The California Series: Part 2
After three consecutive nights of excessive drinking and eating, my dear friend Whitney and I awoke on the second day of our California road trip feeling relatively human again at last. We’d had a decent night’s sleep, and there was a pool, two hairy dog-bears, and cups of freshly brewed tea awaiting us at our AirBnB accommodation high in the Santa Ynez hills. And although I could’ve happily stayed by that pool with those dogs for days, the vineyards were calling us.
Loading our suitcases back into Whitney’s little convertible, we drove to a lovely little wine shop and bar in Paso Robles to meet Steffy Terrizzi, one half of the husband/wife team behind Giornata and Broadside wineries (it seems to be common in this part of the wine world for winemakers to be involved in making wines under several different labels…it can be a little confusing for an outsider). Steffy drove us up the steep, bumpy roads to her beautifully tended Luna Matta vineyards outside Paso. The weather was completely different than in Lompoc where we’d been shivering the day before. Here in the hills of the Central Coast, we were baking in the heat of a California summer day.
Steffy and her husband Brian have had a tough year. It’s been a wet spring and a cold summer (relatively speaking of course) with that evil wine-devil frost rearing his ugly head all too often. What’s interesting about Steffy and Brian is that they grow A LOT of Italian varietals (although they’re constantly expirimenting with all sorts). While their Broadside wines–a joint project between Brian and Chris Brockway of Broc Cellars–are usually more fun, affordable ‘porch pounders’, their Giornata wines are the doppelgangers of Italy’s most famous vini. One sip of their 2008 nebbiolo and I was transported to the hills of Piemonte. Their 2008 Luna Matta vineyards aglianico was as broody, iron-y and chunky (yet elegant) as any found in Basilicata or Campania. And the 2010 Wild Horse vineyards vermentino brought me straight back to my wedding day, sipping the floral, peachy, ever so slightly sweet but refreshing classic Ligurian drink.
So why try (in this case extremely accurately) and copy the great wines of the old world? Because they can. And the fact that they can is extraordinary. Great regions like Barolo or Vulture have had hundreds of years to perfect the grapes varieties that have inhabited their land since the Roman times. To transplant those varieties halfway across the world into a different soil and climate (despite some similarities) and still be able to make them with such accuracy is an incredible feat. And while Steffy and Brian do put their own stamp onto the wines, they are pleased as punch when you muse over their wines’ likeness to their Italian godfathers.
Being a self-professed lover of European style wines, or at least wines made with a gentler touch than the typical new world oak/fruit/alcohol bombs, I was thrilled to discover Californian winemakers like Steffy and Brian going back to their European roots, and acknowledging that a thing or two can be learned from these great wine regions (after all they’ve been at it a lot long than the states has). And that paying homage to these ancient winemaking techniques and grape varieties can surely only be a good thing for the new world, heck the world in general! For that I raise a glass to Steffy and Brian. Salute!