November 2014

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA22 November Opening a Canadian market!!!- Ah, maybe.
A Facebook Friend who lives in Canada contacted Laura from Terre di Pietra (www. terredipietra.it) about placing her wines in Canada after seeing her mentioned in my FB message. This pleases me to no end. Very nice people – veeerrrry nice wines. I hope I can put more good producers in contact with someone who can help them expand their markets.

21 November Annual Lunch with Cantina del Soave
Café Vittorio Emanule in Piazza Bra. The view from the window says it all. I like the guys (I mean the president and director, of course) from the Cantina del Soave. They are jolly and sincere. Of the many wines they make, I particularly like the Equipe 5, a very decent and reasonably priced sparkling wine. They also do a jim-dandy Durello.

 

20 November Off to Villa di Wyncles to taste Valpolicella and Smooze
KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAClementina (pictured here) Palese and Alessandra Piubella (wow, what a great name – Morelovely. It sounds like a James Bond Girl name. I also know an Italian journalist whose last name is Bellagamba (beautiful leg!). But I digress…..

Clementina and Alessandra pick me up and we set off for the Illasi valley, east of Verona and Villa De Wyncles. This hotel/restaurant organizes wonderful tastings.

Tonight 50 Valpolicella producers are on hand. I will state right now that I did not taste all of the wines. We arrived at 7pm and I tasted til 9pm, after that I felt it would be useless to go through the motions. I was tired and when I am tired I tend to be hyper critical when I taste. So, better to simply take note of the names of producers I did not taste and vow to try them on another occasion. That said…

There were seven producers that particularly impressed me:

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAVicentini Valpolicella Superiore 2011– the wine unfolds on the palate like one of those Chinese tea flowers – lush and lovely. Readers of this diary know that I am fond of Agostino Vicentini because he does not mince words – he says exactly what he thinks without holding back.

“I am sick of ripasso,” he said. Do you wonder why I love this guy? I could not agree with him more.

 

 

A LESSON: Simply put, Ripasso on the label of a Valpolicella means that the grapes for the Valpolicella were refermented on the lees/pomace of the preceding year’s Amarone.

Many of the Ripassos I tasted at this event had a thick flavor…it was like popping a gelatin cube in your mouth. I do not find this a pleasant experience.
But back to the wines I particularly liked…

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERATerre di Pietra Vigne del Peste 2012 – lovely tight weave of rich flavors.
“I wanted to present a Valpolicella without wood, without appassiment,” says Laura Albertini, co- owner of the estate.

I also liked her 2009 Valpolicella Classico Superiore Mesal – pure, fresh, with a fine perfume. A very different style that the first wine but equally interesting and satisfying.
Here are some quotes from a previous interview I did with Laura.

“I wanted to work in the vineyards but my father was against it. He said women worked in the office not in the fields,” says Laura. “Fortunately my husband’s father didn’t mind if I worked his vineyards. We made our first wines in his garage.”

Her own father was not happy with Laura’s decision. “For the first few years my father criticized everything I did. Now he comes out to the field when I’m working just to chat,” she pauses and smiles. “So, it looks like I won in the end.”

Fattoria Garbole weighed in with what is not – technically speaking – a Valpolicella but an IGT called Heletto , a satisfying wine.

As always special mention to Speri. Why special mention? Because the company makes bright, fresh, tasty, satisfying wines…in large numbers. They make 70,000 bottles of their 2011 S. Urbano Valpolicella Superiore, which had a lovely burst of fruit on the palate.

Tedeschi 2011 Valpolicella Superiore Maternigo Fresh appealing with a compression of black cherries and black berries.

Marion 2010 Valpolicella Superiore Hebaceous on the nose and palate but with a deep note of fruit.

Ca dei Conti Valpolicella Superiore 2011 (I can see serving this in an American restaurant.)

Antolini 2012 Ripasso (yes, ripasso) but elegant and fresh on the palate.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAClementina, Alessandra, Ottmar and I were nattering away about the problem of defining the taste profile for Valpolicella when Leonido Pieropan stopped by the table.

“What is Valpolicella?” someone asked him.

“It’s pleasure,” he said, smiling broadly.

