A Wine Lover's Diary, part 87 (May 15, 2006)
Thursday, May 4: Anthony and Penny Bourne, who are coming on the wine tour, picked us up to drive to the airport. Deborah will drive their car home. Stephen Pauwels and his wife, Cathy Martin, who are leading the group, introduce us all at the airport. We will be a group of 21, from Ontario, Alberta, BC, Texas and England. An uneventful flight to Milan, except that there was only one functional toilet in the back of the plane and my seat would not recline. The red wine was La Rosella Rosso Negromaro 2004 from Puglia in splits. Rather lean and acidic with a sour cherry flavour. The second bottle tasted nothing like the first. It was made by the Cooperativa Produttori Argricoli San Pancrazio Salentino, quite a mouthful but unfortunately the wine was not. I could have had La Cantinetta Bianco Garganega 2004 but since I was having meat (the choice the steward offered was "meat or fish") I opted for the red. The young man next to me ordered a kosher meal which looked better than mine but it took him a full two minutes to discover how to unwrap it. There was no salt offered with my meal and since salt, as far as I'm concerned, is a food group, this was disappointing. I didn't ask for any, since the attendants looked flustered enough with a full flight.
The Borromeo family property on Isola Bella, Lake Maggiore
||The white peacock in the grounds of Isola Bella
Friday, May 5: When the plane touched down at Malpensa Airport in Milan the Italians applauded. I don't know if this is a sign of appreciation rather like grading figure skating or a sign of relief. Our group boarded a bus to take us to the hotel (La Palma) in Stresa, a town on Lake Maggiore. The flowers are in full bloom here rhododendrons, wisteria and bougainvillea blaze with brilliant colours. After a couple of hours' sleep Gordon Pape and I walked into town for lunch at a pizza place. With a very good pizza we drank a bottle of Vercesi Nabucco Bonarda Amabile 2003 from Otrepo Pavese; it was fruity and frizzante with a soft, sweet black cherry flavour. Walking back we discovered a wonderful wine store called La Cambusa. Once we showed interest in her wines, the woman proprietor took us in the back to show us her good stuff. La Cambusa on Via Cavour has a spectacular collection of Italian wines. Coincidentally, the travel agency has arranged a tasting of olive oil and wine here after our boat trip on Lake Maggiore to Isola Bella this afternoon. The boat ride to Isola Bella takes ten minutes. This is one of three islands owned by the Borromeo family. In 1670 Count Vitaliano Borromeo began the construction of a monumental Baroque palace with a series of formal gardens on the island now known as Isola Bella. The palace is furnished with countless works of art, tapestries, furniture, statues, paintings and stuccos. The gardens are planted with rare trees and exotic plants and dominated by an extraordinary folly rising in levels and executed in local pebbles and stones with arches and statuary. White peacocks roam at will, calling to each other and posing for photographs. After touring Isola Bella our group went to La Cambusa where Rosaria, the owner (she learned her English in Reading), conducted an olive oil, balsamic vinegar and wine tasting. She's a great saleswoman and our group was buying dried mushrooms, herbs, oil, vinegar and wine. We're going back on Sunday evening for an upscale wine tasting. Dinner in the hotel. On the table a bottle of Saracco Prasué Chardonnay 2004 from Langhe (very drinkable) and Nervi Amore, an anonymous red blend from Gattinara without vintage.
