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.
Inaugural NAP (Nebbiolo Advocates & Producers) -
August 19, 2009
Inaugural NAP (Nebbiolo Advocates & Producers) GetToGether (8/19/09):
Nebbiolo is a grape that absolutely perplexes me. DarrellCorti steered me to some that I really liked back in the early '70's, when I first fell in love w/ the grape. Sometimes I wonder if I didn't like those Piedmonte Nebbs because I knew I was supposed to like them...that it was recognized as one of the world's great wines and , therefore, if'n I was to have any wine cred, I, too, must like them.
Since then, it's sorta developed into a love/hate relationship...heavily weighted towards the "hate" part of the spectrum. I describe drinking Piedmonte Nebbiolo as stuffing lilac petals up one nostril, violet petals up the other nostril, sealing both nostrils with a plug of hot tar; then sticking your tongue out betwixt the jaws of a vise and torquing that sucker down...there's some pleasurable things going on, but it also involves a lot of pain. I just don't get (most of the time) those wines. But my whining is always dismissed by those who love those wines as I just don't try the right producer, or that I just drink them too young. But I've had plenty of old Baroli that have this beautiful/complex slight tarry/floral/dried rose petal fragrance and I still find them hurtey on the palate from the acids and the dried-out tannins. I try some of the young Piedmonte Nebbs, made in a modern style for earlier drinking. Same reaction... I love the lovely fragrance of the grape...but they still hurt on the palate. But, then.....every once in awhile, I'll get that rare Piedmonte Nebb that has it all together and I'm blown away by the variety
and I understand, once again, why I love Nebbiolo and I want to try more. Sorta like a moth being drawn to a fire.
As I followed Calif wines over the yrs, I came to the opinion that, because of its superior climate,
they can, eventually, make better wines (for my palate) from the same grape variety then any of their old-world counterparts. Happened w/ Cabernet...Zinfandel...maybe Chardonnay...PinotNoir...Syrah.. Grenache...not Riesling, yet...not GWT, yet. So...surely...they can do it with Nebbiolo.
I've followed Calif Nebb from the very start. When NickMartin made that first one from CentralVlly
grapes at MartinBros (now Martin & Wyerich) in PasoRobles. 'Twarn't much of a Nebbiolo. But he had this vision for Calif Nebbiolo. Till then, they only had planted in Calif the NebbioloFino, not much of a clone. Nick planted the first Nebbiolo Michet and made his first wine from it, EastSide Paso, in 1986. Nothing great...but actually pretty good and gave a glimpse of what Nebb could do out there. Next was probably DaveCaparone, there in Paso. The grapes may have been good...but flawed by inept winemaking.
The next real milestone for Nebb in Calif was when TomStolpman planted Nebb in his vnyd in SantaYnezVlly, for gawd-knows whatever reason. From those grapes have come some of the first really good Calif Nebbs; first from SteveClifton under his Palmina label, and then SashiMoorman at Stolpman. I think there are some other plantings that Steve draws Nebb from as well. But these folks are probably the real pioneers of great Nebbiolo in Calif.
Over the last few yrs, there's been sort of a quiet/below-the-radar growth of interest in Nebbiolo.
Some 6-7 yrs ago, I found out KenMusso was growing Nebb up on his ElDorado property just North of Placerville. A few yrs ago, I also found out EmilioCastelli was growing Nebb in the GreenVlly area of SonomaCnty. We did a visit to his property last year at this time.
This last year, I'd tried several of AdamLee's Nebbs and liked them. When I found out PaxMahle was making Nebbiolo as well, I suggested to Emilio that it might be a good idea to get some of these producers together and taste each other's Nebbs. He was all in favor of that, and so the idea of an Inagural NAP mtg was hatched.
