Please visit my new project: Prima Materia

Thank you for visiting the Rosa d'Oro blog and please visit the Prima Materia project also at

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Delicious Irony - Primitivo awarded "Best Red"

In a delicious bit of irony our 2009 Primitivo was pleased to be crowned the "Best Red" of the 2011 People's Choice Wine Awards held at Langtry Estate and Vineyards yesterday.

Almost 300 consumers cast their votes for their favorite wines yesterday after a panel of 13 professional judges whittled down a field of 165 entries to 57 that passed through for judging.

It is a somewhat contentious wine at 16.2% alcohol, totally dry with minimal oak and old-world inflected black pepper and earth characteristics and Dry Creek-style chalky tannin finish. Estate grown in our Kelseyville Bench area vineyard the main Primitivo block was planted in 1998 and is hitting its 10 year+ mature stride. It is planted on St. George rootstock with Primitivo clone FPS 03 (obtained in 1968 from Puglia by Dr. Goheen and made publicly available in 1984, making it the oldest of the Primitivo clones) which may not be a VCR clone. You true Zinfandel and Primitivo  nerds can read the exciting FPS history here including Primitivo field trials.

You can find reviews of the wine here and here.

Thank you to everyone who braved the gray skies to come out yesterday and big thanks to our panel of judges (Virginie Boone, Deborah Parker Wong, John Buechsenstein, Shauna Rosenblum, Joe Roberts, Randy Caparoso, Pamela Heligenthal, Marc Hinton, Tina Caputo, Mike and Martha Dunne, Clark Smith and Don Neel) who sacrificed two days to attend and judge in July at Brassfield Estate. Big thanks to all the volunteers as well and Stephanie Cruz-Green, Sheila Taylor, Mireya Turner, Chris Skarada, Dustin Fults and Monica. Extra thanks to Ray Johnson in particular.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Vintage 2011 - rot, redemption, rookdom

Did you like that last post? You thought I was all like boo-hoo and wah but then I was like all right on, it is all cool 'bro, want a slurpee? Well, some of it was lie. The rain has left an indelible mark. The pictures below are of Barbera presorting for rot control. I go through the vines before the pickers come and cut out the bad stuff, leaving a trail of tears in my wake. Barbera is a late-season thin-skinned grapes with large berries, which pretty much a triple strike out. Any cluster that touched another or touched the vine itself, canes or trellising had rot. The positive is that at least what we crushed after the sort looked pretty good, but the loss can seem pretty heavy from the ground though.

It is particularly painful because pre-rain Lake County had the highest potential for a Grand Vintage I had ever seen (in my few years here) with more moderate heat and high humidity, no frost damage, early start and typical low pest pressure other than mildew and some early unusual botrytis. If you were up on your mildew control it was looking like a beautifully structured old-world inflected possibility. Many of us never even touched water until Mid-August. Unfortunately limited labor is affecting this vintage just as much as the weather.

In keeping with the general theme of 2011 the alcohol will be below 14% for the Barbera, which is nice for everyone in theory and the acid is good, though not as great as the wack-job press would lead you to believe. In fact, for these late-season cultivars acid is nowhere near screaming high from the numbers I have seen. For the early season stuff like Russian River Pinot and Chardonnay, sure, but everything from the Central Valley is  about where it normally is due to the longer growing season (ah ha, the press misses that part). Napa Valley Cab at 3.4pH just is not going to happen (except for Corison of course). American Tartaric as far as I know is reporting no huge loss in sales - in fact tartaric acid is also at an all-time record high price this year, over $200 per 25kg. sack! Painful.

Aglianico canopy going strong
In better news the Aglianico bit was all true though, looking great. An interesting side note is that Aglianico has one of the lowest forming/hanging bunches in the Vitis Vinifera world, meaning that the clusters are extremely exposed and swinging in the breeze. Often the first bunch forms below the very first leaf which is quite unusual, leaving it very exposed - a freaky proposition for sunburn but an absolute blessing for drying out after rain.

The last thing worth mentioning is this piece right here about hiring unskilled non-immigrant picking crews and the current labor shortage. All you pasty suburban kids staring at Facebook, stop taking pictures of yourself, go outside and do some worky work. You are not special. You are not unique or beautiful snowflakes...
Aglianico clusters freeballing

Sunday, October 23, 2011

2011 - fall colors

This post was originally about how bad it all is. How the pickers took four days to pick one acre as it fell from 25.5 to 21 brix in the sticky clay mud, berries went red to pink, bloated with water and exploding. The labor shortage was clearly in effect here in Lake County as in other places, so little operations such as ours were out of luck. Then the early season reds started to come in and they were all skanky and screwed up from the two inches of rain while trolling, self-important wine columnists heralded the low-alcohol, high-acid vintage without  understanding that rain deadens acidity and ruins tannin maturity. They will be the first to complain about thin, astringent wines too. More than a half-inch is bad in Bordeaux too you weenies. Look back over your vintage charts and get a life.

And suddenly, it was very cold. Outdoor tanks without heating. Ever wonder how long it takes to heat six tons of grapes ten degrees with a propane burner? I know the answer.

But, then the sun came out. And it stayed out. For two weeks the weather has been perfect. Wife-beater and flip-flop perfect. And then the Primitivo came through beautifully while the Muscats finished up their fermentations more nicely than expected. Three small lots of Sangiovese, three different chances, three different clones, three different faces. Nebbiolo just came in looking amazing and a few more goodies are working. Montepulciano is still to come, the Barbera is back on track for another five days in the 80's and the Aglianico could not possibly look any better.

