Suzy offered Bob and me a day trip to Montefalco to visit her friend Sue that has a B&B there. We jumped at the chance to travel with "Magistra".
The mountains and farms are bigger in that region and so the green and brown patches of the landscape are bigger and the valleys more expansive. It was a beautiful day for a drive and the landscapes of lower Umbria did not disappoint. Neither did the destination or the company.
We began by visiting a winery whose wines Suzy enjoys, Fratelli Pardi. Montefalco is the area of the sagrantino grape and wine.
Deluca was our guide.
He was adament about practicing his English and requested that we correct him if his usage was incorrect or imprecise. What more could 2 language teachers want?! Deluca offered an infomative tour of the wine-making process, even running the foiling/labeling machine for us to see. We also took some time to walk out into the vineyard. Afterward, we were treated to tastings and we talked about the other family business, fine textiles.
After leaving Fratelli Pardi, we went to lunch in Montefalco.
Montefalco is a small, but beautiful town and the restaurant that Sue selected offered wonderful food. They serve traditional food made with the freshest ingredients, but with a bit of a twist. Memorable for me were my stuffed zucchini blossoms. They were prepared with a stuffing of fresh ricotta that was seasoned with fresh herbs. The flavors were delicate and distinct. Bob had a wonderful chickpea salad that we decided to try to replicate at home. Equally as enjoyable as the food was the company and the conversation. At the end of the meal, Bob unequivocally claimed the check and whipped out his credit card. What a time to discover the magnet fallout. What's the saying? "It's the thought that counts."
Next stop was Moretti's, another maker of sangrantino wines and a sfuzo vendor. Sue was mentioning that George Clooney had gone to Moretti's for 36 bottles of their wine for a recent party at his home near Lago Como.
This completes the E Entertainment Network portion of the blog, although there was also a Bobby Flay sighting on the same trip.........."It's uncanny. That guy looks EXACTLY like Bobby Flay!"
We arrived at Moretti's to find no one stirring. Sue called a friend and she said to honk the horn. Horn honking in rural Italy is not considered good manners. In fact, there are no horn road signs at the entrances to many of the small towns, but we had been assured this was ok so we made a little toot. It worked. A woman came down from the house and opened the sfuzo area for us. Sue and Suzy both got 5 liter bottles. Bob and I settled for tastings. Along with the sangrantino, sagrantino blend and a white available sfuzo, Moretti also had a fragolini (strawberry)wine.......but made with a strawberry flavored grape NOT strawberries.....hmmm.
Reprinted from another blog:
"I thought I'd give you a bit of background on Fragolino, just in case people are interested in how the grape came into being.
In the late 1800s phylloxera infestations had destroyed many European vineyards and it was discovered that importing disease resistant North American vines and grafting them with European varieties led to a phylloxera resistant grape. In Italy and Austria the Vitis vinifera was crossed with the American Vitis labrusca, a grape which contained heady strawberry aromas. Thus the Uva Americana or Fragola was born.
Fragola's origins have caused quite a controversy. Given the European Union's tough protection of traditionally produced wines and grapes, Fragolino causes an issue because of its American origins. In order to protect the production of European grapes, wine produced from Fragola grapes was banned from sale right up until the mid 1990s. Most of the consumption was private and localised to Italy and Austria (where Fragolino is known as Uhudler).
Well, after tasting the wine, we were sold on it as a dessert wine and intrigued that it didn't have any strawberries or artificial flavorings in it (color and flavor were distinctly strawberry). As stated above, sale is not permitted as it is not officially an Italian product, but we purchased an unlabeled bottle (which I enjoyed several nights later without benefit of dessert).
We all made a quick visit to Sue's B&B. It is spectacularly situated with astounding views. She has done extensive work on the home and it is a delightful blend of an Italian and Bucks County antique aesthetic. Then Suzy, Bob and I took off for a little more adventure.
Suzy took us to Bevagna, where Bobby proudly pointed out the reticulata on the wall outside the gates. Bevagna is home to several wonderful churches. Not being church fans per se, this is saying something. We spent over an hour in 2 of the churches admiring the Roman features and Renaissance features and admired several Franciscan facades where Magistra explained that they looked rough and unfinished to express the vow of poverty of the Franciscans. Before leaving for home, we enjoyed an affogato at the Column Bar (so named for the Roman column that sits in the middle of the outdoor seating area). Actually, Suzy enjoyed an affogato. I had a lemon soda paid for with our last Euro and Bob had a sip.
During our time that day, Suzy pointed out that we were traveling on Via Flammeus:
Fla·min·i·an Way Audio Help /fləˈmɪniən/ Pronunciation Key - Show Spelled Pronunciation[fluh-min-ee-uhn] Pronunciation Key - Show IPA Pronunciation
–noun an ancient Roman road extending N from Rome to what is now Rimini. 215 mi. (345 km) long.
What a feeling to know that you are traveling a road the Romans trod. Note to Pennsylvania Department of Highways: "Why can't you do this???!!!"
The day was filled with information, beauty, laughter and food, fellowship and fun. Once again. Mille grazie, Suzy.