Saturday, May 6: Up at 7:15 am after a fitful night's sleep. Took the bus into Milan. Penny amused us quoting phrases from her guide book. Example: "Non devevo mai permetterle di toccarmi" which translates as "I shouldn't have let you near me." We speculated about the circumstances under which one would have to use the phrase. (In the book it was listed under "Hairdressers.") A guide showed us the Castello Sforzesco (home of The Last Supper), the Galleria, La Scala, Peck (an amazing food store that makes Pusateri look like a Safeway store) and the 15th-century town hall. Behind this is a restaurant, part outdoors under umbrellas, called Ristorante di Mercante, where several of us had lunch (spaghetti with octopus and a bottle of Livio Felluga Pinot Grigio 2004). After lunch Gordon and I went shopping. I bought three ties at Andrews's Ties in La Galleria, where I had bought ties on my honeymoon in 1997. We stopped for an ice cream and then walked the Via Monte Napoleone (the fashion district shopping street with all the Italian designer shops) looking for a red wallet for Gordon's wife. At Yves St. Laurent the salesman said it was not fashionable this year to have a red wallet, offering white on black instead. Finally found a red one at Ferragamo. Got caught up in a street demonstration for animal rights and were so moved we had to stop for a beer at La Galleria. Two beers cost 24 euros. Anthony Bourne said he paid 11 euros two blocks away. Back on the bus to drive to a country restaurant for dinner. Ristorante Cravero in Caltignaga near the dull city of Novara is worth finding. The chef has prepared a special seven-course meal for us. We start on the terrace with a glass of Dessalani Collefino Spumante Brut and salami and proscuitto nibbles. The restaurant had provided two local wines with the dinner Rovellotti Bianco delle Colline Novaresi 2004 and Dessilani Nebbiolo Colline Novaresi 2000/1999/1998. We augmented these by ordering from the very good wine list: Schiopetto Blanc de Rosis 2003 (a blend of Tocai Friulano, Pinot Blanc, Sauvignon Blancandf Malvasia), Terruzzi e Puthod Terre di Tufi Vernaccia di San Gimignano 2004, Livon Schiopettino Picotis 2002 and Antonelli Sagrantino di Montefalco 2000. The menu:
- Octopus, courgette, potato, prawn and tomato timbale with black olive vinaigrette.
- Salad of spinach and duck in balsamic vinegar with pineapple confit.
- Homemade pasta with rabbit and asparagus sauce.
- Carnaroli risotto with puree of peas and fresh mint with smoke cheese fondue.
- Rack of suckling pig glazed with honey, ginger and green peppercorns with seasonal vegetables.
- Selection of local cheeses.
- "Composizione di dessert" and coffee.
It was 12:30 am by the time we got back to the hotel.
Sunday, May 7: After breakfast on the bus to Bava's winery. The bus driver missed a turn off so it took us 45 minutes longer to get to the winery in Cocconato, a small village north of Asti. I made up a limerick based on the phrase book to pass the time:
"I just bought this blouse, don't you see
Now I'm wine-stained from the neck to my knee
You may be my hubby
But you act like a rubby
I should never have let you near me..."
At Bava, Paolo Bava, the youngest of the four brothers and the winemaker, conducted the tasting. The family owns 50 hectares in three estates in the area. Bava is a Barbera specialist. We started with what Paolo called his "blue jeans" Barbera, Liberia Barbera d'Asti 2004, an easy drinking wine with a peppery, sour cherry flavour, light with good acidity. Next we had Ruché di Castagnole Monferrato 2004, a rare variety with a lovely spicy, rose petal and black cherry flavour, very fruity and fragrant. Then we moved to a serious Barbera which spends 1820 months in new oak, Stradivario Barbera d'Asti 1997 (dry cherry and plum flavours, lovely balance). Next, Barolo Castagnole Falletto Monferatto 1999 (very elegant, dry cherry, violets, leather, tobacco leaf notes; still young). We finished the tasting with the delightful Moscato d'Asti 2005, fresh and grapey and only 4.5% alcohol. When our group went upstairs to buy some wines and chocolates, Paolo opened a bottle of wine that Bava makes to go with chocolate. Barolo Chinato Cocchi is blended with 25 different herbs. It tastes like a sweet vermouth (16.5% alcohol). He served it with chocolates. We lunch in a hilltop village, Montechiaro d'Asti, a ten-minute drive from the winery. Tre Colli Trattoria is an unpretentious restaurant o the main street. They had prepared a five-course set lunch with two local wines Michele Chiaro Gavi 2004 (refreshingly dry but short) and Desideri Tenuta