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Esteemed Italian winemaker straddles line between tradition and innovation

Bearfoot Bistro plays host to Allegrini Estates for five-course wine cellar dinner



Growing up in the vineyards of Veneto, an integral winemaking region in northeastern Italy, Marilisa Allegrini's father would constantly remind her that the land is always generous to those who work hard. Decades later and those words are as prescient now as they ever were for Allegrini, CEO and global representative for Allegrini Estates.

"I realize how much wisdom those words still hold today and keep these values close to heart," wrote Allegrini in an email from Hong Kong.

Honouring a legacy in winemaking that stretches back six generations, Allegrini straddles the line between time-honoured tradition and leading innovation, which you could argue also applies to the Bearfoot Bistro, long a bastion of cutting-edge cuisine that still manages to pay homage to the spectacle and luxury of a different era of dining. The two epicurean forces will combine this Sunday, Feb. 28 for a five-course dinner paired with vintages from the Allegrini reserve library in celebration of the Bearfoot's 20th anniversary.

"Bearfoot has a tradition of upholding locally-sourced product and promoting regional identity. This is what the Allegrini family has dedicated their life to — so it is an honour to be able to raise a glass of wine together with such an admirable group of people," said Allegrini.

Today, Allegrini Estates is one of the most well respected winemakers in the Valpolicella Classico area and, for that matter, all of Italy, and is especially known for its Amarone, a rich and dry full-bodied red made from partially dried grapes, a technique the Allegrini family has pushed into the modern age.

"My brother Franco had the intuition to make some critical innovations regarding appassimento (the "grape-drying" process we use to make Amarone)," Allegrini wrote. "Above all else, his objective was to prevent the development of mould on the grape skins during this process without a heavy-handed intervention. As farmers it used to break our hearts, after working all year to bring in healthy grapes, to then have them go mouldy during the drying process."

The Allegrinis go to great lengths to stave off humidity during the crucial drying stage, which, in turn ensures the estate's famed appassimento wines "express very pure fruit and excellent integrity of tannins and colour.

"We believe that this makes our wines not only more enjoyable and balanced in their youth, but ultimately age-worthy in bottle," Allegrini added.

The Allegrinis commitment to the land that has given them so much over the generations has been borne out in another initiative the family has spearheaded: Recovering an ancient Veronese grape varietal that was once thought lost to the annals of history.

"We seek to maintain, and in certain cases, better our heritage varietals," Allegrini wrote. "For example, one innovation that we have implemented in recent years has been the recovery of a 'lost varietal' called Oseleta.  Together with a few other producers in the Valpolicella, we have worked to select quality clones and increase vineyard plantings with this varietal.  Oseleta can bring wonderful colour and tannin to a blend, and we are happy to know that the work we are doing with this traditional varietal is attracting more and more attention, while increasing the quality of the wines."

Allegrini will be on-hand on Sunday for the Bearfoot's wine cellar dinner, which kicks off with a cocktail reception at 7 p.m. Tickets are $295. As space is limited, interested guests should contact Shannon Lovell at 604-932-3433 ext. or for tickets.


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