Most American Nebbiolo sucks. Once upon a time, I loved Palmina’s efforts (read here). But if I am honest with my naive self, Santa Barbara Nebbiolo tastes nothing like the Piedmont, Italy.
So, Oregon wine. You may have heard of our fabulous Willamette Valley Pinot, maybe even warmer Umqua, Rogue, or Appelgate Valleys. But there lies another AVA, East of Portland, East of Mount Hood, along the slopes of the river that brought Lewis and Clarke to the Pacific: the Columbia Gorge AVA.
The Cascades shield the Columbia Gorge from the dripping, dreary, I-take-Vitamin D-supplements Pacific Ocean. But it sits before the dry high desert Columbia Valley AVA. That means a still cool climate, with warmer summers and greater diurnal range than the ever cool wet westerly Willamette: a good recipe for Nebbiolo.
Cerulean Winery has a 23 acre organic vineyard called Acadia. It blankets volcanic soils on Underwood Mountain at 1,000 feat above sea level. For Nebbiolo, they hand pick and ferment 50% whole cluster and 50% destemmed grapes then age it for 28 months in neutral French oak barrels and 18 months more in bottle.
Does all this effort make for a rival of Barbaresco or Barolo Nebbiolo? Let’s try it:
Cerulean Nebbiolo Columbia Gorge OR 2010 $20-$25
The APPEARANCE looks clear medium intense garnet glinting with ruby highlights and washed legs. AROMAS glow exotic with medium intensity Turkish delight with rose water and almonds, crushed blueberries, black cherry liquor, and dried vanilla husk. The PALATE feels dry, with medium acidity, medium plus tannins, a mild 12.8% alcohol and a medium body. FLAVORS lump red cherry, blueberry, and orange peel alongside toasted vanilla and smoke. They last a medium plus length.
Cerulean’s 2010 Nebbiolo is very good (4 of 5). It lacks the power, tannin, and age-ability of Barbaresco and Barolo. Yet, think of a more general Piedmontese Nebbiolo, like a Langhe, d’Alba, or Reoro: an amiable, daily red with enough earth and interest for Tuesday’s dinner. Not shabby.
(Thanks to cohort Tavia for suggesting this fab wine).