Rila Barbera d'Asti 2004 (volatile). We augmented this with a magnum of Bava Stradivario Barbera d'Asti 1993. The menu: cold beef with tuna sauce, turkey in sweet and sour sauce, small pie (which turned out to be a pasty filled with ricotta cheese and a green vegetable). Next, spaghetti and meat sauce (delicious), followed by braised beef in balsamic vinegar with pickled onions and salad. The balsamic vinegar killed the wine. For dessert we had canned peaches filled with macaroon and chocolate, then baked. Liz told a hilarious story about playing golf in a mixed foursome in new shorts she'd just purchased from Sporting Life. They split along the seam at the first hole and she was wearing a thong. The other golfers said nothing and it wasn't until she had played the front nine and retired to the washroom in the clubhouse that she realized her shorts were split all the way up the back. When she asked her partners why they didn't tell her, one replied: "We didn't want to put you off tour game." We left the restaurant at 4:20 pm and are meant to have a tasting in Stresa at 6 pm. In spite of the heavy lunch and the two-hour drive back, everyone turned up for the tasting at La Cambusa. Rosaria had prepared some cheese and truffle paste on bread to accompany the wines. Rosaria's son Rueben opened the following wines:
- Livio Felluga Sauvignon 2005 (Friuli)
- Il Repertorio Aglianico del Vulture 2002 (Campania)
- Conti Sertoli Salis Canua Sforzato 2000 (Valtellina)
- Planeta Santa Cecilia Nero D'Avola 2001 (Sicily)
- Rosa del Golfo Salentino Primitivo 2003 (Puglia)
Then Rueben opened an Amarone made by a friend of his, Pietro Castellane Ca' La Bionda Vigneti di Ravazzol Amarone 2001 (Veneto).
Rosaria conducts a wine tasting at La Cambusa in Stresa
On the way to the taxis to take us to dinner, I saw a tiny red car with a Ferrari emblem on the front. Since I have always coveted a red Ferrari the two Vannas, Cathy Martin and Kathleen Crook, both blondes, volunteered to drape themselves over it for a photo .(I had dubbed them Vanna White and Vanna Red at dinner the previous evening, as they were the designated pourers.) Dinner at San Giovanni, a restaurant (recommended by Rosaria) on the highway about three kilometres beyond our hotel. I ordered for the table two bottles of Giacomo Vico Rorero Arneis 2005 and Aia Vecchio Morellino di Scansano 2005. We ordered individually. I had tagliatelle in a mushroom sauce and a fish dish that featured five different types of fish.
Monday, May 8: The weather has turned cloudy and threatens rain. This morning we are driving to Bergamo for lunch and eventually to Verona. We stop in the old walled town of Bergamo, perched on a hill above the modern city. The cobbled streets are narrow with tiny shops and restaurants. Eleven of us lunch at Al Donizetti (the composer was born in Bergamo) on Via Gombito. Their business card features an inebriated Alsatian with an empty wine bottle. Under the stone loggia, we order plates of prosciutto, salami, air dried beef, grilled vegetables and cheeses with Eric Banti Vermentino 2004 and Volpe Passini Pinot Blanc 2001. Then with the ravioli and polenta with mushrooms two bottles of Ca' del Bosco Courbusco 2003. With chocolate and biscotti, a bottle of Tenuta del Fait Fallchetta Moscato d'Asti 2005. The shared washroom has one toilet stall and one with a hole in the floor. When I was going in I found an agitated young Swede desperately trying to work the automatic tap in the communal sink. He explained that he had just been crapped on by a pigeon. After lunch, walked around the town, visited the magnificent basilica, newly restored with an ornately painted ceiling. (Note to self: next time I visit Bergamo, have lunch in the Vineria Cozzi, 22A Via Bartholomeo Colleloni. It looks terrific.) Did a bit of speed shopping and bought a shirt and sweater. Liz bought three pairs of shoes but ended up with a pair of two right shoes. Arrived in Verona at 6 pm and checked into the Accademia Hotel. It's right around the corner from my most favourite wine bar in the world, Bottega del Vino. By 6:30 pm I was in there with Gordon, Penny and Anthony Bourne. I ordered a bottle of Abazia di Novacella Gewurztraminer 2005. I checked to see if an article I had written for Wine Tidings was still on the wall on the way down to the cellar. It wasn't, but it looked so good down there that I booked dinner for twelve as many as they can fit around the table on Wednesday. Dinner at the hotel: seafood risotto and, for the main course, white fish. The wines I ordered: Pieropan Soave Classico 2005 and Jermann Pinot Grigio 2004.
