Notes has recently covered several different Valpolicella Amarones for your edification, and this one should be rated highest on that list, just ahead of the Vella Maffei and the Juliet (I have the Montessor ranked as the weakest of the set despite its ambitious price tag). This 2013 Antica Corte Amarone was a very generous birthday gift that managed to sit undisturbed over these last two months until I decided to unveil it with a tip of the cap to my brother on his own birthday.
I had stored this beauty at 55 degrees since bringing it home from the store; some knowledgeable sites counseled at storing Amarone at that temperature while others implied no hard and fast storage requirements. I did not decant the 2013 Antica Corte, as I was in a rush to taste once I realized it was was wine thirty and into happy hour. On this occasion I had the Amarone in a Cabernet Sauvignon glass–not quite the norm but the wine played in this stemware very well.
This Amarone comes from Verona, which is about 90 minutes east of Venice, and grapes for it are traditionally harvested in October from the most matured grapes (e.g., Corvina, Molinari, and Rondinella) in the region’s vineyards. They are dried during the winter almost into “raisin” form, a period of about 120 days when the grapes will lose 30 to 40 percent of their weight. This obviously intensifies the concentration of flavor and sugar content, which results in higher alcohol levels in an Amarone. Since the winemakers use much more fruit to make an Amarone (approximately 2x as many grapes as normal wines, with >45 days of slow fermentation), price tags elevate in similar fashion. The 2013 Antica Corte Amarone is aged in Slavonian oak barrels for 36 months and the end product is spectacular.
A bottle this delicious is perfect to enjoy with friends, in part to share in the richness, and also so they get a sense of what you consider the ‘good stuff’. This evening the 2013 Antica Corte accompanied a mixed green salad, accented by fresh cucumber, onion, carrots, and radishes, a baked potato, and thick-cut steaks fired on the grill. After a week of poor eating on the road it was a “Welcome Home” treat to be sure. It poured not like the jammy juice of a Petite Petit or Cabernet Sauv, and not the thinner red of a Pinot Noir–it’s truly a ruby red somewhere in the middle of these extremes. It smells a bit like spiced cherry, like a kicked up box of raisins with all the right scents turned up for your senses. It’s so good that I just stopped writing for a second to go back for another whiff.
I understand that it’s a treat to drink Amarone, and I thank my mother for gifting the 2013 Antica Corte Amarone and making this experience possible for me. May you find great occasions (or any/every occasion) to enjoy one yourself–I know you’ll be glad you did.
I opted to go back-to-back on Amarones, both purchased at different times from different purveyors but the grapes hail from the same Valpolicella region. This one is the 2012 Juliet and a step up in class from the 2013 Montresor I finished last Sunday.
This 2012 beauty encompasses several different varietals, including Corvina (65%), Corvinone (10%), Rondinella (20%), and other varieties from the territory (5%). The grapes (after a fall harvest) were naturally dried in a fruit cellar for three to four months, and vinification you almost know by the Amarone–according to the winemaker, soft crushing was performed on the destemmed grapes in January and February. Fermentation lasted about 30 days, and aging was conducted 20% in steel and 80% in wood for 18 months. Two thirds of the wood consisted of American and French barriques, half of which are used for the second and third time, and one third in large barrels.
That’s a whole lot of detail on the setup, but let me tell you the resulting product is really strong. You can see plainly its deep red color, and its smell is just as rich. Cherries and spices are easily detected in your glass, and there’s a pungent raisin vibe to the 2012 Juliet Amarone della Valpolicella as well. It’s got a full body, which is not to say that it’s heavy. It even has a little kiss of dark chocolate to it and makes you want to swirl and really enjoy its mouthfeel.
The food? We’re looking on pan-fried fingerling potatoes, asparagus tips, and roasted pork with a mustard pan sauce. Let me tell you it came out great–an easy recipe, a rewarding beverage, and a good evening. Really glad to share that I’ve got three more of these Juliet’s on hold (Juliet…I get it now…from a winery outside of Verona, Italy?) and will keep you posted on its profile.
This gallery contains 8 photos.
