January 2015

31 January Amarone Anteprima

Elisa's tatto is the Greek word for "to be amazine"
Elisa’s tatto is the Greek word for “to be amazing”

We sat through a mercifully brief (one hour) presentation about the 2011 vintage (this is the one being shown today) and then a series of slides that showed how Amarone is doing in the super market sector in a few countries. This led me- and I am sure many other journalists – to ask ourselves: Is the supermarket sector really the target for fine Amarone? Oh well.

We met up with our pal Alfonso C. and tasted and chatted our way through the two large rooms of stands.

I did not taste every wine. I am still recovering from the cold and – frankly – the thought of plowing through 25 or more highly-alcoholic and (let’s say) zesty (to avoid saying acidic) red wines held little appeal for me.

Here are the highlights:
Amarone Corte Sant’Alda. Marinella Camerani asked me what I thought of the wine. As usual, when I am excited, my hands fluttered and I found myself spontaneously miming the wine. It is a habit that I cannot break – it just happens…

 

“Look you’re dancing. My wine is a tango,” says Marinella.

 

A producer I had not tried before was Marco Secondo. We tried the 2011 and the 2009. Very nice. I will put the producer on my list of winemakers to watch; I want to see how the wines develop. Also the labels had a touch of whimsy (the drawing of a tiny strongman lifting a barbell over his head), which never hurts.

 

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAWe stopped by old pals: Zanone, Villa Bella,Massimago, Roccolo Grassi, Santa Sofia.
For other old friends whom I did not visit: I’m sorry. And I will try to make it up to you. But you know as well as I do that when you don’t feel well, it is best not to dive into marathon tasting.

 

Michael, Stanley and I meet up with Alfonso and go to the Carroarmato for dinner – and a good time is had by all.

 

30 January Entering into Celestino Gaspari’s head
I, and some 25 Italian wine journalists, arrive at Celestino Gasparai’s Zyme winery for a view of the new structure and a tasting of 7 vintages of Harlequin (1999from 1999 2000, 2001,2003, 2006, 2007, 2008), the first wine to come out under the Zyme name.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAIt is a long-lived red wine made blend of 15 grape varieties, some of them white. Those who have brushed up on their Italian wine history will know that white grapes were part of the original “recipe” for Chianti.

 

“I chose to include white grapes because they give a bit of elegance to a wine,” says Celestino. And why did he decide to use 15 different varieties in the blend? Because he didn’t want the wineries he was consulting for to see his wine as being in competition. “I didn’t want to make a wine that already existed – an Amarone, a Bordeaux-blend,” he says.

 

I will spare you acres of tasting notes. However, one of the interesting words that kept recurring when tasters talked about the wine was “carob”. For me the recurring words/phrases were: “ lively on the palate”, balsamic, plumped raisins.

4But let’s talk about the new winery:
Years ago I went to an exhibit of Calder mobiles and stabiles at a Paris museum. As I walked into the brilliantly constructed installation, I felt as if I were walking into the in head of the artist. I had the same sensation as I walked down the wine-red ramp that spiraled into the depths of the winery. With each step I was entering into Celestino’s way of thinking. Unusual angles, sudden views of monumental stone walls, the soft glow of recessed light on a row a barrels, even the gleaming stainless steel pipes became part of this monumental work of art. Designer Moreno Zurlo is more than an architect, with this work he can be considered a portraitist.

 

27 January Voiceless but fine in Verona – Passing notes at Bertani
I am given a splendid tour by Cristiano (the winemaker) and Michela (the PR) at Bertaini. I have to write (or occasionally croak) my questions.

I still cannot speak due to the cold I picked up in London. What a drag. What I miss most about not being able to speak is: 1) not being able to carry on senseless conversations with my dog, and 2) not being able to sing. I just realized that I sing every day when I am fit.

22 January Missing the tasting I look forward to all year
Villa de Winckels (www.villadewinckels.it/ )holds an annual Amarone tasting that is simply fantastic. 50 producers, great opportunities to chat, great grub. But I am still too ill with my cold to attend.

