1. Zelen: A rare autochthonous grape grown in the VipavaVlly of Slovenia. It had almost vanished from the area because of its very low yield; but is enjoying a comeback. It is "remotely related" to the Italian Verduzzo, which makes rather quotidian wines in Friuli. The name is Slovene for "green", which describes the color of the pulp and the color of the wine it can sometimes take. I was pretty impressed w/ this wine...very exotic in character.
2. Ramping up to FriuliFest#2, I thought it was time to start tasting some of my Friuli/Calif wines. This tasting focused on those primarily made from TocaiFriulano. For many yrs, they grew SauvignonVert in Calif; a variety that was known to make rather dull/uninteresting wines. There are a number of old SauvVert vnyds around, some dating back to the late 1800's. Many of these old vnyds have SauvVert interplanted w/ other stuff, mainly Palomino.
A number of yrs ago, DNA typing indicated that SauvVert was, in fact, the same as the Friuli/Slovene grape known as TokaiFriulano. Consequently, there has been much interest in some of these old plantings, particularly by folks who have an interest in Friulian-style wines. In Friuli, because of objections from the Hungarians, they have been required to change the name from TokaiFriulano to just Friulano. Slovenia can , of course, continue to use their name; TokajFriulano. And in the US, we can do what we damn well please...so it will continue to be TocaiFriulano. Screw them friggin' Hungarians.
The next tasting will focus on those made from RibillaGialla, SauvBlanc, Chard and also one on "orange" wines.
3. Matthiasson: A new wnry on the NW outskirrts of Napa. Owned by Steve & Jill Matthiasson. Wine is made at the Selenius facility slightly North of their home vnyd. I first tried their wines last July at FF#1 and was quite impressed. Their home vnyd should start producing Ribolla in a yr or two. For now, their Ribolla comes from GeorgeVare's nearby vnyd. They make some Cabernet, but their main interest is in Friulian varietals. Their Refosco is probably the best I've yet had from anywhere. They have a CabFranc that's a dead-ringer for good Bourgeil. A winery to keep your eyes upon.
4. Massican: A wnry label owned by DanPetroski, the winemaker at Larkmead, where he makes his Massican wines. Again, the focus is Friuli-style wines. Named after a mountain range in Campania. I first had the wines last July and was mightly impressed. Another wnry to watch.
5. All in all, I was a bit disappointed in this tasting. I was expecting a lot/lot more from the Friulian wines. They were pleasant enough...but just that. The last two Slovene wines blew away the bunch from Friuli. Of the non-Slovene wines, the Massican and Matthiasson wines were a hands-down favorite, particularly the two older ones of that foresome. These are wines that are made in a lower-alcohol style that is attracting (some/limited) interest in Calif. Some complained about the acidity levels in them, describing them as screechy or searing. I'm an acid slut, and I prefer this style of wine...especially with food. I feel that wines like these with a high acidity are the one
that develop the most/best w/ age in the btl. Much like the Alsatian Rieslings of yore...back in the '70's. This, however, is a rule of thumb that receives a great deal of derision in certain quarters. The key to making wines of this style is to achieve a wine w/ flavor and not having it come across as thin & eviscerated. I thought both the Matthiassons and the Massicans were packed w/ flavor and will have a long & glorious future ahead of them... based on my above rule of thumb. Others are not so confident.
Last yr at FF#1, we talked a bit about pricing of these wines. NapaVlly is a pretty high-rent district...it's hard to grow grapes here and sell it for a price competitive w/ those from Friuli. The only way to do that is to make sure the wine has the quality behind it. It's easy to issue a pronouncement "Why should I spend $30+ foor a NapaVlly Tocai when I can get one from Friuli at $10...or $15...or whatever". Of this set of NapaVlly Tocai, I did not think any of them overpriced compared to their Friulian brethren.