Gianni Piccoli has a problem with his neighbors in Bardolino. His wines are so much better than theirs that it's embarrassing. What makes Piccoli the undisputed wine king of Bardolino is no great secret: In a part of Veneto that is best known for ridiculously high yields, he's the lone winemaker farming to tiny yields. In numerical terms, he harvests 40 hl/hectare while the rest of Bardolino farms close to 100 hl/hectare. Such low yields of outstanding fruit mean that Piccoli's wines are much more concentrated than theirs.
These days, Gianni Piccoli is helped by his son, Aldo. Their estate is located in the southeastern hills of Lake Garda, which is a major determinant of the region's microclimate. Because it's a little farther from the lake than other estates, Corte Gardoni benefits from greater diurnal temperature range during the growing season. The cool summer nights--combined with the vineyards' morainic gravel, sand, and clay--result in small amounts of superconcentrated fruit that the Piccolis harvest at peak maturity.
The 2005 Corte Gardoni Bardolino "Le Fontane" is a blend of Corvina (60%), Rondinella (30%), and a small amount of other indigenous varieties. Corvina and Rondinella are key components of Amarone, Bardolino's more famous relative, but here they contribute soft tannins, fresh red and black berries to this medium-bodied wine. We first tasted Le Fontane at the Piccolis' estate. After a long day of coursing around the hills of Lake Garda, we arrived exhausted and famished at Corte Gardoni. The Piccolis instantly recognized the hunger in our eyes and sat us down to the best risotto we've ever had (it was prepared with home-made olive oil, home-grown asparagus, and topped with delicious Reggiano cheese). The unpretentious Le Fontane was the perfect companion. Drink now.