Watchman of the Day

The owl is the watchman of the day,
prelude of a new dawn,
ally of the sun,
keeps an eye on our fears,
on dreams and visions in the night,
flying around our houses wrapped in darkness

Il gufo é il guardiano del giorno,
preludio di nuova alba,
alleato del sole
vigila sulle nostre paure,
sui fantasmi della notte,
volando attorno alle nostre case
avvolte nelle tenebre.

 

Excerpt from Io gufo e tu?
@Edizioni del Baldo April 2016

 

The Labels are Pretty but Where Do I Start?

Today is the day, something special is happening and finally, it’s time to stop driving by the store and go on in to help yourself to a bottle of wine. The neighborhood shop displays rows of neatly racked bottles sorted by country. There are six-pack individual serving size-bottled wines too. Hmm, what do I want? The artwork on the labels entices the customer’s eyes. French? Chilean? Australian? Californian? The prices start at $10 and go as high as $100. The clerks are ringing up sales at the counter and there’s no one to ask. Which country? What brand? What’s good? It’s a little intimidating when the moment comes to buy that first bottle of wine.

There are four (4) categories of wine: sparkling, white, red and blush. Wines have a taste range from dry, medium dry, semi-sweet to very sweet. Wine is made from a variety of fruits, grapes and honey. There are old world and new world wines. Small wonder that making a selection can cause hesitation.

The flavor and quality of wine is predicated on multiple factors. Wine ages in a variety of containers including wood and stainless steel. The climate, soil and environment will affect the fruits. The production will affect the quality. The technique and science behind winemaking is extensive and complex. The taste will be different on every tongue and change when paired with different foods. Wine should complement the food and enhance the taste in the mouth.

At Dinner

Depending upon the level of service at the restaurant, ask the waiter to recommend a glass of wine with the meal order. If there is a wine steward or sommelier, take advantage of the opportunity and say you are a novice with wine selection. Ask them why they served a particular variety. The wine with the meal may be more expensive per glass, but, it allows for a variety of samplings without committing to an entire bottle. When in doubt, ask for the House Red or White. In general, red meats and Italian dishes have a dry red wine. White meats and cheeses generally serve a dry white wine.

At Wine Shop

Check in your area for a store that specializes in selling wines. They may have special tastings or events for the public. Before sampling any wines, listen to the presentation if there is one. An informal public event with wine and crackers may not be helpful. The cracker may help clear the palate, as will water, but as the wine is without the meal, it will not taste the same when you serve it with the dinner. Also, if you are not used to drinking wine, and there is no food consumed, you might run the risk of driving inebriated. Wine can be strong if you are not used to it.

Perhaps ask the clerk for advice on the first bottle. The owner, depending on the size of the shop, may be the clerk and could be happy to talk to you about this. This also may or not be helpful, depending on their level of salesmanship. I went into a shop looking for a specific name brand and when it was not available, the owner did not make an alternative suggestion. At this moment, ask what their best seller is and consider that as a guide to purchase.

At Wine Tasting – Public Event

A larger spirit, beer and wine seller may offer special opportunities for public tastings. This type of event can be crowded, noisy and confusing. The servers at the table may be sales rep for the distributor and not have much information to share. This type of event might be best for an experienced buyer.

However, asking a customer in the same aisle what they are buying can be a best bet. Most people are happy to talk for a few minutes about what they like. Hopefully, they will take you right to the bottle and show the recommendation. This may be the best opportunity to try something new.

Private Tasting

Some establishments may have the estate owners sell their wines at private events. This is a fine opportunity to learn about the production, family history, and the intangible quality of suggestion by association. If they seem like nice folks, the wine will follow suit. Perhaps this sounds whimsical, but it is how I narrowed down two selections of estate wines from Italy. The seller/owner said you would know it’s a good wine by how fast the bottle is empty. If it does not empty, it was not so good.

At Vineyard

Check in your area for a vineyard that produces and sells wines. They will typically have an afternoon set aside just for tasting and sales. This can be an exciting day out including a small tour with the owners. They can talk extensively about the fruits that make up the wine and how it is made. The occasion will have other shoppers in the store and offer a chance for a quiet conversation about their choice. Remember to ask what they didn’t like and learn from their experiences.

Tour Guide

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts publishes a Wine & Cheese Trails Guide. The booklet lists Wine and Cheese Makers as well as Direct Market Dairy Farms. Each establishment is listed by name, website, complete address, and hours of operation with tasting times, description and grapes grown. The most interesting inclusion was:

Wine & Cheese Trails

Green River Ambrosia, Greenfield MA

Founded in 2007, is a small artisanal meadery making the finest honey wines with local honey. Containing fresh water, raw honey, yeast and the occasional local and/or organic herb or fruit.  Green River Ambrosia meads provide the taste of a season of hard work by their bees.

So check with your local or state agricultural office, county extension service, or a CSA for more information on local wineries.

