Chalone Tour of Italy
Monday, October 9, 1995
Luigi and Manly, 1995
Hotel Principe di Savoia
Piazza della Republica 17
20214 Milan, Italy
Michelin, Italia, 1995, p.379
My wife Luigi and I arrived at Malpense (Evil Thought?) airport via a United Air Lines flight
about 9:30 A.M. after a brief stop in Rome. After groups from United, Northwest and TWA
were met by Paddy Nicholls, our splendid tour director, a chartered bus took us to the hotel.
Milan is covered by near perpetual smog that is held firmly in place by the Alps and the
Apennines. Waiting an hour or so before our rooms were serviced and assigned to us, we
observed several elaborate rooms on the ground floor, some with walls of variously colored
marble, others with brightly painted wall panels. This being the time of fashion shows in Milan,
the hotel was full. Slender young women modeling wedding dresses were wandering, apparently
randomly, about the main floor. We had a light lunch in a sunny room with painted panels and
pink and yellow upholstered furniture.
Our quarters included good sized foyer, large bathroom with green and white marble floors
and walls, bidet and stainless steel rocker panel on the wall back of the toilet to control flushing.
The bedroom was about 15 x 20 feet with an 11 foot ceiling. Light carved wood paneling
included pairs of false columns separated by 6" wide vertical mirrors, each column having three
gilt vertical 1" grooves. Set into the paneling were rectangles of green cloth with silver brocade.
A 10-armed brass chandelier with crystal bangles hung from the center of the ceiling and matching
sconces were mounted in some of the vertical mirrors. The dark wood headboards were
patterned with light leaf-design marquetry. Of matching marquetry were bedside cabinets, an end
table, a TV table, a writing desk and a console holding the refrigerator-mini bar and bar supply
cabinet. Three rows of three 15" square mirrors tiled the wall opposite the headboard. An
external shutter rolled up and down under control of switches on a wall and in the bedside light
control switch panels. A box like a TV remote control on each bedside cabinet contained a
rheostat controlling the bedside lamp.
A welcome dinner buffet in the hotel included canapes of smoked salmon and cucumber,
liver pate with shallots, pink shrimps, parma ham and figs, fresh cheese with walnuts, and quail
egg and mushroom mouse. Then a course of hot snacks included mini pizza with salad and
anchovies, puff-pastry (with leeks, ham and cheese), stuffed pizza bread, small fried mozzarellas
and cheese and anchovy croquettes. Next were the entrees of home-made ravioli Cremona style
with creamed tallegio cheese and truffle, and home-made pasta with seafood and vegetable sauce.
Desserts included apricots and rice
pudding, Sacher cake, wild berry tarts and fresh fruit salad with passion-fruit. Wines included
Masi Valpolicelli Classico, a good dry red of moderate aroma, medium body and strong aftertaste
with little fruit, and Gancia Brut, a nice sparkly white with modest aroma and aftertaste.
Tuesday, October 10
Locanda del Sant' Uffizio
Cioccaro di Penango 14030 Asti, Italy
011 39 141 916 292
Michelin, Italia, 1995,* p.395
We were introduced to Marie Elena, our local Milan guide and to Giancarlo, the
handsome, friendly and helpful driver for most the rest of the trip. A tour of the City included a
visit to La Scala, where we ascended many back stairs to thoroughly view half a dozen rooms of
relics and for 30 seconds to see the glorious hall from a box on third of six levels. My chief
recollection of the former was when the guide's monologue referred to the larva of Napoleon who
became wife or mistress of the Duke of Wellington. We made short visits to a local Castle and to
the Duomo (Cathedral) -- European Gothic rather than Italian. After a visit to Peck, Milan's
answer to London's Fortnum & Mason, we were turned loose to have lunch at leisure. Luigi and
I ate with Phil and Diane Woodward at Ristorante "Al Mercante," Plaza Mercanti 17 in Milan,
under a tent next to a colonnade near the Doumo: linguini with garlic, olive oil, spinach, tomato,
prosciutto e melone; red and white wine and sparkling water, 52,100 Lira ($33.61) for each
The bus then took us through fields of rice, corn and sorghum into vine-covered hills to
Locanda del Sant' Uffizio a small modern hotel in a former monastery in the vicinity of Moncalvo
near Asti. All of the several buildings appear low until you climb to room on third floor and find a
spiral staircase to bed-loft. But the lovely view over rolling hills turning color with the season
made the climbing worth while.
Dinner at the hotel included mushroom salad, rabbit with white truffles and olive oil,
swordfish rollmops with white truffles and polenta; then Piedmontese agnoletti with herb stuffing
and taglioni with white truffles followed by prime rib of beef with potatoes and deep fried
mushrooms, and finally torta granduja (chocolate cake) with fresh fruit, ricotta and persimmon
marmalade. Wines included Asti Spumante, Gavi (Cortese) DOC 1993, Freisa 1994, Barbaresco
(Musso) DOCG 1990 and Moscato d'Asti. Under Italian wine law, DOC stands for
Denominazione di Origine Controllata; this covers compliance with regulations governing
the zone of production, permitted grape varieties, maximum yield per hectare, minimum alcohol
level and ageing and methods of production. DOCG stands for Denominazione di Origine
Controllata e Garantita requiring compliance with even stricter standards and mandatory
tasting by the regulators. Thus a blend of, say, Barbaresco and Pinot Noir would not qualify for
either designation no matter how good it might be, and it would have to be characterized as Vino
da Tavola or table wine.
Wednesday, October 11
The group attended a two-hour lecture by Angelo Gaja on Gaja wine in the former
quarters of the Hotel Uffizio. We learned that here in the Piedmont most wine is from a single
variety though elsewhere, particularly in the Chianti region, wine is blended. The picking was just
starting and would continue for 20 days. Then we tasted several of the Gaja wines including
Darmagi Cabernet Sauvignon, 1991, with great aroma and aftertaste, much tannin, good body but
a little harsh, and with a slight chocolate taste. "Darmagi" comes from the French "d'hommage"
meaning shame, but there was nothing shameful about the wine. Perhaps the term was applied by
others to Gaja's use of grapes different than the Nebbiola which produces slightly fewer tons per
acre than Cabernet Sauvignon. The Barbaresco, 1991, another dry red, also had great aroma and
aftertaste with much tannin and was very dry. Signor Gaja said that it was made of Nebbiola
Grapes which require special land and climate, and the name of the grape comes from "Nebbia"
the Italian word for fog or mist which covers most of the Piedmont most of the time. He
mentioned that the tannins would disappear when the wine was taken with appropriate (Italian)
food. Although French cuisine requires much work by top chefs, Italian food is less demanding
and the various quantities do not have to be measured so precisely. Gromis Barolo, 1971, had a
unique aroma, long aftertaste, and was very intense with much tannin and a slight barnyard flavor.