It still does not feel like true fall, but the vines are slowly starting to shut down. One of the interesting things this time of year is how pretty the virused vines are. Of course, viruses are bad, though sometimes scurrilous sommeliers talk of them as convenient crop limiters and retarders of overripening. There are many types within each family and often the greatest mystery is how. Nematodes are a big problem/vector for fan leaf, as are mealybugs for leaf roll - of which there are at least seven types. Fleck is always out there too. Newly planted vines from clean, safe and certified sources show viruses. All of the Petite Sirah we planted is showing virus in its third year. But, they are also very pretty.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Salinas Valley Food and Wine Festival - Saturday

Feeling a little outclassed but excited. 

The 2011 judging panel includes five judges along with several apprentices. The judging team will be led by Master Sommelier, Catherine Fallis. Catherine Fallis is the first woman in the world to have earned both the Master Sommelier diplomafrom the International Court of Master Sommeliers and theAdvanced Certified Wine Professional diploma from the Culinary Institute of America. She is a contributing editor for Sommelier Journal. Catherine Fallis will be joined by several other sommeliers, including Randy Caparoso. Randy Caparoso is afounding partner of the Roy’s restaurant group and also acontributing editor for Sommelier Journal. He has his advanced certificate from the Court of Master Sommeliers. Also joining Catherine Fallis as assistacts will be Certified Sommelier and Wine Maker, Shauna Rosenblum; Certified Sommelier and Wine Maker, Pietro Buttitta and Certified Sommelier and Director of Judging, Sheila Taylor. The sommelier assistants include Certified top Sommelier award recipient, Wade Stephens; Certified Sommelier, Angela Lo Barnett, and Certified Sommelier, Thamin Saleh.

Randy Caparoso

Current Bottom Line editor for Sommelier Journal, Randy Caparoso has 30+ years in pairing wine and food. He has achieved an Advanced Certificate in the Court of Master Sommeliers, and served on many judging panels, includingSant√©’s annual national Grand Awards. One of the Founding Partners of the Roy’s restaurant group, Caparoso has also spent time producing his own wines (Caparoso Wines LLC) and continues to speak and write regularly on the subject.

Pietro Buttitta

A third-generation grape grower, Pietro Buttittia is a court-certified sommelier who currently works as the winemaker for Rosa d’Oro Vineyards. Buttitta has also served as a chef at several renowned restaurants, including the Michelin-rated Terra Restaurant in Napa, California. He most recently served as co-chair for the prestigious Lake County Wine Competition.

Thamin Saleh

A passionate sommelier with a wide spectrum of experience, Thamin Saleh has been involved in food and particularly in wine in the Monterey County for over a decade. Currently the Food & Beverage Manager at Solage Calistoga, Saleh can list stints as the Director of Wine at Bacara Resort and Spa, Sommelier/Cellar Master at Park Hyatt-Highlands Inn in Carmel, Marinus General Manager at Bernardus Lodge in Carmel Valley, and G.M and Sommelier at the Quail Lodge Resort and Gold Club. A food and wine expert, he has served on many judging panels.

Wade Stephens

Wade Stephens is a Certified Sommelier from Vino Tabi Winery in Santa Cruz. He is a graduate of the Sommelier program at the French Culinary Institute and has an extensive background in the retail business.

Angela Lo Barnett

Catherine Fallis aka grape goddess®

America's premiere female Master Sommelier.

A popular and entertaining speaker and host for corporate and private events, and the world's only Master Sabreuse, Catherine is founder and president of Planet Grape LLC (, for wine consulting, and of Sabering Champagne! (, for wine entertainment.

Fallis is the only person in the world to have earned both the prestigious Master Sommelier diploma from the International Court of Master Sommeliers and the Advanced Certified Wine Professional title from the Culinary Institute of America. She is also a French Wine Scholar and an instructor at the San Francisco Wine School..

Shauna Rosenblum

Raised on her family’s renowned vineyards, Rosenblum Cellars, Shauna Rosenblum now carries on the family tradition as winemaker for Rock Wall Wine Company. She is a certified sommelier and frequent judge at lauded competitions such as the Orange County Wine Competition, Connoisseur’s Guide to California, and Lake County Wine Competition. Her love of winemaking has won her many awards, including “Best Zinfandel in California.”

Sheila Taylor

Sheila R. Taylor is the Director of Wine Judging for the Salinas Valley Food and Wine Festival. Sheila attained her Certified Sommelier education from the French Culinary Institute, and is a Certified Sommelier at Thomas Fogarty Vineyard and Winery, Viva's in Los Gatos, and Michi's Catering Events. After graduating less than 4 months ago Sheila worked with Gary Danko, Grgich Winery, The Red Cross, Breast Cancer Research, Ferrari Owners Group Charities, The Lake County Wine Competition, and poured at the Duveneck Humanitarian Awards honoring Norman Y. Mineta, Sid Espinosa (Mayor of Palo Alto and Director of Corporate Citizenship at Microsoft) and Susan Ford Dorsey (President of Sand Hill Foundation).

Friday, September 23, 2011


Finally, some action around these parts. Why does it seem like the really important stuff only happens once per year? This year's Muscat will be a blend of Canelli and Giallo types - this is  Giallo in the picture.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Nebbiolo roundtable tasting notes

Tom Hill graciously allowed me to repost his notes below from the Nebbiolo roundtable a few weeks ago in Napa that was mentioned last week - please see the prior post if you missed it right here. His tasting notes are precise to a fault I feel. This is probably the most comprehensive list of California Nebbiolo bottlings in existence (we did come up with a few missing though such as Graziano, Caparone  and Sunc√©) and without a doubt a comprehensive tasting. Many of the Italian bottlings are missing though. Everything that follows are Tom's notes. Enjoy:

I've long had a fondness for the Nebbiolo grape ever since Darrel lCorti first started selling them to me back in the early '70's. But more it evolved into sorta a love/hate relationship. I love the aromatics of the grape. It can be ethereal at times. The perfume has a distinct floral character of lilacs and violets and dried rose petals. It can sometimes smell of pungency and fresh road tar and licorice. And often those components can be intertwined. Especially when they have some age on them, they can be incredible and complex. But it's when it hits my palate that the problems begin. In their youth, the high acidity and tannin levels can be fierce. So you're always admonished to give them time to age. Sometimes yes/sometimes not. Sometimes the evolve into something ethereal and magical.
Sometimes they never shed those fierce tannins. So I've become sorta conflicted when it comes to Piedmonte Nebbiolo.

