Cabernet Sauvignon Cor Cellars

January 27, 2015

This past weekend, I had the chance to work for an American Red Cross event in Greenville, South Carolina.  Many wineries from the west coast offered up their wines for the tasting and auction.  When one of the wineries owners couldn’t make it, they asked me to be their representative.  Cor Cellar is a Washington State winery on the Columbia River close to Portland on the Oregon border. They make a variety of reds from Malbec, Merlot and Cabernet Franc to aromatic whites like Gerwurztraminer, Pinot Gris and Reisling.  What really stood out to me, was their Cabernet Sauvignon- it was amazing!

After a good amount of time in the barrel, 22 months, the wine is bottled.  Here it sits until the fruit becomes mature and evolves into spices which add a sumptuous personality to the wine. Green pepper ,violet ,wet straw, mushroom, thyme, tobacco: the palate is rich and balanced and lingers on the tongue. The tannins are smooth but aggressive enough to dry your mouth.  Overall, I found their products to be interesting and look forward to seeing their bottles in a store near me.

8,5/10

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#ChiantiCool

May 16, 2014

chianti 7As one of the first Italian wines brought into the US, Chianti has become a household name and few have not tried it. Chianti has changed a lot over the years, evolving from an easy drinking table wine, to a symbol of Tuscany and Italy.  Although man-made, Chianti reminds us of Italy’s natural beauty; of rolling hills covered in vineyards and roads lined with cypress trees. It carries forth tradition and pairs with any Italian meal. But what exactly does a Chianti taste like? It is the most famous of Italian reds, but few really know what it tastes like. On April 28th at the Standard in NYC, the Consorzio di Chianti invited us to taste a variety of Chianti to show us just how different these wines can be and just how Cool Chianti has become.  #ChiantiCool

In the past, Chianti, although a good wine, was an easy drinking red, found in a straw flask. As the popularity of Chianti grew, the cheapest were imported and thechianti pic 1 quality dropped.  A bottle of the stuff could be found on any red and white checkered table cloth in any Italian restaurant or pizzeria.  As Americans started to learn more about wine, these ‘cheap’ Chiantis began to lose their appeal and the American public stopped drinking it.  The Italians, who are proud of their food, wine, customs and culture, knew that something was wrong.  They worked together to bring back the quality of Chianti and created laws guaranteeing so.  The Chianti DOC is the first regulated wine in Italy and the verification today consists of grape selection, testing for chemical and physical properties and aging.

For a Chianti to be considered a Chianti, it must be made from at least 85% Sangiovese grapes.  Traditionally, for the other 15%, grapes like Colorino, Canaiolo and even whites like Trebbiano were used.  In years past, farmers planted what grapes were available, and when a vine died, they would have to replace it, often mixing the grape types.  Recently, the idea of using the ‘old grapes’ has come back into style, creating a lighter bodied, interesting fusion of tastes unlike the more modern blends of Chianti.  Today, we can find more international grapes like Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot mixed into the Chianti wines.  Here, the tastes are chianti pic 5bolder, sometimes spicier and can often be aged longer in wood or bottle.  With any grape chosen for the mixture of Chianti, they must also be grown within the demarcated provinces of Arezzo, Florence, Pisa, Pistoia, Prato or Siena.  These hills create the perfect atmosphere for growing grapes and offer sub-zones with specific geographical qualities that make each wine different and characteristic to that area.

Whats great about Chianti, and one of things I learned in this seminar, is the variety of this wine. Some Chianti are best consumed young and others only get better with age.  Some absorb nicely the flavors of the oak barrels they are aged in, like that of Fattoria Poggio Capponi in Montespertoli.  Their ‘Petriccio’ Chianti DOCG is leathery and full of dark fruit flavors.  Another vineyard, Az. Agr. Pietraserena-Arrigoni, located in the famous city of San Gimignano, has two Chianti that stand out. ‘Poggio al Vento’ which is sweet and spicy with hints of raspberry and cinnamon is made from 100% Sangiovese grape. The other, ‘Caulio,’ has a more earthy, chianti pic 3metallic and mineral quality, made with 10% syrah.  This proves that even within the same vineyard, a slight change of grape and different exposure to sun, rain and terrain can create a completely different wine.