Gaja and Rey Chardonnay, 1992, was very good with excellent aroma and aftertaste, acidic, crisp.
We were told that the acidity matches the olive oil used much in Italy. The Chardonnay was
fermented in stainless steel and aged in barrels that were not toasted; the staves are made of
slow-growing oak from different places, seasoned out of doors by the winery.
The bus took us next to Alba where we walked the ancient stone paved streets dodging
cars. Luigi and I had lunch at local restaurant with the Woodwards, Vicki Hamilton and Anne
Esson; 16,500 Lira ($10.65) per person covered beer, buffet -- the salad for most of us included
something quiche-like, pickled onions, artichoke hearts, leeks and beets; Luigi had seafood salad,
pasta with tomato and meat sauce. A book fair in the street adjoining the town square included
many British and American titles translated into Italian.
That afternoon, we had a tasting of the Cereto family wines at the winery. Virtually no
one but the young woman who acted as guide was at winery; all were out picking grapes. The
winery occupies a lovely hilltop site overlooking other hills covered with rows of vines in various
stages of fall coloring. The weather was typical of the Piedmont: slightly foggy. We tasted
Cereto Bricco Roche Barolo Prapo 1989, a dry red with slight smoky aroma, light body, good
tannin and long aftertaste in numbered bottles, and Cereto Chardonnay La Bernardina 1993 which
was very dry, intense and quite tasty, having good aroma, medium body and long aftertaste. Also
well fit to drink was a Chardonnay del la Langhe table wine.
Dinner at the hotel included hors d'oeuvres with Asti Spumante, three starters: Carpaccio
of veal with fagioli beans, Swiss chard flan with cheese fondue and white truffles and layered tart
of mushrooms and potatoes; then came gnocci with white truffles and mushroom risotto for the
pasta course, followed by "wild boar" (that much resembled roast pork stuffed with sausages).
there were two desserts: one resembled egg-white only custard with lots of rum; the other was
like a fruitcake. Wines included Chardonnay table wine, Dolcetto di Dogliano DOC 1994 and
Barolo Monfaletto DOCG 1990. At each table a Renate garden candle carafe held a candle
floating in water with the top quarter to half inch above the surface.
Thursday, October 12
This was the morning of the great truffle hunt. Our group observed while, in a partially
wooded area next to the hotel, the hunters did their thing. Roberto and Sergio were the men and
Diana, Fido and Yogi were the dogs. We were told that at this time a 100 gram black truffle
would be worth 30,000 Lira (about $20) and a white truffle of the same size would be worth
100,000 Lira (about $67). At Christmas time a 100 gram white would bring 500,000 Lira (about
$333). It costs a hunter 180,000 Lira (about $116) per year for a license that gives him the right
to hunt on all land that is not posted. Hunters replace the sod they dig up, not only as a matter of
courtesy but also to prevent other truffle hunters' finding where they found truffles. A black
truffle lasts a month, a white 15 days after harvest. They are kept in plastic bags under cloth in
Only 1 in 100 dogs will turn out to be a good truffle hunter. Stud books keep track of
good truffle hunters; although they are all mongrels, their pedigrees are maintained. A dog is good
for about 10 years. The dogs are muzzled and start digging when they smell a truffle because they
get rewards when they find any.
In theory it takes 60 days for truffle to develop but it depends, we were told, on the moon.
The largest find for one of our hunters weighed 740 grams. Some exceed a kilo. The human
hunters carry sticks with handles that make them look a little like shepherd's crooks. Poking such
a stick in the ground from time to time helps release the scent for a dog to find. Oaks and some
willows host truffles which grow in clay soil. When a dog finds a truffle it has reached maturity
so the hunters don't leave it to grow bigger. Hunters keep logs to enable them to return to the
same place on the same day next year. Sometimes a truffle's scent will follow a mole burrow,
occasionally fooling a dog. Moles sometimes eat truffles. While digging, the human hunters smell
the soil by the handful to avoid damaging a truffle in digging for it. The digging tool resembles
small adze with a one-foot handle. Usually they hunt at night when distractions are few. Often it
takes an hour of digging to locate a truffle after it is scented. They grow 500 centimeters to one
meter below the surface.
Our hunters found one black truffle promptly and estimated its value at 20,000 Lira (about
$13). It looked like a small, misshapen potato. Then they found a white (which is much more
pungent) after much digging. They estimated its value at 100,000 Lira (about $65).
Back at the hotel, while at the writing desk in our room, I answered a knock on the door and
saw a beautiful red-haired young woman. She said "piu tarde" (later) and disappeared. I am still
waiting, but suspect that she was a chambermaid intent on making our bed and did so when we
The bells of a nearby church rang every hour and half-hour during the daytime. The cuckoo
clock at home may have helped inure us to this experience, but not completely.
Before lunch we visited Tenuda La Tenaglia, the oldest winery in region having been
founded in the 1600s. Dulcina was our guide to this winery. We tasted some Grignolino 1994 del
Monteferrat, a dry red that was aromatic, fruity, crisp, light in color and body with moderate acid
and good aftertaste. We also tried Brico Crea -- light, smooth, little aroma and a tart aftertaste,
and Bianco di Crea, a dry white Chenin Blanc with a unique taste -- great aroma and fruit with a
good aftertaste and little tannin.
Lunch on the hotel terrace displayed the Richard Ginori woodpecker design chinaware
used as service plates. This design is used thematically about the hotel. The food included roast
pheasant following linguini with mushrooms in cream sauce. Dessert was lemon sorbet with fresh
fruit and wonderful brandied cherries.
