Touring the Veneto with Vignaioli Veneti

The Veneto is a region of Italy I travel to often because of the wine and the food. I like to visit Venice and Verona but I usually stay on Lake Garda. Recently Vignaioli Veneti invited me on a press trip to the Veneto. The invitation read: Vignaioli 2017: Discover Veneto’s Top Grower-Producers, Growing Areas and Wines.

Lake Garda

I would be staying in a hotel on Lake Garda.

Vignaioli Veneti is a newly-formed organization of over fifty of the Veneto’s top small producers. The president of the association is Michele Montresor and the Director is Giulio Liut.
The program included two Master classes conducted by Kerin O’Keefe, visits to eleven wineries, and dinner in some of the best restaurants in the area. There were 7 other journalists in the group and I enjoyed sharing these experiences and our conversations as well.


The first evening there was a welcome dinner at Ristorante alla Borsa, in the town of Mincio. It is a restaurant I have been to before, famous for its tortellini filled with cheese, meats or vegetables.

Mr. Montresor said the Veneto has historic cities of art and culture such as Venice, Padova and Verona, but they are only one aspect of this region. It stretches from Lake Garda to the Dolomites and to the Adriatic beaches. Vignaiolo Veneti’s mission is to establish the Veneto, its wines and wineries worldwide as a manifestation of quality.

Kerin O’Keefe

I was looking forward to the Master Class conducted by Kerin O’Keefe. Kerin reviews all Italian wines for the Wine Enthusiast magazine. She is the author of several books, including Franco Biondi Santi: The Gentleman of Brunello (2005), Brunello di Montalcino: Understanding and Appreciating One of Italy’s Great Wines (2012), and Barolo and Barbaresco: The King and Queen of Italian Wine (2014).

I have known Kerin for a number of years. At the Master Class there were 20 wines in all, 10 whites and 10 reds divided into 4 flights. Kerin felt that these wines were examples of the diversity of wines made by the member wineries and the Veneto in general.

1st Flight
Villa Medici Bianco Provincia di Verona IGT “Primizia” 2016 made from 25% Trebbiano, 25% Garganega and 50% Cortese. Fermentation and aging takes place in stainless steel. Kerin said that this grape, better known for producing Gavi, is very common in the Lake Garda area.

Gorgo Custoza DOC San Michelin 2016 made from Garganega, Cortese, Trebbiano Toscano and Riesling. Fermentation and aging in stainless steel and malolactic fermentation does not take place.

Calvalchina Custoza Superiore “Amedeo” 2015 made from 30% Garganega made from 40% Garganega, 30% Fernanda (a clone of Cortese, 15% Trebbianello (a clone of Tocai), 15% Trebbiano Toscano. Fermentation and aging is in stainless steel and malolactic fermentation is prevented.

La Morette Lugana Mandolare 2016 made from 100% Turbiana. Fermented in stainless steel. Kerin said that Turbiana is relative of Trebbiano di Soave, but it is a separate grape variety. Most producers use 100% Turbiana. She added that the best grapes come from the area close to the lake, where the soil has the most clay. There are 5 different types of Lugana wine.

Ottella Lugana Riserva DOC “Molceo” 2014 made from Turbiana (Trebbiano di Lugana). Kerin said some producers put both names on the label. Partial malolactic fermentation, aging for 16 months on the lees mostly in stainless steel and also in tonneaux and barriques.

2nd Flight
Cà Rugate Soave Classico “Monte Fiorentine” 2015 made from 100% Garganega. Fermentation is stainless steel for about 10 to 15 days. Kerin said that as of 1998 Trebbiano Toscano was not allowed in the blend.

Pieropan Soave Classico DOC “Calvarino” 2015 made from 70% Garganega and 30% Trebbiano di Soave. Kerin said this was the first “cru” made in 1971. The wine remains in glass-lined cement tanks on the fine lees for one year

Pra Soave Classico “Monte Grande” 2009 made from 70% Garganega and 30% Trebbiano di Soave. The grapes are dried on the vines for one month and then destemmed and gently pressed. Fermentation is carried out in large 15/20 hl casks made of Allier oak. The wine is then left in casks to mature for ten months. The wine was showing no signs of age.
After visits later to the producers Pieropan and Pra, it confirmed once again that Soave is a great white wine that only gets better with age.

