Luxury Italian Tours Abruzzo Tour Marketing

Content of Marketing Piece composed for Luxury Italian Tours February 2013

Find out what awaits you in Abruzzo

Join us on a journey that combines utmost luxury with unforgettable rustic charm. Combining tastings of fine wine with a grape-stomping experience, this tour is perfect for anyone looking to compliment their cultural experience with quality comfort.

A home away from home

We like to boast about our Abruzzen adventure as giving visitors a chance to feel at home while exploring a new country. One of the highlights of the tour is going to Emidio Pepe, a renown winery famous for its use of organic harvesting techniques. Mr. Pepe himself will be there to show us the ins-and-outs of wine production, guiding us from start to finish as we harvest and stomp the grapes that are to become the 2014 vintage. Along with taking home an exclusive bottle of wine, each with a personalized label, guests will leave afficianados, with a new appreciation for the LOVE and SOMETHING that goes into producing each bottle of Abruzzen Montepulciano.

One can hardly enjoy a good wine without the accompaniment of a traditional Italian fare (trust us, we know). The lovely matriarch of the vineyard, Rosa Pepe, will be cooking us some of the best traditional cuisine this side of divine. She’ll even share some of her culinary secrets to take home along with our personalized bottle. An open invitation to come sit around the table, eat, drink, laugh, and feel right at home.

Come play with us. Wine Not?

The wining and dining hardly ends after the vineyard of Emidio Pepe. We will travel onward to Le Marche to survey and sample the organic wines of the region, learning even more winemaking techniques. Known for its art and custom lace, this trip promises to be dripping in decadence. After spending an afternoon at the winery, we’ll leave some time before dinner in the natural grotto to take a dip in the hilltop pool or outdoor jacuzzi. Did we mention that this tour is luxurious?

Taking a little time to enjoy the natural things in life….

Besides natural wine, our Abruzzen excursion will land us in the rolling pastures of a bio-agriturismo farm where we will get to find out if the sheep really do speak Italian, and if the milk of an Italian cow really does taste like wine. We will have a SOMETHING meal that is prepared with food from the farm including organic cheeses, homemade pasta, and a special dessert. For the animal lovers of the group, there is a chance once the day draws to a close to adopt a sheep all your own. You can name the sheep and in return for being a proud parent you will receive your sheep’s annual production including cheeses, oils and wool products. A little bit of Italian countryside to take home with you (but please do not try and take the sheep home, it won’t work…trust us we know.)



What does biotechnology and organic farming have in common? Answer: Wine!

Published in Dream of Italy May 2013

Maybe it was the smell of the fresh countryside air of Montefiore deli’Aso combined with the breathtaking view of the Adriatic Sea and the Sibillini mountains that first enraptured Dr. Francesco Bellini and his wife Marisa, convincing them that leaving without a planned return to the region of Le Marche, Italy was out of the question. On a fateful day in 2003, while taking a pleasure trip through Le Marche 35 miles outside of Bellini’s hometown, the couple was introduced to the estate that was to become their new home and the site of there natural winery, Domodimonte. What was once at the time a disparaged sprawl of land is today one of the most revered wineries in Italy, lauded internationally for its high quality natural wines.  The couple bought the forty plus hectares of vineyards and eight hectares of olive groves and transformed it into a top destination for traveling wine enthusiasts and casual tourists alike.

Before making his mark in viticulture as renown owner of the Domodimonte winery and neighboring Magnolia Hotel, Bellini worked most of his life in the biotech field. He had emigrated from Italy to Montreal in his early twenties to pursue his doctorate degree in chemistry at the prestigious University of New Brunswick. No stranger to scientific advancement, he was one of the researchers responsible for developing a successful treatment for AIDS. Dr. Bellini had always been passionate about wine collecting, but his job as a research scientist and co-founder of the pharmaceutical company BioChem Pharma allowed only for enough time to make his passion for wine a pleasurable past-time. When the opportunity to invest in the vineyard in Le Marche presented itself, the idea of merging the scientist with the inner vitner to make his own wine was too sweet to resist.

Bellini’s approach to the winemaking process is thus a combination of science and passion. His approach is fresh and unique: he utilizes the most current technology to keep his wine all-natural – additive and chemical free while incorporating old world wine production techniques, such as hand-picking and sorting the grapes, into his methodology.

Bellini had a personal agenda for owning his own winery, as his wine experience was often soured by the allergies brought on by high levels of sulfites. Luckily, having your own winery means having control over what goes in and what stays out of the wine. Sulfites have been considered a crucial element in the wine production process for fermentation and preservation, yet many people are allergic to sulfites, and like Bellini, experience unpleasant reactions to food and wine that contain high amounts of the sodium sulfide chemical.

