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Amarones, Lunch and Dinner

Posted: Jan 14, 2008 5:36pm ET

I had lunch on Saturday with a friend from Los Angeles and a couple of his wine collector buddies in Santa Monica at a restaurant called Locanda Portofino. It was good, simple Italian food—things like soft and creamy burrata cheese with Parma ham or a short pasta with squid in a spicy tomato sauce.

It was a good conversation about food and wine, not to mention the good food and wine we consumed. The wine collector buddies, who are with Merrill-Lynch in Los Angeles, were all jacked up about going to the Naples Wine Festival in a few weeks, even with the crazy prices people pay.

Anyway, my friend brought some Amarones and a number of red Burgundies. The Amarones outshone the Burgundies. Of course, they were from the best two names there: Romano dal Forno and Giuseppe Quintarelli. And they were from the 1990 vintage.

The 1990 Roman dal Forno Amarone della Valpolicella was supersoft-textured, with lovely sweet fruit character and loads of vanilla. It tasted sort of like chocolate covered raspberries in vanilla cream. It was drinking beautifully, 91 points, non-blind. The 1990 Giuseppe Quintarelli Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Superiore Riserva was sweeter and more Port-like, but it was less jammy than it was when young. It was thick and richly textured with loads of sweet berry and light mineral character. 94 points, non-blind.

The lunch reminded me of a dinner before Christmas in my kitchen in Tuscany, with Sandro Boscaini of Masi and Marilisa Allegrini of Allegrini. We were discussing the rise of low-priced Amarones from less-than-good quality vineyards in the region and how they were bastardizing the market. They were obviously very against this, considering the high quality of their Amarones.

Perhaps more interesting to you is that I also did a cool video of them when they described the benefits of aging Amarones. Check it out.

I think a lot of people drink Amarones too young. They love the big, juicy, jammy and off-dry character of the wines, but God only knows what you drink with them. Blue cheese works, or a game stew ... other dishes?

The proof was in the bottle with the 1988 Amarones we drank together: Allegrini Amarone della Valpolicella Classico and Masi Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Mazzano.

The Allegrini was a knockout, with berry, spice and leather aromas and flavors. It was full-bodied, with refined tannins and a long, caressing finish. 93 points, non-blind. The single vineyard Masi was a little jammy still, with a fresh blackberry and mineral nose. It was full and velvety with a long juicy finish. 91 points, non-blind.

They went great with roasted rabbit, sautéed spinach and roasted potatoes. Makes me hungry.

Troy Peterson
Burbank, CA —  January 15, 2008 2:29am ET
James, what say you about my sole bottle of 1999 Masi Mazzano? Is it ready to go or what? I've been hanging on to it for a few years now. FYI, it was going to be the finish to our meal with you at our home last Friday. I'll keep it in the cellar in hopes that we can connect one day and enjoy it together with a nice chunk of Grana Padano.

By the way, I planned to foist upon you a couple of Aubert Chards to start things off, followed by a couple of nice Cali Pinots. Unless you would prefer enjoying a vertical of 1999-2003 Phelps Insignia? It's not Bordeaux, but it's certainly not bad!

I know you'll be back in LA, so please just give me a week's notice and we'll arrange for a fine meal.

All My Best,Troy
Jim Mason
St. John's —  October 12, 2008 10:39am ET
It is hard to resist drinking Amarone young. I have a few bottles of the excellent 2001 Costasera and Vaio Amaron in my cellar and am always tempted to pull them out and drink them young. Any idea on the ideal time to drink these to get as Sandro says that leathery nose and spice character? Can I wait until 2015 or is that too long?
James Suckling
 —  October 12, 2008 12:04pm ET
Depends when you like to drink them. Your choice. Some people like the jammy, juicy, almost sweet character of youth. Others like them more, prune and dry with age. Depends on the food too. But you can wait as long as you like with the Costasera 2001. Not sure about the Vaio Amaron.

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