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My wife and I love Venice, and we keep going back. Some people understand, and others think we’re crazy because Venice is so thoroughly overrun with tourists that it can be really trying.
But if you pick the right time of year (ie, NOT in summer!),and if you relax because you know it’s always going to be crowded at certain spots, then it is overwhelmingly beautiful; Disneyland for adults, indeed. We wander around in a kind of happy dream, and everywhere you look is a sight that can take your breath away. No cars alone is a huge treat.
Some visitors complain that the food isn’t good. It’s true that having a constantly revolving full-house of people who will never return to Venice means there are many restaurants that have lost the incentive to make much of an effort. For food, as with sightseeing, another side of the city is there if you get off the beaten path just a little, and we have a couple of favorite restaurants that are wonderful places, where we consistently have good food, and sometimes really great meals (I’d give you the names but then I’d have to kill you). It helps if you like to eat seafood.
Until the 20th century, some of the islands in the Venetian lagoon were important market gardens for the city; as appreciation for local products has increased, there’s been a gradual return to local farming. One famous (and favorite) local crop are the little artichokes from Sant’Erasmo, one of the larger islands in the lagoon, located to the east of Murano and Torcello.
There used to be extensive vineyards on the islands that provided wine for the city, but all of those have disappeared except for a recently replanted vineyard on Mazzorbo (producing a wine that wholesales in New York for $150 per .500ml bottle) and also about 10 acres of vines on Sant’Erasmo, called Orto di Venezia.
Orto is the home and now the life’s work of Michel Thoulouze, who thought he was just buying a holiday house about 20 years ago, but it turned out he had purchased what some older neighbors told him was some of the best land on the island that had been planted to vineyards. With the help of his friends Claude Bourguignon and Alain Graillot, the farm was revived, and the first vintage made in 2007 from ungrafted vines of Malvasia Istriana (50% in the final blend), Vermentino (40%), and Fiano (10%). The farming is organic, and the wine is made in an old school and straight-forward manner – indigenous yeasts, stainless steel, no manipulations or additives. I confess I was disposed to like the result because of the story – a wine from the lagoon! – but it’s good wine, with distinct local character. We stood around on the grass on a warm spring day and tasted several vintages, along with the amazing Sant’Erasmo artichokes (the wine actually went very well with the artichokes!), and my wife and I began to plot our return. Jamie Wolff
The 2014 Sant’Erasmo Bianco is a striking wine grown on the island of San Erasmo within the lagoon of Venice. Premised on Malvasia Istriana but comprised of a number of other local cultivars all planted on its own root stock, the wine is deeply colored in the glass, with a nose reminiscent of ripe golden apples and honeysuckle undercut by a salty tone. The palate is bold, with an initial attack of juicy orchard fruit and rich texture, followed by a honeyed note giving way to a long savory finish. More than anything else, the Orto shows a stern backbone of minerality bracing its mellow acidity and weight on the palate. I served it with shrimp cooked with their own stock and butter, but this wine would pair beautifully with anything out of the sea, soft cheese, or rich vegetable dishes. Open early and serve slightly chilled. Andy Paynter