First things first: Books

Every summer from the age of eight until I left for University followed the same pattern: I would soon be burnt to a red and painful crispiness by the Kansas sun and spend the rest of the summer in the shade with a tall glass of iced tea and a stack of detective novels. I would read through them one after another. When the stack was finished I would walk to the library to check out another stack or ride my bike around to garage sales, picking up Perry Masons for my Grandmother and assorted 5-cent books for myself.  Now – several decades later – to be paid to read books seems like a dream come true. Readers will understand the incredible pleasure there is to be had in saying as you stretch out on the divan with a book (or one hidden in a computer): “I’m working”.

New Years Eve with Chievo Fans

We have avoided gong out on New Years Eve for many years because of the fireworks that often accompany this event; Stanley, quite sensibly is afraid of the noise. The nice people at the Chievo fan club said: Bring him along.

There was another dog there and both Lucio (a big black something or other) and Stanley (a medium brown something or other) were very well behaved as were the assortment of children, who also attended. This is an artistic photo taken by Michael, with our pal Greta’s profile and Giovanni rattling the pots and pans.

December 26 Boxing Day Tea

Every year on we go to Ugo and Stefania’s for English Tea. Michael is the official Tea Master (because he is English), the ladies all wear hats, and we eat cucumber sandwiches.  Tea drifts into aperitif time and that leads on to dinner.

 

The Twins (Francesco and Giovanni) were home from their university experiences (F.’s in Singapore), G’s in Lisbon) and wanted to learn about wine tasting. We opened one of the wines that we had brought: a Coteaux du Layon 1996. It was stunning. This kind of wine is the reason that people become wine tasters: it is the thrilling combination of sensual and intellectual pleasure. Long, evolving, complex swirl of rich flavors all buoyed by sprightly, dancing acidity. Needless to say, the boys had never tasted anything like it and were entranced by its balance and enticing shifting pattern of flavors (ideas of quince, apricot, mandarin orange. A great way to bid goodbye to 2017

December 24/25 Annual Christmas party at Ugo’s

December 22 Big Cake

Michael donated a Big Cake to the Chievo fan Club dinner.  It provided many photo opportunities.

 

December 15 Donnafugata and the rest….

I opened a bottle of Donnafugta 2016 La Fuga Sicilia Chardonnay – bright, refreshing lively satisfying on the nose and palate, flavorful fruity finish, infused with sprightly notes of exotic fruits and greengage plums. I started thinking of the future – say 20 or so years from now – when I will (perhaps) be sitting in the old folk’s home.  I hope to heaven that wherever I am there are Donnafugata* wines on the menu. I told Michael this and he rolled his eyes and said: Magari (which can be loosely translated as: “Yeah, in your dreams!” ) And I guess he is right…. these are the satisfying (easy to drink yet intellectually interesting) wines that dance through my dreams.

 

And  Zanovello, Bucci, Drei Dona, Fattoria Zerbina. Gini and Podere San Cristoforo would be most welcome on that fictional winelist

December 13

Michael and I took a brief train ride to a small town and were picked up by Michael’s pal Lorenzo, who whisked us to her family’s offices to look at the new brochure and attendant material. For several hours Michael and I argued over word choice until we were pretty sure that the booklet would be a colossal success.  I love words and so does Michael, perhaps this is why we have remained happy together for all these years.

December 8 Children’s theatre

As I often do after seeing an old movie I often look up the cast members to see how their lives evolved over the years.  I looked up David Wood, who played Johnny in If… and read that he has become a leading light in children’s theatre in Britain, has written plays that have been performed around the world and that he wrote a book, which is aptly titled Theatre for Children: A guide to Writing, Adapting, Directing and Acting. I leaped from my chair and began scanning the bookshelves.  Yes, I have that book.  Here is why.

Twice our pal Ugo has pulled me into his orbit with the promise of securing a financial backer for a musical. The first time, we met at the Amnesia Café where he introduced me to a money-dispensing politician from Vicenza, a town an hour away from Verona by train. Over cool glasses of sparkling wine it was decided that I would write a children’s musical depicting the life of Jules Verne and that the Vicenza town council would foot the bill for the production. I was to have a cast of thirty children and adults that would include jugglers, acrobats and ballet dancers!  I was in heaven. Susan in Colorado and Rita in Kansas started sending me books on and by Jules Verne. I wrote six songs and studied stagecraft books in an attempt to figure out how to make fifty small “hot-air” balloons descend from the rafters of the theatre and how to make a volcano erupt on stage. Time passed and whenever I asked Ugo about the funding he was evasive. Jules Verne’s centennial came and went, and with it the dream of producing the show. Funding for it had wandered away while the politico was having drinks with someone else one late afternoon.

The second time Ugo encouraged Michael and me to write an original musical set in Verona. The only catch was that we needed to use his accordion playing pal Eugenio as the composer/arranger. While Michael and I were thinking of boffo end-of-act-one show-stoppers, Eugenio was thinking about a nice little thirty-minute chamber piece for accordion and guitar performed in Veronese dialect. Never has the phrase “artistic differences” had such resonance.

December 7  IF…

Michael and I took the bus to an outlying neighborhood of Verona to a small cinema to see If…  Neither of us had seen the film in a few decades. It was directed by Lindsay Anderson and came out in 1968.  Both Michael and I were too young in that period to see it then – it had an X rating after all.  It marked the first film role for Malcolm McDowell, and it was this film that led Stanley Kubrick to cast him in Clockwork Orange. If… won the Palme d’Or a Cannes and, as Wikipedia tells us “In 2017 a poll of 150 actors, directors, writers, producers and critics for Time Out magazine ranked it the 9th best British film ever.”  It was wonderful to see it again.

December 6 Marco Felluga and Mushroom Pie

I wanted something to go with my star anise-infused mushroom pie, so I opened a bottle of Marco Felluga Bianco.

