Anyone else ever feel like Nebbiolo is the grape that shouldn’t work. It’s so light in color, it’s practically see-through: a faint rouge hue with its rusty orange-y-brown aura that just hints that this wine isn’t what it appears to be: Firm in structure, full-bodied, and undeniably tannic, but balanced by an—at times—racey acidity. The classic aroma descriptor is “tar and violets,” as the wine typically includes scents and flavors of herbs, dried flowers, and the bitterness of a dark coffee. But one only has to taste the differing expressions coming from the Nebbiolo motherlands of Barolo, Barbaresco, as well as Asti and Alba to know that location and climate means everything to this grape.
Here is what California’s El Dorado County has to provide this dark beauty.
About the Wine: Madroña Vineyards 2017 Nebbiolo
79% Nebbiolo, 20% Barbera, 1% Merlot
17 months in oak barrels (neutral French and American)
372 cases produced
Appearance: pale garnet
Aroma: Developing aromas of black cherry, coffee, cocoa, toast/smoke, black currant, licorice/anise, violets, damp forest floor, wet leaves, and a hint of prune or raisin.
Palate: The palate is dry with high alcohol, medium (+) acidity, high tannins, medium (+) body, a medium (+) flavor intensity, and a long finish. Flavors elevate those dried fruits sensed on the nose (prune, raisin) and intensify the sensation of smokey coffee aromas. The palate also presents a kind of meatiness and mushroom-like umami, especially during the long, lingering finish.
Conclusion: Based on the WSET criteria, I determined that this wine is outstanding. The tannins, though present, are not over-powering, are more fine-grained in texture. The medium (+) level of acidity perfectly cuts through that structural component as well as the more firm flavors of dried fruits and the earthy aromas of forest floor, wet leaves, and mushroom. Simultaneously it highlights a bit of those fresher components like the black cherry and anise. The wine already shows indication of age with primary, secondary, and tertiary aromas and flavors, proving its complexity. And, as mentioned, the finish is long, leaving that meaty-mushroom umami lingering in the back breath. This wine is absolutely enjoyable now and should be able to age in bottle for many years.
Food Pairing: I paired the Madroña Vineyards 2017 Nebbiolo with a smoked and grilled filet mignon served with scalloped potatoes, seasoned with butter and tarragon, and a side salad mixed with blue cheese, candied pecans, cherry tomatoes, and grilled onion. Yum.
More Info: I received the Madroña Vineyards 2017 Nebbioloy as a sample. (Cheers!) Price: $26. (That’s a real good deal.) For more information about Madroña Vineyards, their wine, and to purchase wine directly, please visit the Madroña Vineyards website.
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