I've long felt that Calif could do a better job w/ Nebbiolo than the Piedmonte. I'm still convinced that that's the case. PinotNoir was once considered a temperamental and problem grape in Calif. That thought was long ago put to rest. We can do the same w/ Nebbiolo I feel.

The first Calif Nebbiolo was produced in 1982 by NickMartin at MartinBros wnry in PasoRobles, using some old Nebb out of a vnyd in the SanJoaquinVlly. It was a pretty decent Nebb, especially considering it's lowly provenance. In the early '80's, Nick planted Nebbiolo Michet in his EastSide Paso vnyd and produced the first one in 1986. It was actually pretty darn good Nebb....not great Barolo...but good/tasty wine that spoke of Nebbiolo and was the first indication that Nebbiolo had a future in Calif.
Since those early years, there has been a quiet/under-the-radar interest in Calif in growing Nebbiolo. I think much of that interest was spurred by a comment that Parker once made at a talk afore some winemakers in which he flat-out declared Nebbiolo to be a failure in Calif. So some of the interest in Nebbiolo is driven by contrarian winemakers.

Several yrs ago, I was visiting with both EmilioCastelli/GreenVlly/RRV and KenMusso/ElDorado and suggested that  it might be a good idea to get some of the Calif Nebb producers together and taste the wines and talk about them. So, in August 2009; we got together at WindGap wnry for our Inaugural NAP (Nebbiolo Advocates & Producers). This was reported after that event ( Since that first meeting, things have been sorta quiet on the Calif Nebbiolo front. More producers are giving Nebbiolo a shot. Last Spring, Ken thought it was time to have another NAP#2, to which I readily agreed. He agreed to host it at Silenus Winery, a small custom crush facility on the North outskirts of Napa where he makes his DueVigne wines, including a Nebbiolo and Dolcetto from his ElDorado vnyd. After some false starts, we got a date set in Aug the week after the FamilyWinemakers tasting at FtMason and started inviting. It was on a rather short
notice, so many of the winemakers were unable to attend.

Attendees were:
KenZinns/HarringtonWnry/SanFrancisco/cellar rat
BryanPastini/Freemont/home winemaker/Nebbiolo fan
Ken&AnneMusso/DueVigne/ElDorado grower/winemaker
Pietro Buttitta/Rosa d'OroWnry/Kelseyville/winemaker
Scott Meadows/Silenus vineyards
Brad Smith/Silenus vineyards/production manager
Tom Hill

It was a very casual gathering in the outside courtyard at Silenus under pretty warm temperatures. We just pulled together two picnic tables, sat outselves down, introduced ourselves, and started talking Nebbiolo. After that, we started pulling corks, passing bottles, and talking about the wines. My sketchy notes on the wines we tasted are below. Such as they are. After over an hour of this high-level/intellectual discussions, we adjourned to some light dinner fare and popped a few more corks. And then we adjourned into the dead of the night.

Castelli MayBlush Nebbiolo DryRose GreenVlly (12.5%) 2010: Pale copper/orange color; flowery watermelon/spicy slight earthy nose; dry lean slight tannic spicy/watermelon/juicy rather tart finish; a clean bright attractive rose for food in a Provencal style.

Madrona NebbioloRose ElDorado (13.5%) 2010: Darker copper/salmon color; pleasant/simple slight floral/spicy/earthy nose; bit soft maybe off-dry light floral spicy flavor w/ little tannins; not the lean/angular style of the Castelli and a bit on the simple side, but pleasant enough.

DueVigne Nebbiolo MussoVnyd/ElDorado (14.4%; + Barbera) 2007: Med.color; slight herbal rather floral/lilacs quite pretty fragrant nose; bit tannic/hard floral/lilacs/perfumed slight earthy more lush/Calif-style fairly tart flavor; long tart fairly lush bit tannic/hard floral/lilacs finish; lots of pretty floral character; still needs several yrs.

DueVigne Nebbiolo MussoVnyd/ElDorado (14.4%; 8% Barbera) 2008: Slightly lighter color; tighter bit alcoholic lovely floral/lilacs/violets some perfumed/fragrant nose; more tannic/acid bit tighter lovely floral/lilacs/violets flavor; long fairly tart/tannic attractive floral/lilacs finish; clearly a bit tighter than the '07 and needs more age; not quite as rich/lush & more lean than the '07.

Rosa d'Oro Nebbiolo Riserva Clear Lake/Lake County (13.8%) NV(75% '08/25% '09): Light color w/ slight bricking; slight funky/earthy/pungent slight herbal/roasted chile/pungent/tarry light floral/lilacs slight alcoholic nose; rather lean/tannic/hard light floral/lilacs some pungent/herbal/earthy/tarry flavor; med.long light floral/lilacs some pungent/herbal/earthy/tarry light floral finish; needs more age; shows more of the pungent/tarry side of Nebbiolo than most of the others; maybe road-tar Lite; interesting Nebb in a different style.

Karmere Empress LaPetiteMorgan Nebbiolo ShenandoahVlly (14.3%) 2007: Med.light color; bit alcoholic some briary/ShenandoahVlly/berry light lilacs/floral nose; soft fairly lush light tannic briary/berry some floral/lilacs/perfumed flavor; med. soft/ripe lush berry/briary/floral/lilacs nose; speaks of ShenandoahVlly/briary mostly and quietly of Nebb.

