Tag Archives: Plani Arche

Carriage and Feeding

The highlight of Day 1, on which eight of our group, including Suzy and me arrived in country, had to be the carriage ride with Roberto. It’s not easy picking just one favorite on a day that included lunch in Santa Maria degli Angeli, a walking tour of Assisi, a visit and winetasting at Roberto’s winery and a marathon welcome meal prepared by Chiara. But when you get to spend a half hour with Roberto DiFilippo, the inspirational owner of DiFilippo and Plani Arche wineries, being transported in a carriage drawn by the horses that work his fields, listening to his philosophy of organic and biodynamic farming while you clip clop through rolling fields that are home to his vines, licked by the cool, crisp, late afternoon autumn air, how could that not be the highlight?

It’s that sort of experience, making the acquaintance of one of the area’s top winemakers and immediately boarding his ten person carriage, entering his world at his invitation, becoming his guest and his friend, that makes these food and wine tours so special. Half an hour later, our group of eight guests find themselves sitting in Roberto’s tasting room enjoying his wine as he and his colleague Valeria introduce them to grechetto, trebbiano spoletino, sangiovese and sagrantino, not to mention Roberto’s special Vernaccia di Cannara.

Some of the couples on this tour arrived in our little corner of heaven knowing one another, but by the end of that first day, a day on which all shared and experienced so much together, everyone – those who had already been friends and those that became friends today – had become part of the same family. And so it goes here in the tiny village of Cannara, where Suzy and I have brought part of our family, our oldest son Austin to help manage the group, that we bid a late goodnight, bellies filled and souls sated, to our new family with whom we will share much this week.

Ci vediamo!
Bill and Suzy

Horsing Around in Umbria Read more

The highlight of Day 1, on which eight of our group, including Suzy and me arrived in country, had to be the ...

Vinopalooza Photo Diary

Things we love: geese working in the fields and then becoming dinner, biodynamic farming, glimpsing the sun. Our day at the Plani Arche Winery.


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Plani Arche Read more

Things we love: geese working in the fields and then becoming dinner, biodynamic farming, glimpsing the sun. Our day at the Plani ...

Menard Musings – Terroir

As February gives way to March (and aren’t we all looking forward to the prospect of non-Arctic March temperatures?) I can’t help but reflect that this young new year has for me featured a heavy dose of wine.  January was spent with Chef Simone crisscrossing the continent doing a series of promotional dinners that featured food/wine pairing nearly as much as the food itself.  February saw a return visit of our friend Daniele Sassi from the Tabarrini winery for a special winemaker’s dinner at DC hotspot Casa Luca.  And just a week ago we said our goodbyes to our friend Roberto DiFilippo, owner of DiFilippo and Plani Arche wineries who spent five days hosting winemaker dinners at Via Umbria and tasting events at the store.  Playing apprentice to and spending time around the table (always with glass in hand) with these professionals surely upped my wine game.  It was pretty darn enjoyable, too.

IMG_1072Chef Simone listens in at the Tabbarini Dinner at Casa Luca. IMG_1095

The first Tabbarini white wine is poured. IMG_1101



I am happily in a wine – induced haze after the first course. IMG_1360

Daniele meets with guests to personally talk about his Sagrantino wine. 



Suzy of Via Umbria gazes at the second course. 


And so it was with heightened interest that I read Wednesday’s Washington Post’s Food section article on terroir (“You can’t define terroir, but you can taste it,” Wash Post 25 Feb. 2015, p. E5).  In the article Wine columnist Dave McIntyre noted that terroir “is a word with almost mystical charms for wine lovers,” holding that wine shows terroir “if it tastes like it came from somewhere.”  Wine exhibiting terroir contrasts with most wines, which McIntyre rightly points out taste “as if they could have come from anywhere.”  McIntyre opines that wine enthusiasts love the idea of terroir and wines that taste as though they could have only come from where they actually came from.  If love of terroir makes one a wine enthusiast, send us our membership cards.

Our relatively recent journey into the world of wines has been heavily influenced and shaped by the concept of terroir because the wines we have come of age with are wines that define the term terroir – Umbrian wines and in more cases (no pun intended) than not, wines from the tiny D.O.C. wine region of Montefalco.  Look up the word terroir in the dictionary and it wouldn’t be a stretch to think you might find a map of Italy with Umbria highlighted in red.

