Springtime Near Bergamo Means Valcalepio Wine, Songbirds and Polenta

wine VALCALEPIOIn the wine valleys near Bergamo in Northern Italy, always the rules for the production of vino rosso Valcalepio remain the same and require that, in the spring following the vintage, the union of the two wines obtained by Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot is to be made. When spring begins wines are assembled as indicated – 40 to 75% Merlot, 25 to 60%  Cabernet to create Valcalepio rosso, an Italian “Bordeaux- style” blend. Such a mixture gives Valcalepio a special ruby red color and a pleasant scent, soft yet spicy it goes with a variety of meats and cheeses, butter-based dishes and the polenta specialities of the region.

Little known in the United States, Valcalepio is a wonderful wine growing area starting from Lake Iseo and ending near Lake Como. Bordering the city of Bergamo it is a perfect way to see and savor Italy following the Wine and Food Roads of the Valcalepio in Lombardia. Three different routes, about 100 km long, to enjoy the culinary and cultural history of a region of Italy that rests in the foothills of the Alps with some of my favorite Northern Italian dishes to pair with the local wines.

Must-haves include polenta e osei (polenta with songbirds now game birds) replicated as tiny little bird cakespolenta osei gilded a yellow gold to imitate polenta and stuffed with almond paste and chocolate mousse for those more likely to enjoy this marzipan version, coniglio alla bergamasca (braised rabbit with polenta)rabbit and crescent-shaped ravioli served with butter-fried sage.

The first itinerary known as The Road of the Convents (I Conventi) begins at the Capriate S. Gervasio exit on the A4 and ends in Bergamo. Along the way, you can visit the Abbey of Sant’Egidio at Sotto il Monte Giovanni XXIII, the Abbey of Pontida and the Church of San Tomè at Almenno San Salvatore.

The second itinerary is named the Heart of the Valcalepio (Cuore della Valcalepio). It starts in Bergamo and finishes in Grumello del Monte. This itinerary includes visits to the city of Bergamo, the Abbey of San Paolo D’Argon, the Oratory of Santa Barbara (inside Villa Suardi, at Trescore Balneatico), frescoed by Lorenzo Lotto, and several castles.

The third itinerary is named The Lake (Il Lago) and stretches from the Grumello del Monte exit on the A4 motorway towards Sarnico on Lake Iseo, returning via a different route and taking in the 15th century castle, Castel de’ Conti at Castelli Calepio.

Along the route, visitors will have the chance to taste typical dishes accompanied by the well-known regional wines.

*if you are not driving a visit to Bergamo is 45 minute ride from Milan

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