Relatively obscure Italian wine grape grown in California? Yes, of course I’m interested.  Especially when it seems the growing environment seems better suited for the grape in the first place.

Video Transcription:

Dolcetto in CaliforniaHey guys, Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures, so I’m going to hold this up so you can see it, so the winery is called Portalupi, and this is a Dolcetto red wine. So as you can tell by the pronunciation, Dolcetto is a red wine grape from … Well, the debate of where grapes start versus where they’re end and where they’re known from is complicated, but we would say this is an Italian wine grape because the vast, vast majority of Dolcetto grown around the world is grown in the Piedmont region of Italy. So I found this interesting for two points. First, there’s just not a lot of Italian wine grapes grown in the state of California. This is Russian River Valley [inaudible 00:00:34]. And that’s interesting because Napa and Sonoma in large part it was … There’s this kind of offhand, secondary joke that people tell a lot of times, and they say that to own a winery in the 1800s in Napa or Sonoma, your last name had to end with a vowel, and the most common vowel was I, and that meant you’re an Italian immigrant. And mostly a lot of those folks had brought cuttings, or once they had decided that this was a good place to grow grapes, they asked a family member who was coming from the Old Word to bring some cuttings with them, and that’s really how the wine industry started in California.

There’s some times that we forget that, and there’s still this family history of some of this stuff, and while it’s interesting also, I find it interesting that Dolcetto, the oldest vines are not actually even in Italy. Australia had a similar kind of influx of immigrants in the 1800s, and there’s Dolcetto vines that date to 1860, so in Italy, this is a second or third tier grape in Piedmont. Barbera and a few others are considered much more age worthy and much more high quality as in terms of fruit, and so when a winery makes a Dolcetto in Italy, they make it to release the damn thing right away and to get some money coming in the front door while they wait for five or 10 years to release their Barbera. That’s not what happens in California, so we’re a warm weather climate. That’s 100% for sure, but we’re a little bit different than Italy in the stuff grapes tend to hang on the vine for a little bit longer. We have warm summers not hot, and we have hot falls not warm, so if that makes sense. The warmest month many times in Napa and Sonoma can be October.

So one of the reasons, one of the things that happens, is that changes the way that grapes progress, and so this Dolcetto instead of being a lighter style of red wine, and that’s in large part because the tannins can get really out of control if winemakers leave maceration process for too long. So they tend to make it almost like a rose where it just hits the skins and they get it off so you don’t have overwhelming tannins. Here in California, we don’t produce quite as many tannins as they do in the Old World. That’s true almost exclusively across the Old World from Spain to France into Italy, and so they can leave the juice in contact with the skins for longer. That leads to a darker style of wine, and we still have the generic tannin that comes with the varietal, but you also end up with this bone dry, thicker, almost a Cabernet replacement type wine instead of a lighter body thing where you would think was an easy drinker for summer months. So Dolcetto, there’s a very, very few wineries producing it here in California. There’s not that much in high quality growing regions like the Russian River, and so we’re going to explore this in an upcoming Wine of the Month Club shipment, so I hope everybody’s having a good one, and we’ll talk to you soon.

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