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  • Writer's pictureJohn Paul Kaminga

Definition of Extraordinary: Ca' la Bionda Casal Vegri

We offered Ca' la Bionda's superlative Amarone Ravazzol last week, a wine that I love, and hold in the highest esteem, but something that I would not reach for on a regular basis. Today we offer their Casal Vegri, a wine that will handle a cheese pizza as deftly as a succulent rack of lamb, and something that I feel very lucky to be able to enjoy casually*.

The Castellani family established their winery on the famed Ravazzol cru in 1902, and for four generations have made wine here. Brothers Alessandro and Nicola Castellani are at the helm today, and they have not only raised the quality of their family's wines, but have blazed their own path in the region, crafting serious wines that do not rely on the rich flavors that come from late harvest or the practice of apassimento (drying grapes for the production of Amarone). From the Casal Vegri cru they craft tense and elegant wines that may confuse those expecting power and weight, but will delight those who seek lively and fresh red wines.

Practicing organic agriculture for well over a decade, all of Ca' la Bionda's vineyards became certified organic in 2013, and today they have adopted certain biodynamic practices as well. In the winery there is no inoculation with selected yeasts, and sulfur additions, minimal effective doses, occur only at bottling. These are wines of place, made to be natural expressions of that place and the people who live there. We know that there are a great many uninitiated who will love them as much as we do. Happy they fly under the radar, we're not sure how long that will be the case. We recommend getting to know Ca' la Bionda soon.

Ca' la Bionda Valpolicella Superiore 'Campo Casal Vegri' 2019 - $25

Aromas of maraschino liqueur, but also ripe fresh cherries, plus other fruits including raspberry, strawberry and cassis, then there's a gorgeous ethereal interplay of petrichor, cedar, alpine breeze, fennel pollen, almond oil... On the palate it is so bright and lively, with perfectly tart fresh fruit offset by subtle earthy and herbal tones. Elegant, refreshing, and beautifully tangy, red fruit is prominent through the finish, but a little dried blackcurrant and tiny wild blueberry lingers with delicate warm spice and intense herbal and stony lines. In my experience, nobody else makes Valpolicella like this. I would be surprised if this does not get more interesting for 5+.

*that is not to say that Casal Vegri is not a seriously engaging quaff

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