Thursday, October 23, 2014

Trip to Italy (October 2014 - Valle d'Aosta)...Most serious apple cider maker of Italy

One of the apple growing sites, overlooking Matterhorn

Good morning Aosta.

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It was another gorgeous day in Aosta. We visited Maley, an apple cider ("cidre") maker in town. The winemaker-turned-cidre-maker, Gianluca, welcomed us at a shared distillery Maley uses. In this distillery, besides his cider, different producers makes spirits made from different ingredients. One of the famous drinks made there is called, Genepi, which is a liqueur made from local mountain herbs. They also make Chocopy, a chocolate liqueur with fragrance of Genepi. It was so good!

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Gianluca used to be a winemaker, and when he found abandoned apple trees, he decided to make apple cider. Now he grows apples inside of the monastery in Aosta. These ancient varieties of apples are looked after by nuns there. The monastery is within the ruins of Roman amphitheater, and the apple trees are planted inside of what used to be the stage!

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He took us for lunch at a local restaurant. It was very nice to pair local dishes with a lineup of his artisan cidre. Very serious taste! One of his cidres is made in metodo classico and very dry.

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After lunch, we drove up about 30 minutes to his another apple growing site. The old trees are planted in the high altitude, overlooking Matterhorn! It was so beautiful.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Trip to Italy (October 2014 - Valle d'Aosta)...Elegant Aosta dinner

Ravioli of beef tongue and foie gras

Dinner was at a place called Cafe Quinson in Morgex. It's a 16th century old house, turned into a restaurant.

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The place maintains beautiful look from the old times. We were first escorted to the basement cellar for aperitivo.

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The restaurant was supposed to be closed on the day we came, but since we were coming all the way from Japan (and LA), they kindly opened the place just for us. The dinner course was created just for us with the pairing wines. It was fantastic.

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After dinner, we were invited to the kitchen and greeted the chef. Beautiful husband and wife team.

Trip to Italy (October 2014 - Valle d'Aosta)...Visit to Cave du Vin Blanc de Morgex et de la Salle

Morgex's vineyard, overlooking Mont Blanc

In the afternoon we drove all the way up to a village of Morgex at the northern end of Valle d'Aosta and near the borders with Switzerland and France.

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We came so far north in Italy! The view was magnificent in 360 degrees.

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We had an appointment with Cave du Vin Blanc de Morgex et de la Salle, a co-op producer in Morgex. Their winemaker, Nicola, gave us a tour of the vineyards and also the winery. They grow exclusively Prie Blanc grape, a regional white variety. The vins are planted in terraced vineyards in the very steep slopes. They go so high that their highest vines are about 1,200 meters (3,600 feet) above sea level and that's considered to be Europe's highest vineyard. The altitude is so high that the vines had never been damaged by phylloxera. So, these vines are original and have never been grafted. The vines are trained on low pergolas to protect the plants from harsh cold winds and frosts in the winter. It also helps to benefit from the warmth from the ground from daylight hours. In order to harvest grapes, you need to go under the trees by crouching down. That's very labor intensive.

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After a lot of walking, it was time for tasting their wines. We started with Spumante, made in metodo classico. Nicola showed off his skill of opening a bottle with a saber...it was so cool!

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They make really pure and beautiful mountain wines. I enjoyed so much.

Trip to Piemonte (October 2014 - Valle d'Aosta)...Visit to Les Cretes

Le Cretes' vineyards, surrounding 360 degrees of 16C Coteau la Tour tower

Good morning, Aosta.


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It was chilly in the morning, but the view from my room was gorgeous. I also liked the hotel we are staying. Their breakfast was great, too.


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We drove about 20 minutes to a village of Aymavilles to visit Les Cretes. They make wines from regional varieties, such as Petite Arvine, Petit Rouge and Fumin as well as international varieties. It's a beautiful winery, and the tasting was very interesting.


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Constantino, the owner of the winery, took us to their vineyards which are a short drive from the winery. The vines are planted on hills surrounding a tower, Coteau la Tour from 16th century.


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He also took us to his birth home, which was built about 200 years ago, and the inside is almost unchanged for a long time.

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After the visit, we stopped by at a local pizzeria for a quick lunch. It was good!