Italy Now, Safely

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sunny vineyard in Italy (photo courtesy of Yosika @ happy holiday.travel )

Picture yourself sitting outside in a balmy breeze…ever so slightly buzzed with a glass of wine from a small Italian vineyard, of which only the cognoscenti have heard.

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under-the-radar vineyard in Tuscany (photo courtesy of Poggio Rubino Winery)

Wine from the Gods

You have cleverly chosen a bottle from Poggio Rubino, a winery in Tuscany recommended by Mary Ervolina, my friend who goes to Italy every year to find the best food, wine and hotels. It’s her business! More about Mary in our next post.

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Montalcino, Italy (photo courtesy of Poggio Rubino)

Basking in the warmth of the sun, you are contemplating…Montalcino…ancient, hilltop town, with big green views of Tuscany. Can you see the vineyard that produced your wine?

Music Transports You

Gently playing in the background is lilting, Italian music. You are transported to those heady post-WWII days made for dancing, when Italian consumption boomed and life was beautiful.

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Domenico Modugno sings, “Volare!” (photo courtesy of issimoissimo.com)

“After exiting the war in shambles and starting from that moment, Italy boomed…mothers decided that each kitchen needed a refrigerator, fathers lined up in front of the Fiat dealers…an age made for dancing, playing pinball, drinking Coca-Cola and listening to music in the jukebox. This is the soundtrack of the miracolo italiano (Italian miracle).” (from issimoissimo.com)

Tuscany Food Bliss

Montalcino’s hills are alive with vineyards, cheese makers and olive groves, owned by families who’ve been lovingly perfecting their products for generations.

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Tuscany’s hills (photo courtesy of Travel Across Italy)

Cheese from Heaven

A second glass of the Poggio Rubino? Certo! Who can resist? A little cheese would taste sooo good with this. How about some Pecorino from Fior di Montalcino?

I wonder how they make cheese, you muse. After watching this lovely, short video, you now know, and are inspired. “I want to go meet the goat from whence this glorious Pecorino was produced!” Surrounded by sunflowers, Fior di Montalcino is near “your” winery. No wonder they go so well together!

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Sunflowers surrounding our Pecorino cheese producer (photo courtesy of Fior di Montalcino)

Olive Oil with Clout

Homemade bread and olive oil would be perfect right now. The Frantoio Franci family has been producing olive oil in these hills for generations. And won over 500 awards!

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olive groves in Tuscany (photo courtesy of Frantoio Franci)

Saffron and Pasta

By now, you’re contemplating your third glass of wine.

Basta!” It’s time for pasta…with saffron, of course! Why saffron? Because it’s a product of Tuscany.  You’re going to have trofie with saffron and zucchini, a recipe from Pura Crocus, a saffron producer in nearby Val d’Orcia.

Buy the Best 

And this is how we go to Italy now, safely: We buy the best wine, olive oil, cheese and saffron from the best small producers in Italy! We create a little bit of Italy in our homes now, after downloading that great playlist

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Because it’s a whole lot more fun to buy from a small producer in Italy than Whole Foods (photo courtesy of Discover Italy)

Click here to buy, buy, buy! And, remember, Mimi’s Travel File makes nothing on your orders…although, I would be happy to come over for dinner.

Italy Later, Safely

My next post will feature a great itinerary by Mary Ervolina for our in person trip to Italy!

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Argentina’s Mendoza: Let’s Buy a Vineyard

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(photo courtesy of the Vines of Mendoza)

Ever dreamed of buying a vineyard? Not a big one, just a smallish patch to call your own…to squish the grapes, baby your vines, and throw a great harvest wine dinner…at the base of snow-capped mountains, preferably, where the sun shines most of the year.

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Classic harvest dinner among the vines (courtesy of Vines of Mendoza)

YOU ARE IN LUCK because you can buy a small vineyard at the Vines of Mendoza,  nestled at the base of the Andes Mountains in Argentina. Plus, when it’s hot-as-Hades-summer here in the States, it’s fall in Argentina.

Let’s go down the “South American Way!” Can you hear the music playing, you swaying, while swilling a glass of sparkling?! I can.

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(photo courtesy of the Vines of Mendoza)

“…lovely squares, wide boulevards, a colonial feel, canals…” (NYTimes), Mendoza  was established in 1651 by Spanish settlers and is the fifth largest wine producing region in the world. IN THE WORLD! “Mendoza itself makes a good base for a visit with new hotels, restaurants and bars in the historic center…Just a short drive away are vineyards, adventure sports and resorts under the shadow of the Andes with wine lists that feature the best of the region.” (NY Times)

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(photo courtesy of the Vines of Mendoza)

SEE THE SIGHTS

  • Wander Mendoza’s plazas, including Plaza Pelligriani, where you might observe alfresco tango
  • Bike around Mendoza’s Parque General San Martin’s 1,200 acres
  • “Hire a Mendoza travel guide to take you fly fishing for trout in the region’s many streams.” (Travel+Leisure online 2016)
  • Kayaking, mountain biking, and rafting day trips
  • Ride horses
  • Hike Aconcagua, the tallest mountain in the western hemisphere

