We recently had the opportunity to spend the weekend with Jody Ness and Kevin Fox of CNBC’s Wine Portfolio. Jody and Kevin are actively involved in creating Wine Portfolio, a half hour television show of wine around the world for CNBC, shown in over 40 countries worldwide and have just completed their first season to rave reviews. Jody and my husband have been friends for many years after first meeting in Jody’s great Toronto, Canada restaurant called Wildfire. When we heard that Wine Portfolio would be filming in Italy after a whirlwind cruise on the Holland America cruise ship, we invited them to come stay with us in Umbria. We were excited to show Jody and Kevin a little bit of Umbria and it’s wines but were not sure where to start, so we called up an expert on Umbrian wines, Mark Stafford of Gusto Wine Tours to help us plan the outing. A full day of touring Umbrian cantinas was initially planned for Saturday with Mark’s help, but at the last minute plans were changed and the visit was moved up to Friday.
The minute Jody and Kevin arrived at our farmhouse in Umbria on Friday afternoon we rushed them off to Montefalco to meet Mark who had booked a lovely lunch at Camesena in Pissignano. This is a lovely restaurant located in Pissignano Alto, and although we have been in the area many times visiting the monthly antique market we never even knew the restaurant existed. The lunch was a multi course extravaganza with each course paired with an Umbrian wine and I found all of the dishes unique and delicious. I quite frankly lost count of the number of courses we worked our way through, but I’d estimate it was around seven or so. Although the ingredients were indeed Umbrian, the presentation was very upscale gourmet and the wines were a perfect match for each dish. After dining for three and a half hours, Kevin and Jody interviewed Mark Stafford about his company Gusto Wine Tours, living in Umbria, and Umbrian wines in general, and we got to see the filming process up close. We then headed over to Cantina Tabarrini to experience a typical Umbrian cantina and their wines and to film another segment of Wine Portfolio at the winery.
As we approached the cantina the rain was just letting up and with the sun just beginning to peak through we were greeted to a gorgeous rainbow hovering over the lush fields of grapes. It is easy to understand that when you are filming for television that you want to interview someone that is animated and passionate about what they do, and those two characteristics could not describe Giampaolo Tabarrini any better. Tabarrini winery is a family run business, and when we first arrived the entire family was busy working around the cantina completing a variety of chores. Giampaolo speaks great English so he took on the job of introducing us to his cantina and took Jody, Kevin, and Mark out into his grapes so they could interview him and his family’s passion for wine. Once the interview in the fields was completed it was time to taste the Tabarrini wines and a table was set up just outside the cantina with all of the Tabarrini wines, an entire prosciutto, some cheese, and a plate of bread with olive oil. Kevin began filming once again as Jody, Giampaolo, and Mark tasted each of the wines and discussed the unique characteristics of each. As we watched the process, we too enjoyed a sampling of each wine so we could follow along with the discussion being filmed. I must say that the rose wine made from sagrantino grapes was quite interesting, a point that Jody made as well! After a few hours at cantina Tabarrini spent filming upcoming segments for Wine Portfolio, tasting all of their wine varieties, and nibbling the prosciutto and cheese, bottles of grappa were opened and a successful afternoon was toasted. Even though we had just spent a few hours with Giampaolo is is difficult not to now consider him a friend, and after many hugs all-round we finally left the cantina with gifts of Tabarrini wine to enjoy at home. Although we initially had plans to head out to a local pizzeria for dinner, our long afternoon of eating and wine tasting non stop had us reconsider any plans for dinner and we headed home to rest up for the next day’s drive to Tuscany.
Saturday morning we awoke to grey skies and approaching rain clouds as we headed out to Tuscany, Montalcino in particular, to visit Poggio Antico. Jody had been serving this cantina’s wines in his Toronto restaurant Wildfire for many years and was very interested in filming a segment about it in person and invited us along for the ride. After a couple of wrong turns, we finally made our way down the long cypress tree lined drive to Poggio Antico just as the skies opened up with rain. This winery has an interesting history as it was bought by a Milanese investment banker in 1984. After a couple of years of struggling to find it’s way, the banker talked his youngest daughter Paola to take over an run the winery. Paola had no knowledge of wine making but started at the bottom out in the fields absorbing everything she could learn about how one turns Montalcino grapes into famous Brunello wine. Paola and her husband Alberto have worked hard over the years to create Poggio Antico into what it is today, a vineyard known worldwide for it’s amazing Brunello di Montalcino wines. As we entered Poggio Antico, we were immediately greeted by Paola Gloder, the owner who then took us on an extensive tour of her cantina, sharing with us the cantina’s history along the way. Like Giampaolo Tabarrini in Umbria, Paola Gloder exudes passion about her cantina and her wines, although her pride is most obvious when she opens up bottles of her various vintages for us to try. Kevin Fox had hoped to film an interview with Jody and Paola out in the lush grape fields but when it came time to film the interview, torrential rain was falling and so the interview was completed in the bottling room. It must be said that although I have seen clean wineries in the past, I do not think I have ever seen one as immaculately clean as Poggio Antico.
