Friday, February 20, 2015

Day 2 in the Valpolicella: Albino Armani, Cesari, Guerrieri Rizzardi, Monte Zovo & Tenute Ugolini

Last week I featured day 1 of my arrival to Verona including my winery tour, tasting and dinner with the Bolla winery. Today I'm sharing my 2nd day when I really get immersed in the land of Valpolicella with 5 winery visits:

  • Albino Armani
  • Cesari
  • Guerrieri Riccardi
  • Monte Zovo
  • Tenuta Ugolini

Albino Armani

I toured the Albino Armani winery and headquarters in the town of Dolce with export manager, Laura, and the winemaker's wife, Egle Armani.  The Albino Armani winery was established back in 1607 when Albino's ancestors transferred the land to him. Their wines are vinified in the areas of Trentino where they have 2 wineries, Friuli, and the Veneto where they have 3 wineries and have been producing Valpolicella wines since 2003.  All of their wines are bottled at the Dolce headquarters in the valley over the Montelissini mountains. They're in the process of also building a new winery in Camporal in the hills of Marano that are all terraced slopes of 400 meters. 
Albino Armani winery in Dolce, Italy
Albino Armani wine tasting
Right: Egle, Left: Laura
A project of note, “Foja Tondo”, that the Albino Armani winery is engaged in is focused around the planting of old indigenous grapes that were facing extinction.  Albino Armani is the 1st in the Valpolicella to do this. They have produced 40,000 bottles of these older indigenous grapes like the grape itself, foja tondo, also known as casetta, and it has even become its own DOC, Casetta DOC Terra dei Forti.  
Albino Armani project on autoctone grapes
Albino Armani project with grapes facing extinction
Due to the variety of areas where Albino Armani grows and harvests grapes it allows them to provide a wide variety of wines of which I only sampled a small portion including those of the Valpolicella and an interesting unfiltered organic prosecco, Casa Belfi Colfondo Prosecco DOC. It's an interesting winery with a wide variety of wine offerings to explore and I appreciate their efforts in protecting ancient grapes before they go extinct. 
I've written about Cesari wines in the past and discussed a few wines from their portfolio. Giacomo and Vivian were our tour guides of the winery and it was followed by an enjoyable luncheon and sampling of many of their wines with Deborah Cesari, whose grandfather, Gerardo Cesari, started the winery in 1936.  This winery is located in the heart of the Classico region of Valpolicella in Cavaion Veronese.
Wines of Cesari winery in Valpolicella

2006 Cesari Bosan Riserva
My favorite wine that we tasted was definitely the 2006 Cesari Bosan Amarone della Valpolicella Riserva which was a blend of 80% corvina and 20% rondinella aged 8 months in barrique. This is the winery's prized wine and was actually one of the wines as well from the blind tasting revealed at the Anteprima Amarone. It was the 1998 Cesari Amarone della Valpolicella Bosen that had nice acidity to support the tannins with juicier, fresh fruit. This is a well recognized winery name in the states making the wines easily accessible to us consumers and worth exploring.
Cesari winery

Cesari wines of the Valpolicella

Wine cellar of Cesari winery

Guerrieri Rizzardi
The Guerrieri Rizzardi winery , located in Bardolino close to Lake Garda, was established in 1914 when the Guerrieri and Rizzardi families joined forces, but the vineyards had been in the families well before from the 15th and 17th centuries. Their are 3 main estates all in the Classico zone of Valpolicella that are all within 10 minutes of the headquarters to preserve the freshness of the fruit during harvest. The winery produces about 400,000 bottles itself with about 13,000 of those for Amarone production. The current winemaker, Guiseppe Riccardi, aims to produce wines that are expressive of the soil. 
Daniel Stewart of Guerrieri Rizzardi
Daniel Stewart guiding us through Guerrieri Rizzardi
My top favorite wines from the tasting were the 2013 Guerrieri Rizzardi Costeggiolo Soave Classico, 2012 Guerrieri Rizzardi Bardolino and lastly the 2009 Guerrieri Rizzardi Calcarole Amarone della Valpolicella Classico which was awarded the 2014 Gambero Rosso “Red Wine of the Year”. 

Guerrieri Rizzardi wines
2009 Guerrieri Rizzardi Calcarole Amarone

Wine cellar of Guerrieri Rizzardi

Guerrieri Rizzardi in Bardolini
Old vintages of Guerrieri Rizzardi wines
Monte Zovo

Our 4th stop of the day was Monte Zovo, located in Tregnano in the Val d'Ilasi northeast of Verona, which is run by the Contini family and contains 4 brands producing about 1.5 million bottles in total production on about 140 hectacres, 345 acres, including vineyards in Bardolino, Soave, Lugana and Valpolicella, which consists of the most acreage. We briefly met the owner Diego whom is also the winemaker and is 4th generation along with his 2 sons. The winery consists of 3 levels with bottling and fermentation on one floor, storage on the other and the underground cellar where the temperature remains steady.

Wine cellar of Monte Zovo

Wine cellar of Monte Zovo in Valpolicella
Another flight of tastings with my favorite being the 2007 Monte Zovo Amarone della Valpolicella.
Monte Zovo wines of the Valpolicella
Tenute Ugolini

The Tenute Ugolini winery located in the hills of San Michele close to the town of Fumane, is aesthetically a beautiful winery with owners, Giambattista along with his two brothers, that have an interest in art where you can find Vinart, an art gallery within the winery where art is displayed for sale as well as a private collection of Andy Warhol paintings. The art changes every 3 months so it's always worth a revisit. Giambattista's father passed away 20 years ago and at this point he decided to renovate the winery. The family used to sell their grapes off from their 22 hectacres, 55 acres, but in 2014 he bottled his own with about 25% of his production, but the rest still remains sold. The wines are organically treated and next year will also be biological treated. My favorite of the tasting was the 2011 Tenuta Ugolini Amarone Classico where the fruit is sourced from 4 different vineyards so not expressive of a specific cru or area of terroir, but the nicest wine from the tasting.

Owner of Tenute Ugolini
Giambattista Ugolini & myself
Tenute Ugolini winery & art gallery

Art gallery of Tenute Ugolini
Works of Art inside Tenute Ugolini
Wine storage of Amarone at Tenute Ugolini
I could go on and on about these wineries and at one point will readdress them in further detail, but it gives you a taste of some of the wineries of this fine region and the history behind them.  If you have any questions from my visits I'm always happy to share information.