Haley’s Travels: Italian wine country

Even in the late fall, long after picking, the Italian wine country is colorful and pleasing to the eye.

Delaware coast restaurateur Matt Haley traveled through Asia and Europe last fall and winter and sent back several blogs related to his travels.  This is his final report of 2010.  He stopped back into Delaware’s Cape Region over the holidays and then headed back to Asia in January.

Late Fall 2010Siena and Tuscan Wine Country

A trip to Siena is well worth it for lunch on the way through Italian wine country. I would also add a great place to stay the night but we were in a hurry to get to wine country and see our friend Manfredo.

This was the final stage of my two months away and one I was looking forward to before coming home.

Casa Di San Bonifacio vineyard and boutique hotel is a beautiful place. We rode through the rolling hills and vineyards of the Roccastrada area in Tuscany and arrived to this picture-perfect place in Ribolla. At the top of the winding driveway Manfreddo waited with two freshly squeezed pear juices fresh off the press.

Casa di San Bonifacio, Ribolla, Italy

The afternoon started with conversation on the growth and potential of this relatively new winery while sitting around the pool on top of a hill overlooking the whole valley and a new Rothschild vineyard which was equally as beautiful.

Walking Italian wine country is a must. Being a nondrinker has made the adventure in wine for me very interesting. I first realized this in Napa Vally years ago when I felt forced to experience wine through sight, smell, feel and conversation.

Cured anchovies with garlic, parsley, red vinegar and topped with olive oil.

I was walking the Casa Di San Bonifacio vineyard and decided to sit and close my eyes. I concentrated on the winds, the smell and dug my hands into the ground and experienced the vineyard at its fullest. This made a lot of sense when later we sat for a tasting. For me it made smelling the wine complete. It’s almost like not drinking the final product forces your other senses to expand.

Dining here was like the others: simple, fresh , traditional. Simple penne with basil pesto, herb roasted steak with arugula & parmesan, farro cheesecake one night and, the next, wild field green salad.   There was also braised rabbit, mashed endive and sweet Rosemary crackers with pistachio gelato for dessert.

The next day, with Manfredo, we visited an old farm with an illegal grapa still. Classic! An 80-year old Italian woman walked us to the hidden barn and, in Italian,  went through the process of making grapa.  I didn’t understand a word but understood. Afterwards she took us to the house for espresso. One of the many things about Italy I love is the connection to espresso. Millions of relationships in Italy have been formed over espresso.

Illegal grapa still.

We drank espresso with the family, over a wood-burning stove, with fresh cookies and wood-oven baked crispy polenta.  I haven’t had polenta like this but I highly recommend it.

Our last night here, Bry, Manfredo and I discussed our potential partnership in an Italian vineyard and my participation in a few farm-vineyard dinners this spring in Italy. All seems good. We will be back in the spring to check out the new plots of land.

I am on my way to Rome to fly home. It’s been a long two months. I have had another wonderful trip and can’t wait to get home, rest, and share some of these adventures with the class.

I will be back in Nepal and NW India in January to help complete the film and spend time with the kids and somewhere in between build three new restaurants, one or two for us and one or two for Highwater.

Feel free to email me at Sodelconcepts@gmail.com with any questions on food and travel connected with these blogs.  – Matt

Matt's favorite sign in all of Italy.



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