Italian Wine Suggestions

I tried all of the above when I began my quest for my first bottle of wine. The selections I make now are directly related to the wine tasting events held by the estate owners. The sincerity of the sellers and the reaction of the other tasters helped me decide what was best for me. The majority of the people at this event knew or seemed to know what they were drinking and what to say. I listened and learned.

Italian wines are regulated in country. Bottles with the DOC or better the DOCG label will be of superior quality.

I have two favorite vintners: Pieropan from the Veneto region of Italy and Tenuta delle Terre Nerre from Sicily.

If you are relying on this article for a selection, I would suggest Pieropan Viticoltori in Soave. This is a light-bodied dry white wine paired well with fish and chicken. I have this with macaroni and cheese and found it quite nice.

Another superb dry white wine is Montenidoli Carato, Vernaccia di San Gimignano. Of all the wine, purchased thus far, this had the higher cost. However, everything about the wine is superior even to the use of natural cork to cap the bottle.

The Tenuta delle Terre Nerre, Aetna Rosso 2012, a full-bodied dry red wine is another suggestion. This is a stronger wine and best with pasta, spiced dishes, game and dark meats. This wine goes well with hot chili.

Another top quality dry red wine is La Botte dell’Abate Riserva Montepulciano d’Abruzzo.

At some point in your sampling, you will find the grape of preference. I like Nero d’Avola. A grape native to Sicily. The fragrance of this wine is as delicious as the liquid. The flavor is strong, spicy, smooth and thick.  I find the brands Colosi Rosso and Cusumano are a modest price and consistently good.

All the wines mentioned have a sale price between $15 – $35.

I hope this has been helpful. I am still exploring wines and have started cooking with them. I often pour a small amount of the red wine into my home-made marinara or pizza sauce. That along with a dash of fennel does wonderful things to a tomato-based sauce. The wine truly does make the meal. Each enhances the flavors and textures of the other. Wine and food are grounding and uplifting at the same time. They taste good and make a body feel good inside and out.

Salute!

 

14 Reasons to be a Frog

You’re allowed to sleep all winter
You can breathe through your skin
You get gorgeous bulgy eyes
Your skin is attractively moist
You have the coolest tongue to catch bugs
No mortgage
Your hands and feet are slender and supple
You don’t have to worry about what to wear
No wristwatch
(Don’t remind me about snakes) (Or cats)
When you’re scared you can dive deep and hide
You don’t have to be brave
You got to be a tadpole back then, very cute
Life is short but you don’t know it

Author unknown

IL Volo at Foxwoods ~ Concert Review

IL Volo brought their Notte Magica Tour 2017 to Foxwoods Resort Casino at the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Reservation in Connecticut on March 11, 2017. Piero Barone, Ignazio Boschetto, and Gianluca Ginoble sang in the “bel canto” style raising spirits and hearts under an icy full March moon. Maestro Joseph Modica conducted a 45-piece orchestra in a two-hour musical Italian extravaganza! The sumptuous cardinal red curtains rose to a full house of admirers in the Grand Theater. The audience looked at them at first with attention and then affection in a terrific performance.

The show opened with the overture to Giuseppe Verdi’s “La Forza del Destino” setting the tone for a classical, operatic performance in homage to The Three Tenors. IL Volo received the blessings from the original tenors to continue their goal of bringing beautiful music to everyday people. The magical night was infectious. A patron in the next seat from Saratoga NY had never seen or heard the trio. She came with a friend to get out of town for the weekend. The enchantment of IL Volo swept her up on her feet for every ovation from the crowd.

The play list for this performance is on the CD “IL Volo with Placido Domingo, A Tribute to the Three Tenors”, published September 2016 by Sony Classical Records. The concert with Placido Domingo was recorded live in Florence. Unfortunately, a CD can never capture the charisma of the artists. In person, the trio have a relaxed and confident presentation. Even their walk is light and casually elegant. The song and the music flow together flawlessly. Maestro Modica notably held back the orchestra to allow the singer to give it all to the moment. The ensemble music of IL Volo has the power to heal old hurts, raise joyful energy and excite the libido. These guys are young, handsome men, gorgeously decked out in the finest Italian suits.

A highlight of the show is “Grande Amore”. They won the prestigious Sanremo Music Festival in 2015 with this song. IL Volo bring their energy up and sing with great pride. This is their song, they love it and the intensity is breathtaking. Other crowd favorites are the Italian lament, “Caruso”, the sweet Spanish song, “Cielito Lindo” and, the finale, from La Traviata, “Libiamo ne’ lieti calici.

A tip of the hat to Ginoble for his solo of Rossini’s “La Danza”. He deftly kept pace with the rhythmic lively song based on the traditional southern Italian tarantella. Ginoble is known for his suave, smoky crooning baritone. This tempo is a challenge and this night, he was splendid.