Karmere Empress LaPetiteMorgan Nebbiolo ShenandoahVlly (14.6%) 2008: Med.colr; stronger more fragrant/perfumed/aromatic strong blackberry/briary light floral/lilacs nose; bit more hard/tannic strong briary/berry light floral/lilacs soft/rich/lush perfumed flavor; med.long some hard/tannic strong briary/blackberry light floral/lilacs/perfumed slight pungent finish; speaks of ShenandoahVlly but more Nebb on the palate; needs some age.

BuonaVitaCllrs Nebbiolo RRV (14.8%) 2007: Med.light color; lots of toasty/oak slight floral/lilacs/perfumed some licorice/pungent attractive nose; soft fairly lush/ripe some floral/lilacs/licorice/pungent somewhat toasty/oak bit tannic flavor; med.long some toasty/oak light floral/lilacs/aromatic light pungent/licorice finish w/ modest tannins; rather Calif in style but speaks of Nebb.

Castelli Nebbiolo Estate/GreenVlly/RRV (13.3%) 2007: Med.color; bit pungent/earthy/dusty lovely floral/fragrant/lilacs/violets/Nebb very light toasty/oak slight tarry nose; tart/lean/acid some pungent/herbal/licorice/tarry strong floral/violets/lilacs/perfumed fairly lush bit tannic/hard flavor; very long strong floral/lilacs/violets rather tart/lean light licorice/tarry fairly tannic finish; needs 2-5 yrs age yet; lovely floral aromatics.

Harrington Nebbiolo PasoRobles AJB&LunaMata vnyds/WestSide (14.3%; 30% whole cluster) 2008: Med.light color; ripe/lush some Paso/jammy light floral/lilacs/Nebb slight licorice/pungent rather perfumed nose; softer/lush bit plummy/jammy/Paso light floral/violets/lilacs modest tannins light oak flavor; long bit softer/lusher floral/violets/Nebb light toasty/oak some plummy/jammy finish w/ light tannins; lots a pure fruit and some jammy Paso character.

Harrington Nebbiolo PasoRobles (14.1%) 2009: Med.light color; light toasty/oak quite fragrant/perfumed/lilacs/violets/floral aromatic lovely nose; tarter bit more lean/tannic/structured quite fragrant/floral/violets light toasty/oak flavor; very long floral/violets/lilacs bit hard/tannic/tart finish; the jammy Paso character is beaten down by the lovely/perfumed fragrance.

Gang of Six plus One Nebbiolo PasoRobles (14.5%; 50% whole cluster) 2009: Med.light color; fairly floral/perfumed some Paso/jammy light pungent/smokey nose; tart/lean light floral/lilacs bit pungent/smokey/tarry finish w/ modest tannins; med.long tart/lean some tannic light floral/perfumed light smokey/pungent/tarry finish; needs more age; more bass notes than the Harrington version.

Giornata Nebbiolo LunaMataVnyd/PasoRobles/WestSide (14.5%) 2007: Med.color; rather ripe/overripe/jammy/Paso light smokey/pencilly/cinammon some grapey/ripe little floral nose; soft/lush/ripe plummy/grapey/jammy/Paso some smokey/pencilly/oak very light floral/lilacs slight tannic flavor; med.long ripe/jammy/Paso/plummy/grapey light pencilly/oak finish w/ light tannins; seems on the ripe side and the Paso terroir trumps the Nebb aromatics.

Giornata Nebbiolo LunaMataVnyd/PasoRobles/WestSide (14.5%) 2008: Med.color; some pencilly/smokey/oak less jammy more floral/lilacs/perfumed nose; bit less soft light floral/lilacs slight plummy/grapey light pencilly/oak flavor w/ some tannins; long bit tart/tannic somewhat floral/lilacs/perfumed finish; speaks more of Nebb and less of Paso/jammy terroir.

Novy Nebbiolo StolpmanVnyd/SantaYnezVlly (14.1%) 2006: Med.color; strange funky/wet dog fur light toasty/oak some pungent/licorice very light floral/lilacs/grapey nose; softer/lusher some pungent/licorice light toasty/oak very light fruity/grapey/floral bit funky/earthy some tannic/hard flavor; med.long bit funky/earthy slight grapey/floral/lilacs some toasty/oak bit tannic finish; not nearly as good as last one I had and seems a bit off.

Palmina Nebbiolo SantaBarbaraCnty (14.9%) 2006: Med.light color; slight tarry/pungent bright/floral/cherry/cherry cough drops/spicy bit pencilly/oak nose; slight tarry/pungent light cherry/cough drop/floral bit tannic/hard flavor; med. light cherry/cough drop/floral slight tarry/pungent/earthy some tannic/hard finish; almost a tutti-frutti or Pinot-like style to this wine and not a lot of Nebb character.

Palmina Nebbiolo HoneaVnyd/SantaBarbaraCnty (14.3%; Michet) 2006: Med.color; rather strong pungent/oak/smokey  some floral/lilacs bit earthy/dusty light pungent/tarry attractive nose; rather tannic/hard/tart strong pungent/smokey/oak fairly floral/lilacs/violets/grapey bit road tar/pungent/earthy flavor; long tannic/hard/angular light floral/lilacs/fruity some smokey/pungent/oak finish; needs some age; bit on the wirey/sinewey side compared to the Sisquoc.

Palmina Nebbiolo RanchoSisquocVnyd/SantaBarbaraCnty (15.5%; Michet) 2006: Med.color; some smokey/pungent/licorice light road tar fairly floral/fragrant/lilacs/violets/grapey some toasty/smokey/oak bit alcoholic nose; softer rather ripe/grapey/floral/lilacs bit licorice/pungent/tarry some smokey/oak rather hard/tannic flavor; long some grapey/ripe light floral/lilacs light pungent/tarry/licorice some smokey/oak slight alcoholic fairly hard/tannic finish; some like a Sfursat w/o the earthy Valtelline character; very interesting Nebbiolo.

