Tags Posts tagged with "friulano"


Making Vermouth:
How one winemaker turned “failure” into a successful product

Elaine Chukan Brown

winemaker Dan Petroski

VERMOUTH TENDS TO BE thought of as an apt blender in a martini—a second thought to making a fine cocktail. Its history as a modern beverage dates back to the 1800s and is celebrated on its own, as well, and as an integral part of a robust food and wine culture in Europe. Recently, the beverage has gained some notoriety as part of the craft spirits boom in the United States. Small-batch vermouth has cropped up across the continent with domestic examples appearing from wine regions in New York, Oregon, California and elsewhere.

In Napa, Massican Winery’s vermouth has become a beloved staple of the wine-geek community and has found its way into bars in California and New York. Massican owner and winemaker Dan Petroski brought his love for Italian culture, food and wine to making his dry, white wine-focused brand. Several years ago, however, a mishap in the cellar led to him adding dry vermouth to the portfolio.

As Petroski explains, as an aromatized wine, vermouth offers an interesting opportunity for the vintner unsure of what to do with a less desirable wine.

Wine Mishaps

“The vermouth started out as a trial with Tocai,” Petroski said. “The vermouth was never meant to be. It was purely a wine trial, but in failure we saw an opportunity.”

Though the white wine variety Tocai Friulano has been legally renamed Friulano to avoid international naming confusion, it is still affectionately referred to simply as Tocai in Northeastern Italy. In Friuli, Friulano is one of the signature grapes of the region. In California, Petroski has been able to work with hundred-year-old vines of the cultivar first established by Italian immigrants farming the variety for their own use. Such fruit serves as an integral component of Massican’s flagship white blend, the Annia. It also ended up providing the base for his vermouth.

In working with Friulano for Annia, Petroski wanted to investigate different methods of clarifying the juice prior to fermentation, but the trial led to an off-wine.

“Tocai is a very reductive variety,” Petroski said. “It is important to clarify the juice prior to fermentation in order to ensure clean aromas and flavors. We wanted to test this process. After whole-cluster pressing the Tocai to tank, we mixed the tank and immediately barreled down one barrel—55 gallons—of wine. We cold settled the juice at 50° F for two days and racked off the clean wine. The remaining heavy lees and sediment…

To keep reading this article turn to the February issue of Wine Business MonthlyThe rest of the article looks at Dan’s process in formulating his own vermouth, the basic process for making your own vermouth, and key lessons Dan thinks anyone wanting to experiment should keep in mind.

In the print edition the article appears on page 118. However, you can also view it for free online by either downloading the entire February issue as PDF, or using their online click book option. The article appears on page 118 in each of the electronic versions as well. 

Here’s the link to download the February issue or use the click book: 




Tasting the Massican Portfolio — 2012 and 2011

Yesterday we were lucky enough to taste the newly bottled Massican 2012 portfolio.

Dan Petroski’s Massican is characterized by texture and subtlety with a perfumed lift. His signature gives a consistent frame through which to taste distinctive variety and vintage character.

2012 as a vintage for Napa and Sonoma offers a vibrancy of flavor, with a softer structural profile than previous years (not just compared to the last two cold ones). In many cases, the flavors are far broader across the palate, while the acidity is softer.

This vintage effect shows on the Massican ’12s bringing a slightly rounder character to Petroski’s wines compared to the 2011’s linear drive. His distinctive texture, and chalky notes, however, still show throughout.

The 2012s were tasted yesterday afternoon at the winery, then again in the evening, and this morning. (Again, this is a very early tasting on the 2012 Massican portfolio, so there will be some evolution in bottle prior to release.) The 2011s were tasted at the winery, and have been enjoyed multiple times since release last year.

Here are drawings that offer side by side vintage comparisons.

Massican Gemina (100% Chardonnay)

Massican Gemina 2012 and 2011

click on comic to enlarge

The acidity is still vibrant throughout the 2012 portfolio, but where acid lines screamed through the ’11 Chardonnay, they merely drive on the ’12 (that is, they’re still strong, just rounder).

The 2012 Chardonnay opens up beautifully with air. It has similar flavoral elements to the 2011 with a more accentuated yum factor. It’s a wine I want to sit down with and just enjoy (in fact, I will later tonight. Praise the Lord).

Massican Sauvignon (100% Sauvignon Blanc)

Massican Sauvignon 2012 and 2011

click on comic to enlarge

Where the flavors are lean and vibrant on the 2011 Sauvignon, they’re pregnant and pulsing on the ’12. The biggest flavoral surprise, I believe, occurs here with the Sauvignon, as the presentation comes in broad across the palate in a way none of the ’11s did. Still, there is a lift to the flavors that means while they fill they mouth, they also have movement going through.

The flavoral finish is also softest here, but the acidity keeps the mouth watering for a long long time after. This wine will continue to evolve significantly in bottle, I believe. The 2012 Sauvignon will be a change for many, but it will not weigh down the palate.

