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…

 

May 2017

First things first: Books With Strong Girl Protagonists! 1 images tammyTamora Pierce is the winner of the 2013 Margaret A. Edwards Award for Lifetime Achievement in Young Adult Literature, the RT Book Reviews Career Achievement Award, and the 2005 Skylark Edward E. Smith Memorial Award for Imaginative Fiction. She is a New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of more than 28 fantasy novels for teenagers, and has been Guest of Honor at numerous conventions, including Worldcon 2016. She has written comic books, radio plays, articles, and short stories, and currently devotes her minimal free time to local feline rescue. TORTALL: A SPY’S GUIDE, a collaborative effort with other experts on her Tortall universe, will be out in October of 2017, followed in Spring 2018 by the first in a three-book Tortall series, TEMPESTS AND SLAUGHTER. Tammy lives in central New York with her husband Tim Liebe and their uncountable number of cats, two parakeets, and the various freeloading wildlife that reside in their back yard. You may find her at www.tamorapierce.com, on Facebook, and on Twitter. I first met Tammy in the very late 80s when we were living in New York City. Back then she had written a martial arts script and got some NYU film students on board to film it. I “acted” in it – I had a death scene… unfortunately I had a hard time remaining immobile. We even did some clandestine shooting in Central Park, as I recall. I often wonder what ever happened to that film. It would be nice to see us so young and deliciously exuberant. At any rate, I am extremely happy that Tammy has succeeded in bringing strong and daring girls and young women to the forefront in her fiction.

 

May 27 – A Trip down Memory Lane 2 IMG_1173We go to the Osteria Carroarmato for dinner. A few months ago, I took 5 cases of wines from older vintages there. I figured that if they stayed in our wine closet they would never be drunk. At the Carroarmat we could open them and share them – which is exactly what happened. Annalisa (the owner of the Carroarmato) and I trooped down to the cellar and pawed through the cases and chose a 1988 Amarone and a 2009 passito.

 

 

 

 

4WINE LESSON: When tasting older vintages, you look to see how the wine has evolved over time. You revel in the evocative tertiary aromas and enjoy the kind of pleasure it still gives. Example: Paul Newman in his 70s. Yes, he is old…but the corn-flower blue eyes still sparkle and his bone structure is firm. He isn’t the same as he was when he pouted his way through Cool Hand Luke, but he still attractive and vivid. So, a wine that can age well is – in my mind – a Paul Newman wine.

 

1988 Amarone from Masi: A dark, rich tariness over a raisiny fruit. A vaporous scent of grapiness rises from the glass. It still gives pleasure. After 20 minutes, it opens up. The nose has an enticing floral note. I think it is safe to say that they don’t make wines like this anymore. 2009 Fiordilej Passito Villabella. Pleasing. After 20 minutes a touch of honey emerges and is bouyed by mandarin-tinged acidity. Unofficial note: pretty yummy. Annalisa offered a 1988 Cesare Passito from La Salette that was still vibrant and fresh.

 

May 19 Soave – Come Rain or Come Shine We took the bus to Soave for a tasting, a couple of vineyard visits and to hear some speakers who – for the most part – were indeed interesting. Wines that made the trip worthwhile:

Gini 2013 Soave Classico Salvarenza – a citrusy sherbet-y note. I would be happy to wear this scent…so fresh and uplifting.

Soave Classico ”Monte Carbonare” 2012 Creamy texture, an elegant grown-up vivacity. I love this wine.

Domaine Sigalas Assirtiko “Santorini” 2016 Fresh, Vibrant. Citrusy. http://www.sigalas-wine.com/english/ Assirtiko is a white grape variety that is indigenous to the Greek island of Santorini. To protect the grapes from the driving wind and fierce sun the vines are trained to form a basket. .

 

8For Importers (and wine fans) looking for something new from Soave: Franchetto http://www.cantinafranchetto.com/ The Franchetto family turns out elegant, satisfying wines. Of particular note: Franchetto Soave La Capelina 2015: Bright, sprightly. Elegant nose. Lightly thyme infused flavor over subtle white fruits (peach and pear) La Capelina 2016 – barely ripe peach sorbet – I want to eat it with a spoon. When we arrived, we learned that La Capelina had won the Decanter award as “The Best White Wine of the Veneto”. So there! If you need more assurance that the company makes good wines let me say this: Of the seven wine journalists present at the winery visit and tasting, three of them bought 3 to 6 bottles of the company’s wines to cart home. Everyone in the wine trade knows that wine journalists only buy wine if the wine in question is indeed special and the price is low with respect to the wine’s value.

