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by Tom Hill

A self-admitted wine geek, Tom lives in Northern New Mexico and works as a computational physicist at Los Alamos National Laboratory doing numerical neutron transport & large scale code development. He has been tasting wines since 1971, participates locally with a couple of large tasting groups in his area, and is practically a fixture at most California wine festivals, such as the Hospice du Rhône, Rhône Rangers, and ZAP. Other interests: Tom is heavily into competitive sport fencing (foil & epee), biking, cooking, basketball, skiing, backpacking, mountain climbing.

ArbeGarbe Wines - August 3, 2011

We tasted last night (8/3/11) Mostly ArbeGarbe wines:

  1. ArbeGarbe WW RRV (Saralee'sVnyd; 14.5%; 40% PinotBianco/35% MalvasiaBianca/25% Viognier)
    : Light gold color; strong mineral/stony quite fragrant/perfumed/floral/mostly Malvasia rather spicy lovely nose w/ some complexity; tart/bright/vibrant some mineral/stony floral/Malvasia/perfumed lovely flavor; very long bright/zippy some chalky/mineral quite perfumed/Malvasia/floral/muscatty tart/ripe finish; Malvasia seems the most predominate w/ a nice underlying minerality.
  2. ArbeGarbe WW RRV (Saralee'sVnyd; 14.5%; 40% PinotGrigio/40% Malvasia/20% Viognier) 2008: Light gold color; some mineral/stony/chalky rather fragrant/floral/pineapple slight Malvasia lovely nose; bit softer/lusher strong
    floral/pineapple/ripe slight chalky/mineral fairly rich flavor; long lush/ripe pineapple/floral slight chalky/mineral
    finish; Malvasia not so evident; seems more in a ripe Calif style.
  3. ArbeGarbe WW RRV (14.5%; 87% Pinot Grigio, 8% Tocai Friulano, 7% Ribolla Gialla) 2009: Light gold color; light stony/mineral strong floral/appley/spicy slight earthy/dusty bit one-dimensional nose; fairly tart light mineral/earthy/stony light floral/appley/spicy slight spicy/cinammon pleasant/mostly PG flavor; med.long appley/spicy/floral/fruity tart light stony/mineral finish; speaks mostly of PG and quite good for a PG, not a simple as most. $29.00 (GGWC)
  4. Ronchi di Cialla DOC: ColliOrientali del Friuli SottozonaCialla CiallaBianco (RibollaGialla/
    VerduzzoFriulano/Picolit; 13%; 9452 btls) Prepotto 2007
    : Med.gold color; strong apple cider/earthy bit oxidized ripe/rotted apples/leesy complex nose; slightly bitter/tannic ripe/apples/apple cider slight leesy/oxidized flavor;
    long somewhat bitter/tannic leesy/apple cider/ripe/rotted apples slight nutty/old RhoneBlanc finish; interesting if
    rather weird wine; clearly an orange wine but more like an orange-lite w/o that much oxidative/aldhydic character.
    $22.00 (K&L)
  5. DivineProvidence WW RRV (14.5%; old vine Traminer Aromatico) ArbeGarbe 2007: Light gold color; lovely perfumed/fragrant floral/Traminer/low-key spicy/cinammon some earthy/mineral/smokey beautiful fragrant nose; tart lovely floral/Traminer/low-key spicy some mineral/earthy/chalky flavor; very long/lingering floral/Traminer somewhat
    mineral/earthy/chalky/steely complex finish; a beautiful low-key spicy/GWT w/ a nice minerality; much like many
    AltoAdige GWT w/ a lower key spiciness; a stunning Calif GWT made in the style of StonyHill but more minerality.
  6. Girolamo Dorigo Traminer DOC: ColliOrientali del Friuli (13.5%; www.Montsclapade.com) 2008: Med.gold color; quite skunky/Kansas road kill/pungent/earthy some H2S/reduced slight floral/Traminer weird nose; soft rich/lush some pineapple/floral/GWT slight earthy/pungent flavor; med.long soft/lush rather ripe/pineapple/floral/GWT somewhat earthy/pungent finish; offputting skunky/road-kill nose that diminishes with time somewhat; weird nose but flavors are good; seems pretty ripe & needs age; not much bright Friuli character. $29.00 (WE)
  7. ArbeGarbe WW RRV (14.3%; 50% PinotGrigio/40%Malvasia/10% RibollaGialla) 2010: Med.light gold color; rather mineral/earthy/stony some appley/PG/spicy/cinammon quite perfumed/fragrant/floral nose; tart bit lean/austere bright/floral/appley/apple blossom rather spicy/nutmeg lovely flavor; long floral/apple/apple blossom light mineral/chalky quite perfumed finish; seems mostly to speak of PG, with the Malvasia lending a lovely fragrant lift. Not yet released.
  8. ArbeGarbe Ribuele NapaVlly RibollaGialla (14.5%; www.ArbeGarbeWines.com) 2009: Med.light gold color; some floral/carnations/pungent bit lanolin/hand lotion/perfumey slight earthy/smokey/pungent complex nose; tart very rich/lush some pungent/earthy low-key/floral/carnations/lanolin slight mineral/chalky flavor; very long tart fairly rich/lush some perfumed/floral/carnations/lanolin slight stony/mineral finish; sort of a quiet expression of Ribolla and not quite the flamboyance of the Vare. Lovely wine. $29.00 (GGWC)
  9. Chiara Bianco RibollaGialla NapaVlly (14.1%; cuttings from JoskoGravner) ChiarelloFamilyVnyds/
    Angwin 2010
    : Med.gold bit cloudy/hazy color; more fragrant/floral/carnations/honeyed light yeasty/leesy light
    pungent/spicy very pretty/attractive nose; tart quite rich/lush floral/carnations/honeyed some yeasty/leesy lovely
    flavor; very long tart/rich/lush floral/carnations/honeyed/honeysuckle some yeasty/leesy finish; seems to have had
    some extended lees contact; quite a lovely Ribolla.
  10. Vare RibollaGialla NapaVlly WW (14.5%) George&Elsa Vare/Napa 2010: Med.light yellow brilliant color; more earthy/mineral very fragrant/perfumed/spicy/floral/carnations beautifully aromatic nose; tart very rich/lush quite spicy/floral/carnations/honeysuckle some mineral/earthy complex flavor; very long/lingering spicy/floral/carnations/
    honeysuckle some mineral/earthy/chalky finish; a wonderfully aromatic/perfumed Ribolla.
  11. ArbeGarbe MalvasieBianca 2010: Light gold color; lovely fragrant/perfumed/Malvasia very aromatic/Muscat-like rather mineral/earthy nose; quite tart bone-dry very perfumed/Malvasia/spicy bit floral/Muscat-like some mineral/chalkybeautiful flavor; very long/lingering perfumed/Malvasia/floral light mineral/chalky quite tart very dry finish; maybe the best Malvasia I've had. Terrific wine.
  12. Radikon RibollaGialla IGT VeneziaGiulia (non filtrato; non contiene solfiti; 12.5%) Oslavia 2004:  Very dark gold/orange/burnished bronze clear color; very strong very honeyed/mead/orangey slight smokey beautiful/complex nose; rather tannic/hard intense honeyed/mead/orangey slight oxidative very complex flavor; very long/lingering rather hard/tannic slight oxidative intense honeyed/mead/orangey very rich/tart quite complex finish; difficult to describe but a bit like an old German riesling, a lot like a mead wine, a bit like a ratafia w/o the alcohol. Strange but
    delicious wine.  $55.00/500ml (MX)
And the usual BloodyPulpit:

