Wine Review: Giornata Nebbiolo Luna Matta Vineyard 2014 and Vermentino 2017 Paso Robles

giornataLong one of my favorite Paso Robles wineries, Giornata uses Italian grape varietals and an Italian sensibility with distinctly Paso Robles fruit. After working for a well-known Tuscan producer, and traveling throughout Italy, Brian Terrizzi and his viticulturist/wife Stephanie had the bright idea of growing Nebbiolo in California, in the face of many naysayers who claimed it could not be done successfully. Today,  Giornata produces about 2500 cases of stunning, unique wines including this beautiful Nebbiolo and an intriguing, distinctive Vermentino.

Giornata is often associated with the natural wine movement although they don’t advertise this connection and are “not dogmatic about it”, said Assistant Winemaker David McDonald. They use natural yeast, a little sulfur at crush and at bottling, and will sometimes filter if bottling early. Their grapes, which are sourced from several local vineyards, most of which Stephanie has a role in managing, are mostly organic, with some biodynamic and some sustainably grown. Are they natural or not? Californian or Italian in style? Well, both or neither—they can’t be pigeonholed. But some of the winemaking techniques are decidedly traditional. The Nebbiolo has the lengthy maceration associated with old school Barolo—a week before fermentation, a long 2 1/2 week ferment, and then 6 or 8 weeks after fermentation. David explains, “with the long maceration, the tannins get more aggressive but then hit a plateau, and start bonding and dropping out. When it feels right we press.”

The result is a very authentic Barolo-style Nebbiolo but with California exuberance tossing up evocative aromas of dark cherry, strawberry, salami, forest floor and cinnamon in an ebullient nose with great clarity and focus. The palate has a minty/herbal note to contribute, supported by firm tannins that force their way into consciousness very early but without being grippy. Vibrant acidity forges into the finish  bringing lots of top note attention as the fruit disappears into the structure and then returns in long, slow pulses with a cranberry note emerging as the finish fades

Nebbiolo when made well is relentlessly forceful when young, a tense, massive compulsion while releasing, delicate fragile aromas. Acerbic and provocative but with elegance, that’s Nebbiolo and no one does all that better than Bowie.

Score: 92  Price: $45 Alc: 13.8%

Vermentino 2017

Vermentino’s home is in Sardinia, although I’ve seen it in Bolgheri and Piemonte as well. An uncommon grape in the U.S. , Giornata sources theirs from the 30 year-old Coyote Glen Vineyard and then vinifies it as an orange wine.  It’s fermented in amphora on the skins for 3 weeks and then sits on the lees for 8 months in the same vessel before bottling. Pale gold in the glass, the tangerine, orange blossom, melon and salty aromas, are a unique combination of fresh fruit and earth. An outstanding, creamy mouthfeel, almost full bodied, gives the wine a laid back, mellow dimension, quite soft for a skin contact wine, with a softly textured finish that shows great fruit purity.

Cibelle’s Um so Segundo shares the heady tropical atmosphere and mellow comportment of this wine.

Score: 90    Price: $30  Alc: 12.8%

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