Vineyard Life with Rustic Italian Grub and the Holy Nebbiolo Grape

Paulo and Marisa, our current HelpX hosts, work regular 9-5 jobs (except it often ends up being more like 8-6). But they have hobbies, too. We all have hobbies, right? Baseball, origami, scrapbooking, knitting...

It's just that I get this feeling that their hobbies are a bit different.

All in a day's work

For one, they raise and breed Bernese Mountain Dogs (the current count at home is twelve). Maybe you've never had a dog, in which case I'll tell you that twelve dogs at home (or, if you want to be specific, four Labrador-sized puppies and eight full grown beasts) is like having at least fifteen human toddlers running around at your feet.

Except that they have four legs, tiny teeth, and are fantastically strong.

Marisa taking some of the crew for a dip in the river
John's nightly dog and puppy attack

But wait—there's more! Hobby number two is running a backyard vineyard that, in conjunction with a friend's vineyard, produces about 7,000 bottles of wine per year under the brand Le Strie, or "The Witches," named so regarding the witch hunts that went on in the Lombardy region in the Middle Ages. The wine comes from the Nebbiolo grape, which we typically consume in the States as Barolo wine (poor me!).

It's aperitivo hour with Paolo's 2008 SassiFraga Terrazze Retiche di Sondrio and local salami

At any rate, these things are not what I call "hobbies," they are what I call "jobs."

The cellar in nearby Sondrio for Paolo's wines
One of the prized three varieties
While most of these casks fit through the cellar doors, some had to be built in situ. Oh, hobbies.
And then there was that time we tasted Barolo wine straight from the cask....
The Le Strie tasting room around the corner from the cellars is an old stone-walled jail, or carceri.

I, on the other hand, haven't had a paying job in about 16 months and yet sometimes—sometimes—I actually feel like there's a lot on my plate.

Should I feel ashamed? Probably.

Speaking of plates, I guess Paolo does make the time for yet another hobby: cooking.

Steak with a porcini mushroom cream sauce and roasted potatoes with sage
Local peaches in a bath of honey and sweet white wine, the very Verduzzo Friulano that accompanied it.

It seems that we just so happen to be volunteering with the Italian food poster boy. And once you resign yourself to the steady diet of black dog hairs that season each dish, you're in the clear.

So if I can be literal for a moment,  there really has been is a lot on my plate, and it's Paolo's fault.

Wild Paolo slicing speck with his handy commercial-strength meat slicer
Stuffed bell peppers with pork, bread crumbs, parsley, and parmigiano-reggiano
And on top of everything, the man fishes. These are locally caught river trout covered in herbs and thrown on the grill. I suppose we can add a third to Paolo's list of hobbies.
Paolo knows wine, so at every meal we have an appropriate pairing. This wine from the Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso grape accompanied our turkey cutlet Marsala

Maybe I don't have to feel so bad about that after all.

Stay tuned for some of Paolo's secret recipes!


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