Massican Annia White Blend

Massican Annia 2012 and 2011

click on comic to enlarge

The 2012 vintage brought a shift in production levels on Petroski’s Ribolla Gialla and Tocai Friulano leading to a difference in proportion on the Massican Annia, his white blend.

Where the 2011 carried a Friulano base, the 2012 relies more on Ribolla. Character-elements remain consistent between the wines but with a change in emphasis from one year to the next. The 2011 offers a lifted citrus blossom carriage with base notes of almond flower. In 2012 the presentation flips, bringing more of that bitter almond gravitas–but the more time spent with this wine, the more it lifts its profile with the floral elements showing more of Petroski’s signature perfume. Give this wine time to open up.

These are all excellent food wines.

Thank you to Dan Petroski for taking time, and for opening his wines for us.

Thank you to Carla Rzewszewski.

To read more about the Massican story, check out Talia Baiocchi’s article in Eater: http://eater.com/archives/2012/06/14/california-wines-pendulum-swing-isnt-just-about-style-alcohol-levels.php

Copyright 2013 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com.


Last week I drew up and wrote up the wines of the Scarpetta portfolio, along with a summary of the lovely lunch that Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson, and Bobby Stuckey threw for several of us at St. Vincent’s in San Francisco. Unfortunately, I was traveling without my scanner and so couldn’t properly place the tasting notes illustration for the wines.

Here’s the Scarpetta comic properly scanned. (I’ve also replaced the photograph of it in the original post.)


Scarpetta wines

click on comic to enlarge


Jr and I are back in Sonoma again returning to our regular schedule of me tasting and interviewing people in wine, and her going off to school. Though, not till she recovers from some nasty cold. Hope you’re all well and enjoying the move from Winter into Spring with all its fits and starts. Joy to all of you!

Copyright 2013 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com.

First of all, please forgive. I am currently traveling without my scanner, so after spending the day drawing I could only post my notes from Scarpetta’s current portfolio by taking a photo of it. I’ll reload the scanned-in image after I’ve returned to Sonoma next week. In the meantime, let the photo of the drawing suffice. Thanks! Updated with the scanned image!


Celebrating Friuli (w a little help from Barbera): Scarpetta & Frasca

Scarpetta wines

click on image to enlarge; click twice to enlarge more

Bobby Stuckey greets me at the door with a smile and a glass of pink bubbles. I’m happy I took the drive to San Francisco. After a few moments everyone has arrived and we sit. Lunch is going to begin.

Master Sommelier Bobby Stuckey, and Chef Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson have traveled from Boulder, Colorado, home of their well-known and celebrated Frasca Restaurant, to share their love for Friuli. After establishing their Friuli inspired restaurant, the team expanded to begin Scarpetta Wine starting with Friulano, Friuli’s classic white.

Stuckey introduces the day’s activities. “I feel like I’m in the cool kids club. But it’s surprising too because I feel like I’m still punk rock, and I feel like I’m still a cross country running nerd, but I get to hang with you guys. So, thanks.” The event includes Sommeliers, Wine Buyers, and Wine Writers from around the Bay Area.

The Sparkling Rosé

Bobby Stuckey

Bobby Stuckey setting the stage

Stuckey continues, focusing on the wine. He explains that the rosé offered upon entry is made with the Charmat method using a slightly unusual blend for the style of Franconia (aka. Blaufrankisch) and Pinot Nero (aka. Pinot Noir). Though the Charmat method is often maligned for its association with poor quality versions of Prosecco, Stuckey explains the technique is more centrally all about capturing tenderness and aromatics. Combined with care, and old vine material, Stuckey believes it creates a unique sparkling rosé.

The wine is paired with a winter Friulano Salad of apple, radicchio, shaved horseradish, and shaved hard cheese. The salad is all lightness and zest alongside the savory, floral bubbles. A beautiful opening.

Love for Friulano

To put the wine Friulano in its proper context, Stuckey compares it to Chardonnay. Where the French grape offers a neutral palate that allows technique to be shown on top, Friulano doesn’t. Where the French grape has been cleaned up and clonally selected, Friulano hasn’t. Instead, Friulano carries distinctive, even funky aromatics that Stuckey compares to the “wild dog of agriculture.”

For all the funk Stuckey ascribes to his beloved grape, the Scarpetta version is a clean, refreshing offering of its wine–all lifted aromatics, rounded palate, and pleasing viscosity on a stimulating palate. (Truth is though, whatever funk Friulano may have, I’m simply a fan of the grape.)

The wine comes to us alongside Friuli’s Native food, Frico–a fried cheese dish bringing together dried firm cheese with a molten center of Montasio cheese. Last year during COF2012, a group trip to Friuli six of us were lucky enough to take, we ate Frico daily. Don’t hate me Italy, but Mackinnon-Patterson’s version is even better, all smooth, lush, pungent, and easy mixed with smoked ricotta and sprinkled with fresh green onion.

