La Fattoria Winery

Più vino si prega! (More wine please!)

When I first think of Italy, a few things come to mind– spaghetti, gelato, and wine– but specifically lots and lots of wine. Italy is one of the best-known wine places in the world. With this huge emphasis on wine, a beautiful emphasis on wineries exists as well. Hundreds of wineries dust the Tuscan countryside. Small- and large-scale vineyards throughout the country are run in numerous ways by widely different people.

La Fattoria Winery is located outside of the city of Arezzo. It was created in 1978 and is a completely organic operation. Not only do they produce wine, but they grow veggies and fruits in order to produce jams and sauces as well. They also raise sheep and make cheeses. In all of their processes, they aim to reduce their carbon foot print and only use methods that are safe and beneficial to the earth and humans. Their wine is stored in oak barrels with controlled temperatures. In efforts to lower amounts of sulfur in their wine, they do not filter it and only use a natural decanting process. The lees, or sediments that are left in the wine because it is unfiltered, act as a natural preservative. Other methods they use include old school fermentation, or using tera cotta pots to store the wine. The tera cotta pots are completely aromatic and do not allow any oxygen to enter the container, unlike steel containers that allow oxygen to enter. After some experimentation, they have discovered these pots are best used for white wines.

Throughout the trip, we have visited multiple wineries and coffee roasteries, enjoyed wine tastings, and experienced the culinary culture of Italy on our own time as well. In every aspect one thing is prevalent– there is a respect and appreciation for food and drink in this country. Like stated above, so many thoughts and processes are related to the wine making process. In other things as well, careful detail is used in creating food and drink. I appreciate the reverence for organic, raw materials producers use here. The American mind-set is to make as much as possible in the shortest amount of time, or quantity over quality. However, the Italian mind-set is to produce quality products despite the quantitative outcome. Thank you Italy for quality food!

The tera cotta pots used at La Fattoria to store white wine.

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Large and small oak barrels used at the winery. IMG_0410

View from the winery (and a playground as well). IMG_0411

Caffè River

The vision of Caffè River as stated on their website: “To be seen as excellent creators of value in the coffee industry, through constant innovation, superior organization, profound analysis and understanding of critical factors, passion for excellence.” I think Caffè River accurately and profoundly embodies their vision. Their values are also stated– innovation, excellence, responsibility, and integrity. Not only does this 60-year-old, family-run company excel in coffee roasting, but they have an impactful meaning that goes beyond roasting coffee. Caffè River aims to do good and help people through their business.

Upon arrival, we were greeted with freshly brewed coffee. Then, we were given a tour of the roastery. My coffee knowledge is not very strong, so I found the tour very interesting. Honestly, I thought all coffee beans were brown. I had no idea that coffee beans are green, then roasting the beans turns them brown. Also, I had no idea that there are so many types of coffee and ways to roast it. Continuing on with my lack of knowledge, I was amazed with the entire roasting process. Below is a picture of the actual roaster. Once the beans are done roasting, they are released into the large circular sift. From there, the beans are transported via a tube to large tanks (pictured in the second image). Caffè River efficiently bags the coffee beans and ships them to their consumers. IMG_0416IMG_0417

The roasting process was very interesting; however, to me, the most impressive thing about Caffè River was their heart and passion for people. They do not grow their coffee beans, just roast. Therefore, they must get their beans from farmers. They have established a strong, trustworthy bond with their farmers by visiting and formulating fair deals with them. For example, they recently traveled to Uganda to order a shipment of beans. First, they pay their farmers in advance, showing that they trust them. Second, they create deals with the farmers in a way such that all parties are treated fairly. After further explanation, this second concept made more sense.

In Uganda and other under-developed countries, men do the farming and women tend to the families. Sadly, when the men start to make good farming deals, they keep the money to themselves. Instead of sharing with their wives, they claim it is only their money, and then leave their wives for other women. Caffè River has made a deal that if they purchase beans from these farmers, the farmers must share it with their wives and not leave them. To some, getting involved in the personal lives of business partners may seem strange. However, Caffè River has decided to make positive impacts on under-developed communities in a unique and constructive manner. I appreciate their passion and enjoy purchasing items from a company that strives to do good in the world.

 

Florence, Italy

“I’m going to Florence for the weekend.” How fun it was to get to take a weekend trip to such a fun city! One of my favorite things about Europe is how close all the countries are and how easy it is to get everywhere. Although the trains are very useful, Italian trains are much different than the English trains I have been on. In other words, I did not understand the train station at all. But we made it to and from Florence safely! Once in the city, we explored museums I didn’t visit on my trip a few years ago. Honestly, I think we only shopped during our last visit to Florence. This time around, I viewed many unique art pieces. Specifically, I saw the David. I enjoyed viewing all the art; however, the best part of Florence was the leather market.

