Unusual wine grapes, careful winemaking, and everything from elegant rosé to big, bold reds.
Lots of Italian varietal wines, made with a gentle hand
Life would get pretty dull if all wines tasted like Napa Cabernet.
That's why we like working with interesting Italian wine varieties, and we take the time to allow them to express their unique character.
While it's true that these styles of wine are sometimes called low-intervention wines, we prefer to think of them as wine that respects centuries of tradition. This begins with an intimate understanding of each variety's personality and specific needs, which we do since we are one of the only small Bay Area wineries that grows their own grapes.
A Philosophy of Respecting Tradition
Our philosophy of respecting tradition begins in the vineyard, with sustainability in mind, and continues into the cellar, where we add less so that the wine can speak more clearly.
We are fortunate that our unique volcanic vineyard, sitting at 1,500 feet elevation, provides our grapes with ample natural acidity and natural tannins, which means we don't rely on additives or extra oak. Our vineyard practices allows the vines to naturally shade the grape clusters from too much sun exposure which can rob the grapes of character, and as farmers first, we know that nurturing the vines in this way allows the grapes to reach full development and ripeness.
Why Should You Care?
Grapes that haven't had their voice stripped away through fertilization or pesticides can produce wines that taste true to their variety — and we can get away with using less sulfur than is generally used to protect the wine.
Prima Materia's Wines, From Light and Easy to Seriously Bold
Prima Materia’s lighter red wines: Grenache, Dolcetto, and Sangiovese
Our Dolcetto and Grenache are radically different from each other. Inspired by Gamay, our Dolcetto has pretty and meaty qualities, all plum and pepper, is cofermented with white grapes, and can stand up to charcuterie, light but hearty. The Grenache however, is pure strawberry and cherry bliss, sunshine in a bottle, Apollonian in the extreme. Sangiovese is a true passion though, bettering Pinot, delicious young, incredibly layered and textured in middle age, and savory in the extreme with notes of pine and earthy saline minerality after a few years in the bottle – pure Dionysian revelry. We employ a little stem and whole-cluster winemaking here as well.
Prima Materia's medium-bodied red wines: Barbera, Negro Amaro, and Zinfandel
Our Zinfandel is an attempt to capture what Zin field blends might have been like in 1900, with lower alcohol, neutral oak (for aging, not flavor), and wild brambly notes.
Negro Amaro is the opposite, unknown in California twenty years ago, here bottled young for striking aromatics of fig, olive, and black cherry making it the ultimate BBQ wine. Barbera, another grilled-food winner, is treated very differently to keep the focus on its acidity, pomegranate and purple fruit, along with longer aging. Many of our wines are made from multiple vineyard blocks, different clones, training, and rootstocks for complexity. The Barbera, for example, is actually three different types, all made separately.
Prima Materia’s bold red wines: Sagrantino, Refosco, Nebbiolo, and Aglianico
The big reds are where our altitude and volcanic soils really shine. We grow some of the only Sagrantino and Refosco in California, and while both are pretty serious, the Sagrantino is a face-ripping beast with big fruit plus roasted herbs, huge tannin and lilting floral tones. Our Nebbiolo pays homage to the wines of Barbaresco, full of beauty disciplined by tannin, and I push that fermentation as far and long as it can possibly go in the old Piemontese tradition, and even train our vines in the same way. Our biggest the bold red wines is Aglianico, the ancient Italian grape that can shame gravelly Bordeaux and mountain-side Cabernet, needing at least three years in barrels and ageable for decades in the bottle with Old-World minerality and that sense of history we so love. I move those grapes exclusively by hand and employ very long fermentations. With grapes like these it is best to embrace the beast within.