As we sat tasting wines with Paola in a conference room that has an entire wall covered in all the awards the cantina has won over the years from publications around the world, she told us that her winery is very unique in that it is open to the public 365 days a year. She feels it is very important to show everyone how much care and effort goes into every bottle of Poggio Antico wine. Once again, after spending an afternoon with her, leaving Paola Gloder was like leaving an old friend but we had a long drive back to Umbria in torrential rain so we finally said goodbye after many hugs and made our way from Montalcino back home. Later that evening, we dined at Antico Forziere, one of our personal favorite restaurants in Casalina, a short drive from our farmhouse here in Umbria. Antico Forziere is actually a small family run country inn that houses a great restaurant in the lower level overseen by two twin brother chefs. We have never been disappointed with our meals here and their Gran Dessert plate (see photo below) is absolutely amazing.
Thankfully when we awoke Sunday the sunshine was back as usual and we spent the morning showing Jody and Kevin our property as well as some local views. A segment was filmed around our farmhouse for next season’s Wine Portfolio including an interview with my husband about living in Umbria and renting out Il Casale di Mele to guests. We later made some quick Umbrian appetizers with Jody while Kevin managed to film a few minutes of this somewhat chaotic thrown together cooking segment, but before we knew it Kevin and Jody had to return to Rome to catch an early morning flight to Spain to film yet another segment about Spanish wines. It was a great weekend spent with friends tasting wonderful wines, eating too much food, and watching the effort that goes into filming Wine Portfolio. I was amazed to hear that of the 20 hours of footage that was filmed on just this recent trip, that Kevin and Jody expected once it was edited that they would end up with three (twenty four minute) shows. After spending just a couple of days with Jody Ness and Kevin Fox of Wine Porfolio, my husband and I both decided that eating at the best restaurants and drinking the finest wines around the world might sound very exciting to most people, but after just experiencing two days of what the Wine Portfolio guys do all the time, it is also very hard work and exhausting as well.
**** Thanks Jody and Kevin for letting us tag along and get a quick peak at what you do to film your show. It certainly makes me appreciate how much work and effort go into each and every one of your episodes!
Photos Day One
The walk up to Ristorante Camesena. You park your car below and either
walk about a mile up to the restaurant or make use of the driver who comes
back and forth transporting diners to and from the restaurant.
Dining at Camesena – Mark Stafford (Gusto Wine Tours), Jody Ness and Kevin Fox (Wine Portfolio), & Louie Mele (Il Casale di Mele)
Just one of the amazing lunch dishes at Camesena ~ Gnocchi in a pigeon sauce with smoked breast of pigeon on top.
Our selection of Umbrian lunch wines at Camesena
The views from Ristorante Camesena. Gorgeous despite impending rain!
The rainbow at our arrival at Cantina Tabarrini.
The views from Cantina Tabarrini. The hill towns of Spoleto, Trevi, and Spello are off in the distance.
The vines at Cantina Tabarrini.
After the heavy rain, snails were all over the grass at Tabarrini.
A lovely bunch of grapes almost ready for harvest at Cantina Tabarrini.
After a recent pruning to remove less valuable grapes there were bunches all over the ground.
After filming amongst the vines…. Kevin Fox, Jody Ness, Giampaolo Tabarrini & Mark Stafford
Filming of the wine tasting…….lots of wine, prosciutto and bread with olive oil!
Photos Day Two
Just a few of Poggio Antico wines.
Storage of Brunello wines aging in oak barrels.
Larger oak barrels of Brunello di Montalcino. The wines on the right in crates were being shipped to Qatar airlines this week to be served in their first class.
The grapes start off in these stainless steel vats at Poggio Antico.
A sign on one of the large oak barrel designating the grape and year.
Kevin Fox filming Jody Ness and Paola Gloder in the bottling room.
A longer view of the Wine Portfolio filming at Poggio Antico.
The fun begins! Tasting the wonderful Brunello di Montaclicino wines of Poggio Antico.
Jody Ness of Wine Portfolio and Paola Gloder of Antico Poggio. Photo courtesy of Wine Portfolio.
The amazing Gran Dessert plate at Antico Forziere.
Photos Day Three
Kevin Fox filming Jody Ness and Louie Mele on the pool terrace at Il Casale di Mele.
Jody Ness and louie Mele enjoying yet another glass of wine during the interview.
View from the bedroom window at Il Casale di Mele. Photo courtesy of Wine Portfolio.
View of typical Umbrian landscape close to Il Casale di Mele.
Collazzone ~ Small town sitting on the hill above Il Casale di Mele.
A great weekend with the guys of Wine Portfolio ends! Left to Right – Kevin Fox, Louie Mele & Jody Ness.
Wine Portfolio on CNBC
Thursday 9:30 AM – Saturday 8:30 PM
Saturday 11 PM – Sunday 9:30 AM
Gusto Wine Tour
Contact Mark or Giselle @ +39 338 3298691 or +39 339 2149972
Via del Castello 3, Lizori
Pissignano Alto (Campello sul Clitunno)
The restaurant Camesena, during the months march, april and may, is opened from thursday to sunday from 12.30 to 15.00 and from 20.00 to 22.30.
53024 Montalcino (Siena), Italy
Tel. +39 0577-848044 Fax +39 0577-846563
Email: [email protected]
Ask for Paola
Via della Rocca, 2 – Casalina
06051 Deruta – Perugia – Italy
Phone +39 075 9724314 / +39 331 1175265 / +390759724023 fax +39 075 9729392 [email protected]
Il Casale di Mele