Andrea Sartori, President of Sartori di Verona, and Franco Bernabei, Consulting Winemaker, began their trip to the United States in Chicago where I was invited to enjoy a wine dinner at the beautiful Spiaggia with two other wine writers in order to learn more about their vision for the future of Sartori Family Wines. These gentlemen from Italy were gracious hosts, incredibly interesting, and beyond proud of the wines they are offering. All of us could feel their passion to have their wines on everyone’s table and after having tasted a broad portfolio, I understand why. You can imagine that by the end of the evening, Andrea and Franco made us feel like family – chatting about good food, wonderful wine, and life.
The region of Veneto has been slowly evolving into one which is producing more quality wines and the Sartori family has been making wines there since 1898. Through the years, their winery has expanded resulting in national and international recognition. Now, Andrea Sartori is leading the way to raise the quality of their wines having been faced with increased global competition. He established a joint venture with the Cantina Colognola di Colli whose members receive a small percentage of shares in Sartori in exchange for which the family acquires exclusive access to 5,681 acres of high quality vineyards in the Soave and Valpolicella zones. At this time there are 3000 member growers in the now named Collis Vento Wine Group. Further, the Sartori family purchased the I Saltari winery estate east of Verona. The classic Sartori line is now being revamped and combined are traditional grapes and techniques with unconventional and creative ways…thanks to the winemaking acumen of Franco Bernabei. One example is their Ferdi Garganega which may be considered an alternative to Soave in that this dry white wine is made by partially drying the grapes (“appassimento”), a technique usually associated with Amarone. Organic wines are now being offered. Sartori purchased the Mont’Albano estate, one of the “most admired organic estates in Italy” located in Friuli. Mauro Braidot, owner, continues to manage the property and share his expertise in sustainability principles with the many growers supplying Sartori. As Andrea Sartori has stated, “There is little demand for good quality wines. Today they have to be very good indeed!”
There is a major factor in the success of Sartori wines: Franco Bernabei. His goal is “to make wines that express “costanza” – consistency from aroma to flavor to finish.” This former Jimmy Hendrix-inspired rock band member who sported long hair and sideburns years ago has morphed into one of the most “influential and sought-after consulting winemakers”. Franco is Italy’s “flying winemaker” – though most of the flying he does is in his Audi on the Autostrada, consulting for wineries in several different regions around Italy. At Sartori, he has been a hands-on, team playing member of the winemaking group since 2003 and knows the importance of terroir in order to have each wine express its individuality. Some of his creative methods include reducing yields by replacing traditional pergola trellising with cordone speronate, a variation of the Guyot method, and matching individual grape varieties to specific vineyard locations. Bernabei has been and continues to be crucial in the vision of Sartori wines. His creative winemaking methods and knowledge and techniques to cultivate grapes in the perfect soil have assisted Sartori in maintaining the vision for the future – to create exceptional wines.
There were so many reasons why I loved having dinner with this group. Andrea, who speaks perfect English, and Franco, who needed a translator, were humble about their accomplishments and were genuinely interested in our questions and comments. I loved their “thinking out of the box” creativity and appreciated the time they spent with us. As time went on, translations became interpretations, a bit of cigar smoking took place outside, and lively conversation with laughter ensued. A bit like family? Oh yes…but savoring a portfolio of exceptional wines from Sartori and a delicious dinner at Spiaggia made family time seem even better.
What wines were paired with dinner? Published next week will be my tasting notes and food pairings along with a picture of “family”!