He then sat down and the conversation continued. We of course got around to talking a bit about Soave because Pieropan is the father of single-vineyard Soaves.

“I spoke with Lorenzoni (the director of the Soave Consortium) the other day,” he said.”And I said that the best way to distinguish Soave Classico was to have all the producers in the area go organic!”

What a wonderful idea. Eventually this will happen….but don’t hold your breath.

 

17 November Viva The Adventuresses!
I have been a member of the Adventuresses of Sherlock Holmes since 1982. I lived in New York City in those days and enjoyed the monthly meetings, where eating, drinking and singing were the order of the day. I left New York (for Paris, London and finally Verona) many years ago, but my memory of those early ASH frolics remains bright. Every now and then, I supply an essay or a report on the Sherlockian doings in Verona for New York meetings. The following paper was delivered on my behalf by Evelyn, The Principal Unprincipled Adventuress, at the ASH Autumn Lunch.

The Assorted and Stradivarious of Verona Septennial Report
After a flurry of industry on the part of The Assorted and Stradivarious of Verona that included a detective film series and field trips to the Lucrezia Borgia exhibition in Ferrara and the violin museum in Cremona, we have settled down to become a stopping-off point for Sherlockian world travelers.

bacchusOur most recent visitor was Peter Calamai of Ottawa, his wife and their travelling companions. A ritual has evolved for these visits. First we meet in Piazza delle Erbe for drinks at the Filipini and then off to the Osteria Carro Armato (this means Tank in Italian, and refers to one designed by Michelangelo), where a good time is had by all. Various Italian friends wander up to the table to entertain with poetry (this is Ugo) and anecdotes about North American history and literature (this is Davide). General good cheer is provided by Annalisa, who owns the place.
The A&S of Verona still mainly consists of Michael and me….and – in a strange alternate universe kind of way – Bruce.

We met Bruce at the first meeting of the Assorted and Stradivarious, which was announced in the local newspaper. Bruce, who is an Italian bank employee, has assumed his nom de Holmes in honor of Nigel Bruce. He is a collector of films and books, and he believes that the other Italian Sherlockians don’t take him seriously. He is, of course, absolutely correct.

While I find him a strange cove I still feel the need to defend him from his countrymen. He may be a mad Sherlockian but he is MY mad Sherlockian.
It is clear to all that Bruce’s Sherlockian interest is more a symptom than a hobby. I am sure that you have all heard of autistic children who can play complicated piano concertos but who cannot tie their shoes. Well, that’s Bruce. His balding head is chocked full of erudition and arcane Sherlockian facts but he is incapable of schmoozing, or even holding what would pass for a normal conversation.
When I lived in the center of town Bruce used to hang about on the street waiting for me to come out of my building so that he could launch into his most recent Sherlockian riff.

8Two years ago we moved to a neighborhood some 15 minutes on foot from our former apartment. We had not been there a day before I got a call from Bruce. He wanted to know my new address. I was cagey, I admit, and only told him the general area. The next day – yes, the next day – I was out walking the dog and spotted Bruce on his motor-scooter, cruising the streets. Unfortunately, he also spotted me. We chatted and I confessed that I did indeed live in the building on the corner. Now when I come home I occasionally find him astride his motor-scooter on the pavement by my front gate.

In the center of town he could hang out at the comic book store or the record shop. Or he could sit and have a coffee at the bar. My new neighborhood is strictly residential. I have no idea how he amuses himself while he waits for me.
His infrequent appearances no longer fill me with dread. I realize that I am providing a therapeutic service to a lonely Sherlockian and were it not for these occasional face to face meetings he would most likely be sucked into a world filled only with Facebook Friends. As a faithful Sherlockian, I cannot allow that to happen.

Bruce rang last night. He had commissioned a 90-centimetre (that is nearly 3-feet) puppazzo of Sherlock Holmes, with a latex face fashioned after that of Peter Cushing. “I have it sitting in a chair in my living room. It really scared my cleaning lady the first time she saw it,” Bruce joyously crowed. He then went on to outline a project he has been working on for the last several years, and to lament that he did not get the support he deserved from the Italian Sherlockian Community. I remained neutral. Then he said: “It doesn’t matter if they understand my work or not: The Sherlockian World is big enough for everybody!”
Once again, Bruce is, of course, absolutely correct.

