Friday, February 27, 2015

Day 3 touring the Valpolicella: San Cassiano, Corte Figaretto, Massimago, Corte Sant'Alda

The journey continues with my last day of winery visits within the Valpolicella wine region in celebration of the Anteprima Amarone event in Verona. If you have been following my journey it started with a tour of Bolla and a dinner with the winemaker as well as another full day of winery tours.  My 3rd day I toured:
  • San Cassiano
  • Corte Figaretto
  • Massimago
  • Corte Sant'Alda
San Cassiano
Mirko Sella was not only a wonderful and host, but also the owner and winemaker of San Cassiano located on 14 hectacres (35 acres) at about 380 meters (1250 feet) in Mezzane di Sotto in the Mezzane Valley, which is a comune in the province of Verona. Mirko started producing wine in 2001 along with his father from 2 hills on the estate mostly consisting of limestone. Their production is about 60-70k bottles. Mirko's style of winemaking is to make the wine as natural as possible using less and less chemicals over time at about 50% less currently. Many of the wines we tasted here were great, but my favorite was the 2009 San Cassiano Valpolicella Superiore. It's aged 2 years in oak with a hint of vanilla along with some spiciness and darker fruits. In additional to wine Mirko also produces olive oil from their land with the grignano olive variety on about 8 hectacres. The San Cassiano winery is a perfect example of why I am proven time and time again of my love for smaller to medium sized wineries for not only the quality wines that they are capable of producing, but the overall experience you get when visiting them.
San Cassiano winery
Mirko Sella of San Cassiano winery
Mirko Sella
Azienda Agricola San Cassiano
Corte Figaretto
Owner and winemaker Mauro Bustaggi of winery Corte Figaretto had always made wine for the social cantina in the past, but stopped in 2002 in wanting to produce his own wines. In 2004 he built his current wine cellar and has been producing wines since making about 75,000 bottles annually on 8 hectacres of land in whats known as the “cru” of the valpolicella wine region in the land of the Valpantena. For Mauro it's important to “respect and maintain the history of the grape”. Inside of the wine cellar are holes in the floors where the grapes are brought into to avoid the grapes breaking from gravity and are vinified into stainless steel. The Corte Figaretto wines were enjoyed over a wonderful multi-course luncheon served by Mauro's father. 
Mauro Bustaggi of Corte Figaretto
Mauro demonstrating hole for emptying grapes into fermentation tanks
Amarone grape drying
Crates for drying Amarone grapes during harvest
Mauro Bustaggi of Corte Figaretto
Mauro Bustaggi
Corte Figaretto in Valpantena
Massimago
Also located in the Mezzane Valley is the winery, Massimago. In 1883 the Cracco family went to the countryside during WWII and settled down where Massimago is currently located. The vines of the estate were planted in the 30's and 40's, but were never used until the winery was opened in 2003 by Camilla Rossi Chauvenet whom had studied egronomy. The Massimago winery consists of 20 hectacres (49 acres). With limited space for wine production they keep the best resulting in 40,000 bottles and the rest of the grapes are sold off with 80% of the wine being exported. The youngest vines of the winery are 10 years old. Some interesting and different wines that I experienced at other wineries including the Massimago Garganega Milleduecento that is aged 5 months in oak, which is not quite a soave since its close but not exactly in the soave zone. Also, I sampled their Massimago Rosae Saignee, a rose' made of the valpolicella blend with 65% corvina, 20% corvinone and 15% rondinella.
Vineyards of Massimago in Mezzane Valley
Massimago winery in Mezzane Valley
Massimago winery of Valpolicella
Corte Sant'Alda
Last winery of the day, Corte Sant' Alda, and a great way to end as well. Marinella Camerani, the owner and winemaker, was welcoming and greeted us cheerfully upon arrival. Her father bought the property in Mezzane di Sotto in the Mezzane Valley in the 70's as an investment, but enjoyed the wine for himself and amongst friends as a hobby. Deciding to give it a hand at winemaking, in the 80's Marinella took over winemaking, revamping the vineyards, building the wine cellar and furthering her knowledge of winemaking from others. During renovations Roman artifacts were founds as an ancient Roman road had existed where the property resided. Corte Sant'Alda also was the first guyot in the valley 26 years ago. The Corte Sant'Alda estate consists of 19 hectacres (46 acres) of land in addition to 20 hectacres of olives and cherry trees. Marinella also built a new cellar in 2001. She enjoys experimenting with cement and amphora with rose'. Marinella's favorite wine in the world in Burgundy pinot noir and wants to imitate this with valpolicella. I enjoyed many of the wines during the tasting, but my favorite was the 2010 Corte Sant'Alda Mithas Valpolicella Superiore, which is actually only produced in the best vintage. It's aged two years in oak and you get that hint of oak and vanilla on the palate with some nice spices and ripe, juicy fruit.
Vineyards of Corte Sant'Alda
Cement tanks in winemaking at Corte Sant'Alda
Cement tanks at Corte Sant'Alda
Wine cellar of Corte Sant'Alda
Clay amphora winemaking at Corte Sant'Alda
Clay amphora
Marinella Camerani of Corte Sant'Alda
Marinella Camerani
Overall I had wonderful winery visits while traveling throughout the Valpolicella. Of course I have preferences of one winery over another and the wines produced, but one of the reasons why I love Italian wine is my personal connection to the land and the country itself and all the wonderful winemakers I have met over the years. I appreciate every winery's history, traditions and style of winemaking and enjoy exploring the terroir of each particular region and the results produced in the final product. My neverending journey and I'm loving every minute of it. Stay tuned to the final event of the Anteprima Amarone event to be shared next week.