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Driving the autostrada, the Piedmont scenery quickly changed into romantic city of Verona. After parking the car and taking our stuff to a new hotel (which really wasn’t comparable to our great hotel in Alba), it was time to go hunting the famous best Italian pizza. We got a table without a reservation to the best pizzeria in Verona according to Tripadvisor. It seemed everybody else had a reservation and dozens of people were turned away from the door as they had no reservation. Very popular restaurant indeed, but we thought it didn’t beat the Classic-pizza in Espoo. With our stomaches full, we walked around the city before heading back to the hotel. We had early wake-up next morning, as we had an appointment at Azienda Agricola Gini in Soave.

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In the morning the iPhone navigation surprisingly guided as to Gini winery without any problems (this was the first and the last time without navigation problems). Soave is a wine region about 30 kilometres from Verona. Only wine white from Garganega and Trebbiano grapes is produced there. The wine types vary from perky basic white Soave Classico to rich whites made from old vines having aging potential and to sweet Soave Recioto.

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When arriving to Gini, Claudio Gini welcomed us. After Gini introductions, Claudio took us to their cellars, which located under their house. First we saw “pupitre”, where Gini had 2008 vintage sparkling wine coming up produced by champange method.

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Gran Cuvee 2008 vintage coming up.

In the cellars you could see the soil as well, including volcanic rock which brings minerality to the wines. After the cellar tour it was time to head to vineyards, where Claudio took us with his old Jeep.

Gini is proud of their on average 80-year-old vines with double guyot -system. For example Contrada Salvarenza made from 100-120-year-old vines ages well long without losing its acidity and minerality. The oldest vines are located in the middle of the picture.

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Vineyards in Soave

Back to the Gini house and tastings. Claudio told that they had dinner and wine the previous evening, so he doesn’t feel like tasting at 11 am. We tasted the following wines (all of them made 100% of Garganega):

  1. Soave Classico 2015: Nose had exotic fruits such as banana. Palate very smooth and good balance.
  2. La Frosca 2014: The vines grow in more vulcanic soil bringing this wine minerality and elegance.
  3. Contrada Alvarenza Vecchie Vigne 2013: This was mentioned earlier, the grapes for this wine are from 100-120 years old vines. This was excellent! I have not earlier tasted creaminess and minerality together and so strong. Very long finish. We couldn’t leave without this bottle.
  4. Col Foscarin Soave Recioto 2010: White Recioto – yam! Made from dried Garganega-grapes and the fermentation has been intercepted. 40% of the grapes used are moldy. Strong papaya and passionfruit with certain minerality. Residual sugar approx. 140g/l. Fresher than e.g. Sauternes or Berenauslese. I’d really like to have this to Alko’s selection! Couldn’t leave without couple of these.
  5. Renoblis 2008: 100% moldy grapes, more Trockenberenauslesen-style and sweeter and higher viscosity than the previous one. No minerality. This is only made on best years.
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Gini’s tasting set

We also got a bottle of Gran Cuvee 2008, made with classic method, which has one third of Garganega, one third Chardonnay and one third Pinot Neroa i.e. Pinot Noir. Claudio would have let us tasted it as well, but as I needed to drive and there was no bottle open yet, and Claudio have had that dinner last evening, so… I think the 2008 Gran Cuvee would have been the best medicine for that state. 🙂

Claudio told that Gini has bough vineyards from Valpolicella and the first Amarones and Ripassos will be on the markets soon. Looking forward to that!

It was time to say thank you and head Alfa Romeo towards Valpolicella, where two very different producers were waiting for us.

More information on Gini: www.ginivini.com

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Valpolicella

The first visit in Valpolicella was at La Salette. When booking the meeting beforehand, there was a lot of back and worth planning, and I didn’t really have a good hunch of this. However I thought maybe it is still a good one – or not. An older lady (who’s name I cannot remember, and she did not give her business card when I gave mine) started with interrogation – who are you people anyway? Then we went to a brief cellar tour, which was not agreed beforehand, but cellar tours are always so we thought – why not?

