September 2018

 

My Favorite Sommelier

This is Michael’s second selfie. In it you will see Michael Benson, my favorite sommelier Fabio Poli, me and an impressive patch of ceiling.  I first met Fabio in 1990 (or perhaps a year or two earlier) when I came from London to Verona with a group of journalists to attend Vinitaly, the world’s largest annual wine trade fair. At a grand dinner at the Vittorio Emanuele restaurant in Piazza Bra we 50-some journalists were served a decent sparkling wine as an aperitif then we were seated for dinner.  The waiters came around and plunked 5 bottles of indifferent wine on each table. These were wines of the producers who belonged to organizations that were footing the bill for the meal.  One sniff of these wines and I realized that I did NOT want to put any of them in my mouth.  I caught a sommelier’s eye, explained my dilemma and asked him to please refill my glass with the sparkling wine. He scanned the main table filled with policticos and producers and I could see him weighing his decision because it was decidedly against the rules to give us journalists the aperitif wine when we were supposed to be forced to drink the wines on the table.  He made his decision and for the rest of the meal my glass was discreetly filled with sparkling wine. The sommelier was Fabio Poli. When I moved to Verona in 1991 I met Fabio at many big tastings and dinners.  He was knowledgeable, and his assessments of the wines were always spot-on. I trusted and still trust his advice and opinions.  So, after 28 (maybe 30) years, he is still my te sommelier.

September 30 Bardolino and Beaujolais

Sub-zones (La Rocca, Montebaldo and Sommacampagna) have been created in the Bardolino wine production zone in an effort to establish the distinctive qualities of these specific areas.

WINE LESSON:  The Bardolino zone lies on the hillsides just to the east of Lake Garda and shares it’s name with the small lake-side town of Bardolino. The wine is usually fresh, light and dry. The rosé version is called Chiaretto.

One of the purposes of today’s event is to show that Bardolino’s have a capacity to age well. Of the older vintages we were served, three stood out for me: 2012 Bardolino for Il Pignetto (a lovely nose, still firm fruit, but with a slight hint of rust on the palate that for me indicates that the wine is just starting to decline; 2002 Bardolino Superiore Pradica from Corte Gardoni (supple, elegant): and 1959 Bertani (still attractive vibrations of fruit, smooth on the palate).

Along with Bardolino producers, Beaujolais producers (from Fleurie, Moulin a Vent and Morgon) are present at the tasting.  We go to dinner with them and the organizer of the event Anglelo Peretti, to Saporè Downtown, one of the best pizzerias I have ever eaten at. (Best crust! Top quality toppings, pity that the beer was flavored – something citrusy in one and the other boasted on the label about plums – and clearly intended for people who don’t like beer.)  The music playing in the restaurant took me right back to the summer I read the news on a Black Music Radio Station (I was 18 at the time). We munched through dinner to a soundtrack of Aretha Franklin, Mary Wells (My Guy), the Stylistics, the Supremes. If only there had been some Tammy Tyrell and Marvin Gaye it would have been perfect.  A jolly evening was had by all.

September 29 The Masi Foundation Prize Giving

This is one of my favorite annual events, particularly when the recipients of the awards are scientists or musicians. Why these two professions?  Because they usually say things that provoke though and have a keen sense of humor.  Among this year’s winners were Egyptologist and director of the Museo Egizio in Turin,  Christian Greco; and jolly Gerard Basset, a top sommelier and Master of Wine.

September 21 Il Giardino delle Esperidi

Susan H. picks us up and we head out to Bardolino to Il Giardino delle Esperidi to see our pal Suzy, one of the three owners of Il Giardino. The first thing she said when we arrived was: “I’m going to be a great grandmother!” She is also a a top-notch winetaster.

“The wines on my list are not like those you’ll find at other places – I only list wines I like,” she says. Suzi travels and tastes, finding stunning wines from small producers. (Only 600 bottles were produced of the luscious Falanghina Aganum Vigna di Pino we tasted with dinner.)

