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Timeout in Umbria – lunch at a wonderful winery

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By Eileen Ogintz

UMBRIA, ITALY — Time for lunch?

Not just any lunch but a parade of dishes all locally sourced of course paired with Dionigi wines that have been made by the same family since the end of the 19thCentury.

Carolina Bandera and Roberto Dionigi
Carolina Bandera and Roberto Dionigi


“My son will be the fifth generation,” says Carolina Bandera, whose husband Roberto Dionigi is the wine maker.

Her father-in-law Sesto Dionigi, she added, is now 81 but still picks the grapes by hand.  “If you don’t have the passion for it, you can’t stay here,” she said. “It is your whole life.”

The Dionigi vineyards
The Dionigi vineyards


Dionigi is in a beautiful place with 40 acres of vineyards and 700 olive trees. We are staying at a farmhouse not far away in Cannara that is owned by Suzy and Bill Menard who in turn own the Via Umbria shop in the Georgetown area of Washington, DC, where they sell some of their Umbrian friends’ products.

They have strong ties here with local businesses like Dionigi and encourage their guests to visit. We also stopped in at the Tessiturn Pardi textile mill, which has been producing quality linens for more than 60 years, using vintage spinning and weaving machinery.

Vintage textile machinery at work at Tessiturn Pardi
Vintage textile machinery at work at Tessiturn Pardi


What does six year-old Diego Dionigi like to do for fun?  “Play in the vineyard with his dog, chase rabbits… they have a lot of fun just outside,” Carolina says as she serves us a delicious lunch of anti-pasto, pasta, salads and sliced pork and dessert – paired with a white, rose, and three red wines.

She pours the first wine — a Vigna del Brillo – named for the first owner of this vineyard, she said, because he was always “slightly drunk,” which is “brillo” in Italian. I’m becoming very fond of wines like these with the Grechetto grapes. By next year, we learn, the vineyard will be certified organic

The Dionigi wines being put to use
The Dionigi wines being put to use


This wine pairs perfectly with the local salami, cheese, ham and spread made with chickpeas as well as bread dipped in the Dionigi olive oil. We’re pleased to learn it is inexpensive—less than $15 a bottle.

Next up: Delicious pasta made with tomato sauce, pancetta and onion, served with a Rosagra rose from Sagrantino grapes, the local grape here. The wine is an intense pink color.

I’d be happy to stop eating now but we have more wines to try and more food—a delicious roasted pork and salad served with a Montefalco Rosso, a blend of Sagrantino, Merlot and  Sangiovese followed by a Montefalco Rosso Riserva.

We end with biscotti and a desert wine—Montefalco Sagrantino Passito. We can’t resist purchasing a case to send home, even with the shipping fee it seems a bargain. With bragging rights as only 20 per cent of the 60,000 bottles is exported to the United States.

Lunch was a bargain too—less than $30 each.  I can’t wait to try to recreate the pasta at home—with the Dionigi wine.

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