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A Short Piece of Italy

Italy 2016

05/17/16 - So we made it to Rome and survived the train to Milano. First dinner in Milano, of course Wine, Seafood and Pizza. 

 

05/18/16 - Neive

 

 05/19/16 - Barbaresco Dinner, nineteen2013 Barbaresco blind tastings and some great food to pair.  Our first Stickbreads!

Wine tasting with Carlos winemaker of Longoria

 

05/22 -

 

05/22/16 - Cantina Del Glicine Neive - Arneis, Nebbiolo, Barbaresco

05/24/16 - Braida Winery

05/25 - Lake Lugano Switerzland. Mt Bre

 

05/25 - Headed up to Mt Bre 2,000'. Not looking forward to this ride.

Made it. Nice view, now let's go.

 05/25 - Dinner with the extended Piconi family!  Nice view, sunset, company and of course great vino.

05/30 - Wine Cellar in San Gimignano

I think we should clean the press again before using it.

 

05/31 - Daniela Gattavecchi's Store in Montepulchiano

 

05/31 - Vineyard Tour with Daniela Gattavecchi

05/31 - Montepulchiano

Montepulchino

 05/31 - How far to Montepulchiano?

 05/31 - Contucci Wine Caves in Montepulchiano. Established 1008 - 2016

 

 Bottling in the caves, and I thought our winery was tight!

 


Happy New Year! December 31st 2014


2014 Sangiovese Harvest And Crush


Leo

Leo Gosselin playing the rare stringed Chapman Stick Touchboard in our barrel room. Nice introduction showing our entrance, patio and tasting room. Hope you'll join us in the barrel room, enjoying a glass of wine and a snack listening to his incredible sounding instrument and music. Leo is a very talented musician!


Italy Florence

I think we walked from side to side many a time while visiting Florence. One side was more of a city full of life, the other more of a hilly village filled with secret gardens.

The last leg of our epic (we thought) Italy trip. We decided to check out the gardens, the Dome, some shopping and found a few pubs to become locals at. We happened to be there for the anniversary of Florence. The first night we were in the middle of a marathon, then there's the parade and (unfortunately rained out our week)Calcio Storico 2013. Beautiful town, friendly locals and a great way to end our trip.

One more tourist place that my Brother and I had to check out...the Dome or Duoma. We did the quick tour but unfortunately did not have time to climb the tower or scale the inside of the choir loft (actually I don't think I'm that brave so appreciate the satire please!)Have you ever seen a 24 hour clock? They've got one above the door!

Now that's some impressive gardening. So clean and majestic, this was a nice change from the hustle and bustle of Roma...but wouldn't want to miss any of the adventures don't get me wrong!

The parade before the ancient football/soccer/boxing/anything goes Calcio Fiorentino. The parade went on for about an hour. We couldn't get tickets to the sold out event. But then the rains came. The game was postponed for a week so we got to watch it from San Diego :)

Our favorite hang out in Florence, Annie's British pub. It was a block from our B&B...aka perfecto! We drank them out of Prosecco and then Pinot Grigio. It was a tough job but we took the challenge and succeeded! Seriously we got great tips on where to eat, shop, learning a few phrases of Italian not in our books, or whatever we needed.

More beautiful piazzas with magnificent architecture.

Guards marched around wearing colorful authentic uniforms which made you feel like you were there 100's or 1000's of years ago.

You know me, if it's got grapes on it, I've got to take a picture of it. This column was extremely cool with the 3d vine and grapes motif.

A little Cougar fountain in one of the secret gardens.

So ancient life must have been pretty daunting. The head of the statue is this big...imagine when it was a hole body? And do you think there was just one? Amazing to think of these crazy statues, at least for me...


