Nebbiolo is a beautiful grape, native to the Piedmont region of Italy. A late ripener, vintners tend to celebrate Nebbiolo’s harvest toward the end of October or early November when the Langhe region becomes submerged in thick, pea-soup-like fog. Indeed, the name Nebbiolo is said to stem from the Italian word for fog, nebbia. Out of this darkness, this denseness, this stone-wall of a cloud, comes one of Italy’s most noble and notable grapes. A shy shade of red in its youth and often quite tannic, the wine ages into rich and vibrant colors — not unlike dragon’s fire — and develops deep aromatics, complex flavors, and matures right out of those sticky tannins. Nebbiolo, at its peak, can be one of the most intense wines alive.
Of course, these are characteristics associated with the Italian varietal from Italy. I don’t believe I’ve yet had the opportunity to taste a Nebbiolo from the United States. Until I popped the Big Cork on Big Cork Vineyards 2015 Nebbiolo.
Russian wine: I’ve never quite thought about it. But Big Cork Vineyards is into big ideas — and not just with their bodacious reds. As I’ve mentioned before, Maryland’s climate is actually quite a cold one, especially when compared to the vineyards in my native California. This opens up their little wine country up to a whole host of grapes that are virtually untapped here on the west side. So, how about a taste of SK77-53, SK77-10-69, and XIV 186 my friends?
Vidal Blanc is a hybrid grape — a cross between Ugni Blanc and Rayon d’Or — created in the 1930s by Jean Louis Vidal. If you’re from the sunny state of California, as I am, and have never heard of this varietal, that’s not surprising and nor are you alone. Because of the grape’s thick skin, it thrives best in cold, even downright icy regions. In fact, it is considered one of the great grapes of Canada, where it’s often used to create ice wines — wines created by picking the grapes when they’re frozen and contain more concentrated sugar levels.
Maryland does have cooler temperatures (sometimes dangerously frost-filled winters), which opens up the vineyard playing field to interesting grapes like Vidal Blanc. And, while this is no dessert wine, be warned my dry white wine lovers, that you’re in for an interesting twist ahead with the Big Cork Vineyards expression of this quirky grape.
Winemaker Dave Collins was probably the perfect guy to bring on board the Big Cork Vineyards team back in 2011 when the winery was first planting its grapes. He’d already been in the business for over 30 years, with his latest gig just across the Potomac River in Virginia — just 10 miles from the current Big Cork Vineyards estates. So not only did he come with winemaking experience, he was familiar with the terroir and what grapes would grow well and where. Obviously the pursuit was successful, today the winery boasts over 35 acres planted to vines with about 21 different grape varietals.
When asked which grape was his favorite, Collins says, “That’s like asking me to tell you which of my kids is my favorite! […] Each one is important for its own accomplishments and personality, but it’s how they work as a team that is my favorite thing!”
Well, personally, I love a good Cab Franc. While they’re becoming more main stream, a single-varietal bottle is still a bit of a challenge to find. So I was most excited when the Big Cork Vineyards 2015 Cabernet Franc arrived in my Big Cork delivery.
I don’t know a lot about East Coast wines in general and didn’t even consider Maryland as a grape-growing region until I recently came across Royal Rabbit Vineyard. But according to a recent article from Wine Enthusiasts, Maryland is the new wine country to watch. “Today, Maryland is enjoying a wine renaissance,” says writer Dave McIntyre “The Free State had only 12 wineries at the turn of the century; that number was up to 85 at the beginning of this year.” And, with just over 900 acres planted to vines, most wineries are planting their own vineyards, predominantly producing estate wines.
Such is the case with Big Cork Vineyards. And since I so enjoyed the Barbera from Royal Rabbit Vineyard not that long ago, I thought the Big Cork Vineyards 2015 Barbera would be a good place to begin my Big Cork adventure and continue my exploration of Maryland wine.