Italy

Check Out this Aerating Wine Glass

For Christmas this year, I received a set of Borgonovo Aerating Wine Glasses. I love trying new wine gadgets and gizmos so was looking forward to trying these.

Borgonovo Wine Glass

“The aerating wine glass has been scientifically tested to enhance the aromas and flavors of wine,” says the brochure inside. And there are additional advantages to the glasses…

  • Quick wine oxygenation, without a decanter.
  • Up to 30% decrease of alcohol absorption in the blood.
  • A possible decrease of calorie absorption.
  • Decrease of sensorial perception of alcohol.

While I’m not sure about ALL of the promises above, what I can say is that it definitely enhances the wine, both reds and whites that I’ve tried with the glasses, and it’s a nice looking. Both characteristics I would expect from Italian wine glass makers!

No decanting required, you pour your wine into the glass and swirl counter-clockwise. “The wine is agitated against the internal ‘optic ribs’ of the glass causing a chemical reaction to take place which results in a release of unwanted carbon dioxide, while the flavors and aromas are intensified.”

I’ve tasted each wine I’ve poured in the glass before and after swirling / aerating. The wines have opened up in aroma and taste with the swirling, much more so than your usual wine glass. I like the taste of the wine much better and get less heat in the mouth, which is typically an indicator of alcohol levels.

They come in four sizes. My 16 ounce variety is here on Amazon.

All in all, a great wine find. Cheers!

Explore Rome in My Second Children’s Book

KeeKee has landed in Roma! The second book in my children’s picture book series KeeKee’s Big Adventures is here!

I started Grape Occasions to share my love of travel, wine and spas with you. My love of travel started at a young age when my mom was a flight attendant. It opened my eyes and ears to the world.

For the last 30 years, I’ve continued my travel adventures including living abroad in Amsterdam for four years. That’s where the idea for KeeKee’s Big Adventures was born…sharing travel adventures with children and their parents, grandparents, aunts, babysitters (you get the picture).

KeeKee is the adventurous calico kitty who travels the world in her hot air balloon. Her first stop? Ooh là là! Paris, France! And NOW? Mamma mia! It’s Rome, Italy!

Join KeeKee as she explores the sights, sounds, and tastes of this beautiful and historic city. Young readers will share KeeKee’s delight as she makes new friends, discovers exciting places, and immerses herself in the fascinating Italian culture. And, they’ll have fun with the kid-friendly pronunciation guide and glossary in the back of the book, along with a unique and charmingly illustrated map of Rome.

KeeKee’s Big Adventures sparks curiosity and inspires appreciation for our great big wonderful world!

It’s a book you can share with your children each day or evening and take a little trip to Rome!

And check out our website for details about events, fun activities for kids AND join The KeeKee Club!

Giampaolo Tabarrini & His Montefalco Wines

Giampaolo could not be missed at the tasting table…his enthusiastic tastings of his family’s Tabarrini wines filled the 2011 Wine Bloggers Conference Meet the Sponsor room. You couldn’t resist stopping by to enjoy his wines and listen to tasting notes and stories of his winery and hometown in Montefalco, Italy (province of Perugia in Umbria region).

Four generations of the Tabarrini Family have tended to these vines… then in the late ’90’s, Giampaolo decided to continue the tradition in a new way by bottling their own wine. The results are fantastic!

If you don’t know much about Umbria wine, here are a few facts.

  • Umbria is the region sitting next to Tuscany to the southwest.
  • Wine regions include Orvieto, Torgiano and Montefalco Sagrantino.
  • 850,000 hectoliters of wine produced each year…only a small percent of Italy’s production.
  • Grechetto is the top white grape producing a full bodied white wine.
  • Sagrantino, the typical red grape from the Montefalco area, is the hero of this region first appearing at the end of the 19th century. Traditionally this grape was only made in a sweet version and Sagrantino Passito DOC was authorized in 1977.
  • In 1992 Montefalco Sagrantino Secco and Passito became the 12th Italian wine to be designated a DOCG (a controlled and guaranteed demonination of origin). This designation requires a minimum aging of 30 months before release.

