Monday, September 22, 2008


Italy and Tuscany have been growing grapes and producing wine for many millenium. The sunny dry summers, coupled with wonderful soil is perfect for making not just good wine, but GREAT wine. You cannot escape the view of vineyard after vineyard as you look out the windows of our apartment, or drive down the roads through the Tuscan countryside.

This week we visited Salcheto Winery. We picked Salcheto because it wasn't huge but wasn't teeny-tiny either. The vineyard measures about 20 hectares. I'll bet only one out of a thousand in Cincinnati can figure out how big that is. Conversion: 2.47acres to a hectare... about 50 acres of grapes. We were met by our guide Ettore Carfora, an amiable man with a broad smile. He greeted us in very good English, especially considering he only started learning it in January of this year.

We started off in the vineyard and he explained to us how he could look at a grape (these were San Giovese) and tell if it was ready: color, sweetness, firmness. He also said that only 70% of grapes on the vine actually go into the basket to make wine. The remaining 30% are discarded because they don't measure up. Too many bad grapes and there goes your reputation. I had no idea. Also the rows have to be wide enough for the tractor and wagon to go through. That one's pretty obvious. He did say their best land for grapes was configured in a east to west configuration so the grapes had more sun exposure as it crossed the sky. Neat!!

We went into the processing area (extremely clean) and Ettore went through the process from harvest to maturation tank, to cask, then to bottling. Each stage had risk and reward associated with decisions as to when to transfer to the next stage, and how important it is to complete the movement of juice from one place to another in the right amount of time.

Montepulciano is famous for its Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. Salcheto produces 35,000 bottles of this per year out of their 100,000 total bottle production. It is very good wine. We have had some "Nobile" from other wineries but none as good as the Nobile from our wine tasting. Ettore poured tastings out of five bottles (Rose, Rosso, Chianti, Nobile and a special 2003 Nobile). They were all good but the 2003 Nobile merits special discussion. The owners are supporters of Medici Senza Frontiere (Doctors without Borders) and the production of this wine is in conjunction with their support. Even the labels on these bottles are of views of Afghanistan, Kosovo and Africa.

Our whole experience was handled slowly, with patience, and with grace. Some experiences give you goosebumps. Some give you a glow. Ettore and Salcheto Winery gave me a glow. And after a few glasses of Nobile I really had a "glow".

P.S. The girls get two hours of credit at WorldView Elementary for taking this tour. And you doubted we would be educating them!!!!

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