by Tom Hill
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.
3rd NEB (Nebbiolo Producers) -
June 21, 2012
NEB #3 Event (6/21/12):
Since 2009, there have been several get-togethers of Calif winemakers who are interested, nay, passionate, about making Nebbiolo wine in Calif. These first two meetings, labeled NAP (Nebbiolo Advocates and Producers..a blatant ripoff of ZAP), have been documented in the following two reports:
NAP#1 Event Report: http://www.grape-nutz.com/tomhill/09_8NAP.html
NAP#2 Event Report: http://www.grape-nutz.com/tomhill/11_8NAP.html
This group is a pretty rag-tag/seat of the pants group of winemakers who have no real organization. KenMusso, Nebbiolo grower in ElDorado and winemaker for DueVigne, has been sort of the titular head. For this yr's event, DawnMartella, winemaker at KarmereWnry up in Amador's ShenandoahVlly, agreed to host the get-together. In organizing this yr's NEB#3, one of the intents was to bring greater attention to the event by including more of the Calif Nebb producers and inviting some media reps to this opportunity to taste probably the largest collection of Calif Nebbs ever under one roof. A modest fee of $25 was paid by the participants to help defray costs. For Nebb producers who were unable to attend in person, they were invited to send their Nebbs up to Dawn to include in the tasting. About 6 producers took advantage of this opportunity.
The event was held June 21 from 1:00pm-5:00pm on the outside patio behind the Karmere tasting room; a beautiful venue with an expansive view towards the South across the ShenandoahVlly. A large tent was erected to protect from the heat and sun. Weather conditions were near perfect; modest temperatures (in the 80's) and a gentle breeze.
After KenMusso's welcome and brief introductions of the attendees, Darrell Corti gave his presentation; followed by a short comparison of Piedmont/ElDorado Nebbiolo growing conditions. The wines were then opened and attendees were given free rein to help themselves to the Nebbs. At the completion of the tasting part, Dawn/Karmere Winery (with some help from her husband, Dick) provided a simple buffet of herbed potato salad, grilled local sausages (Swingle Meats/Jackson), a mushroom and goat cheese tart and artisanal breads and olive oil for those present; with the opportunity to revisit some of the wines.
Ken Musso/Due Vigne/Eldorado
Francis Mahoney/Mahoney Family Vnyds/Carneros
Mike Dunne/Sac Bee/A Year In Wine blog
Ken Zinns/Harrington Wines/SanFrancisco
Jarue Manning/UC Davis microbiology professor
Emilio Castelli/GreenVlly grower & winemaker/Castelli Vnyds
Paul Bush/Summu Kau Vnyd/MadronaWines/Eldorado
Pooch Pucilowski/University of Wine/head of Calif State Fair wine judging/Lodi
Ted Rieger/wine journalist/Vnyd & Wnry Management
Gary Grant/Frog's Tooth Wnry/Calaveras
Chris Leamey/Terra d'Oro/Amador
Ben Falk/grower/Safari Estate/Amador
Mike Long/Amador Cllrs
Shane Vetter/FresnoState student
Louis Baldwin/FresnoState student
Sandro Tamburin/UCDavis student/Trieste
Gerald Stidham/marketing director/ElDorado Grape Growers Assoc
As sort of a keynote/kickoff speaker, DarrellCorti was asked to address the group on the history of Nebbiolo, both in Italy and in Calif. This is an attempt to capture some points of Darrell's talk:
DarrellCorti Comments (with some of my additions):
Montevina planted 80 vines of the NebbioloRose (Fino) clone (only one available from FPS back then) in 1971. The CortiReserve Nebbiolo '80 LastHarvest, from the remaining 40 vines, was the last Nebb from Montevina afore those vines were ripped out. (Interestingly, Montevina/Terra d'Oro is returning to Nebb and ChrisLeamey showed a barrel sample).
