Above: The Romano Dal Forno label is one of Amarone’s most iconic.
Expectations were extremely high when Mosaic Wine Group visited one the world’s most highly coveted and sought-after wineries, Dal Forno Romano, in the Valpolicella region of the Veneto. The Dal Forno family has been growing grapes in the Val d’Illasi for four generations, and established the Dal Forno Romano label in 1983. The winery has long been regarded as the top Amarone and Valpolicella producer in the Veneto, and lauded by the press with tremendous accolades year after year. Having visited some of the top chateaus in Bordeaux, and many other of the self-appointed best & brightest producers from other great wine regions throughout the world, there was an air of uncertainty as to what Dal Forno could possibly have to offer.
Above: Michele Dal Forno (center), Deena DiMasi Miskiel (left, National Sales Manager Vias Imports), and Michele’s father Romano dal Forno (right).
We were initially greeted by Michele Dal Forno, one of founder Romano Dal Forno’s three sons, who is involved in the daily operations of the winery. It didn’t take long for us to figure out why this property is so highly regarded. We walked into the production facility, filled with shiny stainless steel tanks of various shapes and sizes, which at first glance was just like every other winery we’ve ever visited. We soon began to learn about the innovative mind of Romano Dal Forno and how he would change the way that his wines would be produced by tweaking the design of traditional methodology. Every piece of equipment had not only a purpose, but an efficiency and simplicity to make the best wines possible with minimal interference and/or manipulation. These innovations included computerized and integrated climatic controls, panels for cleaning, stabilizing and moving wines from tanks and Dal Forno designed stainless steel punch-down pads in every tank, etc. It was an impressive way to start a winery tour.
Above: Romano Dal Forno personally conceived and designed the unique ventilation system at his winery. The fans are mounted on rollers that move slowly from one side of the room to the other when activated by a computer that monitors the temperature and humidity of the room.
Then we walked into another room of the expansive estate, a room designed solely for the drying of grapes. The grapes of Amarone have always been dried for concentrating the complex flavors and aromas of Amarone, but as of the 2002 vintage Dal Forno has also utilized drying for their incredible Valpolicella. Once again, we were greeted with the innovation of Romano Dal Forno, who designed a specialized computer-controlled system to help with the consistent drying of the grapes.
We then took a stroll underground to the cellars of Dal Forno. Two floors below ground, we could feel the drop in temperature as we entered the pristine barrel room of Dal Forno. Here, in the cellar, we caught up with Romano Dal Forno who speaks very little English. We could see and hear the passion of this innovative man, and with the assistance of our trusty translator, Jeremy Parzen, we could relate to his stories as if we were there to live them ourselves.
Above: Jeremy Parzen (center) translates with 2007 Dal Forno Amarone in hand for Romano Dal Forno (right), as Mosaic founder Dan Redman looks on.
Romano told detailed stories of great vintages, of his grandmother’s influence on his life, and of the tragic 2007 vintage, which was destined for legendary status until a devastating hail storm hit the region on August 30th, 2007. Our collective jaws dropped as we listened to how there would be no 2007 Amarone from Dal Forno, and only a very small amount of Valpolicella. Given the aforementioned innovations that we saw within the winery, we could almost feel that the cogs were in motion for a Romano Dal Forno design to protect his vineyards from any future issues from Mother Nature.
Above: Barrel tasting with Romano Dal Forno. Alfonso Cevola (right), Italian Wine Director Glazer’s, looks on.
We also had the pleasure of barrel-tasting three great wines from Dal Forno — the 2006 Valpolicella, the (hail-plagued) 2007 Valpolicella and the breathtaking 2006 Amarone. Each wine was complex, rich and concentrated with intense aromas and flavors that would resolve themselves with gentle care and time to develop. For Valpolicella, younger vines including Corvina and Rondinella are utilized; the grapes are then dried for 30 days; barrel aged for 3 years, then an additional year in bottle before release. The decadent Amarones of Dal Forno are produced from older vines; the grapes are dried for 3 months; aged in barrique for 3 years, then in bottle for an additional year before release. A third, sweet wine is produced only in great vintages – a sweet red, passito wine, called Vigne Sere.
We discovered on our visit exactly why Dal Forno Romano has been crowned the well-deserved King of Amarone! Bravo!