Wednesday afternoon with olives and grapes

While we were based in Anghiari, our go-to vintner was the Ravagni store just opposite the main piazza.

From our landlord (all around great guy, W. Weston Bielby) we learned that Ravagni provides tours, olive oil tastings, and scrumptious meals.

We managed to get into an afternoon olive oil and wine tasting and lunch on Wednesday. We were going to latch on to a larger tour group. We got there a little early, so had a chance to walk around before the rest of the group got there.

We could definitely smell things fermenting!

Olives weren’t quite ripe yet, but they were beautiful.

Olives

It was yet another beautiful day to walk around: not too hot, not cool, not much of a breeze. We walked around the olive grove, and stopped to look at the size of the old grinding wheel that was at the edge of the road.

At the edge of the grove

Meticulous — can one call olive trees an orchard? Row after straight row of trees.

Olive grove

We walked around the buildings, and I liked the view from above the grouping.

Bartolomei family estate

We went back to the parking area as we saw the bus arrive, and followed the bus up to another area, another set of buildings, and followed the people into one of the buildings.

The tour was on! This was the first piece of machinery we encountered.

Grinding wheels

You can get a sense of how large these wheels are by comparing the size of people beside the machine. Whole olives are fed into this from the trap, above. They’re crushed by the weight of the stones. We were told that it’s important to be on the look-out when the wheels are moving, because pits from the olives do squish out and fly across the room. Oil that is freed from the olives at this stage of the process is called Mosto.

Next, the crushed olives are placed on woven mats. Here’s Francesco describing the process. There’s a mat in front of him. Blurry I know; he’s an animated man, and I had to use a slow shutter inside.

From father to son...

Layer of olives, another mat, another layer of olives… stacked 5 deep. The stack is made between two metal disks. Here are some of the cleaned disks.

Metal disks

Wasn’t quite olive season, so everything was waiting for harvest.

A thick stack would be made of disks, mats, and crushed olives, and these would be placed on the press.

Olive press

Wondering how much pressure gets applied?

How much pressure?

I love machinery. Here’s the wheel to tighten the disk array on the press.

Olive press

In pressing season, Francesco plans to have a live Internet camera on the procedings! That’s the camera, top left corner of the spiral staircase.

ICU!

From there, we went up to the house and store. Lovely landscape to look out on.

Tuscan countryside

Through the grape arbour toward the courtyard. That’s Sandy.

Sandy through the arbour

Green grapes.

Green grapes

Horse chestnuts abounded. I placed a few up on the stone wall separating the courtyard from the grape arbour and took a shot.

Improvised still life

Next, a table was added to the end of the long table for Sandy, Betty and I to join the tour. This tour group is a group of people who are staying at a villa in Tuscany, taking cooking classes for the week. They’re from all over: a number of Americans, some from Texas, the Carolinas, and elsewhere; an Australian; I couldn’t quite catch where everyone else was from. They made some great food in their classes; Maria Yates told us about an exquisite Balsamic gelato they made!

Tuscan pastorale

We first tasted olive oils by drizzling some on hunks of hearty bread (put the oil on the bread, not on the plate!). Francesco, one of the directors of Ravagni and a member of the Bartolomei family, described the process, growing, and subtleties of the different oils we were sampling.

Animated discussion

Francesco’s family has a dog. He came by for petting (maybe for scraps from lunch?). Very friendly, well-behaved.

Puppy!

Betty volunteered to take pictures for the cooking class. So they all grouped up, and Betty used each of their cameras to take a shot at them.

Betty taking a picture

Of course, it’s unfair to take a photo of the photographer without also providing one of the group!

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While the cooking class was making their purchases in the store, I wandered around again. This is my favourite bunch of grapes of all time. I will be offering a duo of prints of this and the green grapes.

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Little tiny figs were growing. They’ve got a while until they ripen.

Young green figs

The shop is in the basement of this building.

Ravagni wine and olive oil shop

Here is a commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the birth of two of the ancestors. The first person we met at the Ravagni store was Virgilio, so I suspect he was named after his great(?)grandfather:

Commemoration

After the crowd cleared, we made our purchases in the store, enjoyed a little grappa, and were shown the cantina. Sort of like a cold-cellar, it’s a deep conical section in the house that holds wine, including what look like some very old bottles! A steep ladder goes to the bottom.

Cantina Ravagni

It was a wonderful afternoon. I have some tiny bottles of mosto that I squirrelled away in my suitcase. I have great memories, too, and will be looking to watch some olive oil pressing on the video camera!

Late in the afternoon, we returned to Anghiari, parked the car, and looked out over the river valley.

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