Ask Chuck

Location: Whitby, Ontario, Canada

Born in Malta but in Canada since age 5. Has written three books and presently does several columns about wine and food for various magazines.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Day Six Continued: Sartori Di Verona

Sartori Winery
Carmen Stirn responsible for marketing at Sartori di Verona met us as we parked our car in the expansive parking area, We were led to what was a 17th Century mansion now the home and business of Sartori Di Verona. Andrea Sartori was sitting at his desk, cigar in hand and talking on the phone.
Greg and I went in to meet him and were graciously welcomed. The home/vineyard was bought by the Pietro Sartori in 1898 to ensure a supply of wine for his hotel business. His son, Regalo, fell in love with the whole concept of wine and the winery and the rest is history. The company now makes 18,000,000 bottles per year and ships to 65 countries---main shipping areas being
United Kingdom, Germany, North America, Singapore. The company even ships to Nepal.
The quest for quality products had led Sartori down many paths--one of which, was a 2001 agreement with the 800 member Cantina Colognola di Colli which is one of the largest groups of wineries in Veneto. Tne company now makes a large variety of wines that includes Lugana, Bardolino, Bardolino Classico, Soave, Soave Classico, Valpolicell, Valpolicella Classico and Custoza. The Estate
Carmen took us on a tour of the estate. At the back there is a vineyard, a sort of laboratory, that is planted with different and somewhat unusually sounding grape varieties: Ancelotta, Roseletto, Croatina which were among the Valpolicella species: Molinara and Corvina.
We made our way past the back of the mansion to the cellars where Oak, Stainless Steel and Concrete fermentation tanks rested. Carmen mentioned that the estate was occupied by German troups in the Second World War and drank a great deal of the wine. Some wineries, she said, built false walls to hide their wines. We also saw a Bomb Shelter built to protect the owners.
Wine Tasting
We were escorted to the expansive gardens where a table was set up with various Sartori products. We tasted Marani Bianco---a white wine that wants to be a red--- from the Soave hills just east of Verona. It was made from 100% Garganega grapes which were dryed for over one month to reduce water and increase concentration. The wine had a nose of tropical fruit, citrus and honey with a palate that was full flavoured if not creamy in spots.
The next wine was an Amarone di Valpolicella "Corte Bra". The Corvina, Rodinella, Veronese, Molinara blend of grapes were aged for 3 months and then fermented. The resultant product is then aged 4 years in Oak with a further 12 months in barriques.
On the nose it had some red/black fruit with a spicy aroma. On the palate it was round, velvety and with ripe red fruit flavours.
We had dinner at the luxurious and artsy, Byblos Art Hotel (Villa Amista). The Ristorante Atelier left nothing to chance. Three magnificently decorated rooms were just part of the hotel's celebration of art with 18th Century paintings "rubbing elbows" with some of the most artistic and (maybe controversial") elaborate photographs/painting studies anywhere.
Not to be forgotton, the 15th Century Cellars house over 300 types of wines and the kitchen is a legend.
Daniele Cristanelli, Export Manager for Sartori was our host and a fine host he was. He ordered the Marani Bianco, Regolo Ripasso and Recitio della Valpolicella Classico for dessert.
The Marani went well with the Aperitif entree and the First Course of Scallops and Mussels. With my main course of Escalope of Fresh Tuna Marinated with Spicy Roots, the Regolo Valpolicaella Ripasso was excellent. I just had a small desert wtih which the Recitio della Valpolicella Classico went quite well, though this lucious but not cloyingly sweet wine could have been great by itself.
As a matter of fact. that is what I ligked most about the Sartori wines that I tasted. They went well by themselves both as a contemplation drink or just a fine wine time.
The evening ended with me having the usual coffee and then we called it a night. We did make plans to meet with Luca Sartori, President of the Consortzio Valpolicella at Villa Amista the next day to film an interview.
End Of Day Six

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Day Six: September 24th: The Dynamic Wines Of Tommasi

"Adventures In Wine Country" with Co-Hosts Chuck Byers and Greg Rist is a new series airing in April 2010 on CHEX Television Channel 12 Durham and The Greater Toronto Area.

Pierangelo Tommasi
We drove up the gateway to the Tommasi Estate in San Ambrogio di Valpolicella. We knew that we were approaching a serious person here since we got a call from the winery to find out what we needed and what we had planned. There he stood-----Tall, slim and intense with a gaze of a Matador. His style and features reminded me of the character of Don Diego in the Zorro movie and like his wine at Tommasi, he seemed elegant yet strong.
To complete the picture Annalisa Armani, his Public Relations administrator, was the epitome of charm and grace. She was quite attractive also. Both of them seemed a team that knew what to do and when to do it.

Conca D'Oro
Literally means "Golden Shell" is in the prestigious hilly zone of the Valpolicella Clasico Region. It is called that because the topography gives the vineyard the appearance of a shell which is then bathed in sunlight. This vineyard is known for its magnificent fruit and has been meticulously researched and planted by Tommasi. This 8 hectare single vineyard "Cru" is planted with Corvina Veronese, Oseleta and Cabernet Franc.
From the summit of this vineyard one could clearly see the expanse of the Valpolicella valley with the Valpolicella hills spreading outward like outstretched fingers. It was a partially cloudy morning and the Sun tried hard to spread its own fingers of light, piercing its way through the mist and upon the interspersed villages below----every so often lighting up the white houses in the distance. The contrasting vegetation of Cypress Trees and vineyards took on new shades of green as the light illuminated them. It was an inspirational site.
"We re-planted and terraced when we purchased this vineyard!" Pierangelo said. "This vineyard is used for making Valpolicella Superiore Clasico Ripasso while our La Groletta vineyard produces the grapes destined to become Amarone."
Apparently, the Coca D'Oro gets a bit less sun exposure during the day than La Groletta and that makes all the difference. Both great vineyards are influenced: the Groletta is closer to Lake Garda and thus gets winds off the lake while the CocaD'Oro is influenced by winds coming off the Lessini Hills.

Villa Quaranta
If the vineayards weren't enough, Greg and i were taken to Villa Quantra, a five star hotel par excellence. This 20,000 square metre facility has 72 exceptional rooms, Conference Centre, Restaurant, Wellness Spa and Fitness Centre complete with Spa.
Outside there are lovely gardens, pools with water lilies, flowers and massive fountains. The whole environment is very grandiose.
Everything is super modern which is truly unique in the fact that this is a 17th Century building which is named after the people who used to own it.
Next to the restaurant and within the confines of the hotel is a functional 17th Century Chapel complete with original works of art including some elaborate "Stations of the Cross" depicting the
Passion and Crucifixion of Jesus Christ. The centre alter painting of the Circumcision is in great condition.
We then went to the Ristorante Borgo Antico where we had lunch.
After lunch we toured the very impressive barrel cellars where the Tommasi wines sleep. Just so well kept!!!
The whole time was an inspiration when one considers the company that we kept that day.
Wines of Tommasi (Lunch)
Valpolicella DOC 2008
Colour: Dark Garnet
Nose: Red Fruit mainly cherry/Vanilla Spice
Palate: Cherry, Nice Mouthfeel, Medium body, Pleasant finish

Valpolicella Classico Superiore Ripasso DOC 2007 (Conca D'Oro Vineyard)
Dark Red
Nose: Predominantly Red Cherry though some dark fruit hints. Spice
Palate: Soft, round and nice concentration. Red/dark fruit with lingering finish.

