A Wine Lover's Diary, Part 511: Verona (September 15, 2014)
Friday, September 5: The drive from Poggibonsi to Verona took just under three and a half hours, stopping at an Auto Grill on the highway for a sandwich. What a difference between the rolling hills and winding roads of Tuscany and the flat wheat plains and arrow-straight highways of Emilia-Romagna. But when we arrived in Verona it took us a good hour to find our destination – a flat on Vicola Ostie just inside Porta Borsari, very near the Piazza Bra and the Coliseum.
Facade of our apartment (Deborah in the open window)
Our hostess Maria told me that Verona has 265,000 inhabitants and I think each of them must own three cars. Parking restrictions are draconian and entry to the city centre by cars not registered is forbidden during certain hours.
I went in search of a supermarket and discovered a great wine shop called Corsini. Deborah and I ate in and minded baby Declan while Annabel and Ian went out for a quiet dinner. Guy, whose girlfriend Sasha joined him after her visit to Croatia, also went out. So Deborah and I cooked up some pork filets, aubergine and red peppers and dined over a bottle of Conte Attems Ribolla Gialla 2013.
Saturday, September 6: After a leisurely breakfast Deborah and I dropped off garbage into the recycling bins but we couldn't find one for organic garbage so we were walking around with this plastic bag until we enquired at a restaurant in Piazza Bra where there was a bin. They obligingly took it off our hands. Then walked over to the parking lot where I had left the car (about 15 minutes away) and crossed the ornate Ponte Scaligero at the Castelvecchio.
We had to pick up a bag of groceries that got left behind when we moved in. Then we walked up Porta Borsari to buy coffee capsules from Nespresso (who would not allow us to take a photo inside. I saw the same prohibition in a stall in the market in Piazza del Erbe where we headed next. What's with that?).
Piazza del Erbe, Verona
Snack at Bottega del Vino
Verona, I've noticed, is a city of small cars and even smaller dogs. We dropped into my favourite wine bar, Bottega del Vino, for lunch at noon: a glass of Ammiraglia Vermentino 2013 with deep-fried shrimps, whitebait and prosciutto on a crostini. Then a gelato en route to PAM, the supermarket. Back at the apartment to relax and eat again with a glass of Conte Attems Sauvignon Blanc 2013.
Sunday, September 7: Today we drove to Mantova to check out an outlet mall. Not the most satisfactory of excursions since we took a minor road rather than the AutoRoute, encountering hundreds of roundabouts. We ended up having a lunch of pizza at Antica Trattoria Chalet Te in Mantova with a bottle of La Azienda Agricola Cavalchina Biaco di Custoza 2013. The mall itself was not very impressive and all I bought – apart from an ice cream at the Lindt store – was three pairs of jazzy underpants. On the way home Deborah picked up a dress from a store in Verona.
Porta Borsari, Verona
In the evening Sasha took us (Guy, Deborah and me) to dinner at a steak house called La Griglia. A very tasty steak with a bottle of Masi Materingo Valpolicella 2011. After dinner Deborah and I walked over to the Arena in Piazza Bra to see if we could hear the opera Aida that was playing tonight in the open-air coliseum. But we couldn't hear a thing! The sound just didn't spill out of the arena.
Arena in Piazza Bra, Verona
Monday, September 8: Up at 6:30 am this morning to prepare to leave at 7:30 to catch a train to Venice. Annabel, Ian, Guy and Sasha have arranged a birthday present for Deborah and me – an hour-long motorboat ride through the canals from the Rialto at noon. Walking from the train station to the Rialto Deborah and I stopped for a glass of Soave at Osteria al Diavolo L'Aquasanta. On the boat Annabel provided a bottle of Corte delle Calli Prosecco.
