Wednesday, August 8, 2012

A lovely Nebbiolo from Clendenen Family Vineyards

In 2010, only 62 hectares was planted to Nebbiolo in California, and of that just one hectare is found in the famous Bien Nacido Vineyard in the northeastern corner of Santa Maria Valley. The vines were planted in 1994 and gives two wines, the lovely Nebbiolo Bricco Buon Natale and the even more impressive Nebbiolo Punta Esclamativa.

   It is said that it takes a lot of knowledge and wine appreciation to understand the wine world, and to even get close to what a varietal wine or a blend from a specific wine region or even smaller appellation tastes like. In most cases, unless we talk about world class wines from the best winemakers in the world, that precise knowledge isn't there.
   Over the last two decades, when I have travelled the wine world, I have heard thousands of times that "this is our Chablis styled Chardonnay", and "this is so Montrachet-like", and "this is just like the greatest wines of Médoc", och "a great Tempranillo" and, not too often though, "our very finest Barolo-styled Nebbiolo". And in an overwhelming majority of these cases, are there very small similarities, if any at all.
   However, it doesn't take more than a small chat with legendary Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat and his more recent Clendenen Family Vineyards, to realize that he knows what he is talking about and that he really knows the world of wine. And if you're not lucky enough to meet him and talk to him, the answer is in the bottle. The guy knows the world of fine wine!

2003 Nebbiolo Punta Esclamativa / 91 p
This is a one hundred percent Nebbiolo from two small lots of nine year old Nebbiolo vines, fermented in small tanks with a total of three weeks of skin contact, then matured in 500 liter French oak barrels during the for Barolo wines typical time of four years. Alcohol level is, according to the label, 13.5 percent, and I have no reason to think that this isn't true. There's no traces of sweet alcohol or alcohol warmth in the taste.
  I poured this wine blind at 15 degrees Celsius in Burgundy shaped glasses to a handful of top sommeliers, and some of them went directly to Nebbiolo. That's a good sign, and I totally understand that. The others placed it in Santa Barbara County, mostly for its intense red fruit flavors, riper fruit and lively acidity, and besides the tannins, they thought it was a great Pinot Noir. Not too bad either, to me Nebbiolo and its great wines from Barolo and Barbaresco is the burgundian wine style of Italy.
   At first, the fruit scent was a bit "warmer" in style, so one sommelier suggested it could be the warmer 2003 vintage in Piedmont, and that both the acidity and tannic structure was a bit leaner than in the Italian wines, and that's a good comment. Still the variety character is there, true and without no doubt very typical. Red fruit, sun ripe raspberries, rose petals, a hint of fine tobacco, even that small note of that rubber I find so attractive in Barolos and Barbarescos, and those characters became much more prominent after some hours in the decanter, to be even more true "Barolo like" after 24 hours in the decanter! There's just a small sweetish note of the oak, but still on a very moderate level, and a slightly riper fruit than in the Piedmontese counterparts.
   Based on the fact that the wine is now nine years old and that it took around a day for it in the decanter to really open up, my guess is that it should age beautifully another decade or even more. Still I think it will be at its best, with all its lovely and already complex aromas, the coming six years from now. Serve it at around 16-17 degrees Celsius, but decant it before!
Drink it 2012-2018

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