ALL RED WINE CLUB

JANUARY 2021

WINE #1: GIORNATA BARBERA

Paso Robles, California 2019

BARBERA [bar-BEH-rah]

Barbera has been a mainstay of the Piedmontese diet for… well, ever, but it went through a major identity evolution in the late 1970s. The grape variety has got acid and color to make any other grape varieties blush with envy, but it is most often very low in tannin, hence the aforementioned tradition of simple, juicy, and sometimes shrill Barberas. For balance, many producers both in Italy and domestically have played with deepening the structure of their Barberas with extended maceration, longer cellar aging and even blending in other varieties. Instead of the ubiquitous light and quaffable everyday glou-glou it had happily been, it was created for the first time to be a more refined and serious wine: more tannic and structured, aged in new barrels and built to last. But buyers be warned when putting Barbera in oak! It has a notorious tendency to suck up every ounce of wood flavor it can and in the blink of an eye can find itself irreparably changed. 

Giornata Barbera is exactly what 99% of the winemakers in the greater Barolo areas are sipping on right now with their lunch. Nebbiolo tannins are to be enjoyed later. 

Giornata means “a day’s work” in Italian and these wines are the delicious fruit to enjoy after any day’s labor; meant to pair on any dinner table. Giornata wines are farmed and fermented by husband and wife Brian and Stephanie Terrizzi in the rolling oak hills of Paso Robles. Brian first fell for Italian wine while working for Rosenblum Cellars making Zinfandel/Primitivo, then traveling to work in Tuscany with Paolo DeMarchi at Isole e Olena. He visited cellars throughout Southern Italy and connected with distant relatives in a small village in Sicily, kindling his dream to make Italian grapes into California wines. Brian married Stephanie, a vineyard guru, and together they planted Giornata’s estate to Nebbiolo, Sangiovese, Ribolla Gialla, Friulano, and Trebbiano. They make the case that the Central Coast mimics many of the best terroirs in Italy, and they practice winemaking that leans towards balance and subtlety over intensity and extraction. The Barbera comes from the 2 acre Panache Vineyard on clay loam growing at 1150 feet above sea level outside of Creston, with some of the hottest temperatures in the region. After fermentation in large-format oak casks and stainless  steel, the wine ages for a few brief months before a spring bottling to capture Barbera’s juicy, fresh fruit character.

Glowing like a black light, this is ink with a bright fuchsia rim. Red licorice, blackberry, brambly fruit and a subtle ferrous iron note. The palate is punchy (in both senses of the word) with vibrant boysenberry and anise, and Thai basil followed with earthy mushroom notes and waves of brisk, white-wine like acidity. A ‘table’ Barbera through and through, and that is in every way a compliment. Goes away as quickly as an afternoon eating your weight in salumi and cheese at a street side trattoria in Asti.

WINE #2: LA LEPIANE BARBERA

Walker Vineyard, Los Olivos, California 2018

BARBERA [bar-BEH-rah]

Barbera has been a mainstay of the Piedmontese diet for… well, ever, but it went through a major identity evolution in the late 1970s. The grape variety has got acid and color to make any other grape varieties blush with envy, but it is most often very low in tannin, hence the aforementioned tradition of simple, juicy, and sometimes shrill Barberas. For balance, many producers both in Italy and domestically have played with deepening the structure of their Barberas with extended maceration, longer cellar aging and even blending in other varieties. Instead of the ubiquitous light and quaffable everyday glou-glou it had happily been, it was created for the first time to be a more refined and serious wine: more tannic and structured, aged in new barrels and built to last. But buyers be warned when putting Barbera in oak! It has a notorious tendency to suck up every ounce of wood flavor it can and in the blink of an eye can find itself irreparably changed. 

 

Lepiane’s solution to create complexity is to sprinkle in about one-third whole cluster in the fermentation and to age the wine for nearly 2 years in barrels.

Alison Thomson’s story emerges from her deep family roots in Italy. The wines are named for her great-grandfather, Luigi A. Lepiane, who came to America from Calabria to make a better life for his family in the backwaters of Hollister, California, where he started his own winery, L.A. Lepiane. Three generations later that Calabrian dream persists in Alison, who pursued biology and Italian at U.C. Santa Barbara. She spent a semester studying in Siena where her passion for Italian food and wines became a full blown obsession. She earned a Master’s in Viticulture at U.C. Davis, and worked a vintage in Barolo before landing back home in Santa Barbara to make her own Cal-Ital version of LA Lepiane.  She believes these hills have a unique ability to grow Barbera and Nebbiolo. The Walker vineyard in the inland Los Olivos District of the Santa Ynez valley is grown on well-drained sandy loam, which contributes to the mineral edge and brilliant acidity of this Barbera. The wine was fermented 30% whole cluster to build in a bit more structure, then aged- patiently- for 20 months sur lees.

