This week, two years ago, I was sitting in our rented apartment in the little village of Moena in the mountains of northern Italy, in a part of the Alps also known as the Dolomites. It was during that time that the mysterious virus had just arrived in Italy and was all over the news. I'll never forget the surreal feeling. Two weeks later the country would close down completely. Soon after that, the world would follow. That winter had been rather thoughtless. We were fearlessly preparing for what was going to be our best season ever, or so we thought. From getting hundreds of bookings, suddenly all we got were cancellations. And then hollow silence. Several lockdowns followed. First, we moved around according to what seemed best for the boys. Then we opened a cheese shop. For obvious reasons, we skipped skiing last year. But life is for the living, so this year we were not going to deprive the kids of another pleasure from their childhood. For these past two years, there have been no birthday parties nor playdates, just two years of wearing masks all day long even when playing in the schoolyard. So we are back in the Dolomites, an incredibly beautiful region in the Alps. Worth visiting for its sheer beauty and rejuvenating mountain air and it's certainly perfect for those who love to ski or hike. Then there are the foods...ranging from smoked hams (Speck) and mountain cheeses (in Moena there's a DOP cheese made called Puzzone which means stinky). We might just have to bring some of this mouth-watering smelly cheese back to the Formaggioteca... Regional dishes are hearty and feature classics such as Apple Strudel, Polenta and Sausages and Canederli which are humongous bread dumplings. If the mountain air alone doesn't give you the energy, the food certainly will! Alpine vines find soil rich in magnesium and high altitudes with a short growing season. Grapes to be found in the area are Pinot Noir and Chardonnay (and if you love bubbles and haven't tried a Trento DOC yet, you should search out one of these traditional method sparkling wines). There are some delicious native grapes to look out for from the Trentino-Alto Adige area. For the reds, you can easily find Teroldego (deep and intensely fruity red), Marzemino (fresh red mentioned in Mozart's opera Don Giovanni!), Schiava (a red wine that tastes like cotton candy), Lagrein (another cool-climate ancient red grape that gives delightful wines). If your palate is feeling extra adventurous, search out Rebo, Enantio or Casetta which are among the lesser-known native red grapes. When summer comes along, you'll get great (and reasonable) white varietal wines from Pinot Grigio and Pinot Bianco, Traminer and Müller Thurgau. But also look out for the lesser-known Sylvaner, Kerner, and Nosiola. Then there's Manzoni Bianco which is a crossing between Riesling and Pinot Bianco or try other fun crossings like Souvignier Gris or even Solaris, which is resistant to funguses and allows for viticulture as far north as Scandinavia! So hopefully I can inspire you to try something else than my beloved Tuscany this time around. As I sit here in the village apartment looking out on the Dolomite mountain tops and waiting for my boys to come back from the day on the slopes, my inbox is belling from emails. Bookings. Unbelievable! I have to suppress a smile. We are slowly getting back to the lives we lost, but enriched with an appreciation that we may hopefully hang on to for a long time to come.
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