I am seven school days from being done with Spring Quarter; the finish of my first year and completion of my Viticultural Certification. But I haven’t written much and feel compelled to, so here goes a weekend worth of exploration, meeting great new people and tasting lots of Nebbiolo wines.
A few weeks ago, when we were visiting with friends for a great retirement party we had the pleasure of tasting a Lost River Nebbiolo, from the Methow Valley in Washington’s northern Cascade Mountains; the grapes were Wahluke Slope AVA. Since this wine was so different (lighter, fruitier, smoother with minimal acid or tannin typical of the grape) from the Italian wines of the same grape that we had previously I felt compelled on doing a broader comparison to see what I could find, thankfully I am not alone in my quest to explore wine.
My partner in wine did all of the leg work to track down and get the Italian 2009 Barolo and 2007 Barbaresco and I did some local asking around for the local versions. We came up with two Nebbiolo wines from Morrison Lane Winery, a 2004 and a 2006. From the same vineyard as the 2006 my enology instructor, Tim Donahue, has barrels of 2012 Nebbiolo incubating in honor of the birth of his daughter (September 2012).
Nebbiolo is a thin but tough skinned, late ripening grape from the Piedmont area (northwest) of Italy. It produces a garnet red to orange wine with high acid and tannins which assist in the long-term cellaring associated with this wine. It tends to be fickle in the vineyard and the cellar, but with patience and care the resultant wine is decadent, a stand out red wine among red wines. Outside of Piedmont many New World vineyards are experimenting; the challenge is a huge one. For the sake of simplicity, and to ensure I get this posted before I have to be in class I will provide you with our findings. Note: we had neighbors, valiant souls that trust us with their taste buds, assist us in our exploration of these wines. So, four of us smelled, tasted, discussed and enjoyed ourselves through these wines.
2004 Horse Heaven Hills AVA Morrison Lane Nebbiolo: lovely rose and herbal nose with pomegranate and raspberries on the palate. The finish was lingering smooth, slightly vanilla with bold, but nicely balanced tannins and acids. (Dean Morrison is the winemaker for this wine.)
2006 Walla Walla AVA Morrison Lane Nebbiolo: cherry cola with a subtle floral nose, pie cherries and vanilla on the palate with a crisp, lingering finish. Again, a great balance of acids and tannins in this wine.
2007 Castello di Neive Albesani Santo Stefano Barbaresco: a very pronounced floral (rose and violet) with a more delicate cola beneath, fresh tobacco and black currant on the palate with a warm, vanilla and nut smooth lingering finish; lovely acid and tannin balance.
2009 Vietti Barolo Castiglione: floral and blueberries on the nose, pie cherries and raspberries on the palate with a more tannic than acid, delicate vanilla finish that lingered nicely.
2012 Walla Walla AVA Nebbiolo (Tim Donahue, wine maker): rose and violet nose, pomegranate and cola palate. This was the smoothest, mildest of all the wines. I am quite surprised considering this wine is still in barrel.
Happily, we found that Washington can grow fantastic Nebbiolo grapes. Although the notes are similar, there were distinct differences in each wine. When first opened I really liked one bottle better than all others, but now that they have been open I am not so sure that still holds true. I know I do like Nebbiolo wine. Cheers!