Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Lunch with Andrea Sartori and Franco Bernabei of Sartori di Verona


I was pleased to get an invitation for a wine tasting lunch at Sorrento Ristorante Italiano featuring a trio of Amarone wines from Sartori di Verona. I enjoy having these opportunities as a "student of wine" to review specific regions and wines that I may not have looked at in a while and, of course, I also just enjoy lunching with smart, well-dressed people while discussing wine and food.

The main reason that I had not looked at the wines of this area lately was also right on the invitation, when referencing the Amarones it said they proudly categorize them as "food wines" as if to indicate most were not.

In various wine classes that I have taken, we would learn about the different red wine styles of Valpolicella and do a tasting which always seemed to end the same way. We were told in lectures that this could be a great wine for a variety of food but when discussing pairing options for whichever Amarone della Valpolicella had been chosen for the tasting, the different instructors would invariably say, “With this one, I would just do a cheese course.” This was due primarily to the wine having a heavy, raisiny almost Port-like quality. I wasn’t inspired to seek it out for dinners at home.

I was excited to get a fresh perspective from Andrea Sartori, owner of Sartori di Verona, and their celebrated winemaker, Franco Bernabei. Andrea shared stories of his family and their long time in the wine business as well as discussing the progression of quality over the past decade with the addition of Franco to the team. Whether he was speaking about his time as the former president of Italy’s primary wine producer’s trade group, climate issues, the region and where it is headed, his wines or his young adult children, the main impression that I received was that Andrea Sartori is a man who really cares about everything with which he is involved. He seems intent on making sure that it is the best it can be and this can clearly be seen in all the wines we tasted this day.

I was seated next to Franco Bernabei who, through the help of a translator, discussed his pleasure at being back home after many years in Tuscany and elsewhere in Italy, his goal to make wines that are consistent from your first sniff until the taste is finished and his lack of concern with typicity. He favors finding the individuality that different terrain produces. Franco was an interesting and an impeccably well mannered lunch companion and I was left wishing that I could speak Italian.

We tasted through some of the Sartori line with some light snacks before lunch. Of particular note was a rich, fruity white, the Ferdi Bianco Veronese IGT, which is a 100% Garganega wine made from dried grapes and the Pinot Noir-Provincia di Pavia IGT, an elegant Pinot at a reasonable price. Our main course was a pasta with lamb Bolognese and it was served with the Amarone della Valpolicella Estate Collection, the Corte Bra` Single Vineyard Amarone della Valpolicella Classico and the I Saltari Amarone della Valpolicella. All were full bodied, intense reds with great balance and structure that paired very nicely with the pasta dish proving that they were not just interesting wines to taste but were, indeed, good “food wines” and certainly wines worth seeking out.