Tuesday, April 15, 2008

la domenica

A week ago today, we were driving up into the mountains of the Alto Adige above the city of Trento, the city of Trent’s dukes and barons from Shakespeare’s days. We drive through the Adige valley, a fairly wide river floor with dramatic alps to either side. Vineyards full of Marzemino vines line the way, the local grape varietal, and I whisper to the window, “Wow, Marzemino.” Much of the three days spent at VinItaly were defined by “Wow,…..” Our fearless importers, Rob from Dalla Terra, Amy from Michael Skurnik, Iacopo and Dino of Dino’s Vignaioli Selections, and George from Vias, ferried us around the sights introducing us to producers whose wines already grace the pages of our wine list at the restaurant, and facilitating introductions to those we’d never tasted or met before. We are still somewhat agog from the experience.

A friend e-mails. “And what about the wine?” he asks. None of us are sure how to answer. We tasted upwards of 80 wines a day, (tasted mind you) and how to decipher the tastes and experiences? The pleasure and good fortune to be able to taste verticals of all kinds of wine, perhaps one of the most memorable with Cesare Borgogno. A very traditional Barolo producer since the 1700’s, we began with Borgogno’s ’06 Dolcetto, then moved onto ’03 Barolos with brilliant noses and medicinal cherry elements, then feel extremely lucky to try a bottle from 1982 which smells of wet dog, orange peel, and quinine. We are surprised to see an open bottle of 1967 Barolo on the table; it arrived like magic and tasted of light, elegance, and finesse.

A week ago today, we were driving up into the mountains. Alois Lageder, a wine producer in the Alto Adige, hosts an alternative event to VinItaly always on the last two days of the fair. He arranges for visitors to be shuttled back and forth between the vineyard and cantina and provides a day of tastings, seminars, tours, and lunch. About 25-30 other producers join him, and tables are set for the degustazione in the old castle and granary. Lunch for 1000 is beautifully prepared by a Michelin starred chef, a plate of flawless braised veal cheeks, and pork tenderloin rolled in herbs served with roasted root vegetables. We partook of the cheese table bar featuring local cheeses, then a creamy panna cotta and coffee for dessert. Lageder’s event is not only about the wine. There are rooms set aside for local artisanal food—cured meats, cheeses, breads, chocolates--as well as furniture and table top beauties—tables, chairs, plates, glasses, silverware. A feast for the eyes, and the mouth, and all the senses. We finish the day in the Vinoteca, a sleek yet rustic space, drinking fresh beer.


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