Tidying my office I came across my cigar box of significant letters. Among them was one from Marvin Epstein (ancient Sherlockians may remember him). It was written from Paris where he and his wife were vacationing and were soon to leave for London and a dinner with Lady Jean Conan Doyle. Among the love and after-love letters I found one from a boy on whom I had a crush in High School and with whom, 15 years later, I had a brief but intense affair. I reread the letters written to me by my friend Helena during the months leading up to her death. We exchanged letters once a week and tried to keep things witty and wry. My goal was to make her laugh. She was gallant right up to the end.
I put the letters away and suddenly felt a great wave of pity for all the people under 40 who will never have a box of letters like mine, who will never know the visceral pleasure of holding that piece of lost time in their hands.
February 28 Annalisa’s unbirthday
She was born on the 29th of February. We stop by the Osteria Carroarmato, which Annalisa owns, to wish her well. Other old pals show up and she sits us down at table 1 (the staff table) and heads down to the cellar to start the parade of old bottles which we will taste together. (1994 Quintarelli Valpolicella, Alzero 1996, among others.) “I have a theory,” says Annalisa.” Before 2000 the focus was on making wine, after that time the focus was on making money.” She may have a point.
February 24 The Ceramics Museum in Faenza
During the night my flagging cold has rallied. I go to a lovely room in the museum where a tasting is to be held. It is a perfect venue: white walls, natural light, silence. I pick up the tasting sheet that lists around 100 wines.
My survival instinct kick in and I put the tasting sheet back on the table and walk to the nearest dark room. I sit on an upholstered love seat until I felt better. Then Michael and I have a nice leisurely stroll through the fabulous ceramics museum. It is inspiring, it is beautiful, it is thought provoking. I love this museum.
We then went outside and sat on a park bench in the sun for an hour: warm sun, cool breeze, bird song.
February 23 Romagna Sangiovese
I have the pleasure of attending a brief seminar about the newly designated sub-zones in the Region of Romagna. This is followed by a tasting of older vintages.
1994 Fattoria Zerbina Torre Ceparano. Sangiovese. Bright, vibrant ruby, with deep rose highlights. Clear, fresh, with a waves of ripe fruit on the nose: black currents, sour cherries. Rich, ripe and round on the palate. A candied cherry touch on the long finish. After 20 minutes in the glass the wine is still fresh and appealing. After 40 it is still giving pleasure.
“I have a lot of affection for this wine,” says Cristina Geminani, the owner and winemaker of Fattoria Zerbina. “When I planted this area I used the albarello training method. It is our first wine made with Albarello. The 1994 was made from 5 year old vines.”
“This is the first vintage realized by the Fiores,” says the moderator of the tasting.
1993 Zerbina Pietramora. Bright, softly-diffused deep rose over ruby. Nose: clean, warm, soft cfruit – chrries – rising on the nose. On the palateL elegant, firm fruit shaped by sill sprightly acidity. All of a iece.- like a bolt of silk unfurling.
After 20 minutes; still firm and fruity.
1979 Nicolucci Vigna del General (Riserva) Diffused browning ruby, clear rim. Still a note of freshness bursts through a slight oxidation. The wine is old BUT a pleasing fruit persists. Final verdict: an interesting experience rather than a pleasure-giving one.
1998 Giovanna Madonia Ombroso Nose: fresh with an undertow of ahses and a burst of decent cherry fruit. Vines planted in 1993.
Tasted and appreciated at dinner. 1998 Fattoria Paradiso Sangiovese di Romagna. I took no note but the wine left a good impression.
1996 Fattoria Zerbina Scaccomatto A sweet wine made from Albana grapes. Fresh, hazelnuts on the nose with a undertow of botrytis cinerea. Fresh a round swirling of fresh, apricots, candied apricots, green tea, tinned apricots, autumn leaves, figs, candied yellow plums. It is like a magician pulling a seemingly endless series of brightly colored scarves from his sleeve.
February 19 Wonderful Bucci
When the weather is on the cool side, I like to have a glass of red wine. Ampelio Bucci has sent some samples of his new vintages. I open a bottle of Bucci 2011 Tenuta Pongelli Rosso Piceno and serve it to 4 nascent winemakers (or more precisely wine making students.) None of them have ever had a wine from the Marche region before. It is a revelation for them. It is deep ruby, with purple highlights. On the nose it has hints of violets, spicy cloves and cherries. Dry, mouth-cleansing acidity. Medium-bodied. Soft tannins. A lovely wine.
February 18 Writing, writing writing
I finish the essays on Italian cheese, pasta, regions and life in Italy. These will appear in a booklet destined for the Singapore market. They were fun to write.
February 17 I begin to emerge from my congestion-filled miasma.
I searched for a wine to renew my interest in daily life and chose Notturno, a 100% Sangiovese IGT (Indicazione Geografica Tipica) from Romagna produced by the Drei Dona family. I made the right choice. It is a wonderful wine, one that can be matched with vegetarian cuisine as well as the traditional red meat and cheese pairings. Ah, satisfaction. What I want in this condition is a wine that has style and substance but which is also easy to drink. Hooray for Drei Dona. For my animal-centric pals, the Drei Dona family also has a nice pack of dogs (many of them strays) and some fine horses and a donkey.
First part of February: A Descent into Toxic Hell
For a number of unfortunate reasons I found myself in the nastiest of environments – mold spores, rising damp, horrible smells. The only way I could breathe was to sit next to an open window while a vicious storm raged outside.