13 September 2016

2015 ITALY Rufina 35 - Mike's Surprise

Out of Florence so far we had traveled southeast and southwest. Today we took the faster freeway route northeast to our destination of Rufina. Along the way we saw our first artichoke fields. I could live the rest of my life on an artichoke menu. Well maybe add a little ciabatta bread dipped in olive oil to go along with it.

When we got to the back roads we saw "watch for cows" signs. Another one pointed you toward a town named Beverly Hills!! Yet another exit led you to Marignolle. We really wanted to make that turn-off. At home in our kitchen we have this wall art with an early view of an olive orchard from that very town. We knew it was a real place, but never thought to visit there. Alas, it was not on our itinerary.
We arrived at the Colognole Winery about 11am. Our host in the tasting room was Mario Nunziante, a fifth generation producer (since the time of Italy's unification) along with his brother Cesare. We didn't tour the processing area, but in the tasting room we got a very informative lesson all about wine-making from start to finish--terroir, climate, balance of leave vs fruit, and much more. Even though we had heard much of this before, he was easy to understand and practical in his explanations. It really clarified some things for me.
This map illustrates just the wine "regions" of Tuscany. Wow!
After our lesson we tasted four lovely wines: a 2011 Chardonnay and a range of three chiantis from 2009. Here on the farm they also produce acacia and chestnut honey and olive oil for sale.
Here you will also find rooms, apartments, and houses to let if you are seeking a more pastoral place to lay your head at night. There is also a restaurant where we would eat our last meal of the culinary tour together. Here is brother Cesare with Chef Alberto Busetto holding his darling little pup Ugo (maybe Hugo in English?). I'm so sorry I don't remember the lady's name. Cesare look dapper in his Ferragamo suit and bright smile.
This was our most rustic meal and it was served family style. That was most appropriate as our group had become a "family" in many ways. Ten busy days together, lots of chat, miles covered, family and personal info revealed, and favors shared. Yes, a family!

Meat was the highlight here, yet they took good of me with my veggie lifestyle. The menu consisted of: 1) crostini of various meats including salami, prosciutto, capocolla, chicken liver pate, and fresh pecorino (sheep’s milk) cheese, plus a tomato bruschetta for me; 2) ‘little rags’ of egg pasta with sausage, wild fennel, and pecorino; 3) grilled strip steak served sliced with porcini mushrooms with oven roasted potatoes; 4) for me a variety platter of tasty veggie concoctions including broccoli soufflĂ©; and 5) profiterole dessert (pastry puffs with custard and chocolate) and espresso.

The big surprise though was a special ice cream sundae for Mike's birthday. His BD was actually the next day, but our group would go its separate ways before then. Mike blew out the candle and got a big applause from our friends and the chefs. One could not ask for a better celebration.
After that we wobbled through the little market. There were jams, honey, house OVOO, coffee beans, sweets, blood oranges, and more. The rustic homemade breads look especially good. But we were all too full to even think of buying more food.

We took a little walk down the roadway to survey the panoramic view one last time, and then reluctantly turned back toward Florence.
Back in Florence we said our good-byes to Giuseppe. He was returning home to Lucca now. Cabs would take us all to the airport in the morning, as we had different departure times. We will remember Giuseppe very fondly. Here he is (right) with Chef. xxooxx

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