Clendenon Family Nebbiolo BriccoBuonNatale BienNacidoVnyd/SantaMariaVlly (14.1%) 2003: Med.light color; lovely floral/lilacs/violets/licorice/perfumed some smokey/pungent slight tarry very aromatic nose; somewhat hard/tannic/lean/acid very floral/lilacs/violets/perfumed slight tarry/licorice flavor; very long hard/tannic/tart/lean/austere very floral/violets/lilacs/perfumed bit tarry/licorice/pungent finish; needs age and should go for more than 10 yrs or so; probably the most varietally correct and my favorite of the Calif Nebbs. (This one had a big dose of smokey Brett, but it worked in the Nebbiolo context for me - Pietro)

Madrona Nebbiolo ElDorado (14.5%) 2008: Med.color; earthy/dusty gout de terroir nose w/ little fruit or fragrance; soft earthy/dusty slightly fruity flavor; med. soft earthy/dusty lightly fruity/grapey finish w/ slight tannins; not much Nebb character and mostly speaks of ElDoradoCnty.

NadaFiorenzo Barbaresco (13.5%) 1996: Med.light color w/ some bricking; rather tarry/pungent/classic Barbaresco very slight floral/violets fruit nose; tight/tart/hard/tannic rather pungent/tarry light floral/fruit flavor; long/lingering tarry/pungent/road tar slight floral/lilacs some tart rather tannic/hard/lean finish; not a lot of fruit left but classic Barbaresco tarry character; needs age to take down the tannins but not sure what will be left.

L&L Nebbiolo mandolina SantaBarbaraCnty (14.3%) 2007: Med.light color; fairly grapey/lush slight floral/aromatic bit earthy nose; soft/lush/ripe grapey/fruit bit soupy slight floral bit toasty/oak flavor; med.short grapey/fruity/lush light toasty/oak finish w/ slight tannic bite; pleasant enough SBC red but a bit on soft/soupy side and not speak a lot of Nebb

Ca'Nova Bocciolo DOC: CollineNovaresi Nebbiolo (13.0%) 2006: Med.color; lovely floral/lilacs/violets fairly rich/lush light tarry/pungent nose; bit hard/tannic lush/floral/lilacs/violets ripe light road tar/pungent flavor; very long ripe/lush strong floral/violets/lilacs/rose petal somewhat hard/tannic bit tarry/pungent finish; needs some age; if Calif winemakers want to make Italian Nebb, this one is it; my favorite of the Italian Nebbs by far.

and from my FriuliFest notes in July:

Ramsay NorthCoast Nebbiolo 1992: Med.light color; lovely floral/lilacs/Nebb bit tarry/earthy/pungent
old Gattinara complex nose; tart still some tannic/hard lovely floral/Nebb light tarry/pungent slight faded
rose petal/old Gattinara complex flavor; a lovely complex old Nebb/old Gattinara nose but still rather hard/tannic on the palate and not likely to outlive them.

IlPodere Dell'Olivos SantaBarbaraCnty Nebbiolo 1988: color w/ no bricking; lovely floral/lilacs/violets slight smokey/tarry quite complex rather old Gattinara-like nose; lovely smooth light cedary/oak/pungent quite floral/lilacs/violets/Nebb very slight tannic complex flavor; long floral/violets/lilacs/Nebb slight pungent/tarry smooth complex finish w/ slight tannic bite; a really lovely example of an old Nebbiolo much like an older Gattinara.

And a few thoughts from the Bloody Pulpit:

1. I thought all of the above Nebbiolos were sound/well-made wines. They spoke, with varying degrees of strength, of Nebbiolo. In some cases, the terroir (SantaBarbara, ShenandoahVlly, ElDorado, Paso) tended to sublimate the Nebb character. It is not at all obvious to me that any region in Calif can lay claim to being a superior site for the variety. At least not yet.

My easy favorite of these Nebbs was the Ca'Nova CollineNovaresi. Of the Calif Nebbs,
my favorite was probably the Clendenon, primarily because of the aromatics. But it has the tannins on the palate you expect from Nebbiolo and I see little reason it won't easily go out 10 or even 20 yrs. This btl was a gift from MichaelWild at BayWolf who wanted me to toss it into the mix when he heard what we were up to. Close behind were the Castelli, DueVigne, and the two Harringtons.

2. The Calif Nebbiolo future: I think many of the folks out there buying wine share Parker's perception that Nebbiolo is a loser in Calif. I think that perception is flat-out wrong. But it will be a tough challenge to turn that ship around. As AdamLee suggested at NAP#1, Nebbiolo is probably going to remain a niche market for some time and that Italian restaurants are probably the best place to target for the market. People who are aficianodos of Piedmonte Nebbiolo seem to have pretty closed minds and if it doesn't taste like Barolo/Barbaresco, they're not likely to accept the Calif renditions. If Calif Nebb winemakers want to look to Italy for a model, I've long suggested the Novara Hills, Lombardy, and the Valtelline are where they should look.  Not Barolo/Barbaresco and the Langhe. But the key is to get people to just try the wines, with an open mind, and not have any preconceived notions as to what a Calif Nebbiolo MUST taste like.

3. I think most of the participants at NAP#2 left w/ a great deal of enthusiasm for Nebbiolo in Calif. KenMusso wants to put together a mailing list and do a quarterly Newsletter, an ambitious but worthy goal. I can see this  effort starting out much like the ViognierGuild, just a gathering of winemakers. And look at where that effort took Viognier and Rhone varietals in Calif. I hope these get-togethers can become an annual event. Maybe...someday.. even a FtMason tasting event??

