Sunday was travel…lots of it and it would not have been complete without rain. Fortunately it wasn’t constant and the temperature had undergone a definite improvement. Thank goodness for small favors.
The distance to be covered reduces the overall photo ops that can be appreciated so there are but few stops along the way. A bite to eat, bathroom breaks as required and our quest for sites yet to be seen continues.
Hilda proves her worth continuously however she has some difficulty with pronunciation. There are many times where (depending on the language involved) either of her human companions can say the names more accurately. And, as it also becomes painfully obvious, at times she has counting issues. When entering a traffic circle (and in Italy there are thousands), ‘leave the circle by the second exit’ can really mean the first…or the third. Not often and sometimes clearly not her fault (as the driver occasionaly has the same counting issues). I would be remiss if I did not also comment on the new direction of ‘half’….could be ‘turn half-right’ or ‘turn half-left’ which ends up meaning simply bear right (or left) rather than continuing straight but I’ve come to get a kick out of her distinctions. Our hotel now looms in front of us, successfully located.
We unload into what will be our first room. Europeans seem to have an aversion to screens on their windows. This is now the off-season for the hotel, so the A/C has been shut down. That means people simply open the windows to cool off. Seems reasonable but that also allows for some rather interesting, yet unwanted, guests in the room. After finding two different bugs, one that met his maker and the other that stayed wisely out of reach (and neither were attractive in even the remotest fashion), we made our discomfort known to the front desk. They were quite happy and willing to move us to a less-occupied room. The rest of the night was very peaceful.
A new day dawns and with it comes…the sun! Blue skies and very pleasant temperatures promise to accompany us throughout the day. Breakfast done, cameras charged and empty and it’s off to find a gas station. Yesterday’s journey put us in need of fuel given the kilometers we put on. Gas has become more costly so I am even more appreciative of that economics of our car. We paid (today) 1.40 Euro per liter and later found out that, as outrageous as that seems, we were fortunate. On the road we would eventually see it as high as 1.57 and the lowest was 1.19.9.
Our invitation to visit the Cesari winery was not until 4:30 so we pretty much had the day to kill sightseeing. Given that we are very close to Lake Garda (and Cesari is almost immediately beside it) a trip around the southern tip and up either side of the lake seems in order.
Leaving Verona (and we have not yet found two gentlemen….) our trusty guide takes us on an exploration of many little towns. Several stops were made with varying memorable occurrences. In one small town we discovered a small bay that afforded a little break along with a little pain. Walking around the beach, I put my hand in my pants pocket. Something felt funny on my small finger and as I drew my hand out, funny became increasiningly painful. I will never know what atttached itself to my finger as it was uncerimoniously brushed (with vigor, I might add) with my other hand while my brain registered new levels of discomfort. The poor little finger began to swell and two very small holes were found just below the first knuckle. A constant ache was present for the remainder of the day but fortunately that was the extent of it.
A little further along found a turn off to a 1000 yr. old castle that actually had inhabitants. A small parking lot complete with a (clean) porta potty was immediately outside the main entrance. There was no charge to walk around but the interior was quite small so it takes no real time to visit in its entirety. It occured to me later the local residents likely didn’t want tourist dollars given the tourist problems that generally come with.
Each stop provided a unique view of the lake which never waned. We have similar views in Canada but not all have their own multi-centuries old castle.
Off to Cesari…founded by Gerardo Cesari in 1936. They now own a total of about 120 hectares and produce about 1.5 million bottles of wine. White, rose’ and red all grace their cellars, but it is the Amarone that has made them a notable producer on the world stage.
DOCG has rigorous regulations about Amarone’s creation and irrigation is also strictly controlled. For the most part, irrigation cannot be done, but in times of drought (like this year) they may irrigate, but only from 8 a.m to 8 30 a.m. And it costs a lot of money. This July cost Cesari 10,000 Euro to irrigate their vineyards. One would think, with Lake Garda so close, irrigation shouldn’t really be a major problem. But the Lake feeds an enormous appetite all along its shoreline and immediate interior. In addtion, this year it is down about 1 meter overall, due to an extreme lack of rainfall.
Corvina is the primary grape grown by Cesari and in the Valpolicella region. This is the principal grape for Amarone, but it is not an exclusive. It is mixed with Rondinella at a ratio of about 80% Corvina and 20% Rondinella. After the grapes are picked they are laid to rest for about 3-4 months before pressing. This singles Amarone out from most other wines and also allows for an increase of sugar which brings about a slightly higher alcohol content.
I could go on and on about Cesari, its production techniques and its history, but I wll leave that part for your own discovery. Now (as is always) it is time for wine.
We started with a 2014 Cento Filari (white wine)…straw colored with 97% Turbiana and 3% Chardonnay. This was very fresh and predominitly peachy on the palate. Absolutely a wine to pair with seafood and hors d’oeuvres.
Next was a 2013 Mara Ripasso (being produced now for 32 years). The name Mara was Gerardo’s mother’s name. It consists of 65% Corvina and 25% Rondinella plus a mix of other grapes that produce a delicious balance. Quite acidic but not alcoholic. So very reminiscent of youthful nights spent at local Italian restaurants drinking Valpolicella with our speghetti and / or pizza.
Then followed a 2010 Jema. Jema is one of the winemakers experiments. In this he has used 100% Corvina, dried for about 1 month prior to pressing, 18 months of aging in bariques and 6 months in their big barrels. This brings about a much darker wine, fuller and certainly more robust than the Mara. Cherries seems to cover the palate. This would be fabulous with lamb!
Last (so we thought) was a 2006 Bosan Riserva. The Amarone that was my original intent for the visit and conclusively proved its worth. It is aged for at least 18 months in the bariques and continued for at least another 18 months in the big barrels. After it is bottled it is laid to rest for another 2 years before it is released for consumption. It has light smokey tones, elegant and more subtle on the nose than the Jema. That bouquet also gives promise to your palate, again with no let down. It fills your mouth with cherries (again), pronounced but not over-powering. Hints of the smoke and the desire to pair with some venison sprng to mind. Yet as I sit here savoring its long finish, I can’t help but think of a late, warm summer evening on the deck and how well this would fit there as well.
On a final note, our hostess brought out a 2000 Bosan that had been opened 3 days prior. She apologized profusely for this but thought we may like to try it just as a comparison. That year was not nearly as good a vintage as the 2006 and the fact that it had been opened for a protracted period of time did not improve it. A good Bosan (97 was a Fabulous year!!) is like a good Vintage Port. Drink it today and enjoy all 26 ounces in all their glory.
A long tour that started in their vineyards, past through their cellar, bottling, and labeling areas and ended in their tasting room / restaurant was, ultimately more than I had expected and all that I had hoped for. If you get the chance, visit the area and the winery (but you must make an appointment first). Your brain will fill and your cellar will improve, even if by just a bottle or two.
A bit of a drive back to the hotel, supper and off to bed. Tomorrow…Venice Awaits!!