These past few days I have been on my first European press trip since the pandemic. I am a guest of the Wines of Garda and the relatively new (1996) Garda DOC. It is a short trip, just four days (and still one day left), but I have already seen and done so much.
Even before I got on a plane, the trip was memorable as I learned shortly before takeoff that my connecting flight from Frankfurt to Verona had been canceled. Apparently, there was an air traffic controller strike in Italy and all flights within the European Union were affected. This meant a ten-hour layover at the Frankfurt airport.
Joy. Pure joy. But I sincerely thank the kind people at Lufthansa who, after a bit of cajoling, allowed me access to their business lounge. Otherwise? Who knows?
While the German airlines were fairly strict on the usage of masks, once in Italy? Not so much. No one is wearing a mask. I mean no one. So here’s hoping my COVID test this afternoon (in order to return to the US) goes well (although if I were to have to stay a few more days in Italy…).
The trip started in Bardolino, on the shores of Lago di Garda, Italy’s largest lake and the center of the region’s wine trade. The first day, however, was mostly in Lazise, a town just a few kilometers to the south, with its origins in the Middle Ages.
Castello Scaligero in Lazise was just a short drive from Bardolino and the castle is rather imposing.
The town center is colorful and charming…
…and its harbor is tiny but active.
It was at the harbor that we first caught a glimpse of the Siora Veronica, a ship that would figure prominently later in the evening.
The main focus of the day was a tasting of the many wines of the Garda DOC which encompasses ten other historical DOC.
I stink at selfies.
The highlight of the tasting for me was this 2009 Perla del Garda, Chardonnay sparkling wine. Whoa (more on that to come).
We then boarded the Siora Veronica for a lovely three-hour cruise of Lago di Garda with plenty of wine…
I spent a bit of time chatting up the captain and owner of the Siora Veronica, Roberto Benamati, who is quite the accomplished sailor, one of the greatest in Italy.
I also shared many a laugh with Michael Monte, The Wine Doctor.
Eventually, the sun did set on our cruise and the first day of my two-day stay on the shores of Lago di Garda. The second day would turn out to be equally memorable.
About the drunken cyclist
I have been an occasional cycling tour guide in Europe for the past 20 years, visiting most of the wine regions of France. Through this "job" I developed a love for wine and the stories that often accompany the pulling of a cork. I live in Houston with my lovely wife and two wonderful sons.
CDC lifted the return COVID test requirement Saturday night at midnight. Your airline may not have gotten the word yet but technically you no longer need the negative test to return.
Yeah, I know. I flew back on Saturday. Just add it to the list of unfortunate happenings on my trip.