This wine shows what that extra time in the cellar can do for our hero Barbera. That little bit of age translates to so much savory spice box: white pepper, fresh thyme, fried sage, dusty cinnamon, and aged leather. The whole cluster is subtle but certainly gives a base coat of dried earth tannins and bitter chocolate, but the bright fruit flavors are characteristically Barbera through and through: dazzling fresh-from-the-field strawberries, inky boysenberries, and a touch of rhubarb and cola. 

WINE #3: COLOMBERA & GARELLA COSTE DELLA SESIA

70% Nebbiolo + 15% Croatina + 15% Vespolina
Coste della Sesia (Bramaterra), Piedmont, Italy 2017

NEBBIOLO + CROATINA + VESPOLINA

[neh-bee-OH-low] + [kroh-ah-TEE-nah] + [VEHS-PO-lina]

Here in Bramaterra they refer to Nebbiolo as being ‘etched by an extinct volcanic terroir of yellow porphyritic sand.’ This is not the fresh volcanic material that Southern Italy is renowned for, but the remaining material left behind by a volcano 300 million years ago. Bramaterra Nebbiolo has probably the strongest reputation in the Alto Piemonte for powerful wines that can age as well as Barolo. In fact, if you ask the locals here their resounding sentiment would be ‘far better and longer than Barolo.’ To which you respond by holding out a glass and demanding evidence. 

Colombera & Garella is a project with Cristiano Garella, Alto Piemontese wünderkind and leading consultant for a number of properties, alongside his long-time friends Giacomo and Carlo Colombera, who have been growing grapes in Bramaterra since the early 1990s. They adhere to natural farming, with only copper, sulfur, and natural fertilizer being added to the vines. Cristiano has garnered a heavy hitter reputation for his hand in creating beautiful wines, but it is important to note that at no time is he trying to make something that is massively sensational and unapproachable. Despite their natural age worthiness, he never wants to make a wine that is best untouched for 10 years like in Barolo, as he feels it’s not the correct expression for his region.

Undeniably recognizable Nebbiolo aromas in there with complimentary grapes playing a big role here too. Some assertive black pepper, and a light roasted coffee note that is so often associated with alpine reds from this area and other northern Italian growing regions. Black tea steeped with some slightly bitter alpine herb nuance. Black raspberries, bright cherry flavors and a sweet leathery earth. This wine presents itself with stiff and brawny shoulders at first, but relaxes after a moment or two, kicks up its feet, and starts telling a riveting tale.

‘Costa della Sesia’, similar to Colline Novaresi on the other side of the river, is the equivalent of a ‘Langhe’ Nebbiolo from the south. Though in these small appellations it is more often made from fruit from the same vineyards and simply declassified and treated with less age. 

WINE #4: ROVELLOTTI 'VALPLAZZA'

Nebbiolo
Colline Novaresi (Ghemme), Piedmont, Italy 2018

NEBBIOLO [neh-bee-OH-low]

Nebbiolo along the Sesia River in Ghemme has a history which pre-dates the ancient Romans. Ghemme is microscopically small, totaling about 125 acres and is generally a lower elevation than the other regions of the Alto-Piemonte. The Ghemme Spanna shines in the glacial and alluvial soils here which are poor in nutrients but rich in layers upon layers of minerals deposited by river and glacial movement over centuries. Nebbiolo responds with greatness to the stressful, cooler, nutrient poor conditions and creates remarkable wines that are often the first on many connoisseurs minds in this category.

Ghemme is definitely Rovellotti territory. Of the less than 200 people in the world who carry the family name Rovellotti, 66 live in and around Ghemme and the rest can be found in other parts of Italy (and a few in France and in Argentina.) The winery lies within the walls of the Ricetto castle in central Ghemme, a brick structure with some walls still dated back to the 10th century that has essentially become the central cantina for the area’s legendary wines. 

Since the 1980s, their family vineyards have been maintained according to a special regimen in coordination with the local University of Milan, with the unique and lofty purpose of achieving zero use of chemicals in order re-establish the natural balance of environmental and ecological elements.

Oh so so much love for that Nebbiolo tar. Just the right hint of it, alongside some wet clay, ample black cherries, anise seed, and a very subtle meatiness. This is a pretty wine that dances broadly across the palate and avoids being heavy in any category. Balanced, drinkable pleasure designed for a long lunch outside as the sun begins to dip behind the mountains. Tertiary notes of earthen forest floor and clean mushroom makes this a perfect candidate for pairing with the fresh pastas you’d find in the region – be it some agnolotti del plin, or even better, some cocoa tajarin.

The first Rovellotti wine to become a hands down favorite for Bergamot was their 100% Vespolina. It’s a wine that is Exhibit A in the argument for demanding more varietal wines from the grape. Stay tuned…