We started with a glass of Saint Charmant Blanc de Blancs, and continue to follow Suzy’s suggestions; the Falanghina, Cattarato Shira Castelluccimiano, Bardolino Superiore from Silvio Piona, Taurasi from Perillo, ending with a Champagne Demi sec from Fallet-Prevostat.

Toward the end of the meal, Susan H. looked across the table and said of Suzi, her voice full of awe: “She’s really hip.”

In short: We had a wonderful time: the food was imaginative and delicious, and the wines surprising and satisfying.

Anyone who is coming to Vinitaly in 2019 might want to arrive a day or two early and book a table at Il Giardino delle Esperidi in Bardolino. You will find wines that are selected not on mark-up and easy sells (popular names), rather you will have the pleasure of tastings something new and different.

September 7 The Venice Film Festival, Ugo’s Golden Eel and our Wedding Anniversary 

Here is a photo of Michael and me on the ferry taking us over to the Lido.  Every year we go the Venice Film festival for a day. Today our visit coincided with our wedding anniversary.

We saw four films. One was exceptionally moving (Sony, an Indian film by a first time director), one was good (an Iranian film called As I lay Dying), one was a nice history lesson about the French revolution (Un Peuple et son Roi) and one was irritating (Zan the English title was Killing). Why was this last film irritating? I am glad you asked. In all the action sequences with the samuris the director wielded a jerky hand-held camera.  I had to look away because the movement made me physically ill. Also, every time music was used, the volume was pumped up to the point that the seats we were sitting on vibrated. It could not end quickly enough for me.

But now to the really exceptional film. Sony (the name of one of the protagonists) was about two women police officers in India and, in a larger way, it was about the casual and constant sexism woman encounter and how they deal with it.  When the film ended I had tears in my eyes. No, it was not sentimental; the tears were because it touched a chord in me (and evidently in many other women). When I tried to talk about it immediately after the showing I choked up.  I was too full of usually suppressed emotion.  The director was there with the producer (a woman) and the two main actresses.  The audience applauded at the end of the showing and the women in the audience lined up to offer congratulation,

Each year Ugo organizes an alternative (to the official Venice Film Festival) award fest called the Bisato Oro (the Golden Eel as opposed to the Golden Lion).  One of this year’s big winners was Australian Director Jennifer Kent. Her film Nightingale won the Special Jury’s Prize at the official Venice Film Festival and she also graciously showed up at Ugo’s do to accept the Golden Eel for Best Film. Here is a link to interviews with Jennifer Kent and members of the cast of the film.

 

September 8 Vicentini (Agostino)

We arrive at the home of Terresa Bacco and Agostino Vicentini to taste with a friend from Peru who is looking for wines to import. As always, the wines were good and the prices were competitive.  We also played with Lily, whose age is unknown but she has been with the Vicentinis for around 15 years.  She is a sweet natured little doggie and is still full of pep.

September 1  Recognition

I was recognized at the supermarket this morning. I was wearing my typical Summer outfit of flip-flops, baggy trousers, loose shirt and – of course – my signature Paddington Bear hat.

I was with my husband and I noticed a man glancing at me nervously.  We all got into the elevator and he took a deep breath and asked: “Are you writing any new books?”  I figured he really didn’t care about the chapter on matching wine and food I just finished for a cookbook to be published in Singapore.  I said: “No I am reading more books than I am writing at the moment.”  I had no idea who he was, so I tried to find out by asking him what he was up to. His answer gave me no clue.

TIP: If you see someone you do not know personally but have seen in some public context and you wish to engage them in conversation please give them some hint as to who you are. Example: “Hello. I’m Edmund Cane, we met at the tasting in Faenza last year.”

March 2018

First Things First: books: Stephen Weeks is a film maker, a restorer of castles and the author of a hugely entertaining series of mysteries set in early 20th-century Prague featuring the irrepressible Countess Beatrix von Falklenburg. I asked him a few questions on behalf of Publishers Weekly and, not surprisingly, the name Sherlock Holmes came up.