Amorone della Valpolicella Classico DOC 2005 (Groletta Vineyard)

Colour: Very Dark Red

Nose: Black Cherry, Currant, Spice

Palate: Full bodied, black fruit with nice sweetness, very long finish.

Dessert Wine

Recioto della Valpolicella Classico DOC (Fiorato Vineyard Tommasi's Oldest).

Colour: Dark Red

Nose: Sweet sensation, mellow, cigar, fig and sweet black fruit.

Palate: Round and mellow, fig and black fruit, chocolate.

Lunch at Borgo Antico Restaurant.


Lombata all'Amarone (cold cut pork loin refined in the amarone grape skins )
Salamino all'Amarone
( salami made with pork meat and amarone wine )
Main Entree
Bigoli alla Contadina: Home made thick spaghetti with a farmer style sauce made with fresh tomato, olives, aubergines and basil.
Formaggi della Lessinia, Cimbro cheese ( it is an old and typical cheese made with goat and cow milks ) refined 12 months in rosemary and sage
Monte Veronese Ubriaco cheese ( cow milk cheese refined in the amarone grappe skins... it's called "ubriaco" which means "drunk"

Foglie Feuille with Chantilly cream ( it the "flagship" dessert of Borgo Antico )
Chocolate hearts
Apple pie
Amaretto mousse
Home made cookies with raisins
Sbrisolona: short pastry with almonds, honey and a lot of butter ( this is very typical here )


Monday, September 28, 2009

Day Five: September 23rd: Gruppo Italiano/Bolla Vini

"Adventures In Wine Country" with Co-Hosts Chuck Byers and Greg Rist, is a new series airing in April 2010 on CHEX Television Channel 12 Durham and the Greater Toronto Area."

Gruppo Italiano Vini
The Gruppo Italiano Vini is a large company made up of some of the biggest names in Italian wine. The names include: Formentini, Santi, Lamberti, Folonari, Machiavelli, Melini, Fontana Candida, Conti Serristori, Calissano,Nisso Negri, Ca Bianca, Rapitala, Terre Degli Svevi and Bigi.
The Gruppo Italiano Vini has 15 wineries under its umbrella and ships some 800,000 cases of wine to Canada every year. Canada is its biggest market with many well known agents in the business such as PMA, Philip Dandurand, Charton Hobbs and Lifford.
Now a new name joins the list of greats. It is Bolla Vini, a company that has been in existence for 125 years. The Bolla story goes back to the mid 1800's when Abele Bolla opened an in within the town of Soave. Much winemaking was done so his sons decided to work towards the wine making business and in 1883 Abele opened his winery. Bolla established a number of firsts in Italian wine. It was the first to market and label Amarone in Italy. It was the first to market Amarone i the U.S.A and around the world and it probably was the first wine that Frank Sinatra thought important enough to leave a restaurant that did not serve it! In 1997 Mayor R. Guiliani of New York recognized by decree the 50th Anniversary of Bolla in the U.S.A. Bolla grew to include many brand names and varieties of wine.
The Visit
Stefano Puppini slid out of his Audi and came to meet us. He was tall and very slim and quite aristocratic looking (I'm starting to believe that they clone these guys. I've never felt so pudgy). The suit he was wearing looked Armani. Of course I was wearing my Wall Mart jeans and light blue shirt. Stefano also had a charming and beautiful marketer and public relations person by the name of Tiziana Mori. It seemed a mandatory thing that all staff either men or women were good looking as well as intelligent. Tiziana was certainly both!
When he spoke, it was with that type of commanding accent that most of the Canadian women all adore. Why couldn't I talk like that? In other words, Stefano was charming, good looking and well dressed compared to my-----well, let's get on with the visit.
As we were talking, a large Tanker truck pulled in and we did a double look when we saw it was a wine carrier. This thing was huge and must have held thousands of gallons/litres of the stuff. Stefano looked at it casually as if it happened all the time and I guess it did.
Greg and I were led down to a historical museum that depicted events in the history of Bolla. We were given a quick tour of the winery before being escorted off to a village called San Nicola and to a vineyard called Ca' Mariana. Here there was a dynamic view of the Pergola style of canopy. The view was dynamic as it was beautiful. The vineyard was owned and worked by a family called Remedio who had owned it for generations and sold their crop to Bolla.
We also went to a village called Torbe and to a vineyard called Capo di Torbe. The vineyard was owned by Bolla and produced grapes destined to become Valpolicella and Amarone.
An interesting thing happened as Greg was filming the mounds of drying racks at the vineyard. We noticed a person checking and pinching off some of the grapes from the various baskets of picked grapes. He would pace the grapes in an instrument and then, after the grape was crushed within the instrument, he would hold it up to the light and bring his eye level with it as if looking through a microscope. I remembered from my college days that this was a "refractometer" which measured the angle of the light as one looked at it through the "window". The Brix measurement is the one accepted in Canada. One degree Brix is a a one percent sugar to water solution, the amount of liquid being 100 grams. The readings are recorded on each basket and computerized so every basket and picker (and in the case of a co-operative, individual farmer) is recorded.
After the tip to the vineyards, we got the grand tour of the Barrel Cellars that contained some of the original barrels that were used by Abele Bolla in 1883. There they were almost like new. The date of the oldest had an 1883 engraved on it along with an A B for Abele Bolla. Now the barrels are only used for keeping stock. They are not used for aging but need to be used in order for the wood to stay moist and tightly in place. Other dates on barrels were 1902 and on so. Since this part of Italy was then part of the Austrian Empire, the Austrian crest was also on them.
Lunch was served in the Museum portion described earlier. It was a Buffet style lunch with various cheeses, hams, prosciutto and salads. The wines were as follows.

Pinot Grigio
The the wine was perfect as an introductory course wine.
Colour: White almost lemon yellow, straw colour.
Nose: Floral with some herbal and tropical qualities. Passion Fruit, peaches, mango melon and citrus.
Palate: Refreshing and light. Had citrus and melon/peach on the palate with a lively acidity that set the palate up for the meal.

