On a visit last spring to Corte Gardoni, we toured Gianni Piccoli's immaculate vineyards and realized immediately we were in the presence of a man that has a problem. The problem is not his own however, its his neighbors'. A tour of his vines and tasting in his cellar revealed an immaculate attention to detail, an almost maniacal method of farming, and wines that are far and away the best of and oft-maligned appellation.
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 2006 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 finished our tour of the Piccoli estate and a long day in the hills around Garda with a meal that won't soon be forgotten. The Piccoli's also raise a rare breed of Veronese chicken and roast them over an open flame right in their dining room. They serve them simply with a basic tortellini and the local cheese, grana padano, grate over top. Wow.