The things we do for our guests. One of the things we wanted to do with Myra was go to an Italian wine tasting. Since we had been to the wonderful Agricola Fabbriche Palma twice before (once on our own and once with the Romans), we decided to go somewhere different. We chose Montefalco because it offers a different experience than the Chianti wineries. It’s in Umbria, a very underrated area that offers scenery to rival the best in Tuscany.
We set out on a picture perfect Italian day – clear, blue skies, warm temps, and views every way you look. We chose Antonelli Winery because Steve and I had been there once before and it is close to the town of Montefalco where we wanted to eat lunch. We arrived at about 11:00 am and started on our tasting of 10 wines. Yes, that’s right – 10 wines. Now, wine professionals don’t actually swallow the wine, so I’m told. They swirl, sniff, and swish it in their mouths only to spit it back out. That supposedly tells them what they need to know without actually swallowing. Well, we’re not wine professionals, although we rank in the top tier of wine magicians – making bottles of wine disappear. So we swallowed. To our credit, we only had a sip or two of each wine, dutifully dumping the remains out after we had graded it on our very sophisticated scale.
We sat on the brick terrace, overlooking vineyards, hill towns, and olive groves, on this fine Italian day and imagined our lives as winemakers. It was a good life we imagined for ourselves, working with nature to coax these grapes into this thing called wine. Bonding with the soil, anticipating the weather, worrying about pests – all to usher grapes from the ground to the bottles. The first part, the farming part, is largely out of your control. You are at the whim of nature, as anyone who’s ever grown a tomato knows. You nurture, prune, weed, protect, but you can’t control the conditions under which the grape grows. But after it’s harvested, you can control a great deal. Of course you have to know what you’re doing – how long in the stainless steel, how long in the oak, which grapes to blend to get the best taste. It was a great fantasy fueled by the wine that was made from grapes which grew all around us. Life was good.
This restaurant has been on my list for a few months. I discovered it through my Slow Foods app and through Elizabeth Minchilli, a very well-respected and knowledgeable Italian travel and food guru. That’s the double whammy of recommendations for me. I had high hopes for this place.
L’Alchimista is on the main piazza in Montefalco, which is one of the best piazzas around, in my opinion. On this glorious May day, we sat on the piazza, shaded by huge umbrellas, and watched the business of Montefalco unfold around us.
Anyone who’s ever spent any time with Myra knows that one of her superpowers is manufacturing personal histories of strangers. She’ll look at the table next to her and spin a tale about where they are from, what they do, why they are there, and what their problems are. Sometimes she takes it a step further and gets up and goes over to the table to strike up a conversation to see just how close she was to reality. She did this during our lunch and filled in the backgrounds of an interesting couple with a large dog. Lunch with Myra is nothing if not entertaining.
The food here was everything I had hoped it would be. When you have high expectations, sometimes it’s hard for a place to live up. Maybe it was the 10 sips of wine I had already had, or the incredibly beautiful day, or the perfect setting on this magnificent piazza. Maybe it was all that and more. The food was wonderful and we had a great time being together and making up stories.
Back to Anghiari
Montefalco is about an hour and a half drive from Anghiari on my least favorite road of all time, the E45. We made our way (very carefully) back and retired to our terrace to stretch out and finish out our perfect day. We were very full from our lunch and mellow from our wine and happy to be able to have experienced such wonderfulness in one day. Sometimes life gives you so much joy that you can hardly process it. My advice? Joy shouldn’t be processed. Just let it wash over you and soothe you and make you very, very happy.