We began our day at Vodopivic, creators of the vitovska that perked my initial interest in the Carso area. Winemaker Paolo Vodopivic wasn't home so his brother Walter showed us around. We visited the stone cellars, admired the sunken-into-the-earth amphorae, old-style, new-wave, all-natural winemaking techniques. We tasted a few vintages and were impressed, loving the wine's mineral-y, stony, sapid flavors. And headed for our next appointment, with Sandi Skerk - I was familiar with his vitovska and Cathy and David had it on their wine list at Nostrana. We met at the Skerk Osmize, it was around lunchtime, and Sandi asked if we'd like a simple snack. How could we say no? He sliced prosciutto by hand like a pro, and served us a platter of salumi - home-made salami, pancetta and the terrific prosciutto. We drank malvasia and vitovska, both winners that seemed to evaporate from our glasses, and finished with fresh and aged cheese drizzled with honey. We were joined by Diana Candusso, from the food and wine promotion division of the Friuli Venezia Giulia tourist board who was picking up wine for an event - she told us about a vitovska tasting, Mare e Vitovska, held in the Duino Castle in June, with wine tasting and food from all the great regional restaurants. I need to go. Then down into Sandi's rock cellar, with some walls that looked like the stone had been sliced away by a huge buzz-saw.
After a day of cellar, barrel, rock and wine I needed an espresso. We weren't far from coffee-centric Trieste, and Illy's headquarters. Trieste is also the home of the Università del Caffè which offers short sessions for those interested in espresso and its preparations and longer programs for professionals. I'm a graduate (courses in both Italian and English) and I've got diplomas and a red UdC baseball cap to prove it. I talked our way into the company coffee bar, shopped at the company store (it's open from 1-3 PM weekdays for guests and those who have signed up for courses) for some early holiday presents - perfect pitchers for steaming milk, works-of-art espresso cups.
We returned to Devetak for dinner - I invited Benjamin Zidarich, Marco the stonemason, Sandi Skerk and Edi Kante to join us. Gabriella's cooking has grown more sophisticated over the years that I've been frequenting her trattoria, but still relies on territorial, seasonal specialties like game, mushrooms, truffles, cheese and produce from the family farm. We feasted on gnocchi, hearty soups, and the most delicious duck-served whole, accompanied by the wines of our new friends. Agostino Devetak, host and extraordinary cellar-master who knows everything about local wines and spirits, was distressed, since he was having blood tests the next day and couldn't sample our wines.
Gabriella gave me a jar of her carrot preserves and her recipe for rafioi, folded-like-ravioli cookies that use her preserves as a filling. If you don't want to make your own carrot preserves (her recipe seems pretty sketchy), use any quality preserves or marmalade. The dough seemed improbable (no liquids?) but, to my surprise, worked.
Next stops: autumn vineyards, lunch in Slovenia, light truffle dinner, visit to the lord of prosciutto on the way to a trattoria lunch, dinner and overnight at a truly amazing Slovenian inn.
Link to article in The Atlantic