Italy Florence - Marchesi Antinori Winery

These stairs took you from the parking lot up a couple of floors to the roof top restaurant and vineyard. What a work of art! Not to mention that most of the walking the stairs are in open air so the views are incredible not to mention the heights :)

Newly opened this spring we had the opportunity to spend the day eating, touring, tasting and taking in the magnificent architecture of this sustainable winery in Florence. Oh and they have a little side project that you may have heard of...Stag's Leap in Napa. From the highway outside of Florence you only see the top floor of the winery tucked into the hillside like a spaceship ready to take off for the mother ship at any time. Hmmm a mother ship winery, sounds interesting!

The driveway takes you through a newly planted vineyard on top of the roof of the winery.

Not sure how many levels the parking lot was so we decided to just stop by the stairs to the winery.

What a view! The metal objects in the yard are the light/vent holes in the roofs of the various barrel rooms and other rooms below. In the corner is their restaurant where we had an enjoyable lunch with an incredible view...oh and some wine!

"floating" above those serene barrels in one of the barrel rooms is the room where we did our tastings. I don't know who cleans those windows but I know I couldn't do it. You're pretty high above those barrels and drinking wine! Well couldn't be all that bad! And yes, the wine was very smooth, beautiful on the palette.

The family has many museum pieces including priceless art and this DaVinci grape press. It was twice my height to give you an idea of it's immenseness (I'm 5'4" so not a giant but that's a big antique press!). Very cool that the items are there for us to enjoy.


Italy Montepulciano

Our day trip to Montepulciano begins!

Well you know we had to go to Montepulciano! The town was (my guess) 4x the size of Montalcino. The town is built on caves that store all of the wine, barrels, tanks, amazing. Enjoy these pictures from our day trip visit.

Not like the crowds in Roma, very laid back and peaceful in the heart of the town.

Jail break anyone? I mean for these poor bottles of old Sangiovese. I think they need a re-trial!

Hmmmmm, I could get used to this view! Montepulciano sure is beautiful sitting there on top of the world!

What goes down must come up! I believe there were over 60 steps and close together. The caves were amazing and we kept going down to different levels of the town.

The winemaker or cellar master can tell how much wine is in the barrack (barrel) by looking at the level of wine in these interesting old school bungs. So cool looking and more useful then our plain ole bungs!

So Rick and Bob just had to buy some sausages after visiting a local deli. Because you know we weren't getting enough sausage in our diet :) Seriously good stuff. We happy houred at our Agriturisimo with these, olives, and vino.


Italy Winery Tour Bus - Cordella, Cantina di Montalcino, Costanti

There she is, our gracious hostess, Maddalena Cordella. Yes, the Queen of Brunello and one of the young professionals who knows where she's going in life. She was fun, informative and energetic. What a good time we had at Cordella!

From the Queen of Brunello, the only cooperative winery to our only vineyard tour...here is the remaining 3 wineries on the Brunello wine "boose" tour!

All of the Brunello producers used these large (30hl, 50hl and up) barrels. Most also had the DeVinci glass bungs that visually show what the level of wine in the huge barrels is.

Our new friends from Australia that we should see this fall. Notice how we see another pristine barrel room with all those beautiful barrels for the Brunello.

A winemaker's dream? Maybe! Small barrels were only used for a year of the aging at some wineries or for non-Brunello wines at others.

A common practice is to bottle the wine unlabeled and stack in these cages standing up (for the gases to release we were told). After 3 or so months, they are all stacked in the cages laying down. For DOCG wines, they can only bottle them once they are approved and they only get enough neck labels for the number of bottles. Good thing they only make 1 to 2 types of wine since they are unlabeled for 6 or so months.

At the Cantina, beautiful modern architecture of wood and steel.

Beautiful, but...you're not getting me up on that catwalk! Again so clean in all of the tank rooms we visited.

The Bridge in the production facility at the Cantina was beautiful to cross as part of our tour and it was the height of those really big tanks. Did I mention vertigo? Quick let's get some vino!

Barrels and more barrels, around the corner the bottled wine aging. We are under the tank room at the Cantina.

Now here's an idea that should catch on. No, it's not a gas station, but much more fun. Bring your empty growler (ok maybe not your beer growler but you get the idea) and fill up for a fraction of the cost. Choose from 4 vintages of wine! Really! Fill 'er up!