Note: Fiercely bright, with a fine concentration of yellow color. On the nose, creamy, with a lemony note rising and lifting the broad fruit and vanilla notes of wood. On the palate, very round, with the flavors echoing the sensations on the nose Very satisfying…

 

APRIL 2016

First things first: Books

1-aprilThe very nice editor at Publishers Weekly came to the Adventuresses of Sherlock Holmes Spring lunch in New York and he brought me a book to read: Adam’s Rib by Antonio Manzini (Original Italian title: La Costola di Adamo). It is set in Aosta.  Yes, Aosta. The main character Rocco Schiavone is complex and intriguing and I will happily follow him into future adventures.

 

My pal Glenn from The Book Barn in Connecticut rounded up some books I wanted, and pals Kate and Ed brought them to New York for me.  These included several of the later Tony Hillermans.  I had asked Glenn to find the books Tony had written after I left New York in 1987.

 

When I returned to Verona I had the need to go and live in those books for a while. I read The First Eagle, The Thief of Time, Sacred Clowns and Talking God.  I really do love these books. Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee are people I like to be with.  I like to be in the beautiful and strange landscapes that Tony describes so eloquently.   I have a few more, but I will save those for another time when I am feeling nostalgic for Big Sky country.

 

People who have never lived on the Great Plains or in the desert really cannot understand the way such landscapes make a person feel.  I’ll try to explain: you feel small and by feeling small you allow yourself to become part of a greater whole.  Also what at first seems austere and arid is, on closer examination, juicily alive with beauty.  In the plains and desert you have to really look and by looking you see worlds within worlds.  Well, it seems I cannot express this concept as well as I’d like.  All I can suggest is this: go to the desert in springtime when tiny red and yellow flowers sprout on the upturned arms of giant cacti OR stand in the middle of a vast wheat field that stretches right up to the flat horizon line above which is an equally vast blue, cloudless sky. Then think about how you feel.

 

April 22 THANK YOU, SUSAN

Susan H. takes Michael and me to dinner at the Vescovo Moro. The food was good, the wine flowed freely and the talk touched on some shared favorite things: old roses with heady scents, Indian and Asian spices, friendship, etc.  A lovely evening.

 

April 10 to 13 VINITALY

Cristina from Zerbina
Cristina from Zerbina

Yes, the world’s largest annual trade fair took place once again.  I will spare you a long series of tasting notes.  Instead I will just list the wines that Rang My Chimes.  Suffice it to say, I recommend all these wines and the producers who made them.  If you see the producer’s name on a wine list, buy the wine. You will not be disappointed.

There were of course many great wines at the fair that I did not taste for lack of time.

 

WINES THAT RING MY CHIMES

Fattoria Zerbina Sangiovese di Romagna “Pietramora” I tasted a flight of older vintages: 1990, 1997, 2004, 2007.  Generally speaking, the wines were round, between velvet and silk, with an amalgam of fruit so firmly mixed that red berry and cherry fruits merge into one flavor.

Fattoria Zerbina  Albana Passito “Scaccomatto” – a flight of older vintages: 1990, 1992,1996, 1997, 2001. General style: All the components mesh seamlessly – honey, flowers and a squeeze of lemon.

Podera Sant Cristofo  Petite Verdot  2013 – Full, rich, fruity, appealing

Villa Bucci Verdicchio 2013 – Full perfume, a fine weave of elegant apricot and elderflower and bright salinity.

Raffaella Bologna kissing my husband
Raffaella Bologna kissing my husband

G.D. Vajra – Barolo “Liugi Baudana” 2012. – Luscious, heady, satisfying. I could go on and on.

Braida Barbera d’Asti “Bricco della Bigotta” 2014 – Just as luscious as ever.

Braida Bricco del Ucellone 2014 – Creamy, rich and round – like chocolate covered cherries.

Marina Cvetic Trebbiano dìAbruzzo 2013 – Elegant balance between wood and fruit.

2-aprilI had a job to do during the fair: taste wines from South Africa for an Italian/English language website.  I am glad this assignment came up because it is unlikely I would have taken a morning to concentrate on South African wines under usual Vinitaly conditions. There were some nice bright whites and rich reds.  Producers I liked:  Diemersdal, Idiom, Morgenster and Ayam.

 

April 1 through 7 NEW YORK, NEW YORK

5-aaprilI am indescribably happy to be in New York. Many of my dearest friends live here and things have been organized so that The Adventuresses of Sherlock Holmes will have their Spring Meeting during my visit.  Hooray!

Things I did that gave me great pleasure (besides just seeing and talking to wonderful people whom I have known for decades):

I went to see the Broadway Musical Something Rotten.  Fabulous choreography, great dancing, an appreciative audience, two songs that stick with you – who could ask for more.

Here is a link to the opening number: Welcome to the Renaissance.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9fvmVhpc0fc

 

My pal Randall (friend since college) took me to The Modern, the Museum of Modern Art’s Michelin-starred restaurant. Extraordinary interior design, excellent food and the service was perfection. It was so perfect that it was almost creepy – it was like being served by the Stepford Wives. I got used to that pretty quickly.  Then we went to the Degas exhibit and selected paintings for our various imaginary country houses. Thank you, Randall.

 

6-april the hat sistersAfter the ASH lunch I went up to Guy and Julia’s (she is Kate’s sister). We convinced Julia to show us some of her collection of around 100 hats from the 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s.

 

 

Why I like the people of New York:

We went to the Transport Museum in Brooklyn.  My pal asked the security guard if the museum had wi-fi.

 

He replied: “Why? If we had wi-fi everyone would be looking at their phones and not reading the display signs and not learning anything about their city.”

 

We went to a Cuban restaurant.  I asked the waiter for a business card.  He returned with a baggie containing two cigars and three boxes of matches with the restaurant name and address.  (Havana at 94 Christopher Street havananyc.com).

