Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Giuseppe Lonardi: Amarone, and More

I first met Giuseppe Lonardi a number of years ago when he worked with James Koch of JK Imports (their current US importer is Small Vineyards LLC), and James and I went to the Trattoria da Bepi, his family's restaurant in Marano di Valpolicella (highly recommended, BTW).

The wines impressed me then and I made a point of tasting them at the Amarone Anteprima thereafter. For the past couple of years he hasn't presented his Amarone at the Anteprima, because he tends to bottle a little later into the year and would rather not present just a barrel sample. So this year I went to see him.

The winery is under his house, neatly arranged tanks and botti, and a small bariccaia in the adjacent building, and when I arrived he was in the process of draining the Ripasso, a Valpolicella Superiore that gains greater depth and complexity by spending a time over the marks from the Amarone.

He has 7 hectares of vineyards, some of which are more than 50 years old, and the remainder 10-15. They are trained to the classic Pergola system, which Giuseppe likes because it keeps the grapes from becoming heatstruck if the temperatures spike, all planted on calcareous extremely stony soils in the terraced hillsides around Marano di Valpolicella (the heart of the Valpolicella Classico area). Giuseppe makes the wines, while his daughter Silvia, who joined him after completing her studies, handles exports and PR, and has also set up the Locanda Corte Lonardi, a B&B above the restaurant.

The wines, tasted January 27, 2012

Giuseppe Lonardi Valpolicella Classico 2010
Lot 11 125
Pale cherry ruby with brilliant reflections and white nail. The bouquet is bright, with brambly wild cherry supported by some greenish vegetal accents and pleasant spice from grape, sandalwood with some savory accents and graphite shavings. Quite pleasant in a lively zesty key. On the palate it's medium bodied, with bright sour cherry fruit supported by greenish sandalwood laced acidity and tannins that have a dusky greenish sandalwood burr, and flow into a clean fresh fairly sweet sour cherry finish. Quite pleasant, a lark of a wine that will go very quickly, and that you will want a second bottle of. Perfect with grilled meats and similar, and also with fried meats and vegetables.
2 stars

Giuseppe Lonardi Valpolicella Ripasso 2009
Lot 11/335

Deep cherry ruby with black reflections and cherry rim. The bouquet is fairly rich, with cherry fruit supported bouquet savory spice and some sandalwood, and by pleasant greenish accents with some pleasant underbrush as well, mingled with sea salt. It's still coming together -- recently bottled -- but promises quite nicely. On the palate it's rich, with powerful cherry fruit supported by deft berry fruit acidity and tannins that have a dusky sandalwood burr; it's quite full, and quite fresh, and very much fruit driven, without an excess of alcohol -- it's 13% alcohol -- and will work very well with roasts or grilled meats, including slightly drier cuts. There's a cheeky, with a curvy, but not vulgar allure to it; the Italian word would be accattivante, the sort of wine you can find yourself wanting to finish off.

Giuseppe Lonardi Privilegia IGT 2007
Lot 10-284

This is a 50-50 blend of Cabernet Franc and Corvina. Deep black cherry ruby with black reflections and some brick in the rim. The bouquet is fairly intense, with cherry fruit laced with graphite shaving and some brooding vegetal accents, and also some candied berry fruit notes derived from the partial drying of the Corvina. Powerful, and again young. On the palate it's full, with powerful cherry fruit supported by greenish vegetal accents and some leaf tobacco from the Cabernet, and by smoky acidity and tannins that are ample and still smoothing., flowing into a clean dusky cherry fruit finish with a vegetal laced dusty burr. Pleasant and powerful, in a more international key than the indigenous wines, and will work very well with roasts or stews; it's quite approachable, and you will greatly enjoy it if you like the style, which is measured, with good but not excessive acidity and good concentration.
2 stars

Giuseppe Lonardi Amarone Classico Della Valpolicella 2008
Prerelease sample
Deep pigeon blood ruby with cherry rim. The bouquet is elegant, with rich cherry fruit supported by dusky sandalwood and some vegetal notes mingled with candied cherries and some brandied berry fruit. Quite promising and impressive for a wine that has yet to enter the bottle. On the palate it's full and rich, with powerful cherry prune fruit supported by slight sandalwood and dusky graphite shaving bitterness, and deft spice, with tannins that are very smooth and flow into a long clean berry fruit finish with graphite underpinning and lasting warmth. Impressive, and will be beautiful when it has some bottle age under its belt. It will be well worth seeking out
92-4 ?

Giuseppe Lonardi Recioto della Valpolicella Classico 2009
Just bottled, the lot number is 12/17
Deep black cherry ruby black reflections and cherry rim. The bouquet is classic, with rich sweetness mingled with prune and plum fruit that has some date accents and hints of sandalwood and greenish bramble supported by some alcohol, it's quite harmonious and gives an impression of great velvety smoothness. On the palate it's full, sweet, and rich, with powerful cherry plum fruit supported by berry fruit jam and dusky tannins that have a slightly bitter sandalwood burr, and flow into a fairly long clean prune finish. Quite pleasant, in a rich and rather voluptuous key, a wine that will work nicely by itself or with green cheeses and similar.

Bottom line: A fine winery, and a beautiful place to eat and stay. The only downside is that you may not want to leave.

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