Matured for eight months in neutral 30-hectoliter Slovenian oak botti, the wine has a limpid, translucent ruby color, which seems somehow to be illuminated from inside the glass. The exotic nose (which sometimes reminds me of walking into a gift shop in Chinatown) unfurls with aromas of macerated cherries, pomegranate, sandalwood, and valerian root, which sometimes change places with suggestions of bergamot, basil, lilac blossoms, and hibiscus tea, as the wine evolves in the glass. On the palate, a solid core of cranberries, strawberry preserves, sour cherries, and allspice berries, all seasoned with cedar (as the sandalwood has evolved), are carried through a long, elegant finish by deep, mineral-buffered fruit acidity and ultra-fine-grained tannins.
About this wine producer: Gianni Piccoli is as stubborn as he is modest and self-effacing, with no interest in following the easy paths to guaranteed market share if they mean compromising his principles. He and his sons Mattia, Andrea, and Stefano simply make the best wine in Bardolino. Which is how they find the best customers. Corte Gardoni was established in 1980, when Gianni decided that his beautiful grapes – carefully farmed at low yields on the stony slopes of the moraine in Valeggio sul Mincio – would no longer be sold in bulk, to be blended anonymously in the vats of industrial wineries like Bolla and Folonari that still dominate Bardolino. Building a winery was a risky undertaking in a region that had such little prestige, but Gianni Piccoli never looked back. Today, under the direction of his son Mattia, Corte Gardoni supplies the finest Bardolino and Custoza to nearly every Michelin starred restaurant in Italy.