That's Lago Iseo in front of us, one of the minor bodies of water in the picturesque Alpine foothills of northern Italy. There are about 6,000 acres of vineyards around the southern end of the lake, planted with chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot blanc, producing 10 million bottles a year of Italy's best sparkling wine: Franciacorta. Some 200 growers, 100 of them who bottle their own wines. This isn't your bulk prosecco but meticulously tended, Champagne-style wine making. And you can trace every bottle at www.franciacorta.net.
The official Consorzio per la Tutela del Franciacorta, which prints and allocates the numbered neck labels, has invited a small group of writers and sommeliers for a week of tastings and inspections. The routing: SEA to AMS on the Delta-KLM flight, then a short hop to Milan's Linate airport. Posts from the field all week.