1. Radikon: This was my first time to try a Radikon. I can now see what all the buzz is about. I liked the wine quite a lot. But it is a very weird/eccentric/outside-the-box kind of wine. My tasters were not nearly as complimentary of it as I was.

I've always considered Gravner/Radikon as part & parcel of the same winemaking. They are not. Gravner ferments in bees-wax-lined clay amphorae for 6-8 months, then into large Slovenian oak ovals. Radikon ferments in upright oak ovals for 3-4 months with skin contact, then ages in large oak vats. They both are what you'd call natural and radical winemakers; embracing winemaking practices used long ago. Because of the extended skin contact, they both feel the wine has sufficient skin contact and tannins that allows them to use sulfer-free winemaking. Radikon
bottled in a 50cl (and 1 litre) bottle w/ a very narrow neck and a skinny cork (presumably made just for him). This Radikon was clear and hadn't the cloudy color that typifies the Gravners. The Gravners I've had have shown much more of an oxidative character than this Radikon. So maybe you can just characterize a Radikon as a Gravner-lite??
2. DevineProvidence: In '07, Enrico found a small/old vine Traminer vnyd that was going to be ripped out and managed to get the last crop off it. Not sure if it was SaraLee on not. As best I can tell, there's very little Traminer planted in Calif; mostly it's Gewurztraminer.

I had this wine at dinner w/ Enrico & Letizia and was mightly impressed by it then. Even more impressed this time around. As I drank it, it reminded me of some of the StonyHill Rieslings I've had; low-key aromatics but a real structure and minerality to it. It had the same minerality I find in the AltaAdige GWT's, but not the intense aromatics those sometimes can have. I particularly liked this wine because it's aromatics were somewhat lower key than Calif GWT's, yet distinctly Traminer in character.