The best way to appreciate Boschetto’s solo performances are to close the eyes and let his voice surround the body. He sings the aria, “Una Furtiva Lagrima”, from Donizetti’s “L’Elisir d’Amore”. Boschetto captures the sensual awakening of Nemorino to the wonders of affection returned. His tenor is expressive and emotional. He sings with crisp diction and round, tall vowels. Boschetto’s voice finds it’s way into the tender places inside the listener. However, he goes from serious to flamboyant easily. In a jocular voice, a patron said, “that guy, the tall guy, my nonna woulda called him diavoletto. I mean you could see the little horns coming out from under his hair. Cheeky flirt.” Boschetto has a strong presence on stage and as the show rolls on, builds more and more power into his voice.

In Chinese Astrology, this is the Year of the Rooster. Barone was born into this sign and on stage displays the confident fire of this bird. Gone are his trademark red glasses and crucifix. While exiting the venue, a patron with a lilt in his voice said, “impressive, impressive, he’s just standing there all easy and it comes out like that. It doesn’t look like he’s trying but the voice just wraps around me. I got chills. You know he works hard at that, but I don’t see the effort!” Barone is most appreciated in a live performance. He’s developed his sumptuous tenor filling it with warmth and with every note says, I-Love-to-Sing-to-You. His Twitter profile conveys an acknowledgement of his gifts and what comes with that. “Music is made of all the passions of the world, the good singer chooses one of those and lives it again like nobody else.” Barone’s voice can touch the ear with the lightness of a feather and swiftly create a sensation of being lifted off the feet by the near brilliance of his tenor.

Orchestra Musicians Kevin Cruder Cello and Dana Ianculovici Violin

IL Volo are on tour in North America until early April. A full schedule is on their website, IL Volo Music. In late April, the European leg of Notte Magica begins. They have a busy year ahead with announced plans to travel to Japan and Australia in November. Barone said they have a hope soon to perform their “Ave Maria, Mater Misericordiae” for Pope Francis.

Written by Frances Ann Wychorski, March 13, 2017

Update: March 16, 2017

Viewers may read this article in Italian by clicking on this link. Many thanks to the IL Volo Italian Fan Club for providing the translation. Vi ringrazio molto!

Ginger and Me

How strange they are, all green and kaleidoscope colors in the cold twilight. Flash, flash, cascading across the sky. Even Ginger stopped and watched the northern lights. After a few minutes, she snorted and signed almost saying, let’s go home now, let’s go in.

It’d been a long day and when we got to the barn, I was so stiff I couldn’t move, couldn’t swing my leg over the saddle without feeling like I was going to fall down if I touched the ground. I’d been riding since sun up, moving the cattle up to station C. C is for Cavendish but that’s a story for another day.

Ginger is a Mexican horse. She’s almost as old as I am now and loves to roam outside pushing cattle. She’s got a copper chestnut coat with a white sock on her left hind. She stands tall with straight legs and a round barrel. Her face has white flakes all over it that give her a look of being freckled. The first time I saw her was at the spring cookout and hoe down. She was probably three years old and playing in the trough. The water was splashing up and over everything as she pawed it with her front hoof. She raised her head and looked to the sky soaking herself good. Thump, thump, thump, splash! I liked everything about her and when I offered a peppermint over the fence rail, she came right to me. I ruffled her shaggy mane and offered $50 for her.

I brought her back to the ranch where Rusty and me trained her to herd cattle. Ginger has smooth gaits and moves lightly over the ground. She tucks her nose in and moves like a fancy dancy horse. We don’t canter too much. Life on the ranch is mostly about listening to crickets chirp in the grass. When we do, it’s so sweet to feel her take off. When I get the cue just right, it’s like lifting her up and bouncing into the canter. She shifts her weight back and with a big shhhhhhhhhwiiiiiiiishhhhhhhhhhh of her tail, off we rock. She rolls, rolls, rolls along the trail. I love Ginger.

Anyway, spring is trying to arrive early here in Montana. The cattle started shedding out already and get restless easy. It’s after lunch now and Ginger and me were nosing the herd down the north slope when it started to snow. The wind had been turning from the northwest all day. My belly was still warm from the split pea soup and I was dozing in the saddle. Ginger walks so nice and light, she kinda rocked me into a trance. The mooing cows and quiet clouds made it feel like siesta time. Ginger “tripped’ on a stone and woke me up just as I was about to slide off.

hargreavesprairiewinterscenicm6839We looked at the clouds and I swear one was shaped like a big angel. The wind was singing in the prairie grass ruffling Ginger’s mane. She snorted and trotted on. The flakes started falling fast. I heard a big rumble overhead and saw another big cloud roll in. We shivered a little and caught up with the herd.

The big flakes of snow fell on the cows. I watched all the designs form on their black coats. How can each one be different? How can that be? A rhythmic sound started up from all around us. Ginger pranced a bit and turned around looking for something then she looked up at the clouds. I guess it’s true, the angels really do dust heaven out and we were here to see it. Oh wow! They must have gone back to creation cause the mother of all snowflakes fell on the back of cow tagged number 360. I pulled out my rope and measured the flake. Fifteen inches across. I called john Henry and said, hey look at this! John Henry called Caspar over and we all stared at the thing. Wow, the biggest snowflake ever in Montana is on the backside of a cow.

100 miles from nowhere near Fort Keough MT 1887