Terra e Vini lunch. We had a wonderful tasting at the historic Livio Felluga winery in Brazzano. Afterwards, Elda Felluga, one of the current owners and daughter of the founder, hosted us at her osteria, Terra e Vini. This beautiful and warm osteria focuses on traditional foods, ingredients and wines of Friuli. This turned out to be one of the best overall meals of the trip for me. The standout was a series of exquisite mini-souffles infused with asparagus and browned on top, and served on a bed of sweetly acidic tomatoes. I spent the whole meal thinking to myself “God, I’d give anything to have this restaurant in Houston.”
Music at Ronco del Gnemiz winery. Ronco del Gnemiz is a classic Friulian family winery run by Serena Palazzolo and Cristian Patat and sons. This day’s visit included an epic, eight bottle vertical tasting of Schioppettino. In addition to the strong wine lineup, this winery is also known for the huge collection of music CDs that line one whole wall of the tasting room. Last year, the COF2011 group asked the winemakers to pair their wine with music. I don’t recall what was playing on our visit but I loved perusing the eclectic collection. Any friend of British prog rock and Zappa-esque Italian iconoclastic music is a friend of mine.
Ramandolo and conversation. Ramandolo is a unique tannic sweet wine virtually unknown in the U.S. Here in COF, it has its own DOCG and is located in the northern-most area of COF, in the hills around the city of Nimis. We ventured into the mountains and met several producers for lunch at Osteria Ramandolo. Unlike other tastings where producers can be a bit standoff-ish, the Ramandolo producers were eager to engage in conversation (Italian and American politics were not off-limits!). We tasted about 10 different producers and noted the incredible diversity of expression in this wine made with the native Verduzzo grape.
Giovanni Dri – Il Roncat Grappa. Giovanni Dri is considered a legend in the Ramandolo subzone of COF. Whether or not he “invented” modern Ramandolo is a matter of debate; what is not in doubt is that he has been one of the most relentless and passionate promoters of the Ramandolo region and its wine for some 40 years. We had an excellent tour and tasting at his winery located at the foot of Mount Bernadia. His Uve decembrine Ramandolo lived up to the considerable hype. But for me the star was the Grappa di Ramandolo Rud (“Rud” meaning “pure” in the local dialect) which was brought out at the end of the tasting. One of the most concentrated and refined (indeed “pure”) grappas I’ve ever tasted.
Aquila Del Torre floor mosaic. It was a dark and stormy night. No really, it was pitch black outside, we’d been tasting all day, it had been raining for hours and we were trundling up a steep, rocky road to the last event of our trip. Admittedly, we were all exhausted, but upon arrival at the Aquila del Torre winery we were welcomed into a warm tasting room by our warm hosts, the Ciani family. Son Michele acted as master of ceremonies and soon we were seated at an elegant table in an elegant room tasting very elegant wines. The Friulano we tasted here was one of the best of the trip. Dinner was mercifully light (I think they’d been tipped off to our long day) with simple courses of cheese and greens. It was obvious there had been a lot of thought in the wine-food pairings as the flavor combinations were inspiring. Dominating the room was a beautiful floor mosaic done by a local artist using rocks from a nearby stream or “torre.” This was the perfect culmination to a spectacular week in Colli Orientali del Friuli.