The Best Valpolicella Wineries: Where to Go and What to Expect
I live in Italian wine country. Which, I suppose, all of Italy is “wine country”. Either way, it’s glorious. One of the most frequently asked questions I get is: What are your favorite wineries? Well, I’m FINALLY here to answer that question publically. I am surrounded by multiple wine regions, all specializing in different styles of wine. However, my personal favorite region (perhaps in all of Italy) is Valpolicella. This region is located in Northern Italy and surrounds the city of Verona. Valpolicella is most famous for their Amarone wines: one of Italy’s “Big Three” when it comes to fine wines. Amarone is a dry, full-bodied red wine that is characterized by a low acidity and big, bold flavors such as cherry, fig, cinnamon, and plum. Perfect with delicate red meats like filet steak or enjoyed by itself. Also notable is Amarone’s high alcohol content, ranging from 14-17% alcohol, and it’s high price tag.
Other notable and famous wines from the Valpolicella region are Valpolicella Classico, Valpolicella Classico Superiore, Valpolicella Ripasso, and Recioto (a sweet red wine). While I could talk all day about each of these wines, the history and production of these wines, and my personal LOVE for each of these wines, the purpose of this post is to tell you where to find the best wines (in my opinion). For detailed information about all of the Valpolicella wines and the Valpolicella wine region, check out THIS POST by Wine Folly. NOW: Let’s get to it! Here are my FAVORITE Valpolicella wineries! I have personally visited all of these wineries, and my recommendations are based on the quality of wines, the customer service, and the overall experience of visiting the winery.
Damoli: This place is my personal favorite. Last year, I attended a very large amarone festival called “Anteprima Amarone” in Verona. Of all of the amarone wines (there were hundreds), Damoli was my favorite. Now, there are more things I love about Damoli than their damn(oli) good wines (see what I did there)? Damoli is a very small family-run winery. The whole family is very personable, with Lara, the daughter, being the marketing face of the winery. After trying Damoli wines, I arranged a visit with Lara at their winery. I was thrilled to see her father and brother harvesting grapes when I arrived. Lara spent nearly 3 hours with us, drinking wine, teaching us about the wines, and getting to know us. The wine is produced in the cellar of their 17th century home (where the family has lived ever since 1623). To add to the quality, experience, and personability of the small winery, a bottle of amarone will run you approximately 30 euros – a phenomenal price for the quality of wine! E-mail or call to arrange a tasting. Check out their website HERE.
Santa Sofia: I have visited this winery numerous times for a few reasons. First, I simply love their wines. All of their wines are fantastic. However, my personal favorites are not traditional of the region. My two favorite wines are “Arleo” and “Montegradella”. Both of these wines are creations of the owner, Mr. Lucciano. While they are both the quality of an Amarone, they cannot be called such, since they use a combination of traditional and non-traditional grapes from the Valpolicella region. For this reason, they are both less expensive than an Amarone, since they are less “famous” and “traditional” of the region. Secondly, the staff at Santa Sofia do a wonderful and informative tasting. They are very communicative and personable. Lastly, it’s a beautiful winery! Email or call to make a reservation. You can visit their website HERE.
Carilius: Carilius is a very new winery, opened in January of 2017. Carilius was created by two very fun, charismatic, and passionate people who happen to be friends of mine: Piero Zecchini and Raffaella Cimadomo. The premise of the winery is “contemporary tradition”, creating beautifully crafted Valpolicella wines in a modern way. The winery makes Valpolicella Classico, Superiore, Ripasso, Amarone, and Soave Classico wines. My personal favorites are the Superiore and the Amarone! With the “newness” of the winery, Carilius has teamed up with a B&B called “Caminella” where they hold tastings. Make a reservation to taste wine and visit on their website HERE. If you are interested in making your trip to Valpolicella a wine vacation or an overnight stay, I recommend staying at Caminella for a romantic and relaxing stay. More information about the B&B/Farmstead can be found HERE.
Le Bignele: We stumbled across this winery while out and about in Valpolicella. Actually, I had it “pinned” on my google maps, but couldn’t remember why. But am I EVER glad we decided to pay Le Bignele a visit. This was one of the most pleasantly surprising wineries I’ve been to. It’s a relatively small winery with an “at home” feel. The tasting was thorough and generous. The wines were GREAT (and there were many of them). The host was very detailed in her descriptions of the wines and the region. And the wines were VERY affordable, with some of the most reasonably price Amarone around. I highly recommend stopping at Le Bignele for a wine tasting. Make a reservation for a tasting by contacting the winery HERE.
Quintarelli: Perhaps the most famous (and expensive) Valpolicella wine producer, Quintarelli produces fine Valpolicella wines in a traditional style. The late Giuseppe Quintarelli, often referred to as “The God of Valpolicella” was the owner and winemaker at Quintarelli for sixty years before he passed in 2012. He was thought to be a wine-making genius, and he, himself, had a cult-like following, more so than the winery itself. His perfectionism, attention to detail, time, effort, and focus on tradition were what made the wines so special. The winery is now run by Giuseppe’s daughter, son-in-law, and grandsons. While securing a bottle of Amarone (or any of their wines, for that matter) can be both difficult and expensive, I recommend a visit to this winery for any true wine lover or collector. Even if you cannot or do not want to purchase a bottle of the wine, you can visit the winery and have a tasting of their most famous wines for 30 euros: an excellent value given the price of Quintarelli wines. Included in the tasting is a tour of the cellars. The winery does not have a website. Call to make a reservation: +39 045 750 0016.
Zyme: First and foremost, I will say that I am reluctant to recommend this winery for a few reasons. First and foremost, the people that run this place have terrible customer service, are rude, and the “hospitality manager” of the winery, Marco, is blatantly discriminatory toward North Americans, Southern Italians, women, and pretty much anyone else that isn’t just like him. He was bigoted and rude the entire time during our tour and tasting, and I can’t say enough bad about him as an individual; I believe the winery needs to re-think their representation for “hospitality manager”, as I’m sure the rest of the family is wonderful. But, like many wineries – it’s a family business, and things are complicated. Secondly, their wines are overpriced. The only reason Zyme has made this list is because their wines are truly beautifully crafted (I wish I could deny this fact, but I can’t). The wine maker of Zyme (who seems to be a very nice man) is actually married to Giuseppe Quintarelli’s daughter, and he worked for the Quintarelli winery for many years. This is likely why Zyme wines closely resemble Quintarelli wines. While still expensive, they are much more affordable and accessible than Quintarelli wines. The winery itself is also very beautiful. Visit their website to arrange a paid tasting and tour. Their website can be found HERE.
Did I miss any?! What are your favorite Italian wineries? I’d love to hear your recommendations!
Have a nice bottle of Valpolicella wine at home and looking for something to pair it with? I recommend pairing with Filet Mignon with Creamy Green Peppercorn Sauce, Tuscan Porcini and White Truffle Risotto, or Balsamic Pork.