June and July

Coming in August – judging wine in South Africa
June & July

July 29 – Prosciutto di Pressara
A tasting for professional sommeliers and journalists of the local prosciutto (ages 18 months and 16 months) and wine made in the area at the Villa Gaudio The ham was wonderful.
As I sat doing a Sudoku and waiting for the fellow who offered to give us a ride back to Verona to finish his work (filming the event for local TV), a sommelier came up to me.
“I’ve seen you the last few years at Verona Wine Top. I just want to say that I admire you,” she said.
Rather than smiling humbly and saying thank you I blurted out: “Why?”
“Because you are so….so….”
“Precise?” I offered.
“Yes, that too,” she said and raced away.

July 23 -27 The San Gio Video Festival (www.sangiofestival.it)
Hundreds of short videos from 41 countries projected on a screen in the piazza. The event was created 16 years ago by our pal Ugo (who appears frequently in these diaries). Michael and our pal Geppy offered emotional, logistical and linguistic support.
Ugo organizes trips to wine estates for his foreign judges and hanger’s on. We visited Vicentini (written about frequently in these diaries because I love their Soave), Fongaro and Sandro di Bruno (also found here). I did not take notes on these occasions because, frankly, I decided I was on vacation.

Second week of July
Two days of tasting with Bernardo. He picks me up in a Malibu Barbi convertible and whisks me off to the headquarters of the Valpolicella consortium. He has invited me to taste with him and score wines for a national wine guide. It is beastly hot…we taste Big Red Wines. Children, do not try this at home.
The high point was a visit to the Nicolis estate for lunch. I have always admired their wines. The family makes first rate Amarone and Valpolicella.

June 14
Vertical Tasting of Villa Franciacorta Cuvette
The first vintage of Cuvette was 1983. It was created because the company wanted to create a wine that could be served with main course – something a bit softer and more versatile. The wine is mostly Chardonnay with 15 to 20% Pinot Noir. On the notes below, I give my immediate note, and include notes made from 5 to 30 minutes later from the same glass. A well-made fine wine will evolve in the glass and will continue to give pleasure.

2005 A good saturation of bright yellow/gold. A pleasing lemony sherbet fragrance that carries on to the zesty palate. Long, fresh, aftertaste. Very well-balanced.
After 10 min. in the glass: the apricot elements emerge
After 15 min. Still firm and full
After 20 min. Richer, more pronounced apricot elements
After 30. Firm, broad fruit

2004 Bright vibrant yellow. Muted citrus element. Finely knit.
After 10 min. A strangely hollow nose, but firm on the palate
After 15 min. It reasserts itself. Fresh.
After 20 min Firm
After 30 still bright.

2003 Vibrant yellow/pale gold. Subdued on the nose. Lanolin with a spiky (in a good way) acidity. A fresh, hazelnut flavor. Vibrant on the palate.
After 10 min: its minerality come to the foe. Refreshing.
After 15 min. Soft but flavorful
After 20 min. It takes on a yeastiness.

2002 Return to a more golden tone. Nose: appealing, lanolin, freshness, cedron. Very well knit. On the palate: firm acidity that gives shape to the silky flavors. Evolving zesty sensations.
After 10 min. firm and zippy
After 15 min. firm sure of itself
After 20 min. and after 30 min. firm. Generous.

2001 Deeply saturated yellow/gold. The freshness is softened/mellowed. Again the idea of “well-knit”. A fine baseline of zest lifts a firm flavor of hazelnuts, lanolin.
After 10min. the hazelnuts/lemon zest is more evident
After 15 a sappy quality that does not appeal to me but it may to others.

2000 Deeply saturated yellow. Fresh a round rush of citrus on the nose. The palate tingles with zest. The flavors: hazelnuts, sherbet a dash of cream. Firm.
After 10 min. it smells like fresh cheese
After 15 It reasserts itself . Subtle blend of cedron zest and bright fruit.
After 20 min. a ripe vibrating cream. Satisfying.

1999 Vibrant yellow/gold. Nose reminds me of mature Champagne. Palate: A surpising hollow spot on the middle palate. Firmness retuns on the fresh, flavorful finish.
After 10 min. a firm weave of cedron and hazelnuts
After 15 min. firm.

