A Luxurious 8 Day Cruise on the Po River and the Islands of Venice
April 28th–May 5th, 2019
Verona, Villa Quaranta Tommasi, walking tour of Verona, tasting of Tommasi wines with multi course dinner in the cellar at Quaranta Tommasi.
Valpolicella, Albino Armani with Albino and Egle…Soave, with Sandro Gini
Venice, board the ship, opening night reception…Euganian Hills lunch at Sengiari…Tasting at Quota 101
Starting Off With a Bang With A Pre-cruise and Food and Wine Adventures
Starting with the pre-cruise experience in Verona, 30 Biale cohorts took up residence at the fabulous Villa Quaranti Tommasi and were treated in an ancient cellar room below a church to a sumptuous multi-course meal paired with Valpolicella wines by Tommasi.
The tasting was led by art historian and sommelier Tamara Andruszkiewicz, who guided us through the nuances and details of a series of wines from this legendary local producer: elegant Valpolicella, complex Ripasso, classic Amarone, and a luscious Recioto dessert wine.
The next morning, the group was off to the nearby mountains of Valpolicella for a tour and tasting with owners Albino Armani an Italian speaker and his lovely wife Egle who speaks English beautifully. Talk about tradition and family legacy–Albino’s family viticulture tradition dates back 20 generations to 1607! When asked if they are related to the famous designer, they jokingly replied “we wish we were”!
The Armani cellar is below ground–cut into the mountain that is composed of volcanic tufa. Concrete tanks, terra cotta amphorae, and oak tanks are artfully lit in the cellar whose walls reveal the natural earth composition of the mountain. The view of Verona and the entire Veneto region from the winery’s topmost level garden setting is spectacular – not to mention a memorable photo op. Their tasting was a seated format on one long family table in a light filled room on the middle level with expansive windows. Prosecco (one of the nicest versions I’ve ever had), minerally Pinot Grigio, vibrant Valpolicella, layered Ripasso, and a muscular Amarone were all stylish and beautifully made, not to mention good values!
Following Armani was a nerve-tweaking coach ride down narrow roads to our lunch destination–a multi course classic at family operated Trattoria Caprini where perfect pasta is rolled and cut by hand every day by nonna Pierina and family. Prosciutto, salad, seasonal white asparagus soup, rabbit pasta, and dessert were accompanied by another selection of excellent Valpolicella wines and were the ideal accompaniment to the locally-sourced and handmade dishes. Son Davide followed with a pasta making demonstration in the kitchen – magically turning a simple yellow ball of dough using a long roller into something that resembled an expansive yellow tablecloth. Davide pointed out the subtle grooves on the roller that had been formed over decades–by his grandmother’s wedding ring!
Checking out of the Villa Quaranta Tommasi on a rainy Sunday morning, we boarded our coach for our trip to Soave for a visit to Gini winery. Hosted by 17th generation Sandro Gini, he took us on a tour of his underground winery and cellar and guided us through a seated tasting of his beautiful Gargenega white wines and Pinot Noir, explaining to us his innovative methods for natural cold fermentations and his discovery of an ideal remote vineyard site on a nearby mountain. As a special gesture, Sandro treated us to a taste of a special Recioto dessert wine that he had just bottled for his son’s wedding.
Lunch in Soave on the way to Venice was at Al Gambera within the sprawling Soave Castle walls where we treated to a classic Italian multi-course feast with Soave wines. Anti-pasta plates of prosciutto, quail eggs, dreamy creamy white asparagus risotto, braised pork cheeks, sliced rare steak, and incredible, luscious tiramisu–simple perfection at every step of the culinary journey!
All Aboard! The incredible Biale cruise in Venice made for a collection of great memories!
Once aboard the River Countess on the scenic Giudecca Canal in Venice Sunday afternoon, we all shared Biale wines (Rosato and Black Chicken) in the ship’s lounge and we got to meet with new Biale cruisers and reacquaint with the “family” of past cruisers and members of the Black Chicken Society. All in all, the entire River Countess was filled with devout Biale fans–a.k.a. the Biale Beloved. The welcome reception and delicious kickoff dinner were full of chatter, excitement and anticipation for the days ahead.
After a Monday that was a full day of exploring Venice and experiencing its incredible soaring architecture, troves ancient art, foods, meandering canals, and pleasant surprises, our Tuesday trip to the bucolic Euganian Hills was highlighted by a tour, tasting and lunch hosted by Stefano Sengiari.
The Colli Euganie setting, which is a geological phenomenon of randomly occurring steep verdant hills, was replete with panoramic views of the entire Veneto region. Lunch on the enclosed terrace at Sengiari was multiple courses of perfectly executed seasonal delights with twists: Asparagus flan with watercress coulis; pheasant pasta with poppy leaves; risotto with creamed spring peas; rabbit loin wrapped in porchetta;
mille-feuille with Chantilly cream. Every Sengiari wine was elegant, detailed, and ideally paired from appetizers through every course.
The nearby Quota 101 winery, which is named for its elevation above sea level, was the setting for our second tour and tasting and was hosted by the father and daughter duo, Roberto and Sylvia Gardina, who at their mountaintop winery like to list music and movie pairings along with their food suggestions. Who can’t resist Colli Euganei Passito with Marvin Gaye and Wes Anderson? (!) Lots of selfies and group pics were taken on the mountainside overlooking the endless agricultural lands below before saying goodbyes and boarding the coach back to Polesella, where our ship had been relocated to the docks along the Po River.
Following days included side trips to Padua for a walking tour of the ancient and prestigious university city where Galileo taught, and a visit to the magnificent cathedral of St. Anthony; Bologna for a walking tour through the university city and great culinary capital highlighted by a demonstration of pasta making and lunch of classic pasta Bolognese (tagliatelle please – NO spaghetti – a big no-no!); the islands of Venice – Chioggia the mussel capital and fish market, Torcello with its magnificent mosaic mural of the End of Days; Mazzorbo and its precious white Dorano wine made from native grapes; and finally Burano–home to the painstaking handcraft of intricate lace-making.
An exclusive private evening visit to the inner realm of the Cathedral of St. Mark was extraordinary…one of the world’s greatest edifices every built with its deep symbolism and artistic detail is profound and awe-inspiring.
Goodbyes to Italy and our Biale Beloved were bittersweet, but packed with lasting memories of the splendors of Italy and shared adventures with our friends and supporters that comprise the extended Biale Vineyards family.