Much of the afternoon was devoted to a truffle fair in a new building in Alba. Although
truffles were an important exhibit, so were antique photographs and whatever else it took to fill
the exhibition space.
A splendid dinner was served us at Ristoranti Gener Neuv in Asti. (Michelin p.98*) It had
been badly flooded by the adjacent river less than a year before; a sign reading, "Levello acqua del
6-11-94" about a foot below ceiling marked the height of the November 1994 flood. It was
cleaned up in three months.
The food included pork sausage with fontina cheese sauce with Spumante Riserva
Montelera 1991, rabbit salad with Arneis - Bruno Giacosa, sliced raw veal with parmesan and tiny
chopped vegetables with Il Baciale 1994, a Pinot Noir Barbera blend. We were served a truffle
hunters' bowl comprising warm raw egg with cheese topped with thin shaved white truffle in
covered individual dishes to hold in the aroma of the truffles. Our special guest, Rafaella
Bologna, a local winemaker of note, told how she and her brother decided that Barolo with high
acid, color and alcohol would do well blended with a Pinot Noir of low acid, high tannin, less
color and alcohol as grown in the Piedmont. She also told of taking several million Lira worth of
truffles in a package from the Piedmont to New York by air. The smell was strong enough so that
she put them in an overhead bin at the rear of cabin; passengers using the rear washroom
complained that toilet was not working.
Agnolotti containing rabbit, pork and veal came next with the red Barbera "Passum"
Cascina Castelet and was followed by boned guinea fowl stuffed with fresh herbs. Dessert was
zabaglioni pudding with amaretto sauce, poached pear, bits of chocolate in cream sauce and
cookies and candy and was accompanied by Moscato d'Asti DOCG -- Vigna Senza Nome 1994, a
sweet wine made from muscat grapes.
Friday, October 13
Park Hotel Siena
Via di Marciano 18
53100 Siena, Italy
011 39 577 448 03
On our bus from the Locanda we went south on freeways via and around Genoa and
through many tunnels and over many bridges along the very scenic coast past Rapallo to Tuscany.
At the beginning of drive Phil Woodward, President of Chalone, announced that the Company
wanted to restructure its financing, including changing debt for equity, with Domaines Baron de
Rothschild (Lafite), and that a shareholders meeting was being held on October 25 to approve the
transaction. Although proxy forms were mailed to all shareholders, several of us may have left
before we got them or acted on them. Therefore he had more proxies for all shareholders on this
trip faxed to him at the hotel. Phil discussed the transaction in detail and answered all questions
asked. He and Vicki Hamilton then passed out the proxy forms, and we all signed them and
returned the instruments to him. We later learned that all necessary votes to carry the proposition
were in hand but that it was necessary to make sure there would be a quorum.
At two major service stations we stopped where plumbing could be used and coins could be
given to the holder of the cleaning franchise. Food of sorts was available: you determine the cost
of what you want, pay the cashier, get a cash register slip, and give it to person behind counter for
merchandise. Luigi and I got rusticos - prosciutto, cheese and tomato on a bun toasted for about
We passed Carrara and could see white snow-like patches on mountainsides where marble had
Paddy referred to the Chianti region as Chianti-shire - 40 % of residents of this region near
Florence are British or German.
The bus stopped for an hour at San Giminiano where we all got off and walked up through the
walls of the old hilltop city and into the medieval streets thronged with modern tourists. Luigi
and I each had a very good ice cream cone for 2,500 Lira ($1.61).
We reached the Park Hotel in Siena a little after six o'clock. True to its name the hotel is
scenically located in a park on top of a hill overlooking the city. Three suitcases, including
Luigi's, did not accompany us into the hotel before the bus left for maintenance in Florence. Later
we learned that driver had put these into a separate compartment and forgot about them when
unloading. They turned up the next day with a red-faced driver.
Dinner at the hotel included salad of porcini mushrooms, thick tomato soup with croutons
and basil accompanied by Teruzzi & Puthod 1994 Vernaccia di San Gimignano DOC (Ponte a
Randolino), a light Chardonnay-like wine with little aroma and long aftertaste, saddle of veal with
fresh vegetables and rosemary potatoes, Sienese cream pudding with pine nuts and cantuccini and
crustchini al vin Santo. Chianti Classico (Fattoria di Felsina) Beradenga - 1990 Riserva was
smoother and more aromatic than the non-reserve 1993 vintage but both were very good with the
veal. Vin Santo, (a sweet, oxidized, straw-colored wine made from dried grapes and approaching
a liqueur) accompanied the dessert.
Saturday, October 14
At 9:30 the group departed for ride through the rolling hill country south of Siena. In
most of the fields the soil was plowed deeply and turned over in huge clay clods to wait for the
winter rains when the farmers would plow again. We passed through Buon Convento to
Montalcino and beyond to a small valley holding a beautiful little romanesque monastery;
gregorian chants softly reverberated from speakers covered with cloth the same color as stone
walls. Outside ancient olive trees achieved a banzai appearance.
Next we went to Fattoria dei Barbi (Michelin p.398), a hilltop winery-farm-restaurant
owned by the Colombini-Cinelli family. This winery has won several medals. The farm raises
much of the produce, including pork, used in the restaurant. This is one of the largest of the old
wineries in the region; a chart on the wall showed three generations of the family tree beginning
in 1263. A table in the vault holds four red pottery dishes with four different types of soil from
different nearby vineyards. The oldest part of cellar dates from 1888. We were told that Saul
Bellow stayed here for a week a few years ago and wrote an article about it that was published in
a travel magazine. See Bellow, "Winter in Tuscany" Travel-Holiday, Vol 175 No. 9, P. 48,
The Brunello grape, a clone of the Sangiovese grape is grown and vinified here. Annual
production is about 400,000 Bottles (33,333) cases and the wine is aged three years in three
different oak casks of different ages. We saw some workers pouring plastic buckets of grapes
into a hopper and others taking the stems out of the far end of the machine with pitchforks. A
large diameter hose with portable pump carried the crushed grapes from the far end of the
machine to epoxy lined concrete tanks for fermenting.
