Thursday, December 15, 2016

12/15 -- A Hike, A Wine Experience, A Walk in a Town

Right after breakfast, we  headed out for a short walk in the vicinity of Pienza. Before we went downhill to an old church with a turret, we got a view of the valley and spent a bit in a local cemetary. The headstones here are more elaborate, with a photo of the departed and stone lining the shape and sometimes the top of the grave.
Above and below: the valley below Pienza in the morning

The church we are trying to reach from above -- zoomed in

Elaborate grave goods, including lots of fresh flowers
The old church dates back nearly a thousand years and was very  primitive, compared to many of the others we have seen.
The church close up

Religious allegory at the top: the two folks on the right are
rejecting the snake while the others have been impacted.

Inside of the church -- quite simple compared to the others
we have seen

Short telling of the three wise men above the
door -- they come on horses and the babe and
star are on the right.

We skipped the opportunity to visit the local pallazio, but joined up again for what was billed as wine tasting. On the way, we stopped at the Church of San Biagio, nearly hidden in the low lying fog, and explored the interior, which has fabulous accoustics.
Hard to see the shape of the church in the fog, but the front
elevation exactly matched the floor plan.

Church interior

Back on the road, we finally reached Villa St. Anna, a winery run by Simona Ruggeri and her two daughters. Their process and equipment is quite different than the process we have learned about in California. They have various sizes of clay-lined vats as well as the more common stainless steel and oak barrels. She has a couple sizes of barrels for different kinds of wine and uses the large barrels much longer than in the US by scraping the insides and revealing new wood.  Her barrels are stored in brick caves that date to the 1750s and are lined with really icky looking mold, which is considered helpful to the wine by slowly osmosing in through the barrels.
The smallest of the clay-lined vats

The large oak vats used for aging. - the green and black on the
walls and ceilings is the mold that is supposed to help the wine.

This is a device which keeps air from entering
the barrel by overfilling the barrel and counter-
filling the upper part with water.

She also has an ultra-aged port type of wine that is made with a yeast 'mother' that is over 200 years old. Because the wine is oxidized as part of its process, it ages well for long periods and is good for months even after the bottle is opened.

Most of the barrels of this type of wine were  not as old.

The is the last of the 1975 production, which is not for sale.
Then we got to tasting and pairing with foods and we bought 3 of the 4 varieties we tasted.  Back on the bus, we drove to Montepulchiano and walked up to the top just in time to see the sunset. On our walk back down, several stores advertised that they were built over Etruscan crypts and we were able to peer into one. Finally, it was time to get back to the hotel for the evening.
Our first view of the valley from the hilltop

Sunset with San Biagio from this morning
below -- no way to see it was so close
to the town in the fog!

Entrance to an Etruscan crypt in a store

Another interesting feature in the same store

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