A CharlesKrug Nebbiolo took first in the State Agricultural Fair (predecessor to the Calif State Fair) in the late 1800's. There are indications that Haraszthy brought the first Nebb to Calif in the 1860's. (One writer asserts that Nebbiolo was first brought to Calif by John T. Doyle/Cupertino in 1882). In 1885, when UCDavis was still working out of Berkeley, Hildegard panned Nebbiolo for it potential in California because high acid/high tannin/low color would not make for a quality wine.
Darrell recounted some of the history of Nebbiolo in Italy. It goes back to the 12'th century, with Freisa (a variety for which some of us think should be getting a lot more attention in Calif) being one of Nebbiolo's parents. He recounted some of the kings in Italy and how those machinations helped Nebb make its way to the OltropoPaavese and also to Sardinia (the one Nebb from Sardegna we tried didn't speak very strongly of Nebb...at least as I know it). Darrell described how difficult Nebb is to grow in Barolo/Barbaresco and how it must often be harvested in the fog because it is so late ripening. They cannot make B/B every year in Piedmont and in 1972, all the B/B was declassified. Early B/B were much different back then thay are now. They were usually red/dark and sweet. Oftentimes, they had to make it as a Spumante.
He suggests that if they have to struggle with Nebbiolo in the Piedmont, small wonder that they also find it difficult in Calif. He asserts that we will never make B/B in Calif and that they should abandon that as a holy grail...let them make B/B in Piedmonte. Because of Nebbiolo's strange phenolics, it suggests that they should make Nebb in Calif more like PinotNoir. (Alas, many consumers of Calif wine have been taught by the wine critics to equate deep color with high quality...a problem for Nebb in Calif, perhaps). So his message was that producers of Nebb should make a new product, not try to replicate B/B. And there is no reason that it cannot be a very good/great new product (to which I would strongly agree. Calif achieved success...and great success I think...with PinotNoir when they quit trying to make RedBurgundy).
Darrell then made reference to a consultant in Piedmonte, Donato Lanati, as the author of the definitive book on growing Nebbiolo and making the wine in B/B. References are provided below.
And then things got really interesting as he segued into discussing the polyphenolics of Nebbiolo. Nebbiolo has particularly high levels of the anthocyanins malvidin and peounidine. It is a relatively easy test to run the anthocyanin profile of a Nebbiolo wine and identify whether it's had other grapes blended in. This weird anthocyanin profile for Nebbiolo is the prime reason the grape gives lightly colored/orangey wines. Many of the anthocyanins can be lost to oxidation during the winemaking process, especially by pumpovers. For that reason (easily detected), a lot of other varieties that used to be planted in B/B to boost the color of B/B have been abandoned.
He cited Neiretta or Neiretta Cunese as one such variety that was commonly used. This is a variety that Darrell says is autochthonous to the Cuneo/Torino/Canavese areas to the North. (Interestingly, several references I have indicate Neiretta Cunese to be a synonym for Syrah. That would be very interesting if the Italians in B/B used to use Syrah to boost the color of their wines...a practice the French, of course, would never stoop to do!!)
Darrell then went north to the Valtelline/Lombardy, where they grow a different clone of Nebbiolo (Chiavennasca). The viticulture there he described as "heroic". (Pictures of those vnyds are some of the most spectacular I've ever seen). He then described Nebbiolo viticulture in Carema, the northernmost growing area of Nebbiolo in the Piedmonte. The vines are grown up on a pergola and must be irrigated because the sunlight reflecting off the snow on the adjacent mountain slopes would fry the tender pedicoles. (LuigiFerrando, a NeilRosenthal import, is probably the most famous Carema producer in this country. Alas, hard to find. They have only 40 acres of Nebb planted in Carema, of which only 6.25 is controlled by Ferrando. Where's all the rest of that wine going? Is it of any merit?) (WebSite: www.ferrandovini.it/it/azienda.html)
(NB: These are my own transcripts/notes of Darrell's exposition on Nebbiolo. Any errors are most assuredly mine.)
1. The informazione from Donato Lanati is titled: Composizione polifenolica caratteristica della cultivar nebbiolo e dei vini che ne derivano. His company is called ENOSIS srl.