Tuesday, May 9: It's raining this morning and we have a two-hour walking tour of Verona booked. Our guide adheres to the statutory regulations for Italian guides. She is four-foot-six but speaks beautiful English and is very knowledgeable (she told us that Valpolicella means "valley of many cellars"). We delay our departure because it looks like Noah's flood outside. The guide gives us a virtual tour of the arena for an hour as we sit in the lounge. Eventually we brave the elements and head for the arena in Piazza Bra. Then to Juliet's house, Dante Piazza and other sites (including Romeo's house actually the houses are the Montagues' and Capulets' residences, since Romeo and Juliet are fictional characters). Just as the tour finishes the rain stops. Back at the hotel Liz has sorted out the two right shoes problem and has somehow convinced the store owner to deliver a left shoe to the hotel or maybe he's bringing two left shoes in the hope that she'll buy the second pair. Ten of us head off to a wine bar before lunch. At the Osteria del Bugiardo (17 Borsari), one of the oldest wine bars in Verona, we stop for a couple of bottles of Podere Co' de Fer Lugana 2005 before walking to Ristorante Grippa. A bottle of Bianco del Custoza Campo del Selese 2003 and Villa Monteleone Valpolicella Campo Santa Lena 2004. For lunch I had pasta fagioli soup and squid in black ink with polenta. Delicious. Walked back to the hotel and slept for an hour before going out again with Gordon to check out some wine bars for future consideration. Osteria de Vecete on Via Pellicciai, Enoteca con bar Oreste Dal Zovo (tiny, with a couple of benches) 7 San Marco in Foro and near the old stone bridge across the River Adige, Alcova del Frate, 19A via Ponte Pietra. Also found a terrific wine shop, Enoteca S. Anastasia di Roland Cestero, 3/B Via Fl. Massalongo. At Osteria de Vecete six of us stopped in for a glass of wine before dinner Hofstätter Chardonnay 2004 from Alto Adige. A very well made wine and interesting to drink Chardonnay after all the Soave and Pinot Grigio. Dinner at Ristorante Al Pompiere that David Gleave MW had recommended to me in London. Roberto Anselmi is joining us for dinner Steven, Cathy, Gordon, Liz, Norman and me. Roberto insists I order the wine even though I wanted him to select producers that he respects and I don't know about. We end up with Monte Grande Pra Soave 2004 (excellent) and Allegrini La Grola Valpolicella Classico Superiore 2002. The menu: salumi different cuts of salami, prosciutto, etc. followed by tagliatelle with an artichoke sauce. I ordered what was translated on the menu was "swine shin," which turned out to be a pork shank. When it arrived it looked like a dinosaur thigh on the plate but was very tasty, especially the veal reduction. The restaurant walls are covered with photos of the family that used to own it. Robert says that the proprietors of Il Desco (a two-star Michelin restaurant in Verona) sold it to the present owner. I remember Roberto Anselmi loves fast cars he owns two Porsches and several other cars as well as a few motorbikes. He tells me that he has given up driving fast cars and flies his own helicopter instead. Roberto is also expanding his winery. He orders a Speri Amarone 2001 to go with the cheese course a taste-off between Verona and Piedmont. He leaves early to return to the winery because he is about to bottle and we find that he has picked up the bill for our dinner; not only ours, but two other tables of our party who are dining in the restaurant. We are seeing him tomorrow with his daughter Lisa who will conduct a tasting of Anselmi wines for our group in the hotel.
