23 April – A Big Game between Chievo and Torino
As usual the “Chievo is Life” soccer fan club invited fans from Torino to lunch. I will always love Chievo fans for their good sportsmanship. Oh, if only all sports fans could be so generous and gallant.
15 April A visit to Valpolicella
Ricardo (who imports Italian wine into Peru) and his friend Soledad (a wine journalist from Lima) picked us up and took us to Tenuta Sant’Antonio (www.tenutasantantonio.it ) for a visit and tasting. Soledad was in town for the annual Vinitaly wine trade fair at which Ricardo had organized a tasting of Pisco, a wine-based distillate, with an alcohol level of between 40 and 48°.
We talked about wine fairs and Soledad told us about one held in Lima.” The problem was they also had Pisco at the fair. People would go from wine to Pisco and then back to wine and then back to Pisco and then…to the floor.”
We arrived at our destination and were met by Armando Castagnedi. Fifteen years ago, Michael and I were in London for a tasting of Italian wines. Armando was there and in those days spoke no English. After the tasting, he was at loose ends so we invited him to go with us to see Chicago. This was the first time he had seen a musical and his first time in an English theatre. It was wonderful watching his face. He was in thrall. Now that he can speak English he was able to say: “The show was great!
www.youtube.com/watch?v=qpMtrj4FhzMda A link from a Hollywood Bowl production. The camerawork is a bit shaky at first but it gives an idea of what the production is like on stage.
We visited the impressive winery and tasted through an astonishing number of wines. I will not load you up with a pile of tasting notes. Just one: 2015 Monte Ceriani Soave cru – a nice little dance of mandarin-tinged acidity dances across the palate.
We had arrived at around 10:30 and left at 2:30 – starving. We stopped at a wide spot in the road called San Bricco. Even though the kitchen was closed, the owner kindly brought us some excellent sliced meats, cheese and vegetables in a light vinegar. She brought us a bottle of Valpolicella that was just exactly what we wanted: fruity, easy to drink and satisfying. We asked who made and she said: My dad.
Dad turned out to Giovanni Ruffo. I told her that I had tasted his wines and really like them and had written about him on Facebook. To which she replied: “No, you must mean my uncle.” I insisted and she refused to be swayed. Fortunately, Michael had a photo of Dad at the tasting, which did indeed convince her.
Here is what I wrote in my February Diary and on Facebook:
I adore the annual Amarone tasting at Villa de Winckels (www.villadewinckels.it) because it includes everyone: from International stars and local heros to the man pictured, Giovanni Ruffo. He makes very nice wines. His annual production is: 650 bottles of Amarone and around 3,000 of Valpolicella, all of which he sells at three local restaurants.
English Lesson: The expression “wide spot in the road” means a teeny, tiny village.
9-12 April Vinitaly Frolics and a digression about Remembrances of Boyfriends Past
I will not fill this page up with tasting notes. Anyone reading this should know that I like supple wines that have firm characters; I like wines that combine intellectual pleasure (complexity, the emergence of tertiary aromas) with visceral pleasure (generosity of flavor, sprightliness on the palate).
Here is a list of the producers whose wines gave me pleasure:
Fattoria Zerbia. Owner/winemaker: Cristina Geminian. www.zerbina.com House style: Graceful lusciousness, wines with real staying power. I tasted the range from the juicy, appealing “500” to the vibrant 1997 Pietramora (100% Sangiovese), silky sensations from the start to the long finish, ideas of tart dark chocolate along with plumminess. Exciting wine. The last day of the fair we returned to Zerbina and finished Vinitaly with a vertical (2013, 2006, 1990) of her outstanding Scacco Matto: Sublime.
Drei Donà www.dreidona.it I have followed this winery since the early 90s. Year in and year out they have consistently produced richly flavorful and elegant wines. Among those I tasted today: 2006 Pruno (Sangiovese) – supple, round, long and flavorful finish, sheer elegance and 2005 Graf Noir (Sangiovese) the flavor unfurls on the palate like a bolt of silk.