Today's offerings for the Self Service wine fill-up! Awesome!

The Brunello is aged in 30HL Slavonian oak casks and 3.5HL barriques at the Costanti winery.

One of the vineyards at Costanti.

In the vineyard at Costanti Winery checking out the Brunello progress. After an unconventionally cool spring their Brunello is a little behind Temecula in growth of our Sangiovese.


Italy Winery Tour Bus - Argiano Winery

Our wine "boose" as the driver pronounced it. Off to Argiano, Cordella, Cantina di Montalcino and Costanti.

Brunello Wine Bus AKA "The Grapeline Shuttle" of Montalcino. We stopped at Argiano, Cordella, had lunch in Montalcino, then headed to Cantina di Montalcino and Costanti. Nice selection of old, new, small, modern and large wineries.

Their label, simple but elegant. The url is also listed in case you want to check out their website (argiano.net).

Argiano has been around for over 5 centuries. This was one of the large castles (my opinion) that we visited. Lots of history and read about it in my book I just finished "A vineyard in Tuscany"...so cool!

Down, down, down to the caves we go.

In the dim cave lights a "cellar rat" is working on racking some wine.

Our guide to the right (self described "redneck" Italian who loves the Man in Black and also dabbles in making wine and working in the family vineyard on the weekends) and one of the other guests (from Australia).

Old bottles stored under a layer of...powdery mold. No sneezing please.

Yup, more really, really old bottles.

There's an Italian version of our Joey working in the winery.

Another shot of the pristine Argiano Winery.

We got one of these too, most be mixing up some additives or maybe the lees with the Guth mixer.

Many of the wineries we visited were just this pristine clean! The tanks are used for controlling the temperature for the fermentations.


Italy Wineries - Sestadisopra

One of the first wineries that we visited and one not to be missed.

Recommended by Matteo, we were very happy to find Sestadisopra Winery off a windy dirt road. Hector was on a latter and waved to us as we drove up. Make a reservation if you go, he was kind enough to let us taste without one. The tasting was in his DINING room, awesome-e-o. Wines were superb, winery was pristine and our visit was wonderful. Must see winery!

"Hamming" it up in front of Sestadisopra's Winery door. Let's do some more tasting!

Bob and one of the smaller barrels we saw in Montalcino. The bung was invented by DiVinci we were told. Visually they know how much wine is in the barrel so they know when to top the wine. How clever is that! All of the wineries used them in the big barrels.

Hector and his lovely wife at Sestadisopra Winery in Toscana.

Sitting at Hector's dining room table, tasting with him all his wonderful wines including the Rosso di Montalcino.


Italy Tuscany

Ah yes, the rolling hills of Montalcino in Toscana where it is best known for their Brunello Sangiovese. The hills are really full of red flowers, sunflowers, Cyprus lined driveways, olive groves, woods and most importantly grapes. Only non-Sangiovese grapes are allowed to be irrigated...interesting!

Our beautiful agriturisimo that we stayed at outside of town...Quercecchio. Matteo was a gracious host with a vast knowledge of Brunello, the region, wineries to visit, olives, beaches, and all of our various questions. He also gave us a private tasting of their wine they produce plus a onsite winery tour. Grazie!

Our first wine tasting was at Fattoi where we went a little crazy (awesome wine) and purchased our first Brunello (a 5 liter) and some grappa. No, it won't make it home :)

Another shot of our Toscana home for a week.

Look at that puny 750 next to our beautiful 5 liter Brunello! Look at how happy we all are!

Oh yes! Our home for a week in the country in the Montalcino (Brunello) region of Toscana. Our host, Matteo, was very knowledgeable of the region, wineries, beaches, and every other question we threw at him. He even gave us an insider tasting and tour of their on-site winery. The property was perfectly situated near the woods of Montalcino, stars were abundant while we sipped our Brunello by the pool, under the big oak and in the beautiful courtyard. Awww, what a week!