2. There is another title, this from the 5th Italian Conference on Food Science and Technology, (CISETA), Sept. 2001, proceeding available in Italian with English summaries. Chirotti Editori, email@example.com The one most interesting to the NEBs is "Anthocyanins evolution during nebbiolo winemaking. The authors are V.Gerbi, G.Zeppa, L.. Rolle, from the Universita degli Studi di Torino, Dipartimento Valorizzazione e Protezione delle Risorse Agroforestali, settore di Industrie agrarie, Grugliasco (TO)
At the completion of Darrell's presentation, KenMusso gave a short presentation on comparison of climate, temperatures, harvest dates, etc between his growing conditions in ElDorado and the B/B of Piedmont. Alas, I was busy opening up the older wines Darrell had brought; so didn't take any notes.
I did not have time to taste thru all the Nebbiolos being poured. Below are some TN's that I did manage to try. I harvested some 8-10 nearly full btls to take with me an retry over the next few days out on the road. By and large, most of them held up very well in a styro shipper w/ no corks in them. Most of the older Nebbs and the Italian ones were Darrell's contributions.
- Montevina Nebbiolo (13%) 1975: Very light somewhat orange/brown color; rather charred/oak/smokey dried rose petal/floral/fragrant/perfumed somewhat aged/pencilly quite attractive nose; slight dried out/tannic light floral/dried rose petal bit tart flavor; shows some nice old Nebb floral/aromatics overlaid w/ some charred oak.
- Gaja Barbaresco 1970: Very light orange/brown color; beautifil perfumed/aromatic/coffee/complex/dried rose petal quite complex classic old Nebb nose; bit tart slight tannic/herbal very perfumed/aromatic dried rose petal/violets slight dried out smooth/delicate/elegant quite complex flavor; very long/lingering floral/aromatic/dried rose petals/ violets finish that goes on & on; starting to dry out a bit but a beautiful classic old Piedmontese Nebb.
- Marjerum Rosso Riserva (66% Nebbiolo/34% Barbera) 1993: Some murky/browning light color; rather herbal/leafy/compost pile dusty/earthy quite strange nose; rather dried out/tannic herbal/leafy/dusty/earthy nearly dead flavor; on its last legs; does not speak of Nebbiolo in any way.
- Ferrando Carema (14.5%) 2005: Med.light color; lovely fragrant/perfumed bit tarry/licorice/coffee slight floral/lilacs complex nose; tart rather tannic/lean/hard perfumed/smokey/coffee rather tarry/licorice light floral flavor; towards the pungent/tarry side of Nebb; lovely complex wine that needs age.
- Propertia Sperino Lessona 2006: Med.light color; strong rather tarry/licorice/pungent light floral/lilacs very attractive nose; bit tannic/hard/bitey rather pungent/licorice/road tar light floral/lilacs rich flavor; needs age but has a richness not usually found in B/B Nebbs.
- Karana Nebbiolo IGT: Colli del Limbara Sardegna (13%) Cantina Gallura: Dark color; rather earthy/dusty somewhat grapey/strawberry slight pungent/tarry nose; fairly soft grapey/earthy/dusty slight tannic slight pungent flavor; almost speaks like Grenache than Nebb; rather uninteresting if rustic/coarse.
- Nino Negri Sfursat (15%) 2006: Med.dark color; strong pungent/licorice/grapey slight floral/lilacs rather perfumed slight earthy/mineral rather ripe nose; fairly tart smokey/pungent/coffee/licorice/ripe bit tangy/grapefruity very slight floral/lilacs flavor w/ fair tannins; lots of rich/ripe/grapey character and shows mostly the pungent/tarry side of Nebb.
- Marchesi di Gresy Martinega DOC: Nebbiolo Langhe 2007: Med.light color; very attractive fragrant floral/lilacs/perfumey light pungent/road tar quite aromatic nose; lovely fairly tart light tannic/bitey very attractive perfumed/floral/ lilacs/violets flavor; needs several yrs; a really lovely aromatic/perfumed Nebb that doesn't have the hard/tannic bite that many young B/B show.