4. The moniker NAP sucks big time. A better, catchier name must be come up with for this sorta rag-tag group of winemakers. Maybe we can get some of the best minds in Science to work the problem.
Tuesday (8/23) NAP#2

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

New York, Pourings and Distribution

Off to New York tomorrow for five days of pimping Rosa d'Oro. While I am excited to see The City the schedule is pretty packed - here is the rundown. RSVP addresses are below for trade:

Location: Vanderbilt Hall in Grand Central Terminal
Time:  2:00 pm to 5:00 pm (Trade and Media only)
(California regional trade tasting - Six Sigma will be there with us representing Lake County)
To rsvp for trade please email

Date/time: Friday, September 16, 5–8 PM
Store: California Wine Merchants
Address: 15 Bridge St., NY, NY 10004
(Nice Friday evening pouring for consumers, please see California Wine Merchants website for details HERE)

Date/time:  Saturday, September 17, 2–7 PM
Store: Brooklyn Wine Exchange
Address: 138 Court Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201
(Same thing for this pouring HERE)

And the big daddy of them all for us, the portfolio launch for the Fine Wine Agency who will be our new representatives in New York and New Jersey:

Email not displaying correctly? View it in your browser.

Dear Wine Lover,
Fine Wine Agency would like to invite you to our first annual portfolio show. Join us to taste some of the finest new wine brands to hit New York and New Jersey, and participate in one of our exciting master classes.

Where: Union Square Ballroom
27 Union Square West (b/t 15th and 16th St).

When: 19th of September from 11am till 7pm.

We are also hosting an after party next door at the Union Square Lounge from 7pm till late. Entrance to the lounge will be 30 East 16th Street.

Times and topics of the master classes will be emailed to you upon receipt of your RSVP.
Please RSVP to: or (212) 627-0330

We look forward to hearing from you!

Anthony Allport
President, Fine Wine Agency

You are receiving this email message because you made a verbal or written request at an event, opted-in on one of our websites, or purchased a product from us.

Unsubscribe from this list.

Our mailing address is:
Fine Wine Agency
115 W 30th Street
Suite 1110B
New YorkNY 10001

Copyright (C) 2011 Fine Wine Agency All rights reserved.

Forward this email to a friend
Update your profile
Email Marketing Powered by MailChimp

Monday, September 5, 2011

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Bottling time, new additions

This is the crunch. Harvest is sneaking up fast (the Muscat is running scary fast) and we need to bottle the 2010s. Being a small winery our barrel room can hold a maximum of 64 225l. standard-size barrels, leaving just enough enough room to crawl and contort oneself through inch-wide cracks and shimmy under the roof on your belly. We reuse all the barrels for the upcoming crush - with the exception of the 2010 Aglianico which is so burley and ridiculously good that it will need at least six more months of barrel age, but I digress - giving them a serious cleaning in between. Barrels are without a doubt the weakest link or HAACP point in a winery. All of this means bottling, which we do ourselves. Every year we have a few new additions we try out, and a couple of gripes as bottling is labor, time and stress intensive, and it just downright sucks.

But, so far, complaints are just not coming. We have only bottled 230 cases so far (about 2600 bottles), but we have not had a single bottle break, no explosions to clean up, no lips cut by flying glass shards. This year we also trying out Diam corks on the reds which seem to be functioning beautifully with the corker. So, here are two of three new releases for next Spring:

Nero d'Avola (144 cases)

Montepulciano (94 cases)
Sagrantino, 96 cases

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Barbera - Monica Pisciella's #Barbera2 summary

As many of you know, Rosa d'Oro Vineyards was one of five domestic wineries that participated in  #Barbera2 this May in Nizza Monferrato, as well as the Barbera Festival in Amador County.

Monica Pisciella was the chief organizer of the event and she was even able to attend the Barbera Festival in Amador, cementing the cross-cultural aspect of Barbera production. Below is her overview of  the events.


by Monica Pisciella

Translation: Gianni Lovato
Editing: J.S. Manning, U.C. Davis
Recently in Nizza Monferrato, Piedmont, Italy and in the Shenandoah Valley in Amador County, California, USA, producers, bloggers, and consumers on the two continents have been the leading actors in separate events that, purely by chance, had been planned only a few weeks apart and due of the miracle of the web they were drawn close to a point of almost becoming halves of an international Barbera project.

It was a passion for Barbera and a desire to explore it which united the two worlds in Piemonte and California with different ways of working with the same vine, of producing wine, of marketing Barbera and of promoting the territory. These two separate events which explored world of Barbera led to a comparative dialog to explain, show, and evaluate the production and quality of the Barbera in these different worlds. This interaction led to a constructive recognition of the diversity Barbera viniculture as well as an appreciation of the similarities and differences of producers and consumers in both countries which in turn is fostering a closer association between Barbera producers and consumers in both Italy and California. Interestingly, it was a combination of Barbera and the internet which led to the building of this transoceanic bridge.

