Hello Fodder Folks! The visit I coordinated by Professor Vittorino Novello, University of Turin, Italy, to our foothill region to tour Italian winegrape varieties and interact with local grape growers and industry was a huge success! This was due in no small part to the hosting vineyard managers and winemakers who made the El Dorado and Amador vineyard tours a hit!
Prof. Vittorino Novello in a foothill vineyard.
And wow, what an incredibly knowledgeable and gracious scholar. Vittorino was
able to address the growing and culture of varieties Aglianico to Vermentino (OK, there wasn't any Zanello on the tour!). Of course, since one of Vittorino's research projects right now is coordinating a national database of Italian varieties, with over 800 varieties described so far, he had no trouble at all addressing the questions we had about the 10 varieties we toured. I think everyone who had a chance to participate came away with some insight for these mostly vigorous and challenging vines.
Attendees listened to Professor Vittorino Novello discuss Italian grape culture during foothill tours.
Nebbiolo, we learned, like many Italian varieties, is difficult to grow but will reward those who handle it correctly (always cane prune, beware of frost damage during early budbreak). Sheila Bush, grower-Sumu Kaw vineyard, said she fell in love with Nebbiolo during a research trip to Italy in the early 90's but then thought often of pulling it out once she planted it in 1997 and had to deal with vigorous vines, frost damage, and highly tannic wine. But then Sheila's brother in-law, Madroña vineyards winemaker Paul Bush, created a lovely Nebbiolo rosé and she thought, wait a minute. Ryan Wright, assistant winemaker for Madroña, filled in for Paul on the tour and described years of experimenting with Nebbiolo during the winemaking process to "soften the tannins but not lose the fruit". Adding just a drop of Barbera, and letting the Nebbiolo age, helped to soften the tannins to produce a lovely red wine, great with food (especially garlic!).
Sheila Bush discusses Nebbiolo culture in the shade at Sumu Kaw vineyard, El Dorado county.
Vittorino commented that all of Sheila's observations as to the difficulty of growing Nebbiolo-the vigor, the need to cane prune, curbing yields to 3-4 tons to try to try to increase color, the highly tannic wines, were true to the variety. The name
"Nebbiolo" is due to two things: the wax on the berry and the "nebbia" or 14th of November, as a late harvest date. Nebbiolo buds early, but harvests late. Nebbiolo, Vittorino said, "marks the soil"; which means it needs a special place to grow and only grows in a few regions in Italy. There, Italian winemakers used to blend Nebbiolo with Barbera to solve the color instability problem, but no longer. There is no blending allowed for Barolo wines-the high quality DOCG Nebbiolo wine produced in Northern Piemonte. Instead, they practice long maceration and age in very large barrels (100 hectoliters) to reduce the oak.
Nebbiolo is early to bud, and late to ripen.
I'll cover more on the Vittorino tours in my future blogs. To take a look at my recap of the tours, and Vittorino's evening seminars, go to the postings on my webpage here.
Tour attendees got to taste all of the wines from the vineyards visited.