A large wine glass was handed each as we entered tasting room where 3 long
tables with orange cloths and folding chairs awaited us. We tasted 1990 Brunella, 2 months in
bottle, which was scheduled to go on sale in January, 1996. Great aroma, nice tannin, delicious
rich, full body, they think it their best wine yet. 13,000 bottles will be shipped with a retail price of
possibly 26 dollars per bottle. We were told it will improve with age and will be best in 4 years.
The importer to the U.S. is Palm Bay Imports Inc, Boca Raton, Florida 33432 -- 407/362-9642
Lunch was served in a large wonderful-smelling dining room with brick and stone walls,
mounted deer and boar heads, red tile floor, windows along one side, exposed beams in the
roof-ceiling, and a fireplace big enough to roast an ox.
Conversation overheard: fear that major California earthquake would shake up the wines
in the speaker's cellar
The meal included prosciuto and several kinds of sausage, white Tuscan bean soup with
celery, herbs and raw purple onions; giant herbed spinach ravioli with much olive oil; roast pork
with spinach and roast potatoes; Pecorino de Barbi (ewe's cheese) and a trifle (bread and jam
pudding). Wines included Rosato Acqua di Cetto, 1994 rose (cold, good, refreshing, pretty dry),
Brunello di Montalcino (DOCG) 1990 red (good aroma, very long aftertaste, rich, full body, good
tannin -- very good), and Brusco dei Barbi 1993 (semi-dry red, fruity, medium body, good
aftertaste - just right with cheese). The winery's "Brusco" brand wine is named after a local
legendary brigand because of its strength and character.
After the magnificent lunch, neither Luigi nor I felt the need for a substantial evening meal.
That evening I stayed in hotel doing laundry and writing postcards and napping while Luigi and
most of the others took the bus into Siena for an enchanting walk around the old city at night.
Luigi got an ice cream cone. I had a dish of peas and a plate of cheese in the hotel dining room. I
also learned from the desk clerk that postage stamps can be bought only at the post office or at a
Sunday, October 15
Today's bus ride took us south through vast areas of rolling, rough-plowed clay fields to
Pienza, a small, ancient hilltop village built of local stone and red brick, intermittently covered
with stucco. Only the narrow streets separated the rows of adjacent three-story houses. Often we
found walls adorned with boxes of geraniums and drying laundry. I walked down a street with the
enticing name "Via dell' Amore" but found nothing there any more remarkable than the rest of the
Our next stop was the Avignonesi Winery at Montepulciano. One of the first things we
noticed was a doughnut shaped experimental vineyard. The rows radiating from a circular clearing
are closer together toward center, the purpose being to determine best spacing of the vines to see
at which distances apart the best fruit is obtained.
As we went through the ageing cellars the guide mentioned that they used to try to get rid
of all the mold that naturally accumulates in such places, but now they believe that it helps
regulate moisture and cleans the air and let it be. Phil Woodward said that Chalone has found
mold harmless on the walls but that it degrades the wine when it gets onto the barrels.
In the grape drying room, white grapes were on the left, red on the right, in eight layers on
bamboo mats about 15 inches apart. The grapes will become like raisins with 45% sugar and will
be used in making vin santo.
Lunch was at one long table in a long narrow room with 3 archways and a floor of barrel
staves on edge, sanded down and sealed. Goose neck stuffed with veal sausage in pureed yellow
bell pepper sauce started the meal and was followed by tortelloni stuffed with ricotta and nettles
(which I mistook for spinach) in butter and sage and then by a casserole of pigeon (squab) in
grape sauce. Wines included Sauvignon Blanc "Il Vignole" 1992 (good aroma, flavor comes on
strong, good aftertaste, full body and good with the sausage), Chardonnay "Il Marzocco" 1989
(little aroma, good flavor and aftertaste, oak not excessive and good with the Tortelloni), Vino
Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG 1992 red (good aroma, tannin, full body, long aftertaste -- a
fortunate blend of Sangiovese and other grapes), Pinot Noir, 1990, and Late Harvest Chardonnay
1990 (sweet, good with dessert of rice pudding, cake and apple sauce.
Dinner was at Ristoranti da Antonio at Castelnuovo Beradenga. It had a tile ceiling with
exposed beams, white stucco walls, red brick arches, tile floor, light brown and white damask
linen, and a huge dark wood cabinet holding three shelves about 10 feet long filled with various
bottles of wine. The owner drives to the coast each day to buy whatever is brought in fresh from
the night's fishing. Fish were displayed on ice in a case at the entrance.
"Dreams of the Poet" Spumante from Trebizio was a very tasty aperitif. Carpaccio of
Rombo (like flounder, white and thin) with white truffle, octopus salad with celery, prawns with
chopped tomatoes and parsley, calamari and baby octopus with arugula were all served family
style in bowls. Also orange roughy with tomatoes and coriander and sole with asparagus,
steamed clams and crayfish in oil with zucchini blossoms. Then came spaghetti with tomato and
seafood sauce, and sea bass in oil with langostino and scampi and braised endives. Dessert was a
good raspberry flavored custard between crusts with applesauce and dreadful sweet sparkling
concord grape wine. It was American, and the owner may have thought he was paying his
American guests a compliment by serving wine from their country, but such compliments are best
paid to teetotalers. Good wines served with the dinner included Val d'Arbia 1994, Pinot Bianco
1994 and a Livio Felluga blend of Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.
Monday, October 16
Hotel Bernini Palace
Piazza San Firenze 29
50122 Florence, Italy
011 39 55 288 621
The group was driven from Siena to Florence through Chianti country along recognized wine
roads. The black rooster is used as a symbol of region, and this use is being contested by the Gallo
Brothers of the U.S. who use it as a trade mark. It was an exciting ride along winding, narrow
roads with cement trucks and 18 wheelers meeting our bus at sharp, blind turns. Giancarlo, our
driver, tootled his horn regularly; I suspect he thought it was a talisman.
We were told that a typical estate in this area is 10% grapes, 10% olives and the remainder
woodland. The very hilly nature of the land makes this understandable.
