Gorgeous Valpolicella From Perhaps the Most Important Name in Veneto

Today’s Story: Giuseppe Quintarelli

Giuseppe Quintarelli is a legendary family-owned and operated wine estate located in Italy’s Veneto region. The estate traces its roots to the early 1900s when Silvio Quintarelli tended vines as a sharecropper in Figari with his brothers, however Silvio moved to Cerè di Negrar and established his own estate in 1924 which can be considered a more official founding date. By the 1950s, Silvio’s son Giuseppe came into his own as a winemaker and took over the family estate with an immediate mission of tirelessly improving the quality of his wines. It is this Giuseppe whose name today adorns the bottles, and he is largely considered the Father of Amarone which he worked to perfect over a 60 year career.

A staunch traditionalist and perfectionist, Giuseppe’s wines are the benchmark for quality when it comes to Amarone and Valpolicella. At the Quintarelli estate, which consists of about 12 hectares of vineyards, they eschew the use of chemical herbicides and intentionally foster low yields through strict pruning and green harvesting in an effort to bolster quality, not quantity. Harvest is accomplished with multiple passes through the vineyards by plot and variety to ensure all fruit is picked at the most opportune time, and there are very strict standards for how to qualify fruit as acceptable. As an example of how far the Quintarelli family is willing to go, they will not bottle an Amarone in vintages they deem anything but the utmost quality, instead bottling the Rosso del Bepi with declassified fruit. A subset of the Quintarelli’s perfectionism is their patience. Once the wines are transferred to Slavonian oak botti for aging, the Amarone remains for 8 years and the Amarone Riserva for 10 years before they are bottled and released only when ready. Even the Valpolicella Classico Superiore I am reviewing today spends 7 years in oak botti!

Though Giuseppe passed away in 2012 at the age of 84, the Quintarelli estate is managed today by his daughter Fiorenza and son-in-law Giampaolo Grigoli. With the help of their sons Francesco and Lorenzo, Fiorenza and Giampaolo remain steadfast to the traditions and sky-high demands passed down by Giuseppe. Similar to the longevity of their great wines, it appears the Quintarelli estate will remain a family endeavor and benchmark of the region for the years to come.

Today’s Wine: 2012 Valpolicella Classico Superiore

Blend of Corvina, Corvinone, and Rondinella; 15% ABV

The 2012 Valpolicella Classico Superiore is somewhat translucent medium ruby in color with hues of dark garnet. I decanted this for an hour or two, which helped the nose blossom into aromas of blackberry, plum, prune, black raspberry, licorice, cedar spill, tobacco, mint, savory green herbs, wet rocky earth, and graphite. Moving onto the palate, this rustic and complex Valpolicella displays notes of black cherry, juicy plum, cassis, anise, dried raisin, leather, cigar box, forest floor, slate, eucalyptus, wild herbs, and bitter chocolate. This is full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium tannins, and a long, elegant finish.

In producing this wine, 50% of the grapes are pressed immediately after harvest and 50% are pressed after drying for two months. Following three to four days of maceration, primary fermentation begins using only indigenous yeasts and the wine is racked until February. The second alcoholic fermentation begins after the wine is racked onto the lees, and once complete moves to Slavonian oak barrels for seven years before bottling.

Price: $100 (can probably find closer to $80 in some locations). As with the other Quintarelli wines I’ve enjoyed over the years, I think this is worth every penny. There is a rare level of palpable quality in this wine and the balance, depth, and pure beauty of it did not allow the bottle to last long. If you are new to Quintarelli, I can’t recommend the wines enough.

One of My Favorite Valpolicella’s

Today’s Story: Dal Forno Romano

Dal Forno Romano is a family-owned and operated estate winery established in 1983 in Val D’Illasi by Romano Dal Forno. Though the winery is relatively new (built in 1990), the Dal Forno family has owned the property where their vineyards sit for four generations and produced wines previously for the majority of that time. The wines since 1983, however, launched the Dal Forno family quickly to prominence with their big, beautiful, and true to variety style. The estate’s vineyards are all traditionally farmed and planted to indigenous varieties of Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella, Oseleta, and Croatina, while Romano practices more modern techniques in the cellar. Though Dal Forno typically achieves incredibly high-quality fruit (barring any vintage challenges), they remain wildly rigorous in the selection process come harvest. The fermentation process is designed to extract as much character from the grapes as possible, while aging in oak barriques provides enough backbone to the wines without completely stealing the show.

Today’s Wine: 2013 Valpolicella Superiore Monte Lodoletta

70% Corvina and Corvina grossa, 20% Rondinella, 5% Croatina, and 5% Oseleta; 14.5% ABV

The 2013 Valpolicella Superiore is opaque deep ruby in color and almost black at its core. Given about 90 minutes to open up, the nose showcases aromas of black cherry, plum, blackcurrant, cedar spill, violet, smoked meat, cracked pepper, chocolate, and slate. Once in the mouth, this opulent yet elegant wine displays notes of blueberry, blackberry, tart cherry, rich tobacco, scorched earth, tar, chocolate, baking spice, and vanilla. This is full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium (+) but velvety tannins, and a long finish.

Price: $100. I think this is well worth its price tag, and Dal Forno Romano provides consistently delicious and high-quality wines across vintages that I’ve tried. This is also my go-to by the glass wine at one of my favorite wine bars here in Los Angeles. Pair with ribeye steak, roasted chicken with fig, or charcuterie and aged cheese.