California‐Grown Italian Varietals
LA Times: “Inexpensive, terrific wines”
Winery: LA Times: “Uvaggio is a project from Jim Moore, a veteran of Robert Mondavi’s and Bonny Doon’s cellars,” making wine from grape varieties indigenous to Italy and the south of France.
Owner/winemaker Jim Moore says, “we are not attempting to duplicate what Europe has to offer. Rather, we are aiming to synthesize the best of both worlds – European elegance, California opulence.” His goal is to offer intriguing and nuanced wines that are also affordable and food-friendly.
With a winemaking career spanning 4 decades, two continents, and a wide selection of varietals, his winemaking reflects an international perspective, not typical California styling. Long-ago recognizing California’s Mediterranean climate, he was an early advocate of planting Mediterranean varietals here. His Mondavi years included work with Frescobaldi to launch Luce and Lucente, as well as being the visionary behind Mondavi’s Italian-focused La Famiglia brand.
Winemaking and Vineyards: Jim describes his style as a Southern European palate overlaid on California grown fruit. He buys only European wines to drink, especially from France, Italy, Germany, so he tries to craft California-grown fruit that would also be European in styling, maintaining a foot in both New and Old Worlds.
Desiring wines with spherically shaped flavors and no sharp edges, he picks based on repeat vineyard visits and experience of taste, touch and look. He aims for whites that are fresh, aromatic, dry, un-oaked and rarely exceed 13% alcohol. Looking for restraint in his reds, they are not over-extracted or over-oaked, all have some barrel aging, but use less than 15% new oak.
Vineyards are generally in Lodi, with long-term grower relationships and ideal climate for these varietals.
Vermentino 2016, Lodi, Borden Ranch AVA 12.1% Alcohol 90 Points, WE
92 Points, Wine Enthusiast, Jim Gordon: “Herbaceous aromas and bright citrus flavors give an almost-electric charge to this light- bodied, crisp and appetizing wine. Aromas of snap peas, parsley and fresh-cut grass lead to lemon and grapefruit flavors and a tingly mouthfeel.”
An early pioneer in California Vermentino since 2003, Uvaggio’s block has light silty alluvial, well-drained soil, giving very concentrated flavors. The Corsican clone is farmed sustainably by the DeLu vineyard, under Moore’s direction, removing clusters from the north side of vines among other tweaks. The free-run juice was cool-fermented without a malo-lactic conversion. Post fermentation it was racked twice followed by a light fining, then racked and filtered prior to bottling. Made without oak.
Moscato Bianco Secco 2015, Lodi 13.1% Alcohol 92 Points, WE 144 128
92 Points, “Editor’s Choice,” Wine Enthusiast, Jim Gordon: “This bone-dry and floral wine is very well concentrated. An opulent texture helps carry the floral, appley, grapefruity flavors into the finish.”
Lush and round; exotic floral aromas like gardenia, jasmine and rose; a flavor of musk melon combined with hints of ginger, citrus and tropical fruits such as mango and papaya. Harvested from the cool Bella Vigna Vineyard, the juice was cool tank fermented with a fruit-enhancing strain of yeast and without a malo-lactic conversion. Post fermentation it was racked twice, followed by a light fining, then racked and filtered prior to bottling. Made without oak.
Zelo Bianco 2015 (Italian White Blend) Napa Carneros 13.2% Alcohol 90 Points, WE 192 176
90 Points, Wine Enthusiast, Virginia Boone: “This proprietary blend combines 63% Pinot Grigio, 22% Traminer and a small percentage of Moscato Giallo from Lodi. They harmonize in a light, crisp and floral bouquet of apricot, ginger and lemon, focusing entirely on refined refreshment.”
Inspired by the blends from Italy’s Northeast, the Pinot Grigio and Traminer are dry-farmed and in a Certified Organic cool, sloping Bartalucci Vineyard near Acacia in Carneros, giving long hang-time and low yields of often 2 tons per acre. Sunrise-picked, each lot was cool fermented and completed without malo-lactic conversion before blending with Lodi Moscato. Made without oak.
Montagna Nera (Italian Red Blend), El Dorado 192 176
Winery Tasting Notes: “Elegant and intriguing; spicy and toasty oak aromas, mingle with flavors of black cherry and blackberry, plus a hint of vanilla; with a focused attack; very complete and nuanced with a long finish.”
53% own-rooted, old heritage clone Zinfandel, with 37% Barbera and 10% mixed reds mountain-grown at 2100 feet elevation on the sloping hills of Cappelli Vineyard near highway E16, producing smaller berries, low yields and concentrated flavors. Cold-soaked, fermented and pressed, the wines were racked to barrels for malo-lactic conversion in neutral wood, before aging 6 months in 36% new, 37% once-used French and Hungarian barrels.
Primitivo 2015, Lodi – Mokelumne Sub-AVA 92 Points, WE 192 176
92 Points, Wine Enthusiast, Jim Gordon: “A wine for grown-ups, this is big but balanced and dry in style. Impressive layers of just-ripe blackberry and black-plum flavors with a sturdy structure of fine-grained tannins that clean the palate easily. Considerable depth and focus; the dark fruits seem to keep increasing in intensity even on the finish.”
Certified Clone 3 Primitivo differs significantly compared with Zinfandel, with much smaller, more uniformly ripe clusters and smaller berries. Primitivo has pretty aromatics of violet and cassis, and flavors emphasizing blue and black fruits without Zinfandel’s anise, black pepper and stewed raisins. Own-rooted at Lewis Ranch in sandy soils and vertically-trained shoots, yields are at most 4 tons per acre. Cold-soaked, tank fermented then malo-lactic fermented in neutral oak, before blending with 13% Barbera for enhanced complexity, and aged 3 more months in neutral oak. Made with no new oak.