An Amazing Day at San Leonardo

My much-anticipated month of biking and wine tasting in Italy finally began last week. Five of my closest wine-loving friends joined me for a ride through the Veneto, which includes Lake Garda and the beautiful valleys of the river Adige, surrounded by the towering and dramatic Dolomites. Of course along the way we had to visit plenty of Amarone and Alto-Adige producers … When I lead a tour the wine is as important as the biking!

On Friday, our visit was to Tenuta San Leonardo outside of Trento, where they make a fabulous and world-reknown Bordeaux blend. A while back I heard of a story where a well-known wine collector from Beverly Hills, who claims to hate all Italian wines, was poured a glass of the San Leonardo and proclaimed it to be a great Graves.

I know my friends at Do Bianchi and MondoSapore are disapointed in me for liking a Bordeaux blend made in Trentino, but San Leonardo has been growing these varieties for over 100 (pre-pheloxera!) years. Insult to injury: the cute doggie in the picture is named Barique.

So we arrive at the estate, which includes the magnificent villa of the proprietor, the Marchese de Gonzaga (if you know your Mantuan history, you’re impressed). It sits among 700 acres of immaculately maintained vineyards, gardens and the forest that extends up to the surrounding mountains. The director of marketing, Fulvio is taking us through the vineyard when a Renault pulls up and out steps the Marchese himself. We chit-chat about biking in the region, the great weather, blah blah blah, but within a couple of minutes, in my broken Italian, I start sharing the story about the BH wine collector.

So next thing we know, Continue reading “An Amazing Day at San Leonardo” »

Biking in the Veneto

I got a lot of grief from people that wanted to hear about biking, not drinking! Here goes, while I’m still in Veneto after-glow:

Biking in the Veneto is, along with the Basque coast of Spain, my favorite place for biking in Europe. Why? How’s this for a short list: 1) you ride along bike trails, not roads, so there is no traffic whatsoever, 2) the scenery changes every day as you ride one day through vineyards, the next along seaside resorts (Lake Garda and Lake Caldaro), and then along the river Adige with the dramatic mountains of the Dolomites on either side, 3) it can be easy riding if you stay along the river, or some of the toughest riding in Europe if you decide to be gnarly and ride up into the mountains. 4) Three, count them, three wine regions: Alto Adige (wonderful whites and Lagrein, Pinot Nero), Trentino (Bordeaux blends), and Amarone Country.  

And yes, in reply to those comments on the SL entry, we brought along plenty of Aveeno diaper cream. It really is the best kept secret among bike tourers. Nothing else works like Aveeno after a 75-mile day of riding!

Thanks to First Light Tours out of London. They did a great job outfitting our trip. Loved the bikes, the route sheets were easy to understand, and as we moved our base camp every two days, our bags would miraculously appear at each new hotel. We stayed in four-star lodging the whole way. All this, and for a third of the cost of a guided trip!

Amarone Day … Quintarelli, Bertani, Allegrini … oh my!

The Grateful Dead are like licorice, not that many people like licorice, but people that like it, really like licorice. – Jerry Garcia

Amarone makes me think of this quote by Jerry Garcia. Many of my friends who love wine (especially the Burgheads) don’t love this wine, which is made of partially dried grapes in the Veneto region of Italy. Amarone is one of the richest wines in the world … and it’s fig-like, bittersweet nuttiness reminds some people of Port, which turns off those who like their wines more nuanced. But people who love it, love it with a mad passion.  

There are two schools of winemaking in the Veneto …  Continue reading “Amarone Day … Quintarelli, Bertani, Allegrini … oh my!” »