He said: The Victorian world was perfect, in some ways (ie if you had some money) – that comfortable world of Sherlock Holmes that we all love. It was through this filter that when I came to look for my own castle, aged 25 – with the money from my first films, I chose a real medieval one, the tower of which had been built around 1129ad, on the borders of England and Wales. I restored a virtual ruin to be a wonderful home, shared willingly with the enthusiastic public, and which I sold in 2003 in order to move to Prague. Since the Castle had been lived in since the 12th century, it was proved to be ‘Wales’ oldest lived-in castle’ – friends, seeing their breath in the air while at dinner used to call it ‘Wales’ coldest lived-in castle’! But that was all part of its charm.

His new novel is Sins of the Father, published by Poisoned Pen Press. I have read it and enjoyed it. Weeks evokes the mores and manners of the period with a blend of richly nuanced details and sly wit.

March 7 –  Kate and Ed from America come for a visit

The high point was a visit to the beautiful hamlet of Valeggio sul Mincio. The breeze was fragrant with rich undergrowth, the sound of the waters of the Mincio slapping against the rocks was hypnotic and the sunshine fairly sparkled. After wallowing in this splendor for a few minutes I began to feel like an extra in Brigadoon.  When I glanced at the bridge and could easily imagine Gene Kelly capering with the ever elegant and long-limbed Cyd Charisse, I knew it was time to leave.

For those who have forgotten the fair Cyd Charisse here is a video clip from Brigadoon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dHJYqcjXsl8

March 3 Tasting at Marinella Camerani’s estate

I like Marinella. She always says exactly what she thinks. This can be disconcerting.  I once wrote that if a feral cat could speak it would sound like Marinella.

We tasted wines from her Corte Sant’Alda and Adalia estates in Mezzane di Sotto. Both are biodynamic and certified organic.

Among the wines that left a very positive lingering impression:

2017 Corte Sant’Alda’s Soave. After several minutes in the glass the wine opens up. An idea of greengage plums, ripe pears. Very appealing. Buoyant freshness.

2017 Corte Sant’Alda Ca Fui Valpolicella. It unfurls on the palate like a bolt of silk – flavors of black cherries, raspberries.

2012 Corte Sant’Alda Valmezzane Amarone Tingling acidity shapes the fruit. Very interesting, satisfying wine.

A Memory of Piccolo Ed & Marinella

We took Ed to the bus station with the intention of taking him to visit Francesca, his dog sitter at her kennel in Castelnuovo del Garda. He had been sneezing a bit for months but we had assumed it was just an allergy, perhaps to the dust that plagues our apartment. We entered the bus station and Ed sneezed. Time stopped. Everything focused on the spray of blood fanning out around our little foxy dog. Ed looked up at us happy as ever, his tail wagging, ready to go on a bus ride. We left the station and walked to the doctor’s office. Tests were done and we were told that Ed had a tumor in his muzzle. For several months following the operation, we took Ed to the vet’s every day for an infusion of antibiotics.

One December morning he awoke feeling weak and shivery. Michael and I took turns holding him for the next five hours. His eyes glazing over, he seemed to stop seeing what was around him. He arched his back in a spasm and went limp. I searched for a heartbeat…but could find none. I wrapped him in a sweater and put him in a 6-bottle wooden wine crate. We called our friend Eleonella, who agreed to drive us to Marinella’s. It was a sunny but brisk day in Verona. We headed east toward Mezzane where a thick layer of snow lay on the ground. It was scattered with sparkling points of reflected light. We drove up Marinella’s steep hill and parked.

Marinella was waiting for us. Her eyes strayed to the wine crate and she shook her head sadly when she saw the name of the producer burned into its side.  “Ed deserved better,” she said. “You should have told me; he could have had one of my boxes.”

She led us to a terrace of olive trees with a sweeping view of the entire valley.

“Pick a spot you like,” she said. “I wish I could be buried here but the government won’t let me. They have all these rules. We have to be buried in a cemetery.”

