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This is the blog of Steve Burkett of Italy, Our Italy

Enjoying Italy-Bought Wine

Isn't it funny how the brain works? Not hah-hah funny, but amazing funny.

To fully understand today’s story, you have to understand that we were naughty this past weekend. Yes, we were very naughty!

Sometimes we have a sudden flash-back to some other time in our lives...it might be triggered by a sound, or maybe a smell...it could be any one of our five senses that brings back a memory, either wanted, or unwanted. My wife and I had an experience this past weekend that brought this home to us. But, it wasn't related directly to a triggering from one of our five senses. So, what was it? 

It was a wine, of all things. It was a wine which we brought back from a trip to Italy in 2014. And it was this wine that brought back memories. And those memories brought back a joy of Italy and a wonderful day in Tuscany.

This is a story about stopping to smell the roses...or if you are want for roses...the wine.

First, I'll give you the backstory for the experience which uplifted our spirits this past weekend. 


The Backstory from 2014

Our memory started as many Italian memories do -- with food. We had just finished an outstanding lunch at Ristorante La Botte di Bacco (The Bottle of Bacchus) in the hillside town of Radda in Chianti. 

 

This charming little restaurant is highly regarded by those who utilize TripAdvisor in their travels, as we do. The upstairs dining room overlooks the street and the surrounding valley below the town. That's our table in the photo at left.

The food is absolutely scrumptious. I have included a few photos below to prove this statement. As we sat down at our nice window seat, we enjoyed the Tuscan countryside on this temporarily-beautiful day.

 

See the photo to the right? When we sat, I'm like, 'Whoa...what is this?!' My wife Ellen, being an expert in such things, let me know that, 'It's like a ginormous bread stick'. And I'm like, "Man, its good!"

 [I'm happy to say that, like it or not, we've like, grown out of saying 'like' all of the time -- like heck we have]

I've never lied to you, and I won't start now as I tell you that I am now a fan of huge bread sticks. And, in the photo to the right, you can see that Ellen has quickly become a huge fan of fried pizza dough that we found in the carb-alicious basket of goodies you see below. 

 

My Instagram feed...

And here are a few photos of just some of our lunchtime treats. Please click on the images, because I want you to get a much closer look at the shaved pear and ravioli, the veal, and the bisteca con carciofo (aka artichoke). Benissimo! 

The white wine above? I don't remember what it was, but it was delicious, as you can tell by the smile on my face, below. But, this is not the wine of which I write today.

You can see the wine of which I write today in the next photo...but though it is, it also isn't. That probably doesn't make much sense, does it? So read on.

The red wine in the photo is a Chianti Classico from the Rocca di Castagnoli winery. See the black rooster on the neck of the bottle? That tells you that the wine is officially a 'Chianti Classico' wine. Chianti Classico does not in itself impart a note of superiority, but is more related to a location. The Chianti wine region is generally a Tuscan area south of Florence, and the Sangiovese grape variety grown there is the key ingredient of all Chianti. And if the Chianti region was thought to be shaped as a donut, the Chianti Classico area could be the hole in the Chianti donut. The town of Radda in Chianti, where we were eating, is located in the Chianti Classico area. You can see that the wine is a 2011 wine, which in summer of 2014 was just right for drinking...it was approachable, as one might say...so, we approached it. 

If you are want to know more about Chianti Classico and it's origins, please read my article of August 25, 2015, about the birthplace of Chianti titled, "Beautiful Places Castello Brolio".

During lunch, the formerly sunny day turned dark and stormy, as you can see below as we looked out of our window-side table. 

So after lunch, we darted from one dry spot to another as we made our way to our car. We took shelter in a couple of tourist stores, then a butcher shop, and in the tunnel-like entrance to this centuries-old courtyard.

 

Having dodged rain drops, we made it to our rented Alfa Romeo Giulia, where we sat for a bit. 

  • "Now what?", I asked.
  • Ellen offered, "That Chianti at lunch was really, really good. Let's see where it's made and go visit the winery."

Sounded good to me. So, that's what we did.

We took a bit of a circuitous route, for which we were rewarded. You might remember an article I wrote back in June, 2015, which was titled "Get Lost!". If you don't remember that article, you can read it here...it's one of my favorites.  

Our reward for taking this route to the Rocca di Castagnoli winery was beautiful scenery as the weather began to clear. Here is one of my very favorite photos of Tuscany...full of rich, weather-lifting scenery, as well as rich memories.

