30 April, 2012

Location, location, location! Review of single-vineyard designate Nebbiolos of Palmina

Do you pay attention to where your wine comes from? Not just the country or appellation but the vineyard(s)? And what does it mean if your wine comes from a particular vineyard, and does it really matter? As a part of Wine Blogging Wednesday#75 on wines from single-designate vineyards, I explored these questions and have come up with a tentative answer: Yes, it can matter if your wines come from certain vineyards. To illustrate this thesis I tasted two 2006 Nebbiolos made by Palmina Winery which came from two very distinct vineyards in Santa Barbara County.

I discovered Palmina last year on a trip to the Santa Barbara Vintner's Festival in April and I fell in love with their bottlings of Italian varietals such as Barbera, Dolcetto, Tocai Friulano,Pinot Grigio and Arneis to name a few. Palmina is also known for their single-vineyard Nebbiolos and the winemaker, Steve Clifton, pays much attention to clonal selection, terroir and climate. Nebbiolo is a fickle grape that can be hard to grow. The name may be derived from the Italian word for fog (nebbia)and this grape needs the coolness of foggy conditions to fully-develop. Nebbiolo is the grape used for Barolos and Barbarescos of the Piedmont region of Italy. Palmina has found a perfect place with the right micro-climates and soils of various vineyard sites in Santa Barbara County to grow Nebbiolo and make stunning wines.
Stolpman Vineyard, Santa Ynez Valley

We tasted 2 Palmina Nebbiolos side-by-side and here are the tasting notes:
2006 Stolpman Vineyard Santa Ynez Valley
This beauty is deep red with russet edges, with aromas of cherry, cassis, cedar, and tobacco covering subtle notes of violets. The palate is seductive, elegant, smooth and balanced with flavors of truffles and black cherries. It reminded me of an actual Barolo. In the Piemonte region Barolo is referred to as the "King of wines and the wine of Kings." This California Nebbiolo is something I would not hesitate to serve to royalty.

2006 Sisquoc Ranch Vineyard Santa Maria Valley
This wine is an intense purple rimmed with magenta and it seduces your palate with concentrated layers of red fruit, herbs and an earthy finish. However, the fruit is a very high-toned red cherry, with heavy oakiness, high acidity, and strong tannins.
Like all fine Barolos this is a wine made for aging and I may have opened it a little early as I felt it was lacking in the smooth elegance of the Stolpman.

Doing this side-by-side tasting made me question why these two wines were so different. According to Steve Clifton, the Nebbiolos are vinified in very similar ways and both the Stolpman and Sisquoc fruit go through long periods of ageing in upright barrel casks for up to 4 years before bottling. They are both aged in bottle for 10 to 15 months before being released.

The differences could be attributed to clonal variation. However the grapes come from vineyards with vastly different soil types. The Stolpman was an example of Lampia clone nebbiolo grown in sandy loam over a limestone base. The Sisquoc is Michet clone grown in deeper clay soils over a gravel base. The Stolpman exhibits very elegant , perfumed qualities while the Sisquoc shows darker, more masculine qualities. So we can see that the varying terroir of each vineyard can absolutely affect the aromas and flavors of wine. Of course there are myriad other factors that affect wine but how often do you get to compare the same varietal grown in different vineyards that are from the same vintage? The fact that Steve Clifton grows this fabulous varietal in different sites that show such different qualities just sends me to wine geek heaven as I contemplate these delicious differences.
Visit Palmina at the Lompoc Wine Ghetto or go to www.palminawines.com

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