Cesar, Marinella’s companion, dug the grave under a tree and we laid Ed to rest. I planted a small cactus on the mound of fresh turned earth as a symbol of his independent personality. Then we trooped up to Marinella’s tasting room.  She opened a bottle of her Amarone and pushed a glass toward me.  I sipped the wine but could taste nothing. I was too filled with emotion of a different sort to make any room for the scents and texture of wine. We went outside and watched the sky turned a wonderful orange-rose as the sun set.

March 2 Villa de Winckels

I adore the annual Amarone tasting at Villa de Winckels (www.villadewinckels.it) because it includes everyone: international darlings, local heros, and producers whose total production of Amarone rarely makes it to 100 bottles.

 

Here are three of my favorite wines from the tasting:

Zyme 2006 Amarone “La Mattonara”. It is like cherries melting on the tongue.

Graziano Pra 2008 Amarone. A nice tingling sensation. Black peppery scrim over supple fruit.

Vicentini 2007 Amarone. Intriguing bruised fruit shot through with refreshing acidity.

 

 

November 2014

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA22 November Opening a Canadian market!!!- Ah, maybe.
A Facebook Friend who lives in Canada contacted Laura from Terre di Pietra (www. terredipietra.it) about placing her wines in Canada after seeing her mentioned in my FB message. This pleases me to no end. Very nice people – veeerrrry nice wines. I hope I can put more good producers in contact with someone who can help them expand their markets.

21 November Annual Lunch with Cantina del Soave
Café Vittorio Emanule in Piazza Bra. The view from the window says it all. I like the guys (I mean the president and director, of course) from the Cantina del Soave. They are jolly and sincere. Of the many wines they make, I particularly like the Equipe 5, a very decent and reasonably priced sparkling wine. They also do a jim-dandy Durello.

 

20 November Off to Villa di Wyncles to taste Valpolicella and Smooze
KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAClementina (pictured here) Palese and Alessandra Piubella (wow, what a great name – Morelovely. It sounds like a James Bond Girl name. I also know an Italian journalist whose last name is Bellagamba (beautiful leg!). But I digress…..

Clementina and Alessandra pick me up and we set off for the Illasi valley, east of Verona and Villa De Wyncles. This hotel/restaurant organizes wonderful tastings.

Tonight 50 Valpolicella producers are on hand. I will state right now that I did not taste all of the wines. We arrived at 7pm and I tasted til 9pm, after that I felt it would be useless to go through the motions. I was tired and when I am tired I tend to be hyper critical when I taste. So, better to simply take note of the names of producers I did not taste and vow to try them on another occasion. That said…

There were seven producers that particularly impressed me:

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAVicentini Valpolicella Superiore 2011– the wine unfolds on the palate like one of those Chinese tea flowers – lush and lovely. Readers of this diary know that I am fond of Agostino Vicentini because he does not mince words – he says exactly what he thinks without holding back.

“I am sick of ripasso,” he said. Do you wonder why I love this guy? I could not agree with him more.

 

 

A LESSON: Simply put, Ripasso on the label of a Valpolicella means that the grapes for the Valpolicella were refermented on the lees/pomace of the preceding year’s Amarone.

Many of the Ripassos I tasted at this event had a thick flavor…it was like popping a gelatin cube in your mouth. I do not find this a pleasant experience.
But back to the wines I particularly liked…

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERATerre di Pietra Vigne del Peste 2012 – lovely tight weave of rich flavors.
“I wanted to present a Valpolicella without wood, without appassiment,” says Laura Albertini, co- owner of the estate.

I also liked her 2009 Valpolicella Classico Superiore Mesal – pure, fresh, with a fine perfume. A very different style that the first wine but equally interesting and satisfying.
Here are some quotes from a previous interview I did with Laura.

“I wanted to work in the vineyards but my father was against it. He said women worked in the office not in the fields,” says Laura. “Fortunately my husband’s father didn’t mind if I worked his vineyards. We made our first wines in his garage.”

Her own father was not happy with Laura’s decision. “For the first few years my father criticized everything I did. Now he comes out to the field when I’m working just to chat,” she pauses and smiles. “So, it looks like I won in the end.”

Fattoria Garbole weighed in with what is not – technically speaking – a Valpolicella but an IGT called Heletto , a satisfying wine.

