Bella Umbria

A couple weekends ago I packed my bags and went off to Umbria with my husband, daugther and two other terrific families to a memorable gem high in the hills of Fratta Todina in Umbria.

I know this is a wine and gourmet food site, not a travel site, but I would be remiss if I neglected to share our accommodations with you.  We stayed at the extremely lovely La Palazzetta del Vescovo.  I first found this Relais on “Trip Advisor” after many hours of searching for a great get-away.  I was intrigued because it had many reviews and NOT ONE was negative.  Odd, because there is always some curmudgeon out there who has something negative to say about every place I’ve ever seen reviewed.  My first visit resulted in me adding to the glowing reviews on “Trip Advisor.”  This past visit was my third time back to La Palazzetta del Vescovo and it was more like going to see good friends then it was going to a place to stay.  The structure used to be a vacation home of a bishop and the owners have beautifully restored the once pile of rubble with impeccable quality and attention to detail.  Stefano and Paola, are lovely, gracious hosts who make you feel like you’ve known them for years.  The food is prepared by Paola with passion as evidenced in each taste.  The wine is carefully selected by Stefano, a certified Sommelier, whose ability to find exquisite wines and pair them with Paola’s food is superb. Chiaretta is an added bonus – a bouncy, happy dog who accompanies Stefano to greet guests upon arrival.

While staying at our truly delightful accommodations, Stefano kindly set up a wine and olive oil tasting at Tenuta Le Velette in Orvieto.  The estate is in the heart of the Orvieto Classico production (a DOC white wine). The property’s history dates back to the Etruscans and includes cellars dug out from tufa stone, a typical, volcanic stone of the area.  The estate has the ideal placement on the hills of Orvieto to produce outstanding wine and olive oil.  The owner, Corrado Bottai, generously spent several hours with us.  He took us all around the grounds.  We saw numerous cellars, some started by monks.  They were dark with cave-like tunnels and alcoves where dusty bottles of wine were hiding.  The electricity kept going out so we had to use a candelabra – it felt like the best stocked haunted house ever.  Another cellar had  floors, walls, and ceilings covered in a cushy, colorful array of white, orange, and rust mold.  Signore Bottai assured us this was some of the best real estate to age fine wines.


The tasting took place in a beautiful room in the manor.  It was adorned with fresco painted ceilings, opulent lighting and a large wooden table full of meats, cheeses, breads, olive oil and most importantly, several bottles of wine.  We tasted 6 wines – all of which were delightful.  As a matter of fact, we enjoyed them so much, my husband and I bought every varietal we tasted.    In addition, we purchased 3 bottles of their wonderfully pungent olive oil.

The Whites –
Berganorio (Trebbiano, Grechetto, Verdello, Malvasia, Dupreggio)
Lunato Orvieto Classico Superiore DOC (Trebbiano, Grechetto, Verdello, Malvasia, Dupreggio)
Grechetto Solo Uve (Grechetto)

The Reds –
Calanco (Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon)
Gaudio (Merlot)
Accordo (Sangiovese)

I especially loved the rawness of the Sangiovese.  It was a great expression of what Sangiovese lends to the numerous varietals it intertwines with in so many wines out there in today’s market.

Signore Bottai left a great impression on me.  He has an excellent grasp on the English language but without all the colloquialisms Americans use.  This resulted in his mind churning for the appropriate words to express himself.  He spoke beautiful, mindful expressions that made me envious of his vocabulary.  I wrote down some of these so I wouldn’t forget them.  One of my favorite quotes was:  “Sangiovese is a great confusion in the glass.”  I couldn’t agree more!

I left Tenuta Le Velette with yet another great adventure under my belt.  I was somewhat full from wine and antipasti but that didn’t stop me from going back to enjoy Paola’s cooking and Stefano’s wine selections.  This was my last night and I was not going to miss out.  My friends and I dined on Cinghiale (wild boar) marinated in local red wine and drank a lovely bottle of Montefalco…if only I could just move in with Paola and Stefano…maybe I could be the housekeeper…the gardener….the dishwasher…..

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