Higher and higher
From the city of Verona we head north until we reach Cavalo, at the westernmost limit of the Valpolicella Classica designation. Located at 550m above sea level, the Stefano Accordini winery is the highest in the area. In front of the main building is a terrace affording views of the narrow Fumane valley which runs down towards the flatlands. This kind of location gives birth to ‘mountain wines’ such as Valpolicella Superiore Stefano and Amarone Acinatico. The Amarone Riserva Il Fornetto is the fruit of the old vines in the Vineyard of the same name. The rooms in Agriturismo Acinatico lower down the valley are named after these wines.
Heading further northwards, we reach the Albino Armani winery, situated in a charming spot overlooking the steep, wooded Marano valley. Part of the zona Classica, at this altitude the Valpolicellas express a more subtle, changeable profile, with greater freshness and more balsamic notes. The owner, Albino Armani, is one of the leading spokesmen for this distinctive brand of Valpolicella Superiore Egle, Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso and Amarone Riserva Cuslanus.
Farming method or life philosophy?
The journey continues eastwards. After the village of Torbe, the wide, bright valley of Negrar opens up below. In the village of Jago, on the scope of Monte Masua, we find the Villa Spinosa holding, a fine example of a traditional Valpolicella farmstead. Here, architecture and landscape merge seamlessly. Beside the 19th-century manor house with gardens laid out in the Italian style is a lovely farmhouse in tufa stone housing the accommodation suite, restaurant and events centre. In this particularly charming spot surrounded by olive trees and orderly rows of vines, Enrico Cascella Spinosa welcomes artists, authors and journalists who come to take part in cultural events. His Valpolicella Ripasso Jago, Amarone Albasini and 10-year-old Amarone Guglielmi di Jago are some of the delights awaiting visitors in the tasting room.
We head back up towards Negrar before making our way up the eastern slope of the valley. In the village of Casetta we find the farmhouse accommodation and restaurant Le Croibe attached to the Vigneti di Ettore winery. The well-tended grounds with swimming pool and tables almost hidden in the greenery boast stunning views of Lake Garda. The period farmhouse made from local stone has been carefully restored to respect its original character, from the architectural details to the finishing materials. Vineyards stretch as far as the eye can see, and some rows even contain Spigamonti grapes, a rather rare local variety. In the bright tasting room on the first floor, the Righetti family welcome visitors with a selection of their wines, including Amarone Classico della Valpolicella, Valpolicella Superiore Pavajo and Recioto.
Like a fairytale
Heading further east, we leave the zona Classica and arrive in the town of Montorio where, before reaching the Marcellise valley, we ascend the hill until we reach the period manor Villa San Carlo. Surrounded by verdant woods this winery, run by the Pavesi family, has a fairy-tale quality to it. The production focuses on quality rather than quantity, with the following labels taking pride of place: Amarone della Valpolicella, Valpolicella Superiore Campo Bianco and Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso. The property also boasts centuries-old olive trees from which the family get their excellent Olio Extravergine Valpolicella DOP.
The view from the Monti Garbi
We then move towards the Mezzane valley, where the village of San Briccio is home to Tenuta Sant’Antonio. The buildings enjoy stunning views from the top of the Monti Garbi – the hard hills formed of white scale where the Castagnedi brothers decided to risk setting up their winery in the late 1980s. The risk has paid off and the winery now produces wines with a precise, modern style thanks to their work ethic based on the principle of ongoing innovation. Visitors to the winery can choose from a wide range of labels, including Amarone Campo dei Gigli, Valpolicella Superiore La Bandina and Valpolicella Ripasso Monti Garbi.
Wines for food matching
Lastly, we head in the direction of Mezzane di Sotto before taking the old road leading to Mezzane di Sopra. We wind our way up the hill through a landscape where cherry trees, vineyards and olive groves alternate, until we reach the I Tamasotti country guest house. This small structure offers six rooms and a charming sun deck with a swimming pool overlooking the vineyards. The Brusco family make sure their guests are well looked after and well fed in their restaurant, where they serve dishes made using the best local ingredients. The restaurant seats only twenty-five and all the dishes are homemade; the winery’s own Valpolicella Superiore and Amarone della Valpolicella accompany the food. The wines are made by letting the grapes dry naturally in the ventilated porticos in front of the winery, and the use of this method makes them the perfect pairing for the traditional local dishes.