Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Weekly meeting with Ma Donna

This morning my alarm went off at 5:30am...I barely peeked through my eyelids to where I could see that it was still pitch black outside..."Can't run yet, better go back to sleep"... the alarm went off again at 5:40am, 5:45am, and continued in two ten minute increments until I FINALLY got out of bed at 6:40am. It was just bright enough outside to not get hit by a car, and usually if I start early no one else on the hill has woken up yet so I don't see a lot of cars anyway. I've come to think of my Wednesday morning ritual as my weekly meeting with Ma Donna in the Wall (the tiny saint statue that someone has put in a crevis in a rock wall). I start out and walk past the little yippy dogs that try to bite my ankles if I run past their house and when I get to the end of our road I start a 6 minute run uphill... when I see Ma Donna in the Wall it's time to turn around and start the downhill easy part of the run. I'm not sure which sait Ma Donna is, but I think she must be the saint of relief because by the time I reach her my calve muscles are ready for some downhill relief. On my way down the hill this morning I met a bus driver whom I've seen out on my morning runs before. This time he waved and honked like he was my best friend. As I continued down the hill I thought about how accustomed I've become to the run. I feel as if now this hill with all it's endless curves is actually mine. I feel at home. I feel like the people on the way to and from Antonio's house are my neighbors. It's hard to think that I've actually been here over a month. I've only got a few days more than three weeks left here at the cantina. My Italian, whether I think so or not, and no matter how frustrating it is for me right now, has actually come quite a long way from "Mi chiamo Rachele. Sono di Missouri." At the bottom of the hill is a gorgeous row of pink flowers (don't ask me what type because beyond the obvious well known flowers, I have not a clue, to me they are just pretty...kind of like cars...) and every time I run by them I think I should stop and smell them on the way back, and every time I do stop to smell them and then I remember that the flowers are pretty but without a smell. Eh, è cosí ("it is that" used in the sense that "well, that's just how it is.") There's also a beautiful old building that has a rundown garden behind it that I think would make a beautiful picture, and I want to take a picture of Ma Donna as well so that you can get an image for my story of her..eventually, I will do that. On my way back up the hill, I realized I have a love/hate relationship with the endless curves, they are endless, but without them I would be running directly up the hill...that's no fun. I also saw my friend the bus driver on my way back up, he waved and honked again. I wonder if he would recognize me without the red stocking cap with the fluffy ball on top (which I wear 1. to keep me from freezing and 2. to hopefully ward off the cars that have started to come up and down the hill by the time I'm headed back up to the house)??? After I reach the driveway to the house I stop and walk until I'm at a distance that I think I can sprint without the dogs catching me, it's actually kind of fun and a bit of a rush to run from them. :) I keep reminding myself that I need to look up the Italian word for "to bite"...just in case. When I reached the house I was able to do some yoga stretches watching the purples, blues, pinks, and oranges of the sunrise over the valley...que bella la vita Italiana...

Today at work, I took the opportunity (read, I was bored and there was nothing else to do but clean some random spots under some random tanks and my lungs have had their fill of clorine for a few days) to walk around with my roommate Giulia. Giulia is studying to be an enologist and is on a stage for her school. It was interesting to see what type of work an enologist does, and I've gotten to the point that I can ask questions and usually understand the answer, more or less. Although today when I asked her what she was doing with the themometer in the cylinder of must she said a word I didn't understand and I assumed it was a super-cool and intelligent enologist word, but when I looked it up in my handy dandy dictionary at lunch the word, misurare, means to measure. Huh. I also got to taste the different musts at varying degrees of "wine-ness" or in the different stages of fermentation. Also a word to the wise, when someone tells you to smell the air that comes out of the pipe on the side of the vat, don't think it's going to smell like must and take a big ole whiff, because it's CO2 and will knock you on your buttocks. Apparently, everyone does that the first time they're told to smell the air there. I'm going to go around and do the same things with Giulia tomorrow because I think it's interesting and I don't completely understand what all we were checking. I think we were checking sugar levels and alcohol levels and I know we were checking the temperture. Tomorrow I'll put my dictionary in my pocket. :)

All for now, I'm headed back down to the winery to see my friends and maybe weigh in some grapes.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Finally, the Birthday Post!!!

Sorry to keep everyone hanging. I didn't mean to, honestly. I was going to stay after work yesterday in order to catch everything up but the weather was so nasty and rainy and I was SOAKED from cleaning...everything...all day long. All I wanted was to go home and take a hot shower with a nice glass of red wine. What actually happened was Giulia and I got to the house to discover that the electricity had been off for a while. It was not only cold outside, but now also inside, and I was still soaked, and no use taking a nice hot shower because the water heater wasn't working if the electricty wasn't working. Also we were starving and coudln't open the fridge or turn on the stove (probably one of the only 10 houses in Roncá that has an electric rather than gas stove). AND on top of all of that we had to search in the dark to find the ONE bottle (amoung a lot of bottles of wine) that was a red wine. Luckily, it was delicious. Antonio had to come home from the cantina to fix the electricity and we had to wait about an hour to shower. By the time I got got take a shower I ended up flooding my bathroom and bedroom floor with soapy water because when I thought the water was going down the drain it was actually running out onto the floor. However, the night ended beautifully with Giulia and I sharing the Merlot/Cabernet blend made in the Veneto region that was mostly ripe berries all around with taste and smell, no oaky-ness at all and actually died a little on the back palate, perfect for the moment. We also watched Bride Wars, which I can now say is the second movie that I've seen first in Spanish, then in English, and now in Italian. And actually, I own this movie and before I found out I was coming to Italy I thought I might go to France and I watched the French version one time as well! I found an extra thick blanket to add to my bedding and slept all warm and cozy. So a great ending to an okay sort of day.