What does a scientist with a love for wine but a constant headache do? Find an alternative means of fermentation and preservation. Bellini developed a means of carefully controlling the fermentation process by manipulating the temperature of individual vats of wine as well as introducing nitrogen gas to protect the wine from oxidation, thus reducing the necessity of sulfites. The grapes themselves are de-stemmed and gravity-fed into the large stainless steel vats that are then brought to a very low temperature and nitrogen is introduced to the process, protecting against  oxidation. This cryomacreation process is a fastidious one and calls for more attention and time must be dedicated to the production, but the result is wine that is low in sulfites and other potential allergens. In other words, headache free wine.

The beginning process of the wine production itself is something to marvel at. The “natural” status of the winery is due largely to the dedication of the producing the least amount of ecological and visual impact. There is an emphasis on attention and detail – the grapes are still hand-picked from the vines and sorted for quality. The dedicated team of agronomists, enologists, vine growers, vineyard workers, and winery staff maintain the natural quality through laborious love and steadfast devotion to the vineyard.

Domodimonte prides itself on its sustainable farming practices, giving back to the land as much as they take. Bellini has succeeded in his vision of continually producing natural wine, connected to its source and lacking synthetic additives. The agronomists and wine growers use only organic matter to fertilize their crop and keep quality in mind rather than quantity. About 67% of the grapes are pruned away during the growing season, insuring that the remaining plants are nutrient dense. There are no chemicals or additives introduced at any point to the wine. From vine to bottle the color and taste are the result of careful cultivation and artful patience.

Domodimonte produces seven different wines, stemming from six grape varietals: Principe Piccolo, Deja V, LiCoste, Monte Fiore, Picens, Il Messia, and Solo Per Te. Each wine is distinct in flavor though each bottle promises unwavering quality. Bottles can be bought on location and also shipped internationally to restaurants and bars as well as available for personal purchase. For those who can afford to take a trip to Le Marche, it will surely be a worthwhile investment, and tasting wine will never be the same.

While connoisseurs make a point to visit Domodimonte, even those less interested in vinification will find that it is worth it to make the trip just to stay at the Magnolia Hotel. Not only is the view breathtaking, but Bellini has done well to provide a luxurious experience for his guests. The farmhouse turned boutique hotel features seven suites that are each inspired by a different type of wine that Domodimonte produces. Feeling light and a bit on the fruity side, ask to stay in the room that pays tribute to the highly rated LiCoste wine and enjoy a glass after dinner paired with fresh Italian cheeses. If your palette matches your aesthetic and is longing for something more earthy and romantic, ask for the Solo Per Te room, where the dark wood and velvet colors will be the perfect compliment to a glass of this wine and a piece of dark chocolate.

Just like the neighboring winery, the Magnolia fuses its modern accommodations with old world aesthetics and the natural beauty of Le Marche. Visitors are encouraged to relax and sip to their bliss, and perhaps like Francesco and Marisa Bellini decide not to leave.


Ghostwriting a Mayor

This piece was published in Metro Source Magazine in May 2013. I ghost-wrote this story, adapting the voice and experience of the woman who went to Berlin. 


The mayor of Berlin is sitting in his office, enjoying a few moments of quiet before launching into a busy day. After a dozen years governing one of the world’s most important capitals, Klaus Wowereit’s calm might disguise how groundbreaking it was for him to be elected to this post.

Wowereit is the city’s first openly gay mayor. He publicly came out after his nomination in 2001, declaring,“Ich bin schwul, und das ist auch gut so.” (“I’m gay, and that is absolutely fine.”) His 2001 victory made Berlin one of only three major European cities with an openly gay mayor, and he has also proven to be one of the city’s most beloved officials, winning re-election in 2006 and again in 2011.

Since the beginning of his political service, Wowereit has watched the city expand as an international hub of business, tourism and cultural events. Just six years ago, Wowereit described his city as“poor, but sexy.”My recent visit confirmed that the sexy part still rings true, but the artistry and vibrancy of its cultural scene make it seem anything but poor.

The city has achieved a new maturity during its evolution since the fall of the Berlin Wall. The once hip Mitte neighborhood is now bourgeois — dotted with high-end hotels, shopping, and dining. Kreuzberg, lined with cafes and boutiques, has emerged as Berlin’s Madison Avenue, while the artsy crowd has been pushed to the edge of Potsdamer Straße. A tour of Wowereit’s favorite bars and restaurants lead one through the Schöneberg district around Nollendorfplatz. “It is still very lively and creative with new places popping up regularly,” Wowereit says of the area, which has served as a haven for gays and lesbians since the 1920s.

