Friday, April 13, 2012

Wine and Travel: Tuscany 2003 Part 1

I still remember being at Star on that February afternoon when Jerry looked up from his phone call at the desk and said, "Adam, you have a passport right?" I answered him that I did. He then asked if I wanted to go to Italy. I am going to say that this was probably the easy question I have ever answered in my life.

I had known since I had started working full time at Star that there was a chance this trip would come about. Jerry had gone ten years earlier, and Jason had gone five years earlier. Still the suddenness with which it came about caught me a little off guard. I only found out I was going about five weeks before the trip would happen. This would be my first trip to Europe, and I couldn't wait.

I spent that seemingly never ending time preparing for the trip. After recieving the itinerary I spent some time trying to familiarize myself with the vineyards I would be going to and the wine that they make. Many of these trips are what they call "death marches" around Italy. Vineyard after vineyard with little or no free time. Often they cover the boot from tip to toe. Which I understand is a little like complaining that the weather has just been "too nice" but that much drinking and travel mixed together can be pretty exhausting. My trip however was going to be a bit more limited in scope. We would only be visiting Tuscany. Ha, only. 17 vineyards in 10 days. Places that make some of the worlds most celebrated wines from Chianti Classico, to Brunello di Montalcino, to Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. Hooray.

The night before I left Jerry, Jason,and I sat in the basement of Star and they gave me some last
minute advice before I went off to represent Star in Italy. These were good tips, mostly involving phrases like, "have fun" and "don't make an ass of yourself". We sat and drank some good wine, ate some good cheese and oil, and laughed as all the while my excitement grew.
After driving to Chicago, and flying to Newark I met the first of my travelling companions for the week. They had been on the same flight out of Chicago as Brian was from Oshkosh and Charlie was from Milwaukee. I had not met them earlier because I am a bit solitary when on planes, my book and my music get most of my attention. Now in Newark we had hours to kill before our flight left for Rome. We found the gate where our flight would leave which happened to be an area full of large white rocking chairs. Perfect.

We ate, had a few beers and soon more people from our group began to trickle in. We met John (who would be my roommate on the trip) and Nancy from Maryland. Barb, David and Mark arrived from Denver, then Bob from Boston, then Susan from New Hampshire.

We ended up having a nearly 4 hours delay in Newark but with almost half of our travelling crew in place we spent the extra time getting to know each other. The flight was uneventful, but I will say that Al Italia has good food and wine and bizarre Italian movies.

When we landed in Rome we met Lara, our tour leader from New York and learned that we had missed our connection to Florence but no worries for they had a bus for us. For me this was preferable anyway, it was a 3 hour ride through Italy, my first exposure to Europe. Everyone else slept, I stared our the window with my mouth open, which it turns out is how I would spend the better part of the week.

More stories to come. Stay tuned.