Monday, July 2, 2018

Abruzzo - An Italian Destination



Abruzzo is located east of Lazio and north of Puglia on Italy's east coast along the Adriatic Sea. I went for a wine media trip to this region in May and learned that this is another one of those many places in the world that should have been on my destination bucket list to try to visit far sooner.
I didn't know what I didn't know until I went and saw.

There are seaside cities with beaches and seafood and mountain towns with sheep and cheese. There are medieval castles and ancient hilltop towns. There are beechwood forests inhabited with wolves and bears and huge national parks. There are water sports and snow skiing. The Gran Sasso mountain looms in the background while the blue Adriatic cools down the coast.

Montepulciano is the most important red grape in the region. It is the second most planted red grape variety in Italy after Sangiovese. It makes a robust juicy red wine that has always been considered as a great wine with pizza. Abruzzo has long been known as an area for bulk wine but that image is changing as more producers are becoming quality conscious and bottling their own wine. We tasted many complex and elegant renditions with pairing potential that went far beyond red sauced entrees.

The region is also known for their rosato that is made from the Montepulciano grape, Cerasuolo d'Abruzzo, it is the darkest of the Italian rosés. The fuller body and lightly tannic structure make it an excellent partner both with simple prosciutto plates and heavier fish dishes.

The local white wines were an unexpected treat. They were delicious on their own and were a great match to the raw and other lighter seafood options. Trebbiano, the main white variety has gotten more interesting as vineyard practices have improved. The whites made from Pecorino were crisp, fresh, and perfect for the hot months ahead. Cococciola, a rarer variety is a crisp, lively white wine that would be an excellent aperitif at any summer soiree.

All of the wineries we visited are recommended. I have posted on each one at www.Wine-Thoughts.com. Some are more tourist friendly than others so check their websites before attempting to visit, most require appointments.

We stayed at Hotel Villa Maria in Chieti which is a Best Western resort. My suite was spacious with a large sitting room and a comfortable work area. It had a king-size bed in another room and a roomy, modern bathroom. It was very clean and nicely appointed. It also had a large private patio and a huge closet as well. The hotel appears to have a rather nice spa but I did not have a chance to try it out. I did enjoy breakfast  every day outside on the terrace with lovely views of the sea.

A sunset dinner at a trabocco is a must do if you visit Abruzzo. Trabocco are connected fishing piers with numerous places for nets, poles, and pulleys along with a large hut. Many of these huts have now been converted into restaurants. We dined at Trabocco Punta Cavalluccio, the food was phenomenally fresh and I highly recommend it. For another seafood option, I would also recommend Ristorante Da Bacone in Pescara. We also enjoyed two paired menus at renovated castles, there is more on those two meals through the link to the winery posts above.

Speaking of castles, there is more than one to see in Abruzzo. We stopped by the formidable looking Ducal Castle of Crecchio to stretch our legs between stops. This particular castle was built by the Lombards in the eighth century. 


There are also several museums to visit. We took time out to see the exhibits at both the Genti d'Abruzzo Museum which is an ethnographic museum and the Casa Natale di Gabriele D'Annunzio museum which is the birthplace or first home of one of Italy's most celebrated poets. Both are located in Pescara.

I thoroughly enjoyed my short trip to Abruzzo. The most important thing that I learned was that I need to return again soon. There is so much to see and do and so many delicious things to eat and drink.




Monday, March 12, 2018

Staying at Château La France - Bordeaux

During a trip to Bordeaux last fall, I stayed at the bed and breakfast at Château La France, a modern five room boutique hotel located between the cities of Bordeaux and Saint-Emilion in the commune of Beychac-et-Caillau. Visitors are greeted by a huge cock proudly overseeing the vineyards. The monumental sculpture was created by artist Georges Saulterre from sheet steel mirror. The rooster's appearance changes from silver through gold as the day progresses and the lighting changes.

The property is over 200 acres and is classed as one of the largest estates in the region. Château La France was built in 1830 on the site of a former Gallo-Roman villa. The actual château can be rented out as well, it contains six bedrooms, has a private pool and can house up to 14 people. I did not stay in the main house during my time there as it was rented out by a wedding party so I was unable to tour it but you can see it on video here.

My room was the Chambre Merlot, a single level room for two which includes access to the spa overlooking the vineyard area, a daily small buffet style breakfast, air conditioning, satellite tv and free wifi. The room was very clean, appointed with bright, contemporary decor and a modern bathroom.

The location makes it easy to access both the city of Bordeaux and the village of St Emilion which are each located less than 13 miles away. Golfers can find paradise at the Golf de Teynac, an 18 hole course just over a mile away from the property while cyclists can rent bikes at Créon, a nearby town situated less than 10 miles away.

If you are visiting the Bordeaux region for the wine, you will find some delicious options produced on the property along with a pleasant tasting room in which to try them. They make four different styles: a Bordeaux Blanc, a Bordeaux Rosé and two Bordeaux Supérieur reds- one aged in stainless steel vats and one aged in oak barrels. While the estate's winery is very modern with a gravity system for moving the wine which helps to preserve aromas and freshness, the winemaking is traditional.

Of the four places that I have stayed in the Bordeaux region, this is my top recommendation for my friends and family. My room was clean and comfortable, the shower was large, the breakfast was tasty and the wines were delicious. The added bonus of unwinding in the hot tub with a glass of wine  at sunset makes a perfect ending to any day there.
Highly recommended.



Friday, January 12, 2018

Visiting Planet Bordeaux


In the Beychac-et-Caillau commune in the Gironde in southwestern France, you'll find Planet Bordeaux which is both the headquarters for the winemakers association and a recommended place for you to begin your tasting tour of the Bordeaux wine region. I visited there in the fall and was surprised to discover that behind the nondescript entrance was a unique and thoroughly modern wine experience waiting for me.
In addition to housing the association, Planet Bordeaux is also the tourist center for the wines from the Bordeaux and Bordeaux Supérieur wine appellations. They have guides to help out visitors and can do tours in several languages. They offer attractions like educational exhibits and audio/visual installations covering a range of wine-related subjects along with wine tastings and cooking classes. The center can help with the planning of visits to local chateaux as well. It is not just for wine consumers and tourists, it is also a hub for visiting wine professionals from around the world. 


Following the tour, you are invited to an exceptional retail experience. The wine cellar at Planet Bordeaux is expansive and includes the best from the appellations, all offered at the same price as at the Châteaux. They will also box the wines for you so they are suitable to withstand the perils of travel.


You will find the hours they are opened via the link and you can email them with any questions you may have about setting up a visit at https://www.planete-bordeaux.fr/en/contact .