Colour: Garnet Red
Nose: Cherry/black cherry notes with some other red fruit subordinating.
Palate: Soft and approachable. Cherry notes with excellent spice.

Le Poliane:
Colour: Dark Red
Nose: Cherry and some ripe fruit flavours.
Palate: Very soft with cherry and red fruit notes as well as vanilla spice and black pepper.

5 Selle: This wine from Lombardy is truly amazing. It is made in hard to get to valleys using Nebiolo grapes and done in the Amarone style.
Colour: Dark, Dark red.
Nose: A sign of things to come. Too young and it would be a massive sin to drink now. Power beyond power. Vanilla, toast, blackberry, plum, smoke.
Palate: Power weight lifter that needs to have some refinement and aging. Black fruit, cherry, blackberry with strong tannins that indicated quality and age ability. Concentration and character galore. I was lucky enough to have been given a bottle of this wine and have no plans to drink it yet. maybe in about five years. Will it tame then?? Regardless, I will love it! Be nice to me and you will share this with me!

Amarone, Le Origini:
Nose: Blood red in colour
Nose: Ripe red cherry and red fruit flavours
Palate: Soft mouth feel with some vanilla wood spice and cherry flavours. Medium length with a nice bitter almond finish.
The goat cheese went very well with the Amarone and the luncheon was certainly a nice comlement to the wine. Nice food and great company made this trip enjoyable.

Cantina Valpolicella Negrar (Domini Veneti)
The next winery that we went to was Cantina Valpilicella Negrar (Domini Veneti). The Cantina was composed of 200 growers who were delivering their grapes to the winery as we visited. Tractor after tractor lined up to deposit the grapes that it was carrying to the destemmer crusher. One of the special interests of the Director Mr. Daniele Accordini was in the repatriation so to speak of old, forgotten and even almost extinct indegenous grape species. He had several on hand to taste if we so desired. He also showed us a very rare bottle of 1939 Amarone that was found, liquid and cork still in tact in a forgotten part of the winery.
Mr. Accordini also had the added honour of being the Vice President of the Consorzio Valpolicella.
We toured the winery to discover that in one part of the winery, the grapes were still hung on string from the ceiling to dry. We were told that this was an old practice that was seldom used and replace by the racks that were so common at other wineries.
The barrel cellar was also quite unique with a capacity of storing 100,000 hectolitres of wine with an oak aging facility of 12,000 hectolitres.
We sat down and discussed a bit of the history of the Cantina. It started in 1933 a group of smaller wineries banded together for the purpose of challenging and surviving the changing market. They also agreed to respect the environment and improve the vineyards of the group through efforts in single vineyard development and collaborate with growers in other locales to produce a wide range of wine products. The Cantina's total production is 8,000,000 bottles a year from 13,000,000 pound of grapes. The best wines made from select grapes are called "Domini Veneti". Research projects are always on the planning board to improve yields, land, soil and grape quality.
Ancient Grapes
Mr. Accordini also has another interest and that is the research and eventual reinstatement of old, forgottor and/or near extinct vines. He brought out several of these grapes and we tried them. The grapes showed a high concentration of flavours for the most part and were certainly good grapes for addition to the Valpolicella blend while others would have made better sweet wines. Mr. Accorini's passion for the history of grapes and the reintroduction of those threatened was a very hearting and dynamic thing to encounter.
Wines Tasted
Turchetta, Corbina, Bressa, Castelrotto, Spigamonte, Corvina
I found that the Spigamonte was suited to my taste. As soon as I sipped, I felt its sugar on my tongue and its acid bite was refreshing. The Castelrotto was a very close second. The Corvina is used in making Valpolicella and Amarone.
I believe that the whole intent in finding and rescuing these grapes by the consorzio is to bring the Valpolicella back to its roots---improving it as time goes along. If that is the reason, I think that the consorzio is just the place to do it!
End of Day Five

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Part Two: Tenuta San T'Antonio

"Adventures in Wine Country" with Co-Hosts Chuck Byers and Greg Rist is a new series airing in April 2010 on CHEX Television Channel 12 Durham and the Greater Toronto Area."

Scenic Specialty
Tenuta San T'Antonio is located in one of the most scenic areas of the Valpolicella region. Four brothers Massimo, Armando, Tiziano and Paolo Castagnedi share the responsibilities for the winery which sits in what is called "Pre Alps" which refer to the foothills which escalate in height just before the Alps become more dominant somewhere near the Austrian border.
We travelled to the estate located on Via Monte Garbi, San Bricco, Mezzane di Soto which was some 90 kilometres west of Venice and 13 kilometres east of Verona. We introduced ourselves and were taken by Paulo to a very high spot a couple of miles away. Here, on the hills of between the Illisi and Mezzane Valleys, one could see the whole valley underneath. In the distance, can be seen the appellation of Soavc. On a clear day (sounds like a song) one can actually see the Appenine Mountains.
On the 50 plus acres that constitutes the Tenuta San T'Antonio Estate, the brothers meticulously grow Corvinone, Corvina, Rondinella, Croatina, Molinara and Oseleta varieties in the Mezzane Valley (They grow Garganega and Soave Trebbiano in the Illisi Valley).
The estates is very well kept and a "green" philosophy is used throughout.
Just before we were to taste their wines we met Aldo Steccanella the representative of the estate.
Tenuta San T'Antonio Monti Garbi Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso:
Named after the hill that it is located on, this delicious wine was made from Corvina, Corvinone, Rodinella, Molinara, Croatina and Oseleta grapes. By law, the last three could only make up a much smaller percentage of the wine with the first three varieties being the highest.
Colour: Red (ruby)
Nose: Red Cherry with a touch of vanilla spice.
Palate: Approachable, soft and velvety with cherry notes and a slight pepper/vanilla finish.

La Bandina,Valpollicella Superiore:
This the grapes of this wine (about the same as the last minus the Corvinone, Molinara) were aged aged from 2weeks to a month and then fermented for a long period with eventual 24 months in 500 litre French Oak barrels. The resulting wine is special.
Colour: Intense dark red
Nose: Cherry/black cherry, liquorice, tobacco/leather, cedar.
Palate: Powerful, yet soft. Intense cherry and berry flavours. Anise/pepper finish.

Campo ei Gigli, Amarone
Made from 7o% Corvina, Corvinone 20% Rondinella and 10% Oseleta/Croatina.
Colour: Dark Red
Nose: There is no mistake about the black fruit in this wine. Blackberry/cherry with other wild fruits thrown in. black pepper, anise and tobacco.
Palate: Soft but not weak. A wine for aging. Black fruit, pepper with a firm tannic structure clearly integrated and balanced. Young with a long life.