Tasting the Whites

Lachlan MacKinnon-Patterson

Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson serving up his risotto

Over time, Scarpetta expanded its white focus stepping into International varieties that have become classics of Friuli in their own right, both giving a unique presentation in that region.

* Pinot Grigio

As Stuckey explains, Pinot Grigio, though often maligned, can give a sense of freshness, with seriousness and concentration. Stuckey tells us, Pinot Grigio properly understood is a vehicle for terroir. “It is that,” he says, “that makes it a noble grape.”

Mackinnon-Patterson comes out from the kitchen to serve his Risotto and builds on Stuckey’s idea by drawing a parallel between cooking food and making wine. For Frasca’s chef, cooking is all about layers of flavor made through treating the flavors with time. In listening to Mackinnon-Patterson explain the courses, while tasting the foods and the wine, what I find in common are delicate flavors with stamina and presence. Each course, like the wines, comes in lifted, dancey, and rich.

* Sauvignon

Stuckey considers the idea of Sauvignon Blanc in Friuli, there referred to as simply Sauvignon. In Stuckey’s view, Sauvignon is the secret weapon of the region. It is the Ponca, their calcium rich soil, combined with the marginal climate of the area that offers a unique opportunity for the grape to give a triology of fruits–orchard, citrus, and stone–layering the mouth in unexpected complexity. Such flavors alongside the great acidity indigenous to Friulian wines and Sauvignon gives something more than a simply refreshing white wine.

Turn to Barbera

Scarpetta wines

Our meal finishes with a surprising turn (if you didn’t already know the Scarpetta portfolio), a red from Piedmont. Stuckey explains why they decided to focus on Barbera, their only wine from outside Friuli. In his view, the grape is the gateway wine to drinking Italian reds. For people used to French reds, Italians come with a lot more traction. For those drinking New World reds, the earthy flavors are often surprising. Barbera, on the other hand, offers a textural and flavoral connection to other Italian reds in a lighter, juicier, food friendly physique. This wine we drink with meat.

While Barbera is most commonly made in the Barbera d’ Alba DOC of Piedmont, there the grapes play second fiddle to their more popular neighbor Nebbiolo. In the Barbera del Monferrato DOC, however, Barbera is the focus with the vines being planted in high density, steep vineyards, and given the chance for old vine age.

Stuckey describes how he thinks of the grape’s characteristics. “This is what I think about Barbera,” he tells us. “It’s tangular. This grape is tangy, and angular. So we give it no new wood. It’s all about letting it be noble–a vehicle for terroir. That’s tangular.”

Stuckey invites us to enjoy the wines and food with one final comment. “Here’s what I want you to know,” he says. “When it comes to Scarpetta and Frasca, I would like to meet you on the corner of drinkable and thinkable.”

Thank you to Bobby Stuckey, Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson for the food, wine, good company, and invitation.

Thank you to David Lynch for hosting the tasting at St. Vincent, San Francisco.


For great photos and more from the LA Scarpetta-Frasca tasting check out Whitney’s post over at Brunellos Have More Fun.

For more on the Seattle offering read Jameson’s post at JamesonFink.com.

Copyright 2013 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com.


Thank you to Eric Asimov for recommending this article in The New York Times Diner’s Journal “What We’re Reading”, February 19, 2013.


Circling George Vare: One Way White Maceration Ferments Came into California

George Vare, an investor with decades of experience in Napa wine, celebrates the work of experimental winemakers. For Vare, the passion of young people trying new approaches exemplifies the future of the California wine industry.

Operating outside the mainstream appears as a theme in Vare’s own history with the industry. In early 1995, Vare and Michael Moone decided to step outside the Cabernet and Chardonnay focus of 1980s and 90s Napa Valley and established a new company, Luna Vineyards. Vare had worked for decades already at scouting and expanding the commercial success of now historic Napa wine labels, including Geyser Peak Winery, Beringer Wine Estates, and others. In 1995, however, after considering the pulse of Napa wine, Moone and Vare realized there was room for taking their business in a different direction.


George Vare in his Ribolla Gialla vineyard, July 2012

George Vare in his Ribolla Gialla, Friulano vineyard

Though Italian immigrants had helped establish the original wine industry through the valley, by the end of the last century, little interest in Italian varieties could be found rooted in the area. Together, Moone and Vare decided to take advantage of that missing piece by making Sangiovese and Pinot Grigio.

The original goals of Luna were to make Italian varietals to rival old world quality. Early vintages were described as carrying “old world austerity and terroir, bolstered by new world fullness and verve” (Boca Raton News 16 March 2003).

In March 1995, Vare and Moone’s Luna purchased a Chardonnay vineyard at what were then the Southern reaches of the Silverado trail. What is remarkable about the story is that soon after buying the 82 acre vineyard they replanted most of the site to Pinot Grigio, establishing 44-acres of the variety by 2000, and increasing from there. At the time, the idea of pulling out Napa Valley Chardonnay and replacing it with Pinot Grigio, was surely crazy. So, the group renamed themselves the Luna-tics. Where Oregon had begun the Pinot Gris experiment as early as the mid-60s, Luna stood as one of the leaders of the grape in California. In this way, the intention to do things differently defined the beginnings of Luna. As John Kongsgaard once explained, the self-named Luna-tics even used to play classical music to the vines.

