MARCH 2015

1 with glenn shea I31 March BOOKS, GLORIOUS BOOKS
Kate and Ed come to Verona (from the USA) along with poet, pal and Book Barn ( clerk, Glenn Shea, who brought me a satchel of 14 books. Among them was a copy of Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury. I love pre-owned books and this one had belonged to a soldier, who, when assigned to Viet Nam some 40 years ago, had had 400 books leather bound and shipped off with him. Holding this little volume, I felt a sweep of emotion. This soldier had loved Dandelion Wine as much as I did. It was as if – across space and time – we were sharing something profound. So thank you to Glenn for bringing it and thank you to Cleo C. Bresett Jr., the soldier who loved it and took care of it til the day he died.


We meet Ugo for a drink and I introduce Glenn as a poet. “You must read your poetry at my Thursday night poetry evening,” declares Ugo. So Glenn will perform his English-language poems to a group of Italian poetry lovers.


Neville and I met while waiting for a bus that was to take us to a dinner in Valpolicella during the Vinitaly hoopla. We bonded big time in the 45 minutes we spent trailing after our keeper and decided to meet for lunch when the Big Fair was over. There is nothing like adversity to bring people together.


2. vinitaly22 March through 24 VINITALY RIDES AGAIN!
At Vinitaly, the world’s largest annual wine trade fair.

A New York PR guy sees me and says: It’s great to be here, isn’t it?

I reply: No. It is great to be in a place with a hammock and alot of sun. It is…okay to be…here.



Here are the producers I visited who made wines that rang my chimes – as we used to say.


For those unfamiliar with this expression: in this context, it means wines than not only give sensual pleasure but also give intellectual pleasure. In the best cases, it means: wines that life my spirits and make my heart sing.


Sparkling Wines:
Umberto Bortolotti’s ( Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore Brut Rive di Col S. Martino “Castel de Donà” was one of the best sparkling wines I have ever tasted – and I love sparkling wines. It was like a classical-ballerina: powerful yet with lilghter-than-air grace. Absolutely exceptional. Full, fragrant, sorbet-like apricot fruit, with a sprightly infusion of steely minerality.


Maeli’s ( ) 2013 Fior d’Arancio – Moscato Giallo 100% fragrant, a burst of apricot sorbet on the middle palate. Then a minerally undertow. “It is like Dr. Jeckle and Mister Hyde,” says Elisa Dilavanzo, the manager of the estate. “It starts sweet but becomes dry.”


She recomends drinking it with raost rabbit with olives or eel mousse. Neither one of which is a mainstay on my table. I would like to try it with Nasi Goreng or other chill-hot Asian dishes.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAPasini San Giovanni 100% , mad from – yes – 100% Gropello. This is one of my favorite wines, year after year.


A different kettle of fish but none the less pleasing and satisfying is the Bardolino Chiaretto from Le Tende ( ). I have followed this company’s wines for years and they always end up on my list of favorites when I taste Bardolinos.



White Wines:
KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAI made my annual pilgrimage to visit the Librandi ( stand. Librandi makes superb wines from Calabrian indigenous varieties. One of my favorties is the Efeso Val di Neto Bianco IGT. It is made from 100% Mantonico. This vibrant, complex wine combines a steely note of minerality with a creamy sensation on the nose and palate. The flavor for me is an amalgam of delicate tones of nettle, elderflowers and toffee.


I stopped by the Di Lenardo stand ( because everyone on the stand loves dogs and has a sense of humor! What a pleasure. I particularly liked their coppery Pinto Grigio – fresh, fruity and appealing.

Tramin ( ) Nussbaumer 2013 Gewürztraminer is a Gewürztraminer for grownups. I also tried the 2007 vintage of this wine. Deep yellow, fresh, intriguing…it was a wine that took me to a higher level. Superb.


5Roncsoreli’s ( 2013 Friulano is one of the best I have ever tasted – good structure, an attractive salinity over apricot fruit. The palate follows the nose.



I asked Tania Princic, in charge of export sales for Roncsoreli, what she would serve with this wine. Her answer: Prosciutto San Daniele.


Let me go on record as saying I really like Friulano. I even liked it back in the days when it was called Tocai. My taste identifiers for Friulano: a slight saline note on the nose alongside scents of wildflowers, good structure and creamy texture. I often find ghosts of apricot and crème patisserie.


Red Wines:
Roncsoreli’s Scioppettino 2009 had all of the characterisitcs of classic Schioppettino: dark ruby color, full bodied, with a soft black pepper tone over richly textured fruit flavors, which include wild blackberries, raspberries and blackcurrants.


The Scioppettino grape variety 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.


The lesson is over, we can now return to the diary…


Cristina in her new specs
Cristina in her new specs

Fattoria Zerbina ( Il Marzeino 2009 (a blend of Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon, with a bit of Merlot, syrah and ancelottaA velvety sensation on the nose. So fresh and youthful with a rich burst of rond cherry-like fruit on the middle palate. Fruity filled finish. A very atrractive wine.


Zerbina’s Torre di Ceparano Sangiovese di Romagna 2011. Elegant with a juicy soul. Lively on the palate. A long flavorful finish.

Ca Lustra’s ( Moro Palo 2011 is a blend of Merlot and Carménère, with a bit of Cabernet. This is an exceptionally nice entry-level wine – satisfying and full on the palate.


Sabrina T.
Sabrina T.

Tedeschi’s ( Capitel dei Nicolo Valpolicella 2013. Fragrant, almost perfumed. Very attractive.

“Some of the grapes undergo a light drying before pressing,” says Sabrina Tedeschi. “The Valpolicella zone is made up of many styles and price ranges. The zone is also comprised of many different types of soils and exposures – not all of which are capable of making Amarone,” Sabrina continues. “We are going against the trend a bit: while others are making more Amarone, we are increasing the production of our Valpolicella.”


Another producer who is bucking the trend is Agostino Vicentini ( he is perhaps best known for his superb Soaves). His Valpolicella Superiore Palazzo di Campiano 2011 is an excellent, satisfying wine.


“This is Valpolicella like it used to be – no semi-dried grapes,” says Agostino. “We use properly ripened grapes – not immature, not overripe. We can do this because there are only 4 bunches on each vine. It also helps that the vineyard is 450 meters above sea level.”


922 GRAVNER BOOK PRESENTATION – Michael did the English translation!







KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERATidying 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

Stefania & Annalisa
Stefania & Annalisa

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

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERADuring 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

Anders, my Swedish cousin (metaphorically speaking)
Anders, my Swedish cousin (metaphorically speaking)

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.”

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA2000 Castelluccio Ronco Ciliegi  Deep dar-tinged ruby. Nose a mix of various cherries: sour, candied, bitter, a touch of liquorice. Its like slipping into a pool at the spa – very satisfying.

“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.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA1979 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

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAWhen 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.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAI 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.