Italian Castles and wine

My wife and I and our 1 month baby went on our first road trip as a family. We traveled from Nice France to Piacenza Italy. I drove, my wife was navigator and the baby was in charge of sleeping and screaming. To his credit, mostly sleeping. Thankfully the car is a natural sedative for babies. It was a pleasant drive along the coast through the hilly mountain passes speckled with yellow and red trees.

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We stayed with Caterina, an interior designer at her home Castello di Tassara near Piacenza. During our first evening she prepared for us a risotto and pork dish from pigs she raised herself. She served a red wine called Guttornio. It was dark and full bodied similar to a Malbec. It had a slight effervescence which gave it a spicy tone to it. Caterina told me that Guttornio was unique to Piacenza and that it was known for going well with pork. I agreed.

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Caterina acquired the castle 35 years ago. She rebuilt the castle to it’s former glory and updated it with modern finishes. It has an old world rustic charm. Many furniture pieces were built using the original wood from the castle. African folk art can be found prominently displayed through out the home. Caterina is a force behind the efforts to save the black rhino. Her home tells the tales of her adventures in Africa. We played a fun game of who could find the most rhinos around the home.

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The next morning we had a breakfast with eggs directly from the henhouse. I decided I would track down the winemakers since they were in the area and discover the true nature of the Guttornio from last night. The winery Tenuta La Torretta sits atop a picturesque hillside with golden grapevines and farmsteads that reach far off into the distance. I was received by a lovely couple who were brand new owners of the winery, Anita and Corrado. They had just purchased the winery 3 months ago! So, there was no chance of me meeting the winemaker who had crafted the wine I had enjoyed but a new chapter of the winery was starting and they were happy to tell me all about it.

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Corrado and Anita were living on the hill just next to the winery where they grew their own grapes and sold them to a winery. Corrado worked at that winery for 20 years learning his trade. Anita was a microbiologist who worked on cures for the influenza virus. They purchased Tenuta La Torretta and added their grapes to the fully functioning winery and turned their full efforts towards their own winemaking. I see a lot of joy and pride when they talk about their grapes.

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Guttornio is their signature wine. It is a mix of two grapes found only in this region Barbera and Bonarda.  The Guttornio Classico is aged for 6-12 months while the Reserva is aged foe 4 years. Another specialty to the region is Ortrugo. It is a white sparkling wine with a crisp taste and very slight sweetness.

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After showing me around and tasting a couple wines, Anita and Corrado took me up to a room full of soft pink grapes. These were a very special set of Verdea grapes which were now resting for one month. Once they dry out, the sugar content will be correct to make Passito, a desert wine very popular around Christmas time in Italy.

I came home with 3 bottles of Classico, 3 bottles of Reserva, a bottle of Ortrugo and a bottle of Malvasia Dolce, a sweet white wine. I will be quite curious to try the Passito the next time I see it, maybe for Christmas.

New experience is the spice of life. I am lucky to have a wife who is an adventure seeker. I am proud of our little family on our first trip and I look forward to many more. Who says you can’t do it all?

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