John Kongsgaard Starts the University

After 20 years of success in the Napa Valley wine industry, Kongsgaard was brought in to Luna in 1996 to establish the house’s winemaking style. Konsgaard had started his career making wines in 1980, side-by-side with Doug Nalle at the now defunct Belvedere Winery. By the mid-1990s, however, Kongsgaard had proven himself as an influential winemaker through his 13-years of work with Newton Vineyards.

In 1997, Kongsgaard and Vare began making regular trips to Italy, originally searching for “the holy grail of Pinot Grigio.” As Vare explained, they searched first in Alsace, and though they liked those wines, the climate didn’t suit Napa. Alto Adige also proved too cold. Finally Friuli gave a closer parallel, and a wealth of influence through small scale and experimental winemakers of the region.

Kongsgaard worked with Christopher Vandendriessche, of White Rock, as assistant winemaker initially. Together they helped establish what Abe Schoener calls a university environment in Luna’s winery. Schoener had begun working with the team at the end of the 1990s, gathering data on their vineyard sites, but also learning from Kongsgaard as Schoener’s mentor. Schoener makes clear too that Vare supported and encouraged the winery’s university methodology.

By allowing interns to make their own barrels of wine, while also doing their work for Luna, the facility trained a number of young wine enthusiasts that would go on to influence the area’s wine industry. But the approach also effectively expanded the experimentation witnessed by the mentors as well. Kongsgaard has stated that he fine-tuned some techniques he’d go on to use for his own label through the early investigatory period of Luna.

Schoener explains, Kongsgaard had a talent for standing back to let his mentees explore their interests in wine, while being there to facilitate a successful project at the same time. Vandendriessche operates with a similar approach in his work today at White Rock as well. The site served as Schoener’s first winery in establishing Scholium Project, and today facilitates the work of other new winemakers getting ready to release their work.

Learning from Radikon and Gravner

After Vandendriessche chose to move his attention to the White Rock facility, Kelly Wheat was brought in as the new assistant winemaker to Kongsgaard. Wheat began traveling to Friuli with Kongsgaard and Vare, who had already established strong relationships with the winemakers through Friuli and Slovenia. Wheat benefited, then, from the friendships already started with the likes of Stanko and Sasa Radikon, Josko Gravner, and others.

Radikon had begun experimenting with making his wines with extended skin contact in 1994, utilizing open top wood fermenters. Stanko Radikon’s father had talked about techniques used in Oslajve prior to the onset of more contemporary pressed wine techniques. Eventually Stanko decided to invest in using them.

Previously, Radikon explained, wines were made using all of the fruit, rather than removing the skins. The result was to develop wines with greater texture, aroma, and flavor, that also kept longer after being made. The skin contact style of winemaking, then, was historically situated–a normal approach for the technology of the time–but it was also economical–it made the wine last.

Drawing on Georgian winemaking history, Gravner began using extended maceration fermentation in clay anphora in 1996. He had helped introduce the focus and freshness of temperature controlled stainless steel vats to Friuli, thus introducing the winemaking changes associated with newer technologies. But after a friend brought Gravner a kveri (Georgian anphora), the winemaker experimented with the winemaking techniques of that region, known to be thousands of years old.

With both Radikon and Gravner there was an adjustment period while moving to the historical-but-new-to-them techniques. Each winemaker had developed expertise with their previous styles, and were known for making quality, terroir-driven wines. In shifting to the use of extended maceration, however, they also needed time getting to know the effects of the approach. In 2001, Gravner released his first fully anfora based portfolio (though bottlings as early as 1998 are still available for purchase in the United State). In establishing friendships with both Radikon and Gravner, the Luna-tics were able to learn new techniques both through direct witness at the Italian wineries, and through on going consultations had by phone.

Kongsgaard and Vare had befriended Radikon as early as their first trip to the region, meeting Gravner a few trips later. On one visit with Gravner, a barrel with a plexiglass side stood in the corner. Grapes were inside aging not only on lees, but skins, with the wine in such a state for over a year. The Americans were able to taste the wine from the experiment and were pleased at the result, not having heard of such an approach previously. As Vare described it, the wine had a nice weight and texture, without any bitterness.

Showing Skins: the practice moves to California

After returning from a visit with these winemakers in Friuli in 2000, Wheat decided to try the techniques himself and make extended skin contact lots for some of the white wines at Luna.

In 2000, Wheat began making a Pinot Grigio blend that sent 40% of the grapes straight to press before fermentation, while the rest were put through a crusher to allow more aromatic and textural contribution from skins.The technique loosely resembles the impact of older technology that broke up grapes more than simply pressing them, causing more skin and stem influence (and thus both more aromatics and more body) on the juice.