 

Here is a quote from E.B. White’s Here is New York:

7-aprilOn any person who desires such queer prizes, New York will bestow the gift of loneliness and the gift of privacy.  It is this largess that accounts for the presence within the city’s walls of a considerable section of the population; for the residents of Manhattan are to a large extent strangers who have pulled up stakes somewhere and come to town, seeking sanctuary or fulfillment or some greater or lesser grail.  The capacity to make such dubious gifts is a mysterious quality of New York.  It can destroy an individual, or it can fulfill him, depending a good deal on luck.  No one should come to New York to live unless he is willing to be lucky.

 

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:
http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/authors/profiles/article/68465-the-parasitic-press-umberto-eco.html

 

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.

OCTOBER 2013

OCTOBER 2013

My pal Federica Schir is a straight-talking, wine-loving, party animal.  She kindly suggested that we exchange links to each other’s sites.  Should you wish to check her out, here is her blog-address: blog.wineterminal.com

OCTOBER 31- Wine (and winery) of the Month

Cristina

Fattoria Zerbina 2009 Sangiovese di Romagna “Torre di Ceparano”. Firm tannins shape the fresh, attractive fruit (ripe cherries and bruised plums).  A long, flavorful finish. All of a piece, from first sniff to the last, lingering, evocative aftertaste.  

I asked Cristina Geminani, the owner and winemaker at Fattoria Zerbina, what she 
would choose as a food match for this wine.  Here is her reply: “For a first course, I 
woould choose tagliatelle with white truffles - we also have some nice white 
truffles in our region.  For a second course I would say lamb chops or
turkey breast with mushrooms.”   
Hummm…turkey….might make an interesting wine for Thanksgiving.   
 

I have followed Fattoria Zerbina for more than 20 years.  And each and every year the quality of the company’s wines has been consistently high.  That, for me, is the sign of a great winemaker.

 

OCTOBER 30  Patricia on the Radio

5I start at around 34:18: compare wine tasting to sex (36:39), Maggie McNie, MW: (38:50) Sangiovese di Romagna (41:15), KANSAS! (52:24) and Frank Zappa (55:00)  Below is the link information.

http://www.velocityradio.fm/roaring-success-radio-hour-eryn-eubanks-patricia-guy/

OCTOBER 27 Barbara Tamburini – tasting Merlot

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAI take the train to a tiny, isolated station surrounded by mountains. Fortunately Manuel, one of the helpers at the MondoMerlot event kindly picks me up and whisks me to a tasting of L’Rennero Merlot tutored by Barbara Tamburini (the winemaker, www.barbaratamburini.it) and Nico Rossi (the owner of the Gualdo del Rey estate, www.gualdodelre.it) 

We have a vertical of 7 vintages of l’Rennero (D.O.C. Val di Cornia Suvereto Merlot)

2008 This wine won first place at last year’s MondoMerlot event. After tasting it, it is clear why it was the big winner.   Near opaque, dark ruby/black. A creamy element on the nose, a rich warm rush of dark fruit (plums, brambles, black currents). Palate follows the nose, filled with rich ripe juicy berry fruit. Firm tannins. Long, lingering finish. A dusting of cocoa.   

 

2005 Opaque. The idea of shoe polish (this is not a bad thing for me), rich, ripe forth-coming fruit. Lush on the palate, elegant on the nose. The idea of coffee a dusting of cocoa beans on the long, fruit-filled finish.  

After 30 minutes: the wine stays firm, fresh and appealing.

 2001 Fresh, full silky bolt of fruit on the nose and palate. Whiffs of tobacco and cocoa. Layers of shifting scents (plums, brambles, black currents). A knubbly textured fruit. A lovely wine.

“For me,” says Barbara. “This is in poll position. 2001 was a perfect year from the point of view of a viticulturist.”

Other vintages tasted:

2007 (brighter perfumes), 2006 (velvety and appealing), 2004 (Very firm, tight weave of fruit, the idea of lanolin), 2002 (opaque, dense near black. Spice on the palate.)

There was spontaneous applause for her bravura.

OCTOBER 26 Judging Sparkling Wines at the Euposia Wine Challenge(www.euposia.it)

6Beppe picks me up at the bridge and we drive to Relais Villabella (www.relaisvillabella.it) to taste through the sparkling wines that have already made the cut.  There are some 16 tasters. We plow through just short of 80 sparkling wines: Champagnes, Franciacortas and a myriad of others.

The winner of the blind tasting in the rosé Classical Method category this year is Cesarini Sforza Tridentum Rosé (100% Pinot Nero, www.cesarinisforza.it). A Trentodoc!  Hooray! I think that sparkling Trentodoc wines are too often overlooked.  Whenever I meet a wine buyer I promote these wines: They offer great value for money, as the English say. 

Third place went to an English wine: Balfour Rosé Hush Heat (www.hushheath.com) What a name! It sounds like the title of a Richard Castle novel

OCTOBER 25 RECIOTO DI SOAVE TASTING & INTERVIEW WITH PIEROPAN

6aI interview Leonildo Pieropan (www.pieropan.it) ‎for wine-searcher.com about Christmas traditions. 

My favorite Pieropan quote: “For us, Recioto di Soave is the wine that epitomizes Christmas because there are always lots of sweets around. It is a vino da allegria (a wine that brings happiness).” 

Then off to a tasting of 40 – yes, 40 – Recioto di Soaves.  The event is organized by our pal Lorenzo S.  All the producers are present.

6b soave grapes dryingRecioto di Soave is a wine made from semi-dried Garganega (primarily)  grapes.  The style dates back to the Romans.  It is considered a desert wine.  But, as I wrote in Matching Wine With Asian Food, it also has great potential when paired with many sweet/sour Asian dishes.  I (along with my co-author Edwin Soon) had a Coffele Recioto di Soave with a Nasi Gorman prepared by our Singapore publisher’s wife that was superb.  

Before the tasting begins someone sings excerpts from the Carmina Burana. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YAxU8eSIhiQ)  Somehow a lone feminine voice accompanied by the reedy wheeze of a period instrument creates a peculiar – other worldly?  Bizarre? – atmosphere.