The Trattoria Tomasi Enoteca in Vago di Lavagno was the site of the repas. Our host Armando provided good clues to what we should eat along with the wines. Also present was Aldo Steccanella, the estates' representative in Italy.
The dinner was super with a starter of Soave (a delicious white) and Prosciutto. The meal then followed in this order:
Wild Mushrooms and Pplenmta ( love mushroom dishes and this one was to die for!)
Grilled Vegetables, beans and onions.
Steak "Florentine" a huge---I mean huge---T;Bone steak cut up in strips (cooked "blue" which means almost raw!)
Thje wines, especially the Amarone melded well with the steak but almost any of the reds would have gone with the meal. Nice wine, nice venu and certainly great people.
End of Day Four.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Day Four (Part ONE): September 22:The World Of Pasqua

"Adventures In Wine Country" with Co-Hosts, Chuck Byers and Greg Rist is a new series airing in April of 2010 on CHEX Television Channel 12 Durham and the Greater Toronto Area."

San Felice
Located in Montoria withing the Valpantena area just north of Verona the San Felice Winery was certainly a dominating sight as entered the grounds. Carlotta Pasqua, daughter of Carlos Pasqua, welcomed us to the winery and led us into the main building which was the essence of modernity. The reception room reminded me much of Vincor's entrance at its headquarters in the City of Mississauga, Ontario. Large, spacious, professional and yet welcoming.
Carlotta took us on a visit to the San Felice Vineyard---an alluvial soil/limestone mix with a north/south exposure with a mixed type of canopy of Pergola and Espalier type. The vines looked quite healthy---especially those on the Pergolas.
We were then met by Carlos Pasqua. It was a very quick and informal introduction but the dignity of it was not lost. Mr. Pasqua was the epitome of elegance with an aristocratic and refined look. Soft spoken but authoritative, he gestured us to his vehicle. As we drove to the Castello di Montorio vineyard, which along with San Felice and several other vineyards makes up the Cecilia Beretta---a company that was created in the 1980's as an independent station dedicated to research and advancement towards the traditional wines of the Valpolicella and Soave regions.
Castello di Montorio
This vineyard intrigued both Greg and I from both a historical perspective as well as a pictorial and viticultural one. It is known for its archaeological finds that date back at least 2000 years. A wall reputed to be a boundary wall some 2 metres high is dated back to the Romans and many artifacts are constantly being found here.
We passed a large Mulberry tree just before we parked. The tree leaves were used to feed silk worms when these caterpillars were used in the production of silk. Atop the hill, the ancient castle or Castello still stood--a testament to the passage of time and a friendly reminder of our mortality. The grove of Olive trees, all quite old accentuated this. The Montorio vineyard had a north to east exposure and was used for the making of Amarone and Valpolicella Superiore as well as other quality wines. The grapes were harvested by hand carefully as not to damage the skins. Damage to the grapes could result in needless spoilage by starting fermentation early as well as attracting wasps, fruit flies or mosquitoes. Tractors followed the harvesters as they carefully filled the plastic pallet containers with grapes.
Mr. Pasqua brought attention to two facts that have happened quite recently. The first is that the Molinara grape variety had been deregulated to a subordinate status. The main grapes of Valpolicella now were the Corvina, Rondinella and Corvinone with several other grapes, including Molinara being used in much smaller percentages. The second thing he introduced us to was the Oseleta grape variety, a local red grape which was quite ancient and now making a comeback and now could be used as one of the alternatives. We were told that instead of the late ripening
and light coloured Molinara, other grapes such as the Oseleta, Croatina, Sangiovese, Rondinella and Corvina are being planted.
Tasting Wine
We went back to the San Felice where Carlotta and Mr. Pasqua spoke to a group of German wine merchants and distributors. Then we went on a quick tour of the winery proper. The winery was as it looked initially----a very up to date winery with many stainless steel fermenting tanks as well as large 30 hectolitre oak aging barrels mainly for Amarone . Other barrels ranged from 500 litre barriques to 25 litre oak.
We then ended up at the tasting room where we tried some of Pasqua's wines;
La Soraie
Select grapes from the "soravia" or top of the hill hence the name are dried for three months where they lose 30% of their water thus having a concentrate of much more sugar. This blend of
40/30/30 percent Merlot, Corvina and Cabernet Sauvignon in that order has a nose of black and red fruit mixed as well as vanilla and pepper spice. The palate has similar flavours and is so very soft and smooth enticing one to have another glass.
Surani, Primitivo di Manduria
Over ripened grapes left on vines and pressed immediately after picking and barrique aging for six to eight months gives a wine to red fruit with spice and a great mouth feel of roundness and mellow, soft but strong tannins. The finish is lingering.

Amarone Villa Borghetti
Nose: Black fruit such as currants, berries and vanilla. Palate: same as nose but with a rich taste that will develop as the wine ages.
Amarone "Terre di Cariano" single vineyard. 60% Corvina, 30% Rondinella, 5% Corvinone and 10% Croatina. Picked in September and dried on racks 'till January then fermented and aged up to two years in barriques and aged in bottle for another 12 months. Nose: Rich black fruits such as cherry and berry with chocolate, fig spice. Palate: Rich, full and round with similar fruits and fruit sweetness. Excellent length.
Lunch was held at the winery where both we and the German guests were entertained. Carlotta sat with us where we started the meal with an aperitif wine
Wine: Pasqua Rose
Pleasant and refreshing with strawberry and cherry flavours. Nice refreshing finish.
Food Platter: Prosciutto, salami, cheese, porketta, polenta went well with the rose and what followed.
Wine: Pietrariccia Fiano from Campania (Naples): Nose of citrus/apple with some minerality. Easy on the palate but a bitter/refreshing finish that goes well with the food.
Meal: Tortalini
Wine:Villa Borghetti Ripasso 2007 Valpolicella Classico Marano:
Sweet tannins and wild cherry/currant flavours make this wine ideal with the tortalini. The wine is medium bodied and has a refreshing acidity.
Fruit Platter/coffee followed.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Day Three: September 21st, The Wine Tour Begins.

" Adventures In Wine Country" with Co-Hosts Chuck Byers and Greg Rist is a new series airing in April 2010 on CHEX Television Channel 12 Durham and the Greater Toronto Area.

