Rites of Spring Virtuoso Piano Concert at Borghese Vineyard; a Conversation with the Host, Musician and Chocolatier

Giovanni is Giovanni Borghese, the vineyard owner (center); Paolo is Paolo Bartolani, the festival artistic director and pianist (right); Steve is Steve Amaral the chocolatier of North Fork Chocolate (left). Get your tickets for all the concerts at RitesMusic.org

Q: Borghese Vineyard is a beautiful place more associated with art—you have a gallery on site—than music. What made you decide to host this concert?

Giovanni: True, we’re not known as the destination for a lot of rock bands and weekend entertainment, but a classical music performance aligns well with our branding strategy. We’ve had some chamber ensembles and opera in the past which received wonderful feedback from our clientele.

When Paolo and I first met to discuss the festival our eyes lit up right away. Not only did Borghese have experience featuring this kind of performance— we’ve done events specifically with Steinway in the past— but this festival in particular is something I would attend myself and I’m excited to contribute to Paolo’s vision.

Q:  This is the first concert of the 2017 Rites of Spring.  Last year the performances were more than just music; is that true again this year?

Paolo:  Yes.  The point is to have a multisensory experience—all our perception is involved. It’s more than just to listen.  The beauty of this place is part of the experience.  The wine and chocolate is also part of the experience. Classical music is not a museum piece, we need to revitalize it. Our goal is to invite communities and audiences to discover, explore and appreciate classical and contemporary music through concerts, conversations, cultural and educational events.

Because we are here on the North Fork, I wanted to stage a performance at a vineyard. The space and the acoustics are very important, they shape everything. So the question was how can the classical music be offered in a vineyard?

When I met Giovanni I felt immediately Rites could be offered here. He completely understood the project.  The space has a cement floor, so I asked for carpet—he said of course, he understood immediately the acoustic value. And Borghese is the North Fork’s first vineyard, so it really has that sense of place.

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The gallery space, exhibiting Down with Art, a show of artists with Down Syndrome

Giovanni:  In regards to the multisensory experience Paolo is creating, we are kicking off the Sea Something, Save Something pop-up art show the evening prior on Saturday, April 29th. Benefiting Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Marine Program and the many talented artists from the North and South Fork who are contributing, this first show of the Sea Something, Save Something series will create a fantastic ambiance for Rites of Spring.

Q: You said the venue is very important when creating one of these Rites concerts, but Borghese Vineyard has a piano and you are bringing in a Steinway and Sons rather than use it. Isn’t that a lot of trouble?

Paolo:  We bring wonderful musicians, but it is important to have a high quality instruments too. This time I approached Steinway & Sons, and the manager decided to be part of the festival—we don’t have concert hall or theater, it’s about presenting classical music in unusual venues.  We try with the partnership to build a new audience for classical music on the North Fork.   It’s quite challenging but we believe in the project.

This year we have more venues and more concerts—eight events, from Orient to Quogue. Four, two here at Borghese, one at Peconic Bay Yacht Club, and one at Laurel Lake Vineyards, involve Steinways. The second concert at Borghese will be free, a gift to the community, also an amazing pianist.

Giovanni: I actually offered Paolo the use of our piano thinking he would be delighted that we have a decent piano here at the tasting room. Paolo showed his appreciation but respectfully declined, he insisted only a world class piano would do and immediately I recognized Paolo as the real deal.

This festival is a perfect opportunity for someone who has never been to Borghese before to try our wine and see our newly renovated space.

Q: The ticket includes a glass of Borghese wine—but which wine? You have many lovely ones.

Giovanni: We will offer glasses of our non-vintage red blend we call Petit Chateau and our 2015 Chardonnay.  Our tasting notes call the Petit Chateau “An easy to drink blending of piquant merlot with the soft tannic smoothness of cabernet franc.” My take–You’re going to get a mix of some earthy notes—vegetal is a good word for it—with black cherry and red currant. Ultimately it’s a fine example of our fruit forward yet dry reds.

The white is our 2015 stainless steel Chardonnay. Again, our tasting notes say: “Aromas of pear, green apple and ginger tantalize the senses. This complex wine abounds with flavors of star fruit and green apple with a rich and creamy finish.” To me it’s one of the easiest whites to get into, especially for anyone who might not have a developed palate—it’s generally a crowd pleaser as it is light and crisp which is mainly due to being unoaked.

