Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Ring My Bells

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Church bells, I’m sitting here back on my little couch perch feeling the jet lag finally settle in and I hear the church bells ringing from the Catholic Church down the street. I’ve lived in this spot for close to thirteen years and cannot remember even once hearing them before. I just got back from a place where the bells rung often, being there experiencing, seeing, tasting….feeling things for the first time….aware of each tiny nuance and now here I sit, in a place I know so well that I can damn near navigate it with my eyes closed, with the bells of my own place awaking me to what I’ve been missing….well by navigating through my daily life with my eyes closed.

These trips are always like this for me, always this kind of awakening of sorts, a breathing of new life into a soul that yearns to experience new things but sadly too often lets that get tucked aside or buried beneath the stacks of return emails, magazines to read, blogging…planning and making dinner. All the little tasks that make up my daily life, the one I shamefully, all too often navigate with my eyes closed. Even when it comes to picking wine for the night, I have this remarkable world of wine at my fingertips, wines from Piedmont, Marlborough, Dry Creek, Savigny-les-Beaune, Alsace, Muscadet and yet more often than not I wrap my fingers around the neck of a bottle of Francois Chidaine Touraine as I am running out the door. Sure it’s a fantastic wine, be willing to go so far as call it an astounding value, familiar, delicious, food friendly….but, I missed those bells. Eyes closed.

I like to fancy myself a fairly wine savvy chick, been lucky enough to have some of the most sought after wines in the world fall upon my palate, kicked up dust in the cellars of wineries whose wines many people never even see a bottle of. Not sure how it all happened but happen it did and when I think back upon those moments I feel lit up, tingly and profoundly lucky but let’s be real, not about to pop Lafon Montrachet for a tingle. The thing I can do is recall those moments at will; picture the winemaker, the cellar walls, the kind of glasses we drank from, the way the wine rolled across my palate. Those memories are part of me and my wine education and I have them with me always, with me on my drive to and from work, in my heart when I blog, part of my sensory system when I taste anything but, well there is only so far a memory can take you and the one place beyond its reach, is forward.


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When Jeremy Parzen first asked if I would be willing to join he and a handful of other American wine bloggers on a trip to Friuli the first thing that raced through my mind was, “Me?! I don’t know anything about Italian wines beyond Pinot Grigio and Langhe Nebbiolo.” The next thing to come was, “Of course I want to go, I don’t know anything about Italian wines beyond Pinot Grigio and Langhe Nebbiolio” and knowing that The Wine Country could spare me this time of year I shot back the, “I’d love to!’ email. I instantly began walking the Italian section at the shop, eyeing the bottles, trying to pronounce the winery names and testing myself on regions and what grapes grow there….just as I thought, I knew almost nothing. Sure I knew a bit about Tuscany but truth be told, don’t care much for most of the wines from there. Piedmont I could wrap my head around a bit better, Nebbiolio being an aromatic variety much like my beloved Pinot Noir and Dolcetto often being grapey and a tad softer in tannin like Beaujolais on steroids but, for the most part Italy and Italian wines were a complete mystery to me.

The first few hours of my Friuli immersion course were spent speaking English, sipping Prosecco and trying to shake that, “What the fuck am I doing here?” feeling. Just trying to gear up and take in as much as my tiny melon could process. Once we were released to check into our rooms and take a look at our itinerary I found myself awash in utter panic and desperate excitement, on the sheet detailing what we were to taste and the estates we were going to visit there was maybe three things I had heard of before. Friulano, heard of that but never without Tocai in front of it, (and as I would learn the Italians too had to remove the word Tocai, just as the French had to with Tokay for their Pinot Gris. The Hungarians had a hissy and won and now Tokay is a protected name and only they can use it) Pinot Grigio of course and Sauvignon but what the hell are Pignolo, Picolit and Schioppettino?! Wasn’t sure I could even say them let alone taste them. No frame of reference, no memories to look back on, just me in this strange place for the first time tasting things that I had never even heard of….are those bells ringing?

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So you know when you step foot in a new restaurant or even fondle the menu of the one that makes like your favorite pot pie or whatever and you are thinking of trying something different? The way you hover a bit, that little pang of “what if I don’t like it?” the fear of the unknown keeping your feet just above the pond, afraid to plunge….yeah well I told that fear to blow me and jumped in with both feet. Splashed around in the sound of a language that made no sense to me, felt my teeth tug at the flesh of San Daniele prosciutto, (giving Parma a run for its money) got my Frico on, (this I will explain in my next post) found that I have a slightly dangerous love for Grappa and discovered that Schioppettino, a grape literally saved from extinction by the people of Friuli, can be as diverse and sexy as my much adored Cabernet Franc.


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I came home exhausted, thrilled, spun, craving, full of adoration and passion and now….I hear those bells ringing and can feel mine vibrating as well....

13 comments:

Alfonso Cevola said...

i'ts a good thing y'all had the Gigante Pignolo before you went all mushy and junk..

Samantha Dugan said...

Knew you were going to be trouble that first night, Gigante Pignolo indeed...

Valerie said...

Love seeing this through your words...and the pork too. Pork brings people together, am convinced.

Ron Washam said...