 

17 and 18 May Verona Wine Top 9Was a judge once again at the Verona Wine Top tasting. The wines are tasted blind, That means that we tasters do not know that names of the producers. However, we do know the type of wine, such as Soave, Custoza, Valpolicella, Amarone, etc. There were around 8 judges on each of the three panels. My impressions: Of the wines my panel tasted I found the whites to be of a very high standard, with my highest scores going to Custozas.

 

 

WINE LESSON: What is Custoza? Custoza is made from a blend of indigenous varieties – Garganega, Trebbianello (a biotype of Tocai Friulano) and Bianca Fernanda (a local clone of Cortese. Where is the Custoza production area? Near Lake Garda. The reds were more problematic. The Ripassos were often unbalanced and many of the older Amarones had not aged well – they were hollow on the middle palate and there was not one whiff of what they might have been in their youth.

 

12-17 May Reading Jenny DSCN0726Our friend Jennifer arrived. The first thing she said was: “I need something to read”. I handed her Brilliant by Marne Davis Kellogg. A fine piece of escapist reading, tightly woven plot, witty narrative, great fun. When Jen finished it, she said: “Wow! What an ending. I didn’t see that coming.” Jen was an ideal house guest – she spent most of her time reading and drinking win on the balcony. We sang show tunes at the top of our voices and if she wanted to see sites she was content to amble out on her own…a pleasure to have her visit.

OCTOBER 2016

6aBOOKS BOOKS BOOKS!!!!

Evelyn Marsh by Scott Clemens

I had intended to read it when I returned from Sicily…but thought I would just dip into it to get a feel for it before leaving. I started to read and did not stop. Believable characters. Fine dialogue. Good pacing. If you like Anne Tyler, Allison Lurie or John Updike (when he is being particularly kind) then give this book a chance.  Scott has submitted Evelyn Marsh to the Amazon Scout program, where authors post samples of unpublished works, and readers vote on which ones they’d like to see published. PLEASE go and vote for him.  He deserves a wider audience. Vote here:

https://kindlescout.amazon.com/p/2OVJKYK96QRH3

October 20 Villa Bucci welcomes me home

I had the urge to drink a fine wine in the quiet of my office, with my dog by my side.  I searched the wine closet for my last bottle of 2013 Villa Bucci Rosso (from Sangiovese and Montepulciano).  Ah, sublime.

October 8th through 18 – the Fabulous, the friendly and the sometimes very nice

dscn0611I received two invitations to go to Sicily (in the area around Mount Etna) this month. As the events were just three days apart, I decided to go to both, with a visit to our friend Simone’s place between the two.

Michael and I have very different packing styles.

He asks himself the question: How much can I stuff into the Big suitcase.

I ask myself: How much do I really want to carry in my tiny carry-on suitcase.

 

 

2We arrive at the hotel Palazzo Judica (www.rtapalazzojudica.com) in the exceptionally lovely late Baroque town of Palazzolo Acreide, which is one of eight Baroque towns recognizes as World Heritage sites by UNESCO. We are guests of Fuoco Food Festival. (The festival has a Facebook page).

The entire Festival/visit was one of the nicest experiences in my professional life.  I say this because it did not seem for an instant like a “journalist trip”, instead I felt part of a family of friends. Everyone – producers, organizers, chefs, other visitors – shared the same level of enthusiasm and generosity of spirit.

 

3Toward the end of the stay, the film team asked some of us to share our favorite memories of the experience and I realized there were so many magical and unforgettable moments. Turning the corner of a narrow street in Buccheri and coming upon a grazing bull, seeing the smoke rising from the cooking fires, sun filtering through the trees, dining at U Locale (www.ulocale.com ), eating warm ricotta that was as soft as a cloud. Among the many great participants was Alveria artiginal beer (www.birrificioalveria.it), Saponifico Zimmitti (www.saponificiozimitti.it) and Damigella flour and pasta (www.graniantichidamigella.it). Top Chefs from Rome, Milan and the local area prepare meats, vegetables and breads over leaping flames, whilehappily wielding barbeque forks with the all the gaiety and enthusiasm of backyard cooks. Fine food consultant Simone Masuzzo (originally from Palazzolo, now working in Milan, who has trained with top chefs both in Italy and abroad) provided a surprising and delicious pairing of chocolate ganache and capers.

 

Stanley specific dog sign
Stanley specific dog sign

56

 

 

 

 

 

 

If any Italian food/beverage importers are reading this, I urge you to get in touch with Fuoco Food Festival organizer Daniele Miccione (via Facebook), who hand-picked all the products and participating chefs.

