Wine Media Conference 2022: A Family Reunion in Italy with Ca’ dei Frati 2016 “Pietro dal Cero” Amarone della Valpolicella #ItalianWFT

A group of wine writers from WMC 2022 on the pre-conference excursion to Lugana

When is a conference more like a family reunion? When it’s the Wine Media Conference! This is the thought that struck me when a gang of us converged at Ca’ dei Frati in Lugana. On the one hand, we thirty or so were all ears and interested in learning what our hosts had to share with us about Lugana DOC and specifically the winery where we started our tour of the region.  On the other hand, there were squeals of pleasure and delight from participants seeing each other.

“We are all family here,” said Stefano Fioranzanto, the Ca’ dei Frati brand manager who married into the family. In 1939, they moved here from Valpolicella. Ca’ is short for casa and means home or house while Frati means brothers, and in this case, monks, because originally monks grew grapes and made wine here. 

Ca’ dei Frati — this represents the monks

The family found a house with a one hectare vineyard and one ancient tree which was struck by lightening a few years ago. They couldn’t bear to see it die, so they bolstered it up with an iron bar.

the one and only original tree that was struck by lightening at Ca’ dei Frati

The original owners had four children, three brothers and one sister; she does administration while one brother is a winemaker and another brother works the vines. In 2012 they built a larger tasting room to meet tourist visitation demand of over 35,000 visitors a year, and today they have a state of the art gravity fed winery that processes the grapes from their 280 hectares, the largest in the DOC.

At Ca’ dei Frati: Gwendolyn Alley, co-owner Anna Maria Dal Cero, and her son in law Stefano Fioranzanto, export manager 

The family also owns 10 hectares in Valpolicella — which is when my ears really perked up because I know the Wine Food Travel group of wine writers was writing about this theme this month. I figured being in Italy I’d find a wine to write about — just didn’t know I’d visit the winery in time as well because we don’t plan to visit Valpolicella until Tuesday! (So yes, more on the topic will be coming right up one day soon!) 

So what is an AMARONE?

It’s a style of wine made in Northern Italy that’s generally smooth and intensely flavored with rich layers of plum, violets, exotic wood, and church insence.

To make amarone, they use a method called Appassimento which dries the harvested grapes, on bamboo racks or straw mats for three to four months, concentrating the flavors. Grapes get pressed slowly, and the resulting concentrated juice is fermented until dry and often resulting in 15-16%. After barrel aging for two to five years, the wine is bottled, aged further as desired, and sent out into the world. 

To be DOCG, the wine must be made in Valpolicella. However, once it is made, at Ca’dei Frati, they bring the wine to their facility in Lugana DOC where they bottle and store it.  


Back at the hotel the next day, the conference officially opened, and a group of us gathered around the Amarone, and I asked whether the others saw this as a family reunion as well, and why. For Austin Beeman, these are “People I really care about that I only see once a year.”  

For Reggie Solomon, it’s like a family reunion “because I know everybody here. You don’t need a name tag at a family reunion but you do for the new people so you can welcome them here. In 2015 when I first came people welcomed me so I seek to be the welcoming person in the conference as people were to me in 2015. That is what made me not miss conference since.” 

Everyone I spoke with concurred that the Wine Media Conference is one big reunion where we get together every year or so and stay connected online through our writing and our social media posts. 

Many of us first met online, and in 2008 at the original Wine Media Conference, many of us met for the first time in person, continuing on as the online writing community has grown.

And here we are meeting in 2022 in ITALY! Where I sampled a bottle of Ca’ dei Frati Amarone della Valpolicella.

Ca’ dei Frati Amarone

2016 Ca’ dei Frati “Pietro dal Cero” Amarone della Valpolicella

ABV 16%
SRP 54 euros (likely over $100 US)
Grape: 100% Corvina (dried)

Reggie would likely give the wine 90 points; we agreed it is a solid, reliable Amarone and brand. 

Color: Deeply intensity colored ruby plum with a garnet rim. 

Aroma: A intense plum and cherry with complex layers of fresh violets, rose, rose hips, herbs, and exotic woodsy notes of sandalwood, amber, a cigar box with cherry snuff. 

Palate:  Nose and plate are harmonies, the wine has some notes of complexity,  Medium plus intensity, medium plus acidity, medium plus tannins, Plush, velvety, rich, ripe red stone fruit with dry cocoa and leathery tannins, and lengthy morello cherry and plum finish that last forever and entices with its complexity luring you on to another sip and another….  

Pairing: Plays well with rainstorms, a book by the fire, or for sipping with friends you rarely see. Cured meats and cheeses stuffed in a croissant hit the spot. 

This month’s Valipolicella participants is light because so many of us are in Italy at the Wine Media Conference! But do please check out these articles:

You’re invited to join the #ItalianFWT group  along with event host @WendyKlik to chat about Valpolicella, likely the most famous red wine district in northeastern Italy’s Veneto wine region. We start at 8 am Pacific here on Twitter. See you then! Questions for the #ItalianFWT Valpolicella event on January 22nd, 2022 at 8am Pacific / 11am Eastern; times on the chat questions are Eastern.

11:00 – Q1 Welcome to the October #ItalianFWT chat! From where are you tweeting ? Introduce yourself, share a link to your blog and a selfie if you like. Use the #ItalianFWT hashtag during our chat and if you’re joining in live this morning: Buongiorno!

11:05 – Q2 While Tuscany and Piedmont grab the headlines, Valpolicella is a hidden gem just east of Lake Garda, Verona. Have you visited the area? Thoughts and travel tips? #ItalianFWT

11:15 – Q3 Tell us about your wine. Difficult to find? There are 3 main indigenous grapes – Corvina, Rodinella, and Molinara – in Valpolicella. What was your wine’s blend? Anything noteworthy about its creation? Share a link to your tasting notes and photos, if you like. #ItalianFWT 

11:20 – Q4 What foods did you pair with your wine? Is this a traditional Italian or even Veronese dish? Or not? Share a link to your recipe and photos, if you like. #ItalianFWT

11:30 – Q5 Did you think the pairing was successful? Why or why not? If not, what would you pair with the wine a second time around? #ItalianFWT

11:35 – Q6 If you jumped in on the #MoviesandMunchies “Letters to Juliet” aspect of this month’s invitation, what did you think? Did it make you want to visit the region? Favorite scene? #ItalianFWT

11:40 – Just a shoutout of appreciation to the #ItalianFWT bloggers who participated today and shared articles about Valpolicella: @WendyKlik @culinary_cam @GrapeExp_Cindy @VinoTravels21 #ItalianFWT

11:50 – Q7 Did you find any of the pairings inspiring today? Will you try to track down any of the Valpolicellan wines mentioned? Or try any of the dishes? Why or why not? #ItalianFWT

11:55 – Q8 Any last comments/questions? Share a thought, comment, or question! #ItalianFWT

12:00 p.m. Thanks for joining us #ItalianFWT today! Next month we’ll be exploring Chianti with @LizBChicago of What’s in That Bottle? Hosting. Stay tuned for more information.

PS My session today went well!! Here’s a photo from Liz Barrett of What’s in the Bottle, host for next month’s excursion to Chianti. 

panel photo by Liz Barrett


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