- Renwood Nebbiolo (15%) 1993: Loose cork that punched down into the btl; Med.color bit murky color w/ some bricking; rather wet dog fur/tired bit oxidized slight blackberry/Amador nose; tart rather tannic/dried out no fruit some oxidized flavor; pretty much dead & gone.
- WindGap Nebbiolo Glenrose & LunaMatta vnyds/PasoRobles 2006: Med.light color; some herbal/leafy spicy/cinammon/ smokey light fragrant/floral nose; tart/acid bit tannic/bitey light fragrant/floral/violets some pencilly/oak flavor; a rather pretty wine w/ nice aromatics that needs more time.
- Castelli Nebbiolo SisquocVnyd/SantaBarbaraCnty (Michet clone; 14.5%) 2008: Med.light color; slight herbal light lilacs/floral attractive nose; tart/lean/tannic tangy/grapefruity some earthy/dusty light floral violets flavor; pleasant enough but doesn't really sing.
- Castelli Nebbiolo Estate/GreenVlly/RRV (13.3%) 2007: Med.light color; lovely floral/lilacs/violets light pencilly/ oak quite perfumed nose; tart bit lean/tannic quite floral/lilacs/violets slight pencilly/oak flavor; really attractive perfumed/aromatic side of Nebb.
- Madrona Nebbiolo ElDorado 2002: Med.light color w/ no bricking; rather dusty/herbal/earthy some old Nebb/floral/ dried rose petal/fragrant/floral; fairly strong earthy/dusty some perfumed/old Nebb/floral/dried rose petals slight herbal flavor; starting to show some very nice old Nebb aromatics.
- Madrona Nebbiolo ElDorado 2009: Med.color; strong earthy/dusty/mushroomy/truffle slight floral/lilacs nose; strong earthy/dusty/mushroomy some hard/tannic fairly tart very light floral/lilacs flavor; clearly needs age; shows more ElDorado earthy terroir than Nebb fruit.
- Felice Bonardi Nebiolo Spumante NV (ca. 1970): Very dark/murky brown PX color; earthy/damp basement/decaying vegetation/wet leaves pile nose; sour oxidized/maderized earthy/decaying vegetation flavor; totally shot; cork not tight and no effervesence.
- toccata Nebbiolo SantaBarbaraCnty (14.5%) Lucas & Lewellen; Winemaker: MeganMcGrath 2008: Med.color w/ slight bricking; rather tarry/earthy/smokey light floral/lilacs/perfumed slight alcoholic nose; soft rather tannic/bitey earthy/tarry/pungent/dusty slight floral/lilacs rather hard flavor; med.long soft hard/tannic earthy/dusty/pungent/ tarry bit rustic finish w/ light floral fruit; reminds of a Valtelline Rosso w/ its earthy/granite character.
- UrbanLegend Nebbiolo WindremRanch/LakeCnty (12.8%) Grower: David Weiss; Winemakers: Steve & Marilee Shaffer/Oakland 2009: Strange light brownish/orange color; light pencilly/oak quite perfumed/floral/lilacs bit earthy/ smokey/dusty attractive nose; quite tart rather hard/tannic/bitey light floral/lilacs/perfumed some tangy/grapefruity flavor; med.long tangy/tart somewhat floral/lilacs/aromatic rather hard/tannic slight buttery finish; needs more age; color seems prematurely aged but it has the lovely aromatics that suggest an older Nebb.
- Harrington Nebbiolo PasoRobles (40% LunaMatta/60% AJB vnyds; 14.1%) 2009: Med.light color w/ slight bricking; quite perfumed/fragrant/lilacs/floral/cherry light pencilly/toasty/oak almost cherry/Pinotish nose; tart slightly tannic/bitey perfumed/floral/lilacs/bright some pencilly/toasty/oak rather spicy/cherry slight earthy flavor; long light pencilly/toasty/oak bit tannic/hard/bitey tart some floral/lilacs/cherry finish; lots of bright cherry character; tastes like a Nebb made by a Pinot producer; manages to avoid the jammy character of many Paso reds.