Generally speaking the wines are very good.  Top producers included Vicentini, Portinari, Mosconi, Gini and  Fasoli Gino

There are a few wines that have a distinct (for me) small of decomposition.  I give these low marks.  I notice that the woman next to me on the jury bench has given the same wines high marks.  I respect her opinion, so I ask her why she has done this.  She says: “That is what traditional Recioto is supposed to smell like.”

I have just returned from Lambrusco-land.  There too, I sometimes found a whiff of decomposition and there too, when I queried the producers about the smell, they replied: “That is what traditional Lambrusco is supposed to smell like.”

This in turn reminded me of Barolos of 30 years ago.  At that time then there was a huge rift between those who supported “traditional” Barolo (which usually had a whiff of compost heap) and “modern” Barolo (which smelled like wine made from Nebbiolo grapes).  Back then I was all for traditional wines because that was the flavor I was used to.  However, thirty years down the road, it is safe to say that no one in Barolo makes those pong-y wines anymore.  

I suppose the upshot of this muse is that tasters should be just a tad skeptical when Italian producers speak about “traditional” wines.  Ask them to define the term. 

OCTOBER 18,19,20 LAMBRUCO-LAND & BALSAMIC VINEGAR-LAND

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERALet me begin by saying that I like well-made Lambrusco.  Unfortunately, in most parts of the great big world the style of wines sold under the name Lambrusco can be summed up in the words “cheap, red fizz”.  What a pity.

The grape variety Lambrusco is actually an umbrella under which you will find (at least) 4 distinct “Lambruco” grapes.  The most successful (in my opinion) are Lambrusco di Sobara and Lambrusco Grasparosso.  Good Sobara wines have a vibrant rosé pink color and fresh, sprightly acidity.  Grasparosso are darker ruby red with a lovely purply froth.

The Lambruscos that I particularly liked:

Righi Quattro Ville Sobara DOC Secco: Bright blue-cherry juice color. Light, fruity, refreshing, clean.  Tart cherry on the palate. Versatile wine. (www.vinirighi.it)

La Piana (organic producer) Lambrusco Capriccio di Bacco Secco.  I smelled down a row of 20 wines and this is the one that made me want to go back and taste it.  Very nice wine.  It is made without the use of sulfites. (www.lambruscolapiana.it)

Others that stood out: Fattoria Moretti (good saturation of flavor, www.fattoriamoretto.it), Manicardi (nice texture, www.manicardi.it), Cavaliera (www.cavaliera.it), Ca Berti (light and fresh, www.caberti.com), Cleto Chiarli & Figli  (dependable and attractive)  

 My notes on unsuccessful Lambrusco: sweat and bubblegun, plastic.  

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA“2014 will be like a year zero for Lambrusco,” says Gian Paolo Gavioli, who has worked with these wines for decades. “Because the rules will change and become stricter and more tied to the production area.”   He also forsees the possibility of referring to drier style Lambruscos by their grape name.  That is: Sobara or Grasporossa.  But that is an idea for the future.  As G.P. says: “Wine isn’t a tomorrow morning business…you have to think 50 years ahead.”

We visit 2 balsamic vinegar producers. The first is Boni Romano. We are given a charming and impenetrable description of how the product is made.  But everyone likes the vinegar and there is much buying at the end of the visit.  “90% of our sales take place here at the shop,” says our guide.  There is a superb collection of pottery vessels that once held Balsamic vinegar.  Suprisingly contemporary glazes for 15th and 16th century pots.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAThe second balsamic vinegar establishment we visit is La Vecchia Dispensa.  The son of the owner, Simone, gave us a superb explanation of the product and techniques of production. He speaks with passion and knowledge.   Again much buying is done before we pile back on the journalists bus.  These exceptional products are found in London at Harrods and Fortnam and Masons.

The thing that Simone wants us all to remember is this: “Traditional Balsamic  Vinegar is NOT a salad dressing!  You don’t work for years and years to make a salad dressing.”

He says that the right way to use Traditional Balsamic Vinegar is as a tonic (taken by the spoonful) or put a few drops on a warm dish – such as a steak or a vegetable platter.  “The warmth of the food releases the fragrance and flavors of the vinegar,” he says.  He also recommends a few drops on roast pumpkin.

My favorite quote from this trip:

Journalist: “Is it always foggy in this area?” 

Producer: “No, on Friday it was sunny.”  

OCTOBER 15 AN ACID TRIP IN FRANCIACORTA

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAI take the train to Rovato and Marco, the PR for the Franciacorta consortium picks me up and whisks me to the tasting, which is conducted by sparkling wine expert Tom Stevenson. Tom has chosen what he feels are the very best examples of English sparkling wine.  Producers: Nyetimber (They have the largest vineyard holding in the U.K.), Plumptom (an Agricultural School), Camel Valley, Ridgeview, Herbert Hall, Henners (“I’ve been keeping my eye on this producers,” says Tom.), Hambledon (“A seriously gifted winemaker here,” says Tom.) and Hattingley. (www.englishwineproducers.com)

What we learned from Tom, who titled his seminar “An Acid Trip”:

“These wines are sweeter than what you are used to. If they did not have this dosage they would not be drinkable.”

“There are over one hundred brands of sparkling wine in the U.K., and only sixteen that are worth drinking.”

My general assessment: It is almost as if “good taste” stepped in to de-nude these wines of character.  They are well made and clean and vaguely (Tom calls it delicately) fruity (orchard fruits).  But at prices that run between 30 and (a breathtaking) £75 pounds sterling (!!!!), I want a bit more than that. 

My goodness, if I had £75 to spend on a bottle of wine I would want something that made my heart sing, something that brought out the poet in me, something that would create a fragrance memory that would stay with me forever.

I asked myself who would buy these wines at these prices and the answer is: Rich, Patriotic Englishmen, who are rightly proud of producing drinkable wines in their county. 