Wheat experimented further however, making small lots of white wine left to ferment like a red. Inspired by his time in Friuli, Wheat located some Friulano in 2001, sourced from the Hollister area (and grown in limestone) and fermented to dryness on skins, working similarly as well with Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay grown in or closer to Napa. The most successful of these, Schoener believes, was the Fruilano.

Having worked with Luna in various capacities for several years, Schoener became winemaker there after Wheat’s departure in 2002. Witnessing Wheat’s trials with skin contact, Schoener encouraged the Luna label to make some skin contact bottlings. Having become more mainstream by that point (Vare was also no longer acting president), the board was resistant to investing in wines without more proven market success. Schoener stayed in the role at Luna long enough to help winemaker Mike Drash take up the reins in 2003, only ever intending to secure a smooth transition from Wheat to the new person. After Schoener dove into his Scholium Project, beginning to make a skin contact Sauvignon Blanc, the now oft mentioned Prince in his Caves, in 2006.

Luna would not be bottling skin-contact only white wines. However, drawing on Wheat’s experience with the approach, Drash continued making what Luna called their Freakout White blend. The wine included extended maceration of Sauvignon Blanc, as well as Friulano left to ferment to dryness on skins.

Looking for Texture: Pax Mahle experiments

Over in Sonoma County, independently of the work being done with the Luna-tics, Pax Mahle had started Pax Wine Cellars in 2000. The label had a central focus on Syrah, but made Rhone whites as well. Working against the norm at the time, Mahle was committed to making low alcohol white wines, without the influence of new oak. One of the downsides of whites made in this approach, however, is a textural change in the wine’s mouthfeel–they become lighter, with less weight, and to some people, less interest. Searching for a way to offer more textural interest without reliance on new wood, while keeping alcohol levels low, Mahle began experimenting with skin contact lots in 2003. Just like the adjustment period between a new technique and quality wine necessary for Radikon and Gravner, Mahle explains it wasn’t until 2007 that he bottled a skin contact wine. He wasn’t willing to put a label on something he couldn’t get behind. It took those several years to find a barrel he believed in as a stand alone wine. Prior to 2007 the experimental lots were blended back into other white blends.


To read part 2 in this series: The Butterfly Effect: How the death of a fad gave birth to beautiful color in wine, Part 2: Variety, Terroir, and Mind Scrambling

Part 3: The Butterfly Effect: How the death of a fad gave birth to beautiful color in wine, Part 3: The Craft of Wine Tasting, and the Question of Responsibility, Conversation with Two Sommeliers

To read last year’s series explaining Orange Wines beginning with how they’re made, then their presence in Georgia, Italy, and California, begin here: Understanding Orange Wines Part 1: A Quick and Dirty Look at How They’re Made and What Their Tannins Do To Our Saliva


Over the next weeks I’ll be exploring the work of contemporary skin contact wines from California and Oregon winemakers, both varietals and blends. I’ve been lucky enough to taste several dozen examples both bottled and barreled from a range of grape types in both California and Oregon, and to interview a range of people on the subject.

I’ll be traveling in Sydney, Melbourne, and Geelong as well, however, and so my posts here will be mixed in with updates from Australian adventures.


Copyright 2013 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com.



Fruili-inspired Whites in California: Enrico Bertoz, and Arbe Garbe

Starting in the Central Valley of California, Enrico Bertoz kept moving North looking for the perfect place to make his wines. He found the sandy loam of the Russian River Valley, and stuck, beginning his label, Arbe Garbe. The focus is on a name sake white blend, with single grape varietals that showcase the best of the vintage.

the new 2011 labels–this photo is the first public viewing of them, designed by Enrico Bertoz

the tasting line up–2009 Ribolla Gialla, four vintages of Arbe Garbe (2009–2011), and 2011 Malvasia

four vintages of Arbe Garbe–2008, 2009, 2010, 2011. 2007 was the first, but it is no longer available for tasting. The Arbe Garbe blend is modeled after a Bianco style wine in Friuli–blending of white grapes changing depending on the vintage.The 2008, 40% Pinot Bianco, 50% Malvasia Bianca, 10% Viognier with flavors and bouquet of light beeswax, hints of dark nuts, toasted bread, and a zippy salinity. 14.5% alcohol.

the grapes that go into the Arbe Garbe blend are primarily from the Russian River Valley, though 2009 also included Ribolla Gialla from Vare’s Napa vineyard. The 2009 carried 85% Pinot Grigio, and equal portions Ribolla Gialla and Friulano. (the Malvasia Bianca was fried that year do to high heat late in the season.) The 2009 presentation carries a pickled lemon palate (pleasing salt with citrus), with a slightly smokey nose showing almost mackerel fishy notes–that is fatty sea fresh elements (again, this is pleasing)–and light beeswax plus incense, alongside citrus blossom and nut. This is a rich rendition of the blend. I love this vintage. 14.5% alcohol.

the 2010 vintage presents 50% Pinot Grigio, 40% Malvasia Bianca, and 10% Ribolla Gialla–the Ribolla Gialla with 36 hours of skin contact. The wine showcases the textural elements of the phenolic Ribolla Gialla, with the fragrant nose of the Malvasia Bianca. There is a pleasing salinity in the palate alongside the richness of nut skins, freshness of citrus blossom, and good acidity with a tickle-y mouthfeel. 14.3% alcohol.