And a couple more photos from along the way in the 'moody weather' vein.

The Rocca di Castagnoli winery sits high upon a hill southeast of Radda in Chianti. Like a lot of wineries in Tuscany, it is housed in centuries-old buildings. 

During our tour of the winery, we particularly enjoyed the barrel-vaulted barrel vault, with row-after-row of colorfully casked wine, aging to perfection.

Want larger casks? You got it!

In the photo of the lone cask to the right, you can see the burned-in graphics indicating that it is an oak barrel from a particular forest. You can also see that it is made from grapes of the 2013 vintage.

Here's the very friendly young man who helped us in tasting the various wines behind the Rocca di Castagnoli label. 

 

And here, he has laid out several wines for us to try. 

 

We had a great afternoon indoors tasting delicious wines, while outside it was off-and-on stormy. Know what we did when we left? That is the subject of another of my very favorite articles titled, "Wild Goose Chase", which is about our ill-fated reservation at one of Tuscany's (formerly) finest restaurants. You can reminisce with us by reading here

Just a quick note about wine tasting and driving. If you haven't tasted wine at an enoteca, or Italian winery tasting room, please understand that you don't get a full pour, nor even a half pour...a taste is all you get...just a sip. So, inebriation shouldn't be in the picture. And just a bit more about drinking in Italy...as our friend Luciano says, "If you see a man who is staggering down the street after having too much wine, we say that he just hasn't had enough to eat!". Such words of encouragement for eating more in Italy are not needed...really.


Fast-Forward to 2017

So finally, now back to my story about this past weekend, and the gist of this article on enjoying Italy-bought wine. That is the whole point, after all.

To fully understand today's story, you have to understand that we were naughty this past weekend. Yes, we were very naughty!

So, there's all kinds of naughty, right? And I'm not sure what degree of naughty you are imagining right now (but of course, you can use the Comment box below to share your thoughts if you feel so obliged), but I have to say that our naughty was in the really-tame-naughty category...mostly.

This past weekend, we had planned to clean up the house. Besides the various misplaced items on our main floor, we had things in our bedroom which we had neglected for awhile, and in our basement (please don't tell anyone this!), we had not put away all of our boxes of Christmas decorations. I know...we are terrible people, aren't we?!

Instead of starting the ball rolling Saturday morning, I completely stopped the ball by suggesting that our day would be better spent laying around in our jammies in front of the fireplace reading our books and drinking wine. With hardly any sales effort on my part, Ellen bought into my program with absolutely no hesitation. So, that's exactly what we did.

I got the fire going (yes, we actually use wood in our fireplace!) and then went down to the basement (aka wine cellar) to grab a bottle of red wine. While Ellen lay on the couch reading in front of the crackling fire, I uncorked the bottle and poured us each a glass.

Ellen: "Dang! What is this? It's really, really good!"

Me: "Let me look. Its a bottle of Chianti Classico from Rocca di Castagnoli."

Ellen: "Isn't that the wine we bought that day when it was raining after we had lunch in Radda in Chianti?"

Me: "Yes, that's exactly what it is! Let's pull up the photos from that trip so we can look at 'em."

So, that's what we did...and we were able to journey back to relive almost every moment of that wonderful afternoon.  It was all brought back by enjoying our Italy-bought wine from our 2014 trip.

And, we were pleasantly surprised to see that it is the exact same wine - vintage and all - that we had for lunch that day at La Botte di Bacco.

And with the added 2 1/2 years of aging, the wine was even better than before than before...markedly better, actually.

Finally, here's proof of our wonderfully quiet day -- proof in the form of...

...our bottle of wine...

 

...our blazing, crackling fire...

 

...Ellen reading her 'book' with wine in hand..

 

...and I with my wine as I finish reading "Somewhere South of Tuscany", written by our lovely friend, Diana Armstrong (see my article "Covering for My Friends"). 

 

We had no roses this past Saturday, but we stopped anyway, smelling the wine instead...and our week will be better for it.

When you next travel to Italy, bring back a bottle of wine, and give this a try for yourself.

 

Mentioned in this article...

 

Finally, on a photographic note, each of the final 4 photos above that were taken this past weekend were captured on my iPhone 7 using the new "Portrait" mode. This mode is meant for photographing people: rendering a person in sharp focus, whilst the background is blurred. I like the way it was able to accentuate the wine bottle tableau, Ellen's glass of wine, and my book. Give it a try if you have this new equipment.

