Headed to Italy with a Heavy Heart

Should everything go as planned, you will be reading this after I have already landed first in Munich and then a short flight on to Verona. I am part of a press trip to visit the Northern Italian producers Rotari and Mazzacorona. Up until about a week ago, I was really looking forward to the trip for several reasons.

First, this is my first international press trip and while I certainly do not write this blog for the “perks” they are certainly nice.

Second, I am going to extend the trip a bit and my lovely wife, who has never been to Italy (other than a night in the tiny alpine town of Domodossola). She will be joining me for another eight days or so to drive around the Italian countryside. We will be stopping in Siena, Venice, and Verona, visiting a few wineries along the way.

A few days ago, however, my excitement devolved into sadness when a severe earthquake struck central Italy, leveling medieval towns, and killing close to 300 people. Even if I were not traveling to the country, the tragedy would be particularly difficult to process, but since I will be landing there in just a few hours, it weighs even heavier on my mind.

I will be in the north of the country, several hundred kilometers from the destruction, but I already feel guilty knowing what will likely ensue on the trip. Of course I know that the trip will have no effect on those affected by the earthquake, and that many parts of the country have already restarted their lives. (Insert “life must go on” cliché here.)

But still.

Shortly after the quake, bloggers that cover Italy extensively took to their keyboards to profess their empathy and suggest ways that people around the world can help.

I was particularly touched by my fellow Houstonian, Jeremey Parzen, who wrote a a couple of pieces concerning the situation on his Do Bianchi blog (HERE and HERE the second of which has some links for ways to help the relief effort). I was also contacted by another friend back in Philly, Mike Madaio, author of a few blogs, including Undiscovered Italy. He tagged me in a tweet a few days ago, which caused me to Spring into action (as much as this aging body “springs” anymore):

 

I decided that I would make Bucatini All’Amatriciana for no other reason than to use it as a vehicle to talk to my boys about our responsibilities as citizens of the planet. I had never made it before, but after a quick scan of the internet, I found there are countless versions floating about, with the common threads being guanciale (cured pork jowl), canned San Marzano tomatoes, and Bucatini pasta (similar to spaghetti, but hollow in the middle).

I briefly informed the boys as to why we were making the dish, and then we tried to tackle it together (once you find the ingredients, it is a fairly simple recipe to follow).

You start with 6-8 ounces of guanciale (which is hard to find anywhere, much less a town where you have only lived for a few weeks--so we used pancetta, which apparently is OK). Brown it for about 5-6 minutes in lard (also impossible to find, so we used a bit of olive oil--apparently a no-no).

You start with 6-8 ounces of guanciale (which is hard to find anywhere, much less a town where you have only lived for a few weeks–so we used pancetta, which apparently is OK). Brown it for about 5-6 minutes in lard (also impossible to find, so we used a bit of olive oil–apparently a no-no).

I then committed another cardinal sin, according to this site, by adding diced onion, carrot, and garlic.

I then committed another cardinal sin, according to this site, by adding diced onion, carrot, and garlic, which the recipe I chose called for. But I was a noobie, so…win some, lose some.

Then we added the can of San Marzano tomatoes, which we smashed up a bit.

Then we added the can of San Marzano tomatoes, which we smashed up a bit.

Finally, we added the pasta and tossed with some pecorino cheese.

Finally, we added the pasta, a bit of crushed red pepper flakes, and tossed with some pecorino cheese.

While the recipe we chose might have been short on authenticity, it was pretty long on flavor as both of the boys ate it up with aplomb.

I used the occasion to also sample a few of the wines that I will be tasting this week on the trip through Northern Italy:img_6599

2013 Rotari Brut Rosé Trento DOC: Retail $18. 75% Pinot Noir, 25% Chardonnay. Pale pink, with a fervent bubble. A tight nose of strawberry and a touch of rhubarb. Oft initially on the palate with red berry fruit prominent. Mid-way through, the tartness kicks in with a vengeance. Finishes with some minerality and plenty of length. This is a bargain at $18, but regardless of price, this is Outstanding. 90-92 Points.

2015 Mazzacorona Pinot Grigio Trentino DOC: Retail $12. I do not always have the best experiences with Pinot Grigio, usually since I feel they lack the requisite acidity. Not this one. Tropical and bright on the yellow-green wine. Great flavors and brightness after some initial roundness, but really nice flavors and an above average finish. Very Good. 87-89 Points.

2013 Cliffhanger Proprietary Red Dolomiti IGT: Retail $12. 70% Teroldego, 30% Lagrein. For $12? I am a fan. Rich dark red fruit, plenty of tartness, and a touch of intrigue. Not the deepest wine in the world, but it will not require to dig deep into the wallet either. Good to Very Good. 86-88 Points.

Just before getting on the plane, I heard a news report that stated that more than anything else, donations of blood would be most helpful. While that did not seem like it would help all that much in the U.S., I am now on Italian soil and will see if there is an opportunity to do so.

I have only donated blood once in my life–I am not a big fan of needles–and I fainted. That was due, at least in part, to the fact that my heart rate was near 180 bpm right before the procedure, for which the nurse almost rejected my “candidacy.”

Yeah.

I am actually, in a way, looking forward to trying to give blood at the same time that I am wondering if I will be able to go through with it.

I just know that I have to try.

 

Posted in Chardonnay, Lagrein, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Noir, Teroldego, Wine | 3 Comments