The second stop on our tour of northern Italy’s wineries was Villa Monteleone, where we talked wine, politics, culture and travel with owner and wine producer Lucia Duran Raimondi over a splendid lunch in the estate’s protected historical garden.
Stefano and Lucia met in Minneapolis in the winter of 2012, when she was in town promoting her wines with her distributor, Wirtz Beverage Group. Stefano and Filippo of the Butcher Block organized a spectacularly successful wine dinner, and months later when we were planning our trip to Italy, we knew that we would take Lucia up on her offer to visit Villa Monteleone.
Villa Monteleone is located not far from the town of Verona in a tiny town called Gargagnago. A beautiful 17th century villa serves also as a bed and breakfast, and a separate two-story apartment in a historical building located on the estate is also available for travellers. The estate’s gardens are lovely, and the view of the vineyards and surrounding villages is breathtaking.
This part of Italy is called la Valpolicella, a hilly area within the Italian region of Veneto, long known for its wine production, and especially for the production of Amarone Classico, a prestigious Italian red wine with D.O.C.G. status (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita), made from Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara grapes. Amaro means ‘bitter’ in Italian, but Amarone is far from bitter; instead it is a ruby red, full-bodied, dry rich wine, unquestionably one of our favorite Italian reds. It earned its name to distinguish it from another, slightly sweeter local wine, Recioto.
Villa Monteleone produces five wines: a Valpolicella, a Ripasso, two Amarones, and a Recioto. Each is excellent, but our favorite was unquestionably the Amarone della Valpolicella D.O.C. Classico Riserva Campo San Paolo.
Lucia’s story is both fascinating and inspiring. She grew up in Bogotà Colombia, raised her children in Chicago together with her husband, the American pediatric neurosurgeon Anthony Raimondi, and then moved to la Valpolicella with him in the 1980s to make wine, an activity that Lucia oversees on her own today. She is strong, yet sensitive to the history and traditions of the land and the people that have given us some of the world’s best wine. She is a business woman, but she is also a passionate defender of authenticity and quality in Valpolicella Classico wines.
But she’s the best one to tell you her story, perhaps over lunch in her garden or with a glass of wine on the villa’s terrace during your, overlooking the vineyards of la Valpolicella during your stay at the Villa Monteleone Bed and Breakfast.