Enlisted my brother and I for this wine adventure the moment I saw the promotion from Fleming’s Steakhouse–the August showing of the “100 Wines One Summer” series. We did the Uber thing to and from this tasting so that we could relax and enjoy new wines without having to figure out who had to be the designated driver. That being said, here’s how the evening unfolded for this guy:
- JCB by Jean-Francois Boisset
Some whites (this one is a 100% Chardonnay) have more of that oak smell or flowers to them, while others–like this JCB–carry more fruit notes. This sparkling, produced in Burgundy’s Cote d’Or region, was served to us after signing in at the registration desk. Nice apply start to the tasting.
- Pinot Grigio, Maso Canali
My last white tasting this night, a blend of 95% Pinot Grigio and 5% Chardonnay, jumped out when described by the hostess. She was tending to an array of whites, and her notes zeroed me in on this Italian wine…I know someone (you know who you are!) who would have really liked this white. The Grigio lead the way in terms of taste, and I am not sure I could have determined the Chardonnay in the mix if I had not been told of its inclusion.
- Pinot Noir, Wine by Joe
Jumped softly into the pool of reds with this raspberry-scented Pinot, produced by Joe Dobbs in the Willamette Valley region of Oregon. I eschewed Mark West and Meiomi offerings in order to try something new in the Joe. Little bit of cherry in this gentle Pinot, which was quite delicious and a welcome shift from the whites.
- Pinot Noir, Rodney Strong
I’ve sampled the Strong previously, and both the vineyard and any Russian River Valley Pinot Noir make a compelling argument to repeat a tasting (despite what I literally JUST said about the West and Meiomi). I was not disappointed at all. It’s beautiful cherry, soft, and aromatic in the glass…even the vanilla notes I enjoyed in the Rodney tasting. One of the evening’s highlights to be sure.
- Malbec, Pascual Toso
We soon thereafter moved to table 3, some international reds, and my first and only selection from this grouping was this Malbec from the Mendoza region of Argentina. Sadly my notes are sparse on this offering, other than to say “lush fruits.”
- 2012 Liberated Cabernet Sauvignon
Table four consisted of California reds, and those who read Notes with any frequency can imagine we drifted quickly to this area and stayed here the longest. This Sonoma County Cab was superb; expresso and dark cherry and mocha all wrapped into one dark, delicious beauty. Even had a little smokey hint to it…in many ways this red had all the nuances that I like about California Cabernet.
- 2014 Round Pond Cabernet Sauvignon
The McDonnell family in Napa Valley (the Rutherford AVA as I read later) is responsible for this peppery and blackberry-tasting Cab. Some of this wine reminded me of good Syrah–perhaps its spice notes and the generous mouthfeel? In another year or two this one is going to be spectacular, and I was sort of picturing myself with a whole glass of this bad boy instead of just the sampler.
- Chateau St. Michelle Cabernet Sauvignon
Definitely familiar with this winery, but usually for their whites instead of reds. This one is a blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Syrah, 5% Merlot, and 4% Other (whatever that means). This one was pretty complex too, and I detected earthy tones, spices, and tobacco in this jammy red. Of all the reds we tasted tonight, this one was closest to the Michael David or Caymus wines of which I’ve written from time to time. Did you know this winery is the oldest in Washington State? I just learned that myself…
This is another Bordeaux-style blend, this one 84% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot, and 2% Other. It was okay but suffered a disadvantage by following the fruit-forward Michelle and Round Pond gems. This Napa Valley offering had a peppery finish but my vocabulary (or perhaps my inexact notes) doesn’t stretch far enough with the Hall. Really enjoyed the wine, but I’d prefer another glass of many others if pressed.
Who names these thing? Such an unenviable task…and my notes from this one read (no joke) “Smells like feet. Very cherry.” I was only so so on the Paradox, but I’ll offer you the following from Flemings in case ‘feet’ as a tasting note left you in the lurch: “Offering a heady mix of blueberry and cherry aromas its lingering berry and cherry flavors, this velvety lush blend is [Dan Duckhorn’s] gift to all of us.” I’m not buying…
- Yardstick Cabernet Sauvignon
Much better change of pace here. This too is a Napa Valley Cab, made of grapes sourced from Atlas Peak (from where I’ve had some enjoyable wine to be sure). It had a fantastic scent in the glass, red and black fruits that I’d say were black cherry and blackberry. You get a sense of the pepper here too, one of those soft layers that sneaks into a good wine, subtly reminding you of a presence of something greater. Nice flavor in the Yardstick–which is a GREAT bit of branding btw.
