October 31, 2012

The Wine Room

We are having our small version of Sandy here in Tuscany today. This awful weather ushers out October, which has been the most sublime month I’ve witnessed in all my years in Tuscany. Almost every day has been clear, aurous, mild and sweet. The funghi porcini hunters swarm our mountain house hillside every day. There was even a little fender-bender near our lane. Some over-zealous mushroom hunter speeding to the next patch encountered another madman invading his territory. Actually, our land–but in Italy everyone has the god-given right to forage anywhere.  The chestnut hunters have arrived in force, and we are awakened to gunshot as poor wild boar get chased across the hill.  It’s all to the good–fall food is the best! I urge you to hurry to the hearty recipes for veal shank, polenta with sausage and wild mushrooms, pasta with four cheeses, big soups–all in, guess what, The Tuscan Sun Cookbook!  We’ve been celebrating the olive oil harvest, as well as Ed’s birthday so our kitchen windows stay steamy, and the oven seems always cranked up for a fig and walnut tart or a chocolate cake.

I found a great round cutting board at the Cortona Third-Sunday antique market and put it to good use for crostini by the fire.

This is the most celebratory season of all in Tuscany. One feast after another, and this fall, we are wine tasting constantly. (What were those Carter’s Little Liver Pills in the medicine cabinet when I was growing up?) With the Baracchi family, who make Ardito and other grand wines, we are working on importing a few wines ourselves. What I’m looking for is excellent drink-now daily wines priced below $16. I’m always stunned when I go home and find little day-to-day wine available, at least that I want to drink. One night we blind-tasted nineteen at the Baracchi’s sybaritic inn, Il Falconiere, and all of us benefitted by the super palate of the owner, Silvia Regi. Here, we’ll all set in their wine library.

Which leads me to our cosy and secluded mountain house, Fonte delle Foglie. The main dining table is at one end of the kitchen, here all set with olive branches and Bramasole’s roses for our olive oil tasting dinner, an annual event. Everyone brings their just-pressed oil and we all compliment each other, while everyone privately is thinking that their own is the best. Uh oh, wine glasses and napkins are not yet on the table!

The small dining room, where Ed and I eat when we are alone, is called the wine room. It serves as a place to gather for prosecco and antipasto when we have guests. The painted door shows animals that live around Fonte. The doors on the other side of the bedroom beyond show animals who formerly lived in the downstairs–cow, rabbit, pig, goose, donkey, etc.

We had the iron racks made by a local blackmith and topped them with old wood. The chestnut-plank ceiling is original to the house, and the painting of Saint Francis and the Wolf, recalls that the house was built by his followers in the 1200’s.

Here’s the sideboard from my Drexel Heritage At Home in Tuscany collection. It’s command central for opening the next bottle. Hard to see because of their blazing 20 watt glory, the wall lights are electrified carriage lights, another antique market find. This room is always romantically lit, usually just with candles.

The corner marble “bar sink” came from a lot full of building salvage. I added the Busatti linen skirt and we store tall bottles underneath. Not visible in these pictures are four sculptural green glass demijohns on the floor. I’ve already admitted to scavenging these from where they’re often abandoned–near garbage bins. Ed always hopes no one sees me hauling a filthy bottle into the car. I spend hours trying to clean out the dried dregs.

I can’t imagine getting rid of a dining room, as is the trend now. But I do like the idea of double use–a dining room as a wine library, or as a regular library. Eating is one of the major activities of life; you might as well lavish attention on where that takes place.

My last blog, Books at Bramasole, engendered marvelous responses. I am so grateful to everyone who shared book ideas and liked our bookcases. Please feel free anytime to recommend a good book. I’m always looking for the next one. Hope some of you rushed to the bookstore or library, as I did. Actually, I had to download, since I’m in Italy. At the end of the blog, I said I was about to read The Hare with Amber Eyes.  Trust me, trust me–it is a magnificent book. I had to cry a little at the end just from the joy of Edmund de Waal’s great writing.

Next post will be from North Carolina!