Above: no, those ain’t no matzoh balls… they’re canderli at Santlhof, a rustic tavern that shot immediately to the top of my all-time great restaurant experiences. Canederli or knödel are speck-filled bread dumplings served in broth, a classic South Tyrolean first course.
On Saturday April 5, five days in to my trip, I spent the morning and better part of the afternoon tasting at Vinitaly. The highlight that day was Il Poggione, a traditional-style producer of Brunello, who has emerged unscathed by the recent Brunello controversy. One of the most fascinating insights that winemaker Fabrizio Bindocci shared with me was his belief that mandatory dry farming is one of the appellation’s biggest problems. “If producers in the lower-lying [and consequently warmer] areas of the appellation were allowed to irrigate in 2003,” said Fabrizio, “they wouldn’t have had as many problems dealing with warm temperatures in summer.” If used judiciously, he explained, “irrigation could be a positive change for Brunello.” He also noted that many growers have vines that “are too young” and as a result, the roots can’t find the water table when the weather is excessively warm. While many have proposed that Brunello producers be allowed to use grape varieties other than Sangiovese (a change vehemently opposed by Fabrizio), irrigation, he said, could help to resolve some of the appellation’s current problems.
Above: Speck at Santlhof. Speck is a smoked prosciutto, a classic of German-speaking Italy. It’s spicier than its cousins in San Daniele in Friuli and Parma in Emilia and it pairs beautifully with the fresh white wines they make up there. (Look for an upcoming post on my visit to a San Daniele prosciutto producer.)
I had been invited to an industry party to be held Sunday night at the Hofstätter winery in Tramin (Termeno, in Italian). Late Saturday afternoon, I headed out of Verona toward the alps and checked into a hotel that I highly recommend — a little 3-star called Tirolerhof, where the rooms were beautiful, clean, and reasonably priced, and the Teutonic breakfast spread was worthy of a 5-star hotel in Vienna (the hotel also has a covered, heated pool).
Above: my main course at Santlhof was eggs, bacon, and potatoes accompanied by owner Georg Mayr’s estate-grown and vinified Schiava.
After a simple dinner and a much needed restful night, I awoke to a panorama “alive with the sound of music”: the stunning beauty of South Tyrol — a verdant, vine-covered Alpine valley — sings a soothing melody, a balm that helped to allay the humdrum din of Verona and the wine fair still ringing in my head.
On the recommendation of winemaker Martin Hofstätter, I headed to the nearby Santlhof, a rustic tavern and favorite Sunday biker stop where I enjoyed a leisurely, delicious, four-hour Sunday lunch, complete with wines that simpatico owner Georg Mayr grows and vinifies on his estate (which dates back to the 16th century). His white — a blend of Chardonnay, Kerner, and Traminer — was killer, totally natural in style, fresh and clean. I could definitely get used to the sound of this music.
Above: shredded cabbage salad side at Santlhof.
Above: simpatico owner Georg Mayr takes a load off after a slamming Sunday.
The above view is with my back to the tavern. You can see the flat vine-covered valley in the distance. The vines you see before you are Georg’s whites (the red lie behind the restaurant at a slightly higher altitude). His chickens forage among the rows.