We stopped at Castello di Ama winery and watched bunches of Sangiovese grapes being fed
into a hopper then screwed into another hopper and raised by a portable pump and hose to
stainless steel fermenting tanks with water running over them to keep temperature down to 33
Celsius (91 F). Castello di Ama Trebbiano e Malvese 1994 white had good aroma and aftertaste
and light color; it tasted a little like Sauvignon Blanc and had strong enough flavor to match cold
cuts and fresh pecorino (goat) cheese. The Castello di Ama Vigna Bellaria Vino da Tavola di
Tuscana del Vigneto Bellavista 1991 white was a Pinot Grigio with very good aroma and
aftertaste, plentiful flavor, medium body and was just right with a soup of chickpeas, pasta and
pureed carrots with local olive oil. The winery's Chianti Classico Vignetto la Casuccia (DOCG)
single vineyard 1987 had a fine aroma, magnificent aftertaste, wonderful fruit and smoothness and
proved superb with the mixed roast meats and then the strong aged cheese. Castello di Ama Vin
Santo 1988, sweet raisin wine with good aroma and aftertaste was quite tasty with the raisin and
Back at the hotel we had a tasting of Antinori Chiantis presided over by a member of the
Antinori family who have been making wine over 600 years. They have operations in Italy,
Hungary and California and make about 2,000,000 cases per year. They make only wine, but
many varieties. The three Antinori daughters are currently in the wine business. We were told
that oak easily overpowers the flavor of the Sangiovese grape, so they don't leave Chianti long in
barrels. The Antinori Badia a Passignano 1993 Chianti Classico, a blend of Sangiovese and other
grapes, was bottled after ageing one and a half years and had a good, smooth, fruity Chianti taste.
The Antinori Chianti Classico 1993 Pepoli, estate bottled, was in oak for a few months, had a
good, long aftertaste and was true to type but pleasant. The Chianti Classico Riserva 1991
(intended to sell in the U.S. at eight dollars a bottle) was satisfactory. The Marchese Antinori
1991 Chianti Classico Riserva (which included five per cent Cabernet Sauvignon) was smooth,
slightly astringent with good body and a long fruity aftertaste. The Villa Antinori Riserva 1977
had an unenticing aroma and was all right but should have been drunk earlier.
Luigi and I found that one large ice cream cone each was enough supper.
Tuesday, October 17
We started early on a bus trip to Prato, past a sign over a store reading, "Eurosex Video"
to the place of business of Slitti Caffe. Here we saw how they roast and package coffee and make
candy starting with raw coffee or cacao beans. In making the coffee, a machine roasts 70 kilos of
beans at 250 Celsius (492 F) for about 20 minutes. Arabica beans come from Costa Rica and
others from Jamaica and Hawaii. They pay 10,000-20,000 Lira per kilo for normal beans,
30,000-40,000 for Hawaii and Puerto Rico beans, and 90,000 for beans from Jamaica. They sell
their blend for 30,000-40,000 per kilo. The roasted beans fall into a two- meter circular tank with
a screen floor; a fan pulls air down through the beans to cool them while paddles push them
around on the screen. When the beans are cooled, a trap door in the screen floor is opened by
hand so the beans fall into a hopper from which they are sucked up to a box; from the bottom of
the box beans are poured into large burlap bags.
The chocolate beans are roasted, ground and pressed into a block which is pulverized into
cocoa. Coco butter extracted by pressure from other batches of beans and becomes white
chocolate or is mixed with the cocoa for dark chocolate. We watched young women making
candy partly by hand with separate coating machines for dark and milk chocolate, and were
treated to a few delicious chocolate covered coffee beans.
Horseshoes, screwdrivers, pliers, nuts, scissors, and keys in rust colored chocolate were
displayed in the shop at the front of the enterprise. There were also elaborate carvings in
chocolate including a large egg carved as the Chinese carve lacy patterns in jade, and a chocolate
replica of a medieval machine of mysterious use.
We proceeded on to Villa Capezana at Carmignano for lunch. This villa, owned by our
hosts the Count and Countess Contini Bonacossi, is a producer of both wine and olive oil. It is
one of the four wineries in Tuscany with DOCG designation; it was awarded for its Cabernet
Sauvignon - Sangiovese blend.
Not at great elevation, the vineyards are nevertheless cooled by a breeze from the
mountains after warm days. Tremisso 1994 white Tuscan table wine (a blend of Trebbiano,
Malvese and Chardonnay which proved very good indeed) was served with chicken liver paste
and tomato and herb mixture on toasted sliced bread on the terrace overlooking many other
Etruscan hills and valleys, all beautiful and rural.
Seated at our luncheon table was the son in law of the owners; he is in charge of olive oil
production (about half a million bottles per year) and told us much about it. Olives are harvested
when part green, part black, in November or December. Fresh oil is much sought and in first two
months is eaten on bread (poured, not sopped up), but never during rest of year. People try to
use up last year's oil as fresh comes on the market. Olive oil should not be in clear glass, its
temperature should not fluctuate, and it should be kept away from light.
Olives are still ground to paste with the pits but are no longer pressed with straw mats. A
centrifuge is used instead. Olive pickers want payment in oil, not money. About 100 people pick
One tree here yields about a liter of oil now because the trees are small, having been
planted in the last few years to replace many that were killed by cold weather. In the south they
get 20 liters per tree but less taste.
At lunch we were served acqua cotta penne al cavalo nero with Barco Reale di
Carmignano 1994 red DOCG Conte Contini Bonacossi - very good aroma and aftertaste, splendid
taste, medium body. Then came the Arista al Vin Santo (roast pork in vin santo) con patate
arrosto e inslata dell' orto with Villa di Capezzana DOC Riserva 1985, Conte Contini Bonacossi.
The first bottle proved corked and was quickly replaced and turned out very good indeed, fine
aroma and aftertaste.
At dessert time we got dolce all' uva with Vin Santo di Carmignane DOC 1989 -- this was
really good. The Grapa di Carato served with coffee was probably better than it tasted.
Phil Woodward gave the group a written quiz to test our ability to remember what we had
been taught about Italian wines on the trip (plus one question about Italian automobiles). By
combining our knowledge Luigi and I won first prize, a bottle of Olio Extra Vergine di Oliva,
Capezzana. Later I heard that the man who came in second thought it improper to accept his
Wednesday, October 18
After breakfast in the hotel Luigi and I separately wandered the streets of Florence. On
the sidewalk along river east of Ponte Vecchio I found two short, swarthy women with babies
(one suckling) and children approaching. One woman held out her hand in a begging gesture.
