April 23 A Chieveo lunch and a Chievo dinner.
Chievo is the name of the soccer team that Michael supports. He goes to every home game and occasionally climbs on the bus with other local fans to go to away games. The team is composed mainly of good-natured young men who are happy to pose for photos and sign autographs for the children. Going to a Chievo lunch or dinner is like travelling back in time…I love these goofy, sweet, simple, happy occasions.
A party for me
April 15 A visit to a Real Contardino, Elio Fedrighi
We arrive at Negrar by bus. Tiziana R. picks us up and takes us to visit Elio Fedrighi and his family. We drive up a narrow winding road and emerge into a spot that can only be described as idyllic: the air is fresh and fragrant with Spring growth, the sun is bright, and the farm dogs are sweethearts.
“This is the real Valpolicella,” says Tiziana. “Not the area on either side of the main road – filled with houses and shops.”
Elio is a grape grower, par excellence. He has supplied the fruit for Masi’s Mazzano Amarone for decades. And unlike many who own renowned vineyards, he has no desire to make wine. He is content to produce the best, healthiest grapes possible from his high, hill-side vineyards and leave winemaking to others.
“The grapes up here ripen later than those lower down,” says Elio. This longer growing cycle means that the grapes are often richer in the polyphenolic substances that gives flavor, fragrance and substance to a wine.
We taste 2004 Mazzano. Dark, austere cherry. We leave our glasses and take a walk in the vineyards. Thirty minutes later we return to our wine. It has opened up. Fine, sprightly cherry fruit surround by a mist of mocha.
“It has an earthy quality,” says Michael. “The Mazzano was the benchmark by which I measured Amarone when I entered the wine trade.”
“There are not many true farmers like Elio anymore,” said Tiziana. “Today to sell wine you’ve got to travel all over the world – stay in the best hotels. Young wine producers are losing contact with the land.”
April 13 Monica’s Turquoise Party
We met Simone Butturini (www.simonebutturini.it) at Monica’s birthday party. I like his paintings.
April 6 through 9 Vinitaly
Below you will find descriptions of some of the wines that I particularly liked this year (in no particular order), and a selection of dark but jolly photos of producers and winemakers. I must get my camera fixed…
I went to a vertical tastingof Gioe Amarone from Santa Sofia (www.santasofia.com– a very interesting opportunity. My favorite among the wines was the 1998, fresh, full, satisfying, ripe cherry fruit. It continues to evolve in the glass.
I visit the stand of Paolo Passini, owner of the Azienda Agricola San Giovanni (www.pasiniproduttori.it ), every year. Paolo’s estate is located in the small wine zone of Valténesi.” (For the proper pronunciation of this word imagine Natasha, the Russian Spy from the Bullwinkle cartoon show, saying the word to perky little Rocky J. Squirrel. “Vahl-ten-eh-zee.” I have no idea whether this will improve your pronunciation of the word but it does provide a pleasing image.)
His Chiaretto Valtenesi: Vibrant antique rose color. Fresh, distinct notes of raspberries and melon on the nose. A lovely burst of soft ripe berry fruit shaped by salinity. Most of this wine is sold in New York, he tells me.
Another annual visit is to Cristina Geminani owner/winemaker at Fattoria Zerbina, Her 2012 Bianco di Ceparano (100% Albana grapes) is crisp, with a fragrant, citrusy nose. On the palate it is tangy with a sprightly minerality. Serving suggestions from Cristina: charcuterie, asparagus and eggs and soft cheese.
I found out that this wine is available at the Jet Rock Bar and Grill at La Guardia Airport…next time you are waiting for a plane ….
Yet another annual visit is to Bortolotti www.bortolotti.com, this company really does make the best Prosecco. I described it in on a website report from Vinitaly as the Rolls-Royce of Proseccos. The basic Brut N.V. (100% Glera) is very forward peach/pear fragrance, a fine salinity on the finish. Exceptionally elegant and appealing.
Pietracupa Fiano. Simply the best Fiano I have ever taste. Older vintages continue to have firm structure and fine, enticing fragrances.
Donnafugata (www.donnafugata.it ), Lighea (100% Zibbibo – a.k.a. Moscato di Alessandra) grown on the island of Pantelleria. On the nose the wine bursts with sweet, ripe fruit (apricot, a sweet grapiness). Some drink this as an aperitif. For me the nose is too potent for that use, instead serve it at table—the sweet flesh of lobster or crab might make a good pairing.
