Memories of accalimed Veneto producer Sergio Zenato

We’ve lost one of the greats.  Sergio Zenato passed away July 11th after a long battle with leukemia (age 73).

I spent a fantastic afternoon at a luncheon with him, on the banks of Lago di Garda, in May of 2003.  Wild white hair, hands flying in every direction, and not a lick of English coming from him.  The server handed me a menu, which he grabbed out of my hands while he proceeded to order the entire meal.  He knew the chef well, and indicated that he wanted me to have a ‘true Veneto experience’.  It was one of the best meals of my life.

The fire and the passion this man had for his wine, his region, and his family was second to none. I had never been in the presence of such a wine personality.  Truly unforgettable.

The next bottle of Zenato Pinot Grigio, Lugana, Valpolicella, Ripassa, or Amarone you pop, be sure to raise a glass to this icon.

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One Response

  1. I was fortunate to be able to attend a dinner at the Zenato winery in the Spring of 1999, in connection with that year’s VinItaly wine exposition. In fact, the dinner was the first event held in the then-newly remodeled wine cellar. The dinner started with Prosecco and a dazzling array of appetizers, offered on the lawns fronting the winery, including spoonfuls of Parmigiano-Reggiano gouged out from the largest wheel of such cheese I have ever seen, by tuxedoed attendants. We then proceeded to enter the wine cellar for dinner, where exquisitely napped tables had been arranged among the casks. Each table was centered with a large platter of ripe fresh fruits and nuts. Each table place was laid with a cone of plates and six crystal glasses, for Prosecco, white wine, red wine, aqua gasatta, dessert wine, and grappa. The entire evening was in all ways spectacular. Toward the end of the dinner, a trio of musicians retained by Signor Zenato serenaded us, even boarding the chartered bus which would transport us back to our hotel in Verona. The warm rapport between we guests and these musicians was such that they actually boarded our bus as we prepared to depart, playing all the while. I heard Sergio Zenato ask the bus driver if he would agree to allow the musicians to remain on the bus to play for us during the trip (2 hours each way?) from Lugano to Verona, and then drive the bus back to Lugano to drop off the musicians, and then again return the bus to its home in Verona. Inasmuch as this would add some 4 to 5 hours to the driver’s work day, he understandably (but less than politely) declined. But Sergio tried, willing to do anything to enhance our evening. It was a peak experience for me, and I will forever feel a lack in his passing.

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