Bonotto Delle Tezze Prosecco Superiore Col Real Valdobbiadene DOCG 2016 made from 100% Glera. The grapes are harvested by hand and subject to soft pressing. After setting, the must is fermented in autoclave and after the wine is bottled,

Cà di Rajo Prosecco Superiore DOCG Valdobbiadene Millesimato Brut “Cuvèe del Fondatore  made from 100% Glera.  Long charmat method 70 to 90 days. No malolactiic fermentation and no aging

My next report will cover the red wines we tasted.



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Doctor Wine: More on Genetic Editing

Signed DW
Signed DW | Published on DoctorWine N°225
Laymen and clerics
by Daniele Cernilli 04-09-2017
Riccardo Ricci Curbastro President of Federdoc writes to DoctorWine about genetic editing and the future of winegrowing, and underlines the risk of an idealogical battle.

I received the following letter from Riccardo Ricci Curbastro, a Franciacorta producer and president of Federdoc.

“Dear Daniele,

It was with great pleasure that I read your editorial Trend Topic: Genetic editing. A pleasure because I believe that it is the future of winegrowing, the wonderful and difficult world my children are now getting involved with. I agree with everything that was said: organic methods are not less polluting (since they uses so many treatments, demand more fuel and lead to a copper build up in the soil); and biodynamic methods are difficult to accept three centuries after the Enlightenment during which time science has given answers to what could appear to be witchcraft.

If it has now clearly been accepted that vines contain genes that are “resistant” to disease, then I firmly believe the time has come to move from developing hybrids to genetic editing. The benefit would be that of not modifying the genes that distinguish a Chardonnay from a Sauvignon Blanc but only to give the vines of both varietals the capacity to resist disease.

I have personally studied and worked with hybrids at length and seven years ago, when it was not the fashion, planted a vineyard with PIWI, a resistant, hybrid variety. The experiment worked and the vines have not needed any chemical treatments in seven years.

We are now working with other new, resistant varieties which are again hybrids but have over 95% of the original genes (Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot and so on) with only 5% of the genes from other resistant varieties. It is my hope that my children will have vineyards that are still 100% composed of the original varietal but be “cancer free” thanks to genetic editing allowing a recessive gene to become the dominate one.

Being now close to 60, I will probably see this dream come true from up above but I’m sure it will still fill me with joy there, too. Today we have opened a door to a cleaner future for our children. What dream could be better?

Thank you for putting your pen at the service of these realistic dreams… although from some of the reactions to your editorial posted on your site I can see a long, ideological battle lies ahead of us.

Best regards and hope to see you soon,

Riccardo Ricci Curbastro”

I hope this will help to clarify aspects of a question that will be central to the future of winegrowing in Italy, much the way grafting European shoots onto American rootstocks was after the phylloxera blight at the beginning of the 20th century. Genetic editing is an authentic revolution and I hope that the debate it will spark will be serious and concrete and not just the usual ideological claptrap that will confused matters by dragging up ant-scientific bias much the way clerics did during the Counter-Reformation, those who condemned Giordano Bruno to death and forced Galileo Galilei abjure, just to name a few. The arguments are different but the mentality is always the same.

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Dinner with the Wines of Robert Mondavi in Brooklyn

Michele and I were invited to a dinner and wine tasting in an elegant town house in the Fort Greene section of Brooklyn.

The dinner featured the wines of the Robert Mondavi Winery. The innovative chef, Theo Friedman, just 24 years old and founder of Theory Kitchen, prepared dinner. Ted Allen, of the Food Network show “Chopped” and other programs, hosted the evening. Representing the Mondavi Winery was wine maker Joe Harden.