Invited was Adam&Diana Lee, their winemaker Ryan Zepaltas, Pax Mahle and his assistant, Ryan, KenMusso/grower and winemaker at DueVigna, and Emilio. NateWeis/Antica winemaker at AtlasPeakVnyds of the Antinori's operation, and a future Nebb producer, was also invited, but had to bow out at the last minute due to two of his kid's illness. When I invited DarrellCorti to join us, he responded...."When are you people going to give up". He was interested, but prior travel committments prevented his joining us. Since he had already declared Nebbiolo a failure in Calif, RobertParker was NOT invited. As with Syrah, he'll probably come to the party ten yrs after it started.
Pax agreed to host us at his WindGap wnry in downtown Forestville. With this core group, the Inagural NAP get-together was launched. I have little doubt that NAP will grow in leaps&bounds and someday dwarf ZAP is size. Tastings at FtMason, even, that will put VinExpo to shame. It will happen.
So we got together and did some serious tasting:
- DueVigne ElDorado Dolcetto 2005: Dark color; strong grapey/plummyripe slight licorice/pungent attractive nose; lush/ripe plummy/licorice/spicy attractive flavor; med.long lush/plummy/grapey/spicy finish w/light tannins; loads of ripe/plummy character much like Mourvedre w/o the tannins; maybe Calif should be focusing more on Dolcetto? Better than most Piedmonte versions I've had of late.
- Naked Lady Castelli Estate Nebbiolo 2005: Med.lighht color; attractive floral/violets/Nebb slight tarry/
pungent light toasty/smokey/oak very attractive nose; rather tannic/acid/hard strong floral/violets light
toasty/oak very slight brett light pungent/tarry flavor; med.long bit hard/tannic/acid strong floral/
violets/Nebb light tarry/pungent finish; needs more time; lots of classic Nebb aromatics.
- Novy StolpmanVnyd Nebbbiolo 2005: Med.color; light floral/lilacs somewhat pencilly/toasty/oak nose; tart fairly smooth/textured some floral/violets some pencilly/oak light tannic flavor; med.long light floral/
violets some toasty/pencilly/oak slight tannic finish; speaks gently of Nebb but more like a Siduri
Pinot in style because of the oak.
- JeffPisoni StolpmanVnyd Nebbiolo 2006: Light color; very fragrant/perfumed floral/violets/spicy light
toasty/oak nose; tart/lean bit tannic/hard slight tarry/smokey/pungent rather floral/violets/lilacs
some toasty/oak flavor; med.long spicy/floral/lilacs/violets light toasty/oak bit hard/tannic finish;
needs some age; lots of floral almost-Pinotish character.
- Novy StolpmanVnyd Nebbiolo 2006: Fairly light color; somewhat tarry/pungent very light floral/lilacs
rather tight/closed nose; tart/lean/tannic slight floral/lilacs/tarry tight/shut-down flavor; med.long
tart/tannic/lean/hard lighht floral/lilacs very light tarry/licorice finish; mare angular & hard than
the '05 and seems somewhat tight & closed.
- DueVigna ElDorado Nebbiolo 2006: Med.light color; light toasty/oak/pencilly slight herbal/earthy fairly
floral/lilacs interesting nose; tart bit tannic light floral/lilacs light toasty/oak slight herbal/ earthy flavor; med.long light floral/lilacs/herbal/earthy/dusty bit hard/tannic finish; good Nebb character and some of that earthy ElDorado terroir.
- WindGap GlenroseVnyd/PasoRobles Nebbiolo 2006: Med.color; very strong/fragrant/perfumed violets/floralNebb very spicy almost Pinotish nose; tart bit lean/hard/tannic very floral/violets/spicy quite perfumey flavor; very long very perfumed/floral/violets/lilacs some tannic/haard/tart finish; speaks loud & clear of Nebbiolo w/ very perfumed/fragrant character; bright pretty Nebb.
- WindGap LunaMattaVnyd/PasoRobles (100% whole cluster) Nebbiolo 2007: Med.light color; bit more toasty/oak strong floral/lilacs/perfumed/Nebb lovely nose; tart bit tannic/hard strong floral/ lilacs/Nebb some low-key toasty/oak flavor; very long lovely/floral/lilacs/Nebb light toasty/ charred/oak some tannic/hard finish; lovely expression of Nebbiolo; more base notes and less high-toned character than the '06.