Having been told the day before to look out for Gypsy women who beg with children who pick
pockets, I quickly crossed the street.
On the Ponte Vecchio I admired the various expensive gold artifacts with elaborately
carved coral and other semi-precious stones, and saw several other members of the Chalone tour
also looking. Most shops had signs in Italian and English but those with the very most expensive
merchandise had signs in Japanese.
On the left bank I wandered about the narrow streets that seemed to run in spirals,
admiring the merchandise in the huge number of little shops. Some dealt in art prints, others in
leather or jewelry. One offered a truffle slicer, a pizza cutter, a pizza server and a specialized pair
of shears to cut European lobster shells open, all handsomely silver plated. Occasionally I looked
through windows or doorways and saw craftsmen removing silver plated articles from a bath or
polishing a bowl on a wheel. I stopped at a small corner grocery store and bought 3,000 Lira ($2)
worth of olives, some big and black, some green and some little and wrinkled.
On returning to the hotel I had just started my laundry when Luigi arrived. She had a
somewhat similar morning, but missed the gypsies and bought blue leather gloves rather than
olives. We went to a nearby trattoria for lunch at an outdoor table in the sun; the welcome shade
of a nearby tower reached our table before we finished the daily special of mixed green salad and
Florentine beefsteak (thin, seared on the outside and rare in the middle) and a « liter pitcher of
red wine. A quarter of a lemon accompanied each steak and the juice proved quite good on it.
Dessert was a very tasty persimmon ice cream cone from one of the dozens of gelaterias nearby.
Dinner was at Ristoranti Cibreo (Michelin p.256). Marchese Antinori Brut Millesimato
Spumanti sparkling white wine was very good. Pretty dry yellow daisies in a green glazed pot
stood on the center of the cream color table cloth that matched the napkins. Tomato etc aspic,
soft cheese puff and octopus slices were accompanied by Castello della Sala Cervaro 1992 dry
white Chardonnay blend (good aroma and aftertaste, medium body, good overall: 80%
Chardonnay - 20% Grechetto). With pumpkin soup and spolento we got a brief taste of Canoe
Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon 1993 brought by Norman McKibben. It was very good indeed. We
also got some Antinori Tignanello 1991 Vino da Tavola di Tuscana which contained 20%
Bread came to the table unsliced in loaves about two feet long and 1 - 3 inches in diameter.
Guests broke off pieces.
In time we were served Bruno di Rocca Vendemmia 1990 Vechie Terre di Montefili and
Vino da Tavola Dei Colli della Toscana Centrale with various entrees; mine was calamari with
spinach in spicy wine sauce. Others had rabbit sausage, veal meatballs, and pigeon. Paddy had
sheep's brains; Luigi had salmon. Dessert was creme mousse mueggen served with Moscato di
Pantelleria DOC Salvatore 1993 Muraba, a sweet heavy white wine from Isola di Pantalleria, a
tiny island north of Malta with only 300 people.
Thursday, October 19
Le Sirenuse Hotel
Via C. Colombo 30
84017 Positano, Italy
011 39 875 066
The group left at 8:00 A.M. and spent most of the day on the bus. We stopped for lunch at
an Autogrill and stopped again at Pompeii for a 1-1/2 hour guided tour of the ruins. Vesuvius
was clearly visible but non-threatening. Pompeii was built on a hillside and the public water and
sewer system comprised the main city street through which, we were told, water from an
aqueduct ran continuously. To keep their feet dry and clean people walked on sidewalks. The
rich had water piped into their houses from the upper end. A fountain near the top served the
poor as a community well.
Slave quarters in one house comprised a tiny room with holes for ceiling/floor beams separated
vertically by about three feet. This seemed inhumane to me until I remembered that most of the
crew on my destroyer escort had about the same amount of space.
Most wall decorations were destroyed, but some still remained including one of erotic value.
Some casts of bodies of victims were on display in locations where found. During the 79 A.D.
eruption people had died and were covered with ash so quickly that when subsequent rains
dampened the ash and it then hardened, the shapes of the victims were preserved in lifelike
positions. These shapes were replicated by filling the resulting molds with plaster when the ruins
Our bus proceeded to the Sorrento Peninsula where we got off and boarded smaller
busses that could negotiate the acute switchbacks of Positano. After a dozen or so we reached
the elegant hotel that had been a private mansion. On a steep slope, the hotel is entered at the
fifth floor. An elevator and a number of staircases take people down to other floors. Tile floors
predominate throughout. We had got a large bedroom with two closets, a bathroom with two
washbowls, bidet, jacuzzi bathtub and shower stall; balcony with table, two chairs, bougainvillea
growing from two pots espaliered against the east and west walls and a lovely view to the south
of the sea and of white and colored stucco buildings of Positano clinging to the mountainsides like
Dinner at Le Sireneuse included a sparkling white unidentified wine and then seafood
salad -- prawn, clams, mussels and calamari sliced in sauce with Falerno dei Massico DOC Bianco
1994 (good, it tasted like Orvieto). Spaghetti with clams, linguine with baby tomatoes, spaghetti
with seafood en papillote, and penne with courgettes were accompanied by Villa Matildec 1992
Falerno di Massico DOC Rosso that tasted like a cabernet blend, good.
Friday, October 20
Most of the group walked uphill a quarter mile to the bus which carried us over many
switchbacks and across the peninsula to a small mozzarella factory. Stainless steel vats of warm
milk were the size of tympani. Milk is curdled with rennet and separates; a stringy mass at the
bottom becomes mozzarella and the curds at the top form ricotta. Mozzarella is washed and
kneaded by hand and with paddle in a bath of hot water to make a uniform consistency. I
watched the man doing this also pick out a fly carcass and drop it discreetly on floor. When the
cheese is uniform, chunks are pulled and cut off and formed into a variety of shapes like baker's
dough and dropped into cold water.
Then the bus took us to Sorrento where we were left at a store with bathrooms and much
merchandise that only a tourist would buy - porcelain statuettes and inlaid wood boxes, plaques
etc. The group formed behind a local guide named Dario and I went with them as far as the
cathedral. It has inlaid wood pictures on the doors and elsewhere. I lit a "candle" for Jack
Witkowsky, a close friend who died the previous month, by inserting a 100 Lira coin in a slot and
flipping a switch. I had to flip three on and off before finding one that worked.
