From the Wine Shop
Explore Four 4 PACK “The Italian Americans” (750mL)
Whether it’s for yourself or someone else, give the gift of SommSelect’s “Explore 4” without the commitment!
“Explore 4” surveys the vast landscape of wine and breaks it into small, digestible bites. Each month, we select four bottles that fit a theme, allowing members to experience a diversity of styles while developing their own palate preferences. It’s an ongoing exploration of wine through a sommelier’s eyes and there’s no more effective, and enjoyable, way to learn about wine.
In this edition of the Explore 4, offered as a one-time purchase, we taste domestic wines produced from native Italian grape varieties.
Here are the wines in the 4-pack, which are accompanied by a full-color booklet discussing the theme and the wines in vivid detail:
Russell Joyce, Arroyo Seco Vermentino
Monterey County, California 2021
In 2021, Russell Joyce was given access to a plot of Vermentino just down the road from his own ranch in the Arroyo Seco AVA. The vines were planted in 1997 for pioneering vintner (and noted Italophile) Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon, so the raw material was impeccable. Soils in the site are a poor, rocky mixture based on decomposed granite.
Shining a pale straw-gold in the glass with silvery reflections, this could pass for a Vermentino from Italy’s Ligurian coastline. While still young and taut, its aromas are starting to blossom: notes of wild herbs, sea salt, white grapefruit, green apple, and lemon balm carry over to the medium-bodied palate, which has a slightly “phenolic” (i.e. tannic) quality. Textbook seafood wine!
Channing Daughters Winery, “Sylvanus Vineyard” Tocai Friulano
North Fork of Long Island, New York 2020
Wine growers and producers on Long Island’s North Fork have traditionally compared their terroir to that of Bordeaux and have focused on French varieties such as Cabernet Franc and Merlot. But the Channing Daughters Winery, with help from Cornell University’s Cooperative Research Vineyard, found that this soil/climate combination also proved hospitable to Friulano. Their “Sylvanus” vineyard, in Bridghampton, was first planted to Friulano in 1999.
Pale straw-gold with silver/green highlights. Some citrusy Sauvignon notes meld with scents/flavors of apricot, Asian pear, yellow apple, wet stones, and almond skin. The wine is medium bodied, leaning toward medium-plus, with a pleasing fleshiness on the palate. The acidity and stony minerality keep it buttoned up and fresh, but it leaves a lasting impact. Pair with prosciutto and melon or shrimp scampi.
Idlewild Wines, “Flora & Fauna” North Coast Red
Mendocino/Sonoma County, California 2021
Idlewild “has a few homes,”including Lost Hills Ranch, which sits in the hills of Mendocino County’s Yorkville Highlands in soils of schist and sandstone. They also manage the Fox Hill Vineyard in central Mendocino county, another rocky site planted to 20- to 30-year-old Arneis, Cortese, Dolcetto, Barbera, and Nebbiolo. A third high-elevation site in the Russian River Valley provides source material for this wine.
Deep ruby-purple in the glass, with magenta reflections. There’s lots of savor—a sanguine quality—on the nose and palate that reads “Italian.” Aromas and flavors of black cherry, pomegranate, violets, pencil shavings, underbrush, and turned earth speak to the diversity of varieties in the blend. It is medium-bodied, tangy, and forceful, a great food wine with plenty of fat-cutting acid for grilled steaks or the classic Piedmontese Brasato al Barolo.
Giornata Wines, “French Camp Vineyard” Aglianico
Paso Robles, California 2020
The French Camp Vineyard is another site that once supplied Bonny Doon’s Randall Grahm with fruit for his Italian-inspired wines. Situated at an elevation of 1,600 feet, it is rooted in soils of sandy loam and falls within the Highlands District of the Paso Robles AVA. There is only a single acre of Aglianico at this 1,500-acre vineyard, making this bottling a relative rarity.
A deep, brooding ruby-black in the glass, this is a heady glass of wine, bursting with aromas of mulberry, blackberry, dark chocolate, tar, violet, warm spice, and loamy earth. It is sleek by Aglianico standards, with relatively soft—but present—tannins lending it immediate drinkability. Keep the temperature closer to 55-60 degrees to point up the dark fruit and earth notes.
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Through the grapevine
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