I drop by for my annual visit to the Bucci (www.bucciwines.com ) stand. I like Mr. Bucci. Fortunately I also like his wines. They are elegant, smooth and built to last. Particularly appealing this year was 2012 Villa Bucci Verdicchio – elderflower fragrance and rich and lively on the palate. A broad but supple fabric of fruit. Mr. Bucci suggests serving it with the summer dishes – chicken in aspic or vitello tonnato.
Damilano (www.cantinadamilano.it). I taste through several of their wines and note a fresh, zippy house style. Their Cannubi Barolo 2009 has an elegant nose, on the palate it blooms with soft but precise fruit, alongside a smoky undertone. Silky texture. Very nice appealing wine.
– I was willingly pulled into the Nino Franco tasting area and tasted through some of their wines with Annalisa Franco. My favorite wine was the Primo Franco Prosecco (100% Glera). Lovely, forward nose. Ripe pear on the nose and palate. Long, fruit-filled finish. English chef Rick Stern paired this wine with Goan Lobster Curry. OOOO, what a good idea! Annalisa also showed me the brochures for her stately guest house Villa Barberina. www.villabarberina.it
More sparkling wine. We (Michael and I) taste through the range at Bellavista (www.bellavistawine.it). Franciacorta is a small zine in Lombardy that produces top-notch sparkling wines using the Champagne method of second fermentation in bottle. Fabio, the agronomist, pours for us. “I would like to ask the signora to taste again and make your description just with your hands,” he says, referring to the fact that when I am trying to find a word I automatically find myself miming the sensations. I can’t help myself.
My favorite wine 2006 Riserva Vittorio Moretti. (Pinot Nero, plus some Chardonnay, old vines) A broad, uplifting nose – like silk rising on a puff of air. On the palate the same image forms in my mind: silk on a breezed.
On to Berlucchi (www.berlucchi.it), where Mr. Ziliani (whose family owns the Berlucchi winery) suggests matching the company’s 61 Rose Franciacorta (60% Pinot Nero, 40% Chardonnay) with crustaceans, prosciutto crudo or risotto. “Rosé is a type of wine we have experimented with a lot,” he says. “I personally like rosé, it combines the elegance and freshness of Chardonnay with the body and texture of Pinot Nero.”
Final stop of the fair: Villa (www.villafranciacorta.it) in Franciacorta. Brut 2009 Emozione (85% Chardonnay, 10% Pinot Nero, 5% Pinto Bianco). Very smooth, ideas of delicate fruit. “Almost a touch of earthiness,” says Michael.
My favorite quote from the fair: The World is small, but Vinitaly is large. If there is someone that you do not want to see, you can be sure to run into him at Vinitaly,” said our pal Franco, owner of the Osteria Sottoriva in Verona.
I went to a large Gala Dinner during the Vinitaly wine fair. There were 6 of us at our table, 3 of whom immediately whipped out their cellphones and peered intently into their glowing screens. They stayed in this position during the starter and managed to eat a few spoonfuls of the soup, while glancing at their little phones. They did not speak to the other diners. I wondered if it would be considered bad manners for me to pull out my pen and Sudoku magazine and begin filling in squares. I decided it would.
5 April Canova’s Garden
Italian wine producers are always trying to link their product to Art. Seldom do they actually seem to be truly interested in the subject. It’s like people who go to fancy dinners in order “to be seen” as opposed to going to a dinner to chat with people and enjoy an evening out.
The financial and organizational support that the Guerrieri Rizzardi wine company gives to the annual Canaova Prize is one of the very few collaborations in which the motivation is art and not just “being seen” to support Art.
The Prize goes each year to a young Italian sculptor/sculptress, and includes the opportunity to show his/her work at the Museo e Gipsoteca Antonio Canova in the tiny town of Possagno, in the province of Treviso. Though the town is small (some 2000 inhabitants) the number of visitors to the museum runs into the tens of thousands.
The museum itself is located in the family home of Canova and surrounds a wonderfully fragrant garden filled with exotic trees and bright flowers. “I love this place,” says the Contessa Guerrieri Rizzardi, as we walked down the gravel path. “It is like another world here. I lived not far from this museum when I was a girl and I remember coming here and being enchanted by the place. This is Canova’s garden.”
The artist featured this year was Alberto Gianfreda, he entitled this collection of his work: Earthquake Museo. My favorite piece is: Earthquake Mano.
Later we visited the Cemetery where Canova is buried.