Thursday night is a bit of a blur, seems more like a vague memory than something that recently happened. It feels like something has been dropped on my foot. Slight headache, but a few aspirin took care of that. I encountered some rare wines in the past few hours and days.
1959 Chateau Lafite – The first time I had this wine, in 1985, with Michael Broadbent in Chicago, it was a memorable experience. This one was from a bottle with slightly lower than optimal fill level. The whole gang was there; tea, leather, tobacco, dust, old, distinguished, tired, and finally silence. The glass was empty.
1985 La Chapelle Hermitage – this wine seems like an old friend now. We met when we were both younger, more youthful, red faced and full of rage. Now we both are mellower. There’s some of this at home as well as on the island.
1928 D’Yquem. – What a difference 20 years makes. Much more for us mere humans than the wine. This first time I had this wine it was as old as I am now. I hope I fare as well.
There are more….but tasting notes are not what this dream is about
On to the Italian coast. An early departure, thank God the coffee was Italian in style. While cooler than on Corsica, a private landing strip between Pisa and the Maremma was a welcome sight. A month earlier, in waking moments, I had been in the southern Maremma near Grossetto. It reminded me of Santa Barbara in California. The area north was a little more scrub-like, fewer trees, more rangeland. Our last stop would be a hilltop estate.
The owner rarely lives in Italy, preferring to stay with his family in New York or Spain, away from the potential kidnappers and ransom masters. Security was tighter than La Guardia Airport on Sept 19, 2001. But you wouldn’t know it. You couldn’t see it if your eyes were open. But all was in place. I asked my friend why we didn’t just deliver this to their offices in New York. His comment, “These folks pay to have it where they want it, when they want it. It might not make sense to little folks like you and me, but they live in a different world.”
Money is no object, when it comes to getting sensitive material in a private manner. A fax doesn’t transmit in this world, this diary of a somnambulist. I keep thinking I’m going to wake up and it will be all bright and painful and it will have gone away.
Friday 1:00 pm – The headache is returning. My right foot as if it is asleep. Maybe sitting in the back of the limo for this long, bumpy ride has caused it to flair up. Maybe not sleeping in the past few days. In any event, no one needs to envy me on this trip a cross between a Twilight Zone episode and an Ionesco play.
Finally, at the top of the hill, beyond a row of cypress and behind a cover of trees, we are led to the villa. We meet the final client, a man in his mid 40’s, with a few young men on the outside acting as cover and watchdogs, along with the watchdog. A lawyer, an elderly man, was also present. We have been eagerly awaited, the water was boiling and they were ready to have lunch. And they were waiting for us.
Over a plate of antipasti, little seagoing creatures, fresh and marinated, we sipped a glass of Vermentino from the region. A friend of the client, Marco Bacci, has an estate down the coast, Terre di Talamo. The Vermentino “Vento” was fresh and crisp. Not biodynamic, but nonetheless organic, it was as unsullied as the land we were on. Modernity was natural in this territory as there were no over layers of ritual demanded of the inhabitants, only a deference to position and place.
A pappardelle alla lepre (see recipe below) was then served with a young light red from the area, A Sangiovese and Cabernet blend. Almost resembling a rose’ wine or a Beaujolais, it was perfect with the pasta.
The main course (and this would be our only meal of the day, but one that would last for 5 hours) was a wonderful Bocconcini di Manzo Stufati al Morellino di Scansano. Fittingly we had it with Morellino di Scansano. Six of them. A 2004, 2000, 1990, 1985, 1982, 1976. They had a saying,” Old Morellino doesn’t die, it gets turned into sauce.”
The whole idea of dining as long as one sleeps is interesting, because it becomes a kind of sleep. The different courses are like different dreams, in fact they are. The moments between the courses, the conversation, the stories all weave into the dreamlike nature of these past few days. Very disembodying, but very wonderful.
Finally, one of the old guards was also a great pastry chef in his early days. A Sicilian, and trained with a knife in more ways than most of us could imagine. He was famous for his “capi duzzi di ricotta” , little fried pies filled with fresh ricotta. It went well with a Marsala Riserva Speciale 10 year from de Bartoli, the only exception to the drink local code. But Marsala, is a wine for honorable men with honorable intentions. Another code, this one unbreakable.
With that we disembarked back to the States, arriving Saturday, a little earlier than planned. But an elderly friend was in need of having his life’s belongings, a life of wine, packed up and stored away. But that’s another story for another time.
*IWG's note- As it is not my intention to deceive you, I must confess. In reality I have really been laid up with a broken toe. And no pain medicine. So I thought it would be a good diversion (for me) to write about another place and time, to get my mind off the pain and the hassle. The wines mentioned the last two postings have all actually been drunk somewhere in time, in the past, by me. I thought it would be a good exercise (seeing as I cannot actually step outside and take a run, my usual exercise) to weave some wines tasted with an imaginary trip. I know a few of you wrote, thinking I was either nuts or out of my mind. Only with the temporary agony of a physical infirmity. The wines were all tasted but the places were not visited. This time. Most of the pictures I did take. I hope I did not offend anyone by taking them on my imaginary journey with me. Then again if any of you had called you would have known my predicament and possibly come to my aid. But not to worry. I am on the mend. Slowly, but eventually.
SALSA ALLA LEPRE
1 costola di sedano
3 bacche di ginepro
2 chiodi di garofano
2 foglie di alloro
1 spicchio di aglio
1 bicchiere di vino rosso
400 gr di pomodori pelati
sale pepe nero olio extra vergine di oliva
Lavare la lepre, tagliarla a pezzi e metterla "a far l' acqua" in un tegame a fuoco vivace per 3 minuti. Scolare, sciacquare con acqua. In un tegame a parte far rosolare con l' olio d' oliva la cipolla, il sedano, e la carota finemente tritati. Quando il soffritto avrà raggiunto una colorazione marrone, aggiungere lo spicchio d' aglio tritato, le bacche di ginepro ed i chiodi di garofano schiacciati. Subito dopo unire la lepre e farla amalgamare al soffritto cuocendo e mescolando per un minuto. Bagnare con vino rosso, far evaporare, aggiungere i pomodori pelati passati, le foglie di alloro, salare, pepare e far cuocere per un’ora abbondante a fuoco lento a tegame coperto. A cottura ultimata togliere la lepre dal tegame, disossarla su un tagliere e tritarla finemente. Mettere nuovamente la lepre nel tegame con la salsa.
200 gr di farina di grano tenero
100 gr di farina di grano duro
olio extra vergine di oliva e sale
In una ciotola mescolare le farine e poi disporle a fontana sul tavolo. Al centro mettere le uova, l’ olio ed il sale. Far incorporare la farina lentamente, dopodiché lavorare energicamente finchè la pasta non risulti liscia ed elastica. Far riposare per 10 minuti. Tirare la pasta fine e tagliarla a strisce di 4 cm di larghezza. Lessare le pappardelle in abbondante acqua salata e condire con la salsa alla lepre.