Okay, so now on to what everyone has been asking for! My birthday in Italy!!! Friday 24th, I left the Cantina early to go out to eat with Sarah and her brothers who flew in from England for the weekend since the 25th was Sarah's birthday. We first met at one of the two bars in Roncá for a drink before dinner. The bar owner was a really interesting man. He could speak fluent Italian (obviously), as well as Spanish, and pretty fluent English, and I'm pretty sure he mentioned he could speak French and German as well. Talk about having a knack for learning languages. My brain is getting confused tryign to keep a hold of three! The bar owner and I also had a nice long conversation (we chose to speak in Italian because right now my brain can only focus on learning rather than remembering what I've already learned of Spanish) about Costa Rica! He had taken one of his holiday's there and we were able to chat about the different areas and the beauty of the pure land there. After the Roncá bar we headed off to dinner. Sarah's brother were incredibly entertaining. They were actually quite mean to me, kind of like an older brother should be. They picked on me all night long, calling me things like half-pint and telling me I just claimed to know what I was talking about when it came to wine. It was really a very enjoyable night for me because it was the first night that I was able to be the translator rather than the one being translated for! Rafaiella (Sarah and I's Italian friend) came with us to dinner and I was able to translate what the boys were saying to her when Sarah had gone out for a smoke. I was impressed with myself that I was able to help her understand and not just confuse the daylights out of her. It was nice for one night to be completely "in the know" and not kind of picking up on only half of the converstaion. After dinner we went to another wine bar close by for about an hour until I convinced everyone it was time to go home. It was actually an early night arriving at the house around 12:30am.

Saturday morning I was able to sleep in, so I did. I slept until about 11:30, woke up, made myself breakfast and brought it back up to my bed where I ate, wrote in my journal, and then read my book (currently Under the Tuscan Sun) until abooooout 2:00 when I finally decided I had better shower because Daniela was coming to pick Giulia and I up at 3:00 to go shopping. Daniela took Giulia and I to the biggest shopping center in the Veneto and you had better believe that on a Saturday at 4 in the afternoon that the place was PACKED. I'm talking packed like Christmas Eve mall shopping packed. It was a beautiful mall and I found everything my heart desired, and bought that which my heart desired and I could actually afford. One store in particular made me realize just how much Italians really love shoes. The store (still in the mall) was actully more like a warehouse sized shoe store. You could buy everything from €10 knock offs to €250 pure Italian leather knee high boots (beautiful). Also the Italian food court was fun to compare to ours. The only name I recognized was McDonald's, but there was a Mediterranian place, a place that served the real Italian pizza (I say that because we have places in our food courts in the USA that claim the have "Italian pizza" but really, it doesn't compare), and a place that was all belgium style waffles and gelato, and obviously a coffee bar or two...or three, Italians love their tiny coffee. It was after shopping on the way home that I was starting to feel a turn of events in the wonderful day. I had found out at this point that we wouldn't be going to the disco because if it rained like the forecast predicted then we would be outside, wet, and cold. Instead what I understood is that we were going to a bar. Hmmm...okay, no worries, it'll be great none the less. Then I could not get an answer from my friends still working at the cantina as to whether or not they would be able to come out with us as well. At this point it would be just me, Daniela, and Giulia, which was good, but the more friends the more fun! So we went home got ready and ended up being late to meet up with friends at a tiny bar that reminded me of the old local bars in Springfield, just a bar with some seats and a place where a local band can play. I did find it interesting that the band that night choose to play only 80s music that they sang all in English. I mentioned that we were late getting to this bar but we were not the latEST to get to the bar. We waited about an hour and a half for all of the group of people Daniela knew to arrive...and we waited outside, in the cold, and I was dressed for the dance club in my special birthday dress...buuuuurrrr. Thank goodness I had bought a coat that morning at the mall! So by now, I'm cold, I'm cranky, and all I want is wine. We left the tiny bar in a group of 15 and went to another place about 30 minutes away called Bar Jamaica. As we walked up I could hear the Beach Boys singing "California Girls" and I could feel the heat seeping from the front doors...okay, my mood was starting to shape up. When we got to the table it was around midnight, and we sat for what seemed another 30 minutes before we even saw our server (yes, anyone from HRA reading this, this was NOT good customer service!). So by now at least I was warm and listening to some good music, but I was still terribly thirty and the last message I had received from anyone at the winery said they might be able to go home in an hour (1 am) and would also all have to work the next day. I gave up by then. I put my phone away and tried started in on the large bowls of fruity drink they brought to the table for everyone to share with ridiculously long straws (in case you were wondering the big fruity drinks were alcohol free because they were so large). About 10 minutes into my fruity drink Giulia tapped me on the arm and said "Rachel, I think you have a surprise." I looked up and there were my friends from the winery!!! They had all surprised me, every single one of them was in on the surprise. I couldn't have been happier (okay, probably a glass of wine and I could've been happier, I tried to order one but we had somehow managed ON MY BIRTHDAY to find the ONLY bar that didn't serve any wine at all). From this bar we went to a disco that was inside called Belfais. This had to be the only disco in the area that didn't serve wine of any sort. I wasn't lucking out on the wine situation, but at least now all my friends were together and I got to dance! They even announced my birthday over the loud speaker for me. Unfortunetly all I understood was my name, but still, it was pretty darn cool! We left Belfais at 4am...because that's when they closed. We stopped at a Food Truck that served paninis. However, they were without a panini that didn't have meat, they also didn't serve fried potatoes or pizza. So they made a sandwhich for me that was cheese, mushrooms, and ketchup...well, it sounded good a the time. It was actually quite delicious and I ate the whole thing leavning only the trail of crumbs on my lovely new black coat. We got home at 6:30am. I slept like a rock until 11:30am on my Birthday!

Sunday when I woke up I did the same routine as Saturday. Breakfast in bed, read, shower. Around 4 I went out with my friends for just some quite time at the house, we all needed a little relaxing time after the night before. That night we had pizza at the house and then GELATO. Delicious gelato. I tried about 6 different kinds including liciorice and pistachio (which was surprisingly and pleasantly salty). I ate so much gelato that I woke up on the next morning and for the first time didn't want to so much as look at gelato. All in all, it was an amazing birthday. My mom and Dad sent me beautiful flowers, which I posted pictures of. I got a bottle of aqua di gio, a jacket that actually fits me (from my friends in the winery who make fun of my too-large hand-me-downs), a bracelet, so far two cards in the mail, a bag of my favorite candy here (chupa chup suckers), and amazingly wonderful time with all my friends.