The variety of this wine means that it can pair with just about any kind of food. But, if you really want to feel like an Italian, it’s best had with other traditional Tuscan treats.  Besides the famous extra virgin olive oil, whose olives grow alongside the vines, the ‘Fiorentina,’ Florence’s hefty version of the T-bone, reigns supreme.  The light tannins of the wine dry our palate to prepare us for the next bite, while the sweet fruit flavors like cherry and prune bring out the best of this juicy steak.  Salami, pecorino cheese, artichokes, wild boar and my favorite truffles, can all be found in the Chianti region and a glass of this wonderful red will always be offered exalting the food’s flavors.

So what is it that makes Chianti cool?  Maybe it’s the vision of Italy it puts in our head.  Maybe it’s the passion of  the winemaker and his work that shines through in the wine.  The  relaxed sensation we get sitting with friends, sharing a bottle and chatting about life.  Whatever your mood may be, Chianti can make it even better.  Whether light and crisp or strong and tannic, with food or all alone, this wine’s greatness has come along way to becoming the quality bottle we look forward to drinking.

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Vincent Bliard

May 10, 2014

vincent bliardFrom the village of Hautvillers in France, Vincent Bliard is one of the best small grower Champagnes I have had in awhile.  This family run estate became  Bio in 1970 and has remained the only certified organic grower in the area.  Not using chemicals and pesticides is not a new idea.  Working alongside nature can be a difficult choice, but it shows how hard a farmer is willing to work to create a product that respects the land.  These wines are typically more terrior driven and the love the vintner has for his vines, often show through in the taste.  Like all Champagnes, their wines are made from the three typical grapes grown in the region; Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Petit Meunier.  The wine is aged in oak barrels for a period that depends on the year and type of cuvee.  I don’t know much about this family of vignerons, except that they put all their love and passion into making their Champagne and it shows!

They make six different Champagnes from only 4.5 hectars.  The one I tried was the blanc de blanc.  Made from just the Chardonnay grape, it had a medium to dark gold color with numerous, small

fine bubbles.  The floral and chalky characteristics danced in my nose, balancing well with the sweetness of the fruit.  Hints of mature banana, pear, apricot and a variety of exotic fruits were all present.  The minerality carried through to the palate and rounded out a toasty flavor found from the use of oak.  It was a clean and full Champagne that reminded me a bit of winter.  In fact, I think this would make for a great New Years toasting wine and I do look forward to drinking more of it this year.

 

 

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Paul Bara Champagne

November 4, 2013

After the birth of a child, some women want jewelry, some a spa treatment; e, I wanted Champagne- good Champagne! After nine months of no alcohol, ok I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a sip of wine here and there, I decided that I wanted to end my alcohol hiatus with some of the best celebratory wine out there. I called up a fellow wine lover friend in France and had her ship me an arrangement of interesting Champagnes. One of the first bottles we popped open upon my return home, was a Grand Cru from the village of Bouzy, by Paul Bara. With 170 years of experience, this vineyard produces seven Champagnes, from white to rose’, from a classified 100% Grand Cru terrain.  The Brut Reserve’ we had was a non vintage, and is the base wine. The bubbles were slightly on the large size, but numerous and rose quickly to the top of the flute. The limestone and chalky smells, the minerality of the wine, were the most impressive aspect- refreshing and inviting. Lemon, grapefruit and apricot also came through on the nose, adding a slight sweetness to the overall bouquet. The bubbles exploded in the mouth and sparkled on the way down. The acidity and minerality followed and the alcohol was balanced.  Besides the big bubbles, the only other ‘problem’ was the length of the flavor- it was short. Of course, I am just nit picking, because overall this wine is ten times better than most Champagne you’ll find for the same price, and it’s sold all over the US.

 

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A rainy and sunny visit with Lis Fadis

June 19, 2013

Outside of Cividale, Friuli, the vineyard Lis Fadis, which means ‘the fairytale’  in Friulan dialect, sits atop an ampitheater like hill.  Filled with rows of vines and fruit bearing trees, the view here is spectacular.  We arrived just before the rain hit, visiting the vines on their 9 hectares of land.  Most of the grape types are those indigenous to Friuli, like that of Tocai Friulano, Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso, Sclopetin (a sister of Schioppettino) and Picolit.  Others are international like Merlot, Chardonnay and Sauvignon. Their cantina is within old stone walls, keeping the temperature fresh and cool, aiding in the fermentation and preservation of the wine. In the cellar, six portraits of the elves who are represented in the fairytales, are placed on the walls surrounding a center well. Fadis, Sbilf, Aganis, Braulin, Pavar and Gian; each have their own personalities, as does the wine which their namesake is placed upon.