 

16 -20 January Sherlockian Shenanigans in London
KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAFriday: We arrive at our pal Michelle’s apartment. (Please note photo of Michelle’s most recent novel and listen to the silent voice saying: buy this book. )

Saturday: Today is the big day: The Holmes Society of London’s annual dinner at the House of Commons. I show Michelle my dress for the event and she thinks it is a tad too austere for the occasion. She roots through her magic closets and comes up with one wonderful dress after another – beaded silk flapper-esque dresses, beaded evening dresses, elegant velvet coats, and on and on. We finally settle on a grey silk suit that Michael says is dynamic. He also says it looks like oriental Armani. I decide it is my Baritsu-gi.

 

7Michael kindly takes me to the House of Commons and waves good bye as I go down the ramp and through Airport-style security. It is a splendid venue: vast echoing halls, ornate ceilings, richly colored frescos and paintings, nice policemen.

We eat in the Members Dining Room. The main speech was given by Russell Merrit and concerned the William Gillette as Sherlock Holmes film, which had recently been uncovered in a Paris archive. For more information on this: http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/long-lost-silent-sherlock-holmes-737417

 

 

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERASunday We go to the pub for the Morning After (the dinner) do. Loads of very nice people, decent, rib-sticking grub.

Over tall glasses of London Pride, Guy Marriott, Marcus Geisser and I discuss bringing a band of 60 Sherlockians in Victorian costume to Cremona for a violin recital. Guy suggests that we might throw in a wine tasting while we are at it.

Marcus says to me: We are aiming for 2016 or 2017. Will still be in Verona then?

 

I reply: I never meant to stay in Verona when I moved there 23 years ago. So chances are that I’ll still be there.

 

Here is a link to the only song that I know of that mentions Cremona – Lotsa quail in Cremona. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NRdmhvvBc3k

 

We leave to meet Joan. Let me tell you how I came to meet Joan.

 

More than thirty years ago….

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAI saw a man strutting through Covent Garden one day and thought: “No one but Tim Curry could walk like that.” So I followed him, trying to get a better look, and he led me to the stage door of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, where indeed Tim Curry was playing the swaggering Pirate King in The Pirates of Penzance.

 

The show was sold out but I took a place in line next to a Scottish lady named Beth to wait for return tickets. We got the last two tickets and ended up sitting next to each other. During the interval I told her I was thinking of leaving London for Oxford because I thought things might be cheaper there. Money was tight and my choices were: earn or return to New York. Beth pulled out a card, wrote the name of her son’s café in Lisson Grove on it and told me to report there the next day.

 

I arrived in a very businesslike suit. Fortunately Mark, Beth’s son, hired me anyway. My colleagues were Henri and Carlos from Colombia and Joan Walker. Her hair was cropped close to her head, except for a few spiky tufts on top. She usually wore ripped jeans and an old school blazer adorned with band badges. She looked like an English Public Schoolboy gone wrong, which was, I believe, the intention.

 

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAMy first day Mark put me on the counter to take orders. The Irish navvies who were working on a local building site would come up to my counter and say: “W’wanmulkuhtahwidix.” And I would stand there dumb, until Henri would whisper… “He wants milky tea and eggs, Patricia.” I lasted at the counter for an hour before being demoted to carrying orders to the tables. Joan and I worked from seven until noon. Most days, as soon as work was done we would run to the tube station and head for Leicester Square. There we would join the line at the cheap theater tickets booth. Joan had University degrees in psychology and mathematics and had just graduated from drama school. After each show we would dissect the acting, scenery, costume design, directing and lighting, and, if it were a musical, we would sing snatches of our favorite numbers.

 

Over the ensuing years I would always stop and see Joan when I visited London, and during the times I lived in London, Joan and I haunted the theaters; after every show we had good heart-to-hearts over endless pots of tea – Joan knows every tiny tearoom in Central London. When she acted with the BBC radio rep she would invite me around to the employees’ pub for cheap beer and a “bit of Beeb color, dahling, lovie!” When she made her first appearance on the West End stage, I was there. And I saw her debut at the National Theatre. I returned to the U.K for a weekend to see her singing and dancing and vamping away in Mama Mia! Friends for more than thirty years and all because I found Tim Curry’s strut irresistible!

End of digression….