- Novy Nebbiolo StolpmanVnyd/SantaYnezVlly (14.1%) 2007: Med.light color; rather toasty/pencilly/oak/smokey pretty floral/violets slight pungent/licorice nose; soft round/elegant rather floral/violets light pungent/licorice some pencilly/toasty/oak slight tannic flavor; med.long spicy/floral/cherry/violets light pencilly/toasty/oak slight bitey/tannic finish; seems to be the best at controlling the hard/bitey tannins of Nebb; somewhat Siduri Pinot in character but definitely Nebb.
- AugustRidge Nebbiolo Estate/PasoRobles (14.7%; 228 cs) 2007: Med.light somewhat orange/brown color; rather ripe bit jammy/grapey fairly fragrant cherry/lilacs/chocolaty/PR ripe nose; bit tart light pungent/licorice slight toasty/oak fairly ripe/chocolaty/pungent/licorice slight tarry flavor w/ modest tannins; med.long ripe/grapey/cherry/ chocolaty light floral/dried cherries finish w/ slight tannic bite; on the ripe side which may be why the tannins are beaten down.
- MahoneyVnyds Nebbiolo LasBrisasVnyd/Carneros (13.5%) 2009: Med.dark color; strong perfumed/violets/black cherries light smokey/oak/toasty/pungent very attractive/perfumed nose; slightly tart light pungent/smokey/oak/toasty rather perfumed/violets/black cherry/cherry cola fairly smooth/balanced/lush flavor w/ slight tannic bite; long bit tart/ tangy/metallic fairly rich/lush strong violets/floral/black cherry light smokey/toasty/oak finish; rather lush/smooth/ balanced rather floral/black cherry rendition of Nebb; resembles a Valtelline Sfursat most of all.
- MahoneyVnyds Nebbiolo LasBrisasVnyd/Carneros (13.5%) 2007: Med.dark color w/ slight bricking; bit riper strong perfumedcherry/dried cherries/lilacs slight alcoholic slight tarry/licorice less toasty/oak nose; bit softer/ smoother/rounder slight tannic rich/dried cherries/Visciola-like/floral light pungent/smokey/tarry flavor; med.long bit smoother/softer/rounder/riper dried cherries/black cherries slight licorice/pungent/tarry finish; also much like a Valtelline Sfursat; these two seem to be the best of all the Nebbs at taming the fierce tannins Nebb can show.
- DueVigne Nebbiolo MussoFamilyVnyd/ElDoradoCnty (14.4%; 8% Barbera) 2008: Med.dark color; quite perfumed/lilacs/ bing cherries/Visciola (what the heck is Stella cherries?) cherries/Kansas barber shop hair tonic/perfumey slight pungent/tarry quite aromatic nose; bit hard/tannic/bitey fairly tart dried cherries/bing cherries/cherry liqueur light pungent/tarry/licorice slight earthy/granitic/mountain flavor; long rather perfumed/lilacs/bing cherry/ dried cherries slight earthy/pungent/licorice finish; only slight ElDorado/earthy character and lots of perfumed/ dried cherries character; some like a Valtelline Nebb.
- DueVigne Nebbiolo MussoFamilyVnyd/ElDoradoCnty (14.4%) 2007: Med.dark color; slightly more licorice/pungent strong bing cherries/dried cherries fairly floral/lilacs perfumed nose; bit smoother more aged/complex/dried rose petals strong dried cherries/bing cherries slight pencilly/smokey some hard/tannic/bitey flavor; showing more aged/dried rose petal character w/ plenty of aromatics but still needs more age.
- Karmere Nebbiolo 2008: Very light/orange color; slight floral/lilacs strong pungent/tarry/licorice/Nebb light toasty/oak rather perfumed nose; tart some tannic/bitey/hard light tarry/licorice/pungent/Nebb slight floral/ strawberry/cherry slight toast/oak flavor; shows more of the tarry side of Nebb and not much of the ShenandoahVlly briary character; needs some age yet; nicely done Nebb.