 

Simone & Bro
Simone & Bro

We go to Barcellona Pozzo di Gotto (Su Mare) to visit our pals Simone and Rosie (and their almost three year-old daughter Rebecca).  For eight years Simone worked for Annalisa at the Osteria Carroarmato in Verona.  His dream was to return to his home town of Barcellona PdG and open a bar.  He has achieved his goal. His Osteria Malarazza (Bad Company in English) is wonderful. Top notch wines.

With only a couple of exceptions, the best wines I drank on this trip were from Simone’s carefully selected wine list. Here are the names of two that I tried at Simone’s bar: Tenuta Gatti (www.tenutagatti.com) Mamertino Rosso Curpanè (Nero d’Avola, with Nocera) – warm, rich plume/prune, silky on the palate, and Cantina Fina (www.cantinefina.it) produced Taif Zibibbo “Terre Siciliano” – vibrant, richly perfumed and broad on the palate. Both were very reasonably priced.

 

9I had been given a sample at Fuoco of 2013 Nero d’Avola from Feudo Marccari (www.feudomaccari.it ), which I brought along and tried at Simone’s bright kitchen table. I had tasted it at the winery at a presentation conducted by a famous sommelier. He had won international awards for his ability and certainly deserved accolades. However, he had decided to style himself as a Rock Star. Now if you are slim and sexy you can flounce and strut and still maintain residual cool.  If you lack the requisite physique of – say – a David Bowie or a Mick Jagger – then all that posing just doesn’t create a positive effect. And his speaking style was much more aligned with that of a televangelist; he shouted, exhorted, slapped people on the back, demanded high-fives. At a certain point I gave up trying to taste the wines and started thinking about Jim Jones (and wondering when the sommelier was going to ask us to drink the Kool-aid.)  For those who do not understand the reference look up Jim Jones and Kool-aid on Google and learn about mass hysteria and how the phrase “drink the Kool-aid” has entered into the language.

dscn0598 However, when the wine was tasted in the quiet of Simone’s kitchen, the Nero D’Avola from Feudo Marccari was very good indeed. Bright, deeply saturated ruby, Nose: rich, full and dark (some might say licorice) Lively on the palate a fine amalgam of flavors blackberry/blueberry and overripe plum. Long finish.

 WINE TASTING LESSON: When tasting it is best to do so in a quiet, well-lighted place. Do NOT listen to the opinions of others until you have formed your own. It is too easy for a loud voice to impose ideas on others. Once you have formed your opinion – then and only then – listen and discuss the wine.

I miss Simone. He picked the best music and the Carroarmato is not the same without him. His young daughter is a dab hand at tablets and computers in general. She is allowed to have her own Play List and leans toward the music of Zio Bruce (Uncle Bruce). Do I need to tell you that Simone and Rosie are big Springsteen fans?

Rosie very kindly agrees to drive us to our next destination, which, in her words, is “in the middle of nowhere”.

By chance Monica L. and her dog Tappo are also at this very nice building in the middle of nowhere.  She is tasting wines in her room for her magazine. I envy her having her dog for company.  She drove 12 hours from Rome because little Tappo is just a smidgeon over the “small dog” weight for airplanes.

11 I am here to be part of a jury, tasting Sicilian wines. There are 8 tasters and 200 wines. The nominal organizer of the tasting tells us there will be two juries – an international jury and a local jury – and each will be tasting different wines.  Each of us on the “international” jury politely suggest that there be just one jury and therefore all the judges will be able to taste all the wines.  The nominal organizer says no – 8 judges on one jury is too many.  We politely say that each of us has been on juries with 8 judges and that there has been no problem.  He then says that it is not possible for a taster to taste 200 wines in 2 and 1/2 days. Again, each of us tells him: no, 200 wines in 2 and ½ days is NOT too many and that each of us has upon occasion done just that.

He ignores us.  It is as if we were speaking to a cardboard box.

We dutifully go to our assigned table and he reveals how the wines will be divided. The local jury will get all the wines from specific areas that are made from specific grape varieties and with specific methods. The international jury will get all the Sicilian IGTs. These are wines that can come from anywhere in Sicily, can be made from any varieties and with any method.

Professional tasters among you can immediately recognize the inequity of this division.

NOTE TO TASTING ORGANIZERS: Do NOT underestimate foreign judges. We are NOT unintelligent, we are not insensitive, we certainly are not unobservant. We are, however, experienced and prepared. And if all of us – independently – make the same suggestion, then perhaps it should be considered as a valid option.