Guerrieri-Rizzardi Winery
Giuseppe Rizzardi didn't flaunt his heritage. He was a man that was concentrating on one thing----making the best wines he could from his impeccable vineyards. However, what he didn't say about his company was a testament to how serious and humble he was. Guerrieri-Rizzardi's history went back to an estate that was in the hands of he Guerrieri family since 1450 and land that the Rizzardi family owned since 1678. The two counts, Guerrieri and Rizzardi, joined forces and developed land in Soave, Bardolino, Valpolicella and Valdadige. The Rizzardi family now owns the business.We visited the Valpolicellavineyards in Negrar and met with Giusseppe who gave us a tour of his vineyards. The 25 Hectare vineyard is made up of Corvina, Corvinone, Barbera and Merlot.
Giuseppe also had some eating grapes planted in the middle of he vineyard as well as some Molinara which he thought was only really good for Rose style wines. His blends usually featured Corvina, Corvinone and Rondinella with an added touch of Merlot and Sangiovese. He had 25 different vineyards three or which are "Crus" or single vineyards. These are Brolo Rovereti,
Pojega and Calcarole. While at Rovereti (which means oak) I was amused by the welcome that we got from Giuseppe's two German Shepherd dogs gave us.
Giuseppe's philosophy was to always keep improving the possibility of making a good bottle of wine. He did not necessarily believe that technology will make a better wine and did not want to become a mass producer. He felt that any technology should complement tradition in wine making and sometimes it actually got in the way. Analysis could only go so far.
"We tailor make wines from the grapes he said. Technology may make you lazy.
Giuseppe took us to his vinegar cellar and where he kept his inoculation stash called "Mother Load" which was the small keg that kept the vinegar bacteria alive.
He also made sure that the vinegar cellar was very far away from the wine cellar since if a small bit got loose and somehow end up in the wine cellar, there would be a hell of a lot wasted material in old wine country.
We then ended up going to his garden which really is a show piece with palm trees, centuries old trees, flowers, statues, mythological statues, an amphitheatre and very neatly manicured trees that almost form a pergola in the drive way.
Jazz and rock concerts are held at the theatre which is still in use for many entertaining and artistic concerts. It is hard to imagine that this place was built in 1783. The lovely and smartly cut bushes were super nice. The manicured Cypresses, special trees, flowers and fountain ponds all are specifically placed to give the appearance of "a garden containing secret places such as those poets and philosophers once contemplated in admiration". The gardens were purposely placed amidst the grape vines of Valpolicella which were the livelihood of the area then and now.
We had lunch at the Enoteca In Piazza where we tasted his wines with some delicious food.
Valpolicella Classico Superiore
Black fruit and spice on the nose with equally the same on the palate. Excellent structure and integrity. A wine that could suit all seasons and foods.
Valpolicella Classico Superiore Ripasso Pojega
Dry with a great amount of complexity produced by the secondary fermentation over pressed Amarone grape skins. The wine is round with a good structure and fruit/spice flavours.
Villa Rizzardi Amarone della Valpolicella
A truly nice wine with superb mouthfeel and with rich/robust flavours but not at the expence of integrity and elegance.

Villa Frateli Tedeschi
The Tedeschi family have beeen in the wine business a long time and goes back to the founder,
Nicoli Tedeschi in 1824. The family owns and rents a combined 99 hectares in the Negrar, Fumane and Marano Valleys.
We visited the two and a half hectare Monte Olmi vineyard which was purchased by Riccardo Tedeschi in 1918 and it was indeed a busy place with harvesting of the Pergola style (umbrella shaped canopy) which serves a number of purposes including protection from the sun, drier grapes for picking and a production of a large amount of grapes. The grapes harvested at the single vineyard "Cru" of Monte Olmi are destined to become the Amarones of tomorrow. The other vineyards in the family are Pontare and Lucchine.
An interesting thing about Monte Olmi is that the vines are on slopes that will remove excess water during the wet periods and have the ability to retain water in dry---speaking of having your cake and eating it also!!!
The there is the new addition and great experiment.
It took us quite some time to drive with Riccardo's daughter, Sabrina, to the newest addtion to the vineyards. Maternigo means "land of the mother" and lies between the comunes of Tergnago and Mezzane di Sotto. Resarch that went into choosing this land was extensive. The area covers some 57 hectares and consists of wooded areas and olive grovese. The vines planted here are some two years old and water ponds have been erected to trap water needed for irrigation.
An interesting fact is that the building down (way down) in the valley is thought to have been a monestary and parts of it date back to the 15th Century. Sabrina proved to be a good a driver as she was a competent marketer. She whipped around the tightest roads with the skill of a racer!
We will now call her Sabrina "Andretti" Tedeschi.
Many of the 30 hectares that the vines are planted on are major slopes and face south east and south west which will give the vines much access to sun and drainage. It certainly seems to be a wise choice for the vines and for production. However, Riccardo Tedeschi the family oenologist
does not discount the production of future "cru" or singel vineyard areas.
The firm uses horizontal fermenters which allows for the regular extraction of skins. The must also goes throughseries of thermically controlled vertical fermenters. The wine is aged in barrels of Slovenian Oak with a capacity of 10 to 50 hectolitres.
The wine was tasted at Alla Coa Restaurant with Riccardo. It was a pleasant meal with pasta and truffles as well as Steak Florentine. Greg----well Greg decided on Tripe---if you don't know what it is, I will not tell you but it wasn't for me. That and vegetables made a very accomodating meal which we had with the wine.
Capitel del Nicalo Leggero Appassimento
Valpolicella Classico Superiore 2007
The grapes for this wine are lightly dehydrated of one month (about 10% of weight volume) and then fermented then aged for up to two years.
Colour: Dark Red
Nose: Red fruit, vanilla and spice.
Palate: Good mouthfeel/tannins, red/black fruit with some vanilla and pepper.

La Fabriseria Valpolicella C.S.
This is a single vineyard "cru" which is part of a special project that is using traditional grapes within the region. The grapes are late harvested and then softly pressed and fermented in small fermentation vats. the wines are steeped and then aged for one and a half years in oak and six months in bottle prior to sales.
Colour: Brilliant red
Nose: Bllack fruit and spice
Palate: Same fruit, round and great mouthfeel/tannin. Integrated with a unique richness. Vanilla spice with a long finish.
Capitel Monte Olmi
The grapes are dried for a period of four months and then pressed and fermented with the stems after which the wine is steeped for two montth before being put into the Slovanian oak for 2 to 3 years.
Colour: Dark Red
Nose: red fruit, spice.
Palate: a robust yet elegant mouthfeel and red fruit and spice with a long finish that lingers.
I tasted the 2004 and 2005 wines and was remarking how much I liked the 2005 over the 2004 which seemed austere. Then it was pointed out that I had the wines reversed thus I liked the 2004 over the 2005. Regardless---they were both good and I would highly recommend them both.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Day Two: September 20th: Verona!

"Adventures In Wine Country" with Co-Hosts Chuck Byers and Greg Rist is a new series airing April 2010 on CHEX Television Channel 12 Durham and the Greater Toronto Area.

