In 1997, Pietro Castellani took possession of and rebuilt the old winery, named ‘Ca' la Bionda’ by his grandfather in 1902, along with its surrounding hillside vineyards. He promptly handed over control to his sons: Alessandro in the winery and Nicola in the vineyards.
Merano is one of the highest points in Valpolicella and famed for its marked freshness. The soils are predominantly clay, mixed with a high percentage of limestone rocks. Ideal for providing elegance and minerality to the wine, qualities that are essential to the ageing potential of a wine.
In essence, Alessandro is a traditionalist and believes in minimum intervention in his winemaking as well as in the vineyard. Vines are mostly trained using the unfashionable and ancient pergola system. In hotter (and wetter) vintages this has proved extremely effective, more so than the Guyot trained ‘modern’ vineyards. The vineyard is now certified as organic, which in reality means that nothing has changed. There are encouraging results from a part of the vineyard that is being farmed biodynamically.
The cellar is fully equipped but their ethos is simple, the technology is there should it be needed and that, with care, it should never come into play, a fine and pragmatic stance. The building has blended seamlessly into the hillside and though newly built, looks like it has been there for generations.
There is capacity to make more wine and, rather than buy in grapes, Alessandro and Nicola have bought a neighbouring vineyard. While their fellow producers caught some August sun, they were re-building the terraces in readiness for the autumn. Interestingly they have also acquired vineyards in the highest parts of Merano to help offset the effects of hot vintages, a more common phenomenon in the last ten years. These changes have also brought the production up to a modest 150,000 bottles, there are now three Castellani families to support.
Whilst the Amarone is the talisman, it is Casel Vegri that is the heart. It is a ‘cru’ (site) which does not give up a single grape to Amarone or Recioto. A unique wine, made with the sort of attention a premier cru Burgundy might deserve and because none of the grapes are dried it is a precise reflection of the terroir. Their Valpolicella is recognised locally as one of the very best.