North of Verona, in the town of Negrar, at the Valpolicella zone's highest point (1,148 feet), the Le Ragose estate overlooks gentle, lush green hills. In 1969, enologists Arnaldo Galli and his wife Marta bought the 70-acre Le Ragose estate, which had been abandoned. Recognizing that many excellent vineyard sites had been abandoned in favor of more easily-farmed sites on the plains, they replanted the Le Ragose and Le Sassine vineyards and began making Amarone and Valpolicella in as natural a way as possible. There are a couple of versions of how the name Le Ragose came about. The most plausible one is that it refers to the ragos, which is dialect for rows. Le Ragose was a deserted vineyard with over-grown and wild vineyard rows. People would look up at the abandoned vines and weeds and shake their heads and say, Le Rhagos, which in modern Italian became Le Ragose. Another version is that it takes its name from a colony of priestesses who lived on the hills where Le Ragose is located around 750 A.D. Instead of speaking they communicated by shrieking and yelling and as a result their voices were raucous. They were referred to as Le Racose and the name evolved into Le Ragose. Whatever the origins of the name Le Ragose, here, 40 acres of terraced vines face southwest on steep slopes, well above the frequent, notorious winter nebbia (fog), which lingers below. The soil is clay laced with magnesium, calcium and iron on well-draining tufaceous subsoil. The ideal "above-the-fog" location (low humidity and excellent sun exposure) is particularly suited for appassimento, the process of drying grapes essential to Amarone production; it also allows for successful ripening of minor indigenous varietals, which few producers can claim. At Le Ragose, local grapes Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella, Molinara, Pelara, Forselina, Oseleta and other indigenous varieties are grown, with small amounts of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. The estate's forty acres are dry farmed (no irrigation) and the steep vineyard slopes require all vineyard work to be done by hand. For aging, large Slavonian botti (oak casks), with experimental use of new and used French Allier and Tronçais barriques, allow truer expression of subtle terroir characters that make a wine from "Le Ragose" unmistakably of its place and uniquely itself. Marta Galli, often referred to as "La Signora del Vino," was voted "Wine Maker of the World" in 1990 by her peers, in part because of her influence in re- establishing Valpolicella as a classic in Italian wine and helping it achieve a DOC designation. She was also a founding member of the prestigious VIDE organization of small family-owned estates that promote excellence and typicity, as well as Le Donne del Vino, an international group for women in wine. The Galli children Paolo (manager) and Marco (winemaker) now manage the property and remain faithful in the vision they share with their parents – a vision where even the simplest wines are made to evolve and age beautifully for years.
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