Magic Mountain: Scaling the heights with Speri in Valpolicella Classico

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It was only a matter of time before I climbed Monte Sant'Urbano.

The ascent started at the dinner table in the heart of old Verona, where my wife and I supped with a velvety, complex Valpolicella Classico Superiore Sant'Urbano 2012 from Fratelli Speri, one of the oldest families making wine in this zone.

Two mornings after draining the bottle, we are on the small Monte Sant'Urbano, covered with 10-foot drywall terraces that climb to 1,100 feet. Tall pergola-trained vines dangle the dark grapes used in blending Valpolicella—Corvina, Molinara and Rondinella—above our heads. The views over the Fumane Valley stretch to Lake Garda on the southeastern horizon.

The Speris' history here in Valpolicella Classico dates to the mid-19th century, and the winery is now run by the sixth generation. Since the early 1980s, the Speris have produced a Sant'Urbano cru—their most prized vineyard—using grapes that are partially dried, but less so than those for Amarone.

"Drying grapes is not only about evaporation of the water and concentration," explains Giampaolo Speri, 50, one of five cousins who now run Speri. "It's an evolution that adds aromas and complexity."

Sant'Urbano comprises 50 of Speri's 120 acres of vineyards in production and makes what the family considers its two most important wines: its Amarone and the Sant'Urbano Valpolicella Classico Superiore, which retails in the United States for around….read the full blog (free) at winespectator.com