The Robert Mondavi Winery is located in the Napa Valley. Robert Mondavi opened his winery in 1966 and changed the face of California wine forever.

When Michele and I arrived, we were welcomed with wine and a an assortment of starters.
Crispy Maitakes with Cured Egg Yolk and Parsley Ranch Dressing
Piedmontese Beef Tartare with Pickled Mustard Seed and
Chilled Espresso Hollandise

Oakville Fumé Blanc 2014

Made from 79% Sauvignon Blanc and 21% Sémillon. The grapes are hand harvested in the cool, early morning and then the whole clusters are gently pressed, minimizing skin contact to retain freshness and vibrancy in the wine. Joe said that for richness and complexity, they barrel ferment 91% of the wine in 60 gallon French oak barrels. The wine is then barrel aged on its lees for eight months with hand stirring (batonnage) to integrate flavors and develop a creamy texture. Joe said a portion of new barrels (8%) contribute subtle oak spices to the fruit character. The wine was bottled in July 2015.
The wine has hints of lemon and lime with a touch of melon and fennel. $40

First Course
Chilled California Avocado and English Pea Soup,
Citrus, Smoked Salmon, Ricotta, Herbs

Fumé Blanc Reserve 2014, To Kalon Vineyard

Made from 98% Sauvignon Blanc and 2% Semillon. Almost all of the juice was barrel fermented in French oak, 42% new, for a slow cool fermentation. The wine was aged on its lees for nine months and then was hand stirred twice weekly. Joe said this was to create creamy texture and to enhance the volume and length and the small amount of Semillon added gives the final blend a richer mouth feel and more complexity. Two cement egg-shaped fermentation vessels are used to explore the purity of the fruit that comes from the production method and added this wine to the final blend. Joe said the name “To Kalon” is Greek for highest beauty and it is one of Napa Valley’s oldest and most respected vineyards,
This reserve was bigger, richer, and more complex wine with hints of citrus fruit, a touch of spice and vanilla and a creamy texture $52.

Second Course
Country Style Pork and Chicken Terrine, Fig Mostarda

Maestro 2014 Napa Valley

Made from 73% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Cabernet Franc, 2% Merlot and 2% Petit Verdot. Appellation: 100% Napa Valley, To Kalon and Wappo Hill vineyards. Joe said this wine is inspired by Bordeaux blends, at heart it is a free sprit. Rather than a set style, they take their cues from each vintage from the vineyards. Cabernet Sauvignon in 2014 was fantastic in the Wappo Hill and To Kalon vineyards.
The grape clusters were gently destemmed directly into traditional French oak tanks for cold soak, fermentation, and extended maceration for a total of 24 days of wine to skin contact. Joe said this maximizes the extraction of varietal character and complexity while keeping the tannins fleshy and supple. The wine was drained and gently pressed into 28% new French oak barrels for malolactic fermentation. The final blend was assembled though repeated tasting. The wine has hints of dark and red fruit, juicy plum, and cassis with a touch of cinnamon. $50

Third Course

Hudson River Duck Breast, Cocoa and Malt Glaze,
Preserved Berries Maitake

Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2014, To Kalon Vineyard

Made from 93% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petite Verdot
The grapes were hand harvested with three stages of strict sorting, on the vine, by individual clusters, and then by single berry following destemming. Harvest was from September 2nd to October 17th. The selected grapes went directly into traditional French oak tanks for cold soak, fermentation, and extended maceration for a total of 34 days of wine to skin contact. Joe said this is done to maximize the extraction of varietal character and complexity while keeping the tannins round and supple. The wine was drained and gently pressed into 100% new French oak barrels for alcoholic fermentation and assuring seamless integration of fruit and oak. The final blend was assembled through repeated tasting over twenty-one months of barrel aging. This is an intense, complex and full-bodied wine with hints of blackberries, cassis, cocoa powder and vanilla. $165


