Crazy Californians: Forget the Chard and Cab

Oh, California, what strong opinions you produce! Some snub you with your smog and endless traffic and billionaires. Many dream of being a starving artist in your state and being able to casually mention seeing Nicole Kidman or Donald Glover. California, when your residents visit New England, we can immediately pick them out by their tans and habit of bundling up in snow suits for fifty-degree weather!
 
Wine wise, you are associated with the big and bold, Alan Rickman’s mustache in Bottle Shock, and ginormous sprawling vineyards. But, in our Saturday tasting we are going to shift away from over-produced California Cabs and showcase some of the more unusual grape varietals being grown. Let us introduce you to these provocative grape varietals—we’re sure you’ll become fast friends!
 
There’s Friulano, from Friuli, Italy, which was prohibited in 2007 from being referred to as ‘Tocai Friulano’ due to confusion with Tokaj in Hungary. Petite Sirah insists you know right off the bat that ‘Petite’ isn’t referring to the size of their leaves and vines, which are indeed large, but to the size of their berries. Ribolla Gialla is so addictive that 14th century poet Giovanni Boccaccio listed this grape as one of his sins of gluttony! And Malvasia, or Malmsley as its sometimes called, that troublemaker, is alleged to be used in the private execution of George Plantagenet by his brother…see Richard III for details.
 
2014 Vallin, Vin Blanc - Santa Ynez Valley ($24)
Grapes: Marsanne and Viognier
These varietals hale from Côtes du Rhône and just as one cannot picture Tom and Jerry without the other, these grapes are just as much of a classic team. It is aged in neutral French oak and its floral, chewy, pear skin characteristics with have your head spinning.
 
2014 Arbe Garbe, White Wine - St. Helena ($43)
Grapes: Friulano, Malvasia, Ribolla Gialla
The husband and wife team of Arbe Garbe, Leizia and Enrico Maria Betoz are Friuli transplants to California. There heritage bleeds into their wines: from the name of their vineyard Arbe Garbe which translates into “bad weeds” in Friulian, as a nod to the cover crops in the vineyard, to the unique Italian grape varietals that they use. Refreshing acidity, lychee, and tarragon are just some of the intriguing characteristics of this wine.
 
2015 Fable Pinot Meunier - Russian River Valley ($20)
Grape: Pinot Meunier
Pinot Meunier is one of the three classic varietals used in champagne but until recently was given the short end of the stick-as in winemakers were more likely to give the other two grapes (Pinot Noir and Chardonnay) credit for the gently bubbling deliciousness. With aromas of orange marmalade and toasted pine nuts this wine will make your stomach rumble. This heady wine tastes of spice, mint, and roasted chestnuts.

2014 Heitz Cellar, Grignolino - Napa Valley ($31)
Grape: Grignolino
Heitz Cellars has become a staple of Napa Valley since 1961 and is known for their light reds and roses. This charming Grignolino (pronounced green-o-lean-o), a grape typically found in Piedmont, has strawberry and raspberry notes.
 
2013 Victor Hugo, Petite Sirah - Paso Robles ($23)
Grape: Petite Sirah
This vineyard has no connection to the Victor Hugo (the exiled Frenchman who created Cosette and Quasimodo) but this Victor Hugo is Victor Hugo Roberts, the winemaker and owner of the winery. With such a creative thinker and radical as a namesake you know that Victor Hugo Roberts would create bold wines. That’s exactly what this wine is: a brimming mixture a spice rick and very ripe plums with a slight note of bay leaf.