 

Here’s a link to Tim Curry and his unmistakable sashay: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bc80tFJpTuo

 

We go to a movie theatre in Leicester square to see Whiplash. I love sitting in a comfortable seat in a warm, dark room, while eating Minstrels and After Eight Mints and drinking ginger tea. The film is good too. Made in 19 days. Here is a trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7d_jQycdQGo

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAMonday we take in the Sherlock Holmes exhibit at the London Museum. My favorite part was the little Reichenbach Falls room. It is a kind of art installation, with video screens reproducing the effects and sounds of the falls. From various corners of the room came a whispered voice reading lines from the Holmes story. Very nice. I wish that the tiny room had a bench in it so that I could just sit there and be lulled by that whispered voice for a while.

 

Tuesday: At the airport we see Marinella Camerani Owner of Corte Sant’Alda (www.cortesantalda.com ), Cesar and their daughter Bianca. They are waiting for the same plane that we are.

 

“Patricia you are so sick,” says Marinella. “You don’t even sound like yourself!” She gives me a throat lozenge and tells us that she was at the Museum of London on Monday doing a tasting with her UK Importer. We tell her that we were there at exactly the same time. “You should have come down. Stefano (Inama) was there too.”

 

In my present feeble condition I realize that as nice as it would have been to see people we know from home…I would have been incapable of drinking anything more taxing than tap water.

18Marinella turns to her daughter: “They had their wedding reception at our house. All the ladies wore hats. I wore a big yellow one.” Here is a photo taken in the mayor of Mezzane’s office at our wedding. Marinella is in the yellow pant suit, Joan is in the red jacket and Annalisa (of the Osteria Carroarmato) is in the white lace blouse.I am in the big hat , Michael is next to me and behind us are Ben (or Joan and Ben) and Illias.  The little mites in white hats beside Marinella are Alda and Federica.

 

I returned home to Verona filled with cold and unable to speak. Every time I have gone to the UK in the last few years I have gotten ill. Am I the canary down the mine? This sorta puts a damper on my Victorian English Time Travel fantasies. If I can’t last 5 days in London 2015, then what are my chances in smoggy foggy 1895?

15 January Hooray for Monica
19My good pal Monica Sommacampagna’s novel has just been published. She is sensitive, intelligent, witty and well read. Buy this book, if you read Italian.

 

 

11 January Chievo Football Supporters Club lunch
We take the bus to the Chievo football supporters’ clubhouse for lunch – spaghetti followed by sausage and beans.

“Look, cowboy food,” says Michael. I have initiated him into the secrets of cowboy life over the years.

 

10 January: Stanley kills the Befana….and is very pleased with himself too!
KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAMy smallish dog stealthily opened a black tote bag, removed a smaller paper bag and delicately extracted the Befana, leaving everything else tidy and intact. He then quietly took her to another room and ripped her to shreds.

I warn people who come to visit us to hang their bags on a doorknob or put them on high shelves because Stanley is a thief. I did not heed my own warning…the fault is mine.

 

 

9 January Donna Leon
21I go to Venice to interview Donna Leon, author of the Guido Brunetti mysteries for Publishers Weekly. We meet in a in a sunny piazza and head for the nearest coffee bar. She reminds me of a bird of prey – those swift, intense looks.

 

I believe she was testing me on my general lit and mystery lit knowledge. Saying things like: “I liked the books written by his wife too.” Patricia, the swot, promptly provided the name Margaret Millar. And “Who was that man who wrote about Charles Paris?” Simon Brett, I supplied. When I pulled the name Per Wahloo out of my brain attic,(the question for this round was: What were the names of that Swedish writing team?) I knew I was on the home stretch. It went on like this until she turned the corner and realized that I was a genuine Reader of Books. Fortunately she also liked my tastes in poets. Whew. And when my husband was able to supply the names of opera singers – I swear, I could see her ticking that off her list and thinking: “Okay these people might be alright.”

 

6 January At the Gepperia
KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAWe go to Geppie and Germana’s for a bang-up lunch made by Germana, with a few things made by Geppie’s mother.
“You are lucky to have a mother who cooks so well,” I say.
“No,” he says. “I am lucky to have been born in Naples.” This means that the food in Naples is better than anywhere else.

The regular gang is there: Auntie Leo and Claudio, Silvio, Steffie and Ugo.

Eleonella (a.k.a. Auntie Leo) brought all the ladies a souvenir of her visit to Naples: a befana. A befana is an old crone with a broom. In these parts she brings presents to children around Christmas time and she is also burnt as a sign of the passing of another year.

