Monday, August 11, 2008

California Nebbiolo? Look out Piedmonte

When one thinks of the Nebbiolo grape, the image that immediately comes to mind is that of the Kings of Italian Red, Barolo and Barbaresco in Piedmonte. And so it should be. After all, these magnificent regions have truly earned their reputations by making superb, powerfully tannic reds that, with proper aging, turn into velvety nectar. But did you know that Nebbiolo has been successfully grown in California? Perhaps you have: but to me this was surprising and hard to believe news. Then again, maybe it was just the wine snob in me rearing his ugly head and refusing to accept that my favorite grape could thrive anywhere but the Italian region of its origin.

Well this weekend, I had the opportunity to open a bottle of wine made from Nebbiolo grapes grown in the Paso Robles appellation of central coast California. A bottle of Adelaida, Nebbiolo 2004 from Glen Rose Vinyard, was sent to me by a good friend and Northern California resident, Paul Santinelli. He had recently taken a trip through the central coast wineries and in fact wrote an article for Winelegends describing his experience. see
In any case, I must say that my own tasting of this wine was quite pleasurable. Now, I'm not going to go as far as to say it was as good as a Barolo or Barbaresco, but I will say it was very good.

I tasted this bottle in a few ways, first right out of the bottle. It had a very tight nose. Slight hints of red cherry and various floral components. It had a very light body, reminiscent of a Pinot Noir, which I was quite surprising concerning that Barolos that I am used to are usually heavier wines. On the pallet, the slight cherry that was present in the nose was abundantly clear. The tannins were present but not as intense as I expected and I would call them medium. The tasting experience ended with a very interesting caramel flavor. I must say a negative was the high alcohol content of 15.5%, which was hot on the throat.

Next I tasted the wine with Gouda cheese, which did an excellent job of taming the tannins as well as the burn of the high amount of alcohol. The cheese certainly made the experience a lot smoother. Finally, I decanted a glass overnight to see the effects. Unfortunately, after 24 hours, the wine seemed to be turning bad, I would bet reasonable decanting of 2 to 4 hours would have had better results. I must point out that this was a 2004 vintage, and therefore had virtually no effects of aging on it. Would I open a fine bottle of 2004 Barolo tonight and expect it to taste amazing? Absolutely not. So with that being said, who knows what this wine would taste like if left to age another 6 to 8 years?

However, despite a couple of drawbacks, my opinion of this wine is that it is quite good and worth buying. Do the producers of Barolo and Barbaresco have something to worry about from California? Well, I wouldn't go that far, but I would rate the wine a solid 3 on our 5 point scale, meaning I would definitely buy a bottle in the future. I suggest you treat yourself a California Nebbiolo, you won't regret it. Many thanks to Paul for introducing me to solid wine.


Jon-Paul said...

I was not aware of Nebbiolo grapes being grown in California, Ant. Though I'm not as passionate about the heavier wines from Italy as others may be, I am partial to Piedmonte, particularly due to some of the gems I've had over the years during our tastings that have had some chance to age and calm down. I suspect that for your rating of a 3 at this point, either we should look for vintages older than 2004 (if they even exist) or wait and try this same wine in a few years.

Anthony F. LaVista said...

Hey JP, my guess is that aging will have a positive affect on these wines. It does for most reds. That is a good question as to how long Nebbiolo has been grown in California. I think we should look into it further and see if we can obtain any older vintages. Good suggestion.