Sunday, July 31, 2011

Rustic Tuscany, Organic Lambruschi and a True Original

Italy is full of characters. People with unusual life stories. And in rustic Tuscany, not the one the tourists go to in droves, I ran across one.

Today as we drove the SS1 "Via Aurelia" highway from below Grosseto to Bolgheri, the traffic was thinner than I had thought; this being one of the days Italians pile in their car in droves and go on vacation for the month of August. Around La California though, the traffic slowed, halted, and for 15 minutes or so, we crawled. Very exciting stuff to be in a traffic jam with all of the Italians going on holiday.

Our journey took us away from the water and inland to a mountainous area, seeming very much like Liguria. One in our group ran into a friend at a porchetta stand and he invited us to his place to taste some Lambruschi and salumi.


After an afternoon of strenuous hiking and searching for a water hole to take a dip, and we found one, we scrambled up the mountain, sun-swept and tired but ready for a little wine route adventure. And seeing as some of my fellow bloggers have been hinting that I am no longer interested in wine blogging (kind of true) I thought it would be a good time to get back on the wine trail in Italy. And I still do like wine and Italian wine is closest to my heart. So there you go, the latest installment, a wine blog post (so there) and what a character we done run into.

“King Rudolph I” Allenbach of Podere San Gastone in Pomarance (where I am based out of for the next few days while working on a special project) came to Tuscany in the late 1980’s from Switzerland. He worked in a factory, managing 60 people and got a case of the nerves from the daily grind. He bought this old podere with the intent to come on weekends and work on the place. But as Rudy says,” It’s hard to keep one foot in the old life and another in the new.” So he broke away and cast his fates to rustic Tuscany.

The area around Pomarance isn’t the Tuscany folks dream of visiting. Dante described the area as the Valley of the Devil. But for those individuals who are looking to really crank it down and leave the busy, mad world behind, it’s the perfect antidote to civilization. Close to the Pisa airport if one needs to go be “somewhere.” Rudy invited our group to taste some wines from Emilia Romagna, specifically organically grown Trebbiano (in sparkling version) as well as a duo of Lambruschi, one slightly p├ętillant, and the other full-tilt “metodo ancestral”.

The winery is the Azienda Agricola San Polo of Paolo Ghiddi, a “biologic” garagiste in Castelvetro, where some of the more exciting and delicious Lamrbruschi are being born. The Trebbiolo is a Trebbiano di Modena IGT, the “Re Guerro” is a Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro DOC and the “Saio Rosso” is a Lambrusco di Modena IGT. My favorite was the Re Guerro, at 11.5% and in a cage free cork finished bottle, a perfect coda to the exhilarating climb earlier in the day.

Perfect wines to go with his special salumi and sitting under his outdoor yurt, where the breeze was blowing gently and delicious as the wine and food.

Some of the folk art inside Rudy's yurt
Rudy is a sweet guy and just looking to hook his friends up at the organic winery for a little extra business. He is a chef, a farmer, generous to a fault, and rustic Tuscany, although romantic in the abstract, can get a little lonely. He has geese, pigs, a donkey, scads of cats and a couple of dogs to keep him being too isolated. And his podere is a quirky installation of campy folk art situated among a working farm.

So if you are ever driving up or down the Via Aurelia and manage to escape the crowds and find yourself on a quiet little back road, the Via Palagetto in Pomarance, stop by and say hi to King Rudy. You will be rewarded with meeting one of those true originals we rarely see in life, especially in the civilized urban areas, where everyone is running around, twittering and staring at computer screens till they turn blue. Go take a drive, get outside and get some air. You might even find some Lambrusco, some salumi and a conversational partner waiting under a yurt, with a cool breeze, out on the wine trail in Italy..

More pictures below...


Signs of summer

"I couldn't arrange to have a Jaguar, so this will have to do."

Friendly pigs

An original door "knocker"

Rudy is Swiss - very practical


The nail puzzle - an homage to Japanese architecture

Rudy's son invented this salumi slicer - low tech - high impact




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