Gordon Pape enjoying a tasting at Masi
Wednesday, May 10: This morning we are off to Masi in Gargagnago di Valpolicella, about half hour's bus ride from our hotel. Elisa Venturini gives us a tour of the the winery, showing us the loft where they dry the grapes on bamboo trays for the Amarone and the computer system that opens and closes the windows to produce the right conditions for slow desiccation of the berries. We visit the cellars, which contain a variety of barrels (even square barrels which I have not seen before) and cherry wood barrels used by Serego Aligheri. We sit down in a classroom-style tasting room, watch a slide show presentation and then taste:
- Masianco 2005 (a blend of Pinot Grigio and Verduzzo)
- Campofiorin 2003
- Brolo di Campofiorin 2001
- Costasera Amarone 2001
- Vaio Armaron Seghero Aligheri 2000
Sandro Boscaini joins us for the tasting. He looks well and promises to save an evening to come to dinner with us in Toronto in October. We do a quick tour of Serego Aligheri, which is two minutes away. Deborah and I stayed here a couple of nights on our honeymoon in one of the apartments in the courtyard. At that time they had a dog, an Alsatian if memory serves, that used to drag an orange cat around the courtyard by its head. The cat didn't seem to mind. I asked after them but apparently the dog died. Along the walls of the courtyard are ancient Molinara vines dating back to pre-phylloxera times (1875) which still bear fruit. I bought some of the rice that is grown on the estate and they gave each of us a bottle of Masi Toar 2000 made from 80% Corvina and 20% Oseleta (an ancient variety that Sandro Boscaini found and resurrected).
By this time it was 2 pm and everyone was hungry. We drove to Bardolino on Lake Garda to a small family winery and olive oil producer Azienda Agricola Ravel, where we had a light lunch, sitting in the garden under olive trees, drinking the local Bardolino wines. Got back to Verona at 4:15 pm, in time to shop for presents for Deborah before the Anselmi tasting. When we got back to the hotel, Liz was reunited with her left shoe. The shop owner had traveled in from Bergamo to make the exchange. A tasting of Anselmi wines has been arranged before dinner in a private room at the hotel. Lisa Anselmi, Roberto's daughter, and her colleague Alessandro arrive with the wines and Lisa does a PowerPoint presentation while we taste:
- Anselmi San Vincenzo 2005
- Capitel Foscarino 2003
- Capitel Croce 2003
- Realda Cabernet Sauvignon 2003
- I Capitelli 2003
Anselmi no longer uses the appellation Soave on his labels, as he does not agree with the DOCG regulation of using the double pergola trellising system. Lisa and Alessandro join us for dinner at Bottega del Vino. Roberto could not join us because he was having problems with his bottling line. Thirteen of us dine in the cellar. The rest of the group are dining upstairs, as the table in the cellar only accommodates twelve. The cellar is a magnificent collection of the best wines of Italy and around the world, including verticals of La Tâche, Grange and Armagnacs dating back to 1900. The wines are binned from floor to ceiling completely exposed. Our dinner starts with a complimentary glass of Prosecco. I order spaghetti with duck sauce and a Florentine steak. The wines: InamaVulcaia Sauvignon Fumé Riserva 2003 and Tommasi Amarone 2000. A few desserts are ordered and passed around the table. Anthony, Steve, Jim and I ordered grappas. Others had Muscats, still and sparkling.