Verona With Maria Alias Bulldog Broccoli
(Our guide Maria quickly earned her name as "Bulldog"! Our trip would have been much less fruitful had it not been for her tireless efforts to secure the best in viewing sites and places to go!)
Verona is a city of about 250,000 and owes it importance both geographically and historically to the closeness to the Adige River and Lake Garda. The history of it as a town goes as far back as 550 BC and probably further. It became a Roman municipum (city) in 49BC. The city fell into many hands along the way: Visgoths, Lombards, a whole succession of city states and families, France and Austria. Finally, in 1866, it became part of Italy. The rest as we say, is history!
At 9 AM Maria picked us up and we formally began our tour of Verona. What struck me immediately was the extreme cleanliness of this city. The air was fresh and people where everywhere riding their bicycles, walking, talking, going to church, having ice creams, sitting on benches and just enjoying life. There seemed to be a love of life here!
The other thing that struck me was the conformity of buildings. No obtuse "sky scrapers", no mismatched buildings----everything seemed to fit. History was at every turn and every turn had a history.
The first place we went to was the lookout at Castel S. Pietro that overlooked the River Adige. One could see the City of Verona stretched out below including the bridges built by the Romans.
Maria also pointed out the ancient Roman theatre that was being restored and the Decumano Romano---a very straight road coming from Rome in ancient times. You could tell Roman roads because they were straight--all of them.
Roman ruins were found everywhere as a matter of fact, many present buildings were built upon the ruins. Every time a road is repaired or a building dug, ruins are found. It seems
that Verona is built upon a Roman city.
Carni Equine
At some point in history, when Verona was under siege, starving people had to eat and ended up eating the horses. The enjoyment of horse meat persisted (including donkey meat) and we found horse butchers called "Carni Equine" in the medieval part of the city. Maria recounted the story of one person who was eating at a restaurant and someone suggested that he have horse meat. "I am not a cannibal," he retorted. I didn't think that we as beef eaters could point the finger at those who ate meat I could see my daughter's Hunter horse staring me in the face every time I thought I could try some.
We then went to the Piazza delle Erbe where lovely frescoes from the 14th Century abounded. Across the road was the old 13/14th Century Jewish sector---now colourful buildings still in use as homes. Within the Piazza, the market flourished with all types of products for sale including some excellent Amarone which was standing upright in the hot, humid sunshine---why didn't I buy it? I wonder!!!
Romeo and Juliet
Every where we went there were references to Romeo and Juliet. Yes, these were fictitious characters in Shakespeare's (busts of him all over) famous play. However, they are supposedly based on real people and as Maria pointed out, the saga of "star crossed lovers" is not a rare one and was still going on to this day!
At the market and most other places could be seen "T" shirts with Romeo and Giulietta printed on them or on cups or on ash trays. Figurines abounded also. I felt like I was in dust collector's menagerie!
The Piazza also had its share of amusements. A large fountain was the focal point of many children that played within its flowing waters. Dogs jumped in and out of it and parents shook their heads at it. Watching from above were ancient statues who seemed to be laughing at the whole amusement scene below.
The Balcony
We decided to follow up the Piazza with a visit to the Balcony where it all started. There were myriads of tourists in this one little square underneath a balcony. It was hard to move since everyone wanted to take a look at the platform where the famous words were sounded. Greg couldn't help it and said "Okay Chuck, say the words!" That was the cue for the HAM in me to come out and while he filmed, I hammed up the words----"But soft! What light through yonder window breaks? It is the East and Juliet is the Sun!"
This was in front of a hundred or so tourists who probably couldn't have given a care what was said by anyone.
Then, there is the statue episode! There is a statue of Juliet right under the balcony. I guess legend has it that the persons who touch Juliet's breast will be lucky in love. People were fighting to get in line to touch this girl's boobs. Greg wanted to get a shot of it!
He did and then he wanted us to do it. Again, I hadn't touched a girl's breast for some time and even though it was an inanimate and much older woman, I succumbed to the temptation. Besides she looked okay to me. I touched them---didn't feel any different. Greg did it and smiled, smiled and smiled. Somehow I felt that I came out second in that venture!!!!
Juliet's Tomb
Okay! First of all Juliet's tomb is empty! Don't know where she is but she ain't there. Don't know why but we got the third degree from one of the officials about taking a television camera into the tomb. There was NOTHING else there but this empty piece of stonework that really looked like a feeding trough for horses. But---our guide Maria had to call some supervisor because her staff did not want us to take shots of an empty tomb. Can't figure it out. Hell! there wasn't even a statue with breasts to feel. Nope---an empty tomb and we got the third degree.
Where ever she was, I hope Juliet was happy. Maybe she was somewhere with Elvis and Michael Jackson but in her tomb she wasn't. Not that it would stop people from coming mind you. Many came and starred and took pictures---of an empty tomb. Bizarre!!!
If I were the persons in charge, I would at least cover the tomb and MAKE BELIEVE that there was a body in their. At least put a skeleton or something. But all there was and I guess will be is------an empty tomb. Not far from the tomb was a bust of Shakespeare and a dedication. Maybe he knew where Juliet was!
Piazza Dei Signori
Maria then took us to the Piazza dei Signori, a market square that housed buildings from the 13th, 14th, 15th and 16th Centuries. Buildings around it once belonged to those who held the seat of power in Verona and basically made up all the rules. A statue of Dante stood watching as multitudes of people walked around.
We stopped to have lunch at the Impero Pizzeria/Tattoria/Bar located within the square. I had a great "Smoked Veal With Tuna Paste and Capers" and Greg had the "Pizza With Sausage" and of course, I had coffee!
We then went on to see part of the "City underneath a City". Every time they dig it seems that Roman ruins are found. To prove this, all one needs is to walk along the excavated and "glassed"
areas where whole streets and buildings were exposed showing a way of life that existed two or more thousand years ago.
We parlayed about this and how people being people, whether it was two years ago or thousands of years ago, would talk about the usual things---government, wars, the economy and gossip.
One could imagine that instead of recent events in the Middle East, Elections and who was seeing who or got caught seeing who, the Romans would talk about the problems in the Middle East, Elections and who was seeing who and got caught seeing who. Nothing changes except the names and dress. People are people.
Roman Amphitheatre/Arena
Being over two thousand years old didn't stop this ancient one from having a rock concert that night. Dozens of persons were lining up to attend the event which was held in the almost intact amphitheatre. We took some great shots of the outside which, incidentally, was actually the inside supporting part of the arena. It seems that the rocks that made up the outer wall had been carried away over the centuries.
Wall or no wall, the place was fascinating to see and imaginations did stir. There were a couple of kids/men dressed as Roman soldiers as they greeted the public. I had a feeling that the the average Roman soldier could have easily taken ten like them in about ten minutes but they were there to publicize the concert.
We tried to go in to do some shots and again a government official rudely refused us permission to go in. Hello! The building is made of rock! We could in any way harm it any more than the Rock Band Crew workers did in facilitating the placement of speakers etc.
We just left. If the powers to be did not want positive marketing and publicity, who should we be to argue!
Maria showed us other sites such as the Ponti Pietra, a Roman era bridge that spanned the Adige river and the Ponti Scaligero where the view was outstanding. Castelvecchio, from the outside was also an interesting site both visually and historically. The red brick bridge and old castle looked almost an artists conception in a painting than a real thing. Almost too perfect to be real. Maria also pointed out the S. Zeno Basilica built in 900 AD.
There were other interesting items that caught my eye while touring with Maria and Greg.
First of all were these tiny piles of locks, attached to each other certain sections of the ponti or bridges. They were put there signed by lovers to signify undying love. The other was the state of family that one seldom sees in North America any more. Sunday was for families to roam and do things with each other. This seemed to be a central theme in Europe. "Only in Europe!" you say.
Evening Dinner
Evening came quickly and we were picked up at 7 PM to go for dinner. Mr. Fasoletti and Maria took us to the Trattoria alla Ruota, a restaurant with a view to die for overlooking Negrar (part of Valpolicella. The establishment inside was eye catching and you could tell that the owners were proud of what they had.
The meal started with a special type of crisp bun with a type of Prosciutto or Lard on top. Delicious. I ordered as a first course Meat Filled Pasta with a Black Truffle Sauce. My second course was Lamb Cutlets. A salad selection with a cornucopia of various salad items including: Stuffed Zucchini, Stuffed Tomatoes, Pumpkin, Grilled Red Pepper, Broccoli, Green Salad and like was wheeled down and we chose what we wanted.
A special bread made at the restaurant and more reminiscent of small cookies in a way was also brought. The whole meal was decadently good. Greg, being the adventurous one, had the Rabbit Meat Balls as his main squeeze. Me---well I can be a bit of a "Gourmet Pansy" when it comes to these things. But, yah know! I want a good time also!!
The wine of the night chosen by Mr. Fasoletti was a Valpolicella Classico Superiore from Campo Morar by the great estate of Viviani.
This 2005 is from a single vineyard or "Cru". The wine was elegant and soft on the nose with hints of ripe fruit and toast. On the palate it had concentration, poise and elegance with black fruit flavours and a lovely, class finish.
Mr. Fasoletti also pointed out that since we were going to certain vineyards on our visits, he would choose only wines from vineyards we were not going to.
Nice choice!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Day One In Veneto and Valpolicella

