February 2016

A Memory of Professor Eco
7 fiction corridorIt has taken me a while to come to terms with the death of Umberto Eco, whom I interviewed on September 21st of last year. I have never laughed so much while doing an interview. He told jokes while we waited for the elevator. He showed my husband and me his library, which – considering it consisted of over 30,000 books – was contained in every room in the apartment. “These are the Art and Architecture books. My wife is an architect,” he said, waving to a wall of books. “There is the philosophy section,” he said pointing to another wall. Here is a picture of Mr. Eco in his “fiction corridor. “These are German. These are English. Those American. Here are the Scandanavian…..” He told me it took around 6 years to write a novel. “So you must come back again when I am 90,” he said. I thought I would.


After I had finished my interview for Publishers Weekly about his new book, Numero Zero, I asked Professor Eco if I could interview him for my Sherlockian friends. He graciously agreed. That interview will be published in English in the Spring edition of the Serpentine Muse, the newsletter of The Adventuresses of Sherlock Holmes. An Italian translation will appear in the next issue of The Strand Magazine: Organo dell’Associazione Uno Studio in Holmes. This latter issue will be devoted entirely to Professor Eco.


2Here are some quotes : “There is also another distinction to consider, the one between narrative and mythography. For example, The Three Musketeers is wonderfully written, with a jazz style. The Count of Monte Cristo, on the other hand, is terribly written: it is like a muddy, sludge-filled river. But it, too, manages to create a myth that everyone knows and that has been reproduced in many films and many other forms – theatrical, radiophonic, television, etc.”


“So, there are texts that, from the point of view of aesthetics, don’t amount to much and were perhaps only written for the money but they have the power to create a myth. I think Sherlock Holmes belongs to the classification: mythography. It is not as if the works of Sherlock Holmes are written in a sublime way – like Dickens. But they have created a myth that would exist even if the stories no longer existed. The Holmes stories are models of inductive reasoning and they are therefore very interesting beyond being mere entertainment. I don’t think that they carry with them great philosophical merit because the philosophy in which Conan Doyle believed was spiritualism – at night making little tables dance around.” Eco s fingers flutter as if distributing fairy dust.

This was taped to his office wall
This was taped to his office wall

I asked the Professor if he planned on writing more about Sherlock Holmes. “I have written about Holmes in many other books, not only in the Sign of Three. So I have written enough about him.” Eco leans back in his chair, in a contemplative mood. “If I were to belong to a fraternity of or sect it would not be that of Sherlock Holmes but rather Nero Wolfe.” He smiles, a glint of the exuberant zeal of a fan lights up his eyes. “I paid ten dollars to receive their newsletter.” His rumbling laugh fills the room. “I know all of the Nero Wolfe stories by heart!” Ah, spoken like a true fan.

Here is a link to the Publishers Weekly interview:


28 February Elena Gladkova in Verona
We met up with Russian film director Elena Gladkova. Here is a link to one of her films: the delightful Jazz etude 2014. The audio is music and ambient sound so don’t be afraid to watch it – you don’t have to speak Russian. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TBm4ItGEwvQ&feature=youtu.be


Stanley and I then set off for the Osteria Carro Armato to celebrate the birthday of Annalisa (the owner and my best Italian friend). Among the wines: a 1998 Fratta from Maculan. It was surprisingly fresh and complex on the nose and palate, touches of mint. “It went from being in Maculan’s cellar to mine here at the Carro Armato, so its storage conditions were optimal,” said Annalisa, when we began enthusing about its vivacity.


25 February Amarone A-Go-Go at Villa de Winckles
Villa de Winckles (www. villadewinckels.com ), a hotel/restaurant in the Illasi Valley, organizes wonderful tastings. Tonight there were over 60 top notch Amarone producers on hand. I will admit that I did not try all 60 – I am only human. But of the 40 I did sample, here are some of my favorites (in no particular order).


2007 Santa Sofia “Gioè” (cherries and cream, long evolving finish); 2011 Speri (delivers a very good wine in commercial volumes, which is not an easy thing to do.); 2010 Dal Forno (cream soda and dark cherries, a raw silk texture); 2011Roccolo Grassi (hypnotic mingling of austerity and lush fruit); 2010 Accordini Stefano “Acinatico” (elegant balance of fruit); 2011 Begali (juicy, satisfying); 2009 Pietro Zanoni (amalgam of black and red berry fruit) and the wonderful 2011 Corte Scaletta (juicy, figgy, pruney, luscious).