The sunset taken from our pool side paradise at Quercecchio where we stayed while in Toscana.


Italy Roma

Our home base in central Roma, aka B&B

We came, we saw, we did Roma! Bring your best walking shoes for this cobblestone city. Our luggage took their own vacation for the first 2 days, but we eventually met up to spend it together. Limited pictures of Roma since we didn't have a camera for 2 days. Check out the pictures as we went to the Vatican, monuments, fountains, ruins and of course the coliseum. Don't worry, we did taste the foods of Roma and some lovely wines.

Yup, the one and only Coliseum

A little remodeling and it'll be as good as new!

Many a gladiator fought in here for entertainment purposes

Quite the sight!

Our new little fixer-up-er!

One of the many vintages we HAD to taste

Nero's old diggs

Just another cool building in Roma

Me and Michele (sis-in-law) enjoying some vino

Starter plate: smashed peas, artichokes, salamis, cheeses, yum!Every place has their own rendition of this starter. Some many ideas for the deli!! Hope you're ready for them Tyler and Ron!

Goddess of wine, need I say no more!

Once a Pope is blessed they are displayed for the people to see

Beautiful

Altar was made from Bronze from the Pantheon

Below the Vatican all of the Popes and 2 special Women are buried like this

St. Peters Square

Pope greeting the crowd on Wednesday (weekly)Can you find the Pope? He was actually quite close to us!

One of the establishments that we tried their food

In the museum at the Vatican...our logo :)

Dog parking, Roma style! Mocha and Monte need to be here too!

Another day out in Roma. Notice the little cars (smart, mini-cooper, fiat, scooters). Interesting parking techniques as well. Water was a must and you can fill up at the local fountain (really).

Typical cobblestone street in Roma


This week's progress 04-01-2013

Lots of little things getting done in anticipation of opening our doors for good! Fire inspection last week answered one of our questions...where does the fire department want the extinguishers? So they're up and that's another condition satisfied.

We're being proactive with the echos in the new room. All of those beautiful grape pictures are very cool for several reasons. First of all, they are all our grapes thanks to the photography skills of Roger Paige (@focusedtraveler). Secondly, we mounted them on acoustical panels so they are also functional helping to cut down on the sound bouncing around on our bare surfaces. We have more to hang and more to order. Come see all of the beautiful pictures!

That's right, in front of the windows and our view is our first bar. We're keeping the barrel and wood bar look going forward, just cleaned the look up and made them pretty. The redwood is really a nice touch. The bar is already a natural magnet to all that venture in to see the new tasting room's progress.


This week's progress 03-23-2013

This week it's all about the progress in the all important deli!! The view is not too shabby from the deli too. Ecolab is setting us up with all the necessary cleaning apparatuses. We have all of the required sinks operational. The refrigerators and freezes and deli cases are all in place. Just a couple of fire extinguishers and a couple of inspections to go. Enjoy the pictures and soon we can all enjoy the tasting menu :)


This week's progress 02-17-2013

The fireplace is finally done and I can't wait to start my first fire in it (but I will wait until I can). When you have had porto-potties for 6 years it makes perfect sense to show off the new Ladies and Gentlemen bathrooms at Cougar. They are adding the final touches as you can see by the pictures. And then there is the deli area...tile is done and all of the sinks are ready for the plumber to hook them all up. Looking forward to my next week's progress, I think I can see the finish line!


This week's progress 02-10-2013

The front of the new tasting room is almost completed, especially with the addition of our beautiful fountain by the front doors. Inspections are progressing inside and out. Deli tile and electric are almost done, hope to show you a completed deli by next post.


This week's progress 01-26-2013

Floors are done including our ultra cool logo in front of the fireplace! A little peak at our beautiful front doors. Hoping that the rain stays away so we can do more outside. So far the forecast looks favorable this coming week!


This week's progress 01-18-2013

Lots to show y'all! Walls are painted, all the beams are stained, ceiling above deli is hung, and the brown coat is on the outside. You can't tell but they started polishing the floor getting it prepped and cleaned up. The miracle french doors finally showed up so we can finally proceed again. Fireplace passed inspection so it too is getting finished up. Any bets on when we'll be finished?