After the tour, we sat outside on the patio to taste the wine and watch the rain fall. The green of the plants and woods next to the blue of the infinity pool, relaxed us even throughout the downpour.

The first wine we tasted was the Sbilf Friulano 2009.  In fact, the beautiful yellow color was due to a slight maceration (sitting time) on the skins and added also to the smell and taste of the wine.  In fact the aromas of this wine were slightly sweet and fruity, mainly of intense pineapple and apricot. The overall taste wasn’t quite uniform– I personally believe it needed more time in the bottle to mature.  The alcohol and acidity were strong and intense, with an overall brassy feel followed later by the fruit.  The 2010, which we tried after, was much nicer and more balanced.  It carried forward the intense pineapple but also had hints of banana on the nose.  On the palate, it was more of a mineral and earth taste but sweeter and smoother to drink.

The Bergut, a blend of Merlot, Refosco and Schioppettino was from the 2008 harvest.  Aged for 18-20 months in medium sized oak barrels, scents of cinnamon, mature red berries, vanilla, star anice and other spices filled the glass.  It was a pleasure to drink this wine, which had a nice round fruit- forward taste with a slight kick of alcohol.  Slightly acidic, with a touch of tannin, the wine finished with vanilla and tobacco resting on our tongues.

As the rain started to let up, we thanked our host and ran to the car to start our trip back home to Venice. With only an hour’s drive away, it’s amazing how many wonderful places there are to visit.

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Tenuta Tomasella

December 4, 2012

photoGetting the opportunity to visit a winery during the harvest period is a treat!  This past September I brought friends to visit the Tenuata Tomasella winery, on the border of the Veneto and Friulan states of Italy.  Here, in the small town of Mansue’, the vineyard grows behind a beautiful castle painted red and white.  They have a whopping 150 hectares, producing both international grapes like Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc and Merlot, as well as grapes indigenous tophoto copia 2 the region like Friulano, Refosco and Verduzzo.  Annette, a friend who works for the vineyard, brought us around and explained the history of the family and the vineyards.  We took pictures of the grapes as they were brought into the cantina and poured into the machines to be de-stemmed and then pressed.

photo copia 3After the tour, we set ourselves up outside to enjoy the sun and taste the wines.  Annette first poured the 2011 Friulano, a crisp and clean white which smelled of ripe pear and honeydew melon.  It had a nice acidity making it a great summer wine to be paired with fresh veggies.  Next we tried the 2005 `Le Bastie,’ an aged Friulano which reminded me of cream soda! It is left in old and then new oak wood for 11 months giving the wine a round and full taste which lingers for a long time on the tongue.  I admit it was warmphoto copia 4 and intriguing, and like all of Tenuta Tomasellas wines, it carried a great salt minerality.  The following wine was a sparkling rose, `Ose,’ and is a blend of Refosco and late harvest Verduzzo.  The delicateness of strawberry and sweet red grapefruit perfumed in our noses and the refreshing bubbles makes this one of their best selling wines.  In fact, it won one of Italys’ top 100 wines this year, chosen by the Merano Wine Festival crew.  The light cotton candy taste of this demi-sec wine (or semi-sweet) would make it pair  perfectly with Asian food.

As a final treat, Annette poured us a glass of the Tenuta’s version of Chinato, named ‘Chinomoro.’  A selection of 2o different herbs like rhubarb, bitter orange and coriander are blended into barrique-aged merlot grapes.  The result is bitter sweet, like that of coca-cola, and is rich and full of flavor.  An after dinner treat, this concoction is great for its curative properties and goes great with chocolate!

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Vina Speri, Rioja from La Guardia

September 21, 2012

rioja2While most people spend their vacations sitting on a beach, we take ours to wine country.  This year brought us to the Basque country, Navarra and Rioja, some of the most incredible areas of Spain for food, wine and nature.  We ate and drank our way through 12 days of travel, stopping at a few vineyards on the way.  In the medieval town of La Guardia is one of the oldest cantina- Vinasperi.  Their fields are 330-550 meters at sea level, which seems to be somewhat of the average around here. In fact, the Rioja DOC law states that in order for a vineyard to be considered Rioja it must be at least 280 meters above sea level.  They have 10 hectares of clay and limestone soil, making  around 50,000 bottles.  All wines are 100% tempranillo and vines arerioja3 trained as ‘alberello’ or little trees.  Each of these tree-vines have three ‘sprouts’ coming out from the ground growing grapes that are usually low to the ground.  Vinasperi’s vines are mainly between 40-90 years old, replanting only when necessary.  They use a mix of old and new barrels for aging which are left underground in caves that are centuries old.  These caves are extremely moisture driven and mold has grown not just all over the walls, floor and ceiling, but all around the barrels– making the sight of them not so appealing.

