We head northeast-ish and pass the Riunite wine processing site, a huge operation. A little over an hour down the road, however, we reach our destination at the much smaller but more impressive Cleto Chiarli Winery (www.chiarli.it). We are still in the Emilia-Romagna Region of North Central Italy near Modena. Their specialties are Pignoletto sparkling wine and Lambrusco produced from grapes of the area. Here is Cleto.
Before entering the winery hospitality area, we walked among the near ripe grape vines along the parking area. Not sure if we were supposed to sample, but we picked a few grapes to taste. Ummm!
An aside: I remember when Mike and I were a bit younger, just getting into the wine scene. We lived in Dearborn, Michigan (suburb of Detroit), so at that point there were not many sophisticated wines like in Italy, France, or California.
Mogen David was a biggie, a Jewish owned winery in New York and the wine our parents drank on special occasions and holidays. It was very grape juice-y and too sweet. Then there was rot gut Mad Dog, Thunderbird, Ripple and Wild Irish Rosé. We thought the best of those was Boone's Farm Strawberry Hill and Apple Jack.
What we considered the "nicer" wines were German Blue Nun Riesling, Italian Riunite Lambrusco, and Lancers (came in a ceramic bottle, so really "high class") and Mateus (both sparkling rosés from Portugal).
Wine coolers were kind of a wine spritzer (California Cooler, Seagram's, and Bartles & James) and were just appearing then. If you were not a beer drinker like me, this "malternative" was a good substitute when everyone else was drinking beer. Some were more beer-malty and they usually came in fruit flavors.
So our Lambrusco expectations were not particularly high. I was pleasantly and very happily surprised. The ones we tasted today were absolutely wonderful.
Inside was a display of all their wines and a long table where we tasted almost every style they produce. I love sparking wines (dry or sweet), so this was a special treat. Our server (William or Guillermo in Italian ) was educational, entertaining, and quite dapper.
Thomas Grootveldt was our host and tour guide. He advised that Cleto Chiarli was the first wine producing company in the Emilia-Romagna region dating back to 1860. It is family owned for five generations. And it is a world leader in the production of quality Lambrusco wine. They export to 50 countries and Russia is their best market.
This winery probably had the most automated and up-to-date equipment of all that we visited. They really showcased the process from bottle washing, sterilizing, filling, corking, and labeling. It was fascinating to watch the machines do their work.
At one point the assembly line passed by a picture window with the grape vines just outside. We were seeing the vineyards and the finished product next to each other. Very cool!From there we were to continue to our next stop, but Thomas surprised us with a formal lunch which not even Chef John expected. A newly wed couple (on right) joined us. Graham and Shannon were from Vancouver and were VERY cute!!
Lunch was the usual and beloved cold cuts of the region, ricotta ravioli with butter and sage, pork cutlets and carrots with balsamic sauce, and a lovely fruit tart. There were some other things too, but these were the highlights. Each course had a wonderful Cleto Chiarli wine to match.
I think it was here that we heard "Italians never get drunk. They just don't eat enough!" We were not drunk, as we had definitely eaten enough at this little surprise "snack."