Fall is coming to Montalcino. Over the past few days we have continued to have sunny weather, though temperatures are starting to drop, as always happens this time of year, with lows around 40°F and highs around 60°F.
This time of year, many wineries begin to fertilize their vineyards. We have always been very concerned with fertilizing our vineyards; we do not use any synthetic fertilizers, even nitrogen-based ones, but we do use pelleted manure to infuse the soil with organic substances. We also sow some leguminous plants, and specifically field beans, favino in Italian.
As favino roots burrow into the soil and develop, they create sacs to store the nitrogen coming from the air. This way, the nitrogen comes directly from nature without the need for added fertilizer. To make high quality wines we do not need large quantities of grapes, which more intense fertilizer could create; on the contrary, we need only a small amount. This is why we do not want to use nitrogen-based fertilizers which, if applied in excess, could also pollute the aquifer.
Tomorrow is World Pasta Day and here at Il Poggione we are celebrating with Pigeon Raviolini, a classic recipe from one of our favorite restaurants, Il Silene in Seggiano, and a bottle of Il Poggione Rosso di Montalcino. Here is the Raviolini recipe for 6 people (serves about 120 raviolini).
For the pasta - 3 eggs - a tablespoon of Il Poggione Extra Virgin Olive Oil - 1 and 1/4 cup of flour - 1 teaspoon of salt
For the filling - 2 whole pigeons - half an onion - a clove of garlic - 1/5 of a cup of Il Poggione Extra Virgin Olive Oil - salt - 1 glass of Il Poggione Rosso di Montalcino
Just before serving - seasoned parmigiano cheese - toasted ground pepper
Preparing the pasta dough Combine the flours and make a hole in the middle, then crack the eggs into the center, adding the salt and the oil. Then mix everything and form it into a soft ball, wrap it in plastic wrap and leave it to stand in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Preparing the filling De-bone the pigeons, remove the breasts and legs, while being careful to keep all the fat and the little pieces attached to the bone. Then prepare a frying pan with the onion and the garlic in the extra virgin oil at a low flame.
When the onion is nicely golden, add the pigeon meat and the bones, and continue to cook until the meat is completely browned.
Bathe this in red wine and raise the flame so that all the alcohol evaporates. Remove the pigeon bones, adjust the salt and mince the meat very finely. It should have a dark color and a strong flavor.
Preparing the raviolini Roll the dough out very thin and cut it into long strips about 2/2.5 inches wide.
Lay out a strip along the table and position the paté, not at the center but on the part nearest to you, almost at the edge of the strip. With a teaspoon make little heaps of paté at regular intervals, then take the remaining part of the strip, and fold it over the mixture to cover and close it. Press the edges of each raviolino with your hands to make the two parts of the dough adhere well. Cut away the surplus dough with a pastry wheel.
Repeat the process with the other strips. With these quantities you can get about 120 little raviolini After cooking the raviolini in plenty of salted water, divide them onto the plates (about 20 per person). Immediately grate the cheese over them so that it melts well into the hot raviolini, add a trickle of oil and some ground pepper.
This morning the Tramontana, the north wind, continues to blow. Temperatures plunged as low as 46°F due to a major weather front that swept through Italy from North to South. Luckily, no rain here in Montalcino.
In our cellar, alcoholic fermentation is coming to an end and the first wines have already finished malolactic fermentation.
In our vineyards, we are planting a calculated assortment of wild grass varieties in the younger vineyards to facilitate the development of the vines’ root system. Oat grasses are great because they adapt themselves well to our soils and climate.
Planting grasses between the rows of vines helps to hold the soil in place and avoid erosion, especially in sloping vineyards and in very rainy vintages. Grasses are particularly important during the rainy season because they allow tractors and other vehicles to enter the vineyards. The grass also acts as an antagonist to the vines throughout the year by taking water and nutrients from the soils, which forces deep root growth, resulting in smaller grape bunches with a higher skin-pulp ratio.
Autumn has arrived in Montalcino, which means that it is time to enjoy castagne, or chestnuts. From our property, we can see Mount Amiata, where there are a lot of chestnut trees. Many families come here to collect chestnuts to prepare their own family dishes.
In the spirit of the season, we prepare a very popular dish made from chestnut flour. It is a cake called “Castagnaccio" and it is pretty easy to prepare.
This recipe calls for just a few ingredients:
• 3 ½ cups of chestnut flour • 2 ½ cups of water • ½ cup of raisins • 1 cups of walnuts • 1 ½ cups of pine nuts • A bit of rosemary to garnish • A pinch of salt • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
To start, put the raisins in a bowl with some cold water to rehydrate them, then cut the walnuts into smaller pieces and peel off the rosemary. Put the chestnut flour in a bowl and slowly add water while blending with a whisk. Once you have a uniform mixture, add walnuts, pine nuts and the raisins (removed from the water, squeezed and dried). Set aside a small amount of nuts and raisins to use at the end for garnishes. Add the salt and mix. At this point, oil a baking tray. The size of the pan will depend on whether you would like your cake to be thicker and softer or crispier. Small pans yield thick, soft cakes, while large pans yield thinner, crispier cakes. Pour the mixture in the pan. Next, add a little bit of olive oil and garnish with the remaining walnuts, pine nuts, raisins and rosemary. Bake at 365°F for 20 minutes until the top of the cake is crisp and the dried fruits have turned a darker color.
A perfect pairing for this cake would be the Il Poggione Vin Santo. Salute!!!
Saturday, we began picking Sangiovese in our estate’s highest-elevation vineyards, which are situated at 400 a.s.l.
The weather has been ideal, with sunshine and a north wind that keeps the fruit dry. The low was 14° C. and the high 25°.
We are still working in the vineyards today and if everything goes as planned, we should be done with the harvest tomorrow.
As you can see in the photo above, we had to discard a lot of unhealthy bunches in order to achieve high quality in our wines this year. It’s always tough for a grape grower to “drop” so much fruit but we have very high standards for our wines.
Grapes aren’t the only fruit we’re harvesting right now. Pomegrantes (above) and quince (below) are some of the other typical fruits that ripen during the grape harvest period.