Rialto bridge, Venice
Guy and Sasha in Venice
We went our separate ways for lunch and Deborah and I stopped in at Al Paradiso Ristorante on Calle del Paradiso. A so-so meal of Spaghetti Puttanesca with a half bottle of Corte della Rose Pinot Bianco 2013. I presented my Visa when they gave me the bill to be told that I could only use a credit card if the bill was over 50 euros. (Min was 37 euros.) There was no mention of this on the menu. Not going back there again.
But that unsettling experience was quickly forgotten when we dropped in at Venchi Cioccogelateria (Calle dei Fabbri/San Marco 989) for the best ice cream I've tasted on this trip. Tired of walking, we took the vaporetto from the rialto to the train station, where we caught the milk train back to Verona, taxiing back to the apartment. Dined in on salami, prosciutto, tomatoes and bocconcini, gorgonzola and pizzas with bottles of Le Ragose Le Sassino Valpolicella 2009 and Alois Lageder Lagrein 2011.
Tuesday, September 9: At 9:30 am Sandro Boscaini sent a van to take us to the Masi winery for a tour, tasting and lunch about half hour away from Verona. Sandro's assistant Elisa showed us around the cellars and the drying room. She told us that it takes three kilos of grapes to make a bottle of Amarone.
Prephylloxera vine at Serego Alighieri
Ancient door at Serego Alighieri
We toured the Serego Alighieri property and its ancient drying room before sitting down to a tasting back at Masi of Masi Brolo Campofiorin Oro 2010, Serego Alighieri Montepiazzo Valpolicella 2010, Masi Grandarella Refosco delle Venezie 2010, Masi Vaio Amarone2007, Masi Campolongo di Torbe 2007, and Masi Mazzano Amarone 2007. The single vineyard Amarones have definitive terroir flavours, which gives the lie to the idea that appassimento (the drying of the grapes) extinguishes a sense of place. Sandro contends that appassimento actually emphasises terroir.
Count Serego Alighieri's house
Lunch at the Masi house at the San Ciriaco vineyard
Masi's dessert wine at lunch
Drove into the Negrar Valley to a house owned by Masi for lunch with a group of local hoteliers and sommeliers. A typical Tuscan meal of prosciutto, speck and cheeses (Gialloblu delle Lemmia, Lemmo di Capra, Pecorina Canentrato Monte Veronese, Monte Veronese Ubriato, Monte Veronese Vacchio Cimbeo della Lessminia) with risotto Amarone, accompanied by Masi Brolo Campofiorni 2009 and Masi Costasera Amarone Riserva 2008. For dinner, back at the apartment, we prepared a meal of spaghetti.
Wednesday, September 10: Our last day in Verona. After breakfast we walked over to the Duomo and dropped into Excelsior, a luxury clothing store with a basement full of gourmet food and wine called Eats. Deborah and I lunched at Osteria Sgarzarie in a 13th century covered market. We split an order of Caprese salad and then a plate of pasta with a half bottle of Allegrini Valpolicella 2013.
Lunch at Osteria Sgarzarie
Spent the afternoon packing for an early start home tomorrow. In the evening we call went over to the Bottega del Vino for a glass of wine before dinner. I asked the waiter if I could show Guy and Sasha the cellar with its 18,000 bottles. They were suitably impressed.
A drawerful of Quintarelli Amarone at Bottega del Vino
Piazza Dante, Verona
We dined at Ristorante Antica Torretta near the Duomo. I ordered gnocchi with black truffles and sea bass with green beans and fennel. The wines: Surran Vermentino 2013 and Fumanelli Squarano Valpolicella 2010. Dessert: peach and Prosecco ice.
Thursday, September 11: Up at 6 am to get the car from the parking lot by the Arsenale. Drove to Florence, dropped off the rental car and boarded the flight to Frankfurt. The plane was late leaving and had to circle over Frankfurt, which left us 20 minutes to make our connection. But mercifully the flight to Toronto was delayed so we made it. A spectacular family holiday with my grandson Declan starring front and centre wherever we went.
Grandson Declan and his Dad Ian