rioja7The Crianza 2009 is aged for 12 months in old barrels.  Once the year has passed, they mix together all the wines from all the barrels in a cement tank and leave it to settle for four days.  It is an unfiltered wine, which leaves a bit of residue on the bottom of the bottle.  The color is a clear, ruby red with 13% alcohol.  Smells are fresh and intense, fruity and clean.  The cherry and strawberry fruits aren’t just ripe in smell but seem like a liquor, since the alcohol was so strong. Light, white spices, like white pepper, cloves and cardamom also fill our noses.  The taste was dry with smooth tannins. It needs to age andrioja6 settle in the bottle for a few years however, because the heat from the alcohol hits the back of you mouth and bites the gums.

The Riserva 2006 at 14% alcohol, is a darker and thicker color than the Crianza.  First smells are that of caramel and vanilla.  It is sweet and less intense; more elegant  and has aromas of dark blueberries and sweet spices.  On the palate it’s dry and less powerful.  It ages in American oak barrels giving it light tannins balancing nicely with the alcohol. Personally, I think it would be great with food.

The Selection 2006 has 13% alcohol and this time they used old French barrels to age the wine.  It is made only in good years from the oldest vines which are around 90 years old.  The bouquet is intense and complex, offering vanilla, musk, mushroom, truffle, leather and dark flowers like viola.  In the mouth it’s surprisingly light with a tart after taste.  Rock or slate flavors show off most of all.

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A tasting with Stefano Inama of Inama Soave wines

September 17, 2012

1A recent research project brought me to the medieval town of Soave, where I met up with famed wine maker Stefano Inama.  A vineyard started by his father back in the 50′s, Inama is known for his incredibly mineral white wines and is now experimenting with reds in the area of the Colli Berici.  The family began by planting the Sauvignon grape, not the Garganega grape typically grown in the area and used to create Soave.  But then again, this is not your typical family and this is not your typical wine.2

Stefano is proud of his land and the accomplishments both he and his father have made over the years.  They try to make wine as natural as possible and keep things clean and minimal in the cantina.  Like many producers, he feels like the Italian associations created to help promote Italian wine are not doing their job and instead of joining the Soave Consortium, he and eleven others founded Soave FIVI (Federazione Vignaiolo Italiana Indipendenti).   This group believes that tradition and territory will guide the producer in the creation of his wine.  That quality will always overcome quantity and that rules and regulations should be followed regarding these traditions, not for monetary or promotional reasons, but for respect of the wine.  I was lucky enough to taste a variety of Inama’s wines to understand better his thought process when it comes to wine making.

3The first was the Soave Vigneti di Foscarino, 2010.  With 26,000 bottles made annually, this white gets its golden yellow color from passing its fermentation period in old wood barrique.  Stefano calls it his ‘first light’ wine because of its northeastern exposure– a desirable location, considered by the French to be the best.  Its elegant floral aromas match the fruitiness of peach, apricot and white berries.   The minerality lingers in the back of the nose and after a sip of this wine, it is the minerality that plays the main role.  Still young, it’s easy to see that it can age for a long time.  The alcohol is warm and the tannins from the barrels shine.  It is full, round and typical of what a great ‘old-school’ Soave should taste like.

The next was the Vulcaia, 2010.  This unaged  Sauvignon is a clear4 green yellow color and extremely terrior driven.  The smells are crisp, clean and elegant with hints of pine wood, pineapple and grass.  The taste is also clean with salt and marble remnants on the tongue.  The alcohol, even at 14.5% doesn’t bite and it is intense and long lasting.  The Vulcaia Fume, 2010 is the brother to this wine.  Same land, same grape, just processed differently.  It is the first wine ever made by Inama and ferments and matures in new barrique for almost a year.  Intense and fruity; cantaloupe, jasmine, honey and mint are some of the aromas present.  The taste seems like a mix of Chardonnay and Sauvignon due to the aging process which makes it round and fatty like a Chardonnay, something unusual for a 100% Sauvignon wine.  It is very salty and mineral, like that of slate.  The fruit also comes through in the mouth– pineapple, guava and other tropical fruits.  This powerhouse white is a great food pairing wine; try white meats and heavy Southern Italian pastas.  It’s a red wine dressed as a white.