From Sorrento we went to Sant' Agata and the superb Don Alfonso restaurant (Michelin
p.572**) and were given a brief tour through the restaurant's opulent cellar. Before lunch we
were served Spumante Classico Franciacorta Brut. Then Fiano di Avellino Cru Radici di Lapio
1994, Azienda Vinicola Mastroberardino, DOC (made at least in part with Roman grapes -- good,
light, unique, a little like Sauvignon Blanc) with potatoes, salami, squash, mozzarella cheese, and
with gnochietti con basil and tomati.
Then we were served some Brindisi Patriglione 1988, Azienda Agricola Taurino --
immense nose, huge body, eternal aftertaste, correct tannin; it should be and was decanted. It was
especially good with beef, grapes and pine nuts and spicy tomato sauce. It was made from the
black Amarro grape, from the far south of Italy; see the Wine Spectator for September 28, 1995.
Then some Marsala Vergine 10 Anni Azienda Agricola Samperi di Marco de Bartolli was just
right with babas au rum with zabaglione, fig, red currents and melon. The meal ended with
Limoncello Licore, a superb lemon liqueur.
As lunch was over about 4:00 P.M. we were too full for supper when we returned to the
hotel. Luigi walked down to the beach and noticed enough restaurants to eat in a different one
each day for months.
Saturday, October 21
We loafed and read books on our hotel room balcony while most of rest of group went to
cooking class (where they learned how to curl an octopus) or on day trip to Capri. About 11:30
Luigi and I walked down the stone steps and tiny streets flanked by shops displaying jewelry,
clothes, food and liquor plus restaurants to the small black sand beach. A stone quai stood at the
west end and the water was very clear. We had lunch at one of the many restaurants at the edge
of the cliff along the beach -- Buca di Bacco near the east end of the public portion of the beach.
Pizza and two Heinekens cost 24,000 Lira (about $14.50). The east end of the beach is restricted
to one operation - a 10,000 Lira ($6.50) entry fee, deck chairs and restaurant and tables with
umbrellas in the sand down to the water's edge.
Our dinner was at Chez Black, also on the beach. It was open on three sides and had red
and white check tablecloths. Both of us had "Fish Soup", the specialty of house, a huge 16" x 8"
x 3" platter heaped with clams, mussels, prawns, langostas, (all in shells), octopi, calamari, fish,
and baby tomatoes in delicious broth of similar ancestry. It was particularly tasty as well as
spectacular, and drew expressions of admiration from several others of Chalone group who ate at
the same or an adjacent restaurant. The house white wine accompanied it well. Bibs were
provided and installed. At the end, finger bowls with lemon slices and rose petals appeared on
the table. Complimentary Limoncello Liquore was served in vodka glasses shaped like elongated
miniature steins was very good. The price including wine and service was 121,900 Lira
Sunday, October 22
We loafed throughout the morning. I did not go on an afternoon drive along the Amalfi coast
to Ravello; Luigi did. She saw one tower that much resembled the medieval tower in M.C.
Escher's famous drawing of the infinitely rising staircases. The local guide was more interested in
pointing out where Jackie Kennedy and Sofia Lauren had stayed. The tour could have left
Ravello earlier than they did but the only access road is upbound only at certain hours and
downward bound at others.
I bought a 500 ml bottle of local lemon liqueur for 15,000 Lira ($10).
Dinner was at the hotel. The most remarkable part was some Zellinger Himmelreich
Reisling Spaetlese 1992 Mosel-Saar-Ruher provided to the group before dinner by Jim Lanier.
The meal included Mozzarella, baby tomatoes and Parma ham, seafood saute, grilled fresh local
fish, steamed potatoes, rucola and baby tomato salad and lemon profiteroles. Wines included
Frassitelli Cru di Ischia - Biancolella, Casa d'Ambra DOC 1994 and Moscato di Pantelleria
Monday, October 23
Ashburn Garden Apartments
3 Ashburn Gardens
London SW7 4DG
Michelin never heard of this place
At 9:30 a bus taking most of the group left Positano and dropped Luigi and me at the
Naples airport while taking the rest to Rome for flights to the United States. Having concluded
that the best way to recuperate from drinking so much wine for two weeks in Italy would be to go
to London and drink beer for a week, we caught British Airways 1:55 flight to London Gatwick
whence we took one of the frequent trains to Victoria Station. A taxi took us to the Ashburn
Garden Apartments where we had rented a flat for a week.
Tuesday, October 24
Ashburn Garden Apartments
About 6:00 P.M. we took the Underground to Waterloo Station and then spent over half an
hour walking through areas intended for motor vehicles only to the Hayward Gallery. There we
attended the opening of "Art and Power - Europe Under the Dictators 1930-45," a large and good
show of paintings, drawings and sculpture conforming to or protesting the demands of Franco,
Mussolini, Hitler and Stalin. Afterward we found a series of elevated walkways that took us
through the rain and over the traffic back to Waterloo Station; there we ascertained where we
should be next morning for the Eurostar train to Paris before returning to our flat for a short
Wednesday, October 25
Ashburn Garden Apartments
Luigi and I caught the 6:00 A.M. Bakerloo Line train from Gloucester Road to the
Embankment, then the Northern Line south to Waterloo Station which contains a special new
large area just for Eurostar trains to Paris and Brussels. We were kept in the passenger lounge
until about 5 minutes before scheduled 7:23 departure which occurred at 7:26. Car interiors are
gray carpet, upholstery, walls and ceiling with yellow along the double luggage racks and on the
wall at the end of the car. Fluorescent lights are above the windows and at either side of the
ceiling. A telephone is available in the rear vestibule of the car.
The train proceeded slowly through London, almost stopping at 7:45, and reaching the
first approach to the Tunnel at 7:50, then countryside again at 7:55. Now we were going much
faster. We found that a window screen can be pulled down to diminish intensity of rising sun,
sometimes on our side (right) and sometimes on the left. We saw the green fields and trees
beginning to turn color. Sheep in the meadows; swans in the brooks. At 8:05 there was a
passport check by the French national police. Now we were going too fast to read the station
signs. I bought pint bottle of water from the cart that passes through the cars for 95p ($1.70). At
8:35 an announcement over the speaker system told us that we were about to enter the Tunnel
under the English Channel, duration about 20 minutes. We saw several sets of tracks nearby.
