Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Report from ... Verona, Italy - Day 4: More Winery Tours - Monday January 30, 2012

Day 4 ... Every day in Italy is interesting, especially if you don't live here.  It's like when I come in contact with these winery folks and tell them that I am from Toronto - they love the city (because they don't live there), I not trying to give Toronto a bad name - in fact I love the city, I have lived in or around it my whole life, I'm just saying outsiders don't know the problems that are part of living in the city).  We all think Italy is beautiful, but the locals know the problems - we as visitors just see the shiny exterior.  And speaking of problems, I have had many a conversation about our much ... beloved? ... LCBO - it is getting to the point where I don't want to sit next to a winery principal during a meal or a tasting because sooner or later the 'CBO comes up in the conversation..  Sadly everybody has heard of them, everybody seems to have had dealing with them, and nobody likes them - so much for Canada's friendly reputation, seems out liquor boards are doing their best to sully that perception (no one better than the one in Ontario).  But this is not a diatribe about the monopoly, it's to show you the wines we are missing out on because they are just not made in the quantity needed to feed the beast, err, I mean the LCBO.  It's also to show you the beauty of the countryside, the wineries, and the friendliness and hospitality of the people.  Today it was 5 wineries, 2 villas and a view of Verona that would take your breath away.  Once again, it's a picture book story - those are so much easier to read.

The day starts bright and early chez Tezza at 9:00am
A poster at the entrance shows the grapes of the region
Tezza has 3 lines under their umbrella, all based on vineyard and grape selection (in order): Corte Majoli - Tezza and Brolo delle Giare
This Spumante Pinot Grigio is an experimental wine they made for family and friends, "we liked to drink sparkling and got tired of buying other people's wine," said Vanio Tezza
At Villa Arvedi we had views of the area over looking the valley and their gardens
The trees looked like gumdrops and the maze is only about a foot-and-a-half high: kinda defeats the purpose of a maze
Took this one for my wife ... I'm sure she'd like to do this to me somedays
Here we are at Zecchini winery (est. 1988) - this symbol was found on the property when they bought it, it has something to do with a magician and a cave ... they kept it as the emblem of their winery so as not to stir up trouble with the magic man
No posters ... here they have preserved the grapes in jars to show you the different varieties
The lunch table ... cheese balls with pear, pistachios and stylized meat
A closer look at the apps
Cured meats and olives help round out the first course
Told you we'd see this again: Risotto a la Amarone ... but wait, you will see it one more time (later today)
Mom always used the phrase, "peel me a grape" when we were being difficult ... well mom, here it is, pit removal not included
The Ripasso was a perfect accompaniment for lunch: blackberry, cassis, and plum on the nose, nice spiciness and fruit on the tongue - there was also a little heat to this wine from the alcohol (*** 1/2+)
A break in the afternoon to stop and get some lovely views over Verona - more to follow ...
Another view overlooking Verona
... And one more
Next stop Recchia - est. 1906
at Recchia ... Gratuitous dog shot #3: "whatchu' lookin' at Willis?"
The wines at Recchia fall under three labels: Masua di Jago, is the home vineyard - Palazzo Bertoldi, is the lower vineyard - Roccolo is the space that lies between
We tried the '08 and '04 ... '08 is just too young, but the '04 was a delicious blend of licorice all-sorts on the nose and plum, cherry and spice, which lingered on the long seductive finish (****+)
A sweet dessert wine made in 2007 using Garganega, Trebbiano and Cortese grapes: smells of apricot, honey and orange peel - flavours of tropical dried fruits and spice with a fresh finish (****)
We were scheduled to stop for a look around Villa Novare - one of the Bertani properties - but we were told that we did not have an appointment ... so go away - proving that there are a-holes everywhere
A tasting at the small winery Dindo ... wines made almost exclusively without the use of oak; only 8000 bottles are produced
Giovanni Dindo explains his families philosophy of fresher more fruit forward wines without the intrusion of oak
The Amarone is 80% stainless steel and only 20% is put into oak barrels
Last stop of the day is the winery of Valentina Cubi, where we'll taste 6+ wines, our first organic wine and our first (amazingly) corked wine ... and get a bite to eat too
Dinner consisted of two dishes - this cheese, bacon and bitter greens app ... and ... wait for it ...
you guessed it ... a plate of Risotto a la Amarone, made with the 2003 Amarone and pumpkin puree for dipping.  In truth this was the best of the three we have had over the last 2 days ... just check out that deep colour.