Thursday, May 11: Today we take the bus to Venice. The approach through Mestre is probably designed to make you appreciate Venice all the more. We have a guide with bad teeth and bad hair who proved that Fascism is still alive and well in Italy. He had a running commentary on the Japanese tourists, excoriated the degenerate behaviour of young Italians and the greed of the merchants of Venice. He also irritated the women in the group by referring to Venetian wives at home cooking spaghetti for their husbands. There are, he told us, 150 certified guides in Venice. "We know each other. We don't like each other." He gave us a bunch of statistics as well: there are 60,000 permanent inhabitants of Venice and 120,000 pigeons. There are 1000 palaces and 400 bridges. There are 400 gondolas and the licenses for them change hands for 150,000 euros. (The ride costs 100 euros for 35 minutes.) Designer shops line the streets. Right outside Louis Vuitton, Africans were selling Louis Vuitton knock-off handbags. Apparently, you can incur a large fine at the airport if you're caught with a knock-off. Gordon, Liz, Norma and I had lunch in Vino Vino, a tiny wine bar. I ordered a bottle of Bastanich Tocai Plus 2003 from the list. The bottle arrived open on the table with no opportunity to see the label or to taste it. It looked very deep in colour and when I saw the back label it was a 2000 vintage. The service I find in Venice is churlish and dismissive. The Venetians are willing to take tourists' money but are particularly graceless about it. Walked around for a couple of hours admiring the tiny alleys with unexpected architectural treasures at each turn. Venice, I decided, is like a very beautiful but thoroughly spoiled woman. We tried to find Harry's Bar but with little time before catching the water taxi back to the bus park we somehow managed to miss it. Our hotel tonight is in the countryside on the road to Trieste. The Revedin in Gorgo al Monticano, built in the fifteenth century and now restored, was the summer villa of the Foscarinis, a noble Venetian family. The gardens are well kept and there's a modern enoteca on the property built like a bomb shelter underground. In order to lighten our luggage we drink the Masi Toar 2000 (given to us on our visit to Serego Aligheri) in the lobby. Then into dinner at the large restaurant adjacent to the hotel. Stephen Pauwels orders Montelliana Prosecco from the Colli Asolani for the group to say goodbye to Jim and Kathleen, who are flying to Geneva in the morning (the group is Florence bound). The menu: large macaroni with squid, dried tomatoes, black olives and capers followed by Mediterranean sea bass and crawfish. After dinner nine of us went to the enoteca and Jim very generously ordered a magnum of Banfi Brunello di Montalcino Risesrva 1995, which so excited the sommelier that he served it with great panache. It's a wonderful wine that kept opening up with exciting flavours of dried cherries, truffles, oak, lead pencil shavings and violets.
Friday, May 12: My birthday. A four-hour bus ride to Florence. After the hordes of tourists in Venice I don't know if I can take the crowds in Florence. I have visited the city many times and suggest to Gordon (who feels the same way) that we find a suitable wine bar and explore the Colli Fiorentini that way. Gordon and I walked over to Palazzo Antinori and lunch in the small restaurant there. I had a glass of Vermentino 2005 with my linguine and tuna and then to celebrate my birthday, a glass of Tignanello 2001 (this is the only place I know of that serves Tignanello by the glass). After lunch the group had a guided walking tour of the city beginning at the Duomo and ending at a gelateria for great ice cream. Walked around Florence for an hour and on the Ponte Vecchio bought a silk scarf for my daughter Annabel. Desperate for a washroom, Anthony and I ducked into a great wine bar with a bakery attached for an espresso and the use of their toilets. Cantinetta dei Verrazzano on Via dei Tavolini 18/20R is opposite the ice cream parlour and worth remembering for my next visit to Florence (after all, I rubbed the nose of the brass wild boar in the open market which means I'll come back). Other wine bars to check out next time (because they look so inviting) are Pane & Co. just down from Verrazzano, which only sells that Chianti producer's wine, and Pitti Gola e Cantina opposite the entrance to the Pitti Palace. And Sapori Toscani, a wine shop, at 29R Por Santa Maria. We drive to our hotel in Colle Val d'Elsa about 45 minutes away from Florence. Relais della Rovere is an enchanting hotel in a former 11th-century abbey that later became the home of Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere. After settling in a group of eight of us take a taxi to the old hilltop town of Colle Val d'Elsa to dine at the Antica Trattoria in the Piazza Arnolfo di Cambio. We start with Sergio Prosecco and I order a magnum of Frescobaldi Lucente 1999. My first course is large tortellini stuffed with minced suckling pig, followed by steak Florentine, which the owner cuts from the bone at the table (it's rather chewy). The next wine is Castello delle Paneretta Terrine 1999 (a blend of 50% Sangiovese and 50% Canaiolo) which is corked. The second bottle is fine, although the owner is obviously displeased to have the first bottle sent back. We return to the hotel to find Don and Stella, Susan and Nan in the bar getting into Don's bottle of grappa. We join them and help Don polish it off in order to lighten his luggage. A fine and fitting end to my birthday.