Our train passed between the stone portals of the Tunnel at 8:40. The ride was very smooth and
gave us no sensation of going down or of speed except that occasional lighted objects sped
rearward in a blur too abrupt to focus on.
I set my watch ahead 1 hour to 9:45. We emerged at 10:01 and again saw many sets of
tracks and power poles. Also green fields and some recently plowed. A station sign read Calais
something blurred by speed. An announcement said we were running at 300 km or 186 miles per
hour. In England announcements were made first in English; now first in French. Clouds and rain
quickly gave way to bright sunshine and occasional clouds. Few sheep appeared but many cows
did. The land was flat enough to be in Illinois, with large fields not separated by fences.
Luigi's friend Betty Blum, currently living in Paris, met us at Gare du Nord when we arrived
about 11:25. We took subway to St. Germaine de Pres whence we walked to Galerie Albert
Loeb, 12 Rue des Beaux Artes, via a bookstore where Luigi bought a colorful origami book of
sharks. The Galerie had one of its two rooms filled with paintings by Robert Guinan, a Chicago
artist and fellow Cliff Dweller. I tried to buy one of the four catalogues of his work they had on
display but, upon learning that I was a friend of his, the young woman behind the counter insisted
on giving it to me. M. Loeb came in while we were there and we had a nice chat, mostly about
The Cliff Dwellers and its future. We learned that on November 5 on Arte Channel in Paris there
would be a program devoted to Bob and his work.
Betty took Luigi and me to lunch at wonderful little restaurant -- L'Excuse, 14 Rue
Charles V, res.22.214.171.124. We started with shell of boiled egg holding a tasty mixture of egg,
cream and vinegar and tiny puff pastries. Then came pumpkin soup for Luigi, green salad for
Betty, Lamb for Luigi and Betty, and a superb mushroom and caramelized onion tartelet, dorado
(delicate fish) sauteed with artichokes, and chocolate mousse with dark and white chocolate fudge
for me. The three of us shared a very good, light and fruity 1994 Beaujolais.
Luigi and I then parted from Betty and walked for a couple of hours back to Gare du Nord
where we took the 6:18 Eurostar back to London. As it was dark and we were tired, the trip
back was less spectacular than the trip across.
Friday, October 27
Ashburn Garden Apartments
Luigi stayed in bed with a cold while I took the Underground to Piccadilly Circus and
walked to Savile Row to find my tailor, Denman and Goddard, from whom I've bought suits for
over 20 years. A little over a year ago they moved from Sackville Street and their label now
shows Savile Row (with no number) as an address. I walked the two-block length of Savile Row
twice without seeing a sign of the firm and finally asked a bobby if he knew of it. He didn't and
suggested that I ask at one of the many tailor shops I could easily find. I did so and the clerk
there had not heard of the firm, but called directory assistance for its number and then called
Denman and Goddard and asked "what is your number on Savile Row?" He then reported to me
that they are on New Burlington Street which intersects with Savile Row at the far end. I found
the establishment (which uses the name "Carr Son and Woor" for its domestic business) at 13
New Burlington Street. They appeared pleased to see me, especially when I ordered a new dress
shirt. They had had a sign on a building on the corner of Savile Row, but the building had been
torn down and the sign was gone.
My cousins Carol and Dewey Ganzel, who were spending the academic year in London came
to our apartment for cocktails at 7:00 and we proceeded to the Carlton Club for dinner at 8:00
though without Luigi whose cold kept her home. The Carlton Club is one of four or five London
clubs having reciprocal arrangements with University Club of Chicago. It is on a 50 or 75 foot lot
on St. James Street and appears to have been built in late 19th century. John Major's portrait
hangs readily visible as you enter. A glorious painting of the Duke of Wellington is on the wall
adjoining a magnificent double staircase with common landing that leads up to a first floor dining
room with 15-20 tables, somewhat fewer than half of which were then occupied. The room had
very high ceilings with painted carved plaster. The walls were covered with large paintings of
important Englishmen; I sat under a painting of William Pitt. Dinner included oysters for Dewey
and club pate for Carol and me, dover sole for Carol and baby lamb chops with ratatouille for
Dewey and me, poached pear for Dewey and tira missou (cake with lots of chocolate mousse and
rum or brandy) for Carol and me, and club claret (1985 vintage of a chateau I did not recognize
but very good anyway).
As we left we noticed a plaque in the lobby celebrating the re-opening of club in 1991
after it was bombed by the Irish Republican Army in 1990.
Saturday, October 28
Ashburn Garden Apartments
I tried Sainsbury's Longlife Virtually Fat Free Milk and found it no different from other
skim milk. Its long life is due to ultra high temperature treatment and sealing in a heavy duty
plastic 1.5 liter jug. I had bought it two or three days before from an unrefrigerated shelf in the
nearby Sainsbury's supermarket. The "Best before" date shown on the label was the end of March,
Both of us stayed in the apartment nursing colds. Dinner was at a nearby Italian restaurant
where they had used old corks as mulch on a potted tree, piling them up around the trunk.
Monday, October 30.
399 West Fullerton Parkway, Chicago
We took a taxi to Heathrow for the 1:15 flight back to Chicago via Newark because my cold
made me feel like not taking the convenient airport bus even though it had a stop on Cromwell
Road about 100 yards from our apartment. First class (which we got by virtue of a special United
Airlines promotion) on a new Boeing 777 was very luxurious; I couldn't reach the seat in front of
me even with legs fully extended. One of the pilots stopped at our seats and told us about the
plane; it flies at 39,000 feet at mach 8.6; others at 33,000 at mach 8. Individual movie/tv screens
are in place for each passenger; they come out from the armrest in business and first classes and
are on the back of each seat in coach and have excellent resolution and high fidelity sound. The
seats in first class are 2-2-2; in business - 2-3-2; in coach - 2-5-2. It made first class on the 727
from Newark to Chicago seem tawdry by comparison.