Lunch with Cristian Ridolfi,
Winemaker at Casa Vinicola Bertani

Cristian Ridolfi

Thanks to Casa Vinicola Bertani and its US importer, Palm Bay International, we were recently invited to a lunch (see menu below) at Georgetown’s Café Milano, where executive chef Fabio Salvatore weaves his magic in the kitchen. The occasion was a vertical tasting of Bertani’s famed Amarone wine with winemaker Cristian Ridolfi (pictured here). We tasted the 2003, 1998, 1980, and 1967 vintages. However, the lunch began with antipasti of fried calamari, thinly sliced and fried zucchini, and buffalo mozzarella and tomatoes accompanied by a blend of Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc called Duè Uvè. This was followed by a delicious light, red wine called Secco-Bertani Ripasso, served with a fusilli pasta of mushroom, braised pork sausage, and truffle-scented cream. The main course was a grilled veal chop, which paired beautifully with the Amarone, and several Italian cheeses offered for dessert.

Amarone della Valpolicella.

Amarone, a wine made of partially dried indigenous grapes, is one of Italy’s most sought after red wines. It’s produced in the Veneto region, not far from Verona. Cristian uses traditional, time-tested methods to make the Bertani Amarone, regarded as one of Italy’s best. Two indigenous grapes—70% Corvina Veronese and 30% Rondinella—are hand harvested in early October. Only the uppermost portion of each grape cluster is selected since that is where the grapes are richest in sugar and extracts. The grapes are then dried on cane mats in the open air (but covered) for several months, losing up to 50 percent of their water content, after which they undergo a long, low-temperature fermentation process. The wine is subsequently aged in large, Slovenian oak casks for at least six years. This long process requires great care and precision to achieve the structure, flavor, and nuance that give Amarone its special qualities.

Our notes on the wines follow:

Bertani 2009 Duè Uvè ($16) 90

Duè Uvè is an attractive, pale straw 50-50 blend of Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc. It displays floral and citrus aromas on the nose followed by an attack of fresh crisp melon and stone fruit. The wine is beautifully balanced with ripe fruit flavors on the palate and a persistent finish. This is a perfect wine for cold and warm pasta, fish, and many other dishes. It can also be poured as itself, which is how we enjoyed it.

Bertani 2008 Secco-Bertani Ripasso Valpolicella Valpantena DOC ($19) 90+

The 2008 Secco-Bertani is a delicious wine offering up flavors of dried red cherry fruit, nuts, and black pepper. A blend of 70% Corvina Veronese and 30% Rondinella, it is a beautifully balanced and delicate wine that can pair well with a wide range of dishes. We enjoyed it with fried calamari and zucchini, prosciutto, eggplant, and buffalo mozzarella. This Secco was created in the 1870s as an alternative to Valpolicella’s sweet ripasso and has been a success ever since.

Bertani Amarone della ValpolicellaBertani 2003 Amarone della Valpolicella DOC ($120) 92

The 2003 Amarone Classico is a big flavored wine from a hot vintage. It exhibits great depth of flavor and richness of dried red fruit, plum, black pepper, and nuts. As an accompaniment to pasta with braised pork sausage, mushroom and truffle scented cream, it was magnificent.

Bertani 1998 Amarone della Valpolicella DOC ($270) 94

The 1998 Amarone Classico is drinking beautifully at this stage of its development. It is refined and elegant with outstanding balance and structure. It accompanied our grilled veal chop perfectly without overwhelming it.

Bertaini 1980 Amarone della Valpolicella DOC ($230) 92

This wine is rich and complex showing deep flavors of dried dark cherry fruit with notes of caramel and nuts. It was perfect for salty dried and soft cheeses we had for dessert.

Bertani 1967 Amarone della Valpolicella DOC ($420) 95

The 1967 Amarone is this winery’s flagship wine. It is a magnificent wine from a very good vintage and shows how well Amarone can age. Despite its age, the wine reveals vibrant dried dark cherry fruit flavors with hints of caramel and nuts. It still has perfect acidity and balance and is beautifully structured for a long life. This is a versatile wine that went well with both the veal and cheese dishes.

The Lunch Menu at Café Milano

Fusilli Bucati Bulgari
Battuta di Vitello Grigliata con Ruchetta e Pomodoro
Trio di Formaggi Importati con Pane alle Noci e Fichi

Café Milano is one of Washington’s, premiere restaurants, located at 3251 Prospect Street, NW, Washjngton, DC. Fabio Salvatore is Executive Chef.