I awoke on my second day in Valpolicella to a sound no winemaker in the region wanted to hear: rain! This region had received an abundance of rain and if there are two weather conditions wine grapes do not like it is too little rain and too much rain. I will go in to this in more detail in my “Day Three” article. For now suffice it to say that due to rain we were unable to walk vineyards on day two; however, this did not put a damper on visiting remarkable wineries and tasting delicious Valpolicella wines. As you continue to follow my journey you know I was in Valpolicella as a guest of the Consorzio Tutela Vini Valpolicella exploring the region through their travel app that is available in the app store for iPhones and Android phones. In addition to the well-designed travel app, Consorzio Tutela Vini Valpolicella’s web page offers valuable information on the region, wineries and the beautiful wines produced in Valpolicella.
Before I highlight the four wineries visited in my Valpolicella adventure, I would like to first provide some information on the grapes used to produce Valpolicella wines. Often times when I tell someone I was in Valpolicella their immediate response is one enthusiastic word: Amarone! Amarone is certainly the patriarch of Valpolicella but it is not the only high quality wine made in the region. In my “Day Three” article I will discuss the Amarone making process and the impact of rain on this process; for now, let’s explore the main grapes of the region. The four main grape varieties of Valpolicella are: Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella, and Monlinara. Most frequently Corvina, Corvinone and Rondinella are the varietals that winemakers use to varying percentages to produce Amarone. Corvina comprise 45-95% of most Valpolicella vineyards. As a staple in the wines of the region it provides great coloring substances, concentration, and a great capacity for the “drying” process. Additionally, it provides the signature cherry aroma and flavor to Valpolicella wines. Corvinone grow exceptionally well on the hills of Valpolicella, it is resistant to cold weather and also dries quite well. Furthermore, Corvinone grapes grow in large clusters that are less compact than Corvina. Rondinella is another grape suitable to the drying process. Rondinella is a favorable grape because it adapts well to most soil and climate conditions. It further contributes to the signature cherry profile of Valpolicella wines, while adding a layer of violets to the mix. Molinara is the least utilized of the four grapes. At times this grape can appear on the vine to be covered in flour due to its whitish nature. If used it will add to the depth of cherry in the wines with an additional pleasing perfume aroma. Each one of these grapes are beautiful hanging on their vines!
The first winery we visited on day two was Sartori di Verona. It was a beautiful winery with a long family history. It began in 1898 when Pietro Sartori bought the family’s first vineyards. Today the tradition is in good hands as our host, Andrea Sartori, Pietro’s great-grandson, took us on a tasting tour of nine of his family’s wines. We tasted Sartori’s Valpolicella 2011 Classico, Valpolicella Superiore 2011 Ripasso, Satari 2010, Sartori 2011 Amarone DOCG, Amarone Cotte Bra 2007, Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2008, Saltori 2007 Amarone, Reciolo 2010, and Marani 2013. Each of these wines were very high quality with a large flavor profile coupled with strong acidity and mouth filling tannins. My favorite of all these wines was Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2008 DOC. The wine was classic Valpolicella: ruby in color with purple hues; on the nose dark red cherries, spice and black fig; on the palate it followed through with ripe cherries, spice, and a touch of cassis. This was a full body wine with acidity working double duty and tannins that lingered giving this wine a full mouth feel. Perfect for a hearty Italian dish!
Our second stop took us to Cantina Valpolicella Negrar for a unique tasting and lunch. I found this stop to be particularly educational because we tasted five amarones each crafted of the same blend of grapes (70% Corvina, 15% Corvinone, 15% Rondinella), each with the same winemaker and produced in the same exact process; the difference was each of the grapes used came from each of the five valleys of Valpolicella. Therefore, this line of wines from Cantina Valpolicella Negrar was specifically crafted to express the diversity of terroir within the Valpolicella region. How cool is that?! These five 2008 Amarone della Valpoliclla DOC Classicos are: Castrelrotto, Villa, San Rocco, Mazzurega and Monte. Of the five wines in the Amarone Espressioni project my favorite was San Rocco, which comes as no surprise to me because San Rocco was crafted from grapes in the most northern part of Valpolicella Classico with an altitude of 510 meters above sea level with soil formed from the breakdown of volcanic bedrock. (A test that my general wine profile preference is legit.) This wine was a dazzling garnet color; offered aromas of cherries and spice and flavors of ripe red cherries, spice with accents on anise and clove, as well as hint of minerality on the back of the palate. This full body wine offered balance between with the acidity and tannins restrained.
Our third visit was to Monteci Viticoltori In Valpolicella. Monteci was a very modern and impressive facility but their philosophy is traditional: produce the highest quality of grapes possible and properly manage the cellar where “traditional grape raisining methods, must and wine processing are integrated with leading edge vinification techniques.” We enjoyed eight wines at Monteci: Cuvee D’Arce Brut, Valpolicella Classico 2013, Valpolicella Classico Superiore 2010, Valpolicella Ripasso 2009, Ripasso Superior 2008, Amarone 2008, Amarone Superior 2007, Recioto 2008. Of all these high quality wines my favorite was Ripasso Superior 2008: it poured a bright ruby in the glass; on the nose cherries and subtle spice; on the palate, ripe cherries and pomegranate woven around mild spice notes and a hint of menthol on the back of the palate. It was a medium body wine, with the right amount of dryness from round acidity and tannins offering a medium finish.
Our final winery stop on day two brought us to Cesari, where we enjoyed five delicious wines and a light snack. I found this to be quite important. Italian wines are made more to be paired with food than for meditation. It certainly makes it easier to evaluate a wine made to pair with food if there is food available to sample with the wine! We tasted five excellent wines at Cesari: Valpolicella Classico 2013, Ripasso Bosan 2011, JEMA 2010, Amarone IL Bosco 2008, and Bosan Amarone 2005. These wines were so good it was hard to select a favorite. Therefore, the JEMA is the wine I am highlighting from Cesari. JEMA was crafted of 100% Corvina; in the glass it poured dark garnet with purple highlights; the aroma was a lovely perfume bouquet of fresh red fruit; on the palate this wine delivered lovely ripe cherries and plums, with spice, tobacco and a touch of licorice to round out the flavors and leave a delicate velvet feel on the palate. It consisted of well-balanced acidity and tannins in medium body with a lingering finish. Delicious.
As our day of tasting came to an end it was once again time for a “light” Italian dinner and some actual drinking of wonderful wines from Valpolicella at Locando 800. Another perfect day in Valpolicella in the books.
My Song Selection: The song I have chosen to pair with this wonderful day of discovery, great wine, great stories, great Italian hospitality, great food and great fellow travelers is Best Day of My Life by American Authors. I honestly don’t think it needs any explanation! This trip and this day were amazing!!!
Get your own bottle(s) of great Valpolicella wine and let me know what song you would pair with it. Cheers!