I've declared my purchse of blue earrings today my final purchse for myself that I can write off as "Happy Birthday to Me" gift. On the way back from the shopping center I noticed that around 5:00pm everyday in this area there are what my Dad likes to call Tractor parades...this means that one tractor leads about 10 cars through the windy curvy no-passing zone roads going about 15 miles per hour. It's a funny occurance to watch, as long as you're not watching from behind the tractor. :) That's all for tonight I'm so tired my contacts are blurred and I can no longer see my computer screen!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

I forgot

I forgot until this afternoon that I wanted to tell you all that I got a special birthday surprise from one of the farmers! My coworker told Rosamorando (last name only, because that's all we really need to write their receipts) that my birthday was Sunday and Roasmorando (an adorable gray-haired older farmer with big ears and kiiiinda funky front teeth) started to sing to me the birthday song, Italian version. His voice was litterally something you would think to hear in an opera. Amazing! How beautiful, and what an unexpected surprise to have at 11:00am from a grape farmer in Italy. Ahhhh, qué bella la vita quí!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Just a hint of the week ahead...

Just a quick update on how today went so that you know what I'm in for this week. This morning we got to the winery at 8:30 am and everything was SILENT...I have learned that this is NOT a good sign. All the machines were either being cleaned or fixed. By 11:00am we had tractors lined up to waiting on the mechanics to fix our grape seperator. At 4 all was slow and well with the world by the machine still wasn't funcntioning to speed. So Giulia and I went to do a bit of grocery shopping and when we got back at 6... there was no where to park because the ENTIRE parking lot was full of tractors!!! This is supposed to be one of the busiest weeks of the year, and so far it's shaping up to be that way.

This past weekend was full of lakes and food! Friday night we all went to Monte Forte (the picture from with the large tower looking thing and also where the grape festival was with the big grape balloons) to have a case you haven't noticed the Spritz is a big deal here. At first I thought the "spritz" was what they called their happy hour. I was wrong. I have learned that a spritz is a particular (and particually delicious) drink. The spritz is a mixture of Prosecco, Aperol, and Frizzy water, served with an orange slice. The Aperol has a different taste, not quite fruity, not quite alcoholy...delicious none the less. I also learned the other evening that this drink and the happy hour I had associated with the spritz have only become the fad within the last three years. After our spritz we all went to Agusto's house to have pizza. It was very late because even though it had started to rain on Friday there was still a lot of work at the winery and none of the boys in the cantina got to go home until around 10:30pm.

Saturday was a day of rest in the morning and then off to Lake Garda for the evening. We didn't arrive at the lake until around 11:30pm (because once again everyone is very busy during this time of the year and even though it rained all day causing the farmers to not harvest any grapes that day, the cantina workers were home late at night). This lake town was like a beautiful Italian dream, cobblestone streets, colorful brick buildings, people drinking wine in the streets, music coming from the bars and pizzerias...abosolutly everything I had imagined an Italian town to look like, right out of a dream. First we had a spritz at a little bar and listened to a group of older (slightly intoxicated) men speak in English. None of us could decide what accent they had and where they were from. I was going to ask, but decided I had better just let them be. After our spritz we went walking down the cobblestone street (note to all: high heels + cobblestone street = potential danger) to find some place to feed our ravaging hunger. Luckily for us we found an amazing restaurant that stayed open until 2am (by this time it was about 12:15am). We chowed down on breadsticks (the dry cracker type) and prosecco from the tap while we waited on dinner. I was finally able to find a dish that was spicy and didn't invovle meat. I had penne arribiata and it was delicious! After dinner we walked down to see the lake and some of the sail boats then we headed back home. A late night, but so worth it.

Sunday we all slept in late and then woke up to meet again at Augusto's house. We enjoyed coffee and crossiants wrapped around chocolate made by Augusto's sister. As we drank our coffee I witnessed (what I thought at the time) was the strangest thing. Alessandro was putting what I thought were Marachisno cherries into his timy expresso cup. I couldn't understand why you would do such a thing...until I decided that an overly sweet Marachisno cherry sounded absolutly delicious and popped on in my mouth. Imagine my surpise when the Marachisno cherry was actually a regular cherry that was LACED with liquor. Oh man, that sucker was strong. And now, I understand that cherry in the coffee. One of the many surprises that comes with 1. Not completely knowing the language and 2. Assumption. After the cherry episode we all headed out to a Lake Fimon in Vicenza. This lake was beautiful (I posted pictures in the "Out with friends" album) and looked a little mysterious since it was a bit stormy yesterday. We (including the Lab of Augusto, Leo) walked the entire path around the lake. Leo especially enjoyed himself, jumping into the lake, chasing other dogs, chasing sticks, running away from us...when Leo got in the car, oh man did he stink! We drove into the town of Vicenza to have our spritz and then to Montecchio for dinner at a Trattoria (which I have discovered usally means, at least around here, Authentic Italian restaurant). We all at waaaaay too much. I had two types of pasta, for my first plate. :) I got to see what Italian's call macaroni and cheese and imeadiatly proclaimed that my Momma made it better! I had a spaghetti with seasonal veggies and also a strange pasta that was two little tubes right beside each other in a sauce that was ricotta and eggplant. Both were equally delicious. We had grilled meat (ok obviously everyone but me) and passed lots of veggies, cooked carrots, fried potatoes, spinach, and something else I've forgotten at the moment, but i know there was more. We had with our dinner the house red wine. I swore it smelled like a cabernet, but my friends (who honestly have a lot more experience that I do) told me it was a Merlot. If it was a Merlot, it's one of teh two I've actually liked. For dessert I had panna cotta, which to me looked more like what I think tofu looks like, with two different sauces, carmel and mixed fruits. The sauces were yummy but I didn't quite get over the fact that the panna cotta looked, and tasted a little, like tofu... After dinner we drove to the REAL castles of Romeo and Juliet. We were going to go inside but because it was Sunday they were closed. I was promised we'd go again some time. I had no idea the real castles (okay first I honestly had no idea that they were REAL people) sat on two hills not very far from each other. It was very majestic to sit there in a place where history had happened. The inspiration for shakespeare was sitting right out my car window tall and proud like it had a life full of secrets. It was pretty awesome.