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(photo courtesy of Finca Adalgisa)

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Love the hats!  (photo courtesy of Finca Adalgisa)

  • And of course, tour vineyards…
    • Domaine Bousquet (Departures 2016)–4 cottages–“beautiful and the wines were great,” according to my friends who visited last year
    • Bodegas Salentein..”Located in Uco Valley, this strikingly modern winery complex…includes a lavish art museum and gift shop…” (Travel+Leisure online 2016) As reported from MTF’s on-the-ground reporters in Mendoza last year, “heard amazing things about this vineyard – from our close friends and from our private driver who took us to wineries!”
    • Andeluna: Our friends did a wine pairing lunch at Andeluna and “highly recommend!”
    • Vines of Mendoza–“The tasting room features about 100 producers, and it’s the only spot in the city where you can try so many in one place,” per NY Times, 2012. Town & Country (2014) also likes it. Vines of Mendoza is a co-op business owned by wine-making hobbyists (you, perhaps?), professional winemakers and chefs. You, too, can buy one of these plots below and have the joy of working your own vineyard, with or without the guidance of the on-staff professional grape growers and winemakers. A wine-collecting friend of mine just bought one and is loving it!

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(photo courtesy of Vines of Mendoza)

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This could be you! (photo courtesy of Vines of Mendoza)

“Apparently great deals on buying wine and shipping it back to the States, too!” according to another friend who visited last year and met fellow travelers who raved about Vines of Mendoza.

EAT, DRINK & BE MERRY

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(photos courtesy of 1884 Francis Mallmann)

  • 1884 Francis Mallmann — Francis Mallmann is the “it” celeb chef of Argentina. “The restaurant was born as a tribute to the wines of Mendoza and the Andean cuisine, in 1996,” per its website. “The Escorihuela Winery, which houses the restaurant, was built in 1884… houses the prestigious facilities of the Bodega “Caro” that is born from the union of Chateau Laffite led by the mythical Baron, Eric de Rothschild and Catena Zapata, led by Nicolás Catena Zapata who has been in the last 25 years the leader of the wine quality of Mendoza.” Sounds impressive!
  • Siete Fuegos at the Vines of Mendoza — “chef Francis Mallmann creates inspired regional dishes, showcasing Argentina’s famous beef. From our gardens and the surrounding land, we proudly bring you a natural bounty of local, seasonal ingredients paired with exceptional Argentine wines. From here, the culinary magic begins!” (per Vines of Mendoza’s website)

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roasting the meets and vegetables with the vineyards in the background at Siete Fuegos (photo courtesy of Vines of Mendoza)

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preparing birds amongst the vineyards for dinner at Siete Fuegos (photo courtesy of Vines of Mendoza)

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And now, let’s eat! What a gorgeous setting! Note the mountains beyond the vineyards. (photo courtesy of Vines of Mendoza)

STAY

  • Finca Adalgisa (recommended by Andrew Harper 2015 & Departures 2016): My close friends who stayed here described it as, “…a perfect oasis. We also did the cooking class there which was awesome. The hotel includes a glass of wine and an appetizer each night from 6-10 at their winery, too! It has so many secluded spots for couples to sit in…” Finca Adalgisa describes itself as a “wine hotel.” I can see why: it is surrounded by vineyards with the Andes Mountains behind them.

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(photo courtesy of Finca Adalgisa)

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(photo courtesy of Finca Adalgisa)

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Note the grape vine “hedges” surrounding the pool (photo courtesy of Finca Adalgisa)

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My friends who took the cooking class at Finca Adalgisa described it as “awsome.” I bet that sweet toddler (above) learned a LOT! (photo courtesy of Finca Adalgisa)

  • La Pousada–at Carlos Pulenta winery’s Carlos Pulenta winery’s lodge, a spectacular location…at the base of the Cordon del Plata range of the Andes.” (Travel+Leisure online 2016)
  • Vines Resort & Spa –This must be some-kind-of-wonderful because travel guru Andrew Harper included it in his 2016 list of top hotels in South America  (Departures, 2016, Travel+Leisure and Town & Country, 2014 also like it); 22 villas built with local stone, wood and leather surrounded by 1,500 acres of vineyards..

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This is really working for me! (photo courtesy of Vines of Mendoza)

Bonus: Yoga is available, as is a pool surrounded by vineyards. Horse back riding is an option, too, as are meals overseen by Argentina’s “it” chef. Yoga at The Vines

After a morning of working your vineyard, get the kinks out with a little pond-side yoga. (photo courtesy of Vines of Mendoza)

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Note the vines and Andes Mountains in the background (photo courtesy of Vines of Mendoza)

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(photo courtesy of Vines of Mendoza)