1997 Very deep gold/yellow. Bright. Nose: the elements of zest and maturity have combined. Palate: Again maturity and freshness are firmly combined. If you like mature wines – as I do – you will like this vintage.
After 10 min. still fresh
After 15 min. still okay.

1994 Vibrant. Good saturation. Fresh. The fruit and acidity have merges. On the palate: bright. A nice llemon sorbet snap on the finish.
After 10 min. still firm and bright.
After 15 min. Silky vibrancy. A spiciness emerges. It gives the taster interesting things to think about. Characteristics of youth merge into a glorious whole.

1991 Yellow. Strangely hollow but nice elements of butterscotch and zest. Palate: soft yet firm. Well defined. Finish long and evolving. I like it but it is not a wine that will appeal to everyone.

The tasters asked to give point scores. When all the votes were in, these are the three wines that came top:
Villa Franciacorta Cuvette Sec millesimato 1994
Villa Franciacorta Cuvette Extra Dry millesimato 2001
Villa Franciacorta Cuvette Extra Dry millesimato 2000
Then I head for Soave. Michael is already there with Stanley (the dog). Our mission is to speak in English to the visiting scientists who will be giving speeches about Volcanos.
Stanley has a wonderful time racing around the Coffele’s hilltop. He makes me incredibly proud. Imagine: 50 people eating a buffet dinner on their laps and he stays near our chairs and only begs (in a very polite way) from Clementina – this because she offered him food in the first place.

June 13Stanley’s photo appeared in a pharmaceuticals magazine called Pillole. The photos were taken last week. Every month the mag runs a feature on animals and the editor, who has met Stanley socially, asked if he would model. She has, I believed, already availed herself of the services of all the pets owned by the staff.

June 11
I am interviewed at the Carro Armato by a journalist writing for Departures Magazine. I am to be featured in the October issue as one of the “Veneto’s 15 Hidden Treasures”. Oh my!

June 7 -8-9
I have just returned from the first day of tasting, as a judge at Verona Wine Top. We are tasting the wines blind. There are 8 panels of 7 judges each. Each wine will be tasted by two panels – most of the judges are enologists. The highest score and the lowest score are deleted and the remaining scores are averaged out. In theory, wines with scores lower than 85 are removed from the running.
My personal record so far reads: 5 exceptionally nice wines, 12 horrid wines, with the rest of the entries falling somewhere in between.
There will be two more days of tasting.
This evening we, the judges, dined at the restaurant of the Hotel Academia. Nice food. I sat next to a producer of Valtellina. He brought his wines in from the car and we tasted them. Excellent. His name is Balgera. I vow to visit his estate in the coming months.

June 6Stanley Dog won a prize at the Festa di Bastardini (Mutt Show). There were 130 dog’s and only 10 prizes. I was surprised because he was not the oldest or the youngest. He did not have the biggest ears or the longest tail (some of the categories). The judges decided to change the criteria and give the prizes to the 10 most “particular” dogs. I believe he won because his vet was the moderator (but then the vet was also the doctor for at least 75% of the contestants.) Doctor Viviano Fedeli (I am not joking…what a wonderful name for a doggy doc.) loves Stanley because Stan licks his hand after every visit – even those that involve injections.

June 5
I am coerced into agreeing to attend a seminar…tasting…dinner…in Soave. I do not want to go because I have a tasting and lunch in another region (Lombardy) in the morning.
I tried to get out of the Soave thing by citing Stanley’s needs. This was countered with: “Bring him along. He can stay in the Coffele’s back yard.”

To this I yelped: “The Coffele’s last 2 dogs have been poisoned!!!”

I realize I cannot escape. Stanley will come to Soave – but be under constant supervision.

A Visitor’s Guide to the town in Kansas where I went to high school arrived in the mail today. Oh the nostalgia that swept over me. I read about the Tornado Memorial, the rare drive-in movie theatre, the BBQ restaurants and Chili parlors, and “Upscale Niche Shopping” at the ranch supply store. Oh, I danced around the house reading aloud from the brochure.
I am not being ironic…looking at this brochure – the things in it are so exotic – I realized that I have been away from Kansas for over 25 years. I promise myself that I will go back to the next high school reunion.