Monthly Archives: July 2015

Toscana Resort Castelfalfi and a taste of Poggionero 2012

Poggionero 2012 was a good vintage for this authentic Tuscan wine, grown on one of the most beautiful estates I’ve ever had the pleasure to visit in Tuscany: Castelfalfi. The breakdown of grapes are 50 percent cabernet sauvignon, 40 percent merlot and 10 percent alicante. Twelve months in barrels resulted in this ruby-colored, depthful taste of Tuscany’s terroir translated into elegance and sophistication. Sipping on this wine brings back memories of my visit during a chilly spring Easter weekend, where I enjoyed dinner in La Rocca Castelfalfi, a castle that hosts a Michelin-star restaurant/chef.

On my way to Castelfalfi, the winding road was almost invisible due to the distant fog. The weather’s uncooperative nature led me to drift in imagining myself meandering along the pathways that tied the estate together like the wrapping of a luxurious gift. All I was able to view was a peek of exquisiteness in the surrounding view. And that was good enough for the moment. The scene of rolling vineyards and Tuscan farmhouses pressed against a sleepy blanket of misty air was almost too beautiful to bear, to the point where my eyes moistened in thoughts of reality; this scene was not digitally-enhanced. The following day, as the fog unwrapped to a glorious definition of resplendent landscape I witnessed from my Hotel Tabaccaia terrace, I began to understand the succinct and sensory title of being under the Tuscan sun.

Olive treesOlive and Cypress trees at Castelfalfi Resort in Tuscany.

From Florence, the drive to Resort Castelfalfi is approximately one-hour, and the conversation about the habits of wine drinkers in Italy versus the U.S. revealed just what I imagined — that drinking wine is part of a culture in Italy, while in the U.S. it is an indulgence triggered by the need for social lubricant.

In Italy, a child grows up drinking wine diluted with water, which educates the palate for tasting wine to its fullest potential by the time of adulthood. In fact, as part of a debut into adulthood, in Italy, participation in a wine harvest is a ritual experienced for youth “coming of age.” With this concept in mind, I cannot help but wonder if what I taste at Castelfalfi might only be tastier had I been drinking diluted wine as a young girl growing up in the U.S. Alas, I was not in the U.S., but in Tuscany, where I plan to return time and time again, if not for the wine, but for the olives and oil, as well as the incredible Italian dishes and friends I made along the way.

Three must-visits in Venice: Tea Time at The Metropole, Harry’s Bar & the Caffe Florian

From the moment we unpacked our suitcases upon check-in at the Metropole Venice, we had one mission in mind: get to Harry’s Bar for a Bellini. This was a recommendation that became our obsession. We hadn’t known exactly how special the experience would be, or how delicious a homemade Bellini could taste. The ritual of sitting at the bar, watching the homemade peach juice pour into the cocktail shaker while two bartenders dressed to the nines pour our expensive, but worthwhile Bellini, and then pose with us for a keepsake, was time well spent. This is a tourist-y act to do, and not for the Millennial Generation, but for the Boomer Generation, it’s right up our alley. (OK, so maybe I’m a Gen X’er.)

It was easy to run off to the various alleyways of Venice and then return to our spot on the waterfront at Hotel Metropole. Convenience in location is everything, and we were able to catch a water bus from the steps of our hotel, head to Lido for pizza and local red wine, hop a boat back to San Marco, run left from Hotel Metropole to the residential area of Venice to explore, sip a Bellini at Harry’s Bar to the right, and mid-day, head for a sip of Oriental tradition: tea time in the Oriental Bar at the Metropole Venice.

