|Dinner Views at Osteria Alla Baracca.|
I was very excited to visit the Asolo DOCG Prosecco region at the end of May on a press trip as it is an Italian area that I have not previously traveled through. Asolo is located in the Province of Treviso at the foot of Monte Grappa in the high hills to the west of the Piave River with views of the Dolomites. The grapes are grown in 17 communes surrounding the town of Asolo. The days were very warm while I was there but I needed a sweater or light jacket on most evenings due to the diurnal swing that makes it a great area for grape growing.
|Wines from the Master Class Tasting.|
Asolo was elevated to the DOCG level in 2009. The majority of the Prosecco that I have found in Houston is Prosecco DOC which is mostly from very large producers. Asolo was separated from this category and the region was given this higher status because there are terroir elements that make it distinctive in the world of Prosecco.
|The Sant'Anna Vineyard.|
Many of the vineyards we visited are set on rugged terrain, I felt as if I was constantly walking uphill. The vineyards are set on hillside slopes where they receive optimal sunlight for ripening grapes. despite these conditions, the grapes are harvested by hand with only the best grapes being selected. There are 2,200 hectares or over 5,400 acres under vine. One/third of the territory is woodland forests which has maintained the region's biodiversity making for healthier land. The population is just 129,000 people in the 43,645 hectare region so the social influence on the land is very limited. The Consortium for the region has added measures to safeguard the terroir from developmental impact and promotes responsible viticulture procedures that favor sustainability.
|Row after row of Prosecco at Villa Sandi.|
The Consortium has 430 members, most of whom are grape growers, there are 49 small wineries (defined as making less than 100,000 bottles), 11 medium-sized wineries (making between 100, 000 to 1,000,000 bottles, most on the lower end of this scale), and 4 large wineries that make over 1,000,000 bottles. Sixty percent of the wine is exported outside of Italy with the U.S.A receiving the bulk which amazed me as I only found one producer on the shelves in Houston's largest wine retailer, luckily it was from one of my favorite producers that we visited, Loredan Gasparini, and it is available in three different sized bottles.
|Glera grapes on the vine in late May, still a long way to go.|
Prosecco is made from the Glera grape which is indigenous to the Treviso region, it is a direct descendent of grapes grown in the area during the Roman Empire. Glera must be at least 85% of a designated bottle of Asolo Prosecco with other historic varieties that can be added which include Bianchetta Trevigiana, Verdiso, Perera, and Glera Lunga. It can be made in a variety of styles, we tasted from Dry to Brut Nature and also a traditional lightly fizzy frizzante version called Col Fondo which still has the lees or spent yeast in the bottle.
|First taste of the Col Fondo style.|
Our first night began with a introductory welcome dinner at Trattoria Da Luciano, this is where I was first introduced to a Col Condo Brut Nature Asolo Prosecco by Case Paolin. This wine displayed a bread crumb yeastiness over classic Prosecco aromas and flavors of wildflowers and yellow apples. I became a fan of this style immediately, feeling that this Bio or organic bottle was a very pure expression of the region. White asparagus was in season and this was served pureed in a cream sauce that was not the most beautiful dish I've seen but the two were absolutely delicious together. Other standout Asolo Prosecco of the evening were II Bogana Extra Brut Prosecco Superiore, another organic or Bio Extra Dry Prosecco from Cantina Produttori, and the Montelvini Il Brutto. We tasted these with the first course and a second course of green pea risotto before moving to some of the red wines of the region with our meat courses.
|Glera grapevines at Tenuta d'Asolo Progress Country and Wine House.|
The following morning, we went to Tenuta d'Asolo Progress Country & Wine House for a more in depth introduction which included a vineyard tour to see their organic olive trees and grapevines. We tasted two Prosecco wines under their two different labels, the more straight forward, easy drinking Col d'Arcelum Extra Brut and the richer, more persistent Col del Sol Extra Brut. We also had a tasting of their Pro Tempore Extra Vigin Olive Oil. This establishment has 9 hotel suites available.
|Tasting and picture taking with Ermenegildo Giusti.|
Next stop was Giusti Wine, a modern five story winery owned by Ermenegildo Giusti in the commune of Nervesa della Battaglia. Giusti has a fantastic story of a local boy who seeks his fortune in Canada but later returns to his Italian home to fulfill his winemaking dream. The Giusti wine estates lie in the Montello and Pieve Hills. For this visit, we toured the winery and then enjoyed a tasting with expansive vineyard views before heading to a phenomenal lunch at their Country House Restaurant which also has a small B&B for those looking for accommodations. At this tasting, I was surprised to prefer the Extra Dry which was refreshing yet fruity with notes of peach and was quite easy to drink. The very mineral driven Extra Brut was a close second while the Brut is still recommended but was less expressive than the other two. After lunch, we did an uphill walk through the vines to see some onsite ruins of the Abbazia di Sant' Eustachio.