Selection of Cheese and Crackers,
Dried Apricot and Clove Preserve, Roasted Nuts

Sauvignon Blanc Botrytis 2002, Napa Valley

Made from 100% Sauvignon Blanc. In 2002 they handpicked the botrytis-affected clusters from the Wappo Hill vineyard in Napa Valley’s Stags Leap District AVA as the clusters reached a sugar level of 40%. Due to the fungus’ dehydrating effect, the grapes were richly concentrated with pronounced flavor intensity. After gently pressing the grapes as whole clusters, the juice was fermented in 60 gallon French oak barrels, 13% new, to give the wine complexity and depth. The wine fermented slowly for two months until it reached 12% alcohol at which time the yeast activity naturally stopped, leaving a residual sugar of 16.1 percent. The wine was aged on the lees and gently hand stirred each barrel once a month, to increase the creamy structure of the wine, during 19 months of barrel aging. Because of the botrytis cinerea, this dessert wine has hints of orange marmalade, honey, orange zest, brown sugar and almonds. Residual sugar is 161 g/L. $NV


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Daniele Cernilli on Genetic Editing

| Published on DoctorWine N°224
Trend Topic: Genetic editing
by Daniele Cernilli 28-08-2017
Parola d’ordine: cisgenetica editoriale doctowine daniele cernilli
Studies on genetic editing made by professor Attilio Scienza and by the Edmund Mach institute in San MIchele all’Adige oper the path to the creation of vines resistent to diseases. Will this be the future?

Recently, I have been often citing Attilio Scienza and his observations but I do so because I believe they are illuminating for the future of winemaking. For those who do not know who he is, he held the chair for viticulture at the University of Milan for years, was the head of the Istituto Mach di San Michele all’Adige and is the author of many books on both scientific and other subjects. His latest research, carried out at San Michele, dealt with gene or genetic editing, scientifically known also known as cisgenesis, and removing certain genes from a vine DNA in order to create grapes that are resistant to botrytis, above all. If we consider that anti-botrytis treatments represent the majority of those carried out in the vineyard, using these grapes would eliminate a significant percentage of polluting substances. But would this make organic and biodynamic methods useless?

Scienza doesn’t think to. “The birth of agriculture was an act of genetics. Already in the Neolithic Age, man was selecting plants and animals to raise to serve as food. The common trait in innovation is fear. Biodynamic and organic farming seek to preserve natural resources and thus are a response to a fear of losing them but we need to go beyond this. Organic farming is not convincing because it is a dead-end street. We cannot return to the past because this would mean denying the future. It would be like trying to preserve the Ship of Theseus”. Is genetic editing a back door to creating genetically modified organisms (GMO)? Not at all because GMOs are created by inserting foreign genes into the DNA to be modified whereas as genetic editing removes genes from the host. If it were possible to eliminate the gene that causes cancer from a person’s DNA, wouldn’t everyone be in favor of this?

While this may be an extreme and, at present, a hypothetical example it serves to prove a point. In regard to wine, if genetic editing can be used in a way that does affect quality, then it would be possible to eliminate enormous amounts of harmful substances in the vineyard. I am convinced that genetic editing in winegrowing will be the topic of the day in the very near future and it will be interesting to see what positions will be taken by groups like Slow Food or the farmers’ unions Coldiretti and Confagricoltura, not to mention the ministry of agriculture and the European Union. In the wine sector, there will be a confrontation between science and ideology, between believers and deniers, between the future and a nostalgia for a past that, between climate change and limitations on the use of polluting substances, can only remain a distant memory.

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Champagne and Pizza at La Pizza Fresca

Every month a group of Champagne and Italian wine lover’s meet, usually at La Pizza Fresca.
The group is called the G6. The organizer for the events is Ed “Champagne” Mc Carthy, author of “Champagne for Dummies.” Only 3 members of the G6 attended the last get together: Mary Ewing Mulligan, MW, Ed Mc Carthy, and me. Ed invited three guests, David E. Cohen, US Brand Ambassador for Dom Perignon, Nicole Burke, US Brand Ambassador for Krug, and Lacey Burke, US Brand Ambassador for Dom Ruinart. There were 4 Champagnes and two Italian reds but the Champagnes really stole the spotlight.