2009 was a good vintage for Ribolla Gialla in Napa Valley. Getting excited about the quality of the fruit, Enrico Bertoz chose to do a single varietal bottling of the grape. This is a wonderful white with a nose of light wax, saline, and light citrus, showcasing a very active mouth and nice palate of warm wax, fresh citrus, and aged nut, plus the wonderful structure of Ribolla. 14.5% alcohol.

Enrico explains that he is able to make his wines thanks to the help of many others, including his meticulous and open minded vineyard owner and manager.

More on Enrico’s work to follow.

Thank you to Enrico Bertoz. I very much enjoyed tasting your wines, and meeting you.

Thank you to Dan Petroski.

Copyright 2012 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com



Thank you to Eric Asimov for mentioning this post in the July 20, 2012 edition of The New York Times, Diner’s Journal What We’re Reading.”


Meeting George Vare

“Go make Ribolla Gialla popular.” –George Vare

the berries turn a full rich yellow at ripeness.

the first vintage with consistent berries.

the plant carries a virus that causes the leaves to yellow under stress.

barrel with a window

Ribolla Gialla left on skins for 1-year, then barrel aged for 3

a gift to take home, hand labeled and capped by George Vare

Ribolla Gialla with 48 hour skin contact

sparkling Ribolla Gialla that has not been disgorged

we’ll drink it at the Ribolla Gialla party

an earlier vintage

Friuli style white: Sauvignon Blanc, Tocai Friulano, Chardonnay, Ribolla Gialla

This is why I came back to Napa Valley so quickly.

Because in doing so I could talk to more people about George Vare. I’ve made my visit about so much more than just this one lucky meeting, so much more I love to do. But I came back now so I could meet more people that had worked with Vare, never presuming to ask if I could meet him too. Then, it turned out a meeting was arranged, and I got to hear his story, walk through his 2.5 acre Ribolla Gialla vineyard (the only one producing fruit in California, there are other plantings–more on that to follow), and taste his wines too. Here are photos from the visit. Write up to follow, along with photos from a grand Ribolla Gialla tasting here in Napa Valley.


Thank you to George Vare.

Thank you to Dan Petroski.

Attending Ribolla Gialla University, Part 2: http://wakawakawinereviews.com/2012/07/19/attending-ribolla-gialla-university-part-2-a-life-in-wine-george-vare-friuli-and-slovenia/

Attending Ribolla Gialla University, Part 3: http://wakawakawinereviews.com/2012/07/19/attending-ribolla-gialla-university-part-3-friuli-fest-2012-ribolla-gialla-tasting-and-discussion/

Attending Ribolla Gialla University, Part 4: Harvest of the George Vare Vineyard with Steve Matthiasson: http://wakawakawinereviews.com/2012/09/14/attending-ribolla-gialla-university-part-4-harvest-of-the-george-vare-vineyard-with-steve-matthiasson/

Attending Ribolla Gialla University, Part 5: Russian River Valley Ribolla Gialla, The Bowland’s Tanya Vineyard: http://wakawakawinereviews.com/2012/09/29/attending-ribolla-gialla-university-part-5-russian-river-valley-ribolla-gialla/

Attending Ribollat Gialla University, Part 6: The Vare Vineyard Tasting, Arlequin Wine Merchant: http://wakawakawinereviews.com/2013/04/23/attending-ribolla-gialla-university-part-6-the-vare-vineyard-tasting-arlequin-wine-merchant/

Attending Ribolla Gialla University, Part 7: The Matthiasson Vineyard, Napa: http://wakawakawinereviews.com/2013/05/01/attending-ribolla-gialla-university-part-7-the-matthiasson-vineyard-napa/

Copyright 2012 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com

Tasting Palmina with Steve Clifton

Though he’d arrived back from a work trip in Hawaii in the middle of the night only hours before, Steve Clifton was kind enough to make time to taste Katherine and I through the entire current Palmina portfolio. And it’s huge. Here are comics for each of the Palmina wines we tasted.

There is a wonderful consistency of quality across these wines, with each also serving as good food wines, offering a nice balance of pleasure and interest. The Botasea Rosato, Dolcetto, and Santa Barbara Vineyards Barbera are likely the three most flexible for food pairing, with the Santa Barbara Vineyards Nebbiolo offering the easiest approach for the heartier wine options including a range of Nebbiolos and the Lagrein.

Following is some information on 16 wines of the Palmina portfolio.

Palmina White Wines

2010 Tocai Friulano, Honea Vineyard

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Planted in 2002 the Honea Vineyards Friulano gave its first vintage in 2005. The 2010 was given all stainless cold fermentation.

