Day 78 - Roberto

28 February 2022

A great night's sleep. Strange dreams. Wake up before dawn but it is light. Open the shutters and watch the sunrise creep across the mountains. It got below zero last night. It is a clear blue sky. No wind. Stunning.

Breakfast provided. Just the right amount. Flourless chocolate cake with orange peel was great. I ate most of Shell’s. Our hosts are Yosara and her daughters Yara and Sara. This morning we met Yosara’s husband, Roberto.

We are staying in a series of buildings dating back to the 1600s. There is a large house that accommodates 14 guests. Ours has a large, common living area and two apartments. Two stand-alone apartments and the family house. The olive grove covers a northeast hillside. The rest overlooks a valley and the river. I am curious how Roberto and Yosara came to own the villa. So I asked.

Roberto’s story is quite an adventure. He began studying engineering at University but didn’t like it. He lived in the US for some time and worked for a company that manufactured shoes. He was in charge of the leather supplies in Italy and Spain to the US. Burnt out by the demanding position, he quit at the age of 30. He left for India with his American girlfriend. India, Tibet, Nepal, and Pakistan. Quite a tale.

“One's destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” ― Henry Miller

He landed in Kabul where he met a Swiss couple. With a wink, a mention of hash, weed, and opium, he was thrown in a Landrover with a heap of gold jewellery and charged with heading to Europe to sell it. This became his trade before he moved to antiques.

During his time in the subcontinent, particularly Tibet, he converted to Buddhism. He later returned to Vietnam where he studied under the legendary Zen Master Thích Nhất Hạnh. Roberto now teaches Buddhism in Italy. Out of a Catholic Church no less.

A remarkable story. He had a copy of Thích Nhất Hạnh’s book The Heart of the Buddha’s teaching which I am now reading.

“When another person makes you suffer, it is because he suffers deeply within himself, and his suffering is spilling over. He does not need punishment; he needs help. That's the message he is sending.” ― Thich Nhat Hanh

After breakfast an early start at Antinori. I have mixed feelings as I drive to the huge cellar door and winery. Antinori is a global giant. They produce an enormous quantity of wine. I prefer small, family-owned wineries. I enjoy the intimacy of these places.

We pull up and I have forgotten my mask. Shell sorts it out. Our tour includes the museum, the cellar, a tasting, and lunch. During the museum visit, you get the feeling they are pushing the ‘small family-owned angle’. The Antinori family has been making wine since the 1100s, first recognised as Chianti in 1385.

The family tree is littered with royalty, politicians, lawyers, cardinals, and other influential characters. You can’t help but think that the success of Antinori rides as much on influence as it does on quality wine. This was hammered home when our host mentioned just how good 2020 was for Antinori. Buying this vineyard and that label. Really? It is a little off-putting to brag about the difficulties of the past few years in the framework of how you swallowed those less fortunate. Big beats small. The rich get richer.

Our visit to Antinori reminds me of this conversation - 

At a party given by a billionaire on Shelter Island, Kurt Vonnegut informs his pal, Joseph Heller, that their host, a hedge fund manager, had made more money in a single day than Heller had earned from his wildly popular novel Catch-22 over its whole history.

Heller responds, “Yes, but I have something he will never have — ENOUGH.”

The barrel room is impressive. The entire building is sunk into a hill. About 27 m underground, temperature control is maintained by natural tiling that has no grout providing for air exchange. Each tile was hand placed. There must be millions of them. A vineyard is planted on top of the barrel room.

The wines we tasted were top-class. This is not a wine blog, so I will not bang on too much. The tasting was rounded out by the famous Tignanello. This wine paved the Super Tuscan road.

Line up -

2018 Cervaro Della Sala

2018 Badia Passignano Cianti Classico Gran Selezione

2016 Pian Delle Vigne Brunello di Montalcino

2018 Tignanello

The Tignanello and Pian Delle Vigne Brunello di Montalcino have been on my list for some time. Both are worth their reputation. Stunning, classy wines with a lingering finish of greedy capitalism.

“Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.” ― Edward Abbey

The entire tasting is soured by an email from the travel insurer telling us they would not cover Shell’s surgery on Wednesday. Crushing news. We are working with them to come to a solution. I have complete faith in Shell. If she can get our booster shot, she can do anything.

Lunch is included. It was tasty, but not memorable. The highlight was our waiter who seemed to think our courses were not accompanied by the glass but by the bottle. Endless pours? Yes, please.

We drive home through stunning scenery. Find a hilltop where we finally get some service and talk to the insurer. It is an overall positive conversation yet without any commitment. I feel better but still concerned.

The sun is setting over the mountain at the front of our apartment. I read my book on Buddhism. I am no fan of organised religion, however, Buddhism resonates with me. It has done in the past and continues while I read.

A beautiful sunset before we head to the room. Dinner is not required. I write the blog.

Read. Bed. Forecast for snow tomorrow.

“He who is not contented with what he has, would not be contented with what he would like to have.” ― Socrates


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