It is an idyllic, classic approach to the winery: down a long drive spiked with tall, thin Cypress trees, surrounded by vineyards. The Campedelli residence, at the end of the drive, is large and stately. It should be, for beginning in the 15th century it was the noble residence of the Counts Marioni.
The surrounding vineyards are verdant, lovingly cared for, stunning. One of the things that distinguishes the appellation of Valpolicella from neighboring Soave is this calcareous terroir, so different from Soave’s volcanic bedrock, and the soil is almost white with calcareous material. The older vines, up to 60 years old, are planted in the traditional pergola, in which the canopy is trained overhead on crossing wooden and wire supports. The younger vines, those planted by Stefano and his wife Nicoletta in the early 90s, are planted to guyot, which produces more reliably lower yields and is easier to manage.
The vineyards are planted to several varieties. For Valpolicella and Amarone, there is Corvina, Rondinella, Corvinone, Croatina, and a bit of Molinara, often scorned for lack of color, but used sparingly in Marion’s wines when the quality of the harvest is high.
Then there are other wines made with Teroldego from cuttings received from Elisabetta Foradori, the princess of Teroldego, and Cabernet Sauvignon - both wines made using a partial appassimento wherein a portion of the grapes are dried as in Amarone. A total of about 21 hectares are planted to vine, while the winery produces only about 70,000 bottles - the rest of the wine is sold off to top Amarone producers with names you would recognize. All the estate’s vineyards are managed according to sustainable ideas of “less is more” and “do no harm”.
Stefano started his career in wine at the local cantina sociale in 1986, which is where he met Celestino Gaspari, who would eventually become Stefano's enologist after years working at the benchmark Quintarelli estate. In 1993, he and Nicoletta were married, and in 1996 they vinified their first vintage.
The philosophy of the estate is to make beautiful, drinkable wines from the healthiest, most balanced fruit possible. Healthy fruit is procured from healthy vineyards: all the technical wizardry in the world won’t change the fact that most of the really important work happens in the vineyards, where the goal is perfect grapes. Therefore, Stefano and Nicoletta are passionate viticulturists, and practice minimal intervention in the cellar; that said, the quality of the barrels is of utmost importance, and Stefano uses the best. But apart from some small experimental trials, Marion avoids barrique, in favor of 500 liter barili (called tonneaux in France) and larger boti (Garbellotto is his preferred cooper), each almost exclusively of Slavonian oak. The wood should never become an ingredient of the wine; it is a resting place for maturation only. Its purpose is to give the wine a vessel in which it can breath, and slowly mature, but not take on flavors or tannins from the wood.
Stefano talks a lot about color, and bemoans the fact that many critics and consumers mistake deep, dark opacity for high quality - Stefano’s wines instead have a beautiful transparent quality; like great Brunello or Barolo you can see through them and far from being a flaw, this is a sign of excellence.
Although Stefano does not court the press, and rarely travels outside of the Veneto, his wines have begun to be discovered…Antonio Galloni in reviewing the great 2010 Amarone, began his piece (Vinous Media, Veneto: Stunning Landscapes, Stunning Wines - Mar 2014): “The hottest winery in Veneto? Well, there are several. But one of them is without question Marion… The wines reflect the artisan side of Valpolicella and are loaded with personality. These remain some of the finest handcrafted wines readers will find in all of Italy.” He goes on to compare Marion very favorably with fellow top producers of Amarone, Roccolo Grassi, Romano Dal Forno, and Giuseppe Quintarelli (see the video at http://vinous.com/multimedia/spotlight-on-amarone-oct-2013
~ Joe Kotnik