My travels in Motherland have brought me to the fine hills of Umbria, where the Apennines rise up and form the spine of the country. Here, nestled in the hills and valleys, is a villa turned agriturismo (a sort of agricultural b&b). And it is at this agriturismo that I learned to turn the fruits of the soil into the wine of the table.
The first step is to identify the perfect vineyard.
Behold the fields of Lake Trasimene. Roughly 2200 years ago, in the year 217 B.C. (and I don’t care who you are, it’s B.C., not B.C.E.), a mighty battle was fought between the Romans, under the consul Gaius Flaminius, and the Carthaginians, under Hannibal. What was supposed to be an easy battle for the Romans turned into a butchering, as Hannibal caught the Romans by surprise. Coming down from the mountain sides, the Punic prince drove the Romans into the blue lake. Between the blood, the sweat, and the lake water slashing in his face, Hannibal lost an eye to infection. For centuries farmers found Roman weaponry when tuning their fields with plows. To this day the Battle of Lake Trasimene is considered one of history’s greatest and bloodiest ambushes.
And of course this makes for fantastic grapes.
Look at these grapes. The difference between fine wine and OK wine is, of course, how much global conflict occurred in the vineyard. You can practically taste Hannibal’s lost eye.
And since this is an old fashioned vineyard, we must juice these grapes the old fashioned way.
Yes for many years I was mocked for my feet. “Frodo Baggins”, they called me, as well as “Bigfoot”. Look at me now, doubters! It takes sweat, hard work, and big feet to make good wine. If you have ever had a sip of wine and thought “that is a nice, dry red wine, with a nice bite”, well, that bite has to come from somewhere. Of course, if you are a weakling, you can put your trust in pansy machines.
Look at this high-tech monster. Hyper modern, this one dates from the 1930’s, which is wine-speak for last month. It’s essentially a barrel, a hinge, and a car jack, but why rely on such machines when you have men like me to crush your grapes the old fashioned way? I swear, these mechanical Frankensteins are gonna put us out of business.
And here I am enjoying the fruits of my labors. Or rather, here I am enjoying the fruits of labors from two years ago, as wine takes time. Nevertheless, I am sure that the fine men and women who made this wine would not mind me stealing the credit for the purposes of blogging.
What I did make myself, however, are these gnocchi.
Toss these in your Sunday gravy! I can assure you they were made with the utmost care in an Italian villa… by an American tourist.
Nicholas Guarracino '18