 

November 15 Art in the hills
KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAWe go to a beautiful little town in the Valpolicella Classico hills to see an art show by Ico Naline. I like his style.

Someone says: “How wonderful to live here.” I recoil in horror. It reminds me of the Village in the ‘60s cult TV show The Prisoner – everything is so quaint and cute. How long, I ask myself, could I stay here before looking for an escape route. I have the answer to this: 45 minutes. I find myself looking down at the view and wondering if I could scale the fence and make it to the shelter of the trees without being seen. And could I avoid capture and make it down to the highway?

OCTOBER 2014

31 October
1Our pal Ugo teaches small children at a public school. Because he is a lively person the school board decided that he should be the school’s English teacher. Fine – except for the fact that he does not speak English. The school board sent him to an accelerated 6 week course. Fine – except for the fact that Michael did his homework for him.
Well, Ugo called Michael and asked him to come to his classes today to explain Halloween. Michael, quick thinker that he is, said: “But Halloween is an American holiday, Patricia should come too.” I spent the morning drawing witches and pumpkins on the blackboard, which I enjoyed. And Michael and I repeated HALLOWEEN! TRICK OR TREAT! WITCH! HAT! overandoverandoeverandover again.

 

 

25 October – The Byblos Art Hotel (www.byblosarthotel.com)

We are invited to take part in an artistic field trip organized by Ten Star community. I cannot even begin to tell you how beautiful and creatively invigorating the Byblos Art Hotel is. I took no pictures because I knew that any photo I took would never convey the feel of the place. Among my favorite works of art was a beautifully restored 1950s juke box that played recordings of poetry rather than music. Works by Damien Hirst and Vanessa Beecroft, as if by magic, fit comfortably into the the grandeur of the Venetian Villa’s main reception room. The tuna at the buffet wasn’t bad either.

 

13 October – Bacchus of Baker Street is mentioned in the Guardian!
bacchusTim Kline, a fellow Sherlockian, kindly sent me a link to the article.
http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/oct/11/sherlock-holmes-exhibition-museum-london-dispelling-myths

It is once again time to say that there is a at least one creepy pirated version of Bacchus out there in the world. The cover you see here – with the nice Basil Rathbone-esque Holmes drawn by Gianni Burato – is the Real Version. Accept no substitutes.

 

 

October 11 The Canova Prize
Guerrieri Rizzardi (www.guerrieri-rizzardi.it) hosted the annual Antonio Canova sculpture competition, which offers young Italian artists an opportunity for international exposure. Works by the finalists were displayed at Villa Rizzardi, which is surrounded by a stunning garden designed by 18th century architect Luigi Trezza (www.pojega.it).
For the first time since its inception, I could not attend the prize giving ceremony. I sincerely regret this because I love this prize. Here’s why:
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 provided by the Guerrieri Rizzardi wine company is one of the very few collaborations in which the motivation is art and not just “being seen” to support Art.
This year’s winner is Maria Savoldi, 25, from the Accademia delle Belle Arti di Bologna

 

 

10, 11 and 12 October In Friuli-landia for the Scioppettino Fest
3 vineyard shotScioppettino appeared on the Friulian wine scene around 1300. It is primarily cultivated in the hills and foothills of the commune of Prepotto. In its early days, Schioppettino was more commonly known as Ribolla Nera.
In the years following the outbreak of phylloxera (a vine louse that infected many of the vineyards of Europe in the late 19th and early 20th century), Schioppettino lost ground to heartier-high-yielding varieties. The 1970s and 1980s saw renewed interest in Scioppettino, and in 1992, it joined the list of varietal wines made in the Colli Orientali del Friuli DOC zone.
Scioppettiono has a dark ruby color, and is full bodied, with a soft black pepper tone over richly textured fruit flavors, which include wild blackberries, raspberries and blackcurrants
The lesson is over, we can now return to the diary…

We – me, Michael and Stanley J. Dog – arrive at the tiny train station of Cividale del Friuli and after much toing-and-froing arrive at the B&B Il Vecchio Gelso, which also produces wine. The staff is gearing up for its post-harvest picker’s party. The owner shows us the certificates that will be awarded to The Harvester Who Always Arrived On Time, the one who Picked The Most in a Single Day and The Biggest Brontolone (grouch).