It offers nice distinctive minerality with a pleasing saltiness and acidity. The nose and palate offer almond, citrus flower and zest and mixed pepper. The fruit is picked through multiple passes to keep the acidity up, from a unique limestone river bottom soil with little irrigation.

2009 Subida, Tocai Friulano from Honea Vineyards

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Taking the same fruit at the same time from the Honea Vineyards, the Subida is an orange wine style Tocai Friulano made with 36 days of skin contact, no SO2 or CO2, little punch down, and gross lees moved to barrels. The wine is aged in neutral French oak to allow micro-oxidation but no flavor impact. Malo-lactic fermentation occurs in barrel, and the wine is moved via gravity from barrel to tank, then tank to bottle with no fining or filtration.

The wine opens significantly in the glass, also showing the acidity more vibrantly as it opens. The flavors open from dusty, dried citrus notes to include light pineapple and more floral elements. There are nice nut and white floral elements throughout with tart acidity and toast.

2010 Malvasia Bianca, Larner Vineyard

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Fermented, after a 24-hour cold soak, in neutral barrels, the Malvasia Bianca includes an overnight maceration to heighten aromatics, and deepen the palate, and help relieve bitterness otherwise common to the grape. It is made with all indigenous natural yeast.

The nose here is vibrantly tropical floral with pear, apple, and meyer lemon notes, while the palate becomes white floral, mildly stemmy, with meyer lemon, lemon zest and light apple skin. There is a significant contrast between the nose and palate that makes the wine intriguing. Steve says it is his favorite oyster wine, and it certainly presents as great for seafood.

2010 Arneis, Honea Vineyards

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The Honea Vineyard was started in 2002 for Palmina growing a mix of only Italian varieties on 20 acres.

The Arneis carries fresh, vibrant citrus blossom, nice salty minerality. It’s ripe in the mouth, with a good acidic mouth pinch, a floral nose and opening palate, and a salt and citrus finish. This wine is precise, and clean, with a pleasing texture.

Palmina Rosé

Botasea 2011 Rosato di Palmina

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Though previous vintages of the Botasea have offered a higher proportion of Nebbiolo, two vineyards of Nebbiolo were lost to frost, resulting in more Dolcetto currently being used in the Rosato as a result. The 2011 carries 50% Dolcetto, 25% Nebbiolo, and 25% Barbera.

There is a nice berry and white pepper, well integrated nose. The wine would work well alongside fuller foods offering a nicely dry presentation, medium acidity, and a medium long finish.

This wine was designed to work with foods like a lighter style red wine. It makes me want red meat and fries, and also does well alongside grilled tuna or smoked mussels.

Portions of the proceeds from this wine also go to Breast Cancer Research.

Palmina Red Wines

2010 Dolcetto, Santa Barbara County

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Fermented and aged in 50% neutral oak barrels, and 50% oak tanks, the Dolcetto is the most versatile of the Palmina wines doing well with a huge range of foods, or alongside your cooking process as you get food ready. Having first been made in 2004, it’s also proved to do well with some age, though designed to be drinkable young.

The goal of this wine is to aim towards the light side of things while offering rich flavors. It offers wild red berry notes with mixed pepper, a pleasing light mouth grip, and good freshness.

2010 Barbera, Santa Barbara County

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The Santa Barbara County blend of Barbera is meant to be a little more forgiving, and food flexible presentation of the Barbera varietal.

It smells and tastes like the fresh, juicy, lightly bitter crunch of raspberry and blackberry offering a juicy mouth, and pleasing watery, mixed pepper finish. This wine is dry in the mouth and well balanced.

2010 Barbera Alisos

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The Alisos presentation of Palmina Barbera shows a spicier, richer flavor and body than the Santa Barbara County blend. There is a light bitterness and cracked pepper element here integrated into a rich berry, and earthy note Barbera, all with a clean, watery finish.

2009 Alisos, Santa Barbara County

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Palmina’s first wine, the Alisos was designed to mimic a Super Tuscan style with 80% Sangiovese (10% of which was dried and then rehydrated before pressing), and 20% Merlot.

The passito grapes deepen and concentrate the fruit flavors here into dark raisin, alongside the juicy red cherry and raspberry notes. There are also classic Sangiovese elements of orange zest on the nose, and juice in the mouth. There is great food friendly acidity here.

2008 Undici

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100% Sangiovese, the Undici carries a dark nose, showing wonderful spice, orange zest, leather, tobacco, and red cherry. There is a light fresh finish, following a medium body of yum.

2009 Lagrein

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The Lagrein wants food, with meat proteins helping to bring out the range of flavors on the full bodied varietal. There is a rich mix of cigar box, red and dark fruit, and a pleasant drying mouth grip here. I’m a fan of this grape.

2007 Santa Barbara County Nebbiolo

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Spending 3 1/2 years in oak, and 1 year in bottle before release, the Santa Barbara County presentation of the Nebbiolo is meant to be the most approachable of the Palmina Nebbiolos. It loves air and wants a lot of time in decanter or glass after opening.