In Umbria and in Montefalco a number of factors – relative isolation, local consumption and a fierce pride in local culture (which includes their food and wine) – have led wine makers to produce traditional wines that represent the region, that utilize indigenous grapes (so long, cabernet sauvignon) and that pair sublimely with the region’s food.  Put simply, the wines of Umbria taste as though they could have only come from Umbria.  What a wonderful attribute for a wine to have!

If, like Suzy and me, you cut your wine teeth in a deep dive of a particular region’s wine (e.g., Bordeaux, Napa, Australia) your wine chops are highly developed but only with respect to a small sliver of the universe of wine.  This has truly been the case for us, and our next challenge in this relatively unusual situation has been to transfer and apply our Umbrian wine knowledge more generally to other regions.  And so we have been working to learn and appreciate the wines of California, of Washington State, of France.  It is a pretty good challenge to face.

Aside from the blessing of terroir, our Umbrian wine experience has offered us the blessing of accessible winemakers.  In Umbria winemaking has not been mystified and deified.  It is a simple act carried out by real people.  And these real people – farmers – don’t intimidate and try to make what they do into something it isn’t.  Instead they gladly invite you into their world, show you the grapes in their fields, talk to you about how they entice the best fruit possible from the vine.  They let you put your head in a stainless steel vessel to see grapes fermenting, to smell the yeast and the offed gasses.  They pour you a glass of cherry red juice that is still two to three years away from maturity, explaining how a winemaker can judge how this awful liquid will transform itself into sublime beauty.


Roberto Di Filippo discusses his Grechetto with a guest. 





Roberto speaks from the head of the table in the Via Umbria Galleria. IMG_1795

Terroir paired with access to real people, wine people.  It is something that sets Umbria and Umbrian wine apart in our minds, something that has made our journey along the strada dei vini unique.  And it has made the new year a truly enjoyable one.

We can’t wait to see how the next months unfold.

Ci vediamo!

Bill and Suzy

If you are interested in experiencing Umbrian terroir and Umbrian winemakers at their source, join Bill and Suzy on their first annual Vinopalooza wine tour, March 26-April 1, 2015.  For more information click here or call Suzy at (202) 957-3811.

For all those wine lovers Read more

As February gives way to March (and aren’t we all looking forward to the prospect of non-Arctic March temperatures?) I can’t help ...

Wine Wednesday – Plani Arche


To celebrate National Drink Wine Day (yes, it’s today!) Via Umbria will embark on a new series, Wine Wednesday, in which we discus the wines we stock in the store and our adventures at the vineyards in Italy. 

This chilly Wednesday we are huddled in our wine warehouse in Adams Morgan, waiting to pick up some Plani Arche Montefalco Rosso which we completely sold out of this past week. But why the sudden interest in this wine?


This past week we have had the treat of getting to learn from Roberto DiFilippo, the vinter of Plani Arche wines. Three wine dinners in our events space and a tasting later, we feel fully inducted into the world of the Plani Arche wines.

This wine comes from near the Piandarca, close to Assisi, and is the supposed place where St. Francis preached his sermon to the birds. Plani Arche is the Latin name with evolved over the years into Piandarca, meaning the Plain of the Rock, probably because at one time there was a rock there. The very name of this wine pays homage to the land it is grown on, and the spiritual past of the place. St. Francis, in his sermon, tells the birds to give thanks to God that he has provided them with all they need naturally, and that they live in peace with the natural world due to His grace. In this vein, Plani Arche is a biodynamic vineyard, living and breathing in harmony with the land and with the animals. Nature (or if you are religious, the big man up top) provides all one needs to make beautiful, wonderful wine, without unnatural pesticides or chemicals. Praise be to God indeed.

But living in harmony “with the animals” is not taken lightly – Roberto literally uses animals in his production. Horses substitute for tractors, which preserve fossil fuels but also compact the earth in a natural way. A herd of geese nibble the harmful insects and fertilize the land.  For a peek inside the vineyard, see Bill’s firsthand experience, which he wrote about a year ago while visiting Plani Arche.


Roberto is a humble man, who creates wine in harmony with the earth because being an organic vineyard is the right thing to do, not the trendy thing to do. Working with the soil in a biodynamic way not only preserves its natural tendencies, but enriches the flavor of the wine. The proof is on our shelves — it is so good we sold out.

We have to go back for more. Waiting at the chilly warehouse is worth it.


— Via Umbria

National Drink Wine Day Read more

To celebrate National Drink Wine Day (yes, it’s today!) Via Umbria will embark on a new series, Wine Wednesday, in which we ...