- Novy StolpmanVnyd Nebbiolo 2007: Very light color; light floral/violets vey slight tarry/pungent some
tight/closed nose; softer light/floral/violets light tannic very slight pungent/tarry flavor; med.long
light floral/violets/aromatic somewhat softer light tannic finish; seems a bit tight & closed; lighter
more elegant expression of Nebb; quite a pretty wine but needs age.
- Novy StolpmanVnyd Nebbiolo 2008: Light color; strong blackberry/floral/lilacs/spicy almost Zin-like
fragrant/spicy nose; tart lush/grapey/floral/berry/lilacs bit hard/tannic flavor; long ripe/lush
floral/lilacs spicy/berry finish w/ some tannins; lots of lush fruit and almost Zin-like in character.
- WindGap Glenrose&LunaMatta/PasoRobles Nebbiolo 2007: Med.dark color; lovely floral/lilacs/berry/ Nebb very light toasty/oak almost Pinotish nose; tart bit tannic/hard bright/floral/violets somewhat cherry/Pinotish very perfumed flavor; long bit hard/tannic tart pretty/bright/floral/violets/cherry finish;
needs more age; a very pretty/perfumed/fragrant almost Pinotish rendition of Nebb.
- WindGap Nebbiolo 2008: Med.color; much more floral/lilacs/violets/Nebb-like quite perfumed/aromatic
And a wee BloodyPulpit:
slight road tar/pungent nose; tart/hard/tannic very floral/perfumed/lilacs/violets/spicy light tarry/
pungent flavor; very long perfumed/floral/lilacs/violets/classic Nebb some hard/tannic finish; needs
more age; probably the most classic Nabb of Pax's Nebbs.
1. AdamLee made some interesting comments as we sat around and chatted about Nebbiolo. I opined (as I am wont to do) that Calif Nebb is going to be a tough sell...because those who buy it because it's a Calif wine are going to be disappointed because of high acidity and tannins. And those who buy iit because it's Nebbiolo are going to be disappointed because it's not a dead-ringer for Barolo. Adam suggested that it might find it's niche in sales at Italian restaurants....that most lovers of Calif wines often eat at Italian restaurants and they might want to drink something Californian...but with an Italian twist.
He also felt that with Nebbiolo there might be too much of an emphasis on the Nebb clones, much
as with PinotNoir, and not enough emphasis on things like rootstocks, growing, and the winemaking.
As we chatted, Adam looked around the room at this 2'nd wave of Calif winemakers who are working w/
Nebbiolo and opined that we may not be the Calif pioneers of Nebb, they may someday be viewed as the winemakers who blazed the trail to making great Nebb in Calif. It always gives me the heeby-jeebies
when someone as young as Adam is already thinking about the legacy they will leave when they're gone
(I've already reconciled that my legacy is going to be a never-ending trail of //////////'s in CyberSpace!!)
2. I'd suggested to Emilio that maybe I should have had some T-shirts made up for this event, with all
their names listed on the back, like we get at fencing tournaments. And on the front would be this
drawing of a lil' ole winemaker beating his head against the side of a cask...in frustration.
3. AdamLee expressed an interest in getting another NAP scheduled in a year, but not so close to crush
so we'd have a more relaxed event. I'm all for that.
4. Pisoni: This unlabeled btl was a mystery wine brought by AdamLee. It was made by JeffPisoni at Adam's wnry from some of the Stolpman fruit he got. Never before tasted in public, according to Adam.
5. CalifNebb: So...what's the state of Calif Nebb. I think they're definitely on the right track. Most of
these show the classic aromatics that make Nebbiolo such a wonderful variety. I could go out and
spend $70-$200/btl for an equivalent-age Piedmonte Nebbiolo and get much less pleasure from it.
Whether the Nebbs are going to be, 10-20 yrs down the road, as attractive as these are will be a
good question. I'll be there taking data.
