This week we took a trip to Italy with a member of staff from each property of Exclusive Hotels.
A very punctual Exclusive Hotels team arrived at Gatwick for our flight to Venice with smiles and enthusiasm in abundance, ready for our trip to visit De Stefani in Veneto and Elena Walch in Alto Adige.
First stop was the original winery and house of the Stefano family where Alessandro's great grandfather, grandfather and father were born. The house is blessed with beautiful views of the vineyard in the valley and now a little tasting room. Needless to say the wine tasting brought many a gasp from our group as the Prosecco and Metodo Rosé really hit the spot. As did the range of white wines but particularly the Pinot Grigio 2010 (one of my favourite Pinot Grigios) with its full flavour, stone fruits, some citrus and long finish. Other whites included the Olmeria, Venis and Vitalys with varying grape varieties but all with the consistent clean, fresh, beautifully crafted approach.
We then tasted through some stunning reds, stopping short of the top red Stefan 1624 which we drank with dinner. This included the Soler, a blend of Marzemino, Refosco, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon and partially dried for three months and second fermented together to produce a spicy, sweet cherry fruited and silky wine that would be perfect with pasta, meats and definitely cheese.
We then went just around the corner from the Stefano house to see the main winery and vineyards near Piave.
We arrived at dusk so couldn't see much of the vineyards but had a brief tour of the winery, barrel room and tank room after meeting Senior Stefani, Alessadro's father who had a twinkle in his eye looking very proud of his winery and what he had helped develop. After being attacked by the guard dogs, well two sausage dogs in their elder years who rolled onto their backs at the site of new people that can tickle, we strolled the welcome ten yards across the courtyard to the Stefano residence where Clara Stefano had been mixing the wines with food to offer us a local feast. First though, on entry to said residence we were met by the latest generation (5th) of the Stefano's - Marco and Paul both less than 10 years old and in their pyjamas but perfect hosts to take our jackets and practise their embarrassingly good English.
Onto dinner - Risotto made with Prosecco followed by slow cooked beef (4 years, hours were meant!) marinated in Stefan 1624 with polenta - delicious and most had seconds washed down with the 2006 vintage of Stefan 1624. Next up was a magnum (I love magnums - some on order for the Busby cellar) of 2004 at 16.5% with three local cheeses, so we all knew where the night was heading especially as there were two more bottles staring us down. The Stefan 1624 was the star of the night with the room divided between the vintages but the standard was silky, rich, complex and deserving of the many international accolades.
The sweet red Refrontolo Passsito completed a memorable day and was simply irresistible. It complimented the 'S' biscuits, a local delicacy and the dark chocolate as the deep cherry and sloe berry flavours were enhanced by the sweetness of the nibbles. To be treated like this by a lovely family making some of the best wines in Italy, let alone Veneto, will stay with all for an eternity. I personally felt like family and will continue to devote my passion for the Stefano wines with a little more vigour and glassy eyed jealousy as I want to live there!
My earnest colleague Johnny Paterson (looks a little like Johnny Wilkinson but only plays tag rugby-hmmmm) will cover day two. I'm sure JP will give you some fabulous prose on the famous Elena Walch Estate in the Alto Adige, an estate we are both really looking forward to visiting for the first time. With the wines so varied and sought after by sommeliers around the globe coupled with the magnificent scenery, I'm sure we will all want to stay.
Written by Jason Busby, Director