As always special mention to Speri. Why special mention? Because the company makes bright, fresh, tasty, satisfying wines…in large numbers. They make 70,000 bottles of their 2011 S. Urbano Valpolicella Superiore, which had a lovely burst of fruit on the palate.

Tedeschi 2011 Valpolicella Superiore Maternigo Fresh appealing with a compression of black cherries and black berries.

Marion 2010 Valpolicella Superiore Hebaceous on the nose and palate but with a deep note of fruit.

Ca dei Conti Valpolicella Superiore 2011 (I can see serving this in an American restaurant.)

Antolini 2012 Ripasso (yes, ripasso) but elegant and fresh on the palate.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAClementina, Alessandra, Ottmar and I were nattering away about the problem of defining the taste profile for Valpolicella when Leonido Pieropan stopped by the table.

“What is Valpolicella?” someone asked him.

“It’s pleasure,” he said, smiling broadly.

He then sat down and the conversation continued. We of course got around to talking a bit about Soave because Pieropan is the father of single-vineyard Soaves.

“I spoke with Lorenzoni (the director of the Soave Consortium) the other day,” he said.”And I said that the best way to distinguish Soave Classico was to have all the producers in the area go organic!”

What a wonderful idea. Eventually this will happen….but don’t hold your breath.

 

17 November Viva The Adventuresses!
I have been a member of the Adventuresses of Sherlock Holmes since 1982. I lived in New York City in those days and enjoyed the monthly meetings, where eating, drinking and singing were the order of the day. I left New York (for Paris, London and finally Verona) many years ago, but my memory of those early ASH frolics remains bright. Every now and then, I supply an essay or a report on the Sherlockian doings in Verona for New York meetings. The following paper was delivered on my behalf by Evelyn, The Principal Unprincipled Adventuress, at the ASH Autumn Lunch.

The Assorted and Stradivarious of Verona Septennial Report
After a flurry of industry on the part of The Assorted and Stradivarious of Verona that included a detective film series and field trips to the Lucrezia Borgia exhibition in Ferrara and the violin museum in Cremona, we have settled down to become a stopping-off point for Sherlockian world travelers.

bacchusOur most recent visitor was Peter Calamai of Ottawa, his wife and their travelling companions. A ritual has evolved for these visits. First we meet in Piazza delle Erbe for drinks at the Filipini and then off to the Osteria Carro Armato (this means Tank in Italian, and refers to one designed by Michelangelo), where a good time is had by all. Various Italian friends wander up to the table to entertain with poetry (this is Ugo) and anecdotes about North American history and literature (this is Davide). General good cheer is provided by Annalisa, who owns the place.
The A&S of Verona still mainly consists of Michael and me….and – in a strange alternate universe kind of way – Bruce.

We met Bruce at the first meeting of the Assorted and Stradivarious, which was announced in the local newspaper. Bruce, who is an Italian bank employee, has assumed his nom de Holmes in honor of Nigel Bruce. He is a collector of films and books, and he believes that the other Italian Sherlockians don’t take him seriously. He is, of course, absolutely correct.

While I find him a strange cove I still feel the need to defend him from his countrymen. He may be a mad Sherlockian but he is MY mad Sherlockian.
It is clear to all that Bruce’s Sherlockian interest is more a symptom than a hobby. I am sure that you have all heard of autistic children who can play complicated piano concertos but who cannot tie their shoes. Well, that’s Bruce. His balding head is chocked full of erudition and arcane Sherlockian facts but he is incapable of schmoozing, or even holding what would pass for a normal conversation.
When I lived in the center of town Bruce used to hang about on the street waiting for me to come out of my building so that he could launch into his most recent Sherlockian riff.

8Two years ago we moved to a neighborhood some 15 minutes on foot from our former apartment. We had not been there a day before I got a call from Bruce. He wanted to know my new address. I was cagey, I admit, and only told him the general area. The next day – yes, the next day – I was out walking the dog and spotted Bruce on his motor-scooter, cruising the streets. Unfortunately, he also spotted me. We chatted and I confessed that I did indeed live in the building on the corner. Now when I come home I occasionally find him astride his motor-scooter on the pavement by my front gate.

