By Sandi Diehl
Mark and I love to travel. We have enjoyed many amazingly memorable vacations to far away places over the years with our family. Since we developed our passion for wine, we have made our way to various picturesque and romantic places around the world to experience new terroir and wine tasting adventures. Soon after we started our home winemaking hobby, we took our first trip to Napa Valley (where else would someone begin their domestic tour), from a different perspective now that we were making our own wine. I arranged for us to meet with a local vintner to surprise Mark for his birthday. We brought samples of our wine with us, and after a relaxing lunch in the vineyard, the vintner sampled our wines and gave us his personal and professional evaluations. We discovered about how one can create a style of wine all their own. We loved gaining knowledge from him and learning from his valuable expertise.
Our trip to the Burgundy region of France on a small private barge with good friends was first class. The boat was navigated by Captain Kevin, with food and beverage served by his lovely wife, Jody who was our gourmet chef. We cruised through scenic French countryside visiting chateaux and wineries. We enjoyed our excursion to the beautiful Chateau Vouget viewing large historic wine presses, and other old winemaking equipment. We loved the full-bodied, earthy, barrel aged pinots, and the pairings with the delicious local French cheeses, served every evening on the barge. During that trip we made a visit to Romanee-Conti, in the Cote de Nuit region of Burgundy. We explored the extensive caves, tasting wines from different years and different locations. It really opened our eyes to Burgundy wines.
Of course, no wine travels would be complete without trips to Italy. In 2008, we visited the organic farm and winery of Castello Lispida in northern Italy near the hometown of our beloved Italian teacher with whom we were travelling. We learned about the ancient history of aging wine in Amphora (hyperlink!), and some great Italian varietals – especially Tocai. Did you know that Italy has more grape varietals than almost any country in the world? 350 plus authorized varietals, and over 500 documented.
Of course, the Tuscan countryside has so many wineries, large and small, it’s hard to pick any favorites. In small towns in the Chianti region along our journey, we thoroughly enjoyed meals with friends overlooking the peaceful vineyard views. And we savored an exquisite five course meal with wine pairings at Banfi. A biodynamic vineyard, La Petraia, was a novelty for us. We were in awe of a woman, Susan McKenna Grant, who in addition to running a vineyard, boutique hotel, and restaurant, authored several cookbooks. We learned about making homemade ‘cellos’ (like limoncello, but made with other fruits), and perfect wine pairings. Enjoyed a lunch overlooking the vineyard, garnished with edible flowers!
On our most recent trip to Italy in May 2019, we made our way to southern Italy. We visited the majestic Mt. Etna in Sicily, then stopped for a typical Sicilian lunch of bucatini pasta with eggplant prepared by these amazing chefs. It was paired with an excellent red table wine made from Nerello Mascalese which are local grapes grown on the volcanic slopes of Mt. Etna. It had intense aromas and flavors of red fruits and spices, medium to full bodied with soft tannins and fruity finish.
Palermo, Sicily is known for its abundant seafood, and it was a culinary delight! The bustling local market in downtown Palermo featured red tuna, which we just had to try. It paired well with a popular local white wine called “Grillo”, which has herbaceous notes, crisp flavors of lemon and grapefruit, and was easy to drink. It was somewhat reminiscent of a Sauvignon Blanc to us. We had a memorable lunch with friends, (Steve and Lisa McNeel, and Ken and Martha Farrar).
Our last stop in Italy was Orvieto, a small city just north of Rome, which was fascinating with its underground caves 20 meters below the ground. It was discovered in the 1970’s, and dates back to the Etruscans. We ate at the restaurant after we toured the caves, and enjoyed a gourmet meal paired with their own Il Labirinto (the Labrynth) di Adriano. What an amazing experience!
Hmm… Wine and food seems to be the theme here. We hope to evolve from our education to create experiences here at Stonewall Creek Vineyards to share.