Tomorrow is another day ... and the last.  It's a shortened scheduled, with a trip out to the Soave region.  Two winery visits and a surprise, unscheduled, look-what-we-found drop-in.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Report from ... Verona, Italy - Day 3: Winery Tours - Sunday January 29, 2012

Day 3.  And it's up at the crack of dawn to jump on some buses and tour the wineries of the area.  We have three days of this upcoming.  We thankfully have broken down into smaller groups of about 7 or 8 so we don't descend en-mass at a winery - many of which, we have found out, can accommodate these small numbers but not many more.  This makes it easy for us to taste wine and have more one on 8 conversations with the winery principals, than a gaggle of reporters shouting questions (yes, any more than 10 is considered a "gaggle".  The big question about today was the church visits ... on the schedule were 5 churches and only 4 wineries - made us think the trip was being partially funded by the Catholic Church, so I guess a thank you to the Pope is in order.  Interesting to note that all of the churches we visited throughout the day were closed ...a closed church?  On a Sunday?  It was hard for many of us to believe.  Below I will continue my photographic journey through Italy with comments about the pictures and in some cases, between pictures (27,000 words were saved by showing you these).

Hi Ho, Hi Ho It's off to church we go (Pieve de San Floriano) ... Sunday morning ... it was closed
First stop: Ca La Bionda ... here is his line-up of wines, we tasted them all
Alessandro Castellani (owner) addresses the group about the winery's philosophy
This was the best wine we tried: a Valpolicella Superiore aged 10 years in barrel: floral, licorice and cherry accents with great acidity ... round, pleasant - delicious. (**** 1/2)
Amazing 2005 Amarone, spent 5 years in barrel and 2 in bottle before release (****+)
Bionda's Top 3 ... The 2008 Recioto had bright, sweet cherry fruit and chocolate, delicate yet seemingly dry on the finish (****+)
Next stop: Scriani - where we saw the pergola system at work in the vineyard, grapes hang down from the overhead wires ... this is used all over the Valpolicella region
Stefano Cottini, owner Scriani - I swear he looks like a young Yul Brenner
A Brit and an Italian look into a tank ... sounds like the start of a really bad joke (on left wine writer Stuart George of the UK - "stiff upper lift old man")
Barrel room at Scriani ... we're gonna see a lot of places that look just like this
One of the many wines tried at Scriani
Speaking of things we are going to see a number of times, this was lunch:  Risotto a la Amarone - this is not the last time we see this dish
2008 Ripasso Classico Superiore: deep black cherry aromas, lovely cherry fruit with plum and cocoa notes, all brought together with delicate acidity (****)
We tasted through a vertical of Scriani Amarone: 2007, 2006, 2004, 2001 and the 2008 ... the '01 showed great finesse, elegance and delicacy
"Don't take that picture" said Marinela Ardelean, Scriani's Business Development Director - I think it completes the tough guy image ... minus the smirk of course
Church #2 ... Hey it's Sunday in Italy (I did not take pics at all churches)
Church #3 ... Pieve, Chiostro Ciborio, San Giorgio Ingenapoltron ... You actually had to pay to get the lights on in this place, and it was all automated ... 0.50 got you 1 minute
Gratuitous cute dog shot ... outside Church #3
Gratuitous cute dog shot #2 - at Accordini Igino winery, an unscheduled stop as we waited for Bolla to let us in
Bolla:  a mural downstairs to honour Amarone - they were the first to commercially market the wine in 1953
Bolla: in the "grandfather cellar", these barrels are still in use - note the date (1900)
And this one ... one of the original barrels from the winery's start up: 1883
The awe-inspiring winery of SalvaTerra, where we had dinner ...
with the family
A wonderful night that started with Prosecco - a lovely floral and citrus nose, fresh and lively on the palate with a touch of lemon-almond on the finish (*** 1/2+)
The scene stealing 2009 Ripasso Classico Superiore (**** 1/2)
and closing with the Eros Passito made from 100% Gargenga (****) - perfect end to a perfect evening ... the food, the company and the wines were awesome.  Thanks to Mirko and Eros for allowing us into their parents home.  After all "wine is all about family"

Tomorrow it's 5 wineries and a number of Villas  sponsored by the Italian Villa Board (IVB) ... okay about that I am kidding ... but the visiting of Villas I am not.  Ciao for now.