25 Jun Please The Palate Pick of the Week: Ten Top Picks in Südtirol (Alto Adige) and Collio in Friuli, Italy
Spending the week in Italy, I was in Südtirol/Alto Adige for two and a half days and in Collio in the Friuli region for two and a half days. Within those five total days, the list of activities, wines tasted, and delicious food eaten, it is absolutely impossible to pick the single Please The Palate Pick of the Week. So, instead of one pick of the week, there are 10 Please The Palate Picks of the Week!
After landing at the Verona airport, we were driven two hours into the mountains to the Berghotel Jochgrimm Hotel, a mountain hotel in the Dolomites. Located between two South Tyrolean peaks, the Schwarzhorn and the Weißhorn, the Berghotel Südtirol is located 2,000 meters above sea level. The room was minimal but had a modern mountain charm. When I first arrived, I went straight to the indoor pool where I relaxed while looking out at the panoramic view.
The next day, I took a hike up towards Corno Bianco located in the northern part of the Sarentino Alps which was just out the door of the hotel. The views from this hotel were breathtaking as we could also see the Dolomites.
Cantina Tramin Epokale Gewurztraminer Vertical Tasting
Cantina Tramin is a cooperative made up of 300 producers in Alto Adige. They produce many wines but Gewurztraminer is their flagship wine. One of the Gewurztraminers they produce is Epokale. The goal of this wine was to do a different style and for this wine, it is aged in an old silver mine where the elevation is high and the temperature is cool. We were the first people to do a vertical tasting of Epokale, tasting six vintages (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015).
Train Ride into an Old Silver Mine where the Epokale Gewurztraminer is aging
The next day, after doing the vertical tasting, we drove up the mountain to the old silver mine. After suiting up in wellies and a helmet, we took a train 3.5 kilometers into the the old mine and then walked an additional 100 meters to where the bottles of Epokale are aging.
Walk around Lago Di Braies
After visiting the silver mine, we took the train to Villabassa Braies where a driver picked us up and took us to Lago di Braies. This lake is surrounded by the Dolomites and is one of the most picturesque places I have ever been. Everything looked like a postcard. Crystal clear turquoise waters, white rocky beaches, Alpine forest, and the Dolomite mountains…pictures do not do it justice. We walked around the entire circumference of the lake (approximately 2.5 miles) and in one section we stood on the pure white rocks at the foot of the Dolomites.
Dinner at Laite Restaurant in Sappada
Two hours from Lago di Braies is Sappada, the highest village in Friuli, sitting 1300 kilometers above sea level and facing direct views of the Dolomites. This charming town of 1300 people is home to a Michelin starred restaurant, Laite, owned by Fabrizia Meroi. We were joined by Mateja Gravner for an exceptional meal featuring locally-sourced ingredients, including foraged items. From the first bites of the amuse to the millefoglie of eggplant with sour ricotta from Sappada and tarragon, we knew were were in for a treat!
Lunch by L’Orto Felice in the vineyards at Gravner
The next day, we drove two hours to Oslavia in Collio in Friuli, next to the Slovenian border. We met up with Mateja Gravner at her vineyard and then enjoyed a vegetable driven (almost vegan) menu prepared by friends Caterina Romanelli and Alessia Beltrane who run L’Orto Felice. Caterina’s family has had an organic farm since 1988 and she returned to the family farm four years ago where she started selling vegetable boxes. She and Alessia, a trained chef, met during Covid and started creating meals with the fresh vegetables and fruits. Our lunch was so fresh and healthy which was perfect as we sat in the vineyard on a very hot day.
Visiting Gravner and meeting Josko Gravner
Gravner Wines are renowned around the world. Josko Gravner was the first person to skin-ferment his Ribolla Gialla in amphora. It was in the 1980s and 1990s that he was selling out his wine but was not satisfied. He wanted to make wines with character. In 1997, he began fermenting the grapes on their skins and found that he recognized the taste of the Ribolla Gialla grape in the wine. By 2001, Josko Gravner began using amphora. Today the Gravner wines are sought after and relished by those who know them. Not only was visiting the winery special, but so was meeting Josko Gravner.