Tag Archives: harvest

Grape Harvest 2018

Our friend Federico, owner and vintner behind Terre Margaritelli in Umbria, wrote us last week to tell us about this year’s grape harvest.

Good harvest, but not for all.

2018 has been a very hard season because of the continuous rain that we had during the spring. We spent a lot of time in the vines to be sure to there that was no mold or fungus attacking the grapes. The last month has been hot and dry so the maturation is going quickly.

We have just begun to harvest, 10 days earlier that usual due to the quick maturation and so far we are seeing very good quality. Thanks to all our efforts made in the spring the season is safe. Unfortunately, many of our neighboring producers have lost a good part of their production.

In agriculture, especially in organic farming, the timing makes the difference, and watching carefully over the vineyards throughout the season has helped us to avoid major difficulties.

We hope to continue with this quality for the rest of the harvest and pour some wonderful wine into your glasses in 2018.  And we will also have some nice new bubbles as well!

Update from Terre Margaritelli Winery Read more

Our friend Federico, owner and vintner behind Terre Margaritelli in Umbria, wrote us last week to tell us about this year's grape harvest. Good harvest, but not for ...

Bill’s Journal: Feed Me

_DSC0182We’re back in Umbria for our annual fall pilgrimage, our fall Food and Wine tour. This year Suzy and I are hosting two small groups over two week long itineraries, which we plan to punctuate with a brief side trip to Piemonte (for the White Truffle Festival) before returning home to DC. We have the small matter of reopening Via Umbria to attend to back home.

Returning to Umbria, particularly during the fall harvest, is always a homecoming of sorts for us, summoning up a host of emotions and memories. It is a special time of year, with the orange and rust hues of the vineyards, each one in a different state of harvest, combined with the early evenfall to create a sense of quiet and peacefulness tinged with just a po’ di malincholia.


_DSC0009-2We come to Umbria this year as we have for the past eight, on a mission to offer our Food and Wine tour guests an opportunity to discover with us the Umbria we have come to know and love. A land where the earth gives forth an incredibly rich bounty, coaxed lovingly from nature by men and women who respect nature by taking what it has to offer and leaving it better off than they found it.

But we come this year, too, with eyes even wider open than normal, seeking to put our finger on those elusive sights, sounds and smells that when combined together shout out “benvenuto in Italia.” To identify those iconic details that define Italy so we can bottle them up and bring the back home with us, spraying them into the air on Wisconsin Avenue so that our customers, breathing deeply of them will know what it is to experience Italy.

Our Food and Wine tour this year is not just an exercise in loving the here and now, it is a mission to capture and bring home the essence of Italy so we can share it. For nearly two decades we have been bringing back pieces of Italy to share with our customers. This fall we are tasked with bringing back the nature of Italy itself.

Food and Wine TourHow better to understand Italy than by experiencing the bounty of its land and its people. And so we started our trip, a group of eight, by exploring the Etruscan town of Todi and the Umbrian settlement of Gubbio. By delighting in the recounting of the history of these places by a guide with palpable pride in her land. By lingering over meals of local meats and cheeses, regional pastas and wines that come from here and can only come from here. By getting to know Simone, our driver, and each other.

What better way of exploring what makes Italy Italy and what makes Umbria Umbria than to arrive at the farmhouse on our first day and to discover Ernesto Parziani, the chef and owner of our favorite local restaurant Perbacco, in the kitchen of our farmhouse with his daughter, preparing the first night’s dinner. To spend time in the kitchen with Ernesto and Agata rolling balls of baccala, pureeing broccoli for gnocchi alla romana, of discussing the menu, discussing family, discussing nothing at all.

_DSC0751_DSC0288What better way of enjoying our first evening in Italy than by sitting down over this home cooked feast and culinary history lesson with the new friends we have made, our travel companions for this week, along with Ernesto and his wife Simona. To drink wines that our friends the Pardis have labored over just a dozen miles from here. To talk and eat and laugh and relax deep into the night long after most mortals would have succumbed to jet lag.


Suzy and I have long maintained how difficult it is to neatly and cleanly and succinctly define Italy and the Italian experience. There simply is no one thing that says it all, no Tower of Pisa, no fettuccine alfredo, no Madonna col bambino that one can point to and say, “ecco qua, Italia!” Yet we keep coming back, time after time, and millions of visitors keep making the pilgrimage to the boot each year for that something special that speaks to them.