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Ripasso aging

After the cellar tour (where we e.g. learned that La Salette has the best vineyears at the hills) it was time to start the tasting. La Salette’s flagship is Pergole Vece Amarone della Valpolicella is a reputable wine – of which the lady remember to mentioned several times. Their table wines didn’t really convince me. Their basic Amarone was good – but only a basic Amarone. Normally the flagship Percola Vece is not in the tasting, but as the bottle was open in the bottle rack, we got to taste it.

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The flagship was great, but still it was vintage 2011 i.e. not the greatest vintage. However it had been selected the best 2011 vintage Italian red wine in some publication. I’d say it was a little disturbing when the La Salette lady blurted out in the middle of the tasting that by the way, they are not sending out any free samples! Ummh, okay. We did still buy 2011 flagship so we wouldn’t need to leave without any bottle. We had had such great winery visits during our holiday that this was a good reminder that it is not self-evident to always get a warm welcome.

Now it was a bit exciting to see what would it be like at the next winery – David Sterza, a small producer.

We already thought we had got lost, as we were driving along very small roads. Finally we saw a man there and asked if he knew where David Sterza was located at. He asked us to follow him and guided us to a small house. It turned out the man was Paolo Mascanzoni, cousin of David Sterza and the winemaker there. Also David Sterza came out and asked us to come in. I gave him my business card and got his. We were still waiting Paolo’s wife Angela, who had the best English skills. There was a silent moment when waiting for her and finally she arrived. She told about the winery, vineyards, grapes etc. The winery is established 1998 and they produce approx. 40.000 bottles a year. They have local grapes Corvina, Rondinella and Oseleta and pergola method is used to grow the grapes. Also they have small amounts of Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. After this it was time to visit the cellar and the vineyards.

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David Sterza doesn’t have its own bottling and labeling machinery, but they use mobile service, which means a truck having the necessary equipment.

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Corvina-grapes

Now it was time to go to have some wines to taste. While opening the bottles Angela told that one big customer had asked if Sterza could double their production. The winery was not willing to do this, as it would bring a lot of big changes and the winery would not be the same anymore. Also, they may be unable to guarantee the same quality with such high volume.

We got to taste every David Sterza wine, except the basic table wine Valpolicella Classico.

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  1. Ripasso Superiore 2014: Nose had sour cherries and Earth, palate strong and acidity. Firm tannins.
  2. Corvina Veronese 2014: Made from dried grapes, very Amarone-like with certain sweetness, but less strong.
  3. Amarone della Valpolicella 2012: Strongly berrylike and raisin kind of nose, with some mint and chocolate. Round tannins and very nice balance.
  4. Pagoda Rosso Veronese 2013: Excellent experiment, as I told to winemaker Paolo as well. 50% Syrah and the rest Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Made with same method as Amarone, i.e. from dried grapes. Nose had eucalyptus, herbs, blueberry and blackberry. Smooth and round on palate and a bit sweet total taste.
  5. Recioto della Valpolicella 2014: Recioto is Amarone, but the fermentation has been intercepted and the wine is left sweet. This suberb Recioto’s nose had sweet blueberry and dark chocolate. Palate was like homemade blueberry pie in liquid form.
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Vasemalla David Sterza, keskellä Angelo ja oikealla Paolo

I was overwhelmed how kind and hospitable persons David, Angela and Paolo were. Wonderful wines and produced with a warm heart. Wow! There was no other option than to back lot of Sterza’s wines to the trunk, even though thinking how do we get this home. Luckily all of them fit into our luggages.

Big and warm thank you David, Paolo and Angela, we will definitely always remember this visit!

www.davidsterza.it

Winery visits were now done and it was time to spend the rest of the holiday in Verona and the lake of Garda. Actual wine tastings were now done – or at least that was what we had thought… Read more wBlog on restaurant Al Cristo!

Markus Laukkanen 17.9.2016