This week's progress 12-07-2012

Coming along nicely! Dry wall is all hung, bigger fireplace has arrived and the deli walls are taking shape. Most of the doors arrived yesterday so we're so close to connecting the two buildings! Enjoy and until next update...Happy Holidays!


This week's progress 11-24-2012

The progress is slowing down, but good thing is that we as a winery our starting to work on our "line items". As you can see it's very exciting stuff, like the trash enclosure (woooo, I know!) footings are dug, rebarbed and ready for an inspection on Tuesday. Deli may be ready for an inspection (corner shot inside for the inspector to tell us whether we're 80% ready or not). Dry storage is framed inside the existing production area. The cut-out in the new tasting room is where our winery window will go so you can keep an eye on what Rick and Joey are doing in back :) Ok and the wine club. Septic starts tomorrow, so until next week...Happy 6th year anniversary to us! Happy 5th Annual Turkey Trot and very happy 4th Birthday for Mocha!


This week's progress 11-16-2012

This week's progress...

We are now weather-proofed with all of the paper on the outside. All of the tile is stacked evenly on the roof. Drywall stacks are starting to appear inside, but that's just a precursor to next week's work. The inside of the winery (sorry no pictures) has some changes too. All of the walls that touch the new tasting room have been drywalled, the window between the two has been cut out and the door hole is ready to punch through to the new building. Did I mention that the fence is gone from the parking lot? We're on schedule and getting excited for the holidays possibly in our new building.


This week's progress 11-07-2012

Construction is really shaping up. The building is getting a lot of personality like the entrance way and the open beam ceilings.

Big changes this week include: tiles loaded on the roof, fire sprinklers completed, cleaning up for showing off on the weekends, most of the windows are in, fireplaces are in, and (not shown) the inside of the current tasting room is framed and being drywalled.

Until next Saturday (sorry a little late this week, we're busy as you can tell).


This week's progress 10-27-2012

Windows, speakers, walls, and paper on the roof, oh my! It's starting to look like a real tasting room! Did you know that we have an awesome (We never tute our horn but sorry sometimes I have to just say it like it is) view?


This week's progress 10-19-2012

The roof is almost all sheeted, more beams, more beams and did I mention more beams? All of the windows are now cut-out. New "Open During Construction" sign down below for those new to Cougar that can't find the winery. Look for pictures this weekend of what's going on inside the winery, lots of grapes "brewing" and not alot of room to spare. Luckily the fruit flies are minimal this year and the new fan in the production building keeps the CO2 levels from the fermentations to a minimum. Anyone want to guess the construction completion date?


Cougar Wine Wednesday FOX 5 News

So our Joe was on Fox5 this week for Cougar. Great job Joe! Too bad Rick was busy making wine that he couldn't attend too :) Oh and nice shirt!


This week's progress 10-12-2012

We lost a day of construction with the little bit of rain yesterday, but you'd never know it! The tasting room is starting to show it's personality a little bit. Anyone want to volunteer to clean all of those windows? Guess that's what happens when you don't have any windows for 6 years.


This week's progress 10-05-2012

Well I promised a surprise and here it is....(drum roll) we got walls! They're working this weekend and lots on the agenda for next week, so we're building now! See you next week for more good stuff.


This week's progress 09-28-2012

Alot to show this week! Not only do we have height (the columns) but the foundation is done. We have a lot to show you next Friday too! See you next week for a big surprise...


New Construction-09-19-2012

Finally getting back on the job after a 2.5 month delay.


New Construction-07-06-2012

So if you look very, very closely at this week's picture you'll notice a few more drainage pipes in the deli area. These are for the 3 part sink, hand sink, floor sink and mop sink (everything but the kitchen sink!). If you need to wash something you know who to visit....geesh.


New Construction-06-29-2012

It only took 5 years to get to this point !