I think that I will stick with Franciacorta, Trentodoc and Champagne for now.  But who knows what the future will bring?   

OCTOBER 11 GUERRIERI RIZZARDI – THE CANOVA PRIZE

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAGuerrieri 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).

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAThis year’s winner is Michele D’Agostino.  He won for his excellent piece titled: La Conoscenza dell’Ascolo.  He put a tiny audio recorder in a jiffy pack and mailed it to London. Once back in his possession, he mounted the audio recorder in the sculpture pictured.  Listening to the audio  inside the sculpture is a strangely hypnotic experience.  Very interesting.

OCTOBER 6  CHIEVO (soccer team) FAN CLUB DINNER

Food in plastic tubs…a live-ish band…

I enjoy watching the boys (our pal’s son Mario and his mate Andrea) eat: stuffing slices of stale bread and sweaty ham into their mouths until their cheeks puff out like chipmunks.

OCTOBER 5th MASI PRIZE MEMORIES

Every year the Masi Foundation awards a handful of truly exceptional individuals. This year among the winners were Marjane Satrapi, who is perhaps best known for her outstanding animated film Persepolis; Giovanni Bonotto, a textile manufacturer who uses ancient production techniques to create contemporary fabrics; Giacomo Rizzolatti, a neuroscientist from Friuli, who was part of the team that identified “mirror neurons”; and le Vigne di Venizia, a group of intrepid and optimistic vine-growers who are creating vineyards on the islands around Venice.

This award ceremony got me to thinking about the first Masi Prize interview I ever did.

The year: 1998. The subject: The most charming man I have ever had the pleasure to meet, Pierre Cardin.

15Cardin was born not far from the Veneto’s Valpolicella zone. His family moved to France when he was two.  His childhood dream was to be an actor or dancer and in 1945, at the age of 23, due to his uncanny physical resemblance to Jean Marais, he was hired as the actor’s stand-in during costume fittings for Jean Cocteau’s exquisite film La Belle et La Bete.  He later became a professional costumier, not only for Cocteau but also for other important directors, including Max Ophuls and Joseph Losey. 

My favorite quotes from the interview: “I was Dior’s first employee. When I arrived for work the first day there were only three of us there.”  His success with Dior led Cardin to bring out his own haute couture collection. One of his most ardent admirers was Wallis Simpson, the Duchess of York, who, at that time, was the icon of chic.  Cardin was the first haute couture designer to create a prêt-à-porter line. “I wanted to continue dressing the duchess but I also wanted to dress my concierge,” he said. 

However, I almost didn’t get the interview.

I was the last in a long line of journalists waiting to interview him.  The officious PR girl kept letting other journalists go ahead of me because they wrote for fashion magazines and daily Italian newspaper.  I was there to interview him for Decanter magazine. (Cardin owned restaurants in China and imported wine there). My turn finally came and the PR girl rushed up and told him that it was time to go into lunch. My shock (at her rudeness) and disappointment must have been clearly stamped on my face.

Mr. Cardin charmingly but firmly told her that I had waited patiently for him and that he was quite happy to take the time to talk to me. We sat and talked and it  felt like Real Conversation…we talked about films…and his youth. I have never met such a charming man

After the interview he asked me to send him a copy of my article when it was published.  I did. And 10 days later a lovely handwritten thank you note from Cardin arrived for me in the mail.   That kind gesture had a profound effect on me.  For the first time I fully recognized the value of taking the time to say: thank you.

So, thank you, Monsieur Cardin.

PS Yes, I framed the note.

JUNE 2013

26 June SONO SANGIOVESE DI ROMAGNA

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAReaders of this diary know that I love well-made Sangiovese di Romagna. I have been following the development of this wine for two decades, and every year the number of producers who make high quality examples grows larger. And every year, my pleasure in tasting this versatile wine increases.

Sangiovese is the most widely-planted grape variety in Italy and is perhaps best known as a major component (or, in some cases, the only variety used) in a long list of famous wines, most notably Chianti and the Tuscan classics such as Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.   Like Pinot Noir it is a site-sensitive grape and for this reason the wines of Romagna stand out for me.

Along with the cherry-near-the pit fruit flavor and silky texture that distinguishes the variety, Sangioveses from Romagna have an appealing roundness and softnenss on the palate that makes them very versatile when it comes to matching them with food.  Often, when I am tasting wines, food partners for them seem to blossom in my imagination.  And with Sangiovese di Romagna I often think of (and indeed eventually serve it with) vegetarian dishes – from bean burritos to nut and lentil casseroles – as well as the more traditional partners such as pasta with meat sauce, or roast and grilled meats.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAWhy is Sangiovese from Romagna different from the others? The simple answer is: terroir. Romagna is separated from Tuscany by the Apennine ridge. The hills on the Romagan side are gentler and have soils rich in limestone and clay, and the climate is mitigated by soft sea breezes from the Adriatic sea.

Besides its wine, the region is perhaps best known for its seaside resorts and as the birthplace of Italy’s greatest film director Federico Fellini, and for its fine restaurants, like the world renowned San Dominico at Imola.

As I was ill this year and missed the annual tasting, Cristina of FATTORIA ZERBINA, kindly sent me cases of samples from TRE MONTI, MORONI, FERRUCI, DREI DONA and, of course, FATTORIA ZERBINA. I will taste these wines over the next few weeks.  First up:

TREMONTI 2012 Sangiovese di Romagna Superiore “SONO”. It takes its name from the fact that: “SOlo produtti naturali e concimi organici ottimali. NO solfiti in cantina.  No sulfites are added in the winery.   The wine is bright ruby. The nose: fresh and filled with ripe cherry flavor. The palate follows the nose. The wine fills the mouth with round, juicy fruit.  Very satisfying and versatile.   

After tasting I drank a glass with rice and stir-fried vegetables and chicken. 

23 June SUNDAY LUNCH

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22 June BARDOLINO AND ADVENTURESSES

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAI take Stanley dog to the press conference. It is held in a loggia off Piazza dei Signori.  I hear my name whispered and look up to see the former President of BOLLA (retired).  He holds up his iphone, its screen filled with a picture of his cat.   