Random Thoughts (BloodyPulpit)
1. Nebbiolo is a tough grape, a tough wine. What keeps me going back to Nebbiolo is the perfume of the wine. At its best, it displays this ethereal aroma of floral lilacs/violets and a pungent tarry character that you find in no other grape variety; a perfume that, at its best, is unmatched. The Gaja Barbaresco was about as close to perfection in these Nebbiolos as you can find.
What I find so maddening about the variety is the hard/biting tannins that it so often shows on the palate. The lovers of Barolo/Barbaresco blithely reject that complaint with a dismissive wave of the hand that you need to give B/B time for the tannins to age away; that B/B is not a wine that can be drunk young. This is an argument that I am unwilling to accept. There are other red wines that display strong tannic structures, like CabernetSauvignon. Yet, in Calif and Bordeaux, they have found the ways to tame those tannins so the wine is not so undrinkable upon its release. If any NapaVlly Cabernet producer released a wine that was on the palate like most young B/B, they would be tarred & feathered. The current hot ticket buzzword is to produce wines of "balance". Most young B/B are notably lacking in "balance". Why is that acceptable for B/B, but not for most other wines? The above diGresy Martinega showed a "balance" that seems rare in young B/B.
2. So how are the Calif Nebbs doing?? Over the last three yrs of tasting Calif Nebbs fairly extensively, and pretty regularly from the first Montevinas and MartinBros; I would have to say they're doing pretty good. Is the grape a failure in Calif?? Hardly... Monktown opinions notwithstanding. Has that breakthrough Calif Nebbiolo been made that one could truly call "great"?? I don't think so, yet. But I see steady progress towards that goal of a
"great" Nebb being made in Calif. And maybe we may have to redefine what "great" means for Calif Nebbiolo.
All of these Calif Nebbs we tried I thought were good/solid/well-made Nebbiolos. Every one I could drink at table w/ great pleasure. Most of them seemed to have that pungent/tarry component of Nebbiolo perfume down pat. If there was any lack, it was that ethereal floral/lilacs/violets aromatic component you find in Italian renditions. And, just as in Nebbs from the Langhe, the management of the tannins on the palate presents a problem. Though none of them showed the fierce tannins you get in young B/B. Tasting thru these Calif Nebbs; it would seem that those winemakers who are Pinot specialists do the best job w/ reining in the hard Nebb tannins.
3. As these Nebbiolo producers have discussed before; Nebbiolo is not going to be the next Merlot craze. It will probably always remain pretty much a niche market; a wine probably best targeted to Italian restaurants in the USofA.
For the lovers of B/B...those people who think nothing about spending $60-$300 for a Nebbiolo that's excruciatingly painful to drink; Calif Nebbiolo is probably a wine that they'll never acknowledge anything approaching "greatness". Calif Nebbiolo producers would be best served by forgetting about those folks. Their target market is probably those people who are already fans of Calif wines; be it Cabernet, Pinot, or Syrah. They will see a Calif Nebb on a wine list in an Italian restaurant; or stumble across a Calif Nebb near the Italian section; and be tempted to try it just to see what Calif can do w/ that grape. It behooves the Nebb producers to make sure what they put in the bottle is something good enough that they'll be drawn back to try another one. As Darrell asserts; it behooves them to invent a Calif red wine from Nebbiolo that is not a B/B; to give up on that unattainable goal.
4. There are also some interesting parallels between Nebbiolo and PinotNoir in Calif. Back in the '50's-'60's, PinotNoir was pretty much just another Calif red wine; playing second fiddle to CabernetSauvignon; which was then pretty much the king of Calif reds. In the '60's-'70's, those Calif winemakers passionate about PinotNoir were intent on replicating RedBurgundy in Calif in an attempt to entice those folks paying astronomical sums (like $10-$25/btl) to try the Calif versions. The ultimate accolade for those Calif Pinots was when some critic described their wine as "Burgundian". This approach enjoyed some success in getting BurgHeads to at least try Calif Pinot.