Dinner at Emilio's (8/19/09)
After we'd worked thru all the Nebb's at Pax's, we adjourned for dinner to Emilio's home and some
more Nebbs. KenMusso was the only one who could join us...the others having chores to attend to with
the oncoming crush staring them in the face. Emilio lives on GreenVllyRd, between Graton and Occidental. He has a small Nebb vnyd there on his property. Last year when we visited, he was in the middle of building his straw-bale wnry there on his property. It is now completed and just received its bond a few weeks ago. Production will begin there this year. In addition to using his own Estate grapes, he also buys a bit from RanchoSisquoc in SantaBarbara as well. I'm proud to say that I've followed Emilio's wines...even from before the very start.
- Balagera Chiavennasca TerrazzaRetiche di Sondrio Frizzante Blanc (10.5%) NV: Light/pale color; very light simple/fruity almost no nose; fizzy lightly fruity clean simple flavor; short fizzy lightly fruity finish; no Nebb character and simple/fruity pleasant fizzy wine.
- Vivac MimbresVlly/NewMexico Nebbiolo (13%) 2006: Very light rather bricked color; earthy/ mushroomy slight desert sage/herbal little Nebb nose; soft/fat grapey/mushroomy flavor w/ little tannins or acids; med.short grapey/mushroomy slight herbal/sagebrush finish w/ little tannins; rather dull classic MimbresVlly red w/ no Nebb character I can detect.
- Cantina Ar.Pe.Pe.srl Valtelline Superiore Sassella RocceRosse Riserva (www.ArPePe.com; 13%) Arturo Pellizatti Perego 1997: Very light rather bricked color; lovely very perfumed/dried rose petal rather meaty light tarry/pungent very exotic complex nose; tart/hard/tannic some dried out rather metallic/dried rose petal/meaty very perfumed flavor; lean/hard/tannic/acid dried rose petal/meaty slight tarry complex finish; seems a bit dried out on palate and hard/hurtey but lovely/beautiful classic aged
Nebb aromatics; had smoothed out a bit the next morning on the palate.
- RoundPond Rutherford/NapaVlly Nebbiolo (14.3%) 2006: Med.light some bricking color; bit tarry/pungent light pencilly/toasty/oak pleasant floral/violets nose; tart rather hard/tannic bit licorice/pungent/ light tarry fairly pencilly/oak flavor; med.long light pungent/tarry/licorice light floral/violets somewhat pencilly/oak finish w/ rather hard tannins; certainly speaks of Nebbiolo but a bit too much pencilly/oak for my taste; a Nebb made by a Cab producer. $32.00
- CosentinoWnry TheNeb SonomaVlly Nebbiolo (14.4%) 2004: Med.color w/ slight bricking; strong pencilly/toasty/Fr.oak very ligt floral/violets/Nebb nose; very tart/acid very strong toasty/pencilly/oak/
toasted cocnut/ZagNut bar light floral/violets flavor; med.long strong toasty/Fr.oak/pencilly toasted
coconut lighht floral finish w/ ample tannins; loads of toasty Fr.oak and speaks slightly of Nebb.