We taste LE TENDE’s sparkling Bardolino Chiaretto”Volutta” at the aperitif.  Delightful color – women should wear this color. Its fragrance is of strawberries, with a cherry note on the nose and palate. It’s fine flavour shows through – even when drunk from a plastic glasses.   Very satisfying wine.  That’s what I am looking for these days: satisfaction.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAAfter the conference we all lunch at Café Dante.  (Stanley is fed meat under the table.) We taste Vintage, a wine produced by CANTINA CASTELNUOVO DEL GARDA.  It is a blend of Corvina, Rondinella, Molinara, Sangiovese and Garganega, all picked and pressed together. The label makes this a perfect wine for the ADVENTURESSES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES.  For two years I have been mentioning this to the PR director of the company.  However, there are only around 8,000 bottles of it made each year, and it doesn’t go to the USA. 

At lunch I once again express the opinion that it would be an ideal wine for the Adventuresses, women who are not afraid to eat, drink, sing and be clever. This time I am overheard by a young woman who works for the company, Lea.  She is now on the case and maybe next year I will see Vintage on the table at an Adventuress dinner meeting in New York. What is the wine like? It is simple, old-fashioned, juicy and easy to drink.

June 19th – 21 A WHIRLWIND TOUR OF THE FRESCOBALDI’S TUSCAN ESTATE

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAA whirlwind tour of Frescobaldi’s 5 estates in Tuscany (located in Montalcino, Ruffina, Chianti Classico, Pomino and the Maremma). As I am writing an article about Tuscany for a magazine, I take this opportunity to think about the differences in landscape of the zones. 

I also want to pin down a description of the scent of broom (ginestra).  The first time I smell it on these trips, I always turn around expecting to find an elegant, perfume-dabbed woman.  It sweetly scents the breeze everywhere we go.  A Norwegian journalists suggested that it smells like almond pudding.  Leonardo Frescobaldi says it also includes a touch of orange blossoms. The fragrance is an amalgam of these along with hints of ginger and honeycomb.

I wondered why no perfumer had tried to capture this scent. A thirty-second investigation revealed that someone has!  Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella launched its Ginestra fragrance in 2001.   Top notes: broom. Heart: narcissus, corn flour, orange blossom, orchid and violet. Base: birch, oak moss and resins.

Now let us dive into our whip round Tuscany. 

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAWe started at the Ammiraglia estate in the Maremma.

Before the tasting we take a little ride around the estate to look at the pigs and Angus cows, passing olive groves and vineyards along the way.  “He (Lamberto Frescobaldi) wants to plant a garden here too so we can grow our own vegetables,” says the enthusiastic Hospitality Director. 

I interviewed Lamberto in April and he waxed eloquent about his childhood. He said: “I spent the first 11 years of my life in the country side – in Nipozzano, so I grew up in the country. And I must say it was a wonderful… style of life. Because we had the wine cellar in the basement of the house, we had our olive press mills, we had our cows – so there was fresh milk at night – and then we had bicycles, motor bikes and horses.”  I thought: he’s attempting to recreate the pleasure of that childhood experience here.

Among the wines we tasted:

Barrel Sample of Morellino Riserva 2012 (85% Sangiovese) aged around 18 months. Very pure, firm cherry fruit.  This will develop into a very interesting wine.

2007 Ammiraglia (100%Syrah) Chocolate. A nice warm wave of juicy fruit (raspberries, interwoven with chocolate and dark spices. Long finish.   Very attractive wine. Velvety tannins.

 KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAUp to the small zone of Pomino.

“You need a passport to enter here,” Lamberto is fond of saying.  And indeed the landscape and climate is very different here.  It is densely forested and, today at least, vastly cooler.

 “We are the only producers of Pomino, so if you don’t like it, don’t bother looking for others,” says Lamberto.  

Fortunately we like it. 

2012 Pomino Bianco (Chardonnay, plus other varieties) A sheen of yellow gold. Very floral fragrant.  Fresh and appealing.  A note of greengage plums and slightly under-ripe apricots on the palate.   Refreshing.  After 15 minutes: still firm. The perfumes are more pronounced. After 20 minutes: still very fresh on the nose.

2011Benefizio Pomino Superiore. Bright. Deeper gold. Barrel fermented. An exotic fruit (pineapple) note on the nose.  Full but supple on the palate.

After 15 minutes it settles down and a creaminess emerges on the nose and palate. The bright greengage fruit element blossoms.  After 20 minutes: Still firm, fresh and appealing.

I ask how long Lamberto thinks these wines can age: “We recently opened bottles of the 1990 and they are pretty special. So they can last at least 15 years. For me that is the goal.”

Then out of the woods and into Nippozzano.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAWe taste 4 vintages of Mormoreto (Cabernet Sauvignon, plus Merlot and Petite Verdot)

2004 Mormoreto  Opaque Vibrant blue sheen. Nice, clean nose. A cream soda note emerges. Palate: very plummy/prune-y.   After 1 hour: still firm and attractive.

“I recently opened ’85 and ’88 and they were showing well,” says Lamberto.

2009 Nippazoan Montesodi  A lovely soft perfume, elegant. Nicely saturated fuchsia tinged ruby. Silky, juicy cherry fruit. Firm, long finish. Very nice wine.  Satisfying.  Montesodi was first produced in 1974 and ranks 4th in the terms of appearance in the Super Tuscan hierarchy.  After the granddaddy of them all Sassicaia (commercialized in the mid-1960s), then Vignorello (1968) and  Tignanello (1971).

We hear about the Gorgona Project.  Gorgona is a prison on a small island off Tuscany. A 2.4 acre vineyard of Ansonica and Vermentino was planted there in 1999. The Frescobaldi’s now support a project that helps the inmates learn the vine-growing/winemaking trade. 