Champagne Blanc Blancs Extra Brut NV Valentin Le Feflaive created in 2015 by Olivier Feflaive from Burgundy and Erick de Sousa from Champagne. Made of 100% Chardonnay from the Cotes des Blancs. Harvest is by hand and the soil is chalk. The wine is vinified in used Burgundy barrels. This was the first time I have had this Champagne and I was very impressed. It has fresh citrus aromas and flavors, with a touch of brioche.

Moet & Chandon Champagne Dom Pérignon Plenitude Deuxieme P2 1998 made from 50% Chardonnay and 50% Pinot Noir.
This Champagne spent 16 years in the cellars. After 7 years the P2 Bottles are turned upside down, sur pointe, to slow down the oxidation process. The wine is regularly tasted by the Dom Pérignon oenologist to determine the perfect time for release. Each bottle is disgorged by hand prior to release.
This is elegant, intense and complex Champagne with notes of honey, orange fruit, ginger and a touch of almond. It was not showing any signs of age and would be the perfect with caviar.

Champagne Krug Brut 1995 made from 48% Pinot Noir, 35% Chardonnay and 17% Pinot. All of the wine is fermented in small oak barrels. Ed Mc Carthy in Champagne for Dummies wrote, “Krug Champagnes, which really resemble mature, full bodied white Burgundies in their structure, should be enjoyed with food, preferably with dinner. They are just too full and flavorful to sip as an aperitifs.” This is a very complex full-bodied Champagne with aromas of baked gingerbread, candied fruits, ripe melon and a hints of almonds and honey on the palate. It has a remarkable finish and an aftertaste that goes on and on.

Moët & Chandon Champagne Dom Ruinart Rosé 2004 The blend was made by using 81% Grand Cru Chardonnay, 69% of which comes from the Cötes des Blancs (Avize, Cramant, Le Mesnil-sur-Oger) and 31% from the Montagne de Rheims (Puisieulx, Sillery), with the addition of 19% Pinot Noir made into red wine, coming only from the Sillery cru. Manual harvest. Alcholic fermentation takes place in temperature controlled stainless steel vats (18 to 20C). Malolactic fermentation takes place. Dosage 4.5g/l
Ruinart was founded in 1729 in Rheims making it the oldest Champagne House.
This is an elegant rosé with a light pink color. It is slightly aromatic with hints of raspberry, currants, strawberry and a note of red roses. It is a rosé that goes with many different foods.


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Neapolitan Lunch at IL Gattopardo NYC

For my next to last birthday celebration this year, Michele and I went to Il Gattopardo.

Gianfranco Sorrentino

A meal there is like eating in southern Italy with the emphasis on Campania and Naples. Gianfranco Sorrentino, the owner, is the perfect host.

Chef  Vito Gnazzo

Vito Gnazzo, the chef, always comes out to tell us the specials and give his recommendations.

It is also one of the most comfortable restaurants in the city and the service is always excellent.

We started with a bottle of Costa D’Amalfi DOC Tramonti Bianco 2015 from Giuseppe Apicella made from 60% Falanghina and 40% Biancolella. Exposure mainly southwest, and the pergola cultivation is at 300 to 500 meters. In the new vineyards there is guyot training and between 4,000 and 5,000 plants per hectare. Pergola there is 2,500 plants per hectare. Harvest takes place the second half of October and the grapes are hand picked. After a careful selection in the vineyard, the stalks are removed and the grapes macerate with the skins before they are pressed. The must is decanted by a static cold system and selected yeasts are injected into the must. It then ferments at a low temperature. Fermentation lasts for 20 to 30 days. The wine remains on the lees for 4 to 5 months. The wine was fruity and fresh with a good structure; it had hints of tropical fruit, honey and a touch of green apple, good acidity, a long finish and pleasing aftertaste.

