Wednesday, September 12, 2007

A Whole Lot of Wining Going On

When I was a kid, my hometown had a large annual festival that was well-attended and much-anticipated. The Cherry Festival was a grand event for the entire 4-county area. Parades the likes of which one rarely sees, carnival rides, food booths, and bands for entertainment marked the week-long celebrations. We could eat junk food with abandon, munch fresh cherries and spit the seeds right out onto the sidewalk, and enjoy the rides until we made ourselves dizzy (or sick). For my sister and me, though, the highlight was always one particular booth that sold…da da dum…wine snowcones. The syrup was cooked down and sugared, so it’s not like there was any alcohol in the things and they were mighty tasty of grape flavor. We ordered the Lambrusco. Now, how many kids can pronounce Lambrusco, much less order it up on their shaved ice? We even connived our mom once to buy a bottle of the real Lambrusco for the family to taste during a Christmas dinner. (We got little dainty shot-glasses of water with a few drops of wine in it.)

Aside from cappuccino, wine, it must be said, is my beverage of choice when I order something out. Mixed drinks and beer don’t hold a lot of appeal for me. Bryan is a bit of a wine aficionado, or at least his family has long held that belief, simply because they always ask him to choose the wine in restaurants, knowing they like his choices. His secret: he scans the list for an Italian vintage and orders it. Simple as that.

So when we heard that the lovely hill town of Offida plays host to a grand wine festa each year, we naturally wanted to see what manner of hoopla would be offered up. This places oozes charm, and they have turned the old Franciscan monastery into a regional enoteca, to promote the area’s excellent vintages. In this historic setting, they set up tables where at least 40 wineries were represented, handing out brochures and informative descriptions of the wines along with the obligatory tastings. I know. The lengths I go to for the sake of blogging.

With so many wineries present, we knew we’d need to formulate a plan; while we like to taste il vino, we know we have a threshold and can’t overdo it. We wandered on a reconnaissance mission through the facility and then staked out the booths outside which were scattered around the former cloister, in order to prioritize which wineries we’d hit. We decided to go with the smaller vineyards from the province. We are so glad we did! We made some great contacts for future tours and tasted some downright fantastic wines. Many of these vineyards do not distribute their goods beyond the doors of their cantina, not even in stores here in Ascoli. We’ll enjoy taking outings to go into the countryside to procure our new favorites.

This area has a very long tradition in wine-making, dating back to the ancient Piceni tribes, even; yet hardly anyone knows about the “wine roads” or about the unique heritage grapes that produce such good vino. Offida Pecorino, Rosso Piceno Superiore, Passerina…all wonderful! We rounded out our tasting session with the very unique vino cotto, which was much touted by the wine connoisseurs as being an “excellent tasting dessert wine”. It’s cooked to concentrate the sugars, then fermented, creating a sweet, strong wine with an almost syrupy consistency. Makes me wonder how the vino cotto would taste swirled over a snow cone.


Ambra Celeste said...

Mmm, sounds super tasty and fun!

Valerie said...

Ambra, It was! But no imbibing for you, not in your "condition"! :) Congrats, by the way.