“If they are released without a job they are more likely to commit a crime again. I’m really touched by these people,” says Lamberto.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERABack to Florence and a tasting of Luce della Vita.

Luce della Vita 1999 (Merlot, Sangiovese) A nice vibration of fruit.  Nose: leather, cherry fruit. Perfumes: tight weave of cherry, dark spice. A swirling amalgam of cherry, spice, blueberry raspberry. Nice vibration of fruit in the long finish. A wine for grown-ups.

Then to TENUTA FRESCOBALDI DI CASTIGLIONE and lunch with Leonardo Frescobaldi (Lamberto’s uncle and President of the company).   

“My family started from this territory,” says Leonard. “Nippozano is rocky, ideal for Sangiovese. Whereas here the soil is sandy with clay in some vineyards. We grow primarily Cabernet and Merlot.”

Describing the landscape, he says:” It is still pretty much what it was 50 years ago. It gives the idea that time has not passed. It’s a very gentle landscape.”

2011 Tenuta Frescobaldi deep ruby/near black with a beetroot sheen. Rich texture like a bolt of velvet unfurling – blackcurrant, blueberry raspberry, blackberry. An amalgam so well integrated as to seem one flavor.

JOURNALIST MINIVAN MOMENT

The topic of Italian lakes comes up. I say Lake Garda is Italy’s largest lake and sing the praises of the small towns around it.

“Do you have a home there,” asks the Baroness, a travel writer.

Since it has already been established that I live in Verona, she is of course, referring to a second home.  It has also been clearly established that I do not have a trust fund or a rich husband.  Noblesse oblige does not come naturally to this woman.

“No,” I reply. “But I sometimes take the bus to Bardolino for tastings.”

My train home arrives in Verona 25 minutes late. We passengers are met at the exit corridor by armed police and some nice sniffer dogs; its either drugs or terrorists.  I only have time to shower and change clothes and we are off to hear UTE LEMPER performing/singing the love poems of Pablo Neruda.  Here is a link to her strangely hypnotic  version of Mack the Knife: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SHFXEPYU0FQ

18 June – CUSTOZA FROLICS

13a“It’s a birthday party,” says Luciano Piona, whose family owns the CAVALCHINA  winery.  “We are celebrating 50 years of making Custoza. My granddad was the first to conceive of this wine and he decided to name it Custoza after the hamlet where it comes from.”

The Custoza production zone is located on the south eastern tip of Lake Garda. It is made from a blend that includes Garganega (the principal variety in Soave), and may have Trebbiano, Cortese, and other white varieties.

The photo at above is of Morello P., wearing my hat.

2012 Custoza CALVACHINA. Bright, pale yellow, hint of a green sheen. Expands on the palate, the fruit (apricots and white peaches) emerges on the middle-palate. The medium finish is elegant and firmly fruity.

2011 Amedeo Custoza Superiore CALVACHINA Bright nicely saturated yellow, with pea green sheen. A lanolin quality on the nose, near creamy sensation.  The white fleshed fruit flavors are so tightly woven as to be one seamless whole. Elegant.

14 – 16 June CALABRIAN ADVENTURE

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAFirst things first. Let me answer the questions:  Where is Calabria and why should a wine fancier want to slip this information into his/her brain-pan?

Calabria is the toe and instep of the Italian boot, and is bounded by the Ionian and Tyrrhenian seas.  Wine producers in these parts are very proud of the fact that they have identified and are studying more than 200 indigenous grape varieties.  Wine drinkers looking for new flavors and fragrances just may find what they are seeking in this region.   

On the coast the glittering blue sea stretches to infinity. Inland the terrain often looks as if a Bruegel wheat field had been photo-shopped onto a lunar landscape.   I find this strangely beautiful…or possibly beautifully strange.

The last time I visited Calabria was 13 years ago. This current trip has been organized for around 20 Italian journalists (plus a Russian, a Japanese and me).  The theme – as always here – is indigenous grape varieties.

Rather than typing up all my tasting notes, I want to write about the wines I actually chose to drink at meals and as aperitifs. 

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAAt a pre-dinner gathering for some 100 people under a star-studded night sky on the terrace of a splendid palazzo…I sat down near three ladies who were exchanging recipes.  I asked them what wine I should ask for at the bar as there are some 20 wines from various producers.

“LIBRANDI is always reliable,” says one.

“The Crotone,” says the second lady.

The 3rd lady chimes in: “It is great with the tuna hors d’oeuvres.

They are so right! Lovely, sprightly, fruity (apricots), pleasing and wonderful with the tuna.  (Chardonnay, with a touch of Sauvignon Blanc)

LIBRANDI 2010 Gravello. (Gaglioppo and Cabernet Sauvignon blend) Deep ruby near black center. Very smooth on the nose: black currant, yes, but with something wilder underneath. Also hints of frozen strawberry and other red berry fruits.  Silky on the palate, Nice fruit-filled finish. 

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERASTATTI Mantonico 2010 (100 % Mantonico grapes) Fresh, Bright yellow/pale gold.  On the nose an amalgam of white fruit (the hush of apricots and peaches), a fine minerality. A creamy element on the palate. The flavor follows the nose. Very nice medium to long finish. There is a lovely weightiness in the mouth.   After 30 minutes still firm and flavorful.

And the wine I drank copiously and happily at both dinners was PODERI MARINI  Brigantino Rosato. (based on Sangiovese)  Broad, cherry/raspberry fruit. Satisfying, the flavor stays firm in the glass. After 30 minutes it is still as fresh and lively as when it was first opened.

SERRACAVALLO “Don Fili” Rosato.  (Magliocco grapes) Fresh. Lively. Color: an amalgam of rust and blood-orange juice. On the nose I find a note of frozen strawberries. Nice weight in the mouth. On the palate, cherry notes emerge.  Pleasing.  After 30 minutes still fresh and lively.

