Pack your plastic Govino cup and comfortable shoes, we’re headed to Northern Italy this Oct. 21 to 30, with renowned executive chef-owner of Old Vine Café, Mark McDonald. McDonald, along with Master Chef John Nocita of the Italian Culinary Institute, guide an intimate group of wine lovers and foodies on nine impeccably planned nights experiencing the regions of Veneto, Emilia Romagna, Lombardia, and Trentino-Alto Adige. The Splendors of Northern Italy program declares “you will live northern Italy, not as a tourist, but as an Italian.” Bravo!
Over the years, McDonald has led many excursions to Southern Italy, but he doesn’t often venture north. Northern Italy is terroir for Italian white wines like chardonnay, pinot grigio, and prosecco, and reds such as pinot noir, merlot, corvina, and sangiovese. This is a true passion project for him, so we chatted about his inspiration and, of course, the wine.
How many years have you been leading the Splendors of Italy trips and how did they originate?
I’ve been leading tours in southern Italy for seven years, and this will be my second annual northern tour. I lived and studied at The Italian Culinary Institute (ICI) in Calabria over a decade ago, which was the experience of a lifetime. In collaboration with chef John Nocita, founder of ICI, I‘ve created itineraries highlighting the hidden gems of the south and north. Due to popular demand, these have become annual excursions.
Are you Italian and what is your inspiration?
I’m not of Italian heritage. When I lived and studied there, I fell in love with the lifestyle, cuisine, and culture. This experience forever changed my outlook on cooking, raw ingredients, and regional Italian cuisine.
Wine is well-integrated into the trip, so this is clearly not just a foodie experience. What wineries will you visit?
During Splendors of Northern Italy, we visit three different world-class wineries, in three different regions. We’ll tour Solive in Franciacorta, Cantina Terlano in Alto Adige, and Cleto Chiarli in Modena. All of the meals included in the tour offer wine pairings as well. Italy is not only one of the most important gastronomic cultures in the world, it is also home to thousands of grape varieties indigenous to the country. Wine is an equally important part of the culture as the cuisine is. Splendors of Northern Italy is a complete package offering a food, wine, cultural, and historic experience of a lifetime.
You’ll find the trip itinerary and greater details under the “Culinary” link at www.oldvinecafe.com.