|The city of Verona, the unofficial capital of the Veneto’s local wine, Amarone, might be beautiful but there are few safe zones for wine. Back when I first started to come here to visit VinItaly in the late nineties, there were still some Amarone worth drinking (when was the last time you opted to open one?). Amarone has turned into something that is unrecognizable, living in the dark ages of modernization. I long for it to return to its funky and original roots. That was more or less the gist of the talk that I gave at Wine2Wine, Stevie Kim’s fabulous conference that dives deep into what you need to consider to survive in the wine world.|
|I was getting a pep talk here to calm my nerves before speaking. |
|But on that jet-lagged Sunday night, with Mondo D’Oro closed on Sunday night and Bar Stella permanently shuttered, I walked in the darkened early evening, with the super moon rising over the Roman arena, directly to Mondorla, a tiny and friendly wine bar just around the corner on a quiet, small cobblestone lane.|
I had to muscle my way through the throng to get my one refreshing glass of Filippi; real soave. I savored every drop.
|Tuesday night, there was more joy at Trattoria Al Pompiere. With its black and white photograph-plastered walls, it reminded me a little of a theater restaurant, like Sardi’s. The meats hanging and the cheese behind the glass screamed, “We take our ingredients seriously.” They had. Artichoke soup, intense, flavorful. Beef cheeks, bloody and succulent. (Or so it seemed from Mabray’s plate.) From food to staff, it was Old World fabulousness.|
|The cheapest Barolo on the list was the Canonica 2013 at 50 euros. Back here in the United States, you can buy it retail for $150.|
|Exhilarating, plush, licorice, sandy, heady. We had to take two bottles. There’s hope for drinking in Verona.|
But back to business, here we go with December, and on my mind are a couple of gift-worthy champagnes, a visit to an icon you’ve never heard about, Lino Maga, and of course some other ideas for when you’re in a pinch for a cool gift. Take a look at the champagnes. There’s some gold in there.
A Maga Done Right
Spirits were high at the café table outside of the now defunct Bar Stella in Verona. It was about two in the morning, when any normal person would be drinking angular white wines or even better, the fizzy stuff. But not this night—a bottle of the 1996 Barbacarlo was what appeared. The label was impeccably old world and the wine grabbed me. It was tannic, rustic and volatile. Pure old Italy, packed with charm. Made by Lino Maga. And I had no idea who he was.