Day 2 of our enrichment trip in Italy began with breakfast at Hotel Verona. We were all quite eager to get to the wineries and happy to hop on the bus that would be our transportation for the week. Our driver Enzo didn’t speak much English but he got us from point A to point B safely and with a smile. Our first stop was Ferrari Trento in Trentino. Ferrari is famous for its sparkling wines made in the traditional method just like Franciacorta and Champagne.
Our initial tour was led by Export Manager, Massimiliano a.k.a Max. He shared the family history and how the Lunelli family became the face of Ferrari Trento. Giulio Ferrari, the creator of the winery, began making quality wines in 1902. He had no children therefore eventually needed to entrust someone to keep his dream alive. Among many candidates, he chose Bruno Lunelli, owner of a wine shop in Trento. Today, the 3rd generation of the Lunelli family is keeping Ferrari alive and well.
He showed us old-style equipment used to make wine as well as the enormous fermentation tanks of today. We walked and talked through the halls passing dusty bottles awaiting their destiny. Max had a wonderful sense of humor and a special way of keeping everyone engaged.
It was time to do some tasting and they had a beautiful table prepared with 8 glasses per person. Marcello Lunelli led us through a series of tastings including Ferrari’s Brut, Perle, Rose, Perle Rose, and Giulio Ferrari of varying styles and vintages. Our final tasting was that of a 1993 vintage. It had a lovely amount of oxidation allowing it to reveal the brandy-like flavors that appeal to me. After tastings, we set out to explore the Villa Morgan, one of the noblest dwellings of the Alps built in the 15th century and currently owned by the Lunelli family. The inside was frescoed with representations of cities’ conquest as well as the life and deeds of probable hosts of the Villa. There are scenes of the Old and New Testament as well as a Month’s cycle. The outside landscape was breathtakingly beautiful and there was plenty of opportunities to snap photos that will never do the property justice.
As you can see there was quite a bit of action-packed in before lunch. We drove to one of the vineyard sites and had lunch in the family-owned restaurant which is open to the public. We started with UOVO Morbido finferli e Amarone, which was chanterelle mushrooms topped with a soft egg and annual seeds. This was paired with Ferrari’s Maximum Brut. As we ate Matteo Lunelli took us even deeper into the history of Ferrari, as well as some of their goals for the future. Next on the menu was the Riso Mantecato Limone, cumino e guanciale crocante, which was a decadent dish of creamed rice with lemon, cumin, and crispy bacon, paired with the Ferrari Maximum Rose. The conversation continued to flow, it felt as if we had known this family forever. Next up was the Magatello di Vitello Sedano Rapa which was Veal Topside with celery and fresh radishes paired with a Montefalco Rosso from their vineyard in Umbria. Finally, we ended the meal with Torta Di Ricotta Pesca e gelato al te earl grey, which is a sweet cake with green tea gelato, paired with the Ferrari Maxium Demi-Sec. All of this with cheeses and bread were thrown in the mix just in case you had a vacancy in your stomach. A grappa ended lunch but not without an espresso, we were encouraged to pour the final drops of our grappa into the almost empty cup of espresso apparently to savor the digestif experience. Another trend continued throughout the week.
We hugged our new friends goodbye and hopped on the bus headed for Bollo in Veneto. I am pretty sure we all conked out from the food and wine coma. We arrived at Bolla with about an hour of sunlight to spare. We met in the vineyard and listened to GianAntonio Marconi, in charge of vineyard management at Bolla, passionately share the history and style of Amarone Valpolicella in Italian, while Lars translated his words into English. Lars is the Director of Trade Development with Banfi and was a wealth of knowledge. However, even though I couldn’t understand GianAntonio’s Italian, I could interpret his love for this work by his demonstrative gestures and expressions. As the sun set, we left the vineyard and toured the fruttaios, the houses specifically built for drying the grapes, which were filled with cartons of Corvina, Rondinella, and other grapes used for Amarones style wines. The beautifully perfumed aromas of this process are intoxicating and unexplainable. These are some of the most incredible styles of wine in Italy. We learned that the grapes we were standing by earlier in the vineyard were going to be harvested in the morning. The grape bunches are hand-picked and still attached to their common stems mocking an umbilical cord so that it can continue to provide the grapes with energy and nourishment much like the nervous system does for our bodies. We all found this to be a fascinating analogy. There is nothing simple about making Amarone-style wines. The grapes are usually picked in October and left to dry all winter. They lost close to 40% of their weight during this time concentrating on sugars and ultimately increasing alcohol levels. Due to the nature of the process, it takes twice as many grapes to make Amarone and requires a slow fermentation period and long-term aging. Needless to say, this is a huge investment of time and space. However, the finished product is like no other wine in the world and it is worth every penny you will pay for it.
We headed to Enoteca Della Valpolicella, an adorable little restaurant and cellar that mimicked a small cottage in the woods, for dinner and more conversation. The table was prepared upstairs in an old attic-type setting. I am not sure of the Italian name for each dish so I will just tell you in plain English. We started with a delicious pumpkin soup with bread bits and of course an assortment of cheeses, prosciutto, and salumi followed by Carbonara with grape sauce. Just when we thought we could not eat one more bite, in came the Veal and Polenta with seasoned vegetables, desert bread, and more cheeses. This marvelous spread was paired with a variety of Bolla wines including an Extra Dry Prosecco, 2015 Soave Classico, 2014 Le Poiane Valpolicella Ripasso, 2015 Tufaie Soave Superiore Classico, 2011 Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico, and my personal favorite the 2009 Le Origini Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico. Finally, to respect tradition we had the 2013 Ugolini Grappa di Amarone and topped our espresso off with the last few drops. Our first actual day of winery visits came to a close and we headed back to Hotel Verona for a good night’s sleep. It was such a fabulous day. I could hardly wait until morning.