A woman with a past might feel uneasy waking up in a convent so I was relieved to remember Al Vecchio Convento was no longer used in that capacity. Kidding aside, I tried to imagine what the village was like at that time. There was a warm nurturing type of energy flowing through the streets and the people were very proud of their community’s hospitality. They told us if you said you were thirsty in Emilia they would give you a glass of water, and if you said you were thirsty in Romagna they would give you a glass of wine. We were in Romagna so I knew I was in good company.
I put on my running shoes and hit the streets. Marisa said the ‘town’ was 2 miles up the road but I clearly went the wrong way. After a skunk spared me by scurrying out of my path, I figured I should count my blessings and turn around.
We said our goodbyes to our hosts at Al Vecchio Convento, packed up the bus and headed for Medici Ermete in Emilia. Just when I thought we could not encounter a more gracious host, we met Alberto. He was one of the most exquisite people I’ve ever met. He gave us a tour of his balsamic vinegar cellar. He said he figured we’d seen a bunch of wine cellars and thought we might be interested in something different. They are highly invested in maintaining family tradition. He explained that it is not necessarily hard work keeping this venture alive, but it takes a lot of time. The yields are so low and the process so tedious you can’t help but bow at their patience and determination. It is also tradition that each family member is gifted a plaque with their name engraved on their very own vinegar barrel.
We sat down to do some Lambrusco tasting and learned about the family history. The story began with Remigio Medici, who founded his wine cellar in the late 19th century to make the most of the family vineyards. The family continued to improve vineyard practices and remained true to family values and farming tradition even as Lambrusco became less popular in the wine market. Today, Medici Ermete remains a family winery with Alberto Medici, the family’s fourth generation, managing all aspects of the estate.
Alberto’s mother made our lunch from scratch and his sister laid out a continuous spread of spinach pies, lasagna with white cheese sauce, veal smothered in a divine creamy sauce, fresh vegetables, prosciutto, cheese plates, bread and finally ice cream topped with balsamic vinegar. We paired these savory dishes with their Daphne Malvasia as well as a variety of Lambruscos including Concerto Reggiano and Assolo Reggiano. Alberto informed us that the states required the name of the Assolo be changed to Solo for retail purchases in America. Maybe the original name was reminiscent of someone’s ex lover.
We said our goodbyes with genuine respect and admiration for the Medici family. From there we headed to a local farm producing Parmiggiano Reggiano and Prosciutto di Parma. The barns were stacked with aging cheese from floor to ceiling. We toured the processing plant and got the low down on each phase of this wonderfully cheesy experience. Although we all had full stomachs we welcomed the opportunity to sample more cheese and prosciutto. They put so much time and energy into the whole operation it would have seemed rude not too. We made some final purchases in the gift shop and hopped on the bus headed for the Best Western in Bra. Bra is a town and commune in the province of Cuneo in the northwest Italian region of Piedmont.
We probably didn’t need to eat another bite but the Italian Wine Consortium so generously had dinner being prepared for us at the hotel. We still had the wines they gave us from the expo at Ca’ del Bosco so we paired them with the incoming Veal with tuna sauce, Ravioli with butter and sage, and Baked macaroon custard. I strangely reveled in the Veal with tuna sauce. It had an interesting combination of flavors that are now branded in my taste buds.
Dinner was over and the conversation began to fade. We were all exhausted and knew we had one final action packed day ahead of us. Not to mention, it was the king of wines and the wine of kings that would be waiting for us in the morning.