I have grown up in the Italian wine business hearing tales of the Ca’ del Bosco wines. My mentor, David Scott (now with Wirtz Beverage, Nevada), used to entertain me with stories of blind tastings that would pair the Ca’ del Bosco single vineyard Anna Maria Clementi successfully up against the finest champagne.
Many a wine industry pro has regaled me with tales of Maurizio Zanella’s helicopter, procured to take them from Verona during Vinitaly to the winery (which has its own logo-emblazoned heli-pad) for dinner one night. And then of course, there are the wines. Everyone has a favorite- whether it’s the elegant metodo classico sparklers, or one of the winery’s famed and much-heralded still wines. This winery is mythic- not just for me, but for many.
Imagine my surprise and elation when I found myself working for Banville & Jones, the new national importer for Ca’ del Bosco. How fitting that I should have the opportunity to continue this tradition of spreading the story of this mythic winery and its legendary founder, Maurizio Zanella. Sometimes life is just too sweet.
I went to visit the winery a couple of weeks ago, where I learned even more about how these wines are crafted, and just how much precision, care and passion goes into creating such perfect sparkling wines. But the most amazing part? Dinner with Mauruzio Zanella.
We were invited to dinner at the winery one evening during Vinitaly (no, not in a helicopter!), prepared by arguably the best restaurant in Italy, Da Vittorio. It’s only logical, right? What else can you pair with wines like these, other than the finest cuisine in the country?
I was honored to be seated next to Maurizio Zanella himself. Honored, and a little intimidated. I mean, this man is one of the most well-known figures in Italian wine. He is truly a legend- a man who had a vision to craft world-class sparkling wines, and who, consequently, changed the face of Italian viticulture forever. Intimidating to say the least!
I found him to be overwhelmingly hospitable, content to have 50 guests in his winery for dinner, and gracious beyond belief. In fact, whenever he required assistance with something through the dinner he would signal to a server or a sommelier and then in a hushed, politely formal tone, he would apologize to them for having interrupted their work, and pose his request in the most formal, most gentile way possible. Charming, to say the least. Maurizio Zanella is a true gentleman.
Maurizio also regaled us with tales of American journalists, including the venerable Lettie Teague of Food & Wine. He recounts driving her to dinner in his Alfa Romeo, and how her nails made marks in the sides of the seat, due to the speed at which he likes to drive. I found her article regarding this fateful trip here. It’s really delightful and worth a read!
I will also never forget the way we sat down for this beautiful, truly gourmet meal (the best risotto I have ever tasted, as confirmed by Vittorio Marzotto, who knows his risotto), was the soccer game. That’s right. Maurizio, like all red-blooded Italian men, is a soccer fan. about 20 minutes into this gorgeous meal a massive white screen began to fall silently across one wall in the dining room. I thought it would be some kind of PR piece about the winery, or a video about the winemaking process…
…oh no. It was that night’s soccer game, causing cheers and applause from the dinner attendees all of whom, while happy to be enjoying dinner at Ca’ del Bosco, were ecstatic to be doing so while watching the game.
I managed to guide myself throughout dinner, even though I was so excited to be chatting with Maurizio I could hardly taste my beautiful meal. The subject of social media came up and I asked him about Twitter. He lamented not being able to access it from his phone. I showed him how to use the application, after which he promptly found me and “followed” me.
He then sent me a message I will never forget. “Welcome home.”
Thank you Maurizio. It feels good to be here.