|Group picture at the Abbazio di Sant Eustachio.|
More sightseeing followed at artist Antonio Canova's Gypsotheca Museum in Possagno before venturing into the town of Asolo for an aperitivo and a walking tour before our dinner at Cioro restaurant. Top Asolo Prosecco wines paired with our charcuterie, another green pea and white asparagus risotto, and a Pasta Bolognese were Dal Bello Superiore Brut Millesimato, Barchessa Loredan Superiore Extra Brut, and the Soligo Col de Mel Extra Brut. The final wine was our first Prosecco with discernible sweetness, the LeTerre Superior Millesimato Dry 2021 which was served with a creamy pistachio cheesecake.
|Touring the Antonio Canova Gypsotheca and Museum.|
Our next day was much more relaxed. We went for a tour of Villa Freya where we had an Asolo Prosecco Master Class with a tasting followed by a fun Prosecco picnic lunch on the grounds. Villa Freya is an event space that is open to the public, it was the home of British writer and explorer, Freya Stark. She is most known for her travel books on the Middle East and Afghanistan and her work for the British Ministry of Information during WWII. Locally, she was known for bringing knowledge of the Middle East to the small town Of Asolo through her work with the children showcasing the clothing and culture in plays that she directed. There are beautiful gardens and ruins of a Roman Basilica and a Roman Theater on the property with expansive views of Asolo. My notes from the Master Class are in a separate post.
|In the back gardens of Villa Freya, over the top of the roof, |
the Rocca on Monte Ricco can be seen.
This fortress is the landmark of Asolo and is on the logo of Asolo Prosecco.
Dinner this evening was an al fresco affair at Osteria Alla Baracca featuring the wines of Tenuta Baron. The restaurant is owned by one of the winery partners. Here, we enjoyed Caprese salad with buffalo mozzarella with their Millesimato Brut 2022, house made gnocchi with partridge ragout with their Rosé Delle Stelle Brut 2022 which is not a Prosecco but a Spumante as the Asolo DOCG does not make designated rosé, mixed grilled meats and seasonal sides served with a Merlot/Shiraz blend, followed by a dessert of marscapone cream and biscuits with their Asolo Prosecco Superiore Millesimato Extra Dry 2022. This was a fantastic meal with lovely wines and a beautiful sunset.
|Antonio Bello discussing environmental responsibility.|
Our final day started up in the historic organic vineyards of Dal Bello winery with owner Antonio Bello. The vineyards sit on the Sant'Anna Hill at 300 meters above sea level. It is surrounded by olive and cherry trees and a forest. It has been named a Biosphere Reserve MAB UNESCO due to the unique ecosystem and the biodiversity found there. The original farmhouse from the 1700s sits on the property and is being restored. We had our first tasting in the old winery and our second at their new facility. The wines were the fruity and spicy Rocca d'Asolo which is a Brut and the other was the Celēber Extra Brut were was drier and more mineral driven. Both are 100% Glera and both are sourced from the Sant' Anna Vineyard.
|Winemaker Stefano Gava presenting the Asolo Prosecco of Villa Sandi.|
Next, we went to Villa Sandi which was the largest producer that we visited with 5.7 million bottles of wine made annually of which Prosecco accounts for 65%. We were greeted by 4th generation owner Leonardo Polegato before we toured the immense property and cellars and then had a tasting of their two Asolo Prosecco which was followed by a lunch with the winemaker, Stefano Gava, at their restaurant Locanda Sandi where we tried several more of their wines. Villa Sandi was impressive with beautiful grounds and an amazing cellar, the wines were all delicious and the lunch at the restaurant was stellar. It is a must-see when visiting Asolo.
|Lorenzo Palla purring his Prosecco.|
Our last winery visit was to Loredan Gasparini winery which is located in Venegazzù in Montello, their largest production classic gold labeled Prosecco is the one that I located at the Spec's on Smith St here in Houston. Historically, they are known for bringing the first Bordeaux vines to the region in the 1960s and making a traditional method sparkling wine in the 1970s. Owner, Lorenzo Palla greeted us to share the history and conduct the tasting. We were poured four Prosecco wines along with some red and some Grappa. All four Prosecco wines are recommended, my personal favorite was the creamier feeling Cuvée Indigena, the commonality in the four were that they were richer, more sapid tasting wines that Palla attributed to the diverse soils and the proximity to the Adriatic Sea.
|Prosecco tasting at Loredan Gasparini.|
Our final dinner was at Boomerang restaurant. We started with an Asolo Prosecco reception before enjoying a multi-course meal served with some other unique wines of the region including a still version of Prosecco called "Il Tranquil", very interesting and fun to taste, but I think I prefer my Glera in sparkling form. I was saying my goodbyes and celebrating my birthday on this last evening so I did not, unfortunately, take any final notes on the wines of the evening. The finale of the meal was Tiramisu, the chef at Boomerang has won awards for his version of this regional dessert.
|The surprising still Prosecco.|
My takeaway on Asolo Prosecco after enjoying this immersive experience into the beauty, the history, and the culture of the region is that Asolo Prosecco is more special than the typical Prosecco DOC to which I have been most exposed. It is, overall, of a higher quality, it is more elegant and refined, and most importantly, extremely well-balanced regardless of the sweetness levels, almost all had a dry aftertaste due to the well-integrated acidity. I hope to see more of these wines find their way into the Houston market, I think consumers will be surprised to taste these Asolo sparkling wines which are, unquestionably, a better Prosecco.
|Lunch at Locanda Sandi.|