Vignalta www.vignalta.it Another estate I have followed since the 1990s. The company goes from strength to strength: crisp, flavorful whites and luscious reds. Of the many wines I tasted I will force myself to choose one: 2012 Rosso (their entry level red): juicy, fruity (ripe cherries with a blackberry undertow), generous, appealing. The retail price is between 12 and 14 Euros. As Lucio Gomiero say: “It is a lot of wine for 14 Euros.”
Villa Bucci www.villabucci.com Riserva (Verdicchio) 2013 Elegant and fragrant. “We don’t bring young wines to the fair,” says Ampelio Bucci “For the Riserva it is even more important to wait.”
Ronc Soreli www.roncsoreli.com Friulano delle Robinie 2016 A fine example of Friulano. Also excellent wines made from the other indigenous varieties of the Friuli Region: Schioppettino, Ribolla Nera and Ribolla Gialla, among them.
Di Lenardo www.dilenardo.it Also based in Friuli. The Chardonnay 2016. Bright and fresh, with a lively citrusy dollop on the nose. Very pleasing.
Pagani – a Back to the Future Valpolicella. It is like fine Valpolicella used to be: sprightly and fruity. “Ours has this character because we use Molinara in the blend and lots of Corvina,” says Beatrice Pagani, owner and winemaker. www.vinipagani.it.
Vicentini – Soave DOC Terre Lunghe 2006 An excellent example of what a Soave should be: well-balanced, firm, floral and forthright. www.vinivicentini.com
Monte delle Vigna – Lambrusco (from the Lambrusco Maestre grape) was once again, elegant and a luscious pleasure to taste. Also of note the aromatic Callas (100 % Malvasia di Candia). www.montedellevigne.it
Here are a few notes on wines that I did not enjoy at the fair:
…appassimento does not help this. It’s like the wine is wearing a heavy woolen overcoat on a Spring day.
…a softness that slides into nothiningness.
…fiercely varietal. Interesting as a scientific experiment but I cannot imagine any human being actually drinking this outside the lab.
…a vapor of minerality is exhaled as the fruit brutally compresses
Did I taste every wine I wanted to, or see every old friend? No, I simply do not have the stamina (wait, change that to I never had the stamina) to walk around a trade fair for 5 or 6 hours, tasting wine in chaos.
This year I declined any invitations for gala dinners. I have come to realize that these things are seldom gala, the food is never as good as it is billed and – nowadays – there is always the chance of getting stuck at a table with young wine salesmen or marketing people who spend the evening staring into their cell phones.
Wine dinners used to be fun because, generally speaking, people who worked with wine were sociable – willing to chat and to listen, ready for some laughs. Those dear days are dwindling.
I am reminded of dates I had in New York City back when stock brokers referred to themselves as Masters of the Universe. A guy would ask me out and then spend the evening going over his resume. Does a woman really need to know what university you went to, or see your Phi Beta Kapa key, or know how important you are to your firm – all on a first date? Whenever I tried to steer the conversation to books, films, art, music, he would just steamroller on back to his favorite topics: himself and his importance. I sat through a few dinners like this bored outta my gord, thinking: why didn’t this guy just fax me his CV and spare us both a disappointing evening.
I soon got the lay of the land, and for the rest of my 9 years in New York I dated novelists, musicians, actors, artists and once a playwright and once a stand-up comedian. Whenever I said something funny, the stand-up comedian would not laugh, instead he would whip out his pen and notebook and say: “That’s good. Can I use that?”
I broke up with the playwright not long after a hugely invigorating fight we had on the subway. A couple of days later I happen to see the play he was working on up on his computer screen. A line on the electronic page jumped out at me and I sat down and read through the script…growing more incensed by the moment. Not only did he use verbatim the things I said BUT – what really made me angry was – he gave my best lines to the man in the scene. Whoa, you should have heard the dandy fight we had then. I am sure I gave him enough material to use for a decade or two.
English Lesson: Idiom: lay of the land. According to Merriam Webster the definition is “the disposition of circumstances which one is considering”.