In the center of town he could hang out at the comic book store or the record shop. Or he could sit and have a coffee at the bar. My new neighborhood is strictly residential. I have no idea how he amuses himself while he waits for me.
His infrequent appearances no longer fill me with dread. I realize that I am providing a therapeutic service to a lonely Sherlockian and were it not for these occasional face to face meetings he would most likely be sucked into a world filled only with Facebook Friends. As a faithful Sherlockian, I cannot allow that to happen.

Bruce rang last night. He had commissioned a 90-centimetre (that is nearly 3-feet) puppazzo of Sherlock Holmes, with a latex face fashioned after that of Peter Cushing. “I have it sitting in a chair in my living room. It really scared my cleaning lady the first time she saw it,” Bruce joyously crowed. He then went on to outline a project he has been working on for the last several years, and to lament that he did not get the support he deserved from the Italian Sherlockian Community. I remained neutral. Then he said: “It doesn’t matter if they understand my work or not: The Sherlockian World is big enough for everybody!”
Once again, Bruce is, of course, absolutely correct.

 

November 15 Art in the hills
KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAWe go to a beautiful little town in the Valpolicella Classico hills to see an art show by Ico Naline. I like his style.

Someone says: “How wonderful to live here.” I recoil in horror. It reminds me of the Village in the ‘60s cult TV show The Prisoner – everything is so quaint and cute. How long, I ask myself, could I stay here before looking for an escape route. I have the answer to this: 45 minutes. I find myself looking down at the view and wondering if I could scale the fence and make it to the shelter of the trees without being seen. And could I avoid capture and make it down to the highway?

May 2014

May 27   I’m ready for my close-up, Mr. Demille
KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAAldo called last night and asked me to come out to Soave. I am not sure why. He said something to Michael about me talking about Soave to someone…. “Oh, and bring your hat,” said Aldo.

We arrive to discover that a film (feature-length, they say) is being shot in the beautiful vineyard of Borgo Rocca Sveva. I (and Giovanni and Alessandra) have been cast (by Aldo) in the role of expert sommeliers. I am seated next to one of the main characters of the film.

I soon learn that there is no script…everybody just wings it. During each take the actor turns to me and starts talking….saying different things each time and I reply. He is lucky to be seated next to someone who can Wing It! The director and crew are from Argentina, the actor is Italian, the motor of the production is, I believe, a world-class sommelier from Miami named Charlie.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA30 wine tasting extras, the 4 sommelier judges (dats me and the gang) and the actors sit at our places and wait. The sky darkens as we shoot a scene. Rain falls softly on my hat. In no time big fat drops of rain pelt down. The director mutters stop. We pick up our chairs and run for cover. The sun comes out. We troop out and sit down and watch time pass. We feel the wind as it pushes the fluffy clouds away. The sky grows dim. We start filming again.

 

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA“You are a natural actress,” says Aldo. “This is the role you were born to play.”

My hat is a big success.

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8 . Mr. C. and meMay 27    I love Andrea Camilleri
My interview with Andrea Camilleri is up on the Publishers Weekly site. Hooray!!! Below should be the link. If not, just type Under the Sicilian Sun: Andrea Camilleri into Google and the interview will pop up. I am indescribably happy.
www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/authors/profiles/article/62426-under-the-sicilian-sun-andrea-camilleri.html

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Mr. Venturini
Mr. Venturini

May 26   Cheivo Fans at Venturini (www.viniventurini.com)
I have always liked Venturini’s Amarone – juicy, elegant, firm backbone, satisfying.
I took the opportunity of a Chievo fan club outing to tag along and visit the new winery. 40 fans were fed some swell grub and served some very satisfying wines. His Valplicella was lush and appealling.  It was a pleasure to try these wines again.

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May 21 Stanley at the vets
We take Stanley and a vial of his pee to the vets. We wait for 2 hours. In the waiting room are two big, growly, teeth-baring dogs, whose ancient owners occasionally whine the command “Sit” at them.

