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Winery #67: Villa Spinosa (Valpolicella, Italy)

Our second visit in Italy's Valpolicella region was Villa Spinosa, an estate owned by a family that's been growing grapes since 1861. We joined a really fun group tour consisting of two Swedish couples. Although private experiences are nice, it’s always wonderful to get other people’s perspectives during a wine visit. Our experience began on an elevated, concrete platform overlooking the grapevines surrounding the estate. Here, our host gave us an overview of the winery’s grape growing methods. The family is committed to maintaining biodiversity with 24 types of flowers encouraged to grow among the vines. These flowers are eventually plowed into the soil, adding nutrients to inspire vine health in lieu of commercial fertilizers. In 1990, the family moved away from just selling its grapes to other producers in order to begin crafting its own wines. Today, Villa Spinosa produces approximately 55,000 bottles annually.

Following the vineyard overview, we moved into the production facility where we learned about the family’s method of producing wine. The winemaker uses 134 large 500-liter barrels for maturing its wines, and each barrel has a five-year lifespan in the cellar. Compared to the smaller 225-liter Bordeaux or 228-liter Burgundy barrels, these larger 500-liter Tonneau barrels impart less oak-derived aromas such as vanilla, baking spice, and chocolate. Shouldn’t a bigger barrel give wine more oaky aromas? Actually, no. The larger barrels have a greater wine volume to barrel ratio, and so, a lesser percentage of total wine is in contact with the inner surface of the barrel so fewer oak aromas and flavors transfer into the wine. A good wine fact to impress your friends!

At the conclusion of the tour, our host led us to the wine tasting room where we had the chance to sample five wines produced by the estate. He provided us with a large meat and cheese platter, which we all extremely appreciated since it was around lunchtime. Our host also placed a small, round name tag on the stem of each wine glass so we would not get the wines confused. This was the first time we’ve seen a winery do this, a wonderful best practice for wine tastings especially when many of the wines look so similar!

From the lineup, our favorite wine was the 2018 Jago Valpolicella Ripasso Classico Superiore. That is a very long name for a wine, so let’s deconstruct it! The wine is from the Jago vineyard in the Valpolicella region, and it consists of a blend of three grapes commonly found in area: Corvina Veronese, Corivnone, and Rondinella. Ripasso is a special production method that starts with producing the initial wine by crushing and fermenting the grapes. Once finished, the winemaker adds to this wine unpressed grape skins coming from another wine’s production, then a second maceration and more fermentation occurs. This adds more color, flavor, tannins, and alcohol to the wine. Think of it like you already brewed a cup of tea, and just before drinking it, you add another tea bag to your hot cup of tea. The result is a darker, more bitter, stronger, and more caffeinated beverage. Same thing with Ripasso!

The Classico portion of the wine’s name means that the grapes originated from the hilly historic portion of the Valpolicella region. These hillsides get greater sun exposure than flatter parcels of land, and so the grapes ripen more during the growing season. Also, the topsoil of the hilly area is thinner, forcing the vines to struggle and seek nutrients deeper in the ground. Both the exposure and thin soil result in a greater concentration of aromas and flavors. Lastly, Superiore means that the wine has a slightly higher alcohol level (this wine is 13.5% ABV) and by law, must be aged for one year. From our perspective, the wine showed a complex bouquet of aromas and flavors ranging from red fruit such as strawberries, cherries, and cranberries, as well as evidence of the oak aging regimen with hints of vanilla and cedar. The high acidity brought freshness and the round tannins provided great structure to the wine. For those who made it this far in the blog post, I'll let you know that today is my birthday:-)

Experience Rating: 3 Stars

Brodi's Rating: 2 Paws Up

Pet-Friendly: Yes

Experience Vibe: Group Experience, Vineyard Tour, Production Facilities Tour, Seated Wine Tasting

Reservations Needed: Yes

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