Here’s a vote of confidence for Italian varietals – growing Italian wine grape varieties

Interest in Italian wine grape varieties has been increasing in California, but not very many winegrowers know much about them. Jeffery B. Meyers, general manager and winemaker for Montevina Winery, is one of the few with hands-on experience.

Montevina, a subsidiary of Sutter Home in the Napa Valley, is located in Amador County, in the Sierra Nevada Gold Country, in the town of Plymouth. Meyers told Wines & Vines:

“In 1990 Montevina planted 30 acres of Italian varieties such as Refosco, Aleatico, Nebbiolo (the michet clone), Sangiovese (from Il Poggione estate in Tuscany), and some additional Barbera. The 1992 harvest was the initial crush of these varieties.”

He said the Sangiovese “has deep, rich color, which we were happy to see, since Sangiovese can have color problems.” Meyers described the aroma as clean and with a “distinct plummy character.”

“The Nebbiolo, another variety with notorious color deficiencies, was again surprisingly deeply colored, with hints of rose petals in the aroma, and a very firm tannin backbone.”

He decided to use the Refosco for a blending variety because of its “incredibly deep hues with fairly neutral aromas and flavors, just right for blending”!

Meyers described the Aleatico as a “wonderful surprise with intense peach and apricoty flavors and aromas,” and said it should make an “explosive” dessert wine. He reserved much of his superlatives for Barbera, saying:

“The Barbera continues to be an impressive wine. This vintage will be another of many that has produced beautifully soft and rich wines with distinctive aromas and flavors.” He added that “we’re so happy with the Barbera, in fact, that we planted another 63 acres last spring (1992) bringing our total to more than 75 acres.”

Montevina has a test vineyard with more than 50 other Italian varieties or clones and in 1992 had the first crush; Meyers listed the promising ones: Canaiolo Nero, Aglianico, Teroldego, Marzemino and a few Nebbiolo clones.

“We also have a couple of varieties that an Italian ampelographer couldn’t identify that are delicious as well.”

Founded in 1973, Montevina produces about 50,000 cases annually and has about 150 acres of wine grapes. The Mother Lode has a winemaking history as old as the state. The climate is moderated by the altitude and wine grapes thrive. In Amador County Zinfandel is highly praised for its rich flavor. Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon blanc also are grown.

Sutter Home built its current five million cases indirectly on Amador Zinfandel. It made a red Zinfandel from Amador County grapes in the seventies and it proved so popular that the owners of Sutter Home–the Trinchero family–were hard put to find sufficient grapes. This led to Chairman/CEO Bob Trinchero marketing a “White Zinfandel”, really a rose. It led to thousands of acres planted up and down California and White Zinfandel’s status as a consumer favorite.

COPYRIGHT 1993 Hiaring Company

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group

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