I wrote about Monday (actually yesterday) at the beginning of this post and today has been Although what better place than Italy to be bored? :) Not a whole lot to do this morning in the Cantina. Some cleaning, then some more cleaning, lunch, and now I'm at the computer catching up with you all. I'll go home early tonight and hopefully catch up on some sleep I missed this weekend. I'll need that sleep this coming weekend because IT'S MY BIRTHDAY WEEKEND!!!

So far the plans for birthday weekend are as follows. Friday, something but I don't know what yet. Saturday Villa Bonin the disco I've been to before and dinner at Daniela's house before. Sunday (my actual birthday) I'm not sure what but I'm hoping something that we can all be together because only the girls can go out Saturday night since the boys all have to work late in the Cantina (figures that my birthday would fall on the busiest week of teh year for them). Oh well, it'll be wonderful and I have a new birthday outfit thanks to a present from my Daddy!

Well, I'm signing off for now. I'm not sure when I'll write again but I will try to update you no later than Monday evening. LOOK AT THE NEW PICTURES!!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Observation time

I have noticed lately

- That the Italian "Uh Huh" meaning "Yes" sounds exactly like our "Uh Uh" meaning "No." This could be a problem when you say, "Do I stop the pump now?"

- I now speak with the Italian grammer structure to my Italian friends...IN ENGLISH. This is normal because I remember this happening with Spanish as well, but if I come to you and say I am going to the house of Antonio in stead of Antonio's house, don't be surprised.

- Another fun habit I have picked up on is I think a dielect habit. When my friends finish telling a story they say "e basta" meaning "and stop" can you guess what I say at the end of my stories now in English?

- I have been shocked and made to blush several times by the amount of nudity I find in public. I have seen advertisments in local newspapers, magazines, TV that don't include the black censory blocks. A little different way of thinking then US publicity huh? The first time I saw an uncensored adverstisement I stoped and made sure the newpaper I was looking at wasn't a dirty nudie magazine...nope, it was the local paper from that morning! I don't know if I can get used to that.

- Not only in Italy do I need to learn a new spoken language, but a new hand gesture language as well. The way they say "number 1" with their hands looks more like that thumbs up to me. The "come here" looks more like they are shooing something away from themselves. The equivlient to our middle finger involves the whole arm and a slapping motion. They also have a few I haven't figured out what they mean yet, but I see them use them all the time.

Also new photos in Days at Work, Casa Fattori, and Out with Friends!!!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

New Routine

Monday 13th was the start of what I believe is a great routine for me. I have found a solution to always having to ask for something to do and ending up cleaning. I found this routine on Monday because that is when the harvest of the Garganega grapes started. This is pin pointed as the busiest time of the year for the Fattori winery. For approximately 15 days the Garganega grapes will continously flow into the winery. So I found a place where I could actually help. Something I can do that I can interact with people. I can do this without having to completely understand everything. I can do this without messing too much up, but I still feel like I'm literally making someone's job more pleasant. So here's my plan: When I come to work in the morning I ask for something to do. I usually clean something or have a project until lunch. I go to lunch and when I get back from lunch the tractors have started to roll in from the fields full of Garganega grapes. That's when I take my spot on the weighing station. When the tractor rolls up I take the first weight. Then I test the sample of must for the grade of sugar. Then I take the second weight. Then I try to figure out how to spell the name the farmer has just rambled off to me. Then I record the amount of grapes in a journal that helps everyone to keep track of how many of what kinds of grapes are going where in the cantina. It's actually really fun. And like I said, I feel like I'm acutally helping without being a hassle for anyone.

Other than just enjoying being helpful, I love the fact that everyone is happier when I'm around. It's like my smile is contagious for them. Everyone who comes in or sees me says to me, " You are always smiling!" My reply to them is, "I'm in Italy, life is perfect, why shouldn't I smile?!" I also enjoy seeing the farmers ineract with each other. It reminds me so much of spending time up at the Dawn store during the lunch rush watching the farmers talk about the weather and discuss politics. Oh and when something goes wrong, you can bet that every single one of the people gathered by the weighing station run to "help" and by that I mean they run to the problem to see what's going on and then everyone just stands as the few people who actually know how to fix the problem go to work. I love people watching!

I've come to the point in my trip where I'm very frustrated with the language. All I want to do is understand! I just want to be able to KNOW and be sure of what is going on around me. I hate that I feel like I know what I'm doing, but I can't help. I also hate that most people in the winery must think I'm stupid because I have to be told about ten times before I know what I need to do. This is also frustrating because now that the other intern is here and she is Italian it is so much easier for them to turn to her and tell her what to do...this results in me 1. Not learning Italian 2. Not learning my job and 3. Just being frustrated. I know it comes with the territory of being in a new country with a new language, but sometimes it would be nice to feel like I was "in the know" of thing. I mean even something as simple as going to buy groceries can be a mess when you can't understand what people are saying to you. Siiiigh, this too will pass and one day I'll wake up and say, "Remember when I had no clue what was going on, so I just smiled and laughed all the time?"

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

I've been a busy girl...

