As I mentioned last week, my wife and I did a quick little Tour of Northern Italy last week where we put a little dent in the supply of Italian wine available. I am firmly back on American soil only to find a Basket of Deplorables (good grief, will this election cycle ever end?), which caused me to want to fly right back to Italy. Oh well, here are a few more of the memorable bottles we had….
2015 Pieropan Soave Classico DOC: 22€ at a little hole in the wall restaurant in Venice that was completely packed (is it still considered a hole in the wall when it is clearly that popular?). 85 % Garganega, 15% Trebbiano di Soave. I wanted the single vineyard Pieropan DOCG that was on the wine list but alas, they were out. One of the leaders in Soave, but I am frankly not all that familiar. Fruity and a bit sweet on the nose, and all Garganega on the palate. A delightful wine that was a bit better cold. Very Good. 87-89 Points.
2015 Suavia Soave Classico: 18€ at the restaurant. 100% Garganega. Had I read the back label of this wine first, I might have passed. It was only 21€, but the back of the bottle was a bit over the top for me (see the picture to the right). Frankly, the whole meal was a bit of a happy accident as neither one of us thought the restaurant would be all that great, but boy those Venetians can handle pasta (and pizza). We had been on a bit of a Soave/Garganega kick in Venice and why not? The region is just to the west of this grand city and it makes perfect sense as Venetians have been drinking wine from the region for centuries. Classic Garganega nose of lemon, flint, and a touch of pineapple. Nice weight on the palate, particularly with a bit more chill, with plenty of sharpness. We had this along a quiet canal at lunch, and it was wonderful. Yeah. This whole wine at lunch along a canal in Venice with your wife is pretty great (I guess the label was right after all). Very Good to Outstanding. 88-90 Points.
After Venice, my wife and I moved on to Verona (after a night in Valdobbiadene–much more on that later) where we met a one of my wife’s former co-workers and two of his friends. Like Romeo and Juliet, I came to a revelation in Verona: I have a love-hate relationship with wine lists at a restaurant. I love looking at them, I really do. I like to see how they are organized, what wines were selected, the relative prices, and whether I have ever had any of them.
On the negative side, I don’t like it necessarily when I am given the list by a group of people to pick a wine. I know what wine(s) I would like to drink, but I am never sure what others want, which causes me considerable angst. Sure, I ask a few questions and try to assess their interest, but everyone expects it to be perfect even though they order everything from tofu to tuna to t-bones.
I get more than a bit perturbed, however, when I don’t even get a chance to look at the list and something is ordered. Such was the case when the others in the group decided to go big in Amarone (although my tagliatelle alle vongole could have used something a tad more delicate), and so they did, damn the torpedoes.
In the end, though, the wines were good, and I had a pressure-less filled night, so it all worked out.
2011 Roccolo Grassi Amazon della Valopolicella DOCG: Restaurant 82€. 16.5% ABV. 60% Corvina Veronese, 15% Corvinone, 20% Rondinella, 5% Croatina. Dark and voluptuous with Fig and dark raspberry. On the palate, I immediately get hit by the heat. And then the acid. This is not my style of wine, but make no mistake this is fantastic. Could use some time to settle down a bit, but…. Outstanding. 91-93 Points.
2011 San Cassiano Amarone della Valopolicella DOCG: 45€ in the restaurant. 70% Corvina, 25% Rondinella, 5% Molinara. Much calmer on the nose and the palate than the first Amarone with anise and red to dark berry fruit here. On the palate the fruit is prominent and dominant. Easy to drink with a bit of heat on the back end (15.5%). Not as big and muscular as the first and these two should have been consumed in the reverse order, but in defense of those who were Bogarting the menu, this is apparently not what they ordered (another reason to carefully check the bottle when presented!). Very Good to Outstanding. 89-91 Points.
The following afternoon, I was once again flying solo, and I was after an “authentic” Veronese meal. I think I found it….
2015 Valetti Custoza DOC: From 375. Restaurant price 8€. Garganega, Chardonnay, Trebbiano di Soave, Tocai, and Riesling. I have been trying to get a little Custoza for no other reason than to have some—it is a relatively small appellation along Lake Garda in the Veneto not far from where I spent my first night in Italy. Until today, I was unsuccessful. Many had it on the menu, but it always seemed to be out of stock. Today, flying solo, I happened across another hole in the wall that was tucked in a corner on a dead end street, but only meters off the main drag. As it was loaded full of Italians, I figured I had stumbled across a gem. The decor was nice, but honestly only slightly above cafeteria grade. I ordered the salmon tagliatelle and this half bottle of Custoza. The pasta was freshly made, perfectly cooked, and delightful. The wine was much the same: bright and fresh, far from exquisite, but it fit in well with the pasta, the decor, and the 30 or so Italians that included a fair share of octogenarians. Very Good. 86-88 Points.