But I would claim that Calif did not achieve true success w/ PinotNoir, did not make truly "great" Calif Pinot, until they abandoned this foolhardy goal of replicating RedBurg in Calif. To make, from Calif Pinot grapes, the best PinotNoir they could possibly make. And that, I think, is how we got to making "great" PinotNoir in Calif.
Darrell's point about not replicating B/B in Calif is well-taken....to make the best possible wines from Nebbiolo that we can make. To invent what Nebbiolo can really do in Calif. He's right..you cannot make great B/B in Calif. But I think you can make "great" Nebbiolo in Calif. We may not know what it will look like yet..but I think it is an achievable goal.
5. Looking to Italy: This is a rant I've delivered any number of times..but perhaps worth repeating. Those who are believers in Nebbiolo as a great grape generally look to B/B as the greatest expression of Nebbiolo in the world. Certainly, most of the great Nebbs I've tried have come from B/B. This Gaja '70 was one such.
But I'm not convinced that B/B is the world's best expression of "great" Nebbiolo. I find that, on a more consistent basis, many of the really "great" Nebbiolos also come from other areas of Italy. Namely, the Colline Novarese of Northern Piedmont (Gattinara, Ghemme, Lessona, Carema, etc) and Lombardy, particularly the Valtelline (Inferno, Sassella, Sfursat, etc). Some of the blends of Nebbiolo w/ other varieties (Croatina, Bonarda, Barbera, Vespolina, etc) are truly "great" in every sense of the word. Though purists insist that, like PinotNoir, Nebbiolo must be 100% Nebb...the Italianexamples suggest otherwise. Alas, one of the problems is that these wines are nowhere nearly as ubiquitous as B/B/Langhe; so their greatness often goes unrecognized by many lovers of Nebbiolo. But I think it would be well advised for Calif Nebbiolo producers to look to these other regions as a guide or reference point for what they would like to make w/ Nebbiolo in Calif.
6. Where to plant: At this point in time, there is no obvious places in Calif where Nebbiolo should be planted. There are, obviously, some places where it is too cold to ripen. PaulDraper has two Nebbiolo vines planted up on MonteBelloRidge. He relates that the grapes on them have never ripened. Yet, right in the heart of Pinot country, GreenVlly, Emilio Castelli seems to be able to ripen his Nebb.
There are lots of areas in Calif that have rolling hills not so different from the Langhe. If you look to the mountains, as in Northern Piedmont or the Valtelline, similarities are a lot more limited in Calif. As Darrell pointed out, growing Nebbiolo in those conditions is a "heroic" effort that probably could not be justified in Calif. The diurnal cycle in Calif vis a vis Italy is probably another consideration.
Nebbiolo grown in warmer climates seems to accentuate the tarry character of Nebb, maybe at the expense of the fragrant floral property. But Nick Martin's first Nebbiolo in '82 came from the heart of the SanJoaquinVlly, and the first Montevina Nebbs came from the rather warm ShenandoahVlly, not to mention the Karmeres; all making strong statements of Nebbiolo varietal character. So warmer climes obviously can't be ruled out.
And certainly the large lake influence of ClearLake up in LakeCounty suggests Nebbiolo would do well there as well. Looking to successful Nebbiolo already being grown in Calif; some very good ones have come from StolpmanVnyd in the SantaYnezVlly and from the PasoRobles area. Even the NapaVlly. The one ParasVnyd Nebb, from up on MtVeeder, that I've tried some yrs ago, suggests that Nebb would do well there; though that's a pretty high-rent district and the economics may not justify growing Nebb there.
So....where to plant Nebbiolo in Calif seems to be an open book at this point in time.
Future Directions of NEB
1. At the NAP#2 event a yr ago, KenMusso raised the question about the future of the organization (such as it is). Because Calif Nebbiolo is pretty much a (very small) niche market, the consensus was that it was never going to be a large organization along the lines of ZAP or RhoneRangers. Nonetheless, for this yr's event, we made an attempt to include more of the Calif Nebb producers and invite some media to see what's what w/ Calif Nebb.