The wine shows violet, red fruit, lots of spice, and cracked pepper. it is nicely drying, with medium acidity, and a medium long finish.

2006 Stolpman Nebbiolo

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The Stolpman Vineyard Nebbiolo comes from a barbaresco clone grown in a limestone vein. It’s a wonderfully feminine presentation of strength and elegance with floral–violet and rose–spicy, and leather notes alongside cigar box.

2006 Sisquoc Honea Vineyards Nebbiolo

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A more sinewy, athletic version of Nebbiolo, the Sisquoc uses a Barolo clone. The structure here is tight and focused, while fluid, carrying raisin, date, juicy berry, and dried violet plus touches of musk.

2006 Honea Vineyard Nebbiolo

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In the Honea Nebbiolo the Barolo clone is grown in limestone taking the clone of the Sisquoc grown in the soil type of the Stolpman. There is a strength and fullness here, with a rich and tight presentation, though it is more open than the sinewy Sisquoc. The flavors here are rich leather, and cigar, with dried violet, spice, and cracked pepper.

Palmina Dessert Wine

2006 Santita, a Malvasia Bianca Appassimento

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A perfect biscotti wine made from grapes dried for a 120 days and then rehydrated. The wine is nutty, with dried white herbs, light oxidized notes, touches of molasses, date, dried fig, and dried apricot, as well as touches of dark toast. It is a lovely dessert-style wine offering the rich concentration of the style without the sweetness.

Copyright 2012 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com

As I mentioned yesterday, my hosting site has changed. We’re getting the kinks worked out, but unfortunately, for now subscriptions have gotten a little askew. That is, currently, if you’d subscribed to my site before it moved your subscription isn’t forwarding posts to you. I apologize for the mix-up. I’m hoping the people I’m working with can help me fix this.

In the meantime, here’s more pics from our Lompoc to Arroyo Grande journey yesterday. Cheers!

Palmina and Brewer-Clifton

Thank you so much to Steve Clifton for taking so much time with us.

Thank you to Seth Kunin.

We were also fortunate enough to spend time with Brian Talley and Eric Johnson at Talley Vineyards in Arroyo Grande. I’ll post those pics tomorrow.


Copyright 2012 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com


My last day in New York scheduled a drive out the South Fork of Long Island to visit with Christopher Tracy, a man inspired by the wines of Friuli (not to mention Blaufrankisch–I love Blaufrankish), and the wine maker of the winery Channing Daughters. However, at the last minute I had to cancel due to a mix-up with the car rental company. Disappointed not to hear more about Christopher’s work in person, I set out to find at least one of his wines in New York City.

Slope Cellars in Park Slope solved my problem by carrying the 2008 Meditazione, a Friuli-inspired white wine blend created with 30 days of skin contact, co-fermentation, and barrel aging. In other words, a New York State orange wine.

Channing Daughters 2008 Meditazione

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Channing Daughters’ 2008 Meditazione is a strange, intriguing, and highly textural wine. The blend brings together Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Friulano, Muscat Ottonel, and Pinot Grigio in a full maceration production process. As has been discussed here previously, the extended skin contact chosen in producing this wine allows tannin effect on the palate. The result of which carries a wonderful tongue grip tickle sensation in the mouth.

In producing this wine, the blend of grapes changes from year to year depending on the best balance for the particular vintage. The grapes are de-stemmed and then co-fermented in an open top fermenter, without pump over. The wine is left this way with full skin contact for periods varying from year to year. In 2008 the wine was left on skins for 10 days (in 2009 for 30 days). After fermentation is complete, the wine is moved to a mix of new and old Slovenian oak for 18 months of aging before bottling. With its tighter grain, Slovenian oak introduces lesser tannin or flavor influence to the wine, while still providing some of the complexity and layering offered by its slow introduction of oxygen to the juice as it ages.

The flavors of the 2008 Meditazione are dusty and yellow fruit focused, with layers of nut, white pepper, and touches of honey. The wine begins tight in the nose and mouth with distinct textural layers that open to reveal more dried yellow fruit and skin notes with time in the glass. There are flavors of pickled lemon (salt with citrus), dried white sage, and lightly smokey elements. I couldn’t help but keep returning to the glass with this wine. It is strange, in the most wonderful way, showing the qualities associated with orange wines but with its particular grape combination carrying its own unique presentation of bouquet and flavors. The alcohol level comes in at good balance with 12% alongside medium acidity and tannin, and an ultra-long finish. I had to chase it around the block.



Christopher, thank you for making the time to meet with me. I apologize for the mishap, and am happy to know I can look forward to meeting you in person later in the year. (Also, Ben at Slope Cellars asked me to say hello.)


Thank you to Ben at Slope Cellars for the help in locating Channing Daughters Meditazione, and for the great conversation. I enjoyed meeting you.

Slope Cellars, 436 7th Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11215. 718-369-7307

Copyright 2012 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com