Sunday night was a lot of fun. I got to see yet another beautiful city here in Italy, Vicenza! We went out for a spritz on a beautiful hillside, then we went into the city to a church that is famous for the miracle of the healing of a plague. We missed the festival of M'Donna by one day but I was able to see the pictures in the paper and it looked like a big deal. Italians in Vicenza even get this day off work work (and for anyone wondering, no, Italians don't celebrate Labor Day). From this church's courtyard at dusk I was able to see a beautiful landscape of Italian cities. Unfortunetly, it didn't translate onto my camera very well so you'll have to take my word for it. After taking in the beautiful sites we went to a bierreria (I think that's how you spell it). None the less, it's a place that has more beer than wine and serves amazing pizza. After dinner we went back to the center of Vicenza and had a apperitif at the oldest bar in Vincenza. I felt like I was walking down into a speakeasy from the '20s! Afterwords we went to a gelatoria by my request because everyone in Italy grows up with gelato and no one else thought it sounded quite as delicious as I did. The person behind the counter was very friendly and offered the Toffee gelato. I was so excited because it's been hard for me to ask for anything with carmel because the Italian general word for "candy" is "carmelo." It was delicious, and when talking with the man behind the counter I found out that he has cousins in Canada. Oddly enough, I feel like I've heard that quite a bit from many of the random people I've talked to in Italy. I wonder if that's the "in" place to live for Italiains...Hmmm...

Okay so now for Monday Sept 6th...oppsy, I'm behind again. Sorry guys, but it's been super busy here. I should've known!

As it is harvest time many of the surrounding cities are having their city festivals. Monday night I went with Daniela to Soave Versus in the walled (yes, that's right it's inside of what looks like a huge castle) city of Soave where they grow the Soave grapes and make Soave Classico. A lot of the surrounding winemakers brought in their version of the Soave wine the taste out to the large crowd of people. You could walk from booth to booth and talk to the different wine makers and see what they did to their wine to make it taste the way it did. I thought it was neat to compare all the different flavors. They also had food booths that were offering local specialities and I was able to try a smoked salmon, a stock fish, a custard dessert that is made from the must they use to make wine (concentrated grape juice more or less), a typical bread they serve at Christmas time, and biscotti. I also got to try some more of the local cheeses and freshly baked bread, which is fantastic no matter what country you're in. There were a lot of people there for a Monday night, and of course in true Italian style all of them were very nicely dressed! I met a lot of people too (being the social butterfly that I am). I met someone from Sardinia who makes corks, as well as another one of our winemakers that we used to carry at Vino100. If anyone remembers Inama wine, that's the one! It's still so crazy to actually meet the person who produced a bottle of wine I knew so well! Inama's wine maker invited me to his cantina so that I could see a different set up as well as see how they make red wine, since Fattori only makes whites at the moment. I'll keep you updated as to when I go on that trip.

Tuesday 7th the second intern for the season arrived. Her name is Giulia and she is from the North East part of Italy. She is in school to be an Enotologist and is on a month long assignment for her last year of school. She is staying in the house of Antonio as well and has been great to have around for company. She understand English and when she speaks slowly I can understand her Italian. We make it work, and sometimes when neither one of us knows what's going on, we just say Non Importa and move on! Also on Tuesday, I FINALLY got to clean out one of the tanks. I was so excited to actually be able to get inside! First you have to rinse off the entry way so you don't get all musty, then you must rinse the entire tank clean with a high powered hose, then you spray the whole thing down with more or less Bleach, then you rinse the whole thing off again, then you have to clean the floor under the tank you just washed out. Quite the process but I loved it. However, it was a "be careful what you wish for" situation because after one tank came another, and another, and another...I was tired by the end of the day! That night we went out for pizza in honor of Giulia's first day. One of the many Italian traditions I've come to love is the after dinner coffee and aperitif, right now lemoncello and sambuca have been the favorites and grappa (the local Italian liquor) I still can not even get my nose close to. Ew.

Wednesday 8th has been dubbed part 1 of a 2 part labeling fest. Giulia and I were in the Maggazin for a total of 12 hours putting importer labels on 162 cases of wine.

Thursday morning Giulia and I were told to clean the outside of some of the bigger tanks in the cantina. Okay, no we thought. We had hose shenanigans for and hour and a half before we even got started cleaning on the tanks. It was ridiculous. First the hose that was up in the catwalk where we needed it didn't have the correct attachment piece on it. So we started to take the piece from another hose but was told to reattach it and take the piece from a different hose. So we started to take the piece from the other hose but couldn't get it to come off of the hose. So then we were told to just take a whole other hose up to the catwalk...well when we found the hose we needed and got it up to the catwalk it ended up being too short. SO we had to take the short hose back down, search out a longer hose and drag it up the catwalk and FINALLY we could start to wash the tanks. Thursday night we all went out to a Bar/Gelatoria for drinks. I was able to taste two of the local wines. I'm still so amazed at how cheap the local wines are. €1.50 for a glass, and the best part's actually GOOD! However, one of my friends told me that restaurants will still mark up their prices quite a bit, just like the do at home, so you have to be careful in touristy areas. One of the wines smelled like cat pee and was light bodied like a some Pinot Grigos can be and the other was more similar to a Soave with rich bold flavors, heavy body but not a lot of smell. Both had their ups and downs for me but I actually drank the full glass of the non-cat pee- smelling one.

Friday was part 2 of the labeling fest. We had to wait until Friday to finish because we ran out of labels the first time around. Giulia and I didn't mind the easy and clean work on a Friday and had fun passing my pocket dictionary back and forth between the two of us as we tried to have a decent converstaion. I learned a lot of vocabulary that day! Friday night we went out for another co-workers birthday, Giorgia. We drove about and hour to eat pizza on Lake Garda (where I'm told George Clooney has a house). I'm sure the view was beautiful but since they wait until 10:00pm to eat dinner here all I could see was a big black spot and some lights of houses on the opposite bank. The pizza I ate was the best I've had so far, all veggies, but all soooo fresh and I never would've thought to put riddicco on a pizza, but it was my favorite part! After dinner we had the birthday torta. This one was better for me than the last Italian birthday torta I had tasted. This one was made of layers of phyllo dough and a cream filling that tasted to me like it was egg nog flavored (probably the nutmeg). They also sang to Giorgia the Italian birthday song. I have no idea what the words are but I did reconize THE Birthday Song tune. After dinner we went out the door and around the corner to a disco called Hollywood for some dancing. We had a good time dancing as a group of 8 girls, but the place as packed full in each and every dance floor area. I was lovingly dubbed, by the sister of the birthday girl, "America" for the evening. I really didn't mind, it's not like anyone could hear her calling me that over the blasting music from three different areas anyway!And I'm still amazed at how much fashing sense and effort Italians put into looking their best. On that note, you should see their faces when I tell them I don't iron my clothes...ever. It's a great shock! We got home at 5am on Saturday morning.

