Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Ribolla of Napa

Ribolla Gialla. If you know this grape at all, you know it's grown almost exclusively in the Friuli area of Italy and thereabouts.

I saw a cute little 500 ml bottle in my local wine store with the words Ribolla Gialla on it, so I picked it up, being a fan of the grape and of Friuli. Then I saw the words below it: Napa Valley. Huh? Only one other word was on the label, "Vare," the producer, so I looked them up and sure enough: This bottle represented the first and only planting of Ribolla Gialla in the United States.

George and Elsa Vare are in charge of this small-production vineyard. No surprise they grow Ribolla; their wines are patterned after the practices of Friuli winemakers. The wine is left on the lees for a while, whole cluster pressed and had a long, cool fermentation in once-used French oak barrels. Only 237 cases of 500ml bottles and 36 cases of 1.5 liter bottles were made.

They have a section on their website called "Heroes." Among the named are such Friuli greats as Josko Gravner and Stanko Radikon. Hey, they're heroes to me, too.

I finished the wine in one night. (It is on the small side.) It's a good drink. It has a strong nose of lemon, petrol and tropical notes. Drinking, it's steely and mineral with a core of fruit, notably banana and lemon. The finish is long and rather metallic, though I don't mean that in a bad way. Very enjoyable. And very like its Friuli cousins, if a bit more mellow.

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