Piedmont, # barbera2

On May 14, at the historical Foro Boario in Nizza Monferrato (AT), after more than six months of planning, the day of #barbera2 finally arrived (yes: the hash-tag # facilitated finding, both on Twitter and FaceBook, all the messages, photos, videos and links related to the event). Gathered around the tables, the 100 participants included aficionados, professionals, journalists and producers. On June 11, at the Cooper Vineyards ranch, in Amador County – CA, the Barbera Festival followed, a grand kermesse dedicated to Barbera with about 80 Wineries participating and attended by 2,000 paying visitors. The difference were many, but there were also common threads that crossed the Ocean and wiped out the distances: the intense passion for Barbera, paired with the commitment of all the producers and organizers involved, and with the same great dream of drawing closer people with kindred knowledge of this vine and wine.
At #barbera2 some of the 100 attendants came from far away. Not only from all parts of Italy, including the Islands, but also from Northern Europe and the USA. There were journalists, professional sommeliers, wine experts, importers and representatives, but also simply aficionados, people with entirely different, unrelated occupations. Of particular significance was also the participation of those taking part for the first time in a numbered tasting. Everyone showed up on time at 9:30 on a Saturday morning, united by the customary use of the web and Social Media (particularly Twitter), either professionally o for recreation.
Welcoming them all was Foro Boario, a venue impeccably staged with tables forming a large square at the center of which several “Barbera witnesses” followed one another with their presentations, while the participants could interact with them as well as with each other. The proceedings were filmed and broadcast in live streaming and with access to an excellent simultaneous two-way translations in English and Italian. The speakers included Lucia Galasso (anthropologist), Maurizio Gily (director of Millevigne), Roberto Abate (agronomist), Franca Maria Ratti (oenologists), Prof. Davide Bennato (docent of Digital Media Sociology at Catania University); the five producers of Barbera from Piedmont, whose wine were being tasted: Cascina Gilli, Cascina Garitina, Iuli, Varaldo and Vigneti Massa; two producers from California: Paul Cattrone of PDC Wines and Nick Buttitta of Rosa d'Oro Vineyards, as well as the Californian winemaker Gordon Binz, representing Boeger Vineyards, Cooper Vineyards, Muscardini cellars.
The goal of the presentations was to exchange ideas related to the viticulture in different areas and to the characteristics of Barbera, the vine and the wine, in a simple language accessible to all.
“#barbera2 is intended as a watershed point in communications about wine – asserted Gianluca Morino, a producer (Cascina Garitina) in Nizza and sponsor of the event - I have invested in this innovative and bold project, because I truly believe in the need to communicate about both wine and territory in a simpler, leaner fashion. Our wish is to rejuvenate the image of Barbera, bringing it closer to folks, and I believe that, in our own small way, we have succeeded. Those in attendance have been able to taste wines coming from far-away places; from geographically and physically different vineyards; we are trying to give life and substance to the concept of “terroir”. The Barbera is a wine for everyone: in all its variations, young or matured in barriques, it deserves equal dignity. From this perspective it is becoming increasingly important that it be paired with food, underscoring its ability to enhance the flavor of different dishes.”
During the presentations by the speakers, so many messages were posted on Twitter that the “#barbera2” hash-tag jumped to third place in the “most popular subject” ratings, just below the Turin Book Expo. Thanks to the interaction of many, the dialogue with the outsiders hummed intensively, connecting #barbera2 to the rest of the world, where Wine & Food professionals and simple aficionados “twitted” about Barbera from several Countries.
“Seeing so much interest and curiosity expressed by people twittering from all over the world, was the realization of a long/held dream” commented Gianluca Morino, at the end of the day.
Despite the truly large number of participants, many of them were invited to speak or comment during the event, in accordance with the declared goal of putting wine, and Barbera in particular, in touch with folks.
“We started - added Morino – with an idea: the need for a new kind of wine communications, more open and less self-serving, simpler, facing a consumer frequently intimidated by an elitist language that often scares him away making him feel inadequate and incapable of understanding and of making a choice. At times this results in steering the consumer towards other simpler beverages like beer or, worse yet, carbonated & artificially colored drinks”
The new means of communication, Social Media and particularly Twitter among them, hold a fundamental role in information world, recasting it into a more horizontal and bidirectional, hence participative, force.
“Given a choice I would rather skip other events, but never a numbered tasting, I believe they are too important” - these are the words of Samuel Sanders, an importer of Italian wines, who came from Holland to Piedmont specifically to take part in this event - “On occasions like these, we discover interesting wines for the market and we come in direct contact with consumers. It is them, not the experts, who will buy wine, in the end”
“I believe – says Sergio Miravalle, a Journalist with La Stampa – that, observing events such as this, many institutions ought to question and reflect on how, to this day, public money is being spent to promote wines and territories. One can't help feeling that old formulas are used, with no understanding of the speed at which the world has been changing and still is”.
Striving to add a tangible symbol of Barbera and its territory, Stefano Calosso - a nurseryman from nearby Acqui – and his wife, Valeria De Martini, donated each participant a young Barbera vine cutting, subsequently planted on plot at Cascina Garitina.
The producers from California present expressed their satisfaction as well. “barbera#2 – asserted Paul Cattrone, of PDC WINES, Walnut Creek, the American producer who cooperated the most to bringing to fruition this particular twinning from overseas – gave me a way to get in touch with the people, particularly producers and consumers, who in Italy share their passion for Barbera and the Social Networks. Furthermore it provided an opportunity to meet with Italian producers in the birthplace of Barbera and opened my eyes to the differences between Italy and California in wine production. In fact Italy has a deep sense of terroir, whereas in California greater emphasis is given to the vineyard and its care and vinification techniques ”
Nick Buttitta of ROSA d'ORO VINEYARDS (Lake County) was also enthusiastic. “Everything was well organized and worked like clockwork; much curiosity and never any prejudice toward Barbera from California”. #barbera2 brought good luck to Nick: just a few days ago, during the 2011 California State Fair Commercial Wine Competition, Rosa d’Oro was awarded two prizes for their 2009 Barbera.

