Alessandra (www.gardasee.it and www.italianwinery.it) picks us up and hauls us out to the Nicolis estate for their 60th anniversary party and ceremonial ribbon cutting. I believe my invitation to this fab fest is due to the fact that in the blind tasting of 144 Amarones I did in July, Nicolis turned out to be one of my top wines. The affair is impeccably organized: the musicians sound like a Movieland-New York Jazz combo, the food is tasty and interesting (such as a small piece of duck breast topped by an Amarone gelatin square and served on a skewer and bison in Amarone sauce), the wine is fresh and fruity and the guests are relaxed.
The 2005 Ambrosan is Amarone to the 3rd power: Rich, ripe, enchanting. Bright, with a pure perfume of ripe cherries under spirits, with a dark undertow. The palate echoes the nose. Mouth-filling fruit.
“It’s the biz,” says Michael.
Below are photos of Clementina, Alessandra and Alessandra (too) sporting the finest shoes at this event. They look a bit like chic Charlie’s Angels, don’t you think?
We arrive at the Verona Philharmonic theatre for the Masi Foundation Prize giving ceremony. The jury did its job well this year. The winners are, generally speaking, all witty and vivacious. We are also struck by their humility and humanity. At the drinks do that follows the ceremony everyone seems to be commenting on this.
And the winners are: Don Luigi Mazzucato (who works with doctors in Africa), Arrigo Cipriani (Harry’s Bar, need I say more?), Jacques Orhon (a loquacious Canadian-by-way-of-France wine journalist/sommelier/author, with a passion for Italian wine) and the crowd-pleasing favorites: Giuseppe Battiston (a wonderful comic actor, who is perhaps best known for his role in Pane e Tulipane) and Massimo Marchiori (who devised the algorithm that revolutionized Google).
September 20 Concorso di Scultura “Antonio Canova” in Bardolino
Guerrieri Rizzardi (www.guerrieri-rizzardi.it) hosted the second annual Antonio Canova sculpture competition, which offers young Italian artists an opportunity for international exposure. Works by the nine finalists were displayed at Villa Rizzardi, which is surrounded by a stunning garden designed by 18th century architect Luigi Trezza (www.pojega.it). This year’s winner is Daniele Salvalai. His work is definitely the most complex of the nine finalists and his use of materials was impeccable. His sculpture looks like a crater formed by a giant golf ball. But my favorite work is a ceramic version of Martian pumpkins (although the artist, Iva Boccali chose to call it Macerie.) I will happily admit to loving everything about this annual sculpture competition: its aim to encourage young talent, the exquisite setting, the elegant canapés, the fine wine and the easy camaraderie of the guests.
My pal Maria Grazia Melegatti is there. Maria Grazia has been a fan and blogger for Soave for many years. I drink a glass of Guerrieri Rizzardi sparkling Prosecco (fresh, fruity and appealing) and a glass of Rosa Rosae Rosato Veonese IGT (enticing, vibrant pink with full cherry/strawberry tinges fruit on the nose and palate) and nosh grandly. Maria Grazie tastes the Amarone.
“You know,” she says. “I really like the Guerrieri Rizzardi Amarone.”
“Me, too,” I say. “There is always an elegant yet definite idea of cherry fruit.” This scent of cherries is, for me, is the hallmark of a well-made Amarone.
September 18 La Domenica del Bardolino
Joan, Michael and I take the bus to Bardolino to taste wines at an event held in a lushly grassy park next to Lake Garda. Two of the wines that stand out for me are the Chiaretto Brut from Costadoro (A satisfying wine from its juicy cherry color through its flavors of frozen strawberries and raspberries and on it’s the long finish.
www.agrituismocostadoro.com) and La Ca’s Chiaretto (fresh, infused with strawberry fruit and with a slightly mineraly finish. www.tenutalaca.it)
We also sample a Chiare. This is one of the few wine-based cocktails that really works – very refreshing and elegant in the glass. I have convinced Joan that it could be a substitute for Pimm’s Cup at English garden parties. Here is the recipe: Bardolino Chiaretto Spumante 6/10, Elderflower syrup 1/10, Soda 3/10 – served over ice and decorated with fresh mint leaves.
September 17 Durello and Tales of Denzel Washington
Our pals Ben and Joan come from London for the weekend and we immediately march them to the Carroarmato for lunch. Annalisa opens a bottle of 2004 Marcato Sparkling Durello, with 33 months ageing. It has a rich golden color. This idea of richness is echoed on the palate.
“I think this is the best expression of Durello,” says Annalisa, owner of the Carroarmato.
Toward the end of the meal our pals Geppy and Germana drop by. They have just returned from a visit to New York City. I lived there for 9 years and had prepared a page of NYC tips for them. (Such as, eat at a diner where the waitresses have sinewy legs and call everybody “honey” and see a Broadway show; musicals are easier for non-English speakers to handle).
Their biggest adventure happened on the subway.
“We saw this nice looking man on the platform. He had a notebook and was writing things down in it. So Geppy went up and asked him for directions. It was then I realized it was Denzel Washington,” says a breathless Germana. “I bet he was preparing for a movie role! He is so charismatic. And he was very nice.”
“He gave good directions too,” says Geppy.
By the way, next month Joan will be appearing in The Provoked Wife at the Greenwich Playhouse in London. (www.gallcontheatre.co.uk)
September 3 Soave & The Wolf
We take the bus out to Soave for Soave Versus. I taste some of my favorite Soaves and then find a comfy chair in which to do a Sudoku…or two. The highlight of this evening for me (besides a truly fine Sparkling Durello from Marcato) is meeting Zeva Wolf.
I ask her owner why he happens to have a wolf. I was expecting a dramatic story of animal rescue. His reply: “Because I wanted one.” Evidently, you can go to Piedmont and pick out your fluffy little cub and bring it home. Something does not sound right about this to me but, then again, Zeva Wolf seemed very calm and collected about her life as a household pet.