- Greg Norman Cabernet-Merlot
Um, yes, not a California red but I understand its inclusion in this table. It’s got that Bordeaux vibe to it for sure, with raspberry notes and dark fruits mixing together. I was kind of interested in this one (not sure I’ve had a Norman ever before) but it was only okay.
- Gundlach-Bundschu Mountain Cuvee
I know. You’re saying three more still? Steve and I said much the same this Saturday night as we sampled our way from Europe to North America, South America, and Australia all in one sitting. From the name I bet you’re thinking this one is international in origin, but it’s actually a Sonoma County blend of 37% Cabernet Sauvignon, 31% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Franc, and 10% Zinfandel. If you think that sounds like inelegant science you’re mistaken. This red blend was luscious in dark fruits and had an easy finish. A surprising pleasure and I’d like another glass on a night when my palate was not being so bombarded by so many flavors just so I could share more details with you on the Gundlach-Bundschu.
- Double T Trefethen Red Blend
This one too is a combination (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Malbec) red, Bordeaux in style. We got talking to some friendly patrons while sampling this round, and I’m afraid I have nothing of consequence to relay about the Trefethen. Wine & Spirits describes its “…plummy, jammy nose, its cherry-berry flavor profile, and its smooth, chocolate-covered finish” but I cannot recall from firsthand experience.
- Hills Hope
Not sure if I should include this one or not. I am unsure of the winemaker or region for this one, or candidly the label or grape. Is very likely a red blend in the Bordeaux style, simply by its grouping at this particular table. A Google search yields too many “hills” to narrow the field, so this is definitely a clunky last entry. I wrote, “Easy finish. Dark cherry and raspberry with small tannins” but cannot be any more helpful than that. Disappointing and may even edit this one out in the future…sort of weighing the journalistic integrity either way.
I’m a little regretful that I didn’t take better stock of the vintage in the above. Most were assuredly ’13s and ’14s but I am pretty sure there were a few ’12s in the mix too. Sorry about that, fans.
That said, fifteen samples made for a great night and a great experience to share. If you like any of the above be sure to share some yourself and spread the love. -RMG
Celebrating #NationalDrinkWineDay with some Italian red.
Christmas Day and plenty of great vino to be enjoyed. First on the docket? The 2012 Sterling Meritage, a big red from the Central Coast of California. Earlier this year I had my first Sterling, and both receive favorable marks for their depth and taste.
This Meritage is your kitchen sink of reds–it packs in Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot, and you end up with several layers in tasting. Just check out the adjacent photo. You have the fruits (black cherry for sure), a hint of vanilla, and also some of the spice that I think comes through in the Verdot. This bottle we sampled, collectively, with hors d’oeuvres that included an amazing, thick pepperoni, olives, various crackers, and olive tapanade. Maybe some salted almonds too? Special thanks to my cousin and his bride, if you’re reading along, for this fun treat.
The main event of our dinner? A roast to die for. It had a fantastic bark to it (I know this isn’t a food blog but the beef was photo-worthy in and of itself) and the seasonings (salt, dill seed, coriander, garlic, etc.) were perfect. Yes, we had all the usual fixings with the entre, but the beef was cooked just right and carried a tremendous amount of flavor–upon request the butcher had removed the rib bones but then retied them to the meat so as to infuse them into the process. I may err in a detail or two here; again this is more about the wine but just wanted to share details on the accompanying food.
There was a hearty Bordeaux breathing in a decanter all evening, and we opened a 2009 Amantis Montecucco Sangiovese as well. This Italian red originates from the region between Montalcino and coast of Tuscany–one my reference says “succeeds at a hybrid of Brunell and Supertuscan that demonstrates a natural appropriation of the latter two regions’ superlative characters.” Some five-dollar words to say it’s a great, hearty wine with some depth to it.
I taste black cherry here too in the Sangiovese, and rich spices that went just great with the pepper-encrusted beef. Juicy, and delicious. This 2009 could have been tart and tannic, but it wasn’t. The wine was much softer than I’d pictured, and that’s a good thing. We had this first bottle of the 2009 Amantis Montecucco Sangiovese, and a second one immediately on its heels. A third bottle, had one been along for the festivities, would have followed as well.
I’m interested in sampling again on a day where my palate hasn’t been exposed too to Bordeaux or a California red just in case I’m mixing characteristics among the reds. A fun day, though, and one embellished by good wine.