2011 Ribolla Gialla
2013 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition
Soooo, we were pretty excited about this wine when were first offered some fruit by a viticulturalist friend we have known for the last five years, because Ribolla Gialla is one of the more interesting Italian transplants to hit California's shores in some time. We were also extremely excited as he has about ¾ of an acre planted to this obscure Northern Italian varietal out of the entire 4 acres planted in the United States. We were even more excited as we got the first shot at making this Ribolla from his vineyard- something we see as a right of passage.
Ribolla Gialla is a grape getting a lot of sommelier attention lately- making the exceptional and distinct wines of Northern Italy and Slovenia- especially in the hands of experts such as Gravner and Radikon, who use traditional techniques- no oak, yeast, acid, etc, and possibly buried in amphorae and with skin contact. In the US, George Vare of Vare Vineyards in Napa Valley was the first to introduce the varietal to the American public- planting about 2 ½ acres at his vineyard in St. Helena. After crafting a few vintages himself, he has since taken a step back and decided to parse out the fruit each vintage to a group of exceptional vintners who have started crafting it in a wide range of styles. It is this range of styles that makes Ribolla Gialla so interesting, and will provide the basis for future J Stephen.
In a cool vintage such as 2011, it was an interesting case study to see how the Ribolla would express itself, and as such, I wanted to do so in as "clean" a style as possible. Given the small quantity I received (a little shy of 2 tons); I decided to ferment the entire lot in one style, knowing that in future vintages, the crop will be almost twice that, and I will be able to try a variety of techniques. After picking, and prior to pressing, I foot-tread the ½ ton picking bins, then let the grapes sit overnight. In doing this, I was hoping to extract a small percentage of the skin tannin, and achieve greater palate mouth feel. After pressing, the wine was transferred directly to neutral French oak barrels with its solids, fermented cool, and allowed to start and finish malolactic fermentation at its own pace. The wine was allowed to settle naturally, and bottled prior to the 2012 harvest.
This wine is going to be an excellent project going forward. The 2011 growing season provided a great jumping off point, allowing the grapes to ripen slowly, while maintaining restrained sugar accumulation, resulting in a lower alcohol wine with a good balance. The incredible mouth feel I find in this Ribolla is true to the varietal, the short skin contact providing a bit of tannin structure, with the balanced acidity providing roundness with a crisp finish. The nose is one of melon and jasmine, both of which continue on the palate.
|Brix at Harvest||21.1 °|