MALASPINA “Palizzi” IGT (Blend of Calabrese Nero  – a.k.a. Nero d’Avola- and Nocera). Dark blue-tinged ruby with deeply colored center. Very plummy on the nose. It is rich and warm.  Palate follows the nose. On the finish there is an element of dark minerality. After 30 minutes grassy notes emerge.

They have organized a tasting of 16 wines – 8 from Calabria and 8 Non-Calabrian. Since they tell us before the tasting begins which are the Calabrian wines –  the pleasure of the blind tasting is diminished somewhat.   Also serving the wines in pairs – one Calabrian and one non-Calabrian sets up a situation where the taster will naturally start to make direct comparisons between the two wines.  In a few cases the intention of the producer, the method of production and, of course, the different grape varieties were at such odds as to make a direct comparison impossible.  (Think about comparing apples to oranges….both are nice but different from each other.)

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAThe most interesting non-Calabrian wine from a tasters point of view (ah, my point of view) was the Barolo DOCG 2008 from VAJRA.  At first impact it seems a bit vague. Then it settles down and blossoms.  I re-taste at 10 minute intervals and each time the nose offers more fruit, more spices. It is a shifting kaleidoscopic  experience. After 1 hour in the glass there is still a real, vibrant perfume, a vibration of berry fruit and a dark, intriguing undertow of autumn leaves.  Wow.  Bravo to the PODERI MARINI, the Calabrian winery which had the confidence to slip this “ringer” in the group.

The PODERI MARINI wine which was shown with the Vajra was Basileus IGT 2010. It was made from 100% Maglicco grapes.  On first tasting it: The color was opaque, near black with a deep ruby/blue rim. Very classy. The dark spiciness is well integrated with the fruit. On the finish I find a touch of minerals and earth.

The Moment just before my infamous remark
The Moment just before my infamous remark

I expressed admiration for the non-Calabrian wines at this tasting.  As I am still practically voice-less – I can only croak or speak in a breathy whisper, I wrote this opinion in Italian and someone else read it out to those assembled.  WHOA!!!

The remark did not go down well as I discovered at the lunch following the tasting.  I sat down and the first thing my tablemate said to me was : So, you hate Calabrian wines. 

My first thought was to whip out my pen and write:   “I LIKE CALABRIAN WINES and have written about the region for magazines and included descriptions of some of its most interesting wines in one of my books.  AND I am revising that book and will write about even more of the indigenous treasures of this region.  Thanks to that book thousands of English-speaking wine lovers who have never even given a thought to Calabria, now know the name Gaglioppo. (Although they might still be hesitant to pronounce it.)” 

Then I realized that putting this into Italian would just be too much of a bother.  So I smiled and mined what I hope will be interpreted as: “Oh, no. I’m a nice person”.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAAt the final dinner I sat next to a charming woman named Serena.  As the evening unfolded I found out that she was the wife of Raffaele Librandi.  For some 25 years he worked with this father in the commercial sector of the wine company.  Five years ago Raffaele decided to strike out on his own, and he and his wife opened a specialist food business called FATTORIA MONTESCUDIERO.

They started with chocolate-dipped figs and have gradually expanded to include tropeo onions, olives and other gourmet items.  They recently started producing a range of pasta sauces for the Swiss market.  www.fattoriamontescudiero.com.  When they spoke about sourcing and creating new products they were both as radiant as brides. 

13  June  A MEETING WITH ALDO

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4 June SPARKLING WINE TASTING AND A VISIT TO THE CARROARMATO

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAOur Peruvian friend wants to import top class sparkling wines into Peru.  We head for the AGRITURISMO SAN MATTIA (www.sanmattia.it) for a tasting of some of the wines that he has tried and liked in the last few months.

Here are the ones that gave me the most satisfaction:

CA DELBOSCO “Vintage Collection” Brut 2008 (Franciacorta: 55% Chardonnay, with Pinot Bianco and Pinot Nero) A pale vibrant gold. Nose: peach with a touch of pleasing bitterness. Clean. A intriguing bitter flavor on the palate that renders it elegant for me.  Price 23 Euros.

MONTINA Brut 2001 (Franciacorta: 60% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Nero) Peach and lanolin on the nose.  Very attractive on the palate, peachy fruit.  Price: 16 Euros

Don Simone's tattos
Don Simone’s tattos

Then on to the OSTERIA CARRO ARMATO (www.carroarmato.it) to celebrate Annalisa’s 25 years of ownership of this locale. Annalisa was a witness at our wedding, by the way.

We drink 1985 Mazzano Amarone from MASI (from a 3-liter bottle)Tar and cherries. A fine, firm weave of ripe cherries, coffee, dark spices (the idea of nutmeg, cinnamon). Tar and cherries again emerge in the long, fine finish.  A Fine Wine.  An exhilarating experience.

June  1 MY FIRST OUTING AFTER THE BLACK MONTH OF MAY: GUERRIERI RIZZARDI!!!!!

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAWe go to the opening of the new cantina of GUERRIERI RIZZARDI (www.guerrieri-rizzardi.it).   Let me go on record as saying that I like this company and I like the people who work there.  I also sincerely appreciate the way they promote young artists.  It is very popular in Italy for wine companies to pretend to support the arts but few actually do anything really significant. Most of their “arts” events are simply excuses to have a cocktail party. (Not that I don’t enjoy cocktail parties.)

The Guerrieri Rizzardi winery (makers of award winning Bardolinos and Amarones among other wines) sponsors the Antonio Canova sculpture contest, which is open to sculptors under the age of 35.  Viewing the finalists’ work is always revelatory experience.  

Here are two of the wines I tried that I found particularly pleasing. 

2012 Rosa Rosae The color of strawberry juice stains. Very fresh. Nice weave of berry fruit: strawberry, raspberry. Fruit-filled finish. Satisfying.

2011 Costeggiola Single-Vineyard Soave  Fresh, juicy fruit (ripe apricots). Round, fine, lively amalgam of apricots and greengage plums, with a creamy undertow.  Satisfying. Long, evolving finish.