December 2014

December 26 The Master of Tea
KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAEvery Boxing Day we go to Ugo’s for Ladies Tea. Michael is there to serve as Tea Master. He warms the pot, makes the tea and serves it with quiet efficiency. “Wow,” says Steffie, our hostess, “I bet I am the only person in Verona who has an Oxford graduate as a butler.”
We eat cucumber sandwiches and an assortment of buns and cookies, and all the ladies wear hats (just like English Ladies).

At 7 Ugo calls us in to watch I Mostri, staring Ugo Tognazzi and Vittorio Gassman. It is a series of vignettes poking fun at Italia foibles. We have all learned not to talk when a film is being viewed at Ugo’s.
Around 8 Michael brings in glasses of sparkling wine and suddenly people find their voices: “This is really good.” “Who is the producer?” “What wine is this?”

Now, to excite comment in Ugo’s living room while a film is being shown means that the wine has really touched a chord. I am happy to say that it is Berlucchi’s “Cellarius” Franciacorta Pas Dosé.
Lesson: Pas Dosé means that the wine is bone dry.

 

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERALater, after dinner, we open a bottle of Nero Musqué a wine given to me by winemaker Franco Zanovello. Again, there is sudden excitement and chatter. The people gathered around that dinner table do not work in the wine trade; they are intelligent consumers of wine. So when they start waxing eloquent it means that they are really moved. Here are some of their descriptive words: molasses, pomegranate, prunes , elegant. “It is perfect at the end of a meal because it is sweet but not too sweet,” says Steffie. Everyone wants to know where to find the wine. Plans are made to visit Franco’s Veneto estate (Ca Lustra). He also makes wine in Sicily (Zanovello-Sicilia) and that is where the Nero Musqué comes from.

 

Michael looks the wine up on his iPad and we discover that there are only 600 bottles made! Here is what the Ca Lustra website (www.calustra.it) says about the wine.

 

“As a part of an experimentation project on Muscat grape varieties, started a few years ago together with the “Vite e Vino” institute of the Sicily Region, we particularly focused on the now rare “Moscato Nero di Parenzo”. This variety had been abandoned during the ‘900 due to its very low yeld and “wildness”. But for the same reasons this Moscato, if placed on thin, well exposed limestone soils, can give a wine of incomparable aromatic intensity and amplitude.
It lends itself to a natural drying by simply delaying the harvest by a few weeks. This is an incredibly valuable and original sweet wine, a concentration of typical Mediterranean flavors.”

 

Christmas Day

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA
December 18 We go to Villa Cordevigo (a Wine Relais)
We are waiting at the bus stop and run into Matilde Poggi, owner of the Le Fraghe winery in Bardolino (www.fraghe.it) . She is on her way to the train station. Her final destination is Rome, where she will be meeting with politicians to discuss a European Union law that, essentially, says that if a place name is used in the Italian regulations to identify a wine (example Langhe in Piedmont), then that place-name word cannot be used by other producers on their websites, etc. – even if these other producers actually LIVE and WORK in the place so named. To do so could bring a hefty fine and a request to remove the offending place-name from the site.

Let’s think about this for a moment: It’s like asking the owners of a hotel in Springfield to explain where they live without using the name of the state.

The regulation has caused great confusion and a fair share of anger among wine producers.

 

4560485c578b592bd6e3b6d0daa5ef2c7aaee7c7_largeOur bus arrives at our meeting-point destination and Paola G. picks us up and whisks us to Villa Cordevigo. (www.villacordevigo.com) On the way we discussed the exceptionally beautiful children that photographer Annie Leibovitz has produced, in one way or another, over the last few years, as well as her history making photos. Like the one with John and Yoko taken just a few hours before he was assassinated. That fetal image is burned into the memories of everyone who ever felt a twinge of Beatlemania. Part of our youth died with him.

Here is a quote from Annie Leibovitz about that photo:

“I asked them to pose nude in an embrace. They had never been embarrassed about taking their clothes off. […] John had no problem with my idea, but Yoko said she didn’t want to take her pants off for some reason. So I said, “Oh, leave everything on”. I made a Polaroid of them lying together and John looked at it and said, “You’ve captured our relationship exactly”. […] We were going to get together later to go over the transparencies, but that night, as John was returning home from a recording session, a deranged fan shot him. […] The picture looks like a last kiss now.”