Florence is known for the San Lorenzo Market. It is an open-air leather market in the city. While in Florence a few years ago, I bought a leather tote at this market. The purses sold at the leather market are hand-made with Italian leather, and they are incredibly well-made. I still carry my purse constantly! Going to the market, I thought I had directed us in the right direction, but it took us almost an hour to finally find the right place. There are two leather markets in Florence– I prefer the market near Zara. I have noticed that this market is run by Italians, while the other market is typically run by foreigners who do not actually make the leather. Hot and exhausted, Jaclyn and I searched the leather market for a while before we finally found the maker and vendor of my original purse. I loved getting to explain to the vendor how much I love his purses and how well-made I thought they were. Then, of course, we bought a few purses.

All in all, I do appreciate the historic art, but I think the best thing about exploring new cities is interacting with the locals and understanding the common culture. The leather market is one of the best ways to interact with locals. I think the vendor who sold me my purses thoroughly enjoyed explaining the structure of his purses and his design. These purses are his pride and joy; it’s how he makes his living. It is exciting to be able to show appreciation for other arts, like hand-made leather, as well; and also get to bring a piece of Italy home with me!

 

Michelangelo’s David.

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Such a gloomy picture, but this is the view from a bridge in Florence. I didn’t realize how murky and gross the water was!

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La Buccianera Winery

La Buccianera Winery is an organic vineyard and winery north of Arezzo. They do not use pesticides on their grapes; they only use organic, natural materials. I really enjoyed this place because I love their choice to forgo using pesticides! Not to mention, the vineyard is beautiful as well. It is situated at the top of a mountain and overlooks Arezzo. Before roaming the fields, we explored the building where they ferment and mature the wine. Contrary to my common perception of a winery, La Buccianera ferments their wine in stainless steel vats. I figured wine was only stored in small wooden barrels. However, these stainless steel vats were massive! The winemaker explained the process of fermentation. His most emphasized point was that red wine is made from the must (or the pulp) and fermented with the skins, while white wine is fermented in the juice only. Once the tour was over, we enjoyed a tasting of four of the best wines from the winery. Listed below are the names, grape varieties, and other relevant information about the wines we tasted.

The first wine given to us tasted like a normal white wine to me. It is hard for me to distinguish between the different flavors; however, I was told that it was a dry white wine.

Donna Patrizia I.G.T / Buccia Nera / Toscana Blanco

  • Trebbiano (40%)
  • Malvasia (40%)
  • Grechetto (20%)
  • Grapes harvested at the end of September and beginning of October
  • Ferment and mature in stainless steel, climate-controlled vats

The second wine given to us was a red wine that tasted sweet to me. Like the first wine, I was told that this wine was dry as well. In addition, this wine had prominent “legs.” I learned that legs are the streaks/drips down the sides of the glass. Wines with higher alcohol content or higher sugar have prominent legs.

Syrah I.G.T / Buccia Nera / Tuscany Syrah

  • Syrah (100%)
  • Grapes from Cortona
  • Ferment in stainless steel, climate-controlled vats
  • Mature in French Oak Barrels

The third wine given to us was another red that seemed more complex than the first red. It was a dry, vintage wine with a low sugar, high alcohol content. In my opinion, this was the best wine out of the tasting.

Sassocupo / Chianti Superiore Dogg

  • Sangiovese (90%)
  • Canaiolo (10%)
  • Grapes harvested at the end of September and beginning of October
  • Ferment in stainless steel, climate-controlled vats
  • Mature in French Oak Barrels

The fourth and final wine given to us was a dessert wine. The color seemed to be a mix of red and white wine (almost an orange-ish color). The taste was extremely sweet and grew even sweeter in the aftertaste. It was also very strong. Personally, I did not love this wine, but it was interesting to taste it.

Vin Santo / Central Etruria Hills / Registered Designation of Origin

  • Malvasia Toscana
  • Trebbiano
  • Grapes harvested in the second-half of September

Along with the wines, we were served anti pasta to compliment the wine. For example, the white wine was best complimented by lighter flavors, while the red wine was complimented by stronger flavors, like liver (bleh!). I like a lot of foods, but eating liver just doesn’t sound appealing to me.

 

Jaclyn and I posing with Tuscan hills in the background.

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Tried to take a picture with the flowers, but, despite the apparent cloud coverage, it was really bright outside. Processed with VSCO with c1 preset