"Adventures In Wine Country" with Co-Hosts Chuck Byers and Greg Rist is a new series airing April 2010 on CHEX television channel 12 Durham and Greater Toronto Area.

Good-Bye Umbria
It was hard to say good-bye to all our new friends in Umbria. They were a very special group. Elisa at Subretia, Miona, Christina our very special interpreter driver and of course Monica Latini who did magnificent work in organizing this package. I wish to thank all the wineries that were involved in giving us a very special picture in wine making in Montefalco as well as the Lungarotti family for so graciously opening up the museum and their winery to us in Torgiano.
I would also like to take special thanks to the Consorzio for making this trip possible. A truly special person was Maura for her expert guide work in Bevagna and Montefalco and always looking so lovely. I would like also to thank the many restaurants and shops that we visited and filmed. The people of Umbria welcomed us and we felt welcome. You in Umbria have made new friends as did we.
At ten in the morning, we were picked up by Monica who drove us to the train station in Folognia. There we started the rather long and arduous trek to Verona----all five and a half hours of it. Luggage in hand and through two train changes we moved forward and luckily had little in the way of problems in getting to Verona where we were met by Maria Victoria Boccoli and Mr. Emilio Fasolerti who is the Director of the Consorzio Per La Tutela Dei Vini of Valpolicella.
They picked us up and transported us to our hotel called called Castrum---a fortress hotel on top of a very high hill that overlooks part of the Valpolicella vineyards. From it could be seen a wide expanse of hills, vineyards, villages and roads. It gave me the vision of Barbara Streisand singing the song "On a clear day" since it was clear and the beauty sure seemed out of this world.
Every so often the bell on the tower would ring and around church bells rang signifying that it was indeed the day of the Lord---Sunday. It seemed very apropos that we arrived at such a fanfare.
Our two "Guardian Angels" as Maria called herself and Emilio waited for us as we refreshed ourselves. We then went out to a restaurant called Dalla Rosa Alda. The restaurant featured local cuisine and ingredients as well as a "real" wine cellar which was carved out of rock. The restaurant now also has guest accommodations as well as a lovely out door terrace which overlooks the hills and Lake Garda.
I had a great selection. As a starter I had local bean soup thickened with pasta and laced with olive oil and cheese. For my main course, I had a delicious thin sliced beef in Amarone sauce. This plus a slice of crusty bread did the trick. Emilio picked the wine of the meal, a excellent Villa Novare Valpolicella Classico Superiore Ripasso from Bertani (2006). Ripasso means that the fermented Valpolicella was put through another fermentation with the remnants (LEES) of the
Amarone wine which give the then young wine, more richness and body thus allowing it the capability to be aged.
This wine was no different since it excellent body and mouthfeel with dark cherry and plum notes with a pepper finish. With the meal both the bean soup and meat, it came alive.
Greg had his wine with donkey----yes, you heard it! He had an ass's ass for a meal. I hear it was good. What would "Shrek" say? Poor "Denkie"!
After the meal we did some touring where we went to the Church of San Gorgio which had a cloistered patio though it was getting dark and we could not see as well into it.
We returned in plenty of time to relax before succumbing to our rather long day. Yet, we managed to get some touring in even though we had arrived late in the day. With this in mind, what else has adventure in store for us.

Day Six: September 18th: Last Day In Umbria: Lungarotti Museum

"Adventures In Wine Country" with Co-Hosts Chuck Byers and Greg Rist is a new series airing in April 2010 on CHEX Television Channel 12 Durham and Greater Toronto Area.