6Next were the reds.  First up was the Carmenere Più, 2009 Riserva.  Barrique aged for a year, this pure bred wine smells of viola flowers, vanilla and blueberry–  almost reminds me of a blueberry cheesecake.   The tastes are a bit aggressive and separate.  It is surely young, sharp, warm and a bit short, but will round out when left to settle in the bottle for a few years.  Bradisismo, 2008 is a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Carmenere.   Aged for 15 months in old barrique, it is spicy and a bit Syraz like in its aromas and offers hints of white chocolate and fresh red fruits.  The palate is strong and young, spicy and warm.  It is full and fresh, but not heavy and the light tannins sooth the belly.

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Southern Tuscany

September 1, 2012

photo (22)Tuscany is famous for its food and wine.  Big cities like Florence and Siena see thousands of tourists daily.  But the real Tuscany lies south of the mayhem, along winding roads carved between rock, or cut through forests of marine pine trees.

As I drove down a narrow road in the middle of nowhere, I noticed how dry everything was.  It hadn’t rained in months here and the pastures were no longerphoto (15) green, but shades of gold.  Not to say that it wasn’t still beautiful, but something was off.  We arrived in Montalcino and greeted my friend Susanna Padelletti.  Not only has her family been making Brunello for centuries, but she now owns and runs two restaurants and two B&B’s in the center of Montalcino- a very busy woman.  We met her son in their restaurant, Al Giullare, and ordered something to eat; pecorino cheese and pear flan as an appetizer and sliced carpaccio with grated parmigiana photo (14) and truffle oil as a main.  Of course, it was all washed down with a bottle of the 2004 vintage Brunello.  Tired, my friend and I went to bed in their B&B, Il Rifugio.   The next morning we woke up early to make stops in some of the local towns.  Montepulciano (home to the famous Vino Nobile), Pienza and San Quirico d’Orcia, all medieval villages on top of hills enclosed in brick walls.  After tons of pictures and some shopping we headed back to Montalcino for dinner.  This time we went to thephoto (20) other restaurant, Osteria d’Altri Tempi, located inside the second B&B Residenza Palazzo Saloni.  Susannna was behind the grill since her chef was off for the day and she whipped us up a fabulous dinner of stewed cinghiale (wild boar) and pici caccia n’ pepe (pici pasta with pecorino cheese and grated pepper).  The Brunello this time was from ’98 and the maturity of the wine opened nicely and paired perfectly with the boar.  We chatted over some slices of cheese with honey and jam and left stuffed, to go upstairs to our room.  After breakfast we said our goodbyes and hit the road for the coast.

photo (26)Castiglione di Pescaia, is a fort city with a castle up on top of the hill.  It sits regally, watching out over the sea and the people swimming at its beaches.  The water here is clear and clean, the sand fine grained and light colored.  It was  feragosto, the Italian summer holiday, and it seemed as if everyone in Italy was at the beach and in the center of town for dinner and gelato.  I can’t say we ate too well, but on our stroll we did pass a lovely restaurant called Posto Pubblico and ordered a glass of wine.  We headed back to our hotel, so as to wake up early to check out the beach  Cala Violina.  Unfortunately, we didn’t make it in time and by 10am the beach was full.  Luckily, we decided to pass by again at 4 pm and we parked outside.  After a 20 minute walk up and downhill, we arrived at the cove.  Famous forphoto (32) the noise the wind makes as it passes through the rocks, the beach was intimate, even with a hundred people in its waters.  That night we went on recommendation to an agriturismo called Le Grazie to eat.  We shared fried sardines, a pasta with baby octopus in a red sauce and mixed grill of fish for a main course.  With the sea so close, the fish was obviously fresh. I can’t say the same for the wine.  The Maremma, this area of Tuscany, makes some really great reds and whites, but the restaurant offered us a Falenghina, a white from Naples!  We finished with dessert and went back home.  The next morning we left to head inland, to Saturnia, famous for its hot springs.  The waterfall of Saturnia is a sight to be seen.  Over the centuries, the sulphurous photo (40)water, which comes from an underground hot spot, has carved out the rock, forming little pools of thermal water perfect for sitting and relaxing in.  The cascades pour out, leaving behind pebbles of calcium and mud rich in minerals.  It is something to be seen at least once in your lifetime and enjoyed even on a cold winter’s day.  We dried off and left for our next destination, Pitigliano.