Saturday I slept until 12:30. I got up and had breakfast/lunch then went for a run. A long run. I went up the hill to the Donna in the Wall (a statue of sorts that someone has placed in a hole in the wall by the road), down the hill to the road, into the city center of Ronca, back out and to the opposite direction to the Cantina. This took 45 minutes. THEN I took a pit stop at the cantina. I used the computer for about and hour and just as I was leaving the cousin of Antonio, Enrico who frequents a pair of bell bottom pin stripped hippie pants, pulled up on his tractor and asked if I wanted to have a coffe. I said sure and hopped on the side of his tractor to ride the 100 ft to the coffee bar. After coffee I got set on my way back to the house, another 30 minutes. By the time I got to the house I was steaming hot; took off my shoes and Mp3 player and jumped straight into the pool. The water was sooooo cold due to the recent rain. After I got over the cold water shock and jumped in a few more times I did some yoga stretches by the pool overlooking the grapevines and the hillsides of Italy...peaceful. After a shower, a phone call home, and about two hours of journaling to make sure I didn't miss anything for this blog, Guilia and I went with Daniela, Agusto, and Alessandro to the Monte Forte wine festival because this is where our friend Masimo lives and is now working. This wine festival was more spread out than the one in Soave. There were many streets you could walk down and many booths you could visit. There were crafts, food, and of course plenty of Wine. After the festival we went for pizza then off to bed because we knew we were getting up early the next day to go to the beach!

Sunday 12th Daniela, Agusto, Alessandro, and I (Giulia decided to stay in bed when I knocked on her door at 9:30 am to see if she was coming) went to the beach in Venice! It took about and hour and a half to drive all the way to the beach, and once we got close the traffic was just about bumper to bumper. However, the beach was BEAUTIFUL and it wasn't as packed as it can be since it's the end of summer and most people have already taken their holidays. We spent all morning playing in the waves then laying out in the sun. Then at 3 we decided to walk into the town to have lunch. We ate a regualar restaurant and we all had FISH, finally! I had a spaghetti with Vongole (clams) and other seafood, including mussels, prawns, and squid. I also got to try some of the fried fish (more so a Japanese style of fried than fish fry catfish style)mountian that Daniela ordered. It was all so delicious and hit the spot perfectly. After dinner it was back to the beach (hard life, I know) then we the sun went down and it got cold we headed to a beach side bar and had the wonderful Spritza. After our Spritza we headed out to walk around the shops in the town and then Daniela and I had gelato while the boys ate pizza. Then it was time to leave the beautiful warm beach behind and head for home. I vote this to be my best day here so far.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Little observations

Now it's time to fill in with some random stuff:

One day some people came into Antontio and I could understand that they were farmers and that they were talking about their grapes. I asked Antonio if they wanted to sell their grapes to him. He said that they were only asking his opinion on whether or not to harvest their grapes yet. He told them to wait a couple more weeks because of their type of grape wasn't supposed to be harvested just quite yet. I thought it was pretty cool that random people just come to him for advice like that. I saw it happen again with another person as well.

I went grocery shopping with Sarah one day. I wanted to buy one package of fruity gum and one package of minty gum, and I thought I did. When I went to open what I thought was blackberry gum, I ended up with anise flavored gummy candy. No big deal, I would just open my minty, it was a package of mint candy. I'm learning every day. Sarah ended up giving me a package of her gum.

Most Italian children live with their parents until they are married. This is much like it is in Mexico. I came on my own to Italy and I have lived on outside of my parent's house since I was 19. It's hard to imagine still living and depending completely Mom and Dad (don't get me wrong, I know they would let me in a heartbeat and I know they are always there if I need them, but where's the independence of being a grown up?). But at least now I understand how many of the Italians from the disco the other night could afford all their Prada and Gucchi clothing and extremely expensive shoes, they don't have rent bills or phone bills and any money they work for is all for play! It all makes sense now.

Also from listening to converstions between my friends I've realized that divorce is on the rise in Italy. Most of my Italian friend's parents are divorced. It's sad to think that the divorce epidemic is spreading all over the world.

Politics/ religion are both very strong subjects in Italy. Best to steer clear of them...just stay neutral, smile, and nod.

Doors in Italy are Push to go in and Pull to go out. This must be the opposite way as many of the doors in the US because my instinct tells me to Pull to go in and Push to come out...I've ran into a lot of doors lately.

The salutaion of kisses on the cheek. Two in Latin America, Three in Italy. Also be very clear as to which side you choose to go to first. Most Italians go towards the right first, but some of them will choose the left and if they do you're stuck in an awkward dance of back and forth with someone you are just meeting for the first time. Also a problem I had when I came back to the US from Mexcio is that I would meet someone or see a friend or family memeber and go to kiss their cheek and get a strange look from them as if they were saying "why are you in my bubble?" So consider this your warning for when I return home!