In the end, maybe it is just simply its incredible bounty that defines Italy, that makes Italy Italy. Perhaps that is the magic potion Suzy and I are searching for. Italy itself didn’t even exist a little more than 150 years ago, a crazy quilt of city-states, kingdoms, alliances and fiefdoms then and even now resembles less a well ordered English country garden and more the wild, natural orto that we find when we step out back, behind our farmhouse kitchen.

After our first night back in Umbria, following a day of discovery, of enjoyment, of relaxing and of peace and contentment, perhaps we are inching closer to understanding the secret that is Italy. Perhaps it is not one thing that makes Italy Italy, perhaps it is the sweep, the bounty of this place. But those things – the food, the wine, the landscape, the history, the art, the lyrical language, crazy drivers in tiny cars and museum-like cities – they are not the answer themselves. They are the things that satisfy the cravings that Suzy has. That I have. That our tour guests have. That Ernesto and Simona have. Each craving personal, each craving as deep as the soul and each craving desperately in search of satisfaction. Put simply, Italy feeds what you hunger for.


Italy, with its richness and its willingness to let you live in the here and now, scratches the itch, the longing in our souls for connection and meaning. And as far as we have figured it out, it does it better than any other place on earth.

Perhaps that is the secret of Italy, the ingredient we can bottle up and bring back to Georgetown with us. Suzy and I certainly look forward to testing this hypothesis for the next three weeks.

Ci vediamo!
Bill and Suzy

With all that Umbrian magic Read more

We’re back in Umbria for our annual fall pilgrimage, our fall Food and Wine tour. This year Suzy and I are hosting ...

Nature Calls

Day 13 003One of the things that defines Umbria and Umbrians is their connection with and to the earth, an impulse that traces its origin back to their beloved St. Francis. That love of nature and the natural world is not limited to just those who make a living off the land. It seems everyone – doctor, lawyer, barista – has a special room in their house, a cantina or magazzino where they are aging cheese, making and storing wine, hording olive oil made from the family’s trees.

When nature shares its bounty with us it is truly a glorious thing. Tomato plants straining under the weight of heavy fruits literally bursting at the seams with life and with flavor. Freshly dug truffles wafting their exotic and intoxicating perfumes, setting the mind and senses on fire. Succulent meats glimmering and glistening in the fire.

Day 13 001
A casualty of the 2014 grape harvest.

But nature is not always so friendly. She can be fickle. And so when our group visited the Trampolini olive mill for our scheduled appointment to observe the olive harvest, to marvel as fresh, ripe olives were washed and sorted and turned into paste yielding their fluorescent green oil it was a shock to find the mill silent. The usual commotion of tractors laden with enormous baskets of olives did not fill the air. The rushing of bodies to and fro to start this machine, to monitor another, to remove stainless cylinders full of oil was missing. Instead, we were greeted, not grimly but cheerily by two generations of the Trampolini family, owners of the mill since the 1700s (the mill traces its roots back to the 1200s) who told us the shocking news. This year’s entire crop was a loss.

Infestation of flies had affected all two thousand trees, rendering the shiny green and black fruits unsuitable for making not just fine oil, but oil suitable for consumable at all. This year the mill would be mostly quiet, started up only occasionally to make oil from those lucky enough to have avoided the plague, which has affected olives across the peninsula. Get ready for higher olive oil prices, America, because there is going to be little oil from Italy available this year.

Day 13 002
The 2014 olive harvest looking like raisins.
Last year's healthy harvest.
Last year’s healthy harvest.

But nature has focused her wrath not just on olives. For the second year in a row Umbrian wine producers have faced extremely difficult and untimely weather, rendering another crop of extremely low quantity, requiring heroic efforts to harvest sufficient grapes of high quality.

And what of the Umbrians? Those who make their living producing award winning olive oils? Those whose days are spent in the fields and in the cantina making wines of distinction? How do you move forward when your entire year is wiped out? The Umbrians we know move forward and don’t dwell on the past. What have we learned this year, Alessandro Trampolini asked himself? We will be better prepared next year he promises. We may not have a Montefalco Rosso this year, but we still have some great bottles from the previous year in our cellar, opines our host at the Paolo Bea winery. This is part of the cycle of nature and those who benefit from the good years don’t run around like their hair is on fire in the bad years. They trust in nature and look hopefully to the future. Perhaps we all could learn from their example.

Ci vediamo!
Bill and Suzy

And we go! Read more

One of the things that defines Umbria and Umbrians is their connection with and to the earth, an impulse that traces its ...