everything in there! Fried stuffed olives, squash blossoms, sage leaves, rosemary, fennel, asparagus spears, fried cheese, fried cream (yes! Fried cream! It was sweet, it tasted like a liquid donut hole if that makes sense to you). You name it, they fried it and we gladly scarfed down every bit.
Now it’s a good thing that this trip occurred after my wedding was completed; because, I may have driven myself and Paul crazy trying to arrange for live deep fryers at our reception. What could delight people more than delicious wine and all matter of fried foods? Not much for this lady. Now, here’s the insane part: after all this, we went inside for dinner. Yes that wasn’t our dinner. That was an appetizer. Dinner was two courses: a cheese and herb ravioli in a light cream sauce and then a plate with a variety of vegetarian tastings. Dinner was fine, but nothing is going to light up my food description capabilities quite like the live deep fryers, so I will just say that it was quite nice.
Following dinner we retired down to their tasting room, where an impressive spread of desserts was set out. With the sweets we were served Maximo, their sauternes-like dessert wine made with late harvest Sauvignon Blanc grapes. As per usual, espresso and plenty of grappa were set out and I smartly indulged in neither. As we all loaded up into the bus, the lot of us fairly well toasted, Massimo came on board and grabbed the PA system to wish us good night. As the bus squeezed back down the hill, we left him and his staff with a rousing chant of MASSIMO! MASSIMO! Because, no one loves a nice chant more than a bus full of drunk adults. It was safe to say that people were getting comfortable together and loosened up; of course, unlimited fried cheese and wine is social lubricant like none other, so we had some help.
For more about my wine trip to Italy, see Parts I and II, here and here, respectively.