The restaurant sent out rice balls and escarole pie

After speaking to Vito, we ordered Buffalo Mozzarella in Carrozza with a light anchovy sauce. This is one of Michele’s favorites and she always orders it when we are in Naples. It is the ultimate toasted cheese sandwich made with sweet creamy buffalo mozzarella. The anchovy sauce is the perfect sharp counterpoint to the crisp toast and sweet cheese.

With the next two dishes we had the Brunello di Montalcino 1970 from Silvio Nardi made from 100% Sangiovese. The wine was showing its age and after 3/4 of the bottle was gone and became undrinkable.

Next we went with one of the specials Pappardelle with Rabbit and Mushroom Ragu, which was delicious.

For the main course, I had a dish I have never seen on a menu in a restaurant in Naples but is often made in people’s homes. Traditional Neapolitan meatloaf, served with mashed potatoes and sautéed spinach. This is one of my favorites.

For desert we always order the same thing: La Pastiera, a traditional Neapolitian cheesecake. Vito’s version is light and delicate, and one of the best I have ever eaten.

Il Gattopardo 13-15 W. 54th St. NY, NY


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From the Alto Adige: Sylvaner, Sauvignon Blanc and Schiava


Alto Adige, also know as Südtirol due to its deep-rooted bicultural heritage, is Italy’s northernmost wine region. Located at the foot of the Alps and the Dolomites, the region borders on Austria and Switzerland. The Alps protect it from inclement weather from the North and the Atlantic, while the Dolomites protect the vineyards from the cold, damaging winds from the east.

Along with its proximity to the Mediterranean and Lake Garda, this makes it an excellent region to grow grapes. The vineyards range from 600 to 3,300 feet and the soil is mainly porphyry, limestone and slate rock with glacial deposits of gravel, sand and clay. It is interesting to note that in the summer, the temperature in Bolzano is higher than in Palermo in Sicily. The people that live here call their region the Sud Tyrol and themselves Tyroleans. The food is decidedly Austrian with only a hint of Italy. Ham is called speck and they have a cheese called Weinkase Lagrein and bread called Schuttelbrot.

The Wines

Sylvaner Alte Reben 2015 Valle Isarco DOC Pacher Hof 100% Sylvania. The winery is located on the slopes of Neustifit just above Brixen and the vineyards have been family property since 1142. The vineyards are at 620 to 700 meters with sandy and loamy soil. The microclimate makes it warm here and there is a big variation between night and day temperatures. Training system is guyot and the harvest is by hand the last week of October. There is a slow fermentation at a controlled temperature in stainless steel tanks and the wine remains on the lees in stainless steel tanks and barrels for 6months. The wine was bottled in April 2016. This is a wine with fresh aromas and hints of tropical fruit, pineapple and a touch of banana. The wine works well with speck and the difficult to match asparagus. $26

Lahn Sauvignon 2016 Alto Adige 2015 St. Michael Eppan, The 340 winemaking families that form the backbone of the winery joined forces in 1907 to create the St. Michael-Eppan Winery. Made from 100% Sauvignon from vines 10 to 25 years old in Eppan/Berg at 480 to 550 meters. The exposure is southeast , the soil is limestone gravel and the training system is guyot. Harvest at the end of September to early October by hand with a selection of grapes.
Fermentation and development of the lees is in stainless steel tanks until the end of February. This is a balanced wine with fresh fruit flavors, a hint of grapefruit, a touch of honey and good minerality. It matches well with light Asian cuisine such as sushi. $19

Missianer Vernatsch (Schiava) 2016 Sudtirol Alto Adige DOC St. Paul. The St. Paul’s Cooperative Winery was founded in 1907 by 36 wine growers from St. Paul, Missian, Berg and Unterrrain. Today there are over 141 members.
Vernatsch (Schiava) is a traditional South Tyrolean grape. The training system for these old vines is the Pergola. There is a slow fermentation at a controlled temperature in stainless steel, then the wine is aged in large wooden barrels. This is a fruity wine with red and fruit aromas and flavors and a hint of blueberries. The wine goes well with speck, cold cuts and cheese. $19

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