Traminer (from the AltoAdige town of Tramin) is a whole/ancient family of vines. Some are pale/yellow in color; some are pink/light red in color. Some are musque (highly aromatic); some less so. This family is genetically weak and mutates readily. It has know known parents and was apparently indigenous to Tramin/AltoAdige. Interestingly, Pinot Noir has Traminer as one of its parents. The very much more common GWT is of the red-skin and musque branch of the Traminer family tree. It is also grown in France/Jura region; both the white & red versions; where it is known as SavigninBlanc and SavigninRose, but of non-musque types (non-GWT, that is). I've have never seen one of these Jura wines. In the AltoAdige, both Tramin and GWT are grown; but I sense the GWT clone is the more flavored.

I was unaware that there was any Traminer planted in Friuli, but I found this Dorigo at Roberto's WineExpo. Intrestingly, Dorigo was one of the wineries in Friuli Enrico worked at before he moved to Calif. The wine had a very distinctly skunk/mercaptan/reduced character; which, in the long run, is not going to be a problem. The wine was on the ripe side and lacked the minerality I find in most Friulian whites.

Not sure what form of the Traminer Enrico latched onto; but he did an amazing job w/ this wine. So sad that the vines were ripped.
3. ArbeGarbe: Which means "wild weed" in the Friulian dialect. When I visited w/ Dan Petroski at Massican in March; he mentioned a few others who were interested in Friulian varieties; one of which were Enrico Bertoz & Letizia Pauletto/ArbeGarbe Wines. I took a look at their WebSite (www.ArbeGarbeWines.com), was interested, and tracked down their two '09's at Golden Gate Wine Cellars. When I contacted them by e-mail w/ some questions, they offered to send me their '07 & '08 versions of their blended white. When we had dinner there in July after the FriuliFest, Enrico gave me a few other of his wines to try.

Across the board, I'm very impressed by the wines Enrico & Letizia are making. Both of them are from Friuli and know those wines well. These ArbeGarbe wines have wonderful fragrance to them, yet are able to capture some of the minerality that attracts me so to Friulian wines. Definitely a wnry to watch in the future.
4. Chiarello: Never had any of Michael's wines before. This Ribolla is sold only in his restaurant Bottega, in Yountville. Michael reported.
5. Ribolla: I try pretty much every Ribolla (or Friulian wine) that comes down the pike. Of the 50-60 so that I've had, mostly Friuli, I can't say that I have a real handle on its varietal character. It seems to have more interesting, more fragrant character, than Friuliano. I guess I'd say that Ribolla is to Friuliano as Roussanne is to Marsanne. The Calif versions don't seem to have as much of the sharp-edged acidity that I find in the Friulian ones. But they seem to have a similar minerality. And they remind me a bit of some of the Calif Vermentinos I've had, but a bit more floral fragrance perhaps. And, of course, when you make Ribolla w/extended skin contact and as an orange wine, all bets are off as to what the varietal character of Ribolla is. It certainly is a variety that should see more interest in Calif I think.
6. Vare: GeorgeVare, one of the founding partners in LunaVnyds, is the real sparkplug and inspiration for Ribolla in Calif. He visited Friuli, fell in love w/ the grape there, and planted some in his vnyd just North of Napa. It is made by Robbie Meyer, who also makes wine for Mark Grassi. George's first Ribolla was his '04. A few yrs later, in order to promote the variety in Calif, he began sharing his small crop w/ other winemakers to see what the variety could produce w/ other winemaking techniques. From this start, there has grown a small, but passionate, group of people who are interested in Friulian varieties and style of wines. May their numbers grow.

I would have to say that this Vare '10 is probably the textbook Ribolla in Calif. Wonderful stuff. He btls it in 500 ml btls and, I understand, magnums.
7. Malvasia: Another variety I'd like to see more of in Calif. It has a very fragrant/perfumed character that is vaguely muscat in character. Ther is a whole family of Malvasias in the world; though I could find no reference to indicate it has a Muscat in its parentage. The variety apparently originated, was indigenous to, Greece and spread around the world. There is also Malvasia Istriana, that came directly from Greece, and is apparently different from the more common Malvasia Bianca. And there is a Malvasia Nera as well, but I've never seen one.

This ArbeGarbe '10 (not yet released) is probably the best one I can recall having, certainly from Calif. Sometimes they can lack acidity and be a bit on the thin/watery side. This one had it all...beautiful fragrance and a nice touch of minerality.


[Additional Wine Reviews from Tom Hill]


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