Amador County, Barbera festival

Barbera Festival was also held on a Saturday, at 10 am. Brian Miller (in the picture), the organizer, anticipate every detail with the greatest care, from car parking to the disposal of recyclable waste. The public, mainly came from Amador County - an area of California where Barbera has taken hold and gained many passionate followers among the producers – found several tasting stations under the trees, only a few steps away from the Barbera vines, in an atmosphere resembling the informal get-together of a Sunday spent in the countryside.
Next to the tasting stations there were also two #barbera2 tents: one reserved for the press, where journalists and bloggers could find samples replicating the tasting held in Nizza and, among the press releases, information on Wineries, wines and recipes. Next to it was another area, dedicated to the public: the high turnout indicated the high level of satisfaction at having the opportunity to taste Barbera from Piedmont. I was pleasantly surprised by the warm acceptance granted to us: many had heard or read about #barbera2 from Twitter or Facebook.
Two different landscapes for Barberas that express themselves differently. The Californian Barbera: younger, fruity, with modest acidity in most cases, easy to drink, possibly answering to the demands of a public that discovered its love of wine in more recent times. The Barbera from Piedmont: different, showing its long tradition through its complexity, the difference between the various areas of growth, as well as the different interpretations among producers. Furthermore, the acidity that distinguishes it and typically characterizes the Barbera to which we are used.
In the US we meet again Paul Cattrone, who outlines a terse assessment: “I was truly very satisfied with both events. I imagine #barbera2 and Barbera Festival as two parts of one sole event and I would like if, in future editions, could become integrated, in both Italy and California. I found interesting how much room was accorded to the presentation of Barbera, its terroir and producers as well as the dialogue with consumers that was started at #barbera2. I would love it if, in future occasions, the producers had more time to tell their story. It would also be nice if, at the next Barbera Festival, we could have, the day before or after, an event dedicate to presentations, just as it happened at #barbera2. Differences remain, but distances disappear, thanks to the modern means of communication, all to the advantage of a Barbera able to communicate with professionals and aficionados and become part of their daily reality.
Right: at the festival, Mike Dunn, journalist from the Sacramento Bee newspaper, and the famous retailer Darrell Corti



In Amador County Barbera grows on approximately 164 acres, divided among 33 producers. In California the total area dedicated to Barbera is 6,900 with a total of 200 producers. There is no meaningful difference in prices depending on the areas and, with the exception of the Montevina brand, sold nationwide, more than 80% of the Barbera produced in California is sold internally by the Firms, mostly to end consumers or to restaurants and wine shops in a 50 mile radius, at a price averaging between $20 and $30. Barbera priced below $ 15 is principally sold to large distributors. For these wineries, oenogastronomic tourism plays a major role and a significant portion of their promotional budget is allocated to it. Quite substantial are the investments in construction of modern greeting and tasting halls, very captivating in their design and in their presence as infrastructures dedicated to leisure time.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Lake County Wineries in SF Aug. 20th - Family Winemakers Weekend

It is true, we Lake County-ites are heading to Treasure Island in S.F. the day before Family Winemaker's begins. I highly encourage trade to please attend. Contact me and I will send you the code for trade asap.

WARNING! On Saturday, August 20, San Francisco will be invaded by dozens of Lake County Wineries – bringing with them nearly100 big, intense, high elevation wines from the mountains north of Napa Valley. This is a rare opportunity to not only see and meet these boutique wineries, but to taste their wines right in San Francisco. Plus, with a VIP Ticket, you will be able to preview and taste the People’s Choice Award Winning Wines from Lake County. Experience Wines with Altitude!
Wines with Altitude!
Lake County Wineries invade San Francisco
Saturday, August 20
12:00pm-01:00pm – Trade Only
01:00pm-05:00pm – Open to the Public
The Winery SF
200 California Ave, San Francisco, CA 94130
General Admission Tickets: $35 Early Bird (thru 8/3) / $50 at the door
VIP Tickets: $50 Early Bird (thru 8/3) / $70 at the door
VIP Tickets include access to a special tasting of Lake County’s People’s Choice Award Nomination Wines
Purchase Tickets at:
Wines With Altitude
Dozens of Wineries                                Nearly 100 Wines                                Local Olive Oils
From the Mountains
North of Napa Valley                               People’s Choice                                      Food Trucks,
Invade San Francisco!                       Award Winning Wines                               Music & More!
Wienz Withh Altitude!
Anyway you say it, Wines with Altitude makes a statement. It says “Get off the Valley floor!”  Every wine lover’s been there, done that. Many have ventured in the southern hills of the Mayacamas Mountains and have experienced the overwhelming benefits of high elevation fruit as evidenced by the wines of Mt. Veeder, Spring Mountain, Diamond Mountain and even Howell Mountain. Now, it time to venture onward and upward to the true High Elevation Mayacamas Mountain fruit – that of Lake County and its budding wine industry. Lake County's intensity of place-climate, soils and sunlight-produces grapes and wines of quality and character. The compelling 'high elevation' mountain terroir, pure California air, & sustainable mindset of this wine region= great "Wines with Altitude".

Why is everyone heading North?
It happened first within the valley itself. Napa Valley’s top growers and wineries started heading up to the hillsides and mountainous regions of Napa. From Harlan in the foothills of Mt. Veeder above the Oakville Grade to Bryant Family on Prichard Hill to David Abreu on Howell Mountain, Napa’s top vineyards and wineries are “moving to the hills”. This trend is continuing in Lake County as top Napa Valley growers (like Andy Beckstoffer) and top winemakers (like Greg Graham of Rombauer and Nils Venge of Groth, Saddleback and Venge Family fame) have set up shop in the Mayacamas Mountains north of Napa Valley.
Get ahead of the Trend!
Don’t miss the boat! It’s happened to all of us. Whether you are a distributor looking or consumer, we’ve all missed out on buying that wine or signing up for that wineries’ mailing list in the past. Make sure you don’t miss out on this High Elevation Wine trend. Come down, meet the winemakers, taste the wines and get into the “know” on this upcoming wine region!
Over a dozen wineries including Shannon Ridge Vineyards, Gregory Graham, Langtry Estate & Vineyards, Cache Creek Winery, Vigilance, Rosa d’Oro, Steele Wines, Six Sigma and Sol Rouge to name a few.
Nearly 100 wines including both varietals popular in the Mayacamas Mountain region like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc as well as lesser known boutique varietals from Aglianico to Roussanne.
One day to try all of these Lake County Wines right in San Francisco on Saturday, August 20th.