Saturday, May 9, 2015

Wine & Food of the Giro 2015 Stage 1: San Lorenzo Al Mare to Sanremo

Where are we: Heading from San Lorenzo Al Mare to Sanremo with a 17.6 kilometer team time trial. 
San Lorenzo al Mare is located in the Province of Imperia in Liguria, located about 100 kilometres southwest of Genoa. Imperia is Liguria's westernmost province. It borders on Piedmont to the north, Savona to the east, and France to the west. To the south, it is lapped by the Ligurian Sea. The largest town is San Remo.
Sanremo is fairly well-known in cycling circles for the March Milan to Sanremo race. About that name, from Bicycling Magazine: "The town officially calls itself Sanremo, a contraction of San Romolo, the patron saint and protector of the city. The commonly seen two-word spelling, San Remo, was introduced in 1924 by the mayor and used in official Fascist documents. "
The city tourist guide tells me that: The city of Sanremo, which was founded in Roman times in a large inlet on the western Ligurian coast, is known as “The Pearl of the Riviera of the flowers” and is famous throughout the world for its perfect climatic conditions for swimming. Sanremo is also called the Town of Flowers - its flowers are well-known all over the world – and this can be clearly seen in its luxuriant gardens, its colorful flowerbeds, and in the town parks where tropical plants flourish.

The stage: A reminder: this is the "live race" portion of these posts, written while watching.
Here we go, starting with a 17.6 km team time trial. I've explained team time trials before, here and here, essentially though, in a TTT,  each team rides together with the time taken as the fifth rider crosses the line. As I've also said before, a TTT rarely wins a Grand Tour for a rider, but a loss of time to rivals can be significant. You can see the Podium Cafe stage preview here
And off they go: 

 There will be five minute gaps between the teams. The order is:
Lampre-Merida, Ag2r La Mondiale, Androni Giocattoli, Astana Pro Team, Nippo-Vini Fantini, Trek Factory Team, Bardiani CSF, BMC Racing Team, Team Sky, Etixx-Quickstep, Giant-Alpeci, IAM Cycling, Movistar, Southeast, CCC Sprandi Polkowice, Orica-GreenEDGE, Lotto NL-Jumbo, Lotto-Soudal, Katusha, Tinkoff-Saxo, Cannondale-Garmin, and FDJ. 
The favorite on the day? Orica-GreenEDGE. 
First in, of course, Lampre at 20.25 or 51.722km/h. The first of the contender's teams, Astana sets an early time of 19.39. That time would hold for a long time, with BMC slotting in to second and Sky third. Etixx-Quickstep threatened, but they were in second to Astana. 
But, sure enough, our winners on the day were Orica-GreenEDGE. Into pink, Simon Gerrans. 

Wine: Rocche del Gatto Pigato 'Spigau' 2006
After a decade of solitary experiments and a growing line of brilliant releases, Rocche del Gatto ( represent today one of Liguria’ most interesting, self-styled small growers, determined to propose an extreme, highly individual interpretation of Pigato and Vermentino varietal whites. Rocche del Gatto specializes in producing concentrated, marine whites from estate vines located in the Ponente region of Liguria, made entirely from the native Pigato, Vermentino and Ormeasco varieties. Owner Fausto De Andreis, agronomist and one-man-winery, is credited by Gambero Rosso as the ‘last Pigato artisan’.
Rocche del Gatto operates in one of the most beautiful and picturesque corners of Italy, the Riviera Ligure di Ponente, in westernmost reaches of Liguria close to the French border. Here alpine mountains meet the Mediterranean, producing a landscape of breathtaking contrasts: rugged coastal peaks, vivid maritime colours, ancient villages and steep vineyards intermixed by olive groves facing onto the Tyrrhenian sea. Rocche del Gatto estate vineyards amount to 5 Ha., concentrated in the commune of Albenga.
The annual wine production barely reaches 35.000 bottles, split into classic varietals such as Pigato, Vermentino and Rossese, plus the not-so-common red-berry Ormeasco [presumed to be a local clone of the Dolcetto variety from Piedmont]. Fausto De Andreis is a self-made agronomist and winemaker who meticulously take care of every phase of production from planting and pruning up until bottling and labeling.
I say: The Fortress of the Cat. How could I resist? Plus, pigato, a white grape planted primarily in Liguria. Deep golden. Herbs, minerals, nuts, wax, citrus. Not surprisingly, a lot more interesting as it warms up a bit and even better on day two. This is an excellent start.

Food: So this year, in addition to my wine picks, each stage will have a featured food. Some will be ingredients, some prepared dishes. Note that because I am not always 100% organized, the foods and wines may also not always pair, but are both from the regions the riders are cycling through.

I start with olive oil, specifically from Punta Crena. Spoiler: one of their wines will make an appearance soon. Why olive oil? Because it is an important product of the region and will turn up as an ingredient in my dishes for the rest of the Ligurian stages. The importer, Kermit Lynch, says that describesit as "Our lightest and most versatile oil, from thousand-year-old Taggiasca trees growing along an old Roman road high above the Mediterranean. Perfect for fish, salads, and most things—you’ll find that you go through it almost as quickly as a bottle of their Pigato."

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