22 February Sangiovese di Romagna – one of my favorite annual tastings

Cristina's Caffeine Molecule earrings
Cristina’s Caffeine Molecule earrings

We went to Faenza, a town world famous for its museum devoted to ceramics, for one of my favorite annual events: the tasting of Sangiovese di Romagna. Year in and year out, my top producers at this event remain Fattoria Zerbina and Dre Dona.


Fattoria Zerbina: Cristina Geminiani makes consistently outstanding wines – juicy, elegant and long-lived. If you see a Zerbina wine on a list – buy it. There is simply nothing else to add.  Here is a photo of Cristina in her caffeine molecule earrings.
Dre Dona: when I taste these wines and immediately think of all the ways they can be paired with food.


11 Klimt the-kiss-1908(1)A New Entry at this tasting was a wine called Famous…because it is made from an local indigenous variety that goes by the name of Famoso (aka Uva Rambela). It is produced by the Romagna winery Santa Lucia (http://www.santaluciavinery.it ). This vibrant white wine has a finely-knit texture, with touches of sage and mint on the nose and palate.


The label is particularly attractive and I asked Paride Benedetti, owner of S. Lucia about it. “I was in Austria and my colleagues took me to the Klimt museum. And there I saw The Kiss for the first time. I stood in front of it rapt. I looked at it and saw grapes. So I brought my graphic designer to the museum and said: that’s what I want.”
The wine has everything, a good story, an original flavor…and its organic!


9The town of Faenza was also hosting an art exhibit featuring cat-themed ceramics, paintings, tiles and dolls. It is held every year because – as I was told – February is Cat Month.



1NOVEMBER’S WINE OF THE MONTH: DREI DONA 2010 Cuvee Palazza Sangiovese Superiore Riserva Its fragrance of warm, ripe fruit (plums and black cherries) is echoed on the silky (near velvety) palate.  The finish is long and flavorful. A very satisfying wine.

Let me go on record as saying that I am partial to wines from DREI DONA (www.dreidona.it). They often have a rich fruitiness that makes them extraordinarily well suited for vegetarian dishes. Yes, they also work well with red meat and cheese based dishes. However, every time I taste a Drei Dona Sangiovese, vegetarian food pairings pop into my mind: bean burritos, tofu chili, lentil casserole or walnut and gorgonzola pasta sauce.  

However, I will confess that the day after I opened the bottle for tasting, I drank a glass with my lunch:  hamburgers and French fries.  Not chic but satisfying.

24 November THE BEST (light and fruity) OLIVE OIL IN THE WORLD

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAWe take the bus out to the Ilasi Valley to visit the BONAMINI Olive Oil estate (www.oliobonamini.com).  For 5 years running their olive oil has won the Light & Fruity category in the FLOS OLEI Guidei. In 2013, they won out over 3000 producers from 5 continents.

The estate has 3,800 olive trees on two hectares of land. Their major export markets are the USA (importers in New York and the San Francisco area) and Northern Europe. 

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAThe guide describes their oil as “complex and round, elegant hints of tomato, apple and banana, with lettuce and celery notes.”

I asked Sabrina Bonamini how she would describe her winning oil. “Elegant. Is the most important descriptive word,” she said.

23 November: GOING HOME

I wake up and weigh the options for the day: stay in Trento until late afternoon or go home and finish writing a chapter for a book.  I choose the latter. 

Michael goes to the Chievo vs Helas-Verona soccer game.  Our team is Chievo.  Cheivo is a small suburb of Verona. One of the reasons we are so fond of this team is the remarkable sportsmanship demonstrated by both the players and the fans.  

Well, Helas Verona lost and Michael and some 500 other Chievo supporters were trapped inside the stadium while the police tried to round up and control the Helas- Verona Hooligans.   He called at 8:30 to say he would be late for dinner.  He called a half hour later not sure when he would get out of the stadium.  He came home a little after 10 p.m.


4I can hear some of you saying: What in the world is Trentodoc?  Well, it is one of the best kept secrets in the world of sparkling wine.  Its name refers to wines made with the Champagne method (second fermentation in bottle) and produced in the region of Trentino.  These wines are usually made from Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco and Pinot Noir (known as Pinot Nero in Italy).  Trentodoc was awarded the DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) in 1990, the first sparkling wine zone in Italy to receive this designation.

The historic name in Trentino sparkling wines is enologist Giulio FERRARI. It was he who, in 1902, created the Ferrari wine company with the aim of producing wines using the Champagne method.  In 1952, Bruno Lunelli teamed up with Giulio, and together they helped lead the way toward the success of Trentodoc. 

Below you will find deep-fried polenta on a stick.

Deep-fried Polenta on a Stick

I arrive at the Palazzo Roccabruna in the heart of Trento at 10:30 and sit down to blind taste more than 60 wines. A blind tasting is one where the taster is presented with the wine without knowing who made it. 

