July 2016

First Things First: Books.

This is something I wrote for the book Raising Global Children by Stacie N. Berdan and Marshall S. Berdan.

DSCN0535When I decided to see Europe for myself – and not through the eyes of Frances Hodgson Burnett, Arthur Conan Doyle or Victor Hugo – I was ready. My childhood reading had prepared me. Novels had shown me other ways of approaching life, of making decisions, of assessing the world around me.

Charles Dickens, Mark Twain and R.L. Stevenson showed me wickedness and taught me to keep my eyes open for both evil and good. Ray Bradbury and T.H White reinforced in me a delicious sense of being alive in a world filled with wonders.

Novels are where children learn to solve problems and sympathize with people unlike themselves. They also learn that there exist different sets of manners and attitudes from those in their own homes. These are fundamental characteristics for a person who wants to live in a world beyond narrow national borders.

A well-written novel allows a child to live in the skin of another person – the hero – and to hereby understand heroic behavior: defending the weak, forgiving the foolish, having the confidence to take that first daring step into the world alone. In short: to grow up. It allows them to recognize that the world isn’t either black or white: it is in fact in glorious Technicolor.

23 through 27 San Gio Video, Vino and Salami festival


Every year (for over two decades) Ugo organizes – in a manner of speaking – a video festival, which is held in a Verona piazza. Films – both short and long – are shown every afternoon and evening for anyone who wants to draw up a chair and watch. A WONDERFUL PHOTO  of my favorite judges at the festival has repeatedly failed to load….how sad.  Imagine 4 beautiful women in summer resses sitting on a marble diaz.  Here it the caption that would go with such an image.  From left to right: documentary director Cuini Ortiz (from Argentina), director Elena Gladkova (Russia), actress Erica Rivas (Argentina) and entrepreneur Asal Emanmi (Iran).

My favorite short film this year was The People’s Palaces, a 16-minute film about Moscow’s beautiful and monumental subway stations directed by Elena Gladkova. The rousing score perfectly matched the on screen movement and lent energy to the piece. I asked the director if she had studied music. She replied: “Yes, for many years at school. Also I was a dancer and choreographer.”  As soon as I heard that she had been a choreographer everything fell into place. Her sensitive choice of music matched the rhythm so well that something as simple as commuters exiting from a train became as elegant as a ballet.

The juries at the festival (and me a hanger-on) visit a different winery every morning.  Here are my favorite visits.

3Poggio delle Grazie (www.poggiodellegrazie.it)  The two wines that were a big hit with me and the others were the lively, fresh wines made with a natural re-fermentation in bottle: the Rosato made from a blend of Corvina 60 %, Rondinella 40 % + 5 % Garganega Passita, and Bianco made from primarily from Cortese.

We also visited Le Battistelle (www.lebattistelle.it/) I have always liked Battistelle’s Soave Classico, finding it complex with lively flavors of ripe pear and a note of mandarin orange.

We slipped and slid through their heroic vineyard, proving our own heroism in the process.

Lesson:  An heroic vineyard is one that is in a location (usually a steep terraced hillside) that makes the use of machinery impossible. So all work in the vineyard must be carried out by hand.

Le Battestille also made my summer dream come true – a hammock in the breeze.

Our merry band also visited other wineries but I don’t feel like writing about them. Remember, in this diary I only write about wines I think are exceptionally appealing.

TIP for wineries:  If it is high noon in the middle of summer …and if your visitors are slick with sweat and their skins are turning blotchy with sunburn…then keep the vineyard visit short.  If you want to answer general questions or talk about technical issues that have nothing to do with the vineyard your guests are standing in…THEN maybe it would be a good idea to continue the discussion in a cooler place, preferably one where glasses of cold water are on offer.

21 Borgo di Bardolino

5Wow! The Guerrieri Rizzardi  family has given a new sheen to the town of Bardolino. Their former lakeside winery and villa has been transformed into an elegant complex that includes a wine bar, a pizzeria, a restaurant, a meeting center and holiday apartments – all within the context of a lush, plant-filled garden. The project was piloted by Agostino Rizzardi, who chose his architects and interior designers well. The look is harmoniously eclectic, and manages to be both stylish and comfortable. And did I say dogs are welcome?  Here is a photo of Otto Rizzardi, whom I met at the event.



10 July Sunday, Sushi and… 

We meet up with Susan H. and taste a 1993 Vino da Tavola from COS – Viticoltori di Vittoria (www.cosvittoria.it/).  Bright Ruby, fresh, still vibrant cherry fruit a creamy element on the palate. After 15 minutes in the glass, the wine was still firm and appealing.  Needless to say, they don’t make it any more

Then we head off for sushi at Zushi.  The food was fresh and delicious, the atmosphere cool and, perhaps, more important the staff was kind to Stanley. For his part, Stanley was his impeccably behaved self.

8 July Trentodoc, tra-la-la

Maria Grazia picked me up and we headed for Trentino and the Cantine Monfort winery. (www.cantinemonfort.it)

Lesson: Trentodoc is a name used to encompass quality sparkling wines produced in the Italian region of Trentino. From my personal experience (spanning a couple of decades) I can say that most – if not all – Trentodoc wines are well-made.

This was the case with Monfort’s non-vintage Brut and Rosé. Both wines were fresh, lively and appealing.

6As always happens when visiting Trentino in the company of wine journalists, one bright spark decided to blather on about how the name Trentodoc needs to be changed.  His arguments have all been heard before – too many times before.

My feeling is that if you want to provide a valid alternative to the name, along with a program that would maintain the wine’s reputation around the world, and even bring it more luster – then take this idea to the directors of the Trentodoc organization. But no, that never happens.  All we get it more useless bleating. (Imagine me rolling my eyes and sighing heavily.)

My favorite quote of the day came from journalist Giuseppe C. He said: “My son lives in America and when people ask him where he is from, he says Trentino. Then they ask him: where is that? And he replies: it is between Venice and Paris.”

The Simoni Family, owners of Monfort, are extremely nice.  Here is a photo of Lorenzo S. in front of the lavender bush in his wife’s garden.  He gave me some to take home.  I love Trentino in the summer…cool, breezy and always pleasant, welcoming people.



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….