This varietal Ribolla Gialla was grown in Matthiasson’s home vineyard at the southern end of Napa Valley, in the western Oak Knoll area. In 2006, Matthiasson grafted some of his Merlot vines over to Ribolla using budwood originally from Josko Gravner, the Friulian winemaker who’s won acclaim for his whole-cluster, amphora-fermented Ribolla and Pignollo.
Ribolla is a nutty, honeyed grape to begin with, and fermentation on skins, as in the Matthiasson bottling, gives it additional depth and oxidative ornamentation. And then what happened? An earthquake. Some of the barrels of this wine ended up in a jumbled pile for about a month, exposing the wine to even more oxygen. (In all, Matthiasson lost about 450 cases during the earthquake, of a total production of about 8,000.) The tumult also boosted the volatile acidity, so the wine has a sharp, very focused acid profile, sparkly like foil.
The aromas are extremely honeyed, like honeyed apricots doused with Madeira, and while the texture is light there’s also substantial tannic structure from the skin contact. Tahitian vanilla, yellow stone fruits, and sherried peaches share the stage. It’s an interesting, mercurial wine, a wine that has already learned a lot during its young life.
11.3% abv | $45 (sample) | 387 cases made
Tasted at the winery on 14 June 2016.
Thank you for the details on this wine, and on the effects of the quake on Matthiasson. I had read (and seen in the Somm sequel) about their troubles, but never heard any particulars.
As for Ribolla, I am intrigued but not yet convinced by the variety in California.
If you see the movie “Somm: Into the Bottle,” you’ll learn a little more about the earthquake’s devastating effects on the Matthiassons.
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