Here are the names of the producers whose wines captured my highest marks in the blind tasting:  FERRARI, MASO  MARTIS, REVI, ENDRIZZI, SAN MICHELE, GAIERHOF, METHIUS, PISONI, CONTI WALLENBURG, ROTARI and ALTREMASI.  Let me say, that the general standard among Trentodoc producers is very high; there were no duff wines.  

 The Trentodoc that I found exceptionally interesting based on its vintage was the 2002 GIULIO FERRARI RISERVA DEL FONDATORE BRUT.  The yellow-gold wine was mature as indicated by its notes of fresh hazelnuts on the nose. It had a sherbet-like texture and a fine weave of fresh hazelnuts and lemon zest on the palate.

 I opened a bottle of FERRARI 2002 Riserva Lunelli Extra Brut Trentodoc last Christmas and it too was lively and intriguing: Bright, and rich, with citrus notes enlivening the palate. Flavors of cream soda and mandarin orange.   

Our Guide
Our Guide

In the evening, after the tasting, we visit Trento’s natural history museum, the MUSE (www.muse.it). Every time the guide asks for a volunteer I step up. As a result I shook hands with a robot and had a minute massage on a board labeled “The Fakir’s Bed”. 

We then don our coats, hats and scarves and head to a nearby building. As I stand spooning soup into my gob, with creaky Techno music thumping all around me, I realize that I don’t need to stay.  I’ve done my job – blind tasted the wines, smiled or chatted with the producers I like & tried to sell an article about the experience – and in return the organizers of the event have given me a dandy tour of a swell museum.


The King of Torbolino
The King of Torbolino

We miss our connecting bus and arrive in Soave an hour late.  This turns out to be a good thing because dinner has not yet been served.  All we have missed are the speeches by politicians.  Hooray! 

The Soavettes (as I call the nice ladies at the Soave Consortium) have saved us a seat across from the Torbolino King.  What is Tobolino?  It is a dialect word for grape must that has started to ferment….it is halfway between grape must and wine.  We ask the King how he came to receive this honor. “People vote for the king…so I bought a lot of rounds at the bar,” he says.

Soave is served. On our table there were Soaves from two of my favorite producers: VICENTINI and MONDE TONDO.

November 11 TEAM GARBOLE

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAEttore and Filippo Finetto founders of the GARBOLE winery and protégées of ROMANO DAL FORNO have invited us to join them and 15 others to dine at the POMIEROEU restaurant (www.pomiroeu.it) in Seregno. The Pomieroeu is a bit like Brigadoon – it is difficult to find but once you have found it you never want to leave.

Chef Giancarlo Morelli and his colleague Lorenzo Cogo prepared a tasting menu that was simply fabulous.  My favorite dish was served on a cold slate slab…first a sprinkling of toasted brioche crumbs, on top of this beaten raw shrimp – all this covered with feathery grated foie gras.  I felt blessed to be at this table.

Quotes from the evening:

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA“The company was born from our ideas. It was not a father to son affair,” says Ettore. “Our dad was a carpenter. He drank wine and was the extent of his interest in it. But we always helped my uncle who had some vineyards.  In 1996 he had a heart attack and we kept his vineyards going by working there a couple of days a week. Then we visited the BERTANI wine estate and that changed everything for us.  We were so impressed that we decided to make wine ourselves.”

After tasting their wines, it is clear to see why Dal Forno has taken such a shine to the Garbole boys.

I particularly liked their 2009 NON-Valpolicella called L’ HELETTO.  By non-Valpolicella I mean that it could use the designation Valpolicella Superiore but the  producers have chosen not to do so.

And, indeed, the wine is so rich and full and has such a complex layering of flavors that it does transcend the word Valpolicella. Deep, opaque yet vibrant ruby/black. A chocolate fusion on the nose and palate.  Almost candied on the finish. Spicy. An evolving flavor of fruit (cherries, black berries) nuts (almonds, fresh hazelnuts), a dash of citrus fruit. And a fine sprinkling of spice (cinnamon and turmeric).

Another very interesting wine was their HURLO 2008, with its opaque ruby, near-black color. A very grapey richness, almost creamy on the palate.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAAt a bit after 2 a.m., we all decide to wander out into the night. “NO,” commanded Chef Morelli. “You have to taste my gin and tonics!”

We sit and a superb G&T, garnished with a juniper berry and a thick bit of lime peel, is produced.

At a little after 3, we make our way to the Garbole-mobile.  Ettore and Filippo kindly offered to take us to the dinner and return us to Verona.  At 6a.m. I fall into bed….