 

5 with taniaThen we are off to a dinner with producers at Ristorante da Mario in Abano – and a fine wingding it is too! Marco Grasso, the owner, is exceptionally kind to small Stanley, bringing him water and informing him that the meat course would arrive soon. The food is excellent, as is the company.
By chance, we sit at the table hosted by Flavio Schiratti, owner of RoncSoreli and Tania, his able marketing director. I am relieved to discover that I really like his wines. They are very well- balanced, juicy and satisfying. Here is a photo of Tania and me, note the leash attractively looped around my neck.

 

 

 

 

4 weedWe arrive back at Il Vecchio Gelso around 1 a.m., in time to hear the last blast of the harvester’s ball. The happy harvesters are singing and bopping along to the Black Eyed Peas – let’s get it started…in here!

The next day we are informed about a European Union Project that combines research and promotional activities between the wine producers in Propetto and their neighbors over the hill in Slovenia. Then we stroll down the street to watch the blessing of the new open air exhibition space (and potential roller-skating rink). In the space are local foods and wines are on sale, as well as kiosks offering 5 or 6 other local (Slovenian and Friulian) products. Among these is Konopljino Olje – Yes! Oil made from Cannabis Sativa. Note the happy dancing plant on the labels.

It tastes vaguely like peanut skins. It probably doesn’t have any mood-altering properties. We could not resist buying a bottle. “It will be a talking point,” said Michael. The nice man who sold the oil to us (and threw in the flour for free) said it was good for the digestion.

 

Off to Castello di Albana for a tasting of Scioppettinos. The fellow leading the tasting barked out a loud, maniacal laugh whenever he said something that he thought was amusing. Fortunately this didn’t happen all that often.

 

The Contessa of the Castella (a.k.a. Isabel von Teufenstein, Financial Assitant/Programme Manager for European Cross-Border Co-Operation) says I can let Stanley off his lead. He races around the courtyard – a wild and free smallish dog. She finds a stick and the three of us attempt to engage Stanley in a game of chase and fetch. Isabel’s family also happens to own a winery in Switzerland – Tenuta Bally & von Teufenstein ( www.tenutabally.ch ).

 

We visit the RoncSoreli estate. It will be a real showplace once construction of the additions to the winery are completed. Again, I am delighted that the wines; they are fresh and flavorful and very well made.
Back to town…

 

8 HildaAfter a bit of aimless roaming and waiting around, Paolo I. (the valiant organizer of this 3-day event) whizzes us in his van to Vigna Petrussa (www.vignapetrussa.it).

This lovely estate is owned and managed by the dynamic Hilde Petrussa. What was intended to be a winery visit and tasting instantly became a relaxing, amusing party among friends. Some fifteen of us settled chairs in the fragrant garden and chatted and tasted some exceptional wines. Among them her superb Picolit.

 

7 crates of grapesPicolit’s production zone is limited to the Friulian Province of Gorizio and Udine. The variety seems to have arrived on the scene in a blaze of glory in the late 18th century, when Count Fabio Asquini created a market for a sweet wine made from Picolit grapes, which he considered an alternative to Hungarian Tokay. The grapes for Picolit are usually semi-dried before pressing.

 

2 October Lunch with Angelo P. at Trattoria Al Pompiere (www.alpompiere.tv/it)
11 angieAngelo asks me to pick the wine. I am uncomfortable picking wine when someone else is paying. I say I want something from Alsace or Loire and leave the fine tuning to him. He chooses a Marcel Deiss 2006 Marcel Altenberg de Bergheim. Oh, man, is it yummy – honied yet with a fine slicing acidity, a fragrance that excited the imagination. (www.marceldeiss.com. )
Among other things, Angleo wants to talk about the New Face of Bardolino. The producers are going for a paler, more Provençal-style rosé. I like Angelo. He is creative, intelligent and has a sense of humor.