It is informative to parallel NEB with ViognierGuild/Hospices du Rhone. Much like NAP#1, the ViognierGuild started as a (small) group of Viognier producers, Calif and Condrieu, gathering together in Atlanta to meet each other, taste each other's Viogniers, and share ideas/thoughts on growing and making Viognier. For the next 4 yrs, they then met annually at various Viognier-producing wineries in Calif. At that point, attendance was limited to winemakers only; no media types nor consumer types. One of the problems those early meetings had was that most of the Viognier producers were also making Syrah. So there was, at the tasting part, a few btls of Syrah hidden under the table to try. Being a fan of Viognier and Rhone varietals, I pleaded to be allowed to attend, but was not permitted to do so. This is pretty much where the NEB organization now stands. No dues, no membership, no bylaws, no nuthin'. Just fans of Nebbiolo getting together to talk and taste Nebbiolo.
The event (ViognierGuild) was then moved (permanently) to PasoRobles, renamed Raisen'Rhones (to accomodate other Rhone varieties), media and consumers invited to attend (which is when I started to attend. They shoulda known that once I got my nose under the tent flap, the organization was doomed!!). The focus was largely on the biggest tasting in the world (perhaps after Marche a Vin/Ampuis) of Rhone varietals. Seminars were added on various topics related to growing/making Rhone varietials. Still, for those first few yrs in Paso, the focus was on a collegial gathering of Rhone-style winemakers, with media and consumers looking over their shoulders. The bulk of attendees were the winemakers, exchanging ideas and tasting each other's wines; both in the tasting venue and at the seminars. There were always a lot of probing questions at the seminars from fellow winemakers in the audience.
Eventually, because it was such a quality event for all, winemakers and consumers, attendance grew and the focus shifted from a collegial gathering of winemakers talking their craft to a "Rhone Event", where the focus was on getting Rhone varietals in front of the public. That is to say, a way of marketing their Rhone varietals. The winemakers started to drop out of the event (because the collegial interchange of ideas was no longer there) and HdR became simply a congregation of RhoneHeads to market Rhone varietals to. That, IMHO, marked the eventual (presumably) demise of the ViognierGuild/HdR; though the event, to the very end this year, was a quality event for those interested in Rhone varietals. Though the HdR organization has taken a new direction (apparently), I suspect the organization will falter and eventually close up shop. It was a great 20 yr run.
Whether NEB will follow this same trajectory; who's to know?? Because the market for Calif Nebb is so small (for the present), I don't see the event/organization going down this same path. I, for one, certainly hope not.
2. Venues: Thus far, NEB has been sort of an itinerant event...shuffling from one winery to the next to show off the goods. I would suggest that this is the best modus operandi for the group; so that the event and the variety doesn't get identified with one single area in Calif; unlike Barbera. This would seem to also promote inclusivity for NEB. There has been some suggestions that next yr's event be held in PasoRobles, where several Nebb vnyds & winemakers are located.
3. Logo: God forbid that NEB gets into marketing T-shirts w/ the NEB logo. But should that happen, the logo that I see in my mind is this little ole winemaker banging his head against the end of a wine cask, labeled Nebbiolo on the side.."Kerthunk..kerthunk..kerthunk". Seems to fit where the market is right now.
Published media stories:
And Just A Thanks:
This event would not have flown w/o all the work behind the scenes of KenMusso. And certainly DawnMartella (and Dick) put in many hours on arrangements for hosting the event at Karmere. KenZinns was also a big assistance in connecting with many of the other Nebbiolo winemakers and suggestions for improving the event. And, as his presence always lends a vast wealth of information and education; Darrell Corti's presentation was the high point of the day for me. His mentorship over (egads) 40 yrs, on wine and many other subjects, has been nonpareil. These people were all a genuine pleasure to work with and made things so much easier.
[Additional Wine Reviews from Tom Hill]
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