Located in the township of Ilasi in the Veneto region, DalForno Romano produces of some of the most coveted wines in the world. The family produces three gems from their small property – Valpolicella Superiore DOC, Amarone della Valpolicella DOC and "Vigne Seré" a reccioto produced in extremely limited quantities from the classic varieties of Corvina, Rodinella and Oseleta and Croatina.
Romano, who grew up adjacent to the land they currently farm, honed his craft under the tutelage of Giuseppe Quintarelli before striking out on his own in 1983. Relentless in his commitment to quality, every penny earned is put back into the business; no shiny suits, polished shoes, or sparkling jewelry here. Only the family is allowed to work in the winery, with workers brought in for harvest and pruning seasons but never allowed to work in the cellar. The expansive barrel room has been under construction for over a decade and the meticulous engineering of pointed brick work, large Roman style troughs (for maintaining humidity) and steelwork honed by Veronese craftsman are all works in progress.
Romano's own winemaking engineering is evident, his custom vinification area is purpose built to omit any form of oxygen ingress during fermentation. Vacuum, nitrogen, and computer intelligence are used extensively to control the process, and small nitrogen tanks are a permanent fixture in the barrel room.
For the traditional appasimento process, the drying room is a testament to geometry and precision. Located on the second floor of the winery, 60+ computer controlled air fans hang perpendicular from the ceiling, moving over the plastic fruit baskets to cool and dry the year's harvest through the appasimento technique.
Every fan is individually controlled and adjustable for speed and movement, and the floor at every turn shines and squeaks with cleanliness. Quite a juxtaposition in a region known for using oxidative methods and open window "natural" drying. However these processes also lack control, something the DalForno family does not desire.
In the barrel hall one level below ground, meticulously clean French oak barriques are uniformly stacked in individual cradles. No two barrels touch, no stack higher than three, every barrel seemingly given its own space to contemplate, and all accessible at any time for a checkup. It would make the most space-efficient of cellar masters scratch their heads at the use of open space. However this is the DalForno way - every move deliberate and meticulous in approach, and driven by precision, intent and focus.
Sitting with Romano DalForno over a glass of his wine is an exercise in mindfulness. A rugged man with strong hands carved through decades of work, contrasted with bright eyes and a giant heart filled with kindness and adoration for his wife, their three sons, and the wines they produce. Over the dining table, Romano shares his struggle to navigate the balance of managing sustainable growth for his future generations with the desire to keep the business within the control of his direct family.
The wines are a hedonistic, sophisticated journey into Amarone the wine, and this great man. As son Michele proclaims, these wines cannot be simply opened and consumed, one must sit with the wine, contemplate it, admire its depth and allow it to tell you a story.
So we sat. And the 2009 Amarone della Valpolicella revealed itself in the heady aromas of black cherry, cassis, compote, with undertones of leather, fruitcake spice and nutmeg. The tannin profile certainly strident, but somehow, like a velvet curtain spilling its form over a bay window, it was timeless and yearned to be left to rest in a cellar for at least a decade. Taking the lead from Romano DalForno, not opening these world class gems before their time is a true exercise in patience.