Tea Time Metropole

I arrived at the tea room for a ceremony in tasting amid soft music and candlelight. The scene was set and I was relaxed before my first sip. Two tea-time experts catered to my curiosity explaining to me that green tea is meant to brew for three-to-four minutes and is best served with fish, while white tea is steeped at 70 degrees for five-to-seven minutes. Black tea is steeped at 90 degrees for five minutes and is best served with caprino cheese and beef seasoned in a savory blend of Italian herbs. The Oriental Bar collaborates with the French company Dammann Frères from October to March in offering a tea ceremony of 30 most famous blends in the world. These blends include Olong, Ceylon O.P. Kumana , green Genmaicha tea, Nepal Himalaya Shangri-La, Darjeeling Superior, Assam Superior and Yunnan Celestial.

Next stop: Caffe Florian, a historic landmark of Venice.


We weren’t sure what to order: coffee or a cocktail? So we ordered coffee liqueur cocktails as a compromise. Three words: Worth. Every. Penny. The interior design alone is worth a visit. Fortunately, it’s location is a short walk from Metropole Venice and we were able to freshen up before and after our activities. One particular activity that was educational and special was a tour we signed up for through Walks of Italy for a Legendary Venice Tour. From the Doges Palace to St. Mark’s Basilica, it was thrilling to hear the background stories stepped in artwork, interior design extraordinaire, and spaces that one could only imagine filled with dukes and nobles of the past. You can’t get this type of experience unless you’re with an expert tour guide.

Aside from the tourist attractions, it was our off-the-beaten path experience of turning to the left of Hotel Metropole to walk through the residential area. This experience made the entirety of our visit to Venice well-rounded and worth a toast to accomplishing many activities, sips and tastes into a few short days.

What I learned at IWINETC 2015 in La Champagne, France

I only drink Champagne on two occasions, when I am in love and when I am not.

– Coco Chanel

I stand in the cellar at Champagne Collet in Aÿ, in the heart of the Champagne region, where one million bottles a year are produced. The historic cellars which were once a refuge during war are now home to some of Champagne’s finest caves, where millions of bottles age for our eventual palatable pleasure. As an attendee at the International Wine Tourism Conference 2015, held this year in La Champagne, France, I was honored to receive a hands-on education in Champagne making and tasting.

“The bottles are placed in a 45-degree angle, necks down in the pupitres,” our guide explains, and the riddler turns the bottles every one to three days over a period of several weeks. Referred to as “remuage,” the process of riddling was invented by Widow Clicquot of Veuve Clicquot fame. Today, most Champagne bottles are riddled mechanically, but the ridge-lined shape of this particular Collet bottle does not fit within the parameters of the machine and must be turned manually.

Champagne Collet's Esprit Couture Brut
Champagne Collet’s Esprit Couture Brut, 

A bottle of Esprit Couture was bestowed upon me, and I recently had the pleasure of sharing it with friends. This is a Champagne crafted entirely by hand from start to finish utilizing Collet’s finest crus in a blend of 40 percent Chardonnay (for elegance and finesse), 50 percent Pinot Noir (for depth and structure) and 10 percent Pinot Meunier (fruit flavor).

This particular Champagne is aged for a minimum of five years within Collet’s chalk cellars.

Upon sipping this amazing bubbly, there was no doubt it was just that… fine effervesces gave way to vanilla and floral aromas with a taste of minerality and citrus blended perfectly for the palate.

Perhaps it is in the crafting of a selection of grapes from twenty vineyards in La Champagne, but the delicate aromas and flavors, like melting roses on my palate, wins my praise once I sip Collet’s privee rosé dry Champagne. This is a blend of pinot noir and chardonnay grapes with a bit of pinot meunier for its fruitiness, aged four years in a century-old chalk cellar.

The next morning, my tour on the Champagne Trail continues with a half-mile-long stroll on Avenue de Champagne in Epernay, where I walk on top of 200 million bottles of bubbly. Or so I’m told.

Thoughts about taste and terroir dominate my mind as I reflect on my journey through the wine regions of France. Author and scholar Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett once conducted research on sensory pleasures in food, citing the fact that “Wine is alive”— “It matures over the years and changes even in a few hours. It is an event. Even a single taste can be like an act in a play that is as long as the life of the vintage.” I would have to agree.

To view Collet’s video on Champagne’s tradition, click here.