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Il Roverone Amarone Della Valpolicella 2005 DOC

Winter Blues? Amarone is the answer!

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Il Roverone Amarone Della Valpolicella 2005 DOC: Thanksgiving has already arrived, which means winter is just around the corner, but in Cleveland -- the snow is already falling and the chill of winter is already settling in. It was just the other night after a long day of classes and work that I was on my way home when bright-white flurries were coming out of the sky. It was freezing cold, I was completely unprepared for this weather and to be honest, I was a bit bummed out. I knew there was only one thing that was going to ease my 'pre-winter' blues and that was a glass of wine. I was yearning for something that was going to warm me up from the inside out, something smooth, velvety and rich-- today was not the day for a light bodied wine. As I was driving to meet my friend, I was tossing around different varietals in my head and none of them were what I was looking for.

I met my friend at a local Italian Restaurant in Cleveland's area of Little Italy, we sat down and to my surprise a friend of mine was the bartender--even better. I was inside, warm and with friends, making my decision to pick out a wine a bit easier. I told my bartending friend what I was looking for, and with a quizzical look back, she rhetorically asked, "So you need some Amarone?”. I was baffled, she did not ask if I wanted Amarone, she did not suggest I drink Amarone, but she simply told me I needed some-- and she was right.

As far as glass pours of Amarone go, my choices were limited to one and that was the Il Roverone Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2005 DOC. I was not familiar with this specific Amarone, making me anxious to try a glass. The restaurant sold this glass for $20 or the 375ml half bottle for $38 -- clearly I opted for the half bottle.

Amarone is one of Italy's most prized and popular wines, and the most sought after in the region. Amarone is a blend of the Rondinella, Corvina, and Molinar grapes from the region of Veneto. After the grapes are picked, the winemaker will leave the grapes on traditionally straw mats, but wooden or bamboo racks are used as well, and allow them to dry for several months creating the distinct raisin flavor of Amarone. Along with the drying of the grapes, it is also the specific climate of the Veneto region, and in specific the appellation of Valpolicella (which its hillside slopes face the sun for the majority of the day) contributing to the raisin like flavor of the wine.

The bottle was opened and a taste poured; the color of was a deep ruby, garnet red, signature of this wine. As I was swirling the wine around in my glass and allowing the color to radiantly bounce of the white table cloth, I could not deny the fact that the nose was already reaching me, even though the glass was still on the table. I quickly allowed myself to smell the wine and a surge of memories of Amarone's past quickly ran through my body. It was this scent that established the fact that my friend was right, I needed Amarone and this was just the wine I was searching for. The smell is unlike any other wine, giving off a raisin like scent -- reminiscent of opening a box of raisins as a child, yet offers subtle structured scents of tobacco and dark fruit, and on the end of the nose there was just a hint of barnyard (hay like smell). It is the raisiny aspect of the Amarone which gives it so much character.

Completely submerged with the scent I allow myself to take a sip. I feel luxurious as I taste this wine, initially the taste is sweet, just like the smell of raisins, yet quickly the sweetness is taken over by the complexity that these grapes have to offer. Ripe cherry and raspberry jams are prominent, with hints of sweet spices, thyme and a touch of chocolate. The tannins are firm and present, offering the dryness needed in order to counteract that initial sugariness. The acidity is bright but not very pronounced. The finish, for me is the best part-- full of tart fruit and spice, lingering with a dry tartness and a delicate sweetness that can only come from Amarone.

The wine was perfect for tonight, paired with a pizza topped with prosciutto and arugula, which the Amarone complemented by cutting through the fat of the prosciutto and the peppery arugula added to the spice filled finish of the wine. I was completely satisfied, and after one glass of wine my 'pre-winter' blues were out the window. When rating this wine I am taking into consideration a lot of factors (as always) aside from just taste: such as price and vintage. Amarone is a higher end wine, ranging from usually at least $60 a bottle, to over a $100. Older vintages will produce more complexity, and also showcase the range of changing flavors the wine can produce. Given that this wine was only a 2005 (still relatively young for an Amarone), the price was reasonable and nevertheless produced all the complexity of flavors I was looking for. My ratings for this stellar Amarone is 93 points, putting this wine at the higher end of Bombastic!

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