Q: Petit Chateau sounds romantic, but, no offense, 2015 Stainless Steel Chardonnay doesn’t. And any particular meaning to the ‘petit’ (small)?

Giovanni:  We typically don’t mask our creations with elaborate names. In some cases, blends in particular, it makes sense to give a wine a name, but normally, it’s solely the grape and the vintage. It’s the best way we can display what’s in the bottle. It’s our to-the-point approach.

I’ve often heard from others that this entire region—the North Fork—is the size of a small valley on the West Coast or a small to medium vineyard in Europe. And we’re just one of many vineyards here. That puts into perspective how special this region is.

Q: That’s crazy—I had no idea how small the North Fork is, much less any of the vineyards on it. The wine sounds lovely.  What’s the story of the chocolate paired with it?

Steve:  I’ll be creating two chocolates for this event, one for the red and one for the white.  Because Borghese is famous for its Pinot Noir—it’s my favorite North Fork pinot, I’m really excited to work with it—I’ll be infusing a dark chocolate with the Borghese pinot, and adding a little pepper to it. For the white I was thinking of a milk chocolate using Borghese honey.  That way the vineyard is incorporated into the chocolate.

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We found from doing pairings at other vineyards that dark chocolate pairs beautifully with reds, and milk chocolate goes well with both red and white. We’ve found the honey really melts into the white.

Q: The chocolate sounds wonderful. Why will you add pepper to the pinot noir dark chocolate?

Steve: The red wine in the chocolate is its own pairing, and years ago I discovered I really liked pepper with pinot. In Napa there’s a gentleman named Jack Daniels with Wilson -Daniels, and his company imports Romanée-Conti, a French Burgundy. We were walking through his massive wine cellar, and he told me to pick out a bottle from the year I was born. It was so deliciously peppery, it’s stuck with me.

Q: All this talk of delicious chocolate and wine made me lose track of the music. Paolo, what will you be playing?

Paolo: For this concert it is a mix of classical pieces and contemporary pieces. I start with J. S. Bach, Partita in B flat major because he represents the father of the Western music. Partita means collection of pieces for solo instrument. In particular we have 5 instrumental dances with a Prelude as introduction. Very love-pieces – we’re here at a beautiful vineyard with wine and chocolate.

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The moonlight sonata by L. v. Beethoven, op. 27 n. 2, is a revolutionary sonata where the composer breaks the rules of traditional sonata form and looks to the future. I play some other masters too. For contemporary music, I play China Gates by John Adams; he is a living American post-minimalist composer that integrates the various contemporary cultures in a original and captivating language. The last piece of the music program is Pagodes by C. Debussy, the composer most associated with the language of nature par excellence.

Q: Sunday, April 30 promises to be a special North Fork evening, with top flight music, art, wine and chocolate. Do any of you have any final comments?

Paolo: I want thank my team without whom this series could not happen: Beth Young, web design and media coordinator, Cliff Baldwin, curator and visual director and Bob McInnis, marketing and promotion.

I also want to thank you NFPC, helping to promote the events,  all Festival Partners that provided their locations and the Sponsor Partners that have contributed to the realization of the Festival, in particular BNB, Beninati, Steinway & Sons, East End Beacon and Suffolk Times

Steve:  Since the inception of Paolo’s idea of doing this concert series, my partner Ann and I have been very excited because it ties in all the elements from the East End. We jumped right in being part of it. This year we’re participating here, we’re doing dinner and chocolate at Laurel Lake [Ed note: Steve is a chef as well as a chocolatier], and we’re doing chocolate at Custer and the Historical Societies too.

Giovanni: Thanks to Paolo for approaching me with the idea, all of us at Borghese are so excited and thank you, Steve, for also showing such enthusiasm while incorporating Borghese wine and honey into your delicious creations.

This festival is very much in tune with our approach of showcasing the type of performance art that you don’t see enough of on the North Fork. We hope to play a key role in the local art movement’s growth and aim to provide a platform in which artists are excited to perform and exhibit. It is events like this that help us achieve that goal.

Get your tickets for all the concerts at RitesMusic.org

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