My Gorgeous Samantha,

I knew when you signed up for this edition of "Survivor: Friuli" that you and the wines were meant for each other. Beauty is attracted to beauty. Unless you're Berlusconi, then beauty is attracted to money.

I confess that it's been years since my last foray into those great wines, but there's something about Pignolo and Schioppettino that I'm drawn to. Wasn't Pignolo that wooden puppet whose nose grew when he lied? That may explain my attraction. I have the same problem, which explains why my boss has splinters in his ass.

Honestly, what I'm really looking forward to is your take on the wines. And getting my hands on them. The wines I mean... Unless you have a better suggestion.

I love you!

Thomas said...

Well, Ron, getting your hands on Schioppettino and Pignolo in the U.S. takes work, but now you have a potential connection for the wines and maybe Sam will get some into the store--although many people are afraid to spend the money it takes to buy such unknowns, as I am sure Alfonso can attest to...

As for Picolit, even Friulians have trouble finding that one. It is rumored to be a wild vine that, like wild grapevines, is an inconsistant crop producer and therefore isn't exactly large volume production.

Did you guys taste any Verduzzo?

webb said...

It's so good to have you back on this side of the ocean - well, actually on that side of the continent, too! Now, will you please teach us about the wines?

In your honor I ordered Isonzo del Friuli DOC on Sunday afternoon. We were in D.C. at the National Gallery of Art and they had it on the menu by the glass - go figure.

(They also had Venezie IGT, Fuiuli-Venezia Giulia which I think you may have mentioned last week, but I had already ordered the Isonzo before I saw it.)

Anyway, I liked it. A more sweet wine - which I like - but definitely drier than a sweet riesling. I can't tell you anything else. oh, nice color and I liked the fragrance, but can't tell you what it tasted/smelled like. Just good.

I wish that I knew enough to really describe it to you. Maybe you had it in Italy??

Anyway, get some sleep and then pull out the blackboard and teach us about those Friulian wines! We missed you.

Thomas said...

Webb,

Isonzo is the name of a place in Friuli.

Do you know what the grape variety was?

webb said...

Thomas, no. Alas I wrote down what the menu said, but never saw the bottle (or the label) itself. It was white, slightly sweet and good - to my taste. Thanks for trying to help, tho.

ok, also not oakey like most chardonnays; lighter, brighter, crisper flavor. more like a pinot grigio or a riesling, but not as sweet as the sweetest ones.

Samantha Dugan said...

Valerie,
Ham and bubbles, I can think of no two things more unifying....well aside from pot and cheese doodles.

Ron My Love,
Well make up your mind baby, do you want to feel me or have me talk wine? OR I could talk wine while you feel me....just watch that Pignolo, I'm terrified of getting splinters.

So are you looking for an overall impression or which wines drove me wild? Guess I should like write about wine and junk, well unless I could find me a little wooden headed puppet to do it for me. I love you and I missed you!

Thomas,
I have to say that from the wee bit of research I did today many of the wines, (speaking mostly of red) are going to be tough to find here in California but, I'm gonna give it a shot. There were some truly interesting things that I think should be represented at The Wine Country. Truly fascinating range of wines unlike anything else I've had from Italy.

webb,
Okay I totally melted that you tried a wine because of my trip. Might sound stupid but I was truly touched by that. Thomas is right and all they gave you was the region but what you describe sounds like it could be a couple of things, Friulano being my first guess. Now you mention that you like wines with sweetness but I'm starting to wonder if what you like is bright fruit without oak....damn I wish you lived closer and we could play around one afternoon opening bottles and letting me get my fingers on your taste buds. Email me some of the wines you dig sometime, we might be able to do this long distance.

As for me breaking out the chalkboard, I have no business teaching anyone about the wines of Friuli...at least right now. I'm just learning myself but I would be and will be more than happy to share what I have learned thus far and hope that whomever is interested follows along.

So okay, two requests for wine speak leads me to believe that there may be some of you that want to hear it...thought you all came here because I didn't speak wine. Give me a day or two, got the Frico thing I mentioned in this post and I am battling a gnarly post travel cold....without a nostril and my throat is pissed that my lungs are trying to evict chest oysters....ewe, hack, whimper.

Thanks to all of you for reading and taking the time to comment, mean more than you know.

Another Day of Crazy said...

Oh we come here for the sex AND the wine... aren't they inevitably intertwined? If you get lucky and can find someone that imports them to SoCal, I imagine you'd have a number of people who would want to try them.

Samantha Dugan said...

Another Day of Crazy,
Not sure one leads to the other but there are times when a wine can make my heart race, when I can hear my breath leaving my body, when I swallow deeply and can feel the pleasure moving like an open mouth along my spine....both of which cause cravings that can inspire me to forget my head and follow my want. Um, so I guess for some of us they are intertwined in a way, the others....well they read that Alder dude.

Ron Washam said...

My Gorgeous Samantha,

You write about the wines, but only in general. I'd love to hear more specifics, in your inimitable style and junk. Which wines really made your bits get swollen, that kind of thing. I get all hot and my nose gets harder and longer.

And you having a chest cold is like JLo having hemorrhoids. Or something like that...

I love you!
And, yes to the feeling you while you describe the wines, especially the body and aromas. I'm also big on mouthfeel.

Samantha Dugan said...

Ron My Love,
You are the kind of making me blush....and giggle. I love you!