Berlin has clearly undergone a renaissance — recently capturing the spot as Europe’s third-most-visited European city (knocking Rome down a notch to fourth). Wowereit brags that the city had nearly 25 million overnight stays last year, up 7 million from 20 years ago. He also notes, with pride, that Berlin has grown into a top destination particularly for gay travel, promoting gay events and Pride celebrations in the heart of the culturally colorful city.

Leaving Wowereit to attend matters of governing, I moved on to explore the eclectic city, and to check in with a couple of transplants who traded Brooklyn for Berlin. A few years ago, Jeff Sfire left New York City, headed to Berlin to DJ, and never left. His partner, Kevin Avery, followed suit, leaving his position as chef at the buzzy Williamsburg eatery Diner. Soon, Avery had parlayed his time cooking for hungry hipsters into his own restaurant, Little Otik, on a quiet street in Kreuzberg.

“We wanted to make the restaurant into a little country house,” said Avery of his eatery, now a local hot spot. Little Otik represents much of what’s hot in food philosophy — supporting local farmers to fit a seasonal menu that changes daily. He even sources his mushrooms from nearby Poland.

When I dined there, the menu du jour started with homemade brown sugar and sweet paprika–roasted almonds, and proceeded to a salad composed of endive, Jerusalem artichokes, fennel and clementines. Next came a hand-rolled pici pasta and ricotta cheese with butternut squash and kale. Side dishes included the intriguing potatoes with lavender, and a dessert assortment spanned from bay leaf pot de crème to apple cheddar tarte tatin. With food like this, I might never leave either.

From culinary creativity, I moved on to a different kind of culture, specifically the East Side Gallery ( an art space bound to impress even the most critical connoisseurs. The murals here draw heavily on popular culture, and there is a recurring theme of tolerance running through the works. But perhaps their most extraordinary attribute is that they are painted on the Berlin Wall, which famously divided the city for nearly thirty years.

Arguably the East Side Gallery’s most famous mural, “The Kiss of Death” depicts Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev kissing the president of East Germany, Erich Honecker.

Collection of contemporary art (sammlung-, which is located in a World War II bunker. The pieces range from modern paintings to photographs and installations. Christian Boros’s private collection boasts 600 works of art, and what’s on display rotates twice per year. Showing these beautiful modern works in an old bunker seems like a metaphor for the Berlin itself: It’s focused on the future, though anchored in a tragic past.

This dialogue between past and future is an undercurrent that runs throughout the city, making a walk through Berlin a bit like time traveling. The ominous-looking Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe (the Holocaust memorial; stands in the city center, asking all who pass to pause and pay respect. The outdoor monument is comprised of cement blocks, representing the train cars that transported thousands of victims to the work camps. Across the street in a city park, the gays and lesbians who were killed by the Third Reich have their own dedicated tribute: another cement structure with a peephole through which one can view a continual stream of black-and-white film clips of homosexuals expressing affection.

A few steps away, there stands a grander monument to the past: The Brandenberg Gate. Though first rebuilt in the late 18th century as a symbol of triumph, it has gone on to be associated with a number of historic events. When President John F. Kennedy visited Berlin

in 1963 to give his famous“Ich bin ein Berlinner” speech, the Soviets hung red banners meant to hide the view through the gate towards the east. President Ronald Reagan also famously stood at the gate and said,“General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

When the Berlin Wall finally did fall in 1989, the Gate was opened, unifying the two halves of the city. Though majestic during the day, it is best viewed in the evening when it is dramatically illuminated.

When it comes to Berlin it is helpful to remember that before the city came under Nazi control, it was a vibrant place that attracted all manner of outsiders to its streets (think of the characters of Cabaret). Today, Berlin again opens its arms to those seeking diversity and tolerance, and it is often referred to as one of Europe’s“gay capitals.”

One of the most anticipated events of the year is Gay Pride ( csdevents), which is scheduled in 2013 from June 15–June 22. The main event, the Berlin Gay Pride Parade, is held on “Christopher Street Day” — a tribute to the New York City location of the historical Stonewall riots that proved such a catalyst for the gay rights movement.

The week before the Berlin Gay Pride Parade, the city hosts Lesbisch-Schwules Stadtfest (Lesbian and Gay Festival), where guests can attend musical performances, art exhibitions, learn about cultural clubs and social programs, eat, drink, and shop. An estimated 450,000 are expected to attend this year.

If you’re considering visiting Berlin during Pride season, “Get ready,” suggests mayor Wowereitz,“for a city with many faces and a very special atmosphere — the characteristic mix of tolerance, open-mindedness, and cultural diversity that makes today’s Berlin so unique.” And the city is waiting to say Willkommen! with open arms.