By Valerie Quintanilla
Mission: Explore Valpolicella wine — specifically Amarone
I began my Verona experience with a lonely walking tour. I was lost — the hotel’s instructions did not take me to the promised bus stop. I hiked up and down streets in search of via Terre. Ha! That’s like searching for a needle in a haystack. Finally, I spotted a taxi and asked him to take me. He chuckled and pointed me in the direction of my new digs, about 400 meters away. Easy enough!
I checked in to the The Arena B&B and found it to be a quaint little place. I opted for a double with a single use because the pictures of the single looked tiny. The room was good sized and immaculately clean. Unfortunately, I realized right away that my queen bed was two singles pushed together made with queen sheets. That was a let down. And both the beds were horribly uncomfortable. I was disappointed that I spent the extra 35 euros a day on the double. And, my back killed by the time I left. But, again, it was tremendously clean. So, that was a huge plus for me.
I spent my first day pandering around Verona. I saw the Roman Arena, Porta Borsari and Corso Porta Borsari (the main entrance to Roman Verona — it’s pretty cool), Piazza Ebre, finally found the House of Juliet after a few wrong turns (so anti-climatic, in my humble opinion), and enjoyed a 1/2 liter of vino rosso. Pretty much positive drinking a 1/2 liter of wine by 3 p.m. was not my best move. I really should have been thinking bigger picture here. Had I been patient, I would have been able to have a wine stop every 800 meters or so during my walk — explore the wines of the Valpolicella while I explore the town. But, once I’d emptied that carafe, it was nighty nighty time.
I headed back to my hotel and napped for a bit, then found a nice little restaurant for dinner. It was just off Piazza Bra, so quite spendy. The house wine was magnifico! Drink the local wine! Drink the local wine! Did I mention how important it is to drink the local wine?
One thing I learned pretty quickly on my travels is not to order wine from the wine list. Simply indicate the size you want (glass, 1/4 liter, 1/2 liter, liter) and say either vino rosso/red or bianco/white — or both if you are really ambitious! The table wine is even wonderful in Italy. My suggestion is to splurge on a bottle from a cute enoteca (wine shop) and drink it on your own. You’ll spend less on a really nice Italian wine and not break the bank at dinner.
The next morning I headed out for a run down to the river. I only noticed a couple other runners along the route, and felt like I was getting some odd looks from the locals.
I had a wine tour planned for the day with a private tour guide, Michelangelo Cappuccilli. I tried to find a joinable group wine tour that featured the famous Amarone wine, but it was near impossible. I found Michelangelo via his Web site. The afternoon tour would feature three Amarone wineries and a winery tour.
The Valpolicella region boasts some of the Veneto’s top wines, including:
Vapolicella DOC – Recioto della Valpolicella (Amarone): Recioto is a red wine made of dried grapes, featuring three varietals, Corvina (40 to 70%), Rondinella (20 to 40%) and Molinara (5 to 25%). Recioto can be dry or sweet, depending on time spent drying. Early, before the sugars have partially or completely turned to alcohol, yields a sweet Recioto. When delayed it becomes dry, producing the lovely Amarone. The wine has a slightly bitter almond — but quite lovely — taste. It’s become one of my favorites!
Soave DOC and Recioto di Saove DOCG: The wine is 70 to 100% Garganega grapes with possible additions of Pinot Bianco, Chardonnay and Trebbiano di Soave. Soave is a medium-bodied dry white that is also slightly bitter. I enjoyed a nice Soave poolside in Venice — quite refreshing!
Bardolino DOC: Again, this wine features Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara. The Bardolino Superiore and Superiore Classico get to tout DOGC status. Another bitter almond wine from the region, Bardolino is a dry full red.
I found that the reds of the Valpocella beg for food. While fruity, they are strong wines and go well with the regional specialties, like pasta with Donkey Sauce (yes, it’s really donkey, and I loved it!) and gnocchi (I had an amazing gnocchi with pumpkin!).
One last little aside on the wine region, rumor has it Brad Pitt owns a winery somewhere along the wine route. We didn’t happen upon him or the Jolie-Pitt brood during my wine tour. Darn!
The wine tour was fantastic. Michelangelo really knows his stuff! I’ll post more on that when I get back — I took too many notes!
Mission was definitely a success in Verona! Now, it’s off to Cinque Terre for hiking, seafood and of course, more wine!
Tips for Verona:
- Drink the house wine — Vino Rosso or Vino Bianco gets you a lovely table wine for your meal! And remember, the regional wine pairs with the regional fare. It’s a result of the long ago days when transportation made import and export difficult. They had to make do with what they had.
- Check out the local wine shops to inspect the region’s offerings. I found a great one en route to Piazza Ebre, Enoteca Oreste. In a shanty little place 20 yards off Corso Porta Borsari. Oreste — the enoteca’s namesake, was working when I arrived. He doesn’t speak English (or at least that is his charade) but he sure can talk with body language and hand gestures!
- Get outside of Verona for a wine tour! I was unsuccessful in finding a joinable group tour, but was lucky to come across Michelangelo. He offers great prices for groups of two to four and will go for a full or half day. Either way, you’ll learn a great deal about the wine, the history of the region, the soil, the climate — oh, and taste some fabulous wines. His website gives a list of wine tour options and a plethora of other great Verona travel information. Who knows, you might even stumble upon Brad Pitt’s fabled winery!
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