 

But I digress…..

 

5At the beautiful Villa we are briefed on the new initiatives being taken by the Bardolino Consortium with regard to Chiaretto. Chiaretto is the local name for rosé wine made in the Bardolino zone. It seems that most all of the producers are working together on this project to produce sprightly, lychee-colored wines.

“Now around 2/3rd of the wine made in Bardolino is red and 1/3 is Chiaretto (rosé). We would like to reverse these percentages, with Chiaretto gaining more importance in the zone,” says Angelo Peretti, the promotional guru who is helping to turn the fortunes of the zone around.

Edoardo Lessio, winemaker of Villa Bella (www.vignetivillabella.com) takes us for a walk among the large stainless steel tanks in which this year’s Chiaretto is fermenting.

All of the samples we taste are fresh and appealing.
We return to the Oseleta, the Michelin-starred restaurant at Villa Cordevigo, for a superb lunch.

“We were really surprised when the restaurant got the Michelin star after only being open three years,” says Franco Cristoforetti, who also happens to president of the Bardolino Consortium.

 

16 December The Meaning of Life at the Carroarmato
KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERATwenty film fans turn up at the Osteria Carroarmato to watch Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life – in English with Italian subtitles. On the way there I told Michael that I really didn’t think that the Italians would appreciate the Python movie. I was wrong. Loads of laughs. And of course that wonderful Eric Idle classic: The Galaxy song ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=buqtdpuZxvk ) Which brings to mind: Always look on the Bright Side of Life (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ECUtkv2qV8), one of the most frequently performed songs at U.K. funerals. Oh, I sometimes miss living in London. There is a true appreciation of silliness. My English husband has this quality in abundance.

Ugo projects the films on the back wall of the osteria. Another thing that amazes me is that people keep their mouths shut during the film. What magnificent behavior. They save up their thoughts and talk about the film when it is finished. They also turn off their cell phones at the beginning of the film without being told to do so.

 

13 December Think Pink
We meet with Angelo P. to brainstorm about ways to promote the New Chiaretto wines. Chiaretto is what rosé is called in these parts. The new style is fresh and very elegant. I like Angelo because he is always ready to play with a new idea. I will give updates when some of our ideas are put into place. (I’ll give you a hint or two: one idea involves a dog and another involves a semi-nude man.)

 

Then off to a wine tasting with Matteo at his bar Fuoricorso (www.barfuoricorso.it ) . He is practicing his teaching technique and I am there to act as wingman. We have a lot of fun and I make a few FB Friends.

 

Michael and I go to the Hostaria La Vecchia Fontanina (www.vecchiafontanina.it) to dine with Lorenzo Zonin (www.poderesancristoforo.it ), his wife Meri (who is a well-known wine journalist in her home country of Spain) and their pal Enric (who has lived in India for several years and now makes his home in London)…and of course Lorenzo & Meri’s dog Maggie and our Stanley.

 

December 12 Tommasi ( www.tommasiwine.it )
KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAAt Tommasi, Giancarlo Tommasi , the winemaker, kindly shows us around. “My great grandfather was a sharecropper. In a sense he started the company,” say Giancarlo.
We have a mini-blind tasting that includes a white wine made from Vermentino as well as their Amarone and Valpolicella. Very nice wines.

 

3-4 December
We go to a cluster of seminars called wine2wine. At every seminar from ¼ to ½ of the participants text, tweet and blog (or all three) during the presentations. Later I spoke to some of these fast fingered folk. And you know what? Every one of them had made mistakes in their reporting – getting percentages wrong, citing incorrectly the names of places, etc.
I thought: If it is now against the law to text while driving because it has been proven that texting impedes a person’s ability to concentrate and observe what is happening around him….perhaps it is time to ban texting at seminars. (Yes, I know this will never happen. Because the point is not to listen and learn but to show the world that you were there!)

As philosopher Seneca said some 2,000 years ago: “To be everywhere is to be nowhere.”

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/internet/7967894/How-the-Internet-is-making-us-stupid.html
I slapped this link up on Facebook and created a tiny tizzy. I was gratified to see that so many people agree that sometimes it is better to concentrate on the experience that you are having rather than focusing on texting about the experience that you are (NOT REALY) having.