- Triacca Sforzato di Valtellina SanDomenico (15%) Villa di Tirano 2001: Med.color w/ slight bricking;
strong grapey/fragrant/floral/lilacs bit fumey/alcoholic/late harvesty nose; tart rather tannic/hard
bit dried out light floral/lilacs bit metallic/bitey some alcoholic/late harvesty flavor; med.long
light floral/lilacs/Nebb rather hard/tannic rather later harvesty/raisened finish; probably needs
more age but on the raisened/late harvesty side. $68.00
- RenatoRatti Marcenasco Barolo (13.5%) 1998: Med.color w/ slight bricking; beautiful floral/violets/
Nebb light tarry/pungent/fresh Kansas road tar on a hot Summer day very perfumed/complex/aromatic nose; bit acid/tart/bitey light tannic effusive/floral/violets/lilacs/perfumed light tannic slight dried rose
petal complex flavor; very long/lingering perfumed/violets/floral/Nebb slight acidic/bitey light tarry/
pungent light tannic smooth complex finish; a beautiful elegant example of Piedmonte Nebb in all its
- Vigneti de Marchi Propreita Sperino Lessona (13%) 2004: Very attractive fragrant/perfumed/floral/lilacs/Nebb lovely fragrant nose; softer light tannic very attractive floral/lilacs light tarry somewhat earthy/dusty slight oak flavor; long attractive floral/lilacs/violets/perfumed/Nebb fairly rich/lush some tannic/hard light oak finish; very attractive Nebb w/o the hurtey character; this is how they'd make Calif Nebb in the Piedmonte if they could. Bit pricey at $64.00
- NakedLady CastelliEstate Nebbiolo 2006: Med.color; strong floral/lilacs/perfumed almost Pinot-like
And a wee BloodyPulpit:
some pungent/tarry fragrant/lovely nose; bit hard/tannic lovely floral/lilacs/violets somewhat acid
light tarry/pungent very attractive flavor; very long ripe/floral/lilacs/violets some tannic/hard bit
tarry finish; needs several yrs of age yet; speaks lod & clear of Nebbiolo w/ a Calif voice; probably
my favorite Nebb for drinking of the night.
Ar.Pe.Pe: This is the new name for the old ArturoPellizatti wines from the Valtelline. When I first
discovered these wines in the early '70's, it started my decades-long love affair w/ Valtelline
Nebbiolo. I, in general, prefer the Nebbs from the Valtelline to those of the Piedmonte. They tend
to have more of an earthy character and not quite the aromatics, but I like their attack on the
palate better than most high-end Piedmonte Nebbs. If Calif Nebbiolo winemakers look to Italy for
inspiration (not that they should), the Valtelline is where they should look.
2. Both the RoundPond and the Cosentino Nebbs certainly spoke of Nebbiolo, but they both had a bit too
much oak that obscured any Nebb fruit that might have been there, especially the Cosentino. The latter
Nebb came from two vnyds over in the RussianRvr area, one of whom the tasting room guy thought was
called Romani or Romanee or some such. Didn't seem too inclined to pursue the subject for me, so
I just bought my bottle and skeedaddled (Kansas colloquialism for get the Hell out of Dodge). Whereas
the guy at the RoundPond tasting room (Khris Lund) was engaging and a real joy to visit with and made
a valiant attempt to locate the spec sheet on the Nebb for me. DuckPond grows their Nebb out to the
front of their Estate in a gravelly/riverbed type of soil where it seems to do best.
3. Danged Baroli: I keep trying the Piedmonte Barolo/Barbaresco paradigm and am ready to completly cross them off my list; mean tannic/acidic wines. Then I hit, every so often, one like this Ratti...and I,
once again, go back on my word. Thanks, Emilio!!
4. Emilio insists that to enjoy Nebbiolo, you must have it with food. I'm not sure I absolutely believe
that..that Nebbiolo needs a crutch to support it. But food we had. We started off w/ some of Laura's
bruschetta, some of Emilio's NoKneadBread w/ olive oil, his own home-cured Bresaola; and a selection of Salamis and Terrines I'd picked up at TheFattedCalf that morning. Then we segued to the table
for Brasato (Beef braised in Barolo) served atop Polenta. The home-grown tomatoes were about the
best I've had this year. And, of course, more Nebbs. A terrific evening of great food, great wines
(some not so great), and best of all, great company. Doen't get any better than that.
5. FattedCalf: I'd been wanting to try salami from TheFattedCalf for a number of yrs, so this time I
alloted some time to make the pilgrimage to the OxbowMarket in Napa, where they make their products
and the only outlet (save the Farmer'sMarket at the FerryBldg on Saturday). This is definitely a
place everyone must visit. The terrines were dynamite, the Salamis maybe the best I've yet had.
Whilst Susan had her EggMcMuffin (well....it was a fried egg samwich from TheModelBakery next door),
I chowed down on their (FattedCalf) Porchetta samwich. Dynamite breakfast fare.
[Additional Wine Reviews from Tom Hill]
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