The wine regions near Lake Garda are easily reached by car from Venice. The three major regions, located an hour's drive west from Venice, are Bardolino, Valpolicella and Soave. The Bardolino wine region is located along the hilly eastern shore of Lake Garda, around the lakeside town of Bardolino. Many of its hillside vineyards are exposed to the extra sunshine reflected off the lake. The Valpolicella region primarily encompasses a valley north of Verona with hillsides covered by vineyards. The Soave region, which we did not visit, is located east of Verona.
The Museo del Vino at the ZENI cantina in Bardolino has very interesting exhibits on the history of winemaking in the region. The highlight of the museum, however, is the opportunity to taste a full range of wines made in the Gardesana area -- 14 wines in all. These include:
The museum has available for sale the full selection of ZENI's DOC wines, Amarone and wines matured in barriques, special wooden casks. Also available are dessert wines, raisin wines, grappa and olive oils made from locally-grown olives.
ZENI's Museo del Vino is open year-round on Monday-Friday from 8 a.m.-12 noon and 2-6 p.m., and from April-September on Saturdays from 9 a.m. - 12 noon.
MUSEO DEL VINO AT CANTINA ZENI, VIA COSTABELLA, 9
The Museo del Vino is the first stop on the Strada del Vino Bardolino, a well-marked wine road which includes 46 aziendas and cantinas where wines can be tasted and purchased. A brochure with a map and listing of the stops can be picked up at the tourist information center in Bardolino.
The Strada del Vino Bardolino meanders through several lakeside towns and the heart of the Bardolino wine growing region. Among the aziendas recommended for visits in 'Wine Roads of Italy' are:
North of Bardolino in the lakeside town of Torri del Benaco are many restaurants specializing in fresh seafood. On our first visit in 1996 we had a great dinner including pasta and grilled trout at a waterfront ristorante, Paradiso da Paolo. Our meal was accompanied by a light, dry Lugana, a white wine from vineyards south of Lake Garda in the Lombardy region.
PARADISO DA PAOLO, TORRI DEL BENACO, LUNGOLAGO VITTORIO VENETO, 11
For a nightcap in Torri del Benaco, head to Don Diego, a hopping bar with a large selection of cocktails, wine and beers (including Guinness stout) and the house specialty, sangria.
DON DIEGO, TORRI DEL BENACO, VIC. FOSSE 7
Lake Garda is a popular resort area and offers a wide range of accomodations. We enjoyed our stay in 1996 and again in 1999 at the Best Western Torri del Garda, located in the Albisano district high in the hills above Torri del Benaco. (NOTE: the hotel was operated by Radisson when we stayed there, but doesn't appear to have changed.) Most of the rooms have terraces with views over the lake. This modern hotel has excellent facilities including a pool and health club, and serves a great German-style buffet breakfast.
VIA BARDINO, ALBISANO