March 8, 2007 - Jack

Dal Forno Amarone Vertical Tasting

The Twenty-first Annual Masters of Food & Wine
Carmel Highlands, CA
Held February 22, 2007
with Romano Dal Forno

Highlands Inn CarmelHighlands Inn Park Hyatt Carmel - Masters of Food & Wine

Romano Dal Forno's wines were all very consistent, impressive and strong. It is hard to imagine a mediocre wine from Dal Forno. Vintages 1996-2000 have a purple tinge that the 1988-1995 did not have. Romano's wines will continue to improve but I don't think there's a point in seeking out the older vintages over the more recent ones.

All but the 2000 can be drunk now but they will all be more rewarding with at least ten more years more of cellaring, if not twenty. We were told that all have alcohol in roughly the high 16s to low 17s – yet have better structure and balance than any high alcohol wine I’ve had.

Visually, you could not guess which vintage was which, as even the oldest wines showed no hint of age.

Name of Wine Jack's Comments
# of Btls Desired
1988 Dal Forno Amarone Della Valpolicella The first year this wine was made. Wow! This is wine. Very young still. Slight heat on finish. Big, but not brash. Very tasty.
1991 Dal Forno Amarone Della Valpolicella Slightly sweeter than ’88 but not sweet. Very appealing. Very slight heat on finish.
1993 Dal Forno Amarone Della Valpolicella Shows more in the mid-palate. Very balanced. Quite young. Smoother than '91 & '88.
1994 Dal Forno Amarone Della Valpolicella Young. A bit richer than '93/'91 and '88. Very slight hint of alcohol on finish. Long finish, a bit drier too. Good acids!
1995 Dal Forno Amarone Della Valpolicella Quite different than the others. Has more elegance and less alcohol – zero heat. Most complex of today’s wines. Pleasing acids.
1996 Dal Forno Amarone Della Valpolicella Interesting beginning. Non-bitter coffee notes. Elegant and suave. Perfectly balanced with zero heat on finish.
1997 Dal Forno Amarone Della Valpolicella Not ready to drink but very promising. Well balanced although acids really dominate finish.
1998 Dal Forno Amarone Della Valpolicella Very dry. Beautiful. Very balanced.  More acids on the finish. This is a “wow” wine.
1999 Dal Forno Amarone Della Valpolicella This is just better than the '00. Some hints of unsweetened chocolate. Noticeable acids on the finish. Perhaps a slightly longer finish than the other nine wines.
2000 Dal Forno Amarone Della Valpolicella Young! Hardest to judge and somewhat closed. Shorter finish. Strong acids on finish.

Some additional thoughts and notes from Romano Dal Forno’s talk:
These are wines that you should share one bottle between 5-8 people. Romano suggests that these wines are not food wines and they don’t need food.  If pairing these wines, try them with cheese – not the main course. Don’t drink them with roast beast. Have one by itself after dinner. They would pair with horse, though. Romano said (or agreed) that all of his wines need at least 10 years of aging. It was also very clear that Romano Dal Forno is continually trying to improve all aspects of his operation; he has replanted his vineyards and the 2007 Amarone will be the first to get fruit from these – about 10%.

I really liked all of these wines but did not love them. Perhaps they are just not my style – I’d rather drink a top Barolo. But if you drink Quintarelli, Turley Hayne, the really big Rhones, Integrity, Shrivington, etc., and other big, well-made wine, I can easily see Dal Forno being amongst your favorites.

Future production notes: The amount of both Valpolicalla and Amarone he bottles will double, from the 2007 level, in 2010, due to higher density planting plus additional family vineyards coming on-line.

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