We drove through Scansano before arriving at our destination and thought we should try and find a small vineyard that produces Morellino.  I curbed to the side when I saw a sign that said Bio Wine andphoto (35) pulled up to a cozy countryside home.  Il Troscione is owned by a woman named Fiorella, who moved from Milan five years ago to get away from the craziness of a big city.  She now has an hectare of vines plus another three of tomatoes, olive and fruit trees and other various vegetables.  We tried her Sangiovese (next year it will become Morellino DOC) wine and even with 14% alcohol, it was fresh, cherry fruity and lovely to drink.  She also has a white, an Ansonica, which was mineral, round and full bodied.  An interesting choice for this region.

photo (39)Continuing on, the hills became flat and we wondered where Pitigliano was.  All of a sudden, the road dipped and I drove downhill into a valley, within which, rose the great city.  Set on top of a tall mountain made of tufo, or lavic rock, you would never expect to find something so spectacular.  We found our agriturismo just outside the town and settled in.  As dusk began to fall, we drove up the mountain and parked in the center.  We walked around admiring the breathtaking views and took pictures of the carved ornament on building walls.  A cute and inviting restaurant in one of the main squares, is where we settled for dinner.photo (37) Hostria il Ceccottino, we found out later, is the best restaurant in Pitigliano.  They use as much local produce as possible and offer refined dishes and great service.  I ordered the acquacotta, a typical plate in Maremma, paired with a glass of Morellino and glazed lamb chops in white wine and sage for my main course with a glass of Chianti.  Both were exquisite, perfectly cooked and seasoned.  During the meal we began speaking to two women from Rome who were sitting near us.  Now both retired, one had bought a second girls copiahome in Pitigliano and comes often to relax.  The owner’s wife sat with us after the shift was over and offered all of us a glass of white wine.  The night was cool and fresh and we were in the hands of an amazing group of women.  It was our last night in Tuscany and we couldn’t have asked for it to end in a more perfect situation.  Getting up the next morning was hard and a bit sad, but knowing that in only five hours I could return to my beloved Tuscany made the trip home a bit easier.

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Illasi Valley, Valpolicella Day 3

August 8, 2012

After waking up on the third and last day in Illasi, I was welcomed by a delicious breakfast prepared out in the photo133gardenphoto131 ofphoto130 Villa Aldeghieri.  The owners, a couple and their son, were extremely warm and welcoming and tried their best to treat you well in their home/B&B.  A cappuccino, croissant and a fruit salad later, not to mention the view offered, (wow!) and we parted ways.  Our first stop was an interesting one, going to see wrought iron craftsmen at work.  photo129 This traditional art was passed down from generation to generation and many homes here are decorated with wrought iron fences designed in this area.   A few pictures later, we left to go north, up higher into the Lessini hills.

We drove through green fields dotted with white houses and patches of cows untilphoto123 we photo121stoppedphoto124 at the fossil museum.  Here we met our tour guide who led us out back and down a trail leading to a cave.   This cave, he explained, was the inspiration for Dante’s Inferno.  During medieval times, the bottom of the cave was filled with water and froze during the winter.   The spot had a peaceful glow and was cool under the trees and rock. We hopped back in the car and drove over to the little mountain town of Velo Veronese.   We walked around, finally settling in at 13 Comuni restaurant.  Not only were we to have one of the best meals on the trip here, but we were also given the time to taste all the producer’s wines from the Illasi Valley.  From Soave to Valpolicella to Amarone, we tried over 50 wines in under two hours.  What was really photo126photo113photo111photo112photo110impressive was the meal.   The starter was a lamb tartar with semi sundried tomatoes.  It the first time I ate raw lamb and I have to admit that although the thought of it wasn’t so nice, the taste was delicate and exquisite.  For a pasta, we had homemade gnocchi in a roasted butter sauce, topped with shaved smoked ricotta; we were speechless.  For those of us who were still hungry, the chef brought out a T-bone steak and sides of grilled vegetables.  Stuffed and tired, we left smiling to go discover some of the other accommodations available in the area.  Locanda ViaVerde Lessinia and Casa del Brigante were two of them.

Finally our day was winding down and after a quick pass through at Pieropan Vineyard, we sat down for dinner at Villa Ballarini.  We sat outside and ate lightly, after having such a big lunch.  We spoke of ideas to promote wine and the territories that grow grapes and how we were happy to have all met.  As the night grew on we decided it was time to say our goodbyes.  We thanked our hosts, Faye Cardwell and Bernardo Pasquali, for the invite and lessons on Illasi Valley.

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