ALL WHITE WINE CLUB

JANUARY 2021

WINE #1: IL MONTICELLO ‘GROPPOLO’

Vermentino
Colli di Luni, Liguria, Italy 2019

VERMENTINO [ver-mehn-TEE-noh]

It is called Pigato in Liguria, Favorita in Piedmont, Rolle in France, and in Sardinia, the earliest name “fermentino” probably referred to the fresh wine’s spritziness. Robust, fragrant, floral, minerally, and terroir expressive, this grape claims its native terroir in the very heart of the Mediterranean Sea. It is most widely known from the Island of Sardegna but thrives along the coast of Italy, in Liguria and Tuscany, and in pockets along the south of France as well. It is a prolific grape variety with capability to produce a versatile range of wines with beautiful aromatics and, most importantly, ample natural acidity.

Liguria is really pretty special… which seems a redundant statement when referring to the embarrassment of riches Italy boasts in the category of “special.” The boomerang shaped Mediterranean boundary with waterfront property ranging from historic and rustic fishing villages to the ritz and romance of the Riviera. From the beach to vineyards is an intensely steep climb in most parts of Liguria, earning the region one of the very few in Italy with truly ‘heroic viticulture’ outside of the Alps (sometimes referred to as the Maritime Alps). 

This wine is all minerality scented with a lovely sweet fennel flower interwoven into that coastal breeze that just warms my soul (can you picture yourself sipping in the Ligurian sunshine yet?) Soft grapefruit, kaffir lime and star fruit are beautifully ripe throughout on the long palate, and the finish has that touch of saltiness like licking the inside of an oyster shell. 

WINE #2: VIGNETI MASSA ‘DERTHONA’

Timorasso
Colli Tortonesi, Piedmont, Italy 2017

TIMORASSO [team-oh-RAHS-oh]

In Piedmont you can find Vermentino disguised under the name ‘Favorita,’ but it is the Timorasso grape that has become the true new darling white wine from this region. This is such a distinct grape – one which presents a range of flavors and textures that can be equally compelling as they are confusing. Back in the day, (think Leonardo da Vinci – a big Timorasso fan) Timorasso had been planted and favored as widely as Cortese throughout Piedmont, so it is incredible to learn that this grape was very close to extinction. But one man’s undying passion to save it from the brink brought this grape back into focus. Walter Massa is the man behind the Timorasso revival- re-planting, protecting and producing incredible wines, and the only producer to be found here in the US market for years. Now there are (only) two dozen producers working with it in the area around Turin with some fabulous results

Walter Massa, or “Maestro of Timorasso” is the real deal: a contadino (farmer) with deep family roots in his native Colli Tortonesi, situated just south of Turin on the banks of the Po River. Massa has truly championed this small region into prominence – no small feat in Piedmont. He spends most of his time in his winery in Monleale, a village that sits precariously near the Po and Sesia Rivers junction. He spends tireless hours showing around, pouring wines for, and talking with the continual waves of journalists, sommeliers, importers, buyers, and just plain fans who make their way just to meet him. Besides being one of Italy’s truly great cult producers (for lack of a better word) he’s a stellar example of what the Italians call a “personaggio.” When you get lost going there, as it’s easy to do driving 128kph in a Fiat, start asking people in a 100 kilometer radius; they all know and love him, from the gas station guy to the producer next door.

Apricots, nectarines and even tart guava thrown in a bowl with some fresh picked sweet herbs. There are so few grapes to which we can attribute a distinct ‘petrol’ quality, and here is one of the rare moments where one might mistake this wine for a German Riesling? That smokey scent keeps rearing its head but it is a different smokey than what we commonly think of in Italy from volcanic soils. In this case, (and I feel is an odd little marker of Timorasso) it really reminds me of toasted marshmallows. Sorry. You just can’t un-smell that one now, can you? Thankfully, nothing is sticky on the palate-just heady minerality that’s somehow both honeyed viscous and razor sharp. Geeky good.

WINE #3: TWO SHEPHERDS VERMENTINO

Windmill Vineyards
Yolo County, California 2018

VERMENTINO [ver-mehn-TEE-noh]

Vermentino claims its native terroir in the very heart of the Mediterranean Sea. It is most widely known from the Island of Sardegna but thrives extremely well along the coast of Italy, in Liguria Northern Tuscany, and in pockets along the south of France as well (where it’s called ‘Rolle’). It is a prolific grape variety that has proven to feel right at home here in the California sun and demand for more vines is on the rise! Vermentino can make a versatile range of wines with beautiful aromatics and, most importantly, ample natural acidity. Vermentino is certainly a grape to be on the lookout for more of here in the states and could even be the first Italian native white variety to truly take off here (Pinot Grigio doesn’t count.) It’s also likely your new favorite thing, that is, if you’ve not fallen in love with it already. 

Lime leaf and saline make for a mouth watering experience. Ripe green melons, fleshy at their heart but lovely bitter balance from closer to the rind. The lush fruit is rounded off with garrigue herbs (think cold wind, sea spray, and lots of hearty bushes of juniper, thyme, lavender. It’s not completely edgy that though, there’s a soft and slightly exotic side too with some lingering white floral richness.

WINE #4: UNTI VINEYARDS VERMENTINO

Dry Creek Valley, California 2018

VERMENTINO [ver-mehn-TEE-noh]

 

Vermentino claims it’s native terroir in the very heart of the Mediterranean Sea. It is most widely known from the Island of Sardegna but thrives extremely well along the coast of Italy, in Liguria Northern Tuscany, and in pockets along the south of France as well (where it’s called ‘Rolle’). It is a prolific grape variety that has proven to feel right at home here in the California sun and demand for more vines is on the rise! Vermentino can make a versatile range of wines with beautiful aromatics and, most importantly, ample natural acidity. Vermentino is certainly a grape to be on the lookout for more of here in the states and could even be the first Italian native white variety to truly take off here (Pinot Grigio doesn’t count.) It’s also likely your new favorite thing, that is, if you’ve not fallen in love with it already. 

Lean and mineral driven with white grapefruit, sweet basil and mint. Reminiscent of really good Sancerre, ripping acidity balanced with impressive layered complexity. High praise and an achievement Mick Unti is not only rightfully proud of but also was something of an evolution with their Vermentino. They made the decision to pick slightly earlier but more credit can be pointed to the maturity of the vines and their dedication to healthy Biodynamic farming.