Ciao for now,

Steve

A Sense of Place

Index of Blog Articles

Well, I'm back from a bit of traveling: England, Scotland, Ireland, Texas and New Mexico. I'm ready to resume my blog articles for you. But, I'll be working my way in slowly with a short article today.

Her response: “Now you tell me!” Well, yes, now she knows.

This week I'm just letting you know about a change I've made to my list of blog articles, and why I've done that.

Last Thursday, I was visiting with a friend who had just returned from Italy. She expressed a bit of disappointment in some of the restaurants they chose in Venice. I let her know of my Italy Our Italy blog and the fact that it contains personally evaluated and recommended restaurants, hotels, and other helpful information on certain places within Italy. Her response: "Now you tell me!" Well, yes, now she knows. And I want you to know, too. That's why I've made changes to my list of blog articles.

What I have done is to take the Index of Blog Articles to another level by creating another series of headings in the right-hand column (which is labeled, "By Subject"). You will now find three new subheadings for 'places' within Italy -- specifically 'Places: Venice', 'Places: Amalfi Coast', and 'Places: Tuscany'. This will give one a greater sense of these wonderful places.

Now, if you are traveling to one of these fabulous places of Italy, you will have all of the resources that I have previously published about those fabulous places in one place. 

That about sums it up for today's very short article. 

Ciao for now,

Steve

 

The Results Are In -- Part 12

Index of Blog Articles

This one's kind of a big deal!

I am excited to let you know that I have been asked to participate in a large, international art show starting October 6th. This is a show that is held in a varying international venue every two years. This go-around is called the Berlin Foto Biennale. As you can undoubtedly tell, this current showing will be in Berlin.

This one’s kind of a big deal!

I was asked to participate because of my first place award in the 7th Annual International Pollux Awards. You may remember seeing that announcement back on July 14th of 2015. If you missed it, here is that announcement

The promoters of the showing provided an invitation for me to send to those who might be interested. Here is that invitation, which includes my three photos that will be featured in the Berlin show. 

If you happen to be in Berlin during October, consider this your invitation to attend so you can see this show featuring photographers from 41 countries. 

The photos that I will have in the show have been printed as 24"x36" prints, mounted on diBond. 

A just-returned-from two-week trip to the UK and Ireland prevent us from attending the opening vernissage and artists reception, but we will be there in spirit. [To save you the trouble of pulling out a dictionary, the term 'vernissage' refers to the night-before-opening showing of the photos for the artists' benefit]

As a regular reader of my articles, I thought you would like to know.

 

Ciao for now,

Steve

p.s. Well, at least one of the photos was taken in Italy! I'm sure you can guess which, by process of elimination.

Rome Tunnel Composite

Index of Blog Articles

I am on vacation at the moment in an undisclosed location (maybe my Instagram feed to the right will give it away). Meanwhile, here is a simple and kind of pointless composite of a couple of photos taken in Rome.

This tunnel attracted my attention as we were going to the Trevi Fountain in the evening. The tunnel is nice and gritty, just like a good bit of Rome.

This snazy sports car was captured outside their hotel by our traveling companions on this trip, the Kennedys.

Just for a bit of fun, I decided to put the car into the tunnel. 

I accomplished this with a bit of motion blur to give the car a speed boost (from 0 to 60 in an instant). Then did some color toning to duplicate the ambient light of the tunnel. And as one shouldn't drive at night with headlights off (yes, even in Italy), I added headlights and light beams.

Here is the result.

Kind of goofy way to kill time, but that's it for today. And if you need me to turn on your headlights, just let me know.

 

Ciao for now,

Steve

 

Covering for Friends

Index of Blog Articles

I'm happy that friends have asked me to cover for them. I did. And it was fun!

I’d be glad to cover for you too, should you need it

I'm talking about book and CD covers, by the way. My friend an author, Diana Armstrong asked me to do the cover art for her new book, "A Winding Path to Umbria: The Silent Bridge of Time". As well, my nephew, Ben Johnson, asked be to do the art for his CD titled "Handcrafted Peace" an album of piano music that he composed. Here's the story of each.

A Winding Path to Umbria

Diana G Armstrong is a gifted friend and author who lives in both Denver and Italy. She and her husband David have a beautifully charming home in Lubriano, Italy. Much of that charm comes from the fact that their abode is part of a converted, 400-year-old monastery. In her first book, "Somewhere South of Tuscany: 5 Yeas in a Four-Cat Town" (2010), Diana tells the story of how they came upon, purchased, and renovated their home is a sleepy, four-cat town. 