Lungarotti Museum Of Wine
This museum is situated in Togiano which lies between the cities of Assisi and Perugia. This former medieval fortress is now the home of a private museum founded by Dr. Giorgio and Maria Grazia Lungarotti. Dr. Lungarotti passed away some time ago but Mrs. Lungarotti handles the affairs. I had the pleasure of meeting her and she is a charming, elegant gracious and very lovely person.
The museum is housed in what was "Palazzo Graziani-Baglioni" a 17th century summer house. At that time, the building was used to administer the managing of the land, storing equipment and keeping surplus stock.
The museum houses many exhibits that looks at wine cultivation, techniques, the economic relationship of wine in ancient times, traditions of wine making, art and literature -----all involving the relationship of wine and its effect on the history, culture, geography and people of the then and now world.
Exhibits and artifacts such as ancient amphorae, glass jugs and glasses, wine presses, old books referring to wine, art (including an original Picasso), maps, statues refer to the contributions of wine and to wine by the many cultures and civilizations that were involved with it.
The museum also serves as an education tool to schools and the general public who wish to study by direct observation the many aspects of he exhibits. For example: Pottery making which was important in ancient times, can be studied "hands on" at a Kiln next to the museum.
The museum is run by Fondazione Lungarotti which organizes many educational exhibitions in the area.
After the museum, we went to the Lungarotti spa and lunch in Montefalco with Grazia our companion guide from the company.
That ended our formal part of the Umbrian visit. I later paid a visit to Rocca Fabbri where Greg and I obtained a bottle of Montefalco Rosso and some ham, cheese and Mortadella from the shop in Fabbri. We went back to Subretia and enjoyed our "catch" outside in "our" patio.
Then it was packing time for the long, long, long day on Saturday.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Day Five: Colle Ciocco, Antonelli, Belvagna and The Legend Of The Unsalted Bread!

"Adventures In Wine Country" Co-Hosted by Chuck Byers and Greg Rist is a new series airing April 2010 on CHEX Television Channel 12 Durham and Greater Toronto Area.

Greeted By Native American Grape Vines
The intricately designed and attractive Colle Ciocco winery was next on our list to visit. I in particular was not ready for what I found. A large group of vines blanketed a Trellis and the grapes seemed rather large for the Sagrantino, Sangiovese or Merlot varieties so I picked one and tasted. To my utter surprise I tasted 'Welch's Grape Juice" which is the wild taste of native American Labrusca Varieties. I called Christina over and said "These are Labrusca grapes! How did they get here!"
"Oh no!", she said, "These are what we call Strawberry Grapes and we use them to eat. I just love them, but they are not Lambrusca."
"Oh no! Not Lambrusca but Labrusca---a native American grape!" I retorted.
She went off to ask and was told that they were indeed from the states but they did not know much more. But they were not Lambrusca----I decided to keep my mouth shut.
Some time later, I heard a large discussion with loud voices coming from the winery office. Christina came running out to me and I thought something was wrong.
"It is Vina Labrusca!" she uttered in pleasant surprise and followed it with "Bravo".I felt like the proverbial child who had just been patted on the head by his teacher!
Keeping in mind that we had just finished breakfast and were shortly to go to another winery and have lunch, it was a surprise when a "small" snack was prepared for us to have with our wine.
Making Passito, Drying Grapes, Olive Groves and Post Breakfast Pre-Lunch Snack.
The winery is truly a lovely place. From the terrace there is an amazing panoramic view of the vineyards and surrounding land. Upstairs there is a special area for drying Sagrantino grapes over racks for Passito wine. A fan helps draw the the air and keeps it fresh while it helps to dry the grapes. The grapes are kept in impeccable shape because of the cleanliness and dryness thus no mould develops. They are later pressed and fermented into Passito wine.
Olive groves with trees in some cases over 600 years old litter produce some of the best Extra Virgin Olive Oil in the world. The trees are kept short in order to make it easier to pick. It probably also keeps them quite healthy. In 1956 and again in 1985-86, frost killed many of the olive trees with only the older ones surviving.
We were also treated to a "Snack" to have with the wine. We had already had breakfast but---!
The meal was a mixture of cheese, prosciutto, salami and bread. Plus some rather sweet desserts. The wine that we had with them actually went quite well.
Wines Tasted
Clarignano Umbria Bianco: This white wine is 50% Viognier, 40% Grechetto and 10% Chardonnay. This just goes to show you how popular the Viognier grape has become when you consider that about 20 years ago, it was almost unknown with the exception of its native France and then only in the Rhone area. The Viognier seems to tame the high acid of the Grechetto and adds some great floral notes to the wine yet keeping the firmness and freshness of the Grechetto. The Chardonnay adds some complexity especially on the finish with its butter and citrus nuances. Very nice wine!
Montefalco Rosso: This wine has the traditional blend of 70%-15%-15% of Sangiovese, Merlot and Sagrantino. The wine is elegant and powerful with the usual Sagrantino punch at the end.
Montefalco Sagrantino: The 2005 version of this wine is power and tannin combined with the full flavour of blackberry, cherry and plum. A wine that probably will be drunk sooner than it should.Bold
Passito di Sagrantino: We where talking about the drying of the grapes. The result is here. With a luscious wine full of natural sugar taste but not too sweet to be cloying. Dip bread and cookies in it and you have a great sensation of sweetness and delicate taste.
Antonelli Winery
This winery lies on the estate which was once owned by the Bishop of Spoleto from the 12th to 19th Century. It harbours fine antiques that were collected by the family of the present owner Filippo Antonelli. The private residence has many interesting items which include family pictures that go back many years and include pictures of kings and other famous people as well as books and family artifacts from ages gone by.
The land and house were bought in 1881 by the Antonelli Family and in 1902 the winery was already producing wine. In 1979 the estate started bottling and marketing its wines. In 1992,
Philippo opened a hotel complete with pool and cooking classes thus making the winery a gourmet centre and attracting agri-tourists from all over the world. Many come with the hope of seeing one of Philippo's famous relatives----actor Christopher Lee who sometimes visits.
When we arrived, Philippo gave the household and winery tour before preparing the main dining room for lunch----I even got to sit in the Bishop's Chair!
Lunch was a typical Umbrian meal which suited the wines that we were having.
Stragozzi with Tomato Sauce
The typical meal consisted of home made pasta cured with tomato sauce. Simple and tasty it accompanied the Colli Martini Grechetto wine with its refreshing acidity that allowed it to handle the tomato sauce and heavy pasta with olive oil.
Rabbit with Potatoes
Another typical dish was Rabbit with Potatoes. The flavourful meat of the rabbit went well with two wines, Montefalco Rosso and Sagrantino. The Sagrantino also was used to accompany the sweet Strudel Cake since it can match a wide variety of food because of its power and residual sweetness. I found that the wine was so versatile since it is a dry wine but keep in mind that dry wine----especially one of Sagrantino's consistency has residual sweetness that can match the dessert and yet meld with the sweet meat of the rabbit. The dessert went quite well with the Passito.
Modern Winery
The winery boasts a modern gravity fed system whereby the grapes going into the fermenting tank are not damaged. Modern equipment also helps give Antonelli an edge. Large 25 hectolitre barrels help give the important wines more of a chance to develop slowly though 10 hectolitre barriques are also used for aging he wines.
Legend Of Unsalted Bread: Several hundred years ago, the Church had much power. We were told about the legend of the unsalted bread. It seems that the Pope decided in his wisdom to place a tax on salt. Rather than pay it, the people decided not to use it. The one major thing affected was the bread which to this day has remained unsalted.