When late summer arrives, things get very busy in the wine business. There are endless last minute farming chores, the final blending of wines, emptying barrels and bottling (to make room for the coming vintage), and of course the impending harvest and winemaking.
Umbria and Sagrantino
Prior to all of that, and after the main thrust of Covid briefly waned in Europe, we were finally able to schedule our long-planned trip to Italy, specifically Umbria, to survey the latest in the world of Sagrantino – the deep dark inky Italian grape that we have been growing here at the Hydeout ranch. We are obsessed with Sagrantino and are one of very few growers in the United States.
Sagrantino – see this article: The next ‘power red,’ poised for a breakout in the wine world
As an enthusiastic producer of Sagrantino here in Sonoma, the Umbrians received us like royalty at every stop:
After a few days in Rome to adjust to the jet lag, we headed into our Umbrian itinerary. First stop was the Chiesa Del Carmine where we met the executives and winemakers and tasted many Sagrantino blends from barrel and bottle. The Chiesa is in a rather remote location set in a small private valley, very much a sanctuary just like the old church from where it takes its name.
Of course, at every stop, the food and wine was spectacular. Here inside the converted church winery, Cynthia is starting in on another of many food and wine tastings. It did not take long to confirm that Umbrians feel strongly about their Sagrantino history.
Truffles are nearly a staple in Umbria. This truffle preserve in Montana Alta Umbria was purposely planted with Oak, Hazelnut, Beech, Chestnut, and then fenced from marauding animals (and people) and which yields a surprising quantity and quality of earthy leathery gems, generally harvested from December through April.
Naturally, the food scene in Umbria is not to be believed. The Umbrians are quite serious and proud of their food and wine.
Cheese uomo straordinaria
and more cheese
endless exquisite dining
and wine tasting provisions
bread, cheese, olive oil, oh my
happy wife, happy life
Yet another very warm welcome as part of the “Sagrantino tribe”, one of the expected highlights of the trip through Umbria at perhaps the first and most well-reputed maker of Sagrantino, Arnaldo Caprai Winery, as they celebrate their 25th anniversary (Cinquant’ Anni).
Our hosts at Caprai pulled out all the stops opening every imaginable bottle, from pure 100% Sagrantino to various blends and white wines, including the 25th anniversary bottling (left), all different in style and all compelling and delicious.
Sonocaia (So-No-Kī-Yah), 2020 Estate Reserve Sagrantino
Our newest brand, Sonocaia (pronounced So-No-Kī-Yah)
We’ve been living and breathing and talking about Sagrantino long before we even planted it at the Hydeout ranch here in Sonoma. Above, the inaugural 2020 bottling of our new brand, Sonocaia. Pronounced So-No-Kī-Yah, we won’t be offering this wine for sale for a few years. Some bottle age is required.
Inaugural 2020 Sonocaia and some of the other Dysfunctional Family wines in the lineup
Sonocaia is our new Estate Reserve 100% Sagrantino brand name. Dysfunctional Family Winery remains our other brand. We released two Sagrantino-based wines, the 2018 and 2019, on our website, under the Dysfunctional Family Winery brand. These two wines contain some Sagrantino but when the vineyard was younger. 2020 is the first full-strength Sagrantino vintage. A blind tasting of Sonocaia up against several noteworthy Umbrian Sagrantino’s was recently conducted. Watch for the results in the next blog post. To shop our wines now or to learn more, click here.
Touring the Mediterranean by motorcycle
We never miss a chance to squeeze motorcycle touring into a vacation. After Umbria and the enchanting world of Sagrantino, we flew to Barcelona, picked up our rented BMW R1200RT sport touring bike, loaded our gear, and headed for a cruise around the Mediterranean. Our route took us from Barcelona Spain, through Andorra, into southern France, and on into Tuscany, and eventually back to Rome.
Here we are climbing into the mountains not far from Andorra, a landlocked country inside northern Spain
No day drinking, ever, for this motorcycle pilot, so I have to rely upon other treats – like ice cream. Cynthia has no such restrictions as a passenger and, as is the local tradition, enjoyed wine with almost every lunch. But for sure we both enjoyed endless mountains of baguettes, olive oil, cheese, and Cassoulet. And wine with dinner! Here we are in Cap D’Antibe in southern France where everything closes promptly (and with no debate) for the afternoon.
The Serchio River, in northern Tuscany, province of Lucca, as it passes under the “Devil’s Bridge” (Pont De la Madeleine). On this day, the key feature was the temperature, almost 100F inside our helmets.
Our United Airlines pilot somehow noticed our enthusiasm and invited us onto the 777 flight deck for a look around. You can see who he put into his pilot’s seat. Yeh. It was a fantastic trip in every way. And we arrived home rested and ready for another harvest season. This will be my 23rd vintage.