Just a little darker than our light-bodied Grenache, this time our Dolcetto is a dead-ringer for Gammay. Picked at around 13% alcohol and cofermented with a little Chardonnay, this is a great charcuterie light red that still has a little heft, is great with salty foods and has robust fruit that is nimble but reminds us a bit of a cool-climate Syrah with pepper and purple fruits galore.
It has been quite a few years since we released an official, varietal Dolcetto wine. Sometimes we sell the grapes, sometimes it goes into other things. Dolcetto is also very smoke sensitive, so sometimes it just isn’t meant to be. It is a grape that perplexes me in being pretty straightforward fruit-wise, not really having a strong identity on its own, and a tendency toward heavy tannin without the stuffing to really make a big red. It has a charming side though, so that is what this bottling is focused on bringing to the table.
90 points - Wine Enthusiast: "This flavorful, smoky and moderately tannic wine offers black-pepper, bell-pepper and charred meat aromas backed by black-fruit flavors. It's lively..."
In Italy, Dolcetto is caught in a conundrum. Considered a cheap grape, it is planted in Piemonte’s worst locations. But, it is also very prone to mildew, and produces huge bunches that overcrop easily, catching it in a vicious circle of mediocre wine while living in the shadows of noble Nebbiolo and Barbera. It is “Dolce” because it ripens early and lacks acid, making it seem abnormally sweet compared to other grapes in that same moment, but it tends not to age well in most areas. There is also a confusing world of biotypes, some with red stems, some very fragile, all hating too much heat and too much cold, and loving calcareous soil that is in such short supply in California.
So, in 2019 we took a strong left-hand turn with our Dolcetto and decided to explore two very different interpretations to satisfy our own curiosity. For this particular bottle you have now, we picked the fruit earlier in the season, cofermented 10% Chardonnay with it, and held it in a stainless steel tank for 10 months rather than barrels. Here we wanted to explore a light and bright, juicy-fruited super-fresh goodness with a little CO2 lift that is all about Springtime easy drinking. We didn’t use carbonic fermentation, but the juicy freshness might make you think we did. You will even see a few bubbles when you pull the cork, all from the naturally occurring carbon dioxide left over from fermentation almost 20 months ago. The other half, to be released later, became a whole-cluster, spicy “serious red” style that needs more time in bottle due to ample tannin and age-worthy Burgundy-meets-Northern-Rhone style. One grape, two very different styles. Did we crack the code or reinvent the wheel? It is hard to say, but we found a different face to Dolcetto, one that we will continue to explore.
Vineyard: The Dolcetto block was planted in 2001, consisting of one acre on an east-facing slope. Clone 01 on St. George roots with 2-wire California sprawl trellising. Dolcetto throws huge bunches – Nebbiolo size or larger – and is extremely mildew sensitive, so careful canopy work is a must to keep things open, but not too exposed. It also dumps acid like crazy, so crop balance is very finicky in trying to hold acid but having lots of tannin. Dolcetto wins the award for biggest pain in the ass grape.
Winemaking: Harvested 9/07/19. Fermented gently in a small tank after destemming with 8% Chardonnay juice. No stems used to preserve maximal aromatics with a clean palate. Fermentation lasted 10 days and was pressed sweet at 8 brix. Wood-basket pressed, then finished fermenting in tank. No racking or sulfur added until bottling. Winemaking was very straightforward, because we wanted true fruit and maximal transparency with a minimum Dolcetto chunky tannin.
Vintage: 2019. Lots of rain, more than double “normal average” with an inch falling in June! It even rained lightly three times before the end of the season, practically Tuscan. July and August were very hot, taking us from two weeks late to one week early. The temperature rollercoaster was a good thing in the macro however, even though 6 days without electricity at the winery was challenging. Cold nights came fast after the hot early season. From mid-September on things were gloriously mild with cold nights and days just kissing 85F over and over again. A year to pick on acidity in the end.
Label Image: The 11th key of Basil Basil Valentine in The Golden Tripod. “In order to multiply in weight, volume, and Perfection, the Fixed Stone re-absorbs a new quantity of Mercury, being in the process redissolved, that is “dying” again. Each multiplication speeds elaboration and power tenfold.
92% Dolcetto, 8% Chardonnay
Yield: 3.5 tons per acre
No racking until bottling
120 cases produced
Hand bottled on site
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