Okay, that's all for now. Sorry to bombard you all with 4 posts in one day. It might always have to be like this though, so maybe if you read a post a day I'll have more for you by the time you're ready for a new one. This coming week should be pretty exciting. In the catina we're switching from Pinot Grigio grapes to Chardonnay. Thursday I have plans to go to Verona, and Saturday I have plans to go to Venice. We'll see how it all plays out! Check the albums for new pictures! :)

Friday Sept 4th / Saturday Sept 5th

Friday morning was a bit...scattered. I got to the cantina and was told to hose down the floors by the tanks and under the press. So I started to do that and was spray away trying my best to get all the grape stinks to roll in the same direction rather than scatter out even more. Then about halfway through that job I was told to stop with the water and start with the floor squeegee. So I stoped short of finishing the first job and started in squeegeeing the floor. Then I was told to stop squeegeeing because they were about to wash the tanks from the top and this would just cause more water. So while I was waiting for them to wash the tanks I started to sweep up the skins from under the whole press area (picture 12 of the work album). Then I was told to stop there because they were going to run through more grapes and it would be better to wait unil later to clean it up. So I stoped there and started to mop the small area where they do all the record keeping and computer work for the weighing of trucks when they come in with grapes or grape juice. This was the only job I was able to complete that morning! Sarah came to pick me up from the cantina and took me on a shopping adventure at the market in Ronca just down the street from the cantina. I got bread and socks, and a few other items I just really wanted...including a pair of Italian leather heels that were on sale because right now all the stores are chaning from their summer lines to their winter lines. Beautiful, beautiful shoes. :)

Friday for lunch I brought the boys my tomato sauce and spaghetti. I also had the bread and fresh parmesan cheese to grate on top. Four boys, Daniela, and I were able to eat ALMOST all of my creation. They seemed to like it and no one has been sick from work, so I think I did a good job. Friday afternoon I spent in the office helping Daniela. She works a lot with budgets and the organizations that run controls on the winery. I mostly helped her check invoices, but it still helps me to learn a little more about the transportation of wine and all the rules and regulations wineries have to follow.

After work Daniela and I met another worker from the winery at an enoteca (wine bar) close to the cantina for the happy hour Spritza. They are pretty serious about their happy hours here. I feel like everyone goes after work to have just a drink and eat some of the free amazing appetizers that the bars offer. I love it! Later that night I went with Daniela to her friend's birthday party. I got to have my first taste of an Italian birthday cake, it was good, but I missed the icing! The cake was a yellow cake that had a creamy custard type fililng with strawberries in the middle. We also had some other snacks and I was able to try a type of chip that was shaped like egg noodles and looked like the fried wonton pieces you get from the Chinese restaurants with your soup. They tasted kind of like a mild cheese. I also saw, for the first time in Italy, tortilla chips and pretzels! I've been missing my preztels like crazy and ate just about the whole bowl.

Saturday was a pretty laid back day. I haven't been feeling well because the weather is changing and my sinuses have my throat, nose, head, and ears all acting up. So Saturday I slept in then spent the morning by the pool (but not in it because the weather changed last week and with one rain it went from super hot all day to just plesantly hot during the afternoon hours). I came in for a few hours to plan my trip to Veince which will be this coming Saturday, then I went back out by the pool. Then I came in and got ready for teh evening. I went to eat with Sarah at a restaurant Trattori Fattori (different Fattori than Antonio's family). I didn't get the whole meal because by the time she called to see if I wanted to go, I had alread eaten my dinner at the house, but I did get dessert. It was just a tiny scoop of vanilla gelato with an amazing raspberry and blackberry compote. You could tell that it was good because not a single one of the three of us uttered anything until we had scraped our bowls clean of all the deliciousness. After dinner we went to the same bar that Dainela and I had been to for happy hour. We had a drink there and then headed home for the evening.

Today (Sunday) I've been here trying to update you all the best that I can. Tonight I have plans to go with Danilea to have a Spritza then we're going to eat pizza with Agusto and Alessandro and Alessandro's girlfriend. I'm actually looking forward to pizza because I haven't had it since last week and that's unheard of here.

Wednesday Sept 2 and Thursday Sept 3rd

I added more to the end of the post before this, so make sure you read my updates there before you move on to Wednesday!

Wednesday morning I came in and had a project right off the bat. They needed someone to enlarge the map of the winery's pipelines and tanks system. Augusto chose me, partly because it would something I could actually do, and partly because I wasn't being much of a help anywhere else at the moment. So I went to work with a ruler and a pencil and tiny sections of graph paper taped together and tried my best to keep it to scale. In the end they were pleased with my map and I kind of understood a little bit better the whole system. Kind of. At least I understand there at certain tanks for fermentation and certain tanks for cooling juice. The cooling system, Antonio explained to me, is a new system for Fattori this year. It helps to stabilize the natural fermentation of the juice, and then they run it through a machine that kills all the natural bacteria so that they can control how much and what kind of fermentation the juice gets and are able to achieve the flavors and body of wine they want. After lunch I went to work on cleaning the control panels for the pressing machine as well as the metal safety bars. There's been a lot of cleaning lately and from what I understand I think we're getting ready to switch from the Pinot Grigio harvest to the Chardonnay harvest. Also there are a lot of controls on Wineries in Italy so I have a feeling things have to be kept pretty spotless. After cleaning I got to help Alessandro make the yeast for a batch of juice that had just come into the Cantina. First we had to get two large tubs. These large tubs got half filled with water warmed to I think 40 degrees Centigrade. Then we added large amounts of yeast. I got to use my WHOLE arm to stir the yeast into the water to get it dissolved. Then we gave the yeast a little bit of sugar and a lot of yeast food. All of that also had to be stirred quickly with my entire arm. I had yeast all up my arm, in my watch, in my hair, on my face, in my nose, all of over my shirt and I smelled of freshly baked bread. It was a blast! After mixing and feeding the yeast we had to let it grow. So the two large tubs got poored into one ginormous tub and an air tub was inserted to help the yeast turn over and move around so it could all get some air. Once the yeast was active enough and the must (grape juice) was at the correct tempture Alessandro started to add the must to the yeast little by little. Once the must was tempered into the yeast he moved the must/yeast mixture to a tank so it could ferment to about double it's size. Then later that night he moved the doubled yeast/must mixture to different tanks to start the fermentation process in larger tanks of must. Whoo...I learned a lot of Wednesday!

