2016 Nebbiolo "Bricco Buon Natale"
Jim Clendenen loves Italy and Italian wine. After visiting Italy numerous times, he decided to make wine from Italian grape varieties, in Santa Barbara County. His first attempts with Muscat and Nebbiolo were revolutionary at the time. These wines were different and had a few fans. In the 1980s Jim and a few other courageous souls were making wines from Italian varieties in California. In 1994 Barbera, Nebbiolo, Tocai Friulano and Pinot Gris were planted at Bien Nacido Vineyard for Clendenen Family. The stage was set to make high quality wines from Italian varieties in the Santa Maria Valley. The two best clones of Nebbiolo were planted, Lampia and Michet which has forked canes. The early years were not easy. The yields for both the Tocai Friulano and Nebbiolo were tiny. Once the vines got established and the proper pruning method was put in practice the yields and wine quality improved dramatically.
With grape growing figured out, the winemaking piece was next. Nebbiolo is a lighter colored, high acid, red wine that requires a number of years in barrel to “come together”. We keep our Nebbiolo in barrel for 48 months. We started using 500 liter Hungarian Oak barrels for aging Nebbiolo. These larger barrels were better for long term aging. In 2005 we released our first Clendenen Family Nebbiolo; the vintage was 2000. The wine had spent 4 years in barrel and one year in bottle. The beautiful parts of Nebbiolo were shining through and the shrill acid and brutal tannins had all evolved and harmonized. The wine had balance, elegance and charm.
Planted at the top of a breezy slope, the grapes battle the elements of wind, fog and sunny afternoons. We try to protect the delicate clusters from bleaching, or raisining, in too much sun. The Nebbiolo is carefully picked and sorted in the vineyard. All the grapes are destemmed and fermented in 5 ton, open-top fermenters. The must is punched down at least twice a day and pressed at dryness. The wine is put in 500L barrels, one third new oak, and racked once a year. We keep a close eye on this wine to keep it in good shape for long term barrel aging. After 4 years in barrel, the wine is very clear, due to low pH and the long time in barrel. No filtering or fining is necessary at bottling.
The long-term strategy behind the Clendenen Family Nebbiolo started with the planting of the grapes and finished with the release of the 2000 Nebbiolo. This first release of the wine showed some similarity between Italian Nebbiolos and the Clendenen Family version. Both had the typical roses and tar of the variety. The big surprise is the freshness of this wine even at 5 years of age. The Bien Nacido Vineyard planting of Nebbiolo is now 20 years of age.
The 2016, our 6th release of the Bricco Nebbiolo, shows the maturity of the vines with increasing depth and power. The purity of this wine really complements the mix of floral and berry aromas jumping from the glass. The concentration continues in the flavor profile. The strong acid and moderate tannins balance and support the less assertive flavors which are still developing as the wines ages. Secondary aromas of violets, lavender and anise are just starting to develop. A big mouthful unveils dried cherries, balanced nicely with perfect acid and mellow tannins. This Nebbiolo should reach its peak in 8 to 10 years, but it is ready to drink, now. Try with Piedmont classics such as pasta with duck and white truffles.