The high point of the last two days come at a dinner hosted by Diego Cusumano at his family’s new estate: Alta Mora. (www.altamora.it)  We tasted the silky, elegant and enticing 2014 Guardiola (Etna Rosso DOC, 100% Nerello Mascalese). My tablemate Daniele C. suggested it was like “wild strawberries in aspic”. I fell in love with that description – perfect.

 

Then off to the Taormina Gourmet event.

img_0353We met the marketing director of Settesole, (www.cantinesettesoli.it) whose Zibibbo won the IGT “International” jury top prize. The wine was indeed very fresh, fragrant and straightforward.

One of the two highlights of the event was a tasting with Walter Massa, the white knight of the Timorasso variety. I first interviewed him way back in 2002 for a book I was writing on Italian Indigenous Grape Varieties called Wines of Italy. I had to kick butt to get the publisher to include this variety because it was so little known.  It gave me great pleasure to see that Walter M. was as enthusiastic and passionate as ever.  He kept comparing wines to different actresses and actors.  I found my mind wondering to the question: If Kevin Spacey were a wine, what kind of wine would he be?

WINE LESSON: Timorasso originated in Piedmont’s Novi Ligure and Tortona zones. Before phylloera infestation struck the region in the late 19th century. Timorasso was among Piedmont’s most widely planted white varieties, and it was cultivated as far away as Genova, where it was used as a table grape. Post-phylloxera, many of its vineyards were replanted with other varieties. Timorasso’s fortunes were again diminished by the international success of Cortese di Gavi in the 1960s and 1970s, when it became easier for producers to market the already established Cortese variety. Fortunately, Walter Massa, championed the variety and began producing elegant age-worthy wines.

The other highpoint was a tasting of Chardonnay Cuvee Bois produced by Val d’Aosta producer Les Crêtes (www.lescretes.it) and hosted by Costantino Charrère. We never pass up the opportunity to taste wines from this estate.

 WINE LESSON: Valle’d’Aosta is Italy’s smallest region (1260 square miles) and lies in the north-west corner of the country. It is separated from France and Switzerland by Alpine peaks (among them Mont Blanc, the Matterhorn and Gran Paradiso). Most of its vineyards are planted on steep terraced slopes.

We taste 2014, 2013, 2011, 2006 2004, and 1990. The Les Crêtes house style is one of elegance, freshness and finesse that combine to create superb fine wines.

To explain the wonder of these wines let me just say that after 40 minutes in the glass the 1990 was still firm, fresh and elegant.

img_0080 We ran into Daniele M. (driving force behind Fuoco Food Festival) in the lobby of our hotel. He tells us that the everyone was so pleased with the outcome of this, the first Fuoco, they are already planning the second edition. Hooray! I wish them every success!

 

 

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.

 

MARCH 2016

in bardolino 12321646_10206815457998178_5177320440458276823_nThis was a month almost totally devoted to reading, writing and researching – my favorite activities! So wine tips will be mainly focused on the Bardolinos, Chiarettos and Luganas I tasted at the annual Anteprima event held in the lake-side town of Bardolino.

Once again, the Consorzio pulled out all the stops: the option of tasting on a boat (I preferred to taste on solid ground), an after-tasting event that included a band and cocktails (I went home to walk the dog), and the chance to taste some lovely wines.

The three wines that I enjoyed the most at this tasting: Ca Lojera Lugana Riserva del Lup 2013 (vivacity on the palate, alluring fragrance. Excellent.), Le Tende Bardolino Classico Bio 2013 (backbone, full appealing fruit, vibrant color), Pasini –SanGiovanni Lugana Il Lugana Bio 2014 (pear and apricot tones on the nose and palate. Satisfying).

 

And pride of place goes to a delicious Bardolino called Vintage, produced by the Cantina Castelnuovo del Garda. Why do I love this wine? Well, yes it is tasty but I will admit that I love the label. It would be a perfect wine for the Adventuresses of Sherlock Holmes. It was the last wine I tasted and a very nice way to end the event.

 

DSCN0267After putting in a hard day at the computer, I open a bottle of Villa Bucchi Verdicchio 2014. I will go on record as saying I adore Ampelio Bucci and I love this wine, and I have since I first tried it some 20 years ago. It consistently give pleasure. It is a wine where character and charm are perfectly blended. If you see Villa Bucci on a winelist order it. You will not be disappointed.

smiling happy IMG_6899And what did I do besides read, write and research? I listened to music: Natalie Dessay (the Vocalises album) and Natalie Cole (the Snowfall on the Sahara album).
And Michael and I went to lunch with Susan H. at the Osteria Sottoriva.

FEBRUARY 2014

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) www.divineguide.se/anders
Anders, my Swedish cousin (metaphorically speaking) www.divineguide.se/anders

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.