Saturday, May 13: A late breakfast, as we are not leaving for Isole e Olena until 10:30 am. Paolo de Marchi is on hand to meet us and lead us through the cellars, answering questions along the way. Paolo is a passionate winemaker who makes a firm distinction between "food industry wines" and "wines of origin." When asked what the best recent vintage for his wines was, he replied, "Do you have children? What is your best child?" Winemaking, he continued, is about extraction, knowing what is in the skins and how much to extract. You should not get in your wine what is not in the skins (a knock at the technologies used by winemakers).
In his tasting room that overlooks the hills and valleys that lead to San Gimignano he poured the following wines for us:
- Isole e Olena Chardonnay 2004
- Chianti Classico 2002
- Cepparello 2001
- Collezione di Marchi Cabernet Sauvignon 2003
- Vin Santo 1999 (half bottles)
It was this last wine that the group wanted to buy a lusciously sweet, butterscotch and marmalade flavoured wine. I think that this Vin Santo (along with Avignonesi's) is the best in Italy.
After the tasting we took the bus to San Gimignano, where Gordon, Liz, Norma, Anthony, Penny and I had lunch outside at La Bettola del Grillo. I tried to order the best Vernacchia they had on their list but it was not available, nor were my second or third choices, so we had to settle for Falchini 2004. I ordered proscuitto and melon and pasta with wild boar sauce. We walked around this amazing hill town with its towers and ended up in a wine shop where we drank a really fine Vernacchia di San Gimignano Sono Montenidoli 2004. Found two places I wish I had visited for lunch Osteria Il Castello with its wine shop (Palazzo Confinatini, Via del Castello 20) and Enoteca Corsi (Via S. Giovanni 124). On the way back to the hotel a few of us went to visit the hilltop walled town of Monteriggioni, a jewel of a fortified town with a walk constructed around the walls. When we got back to the hotel, I packed, since we have to leave for Florence airport at 5 am and this after our farewell dinner in Il Cardinale, the hotel's restaurant. We have drinks in the garden, bottles the group doesn't want to carry home. The dinner is loud and boisterous, frightening away the other diners. The wine, a Rosso Toscana, is eminently forgettable but it keeps flowing. The menu is traditional Tuscan: antipasto, bread, vegetable and bean soup, followed by braised beef in an onion sauce with potatoes and a fruit flan for dessert. Stephen and I have decided to put together a trip to Bordeaux next May. Got to bed around 11 pm and fell asleep till 1:35 am. And that was it for the rest of the night. My body is telling me I have had enough food and wine.
Sunday, May 14: The bus to Florence airport. There is no traffic on the road, so we make good time. There is a long line-up for the check-in and at first only one attendant manning a desk. We fly to Milan with a couple of hours' layover before the flight to Toronto. The movie on the flight is - fittingly - Sideways. I drink only water. I can't bring myself to spoil the memory of all the wonderful wines I have tasted over the past eleven days with aircraft splits.