Tabarrini is a leading producer of Montefalco Sagrantino. Half of their twenty-two hectares of vineyards are dedicated to the Sagrantino grape, used in five of the six wines they produce. The wine I’ve sampled the most, thanks to the Live Wine Blogging Session at the Conference and the gift bottle in our Welcome Bag, is their Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG. This wine is one of three under their Colle Grimadesco trademark used for their highest quality wines.

Montefalco Sagrantino, Colle Grimaldesco, DOCG 2004 & 2005

  • 100% Sangrantino grapes
  • 10-15 year old vineyards with sandy, muddy soil mixed with some clay and river pebbles
  • Wine is soaked on the skins for over a month, aged 30 months in French oak then 6 months in bottle.
  • Deep ruby red color
  • Aroma is fragrant of blackberries and cassis
  • BIG red full of berry flavor and spice… uniqueness and complexity of this wine comes through in every sip.
  • Pair with roasts, braised meats, mature cheeses
  • 14% alcohol.

Visit Tabarrini’s website for a look at their full wine line-up then buy them on line here. You can also ‘Like’ them on Facebook and follow Giampolo on Twitter.

And when you’re in Umbria, visit their cantina on the property. It represents Tabarrini’s innovation and tradition…three floors including one for fermentation, one for barrels and a cellar completely underground. On the first floor you can see the ritual drying of the Sagrantino grapes.

You don’t want to miss a chance to taste these special wines with Giampaolo himself!

Viareggio, a Tuscan Culture and Coast Weekend

Tuscany + Beach + Sea + Sun + Italian Food = What more could you ask for? It’s all in Viareggio, on the Versilian Coast of Tuscany. Our first trip here, unlike the stop in Lucca, was totally planned. Mapping out our first Italian holiday adventure since moving to Europe, I thought what about a few September days at the beach while in Tuscany? Beach doesn’t typically come to mind when you think of Tuscany but we found it and loved it!

We crossed the mountain headed northeast from Lucca and within 40 minutes arrived to a quiet dark Viareggio and the Hotel President. Excited to see the town the next morning, we awoke early and out our big windows was the perfect view…long beach, beach clubs, a boardwalk, sunshine and sea.

The Versilian Coast is one of the oldest sea resorts in Tuscany runs north to Forte de Marmi and sits between the Tyrranean Sea and Apuan Alps. Viareggio’s name came from the fortress that Pisa, Lucca and Genoa built here in 1172 to defend the coast at the end of the road, via regia. Beach clubs first opened here in 1828 and since its been a hub for Italian family holidays. It peaked as a resort in the 1920’s and while La Passeggiata (‘the boardwalk’) is a bit worn now, you can still imagine the splendor looking at The Liberty Style/Art Nouveau buildings.

The town has been a port since 1913 and now some of the biggest yachts in the world are made here by companies like Perini Navi and Benetti. You won’t believe the size of these things!! Walk down to the pier to check them out sitting in the port and being made in massive hangars.

Viareggio’s most famous event is Carnevale di Viareggio, one of the biggest carnival festivals in Europe. Taking place since 1873, it now draws over one million people each year for its five masked parades full of papier mâché.

Overall there isn’t a ton to do here which makes it perfect! On our second visit we felt like regulars and hit the same spots. We spent most of our time at Bagno Irene, one of over 100 beach clubs lining the sand of Viareggio. Family run like most of the clubs, its been in the family since 1943. You feel the Italian hospitality the moment you walk in. Hotel President has a special rate (for chair, umbrella, use of their facilities) with them so we headed over late morning after the hotel’s yummy breakfast and lazed away the day on the beach surrounded by Italians on holiday. If you need an espresso or beverage, make the short walk to the club. If you’re hungry, they have amazing food. And if you want a beach massage, just look for one of the many great Asian masseuse strolling the beach offering their services (and don’t be intimidated…it’s fabulous!).