Wednesday night Antonio was in London to receive an award for his Molto Piane Soave so I decided to make a mess of the kitchen at the house... :)Sarah had brought us more tomatoes from her garden. Is it possible to overdose on Lycopene? I had to think of something to do with these tomatoes. My first thought was salsa, but I hadn't seen any tortilla chips in Italy yet so I figured I'd make a tomato sauce for pasta instead. I also decided that I would make an object language lesson out of it as well. So before I started I looked up all the vocabulary that I thought I might need for my cooking experience and made flash cards with them. Then as I made my sauce I forced myself use the vocabulary, I wouldn’t get a pot unless I knew how to say "I need a pot," (Io ho bisogno di una pentola). It was a slooow process...about 4 hours worth of cooking and learning, but it was fun and useful and totally worth it. In the end I ended up with enough pasta sauce for an army and about 50 new words added to my Italian vocabulary.

Thursday morning I was put to work cleaning the osmosis machine. Unfortunetly I didn't clearly understand exactly how it works, but it helps to seperate water from the juice...I think. I'm going to have to ask for clearification on that one. Thursday afternoon I spent being Agusto's ombra (shadow) because there wasn't a whole lot to do. Not too much to report of Thursday.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Catch up

Wow, long time since I've written. And quite a bit to cover. Unfortunetly when I was smart enough to write it all down in my journal this morning so I woulnd't forget what to write, I managed to put it neatly back in its place before I left the house rather than bring it with me. Ooops. I'll try from memory, but don't be surprised when the next post is stuff I missed in this one. :)

Let's start with Sunday night. Sunday night after updated with you all, I went with Antonio and his girlfriend Fredrica to a restaurant in Monteforte. It was about a 20 minute drive, but well worth it. When we pulled up the place I literally thought we were in someone's home driveway. When we got into restaurant we were the only three customers there. Then Antonio told me it was the owner's last night to be open because he was retiring and his son didn't want to follow in the family business. The owner of the restaurant was our host, our server, our entertainment, and I'm pretty sure he was back in teh kicthen helping his wife cook. But don't let all the fool you. This was a restaurnt of firt class style, right down to the tableside wine service. Fredrica chose (she also makes wine in a town close by the Fattori winery called Soave) an intresting red from Italy of which I can't remember the name of the varietal or the wine maker. It had the body of a medium style cabernet and had the fragrances of tabacco and darker red fruits. I have also noticed that people in Italy (all people, wine makers and non wine makers alike) still smell the cork when they open a bottle. I'm dying to ask what they believe they can tell from it, because I have a feeling it's along the same lines as the Screw cap/ non Screw cap arguement between those who make and love wine. Basically meaning that there are truths to both sides but every side is very passionate about their opinion. The owner was professional and funny, and his food was amazing. The first plate was a special cured pork with a cabbage salad. I ate my salad and let Antonion and Fredrica finish off the pork. Next came a pasta dish for was delicious, until I was chewing on what I thought was a melted piece of cheese only to find out it was a piece of pancetta. I managed not to psych myself out and just put my silverware down ever so slowly and ate my side veggies. For dessert we had what they called a creme brulee. It did in fact have a carmelized topping on it but instead of the neat little white ramekin that I'm used to seeing them in it was really just in a rectangular pile on my plate. It was also flavored with anise and had a little bit of a curdled consistancey, never the less, I ate it all. :) After dessert of course came the coffee. After dinner we went down to San Bonifacio to what has to be the hangout of the town a gelatoria and bar (both coffe and alcohol). There was a 10 page menu of different gelato sundaes you could order. I went simple with a cup of varied berry gelato and a cookie on top. I was so increadbly stuffed after this night.

Monday morning I came to work and was so excited because I got to finaly get my hands dirty and help clean out steel poles that go inside the grape press. The poles fit inside the press and as they come down onto the grapes the skins of the grapes get stuck inside the many little holes leaving to fall down the pipeline only the grape mush and juice. One by one we helped pull the poles down from the press and laid them out on palates so that we could spray them down with colorine and then powerwash the grape skins out of the little holes. I had grapeskins in my hair and on my arms and my pants were wet from backspray from the powerwasher. I didn't mind, I was finally able to do something to help, rather than just stand and watch. But alas, all good things must come to an end and when I was about to help take the poles back to the press I was whisked away to the warehouse to put more collars on more bottles. After lunch, I got to put all the bottles I had collared into their boxes. But first we had to hotglue the boxes together on the bottle, then fill them with bottles, then put in the sepeartor (I'm a champ at that now), then close then up with more hot glue. THEN we stacked them all. Only to find out the next mornign we had stacked them in the wrong direction, so I got to restack them then wrap them in cellephane. I feel like if I see another one of those bottles, with those silly collars that won't stick together worth a poop, anytime may not be pretty.

Tuesday morning after getting the bottle palate restacked I went to watch Agusto as the farmers were bringing in grapes. Right now it is time to harvest the Pinot Grigio grapes. Augusto explained to me that these grapes are a bit too bulky for our equiptment and the sticks, leaves, and vines like to get stuck in the machine as they come through. So to fix this problem someone must stand down by the machine armed with a stick (basically a broken broom handle) and push the stuff through the pipe that sucks it up and drags it up around the building and into a large pile. To get a better understanding look at picture 14 of First days of Work album. This is above ground and where the farmers dump their grapes. This machine rotates and pushes the grapes through a pipe that leads below the ground where the rest of the machine is. The grapes on vines come out at picture 18 and go into the seperator which is picture 20. The seperartor spins and spits the grapes and skins into one pipe, the juice/must into picture 17 and the stems get sucked out around the back side of the buidling to picture 22. Did that make sense at all? Now you see why I wanted to actually SEE this process happening so I could clearly understand this process. Anywho since we were working with Pinot Grigio grapes I got to stand by the machine and help push the twigs through. I picked just a few stems and grapes out of my hair that evening.