"In USA to sell a wine you have to tell a story. That has spread everywhere. Now everybody wants to tell a story about the wine. Why don't we just have the wine? Just let the wine speak for itself."
Lorenzo Marotti Campi runs a winery in Italy, Marotti Campi, with his father, but his hobby is taking pictures in the U.S. He likes landscapes, so he likes the west, especially the entire Rocky Mountain range from New Mexico to British Columbia in Canada.
I sat across from Marotti Campi randomly at a lunch held as part of Northern Lands, the terrific Canada-wide wine festival in Edmonton. This was very unlike most wine media lunches, where a PR person tries to keep the winemaker on point ("tell him about the exclusive sourcing of this Chardonnay"). We were just talking. Or rather, he was just talking, and showing some of his amazing photos, and I was learning what the rural U.S. looks like to an Italian these days. Spoiler alert: It is pretty, even when it isn't.
Marotti Campi, whose winery produces a benchmark wine for Verdicchio, is very dedicated to his photography, so much so that he sees every wine-sales trip to the U.S. as a photo op. He says he frequently drives as much as 12 hours on the morning after a wine dinner to get from the population centers where people buy wine to the Western wilderness he loves most.
He has seen more of the U.S. than most Americans, and he has some thoughts on our natural riches. I'm going to intersperse them with his photos, which he has given me permission to run. You can see more of them on his Flick'r page here.
"Most people in New York and San Francisco don't go to visit the other America. I like to take photos so I have walked in people's back yards without knowing it, there is no fence, and they come out with a can of beer in one hand and a rifle in the other."
"There are people in America who are like the characters in a Stephen King story. The dangerous hillbillies, people think they don't exist, but they do exist, they're real and I've seen them."
"Some of America is like a third-world. People know less about the rest of the world than anywhere else in the world. People in third-world countries know more about the world than the people in the center parts of America."
"People in Italy ask me, where should I go in the US? Which national park should I visit? I tell them that if you go in summer, you don't want to go anywhere famous. Not even the most famous parks like Yellowstone, they're not a good experience when they're so crowded. Even Zion Canyon, it's so beautiful, but I think if you go in summer you will not like it. I like to go in October to most of those places."
"In summer, it's best to go to Oregon and Washington. There are so many dramatic differences there. You can be in the mountains and then the desert and then a forest all in the same day. And it is not so crowded."
We did speak about wine a little bit. Marotti Campi is convinced Verdicchio can age better than Chardonnay. We tried some of his older wines and they develop an interesting licorice character after a decade or so.
"I started holding back my Verdicchio because it can age but nobody holds onto it. Now I keep back a pallet for 10 years. It's the only way to show it because nobody else will wait."
You can find Marotti Campi's wines here.