Diana's second book is a bit of a departure, in that it is a story of historical fiction; the historical part having a very close tie to her past and her Lubriano home -- both of which she learned were intertwined. 

Here is a photo that I took from Diana's window, where she often sits to write. 


That little village, isolated atop a table of rock, is Civita. Note the pedestrian bridge leading to Civita...this bridge plays an important part in the story that she writes.

Diana had admired her view for years before she found out the significance to her family. Recently, she uncovered the fact that her South African father, 70 years earlier, was here, too. He fought with the allies in this Calanchi Valley against the mighty German war machine. How could an author not write about such a connected event!

When Diana first asked me to do the cover art for her book, my thoughts went to the intrigues of battle and dark nights, where allies crept up on Germans ensconced in this hill top fortress. So, I began my book cover imaginings there...with a paperback cover of the traditional size.

I cropped the photo that I taken from Diana's window into a format that I imagined for a paperback novel. Here is my first imagining. 

 

As I was imagining a night-time scene, here is where my imaginings took me.

 

Operating in the dead of night could be risky in the days before night vision goggles, so we needed a moon to give our troops a bit of maneuvering light.

I can just see them sneaking through the trees, ready to scale those cliffs, can't you?

I created a bit of moonlight reflecting off of the rooftops.

All we need now is some text for the book title and author's name.

Ahhh, not to be.

When I woke up from my imaginings and actually met with Diana to discuss the book and its book cover, it turns out that the bridge leading to Civita is a central figure in the story...an artifact that just had to have prominence on the cover. So, it was time for me to change my imaginings and it was back to the drawing board. We needed a completely different view of Civita.

Here is a photo that we settled on that would give the town prominence, while also showing the Calanchi Valley through which the allies operated, and all the while, showing the bridge to Civita front-and-center. 

We worked through several iterations of color, artistic effect and cropping..."should we show this much of the bridge? or this much? or how about this much?"

I began to use my 'digital brushes' to create various artistic, painted effects.

With about two-dozen images to chose from, here is the final result that satisfied both Diana and her publisher.

And here is that photo, sitting right, smack, dab on the cover of Diana's new book. 

If you click on the cover of her book, you will be taken to the Amazon website, where you can order either a paperback version, or a Kindle version. Go ahead...give it a try.

Understand that all proceeds for this book and Diana's previous book go to underprivileged African children. Funds go to both her daughter's mission that now works with Living Hope Charities in East London, S.Africa, and also to a Hospice for Children (mostly born with Aids) in Durban South Africa. Diana says that money from the US makes a huge difference in Africa.

 

And here is the link to Diana's previous book about her lovely, little community, "Somewhere South of Tuscany: Five Years in a Four-Cat Town". 

 

Oh, one more thing...do you like to eat? or cook? Then you will just love Diana's first book -- its a cookbook. It is called "Cooking for My Friends". I know that she knows what she is writing about, because we have been fortunate to be friends for whom she has cooked. 


Handcrafted Peace

On a gentle, musical note, my nephew Ben Johnson, is a very talented piano player and composer. Ben's aim is to create music that is just plain peaceful. Saint Benjamin (his new moniker -- not a saint of the dead variety, but a saintly work in progress) wanted to create something that you can listen to that will a release you of all of the negative thoughts of the day. He succeeded. 

When Ben contacted me, he had spent time looking at photos on my alternate website, Steve Burkett Photography. He felt that certain photos in the Winter Solace gallery met his vision of 'peaceful'.

Here is the original photo that he asked me to work into the cover art for his CD.

I took this photo in the spring of 2013 in eastern Colorado as I returned from a trip to Virginia. 

 

After just a bit of work to add contrast to the image, I arrived at this next iteration.

 

 

Obviously, a CD cover-insert needs to be in a square format. And, as Ben wanted something in the black & white vein, we settled on this photo for his 'Handcrafted Peace' CD.

If you click on the CD cover photo, you will be taken to Ben's website, where you can listen to his peaceful music, and even purchase a copy if you wish. 

 

Ben's latest project is creating music that conjures up visions of the emojis you've seen in your texts. Want to hear what an emoji sounds like? Go here to hear his drafts, including this emoji for a slice of pizza. Who would have thought?

 

 

So, that's how I've spent a bit of my time -- covering for my very talented friends. I'd be glad to cover for you too, should you need it.

 

Ciao for now,

Steve