After sunset drinks on the beach, we cleaned up for dinner and strolled La Passeggiata. The town is very low key and casual. There are tons of restaurants to chose from…pizza, pasta and seafood are plenty. We like Sa Playa (V.le Margherita, 68) and Tito Pizzeria (Lungomolo del Greco 3). La Passeggiata is also fun to walk in the morning down to the pier to see the fresh catches on display or rent a bike in the park to explore.

So if you’re looking for an incredible Tuscan weekend of culture and coast, Viareggio and Lucca are perfect!

More great Viareggio photos are in the gallery!

Lucca, a Tuscan Culture and Coast Weekend

A missed turn on the A12 in northwest Tuscany led us to Lucca, a medieval gem of a Tuscan town. (Original destination…Leaning Tower of Pisa…we saw it from the road. 😉 ) And while only there for a few hours, we knew we’d return.

Developed as a Roman city in 180 BC, Lucca sits inside still intact 16th century ramparts. With the Apuan Alps in the distance, the town and its 2000 year history are beyond charming and perfect for a day, long weekend or week’s stay anytime of year.

Our first visit was in September which lucky for us is festival month. We stumbled upon the happening main Piazza San Michele where we discovered the most delicious traditional pastry of Lucca dating back to 1893, Frate (like a lemon donut), and yummy fresh anisette crisps being made on the spot. After a short exploration, you can walk the tiny town’s picturesque streets and squares in a few hours, we relaxed at Ristorante del Teatro for an amazing dinner of bruschetta, gnocchi al pesto and tagliatonni pomodoro paired with a local red wine, Montecarlo Rosso.

Our return trip a few summers ago, one of our favorite Italian weekends, centered around the now 13 year Summer Festival Concert Series and trip to the Tuscan Coast. After settling in at the charming Hotel Palazzo Alexander, a 12th century building decorated in noble Lucchese style, we strolled the town’s highlights then took a seat at Il Cuore for an aperitif. Enjoying a prosecco, we soaked in one of my favorite Italian views…the sun shining on Tuscan orange houses dotted with green wooden shutters. Then we made our way over to Piazza Napoleone, home of the Summer Festival hosting well known bands like Elton John, Dave Matthews and James Taylor (our concert!) from late June – July. It’s a spectacular spot for a concert. As we approached the piazza and settled in for a pre-show dinner on Ristorante del Teatro’s patio, the square was getting lively as the town prepared for its mid-point in the concert series. Afterwards we found our seats and to my surprise, I simply bought the more expensive of the two ticket tiers, we were literally in the front row for James Taylor. And the concert was amazing!! James Taylor live in concert in an Italian piazza enjoying local wine under star lit skies. It was truly a magical evening!

We spent the next day enjoying more of the MUST GO‘s (my #1 is definitely the Summer Festival concert series)…

  • The Ramparts: Explore the huge city walls and their 2.5 mile long path either by bike or on foot. You’ll circle the town and enjoy some great views.
  • Piazza Anfiteatro: Once a Roman amphitheater, it’s now an enchanting oval piazza with the ancient arches embedded into the picturesque buildings. A great spot for an espresso and some shopping. I found great linen treasures at a few shops. We also bought a playful Lucca painting by Bianchi Giampiero that always makes me smile when I pass it on our wall.
  • Piazza San Michele: The heart of Lucca is a great place to hang out with the backdrop of the ornate cathedral. To get here from Piazza Anfiteatro, enjoy the shopping along Via Fillungo and Via Roma like Paris, for housewares, and Enotecca Vanni, for a great wine selection packed into small cellars. The third Saturday and Sunday of each month Lucca also hosts 230 antique dealers throughout town.
  • Giacumo Puccini Home: Puccini (1858-1924) was born here and coming 13 September his birth house and museum reopen to visitors. You’ll find him celebrated throughout the year in concerts like those at the 19th century Teatro del Giglio.

Another venture I’d like to do next visit is Strada del Vino e dell’Olio in the Lucca Province outside of town for their D.O.C. wine and D.O.P. olive oil producers! The local Montecarlo wines I had were quite nice.

Next leg of our Tuscan Culture and Coast Weekend…Viareggio!

More great Lucca photos are in the gallery!