I feel that as the dogs ignore the “Sit” command. They are highly unlikely to obey the “Release your grip on the neck of the little brown dog” command.

I suggest that Stanley sit under my chair and I prepare to fling myself into harm’s way should one of the Big Dogs get loose from its ineffectual owner.

 

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAMay22 & 23   Soave Frolics
We go to the Vicentini winery where we meet up with a pack of very nice German journalists and wine buyers. As readers of this diary already know, I like Vicentini Soaves very much. Fruity, floral, elegant.

We arrive at the Villa Aldegheri for dinner. This very beautiful house and garden is a B&B for the fortunate few who know that it exists. “We don’t advertise, “ says Luisa, the owner. “We depend upon word of mouth referrals.”
Even people who lived in the zone were impressed by the view.

The following morning, accompanied by Stanley, we met at the Coffele winery for a tasting of Soaves from various subzones.

One of my favorite wines of the day is from Pra. The wine is called Otto and is everything a Soave should be.
We visit Filippo Filippi. He is just up the hill from Coffele. His place is idyllic. Bees hum, brilliantly colored flowers at every turn. His vineyards are surrounded by thick woods. His wines sell very well abroad. They are not typical Soave but they are interesting wines.

“Stanley is a real Venetian dog,” they all say.
“Stanley is a real Venetian dog,” they all say.

May  15, 16, 17, 18 Venice with Stanley
We go to Venice to stay with Michelle Lovric, (www.michellelovric.com ) who writes books (for adults and also ones for children) that feature Venice. She has invited Stanley to join us. She also suggests that I write Stanley’s Diary of the trip. You can find this in the Writers & Writing section of this website.

I had never written as Stanley before, although I did write for our dog Ed for many years.

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Edmund Cane, Journalist and Poet
Edmund Cane, Journalist and Poet

Ed got his first byline in Decanter, a well-known British wine magazine. I had already contracted to write about the first wine fair ever held in Brazil for another magazine when I got the call from Decanter. My byline could not appear over both stories, so the editor and I agreed to assign the second one to Edmund Cane (a.k.a. Ed Dog), my alter ego. From there Ed’s career blossomed until he had contributed to every major British wine publication. Each time his byline appeared I would whisk his copy of the magazine down to Annalisa at the Carro Armato and she would give him a meatball for being such a clever dog.

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I never thought of Stanley as a literary dog. He surprised me when I sat down to write his diary.
Here is an excerpt for those who are not in the mood to press a button and read the whole diary:

“On Saturday we go to the fish market and buy plates of fried fish and glasses of wine. We take our vittles to the quayside and sit on the stone pavement to eat our lunch. Seagulls swoop overhead. One drops something into Michelle’s plate. Every molecule in Michelle’s body seems to draw tight and shimmer for a moment. She offers the remainder of her fried squid to me. I love al fresco dining.”

 

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAKONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAMay 6 Kafka Springs to Mind
I find myself in a very large castle in a very small town (a few hours from by train from Verona). I am here to be part of a jury that will be tasting a particular indigenous variety with an eye to giving out prizes to the “best” ones. There are around 9 other jurors, plus two event organizers who will taste the 40-some wines blind. In this case blind tasting means that the wines are presented without the tasters knowing the name of the producer. .

 

I learned a new word. Personalità. This evidently means “bad winemaking”.
How do I know this? After the first flight of 6 wines, one of the organizers who was tasting with us said. “Wow, that number 6 has loads of personality.”

 

Then he asked the question I was dreading: “What do you think of the wine, Patricia?”

 

I said: “It is cloudy. It is a faulty wine, with off-odors that I believe are linked to a fermentation problem.”

 

He said: “But it’s made in an amphora! It’s traditional.”

 

I think: “Yeah, even the Romans realized that wines made in amphorae were not great – that’s why they added spices and sometimes heated the stuff up…”

 

At dinner one of the organizers tells a racists joke.
I have been asked to let them know when I write about the event. I don’t believe that I will be writing about the event.