I spent my last two nights in Verona without my lovely wife. I had planned on venturing over to visit a winery in Soave, but an illness on their end shot that idea down at the last minute. Instead, I did not venture far from the lovely city of Verona, which was fine by me.
Three friends of my wife were also still in town, so we agreed to meet once again for dinner despite my a bit of reluctance on my part to once again spend what I considered to be a healthy sum of Euros on a single meal.
We agreed to meet at a restaurant in the center of town, Antica Bottega del Vino, well-known for its wine list and preparation of simple, yet delicious local cuisine.
I showed up at the designated meeting time, and within a couple of minutes, my dining partner trio arrived and we were led to our table, where it was immediately clear that I would once again have the night off–the others would be selecting the wine for the evening.
While there was little doubt that they would be once again selecting wines that were north of my “typical” price range, I figured that my wife would never think about questioning my expenses for the evening. I was, after all, entertaining her “people.”
Or something like that.
Moments after sitting down, the voluminous wine list appeared and we were helped by the particularly young female sommelier, who seemed to take a liking to us almost immediately (after it was clear that we were delving into some pricier bottles, that is). As anticipated, right off the bat my dining companions went red and steep:
2006 Allegrini La Poja Monovitigno Veronese: Restaurant 120€ (not on menu). 100% Corvina. From one of the leading wine makers in Valolicella, having even reached legendary status for their wines, particularly their Amarones. La Poja is not an Amazon (it is not produced using the passito method), but it is certainly an impressive wine. No real sign of age in the glass with solid color to the rim. Dark red fruit a bit on the stewed side. After a bit of time in the glass some coffee notes come through. On the palate nice acidity and fruit. Really well-balanced. Would be hard pressed to say this was a 10-year-old wine. Outstanding. 90-92 Points.
1997 Masi Serego Aligheri Vaio Armarone: Restaurant 200€. 65% Corvina, 20% Rondinella, 15% Molinara. Whoa. We had visited Masi (another giant in the region) earlier in the day and therefore the thinking was to try one of their older vintages. ’97 was a great year in Valpolicella and this is testament. Anise and black cherry a go-go-go. On the palate this is close to magical. Fruity, inviting, deep, provocative. Whoa. Outstanding. 93-95 Points.
The following night, I found myself flying solo as my wife’s friends had moved on to Venice. While some find the prospect of dining alone to be rather onerous, I usually relish the opportunity. Why? Perhaps for the sole reason that I like to see what kind of trouble I can get in (and out of), particularly when there are linguistic barriers.
Before heading out to dinner, I did a bit of internet research and had a couple of interesting options. Unfortunately, neither restaurant had any tables available for this increasingly hungry near-corpse of a man, so I opted to return to the previous night’s restaurant, Antica Bottega del Vino.
I ordered tagliatelle with walnuts and truffles, so I wanted red, but felt like I should steer away from the heavy Amarone parade that I had been on. This was due to the high alcohol associated with Valpiocella’s most celebrated wines, but also with the cost. Those suckers ain’t cheap. I looked around for the ever so helpful sommelier from the night before for some assistance.
Recognizing me, she bounded quickly over to the table. After a pleasant greeting, I asked for her advice, noting that I was hoping to spend quite a bit less than the night before. Once I mentioned my price range (under 50€), she feigned to be called to another table and left rather abruptly, never to return.
Way to keep it classy.
I decided on a Ripasso since they have plenty of fruit and a bit of complexity (they are made by re-pressing the dried out skins left over from the production of Amarone–a “re-passing”), a lower (barely) alcohol, and a lower price (by a lot). Not knowing much about the wines, I essentially threw a dart at the wine list that had at least 30 of these wines. (Well, that is not entirely accurate. I went Wine List 101 and chose a bottle from the middle of the road cost wise.) Given a few options, I landed on this as it had the most age from the group.
2011 Villa Spinosa Valpiocella Ripasso DOC Jago: Restaurant 35€. 45% Corvina, 45% Corvinone, 10% Rondinella. Bright, tart cherry with hints of anise and an ever so subtle meatiness. The fruit is at the front initially, but the acidity is the quarterback here, calling all the plays. There is a subtle sweetness on the fruit that is noticeable but also welcome. A lengthy finish just adds to the experience. Well done. Outstanding. 90-92 Points.
On the way out, I gave the sommelier an unrequited “buono sera” but it really did not matter–I had an excellent meal with a perfectly fine wine that did not cost me a car payment.
Even if the trouble would need to wait.