Wine Talk

Snooth User: JonDerry

Are you down with Dolcetto?

Posted by JonDerry, Jun 3.

Thought this was an interesting mailer I'd share with you all. Already forwarded the e-mail to Fox as he is one of the few champions of Dolcetto that I know. This would also fit in well with the "weekday wines" thread. Fox and I agreeing it's a good week day pasta night wine, or even a 1st wine in a flight of Northern Italian Reds.

 

To all Best Winers,

 
Dolcetto. Ever hear of it?
 
For years this was a grape that wallowed in mediocrity. Not even Dolcetto’s very own growers in the Piedmont region of Italy gave the grape its due. Outside of the very special place I’ll be talking about today, it has traditionally been planted at the bottom of the hill, around the corner in the shade, over where the standing water gathers. Catch my drift?
 
But, Dolcetto is in fact the Napoleon Dynamite of Italian wine grapes.  You give it just half a chance and all of a sudden, BOOM! You’re nerd grape is a break-dancing, world-beating superstar.
 
Dogliani gave Dolcetto the chance. And it hasn’t looked back.
 
Some of you may not be familiar with Piedmont’s Dogliani zone, probably because most of you have been trained to not care about Dolcetto. Dogliani shares a common border with the uptown Monforte sub-zone of Barolo, but, unlike its neighbor, Nebbiolo is not the star here.
 
Could Dogliani have planted Nebbiolo? Sure. And would probably make more money doing it. But Dolginai wasn’t having it. Dolcetto has been a staple of this area since at least the 16th century. It loves the mixed soils here and loves the fact that it’s a star, benefiting from all the bets vineyard positions and hillsides that are usually reserved for its pushy brother next door, Nebbiolo.
 
In 2011, Dogliani was finally awarded D.O.C.G. (Italy’s top appellation status) by the Italian government. It was about time.
 
Today we’re rocking a quartet of Dogliani’s finest wines. These three bottlings show the heights to which Dolcetto can climb if given the proper vineyard, love and attention.
 
Also, recognize the intense value in these wines. Because Dolcetto has always received the ‘cold shoulder’, even form its native Piedmont, prices on these wines are almost laughable given the age of vines, vineyard and cellar work required. These wines will increase in price as the Dogliani appellation becomes established. Get them now with a ‘1’ in the price while you still can.
 
Marziano Abbona’s 2012 Papa Celso (92 points Galloni) is from a single vineyard of 50-60+ year-old vines. It is a refined, almost Burgundian spin on the genre. This has been a staple in our house for years.
Galloni writes it is, “…striking in this vintage. Fresh, perfumed and impeccable in its balance, the2012 is one of the most refined versions of this wine I can remember tasting. Layers of deeply perfumed blue/black fruit caress the palate in a wine that captures the essence of Dolcetto from the village of DoglianiWhat a fabulous wine this is!
 
Francesco Boschis is also one of the major ‘players’ in the Dogliani zone. Their 2011 Sori San Martino (92 points as well) also comes from 50+ year-old hillside vines on chalkier soils. Galloni raves, “The purest essence of raspberry jam, wild flowers, crushed rocks and spices wrap around the palate and never let up. The 2011 Dogliani San Martino boasts superb depth and pedigree. Rich and layered, but never heavy, the San Martino is a fabulous example of the heights Dolcetto can achieve when it is planted in the best sites. All the elements fall into place in this drop-dead gorgeous Dogliani from Boschis.
 
The Pecchenino brothers helped turn Dogliani were also instrumental in Dogliani attaining DOCG status with their passion and intense commitment to quality. Their 2012 Dogliani San Luigi (91 points) is a joy. Raised entirely in stainless steel, it emphasizes the fresh, quaffable side of Dogliani. Again, Galloni was in love, noting, The 2012 Dogliani San Luigi is deep, rich, flavorful and beautiful. Dark red cherry, plum, spices, tobacco and menthol all wrap around the palate in an absolutely gorgeous Dolcetto with tons of pure appeal. There is plenty of Dogliani richness, but with less weight than in some of the other wines. The textured finish is especially inviting. Sweet floral notes, a hint of spice and raspberry jam add the final notes of complexity in a drop-dead gorgeous wine.”
 
Last, but certainly not least, we have Gillardi’s classy Dogliani Cursalet 2011. It's not too often a wine in this price range wins the coveted Tre Bicchieri award from Gambero Rosso, which is essentially Italy's version of the Wine Spectator Top 100, but even more selective.  Gillardi is one of the real aces of the zone, and his wine is a thoughtful, complex, refined version of the genre.  The dark, pinpoint blackberry fruit is evident, as is the elegance we always see from this estate.  
 
Want to get to know Dolcetto? Now’s the time, these are the wines, Dogliani’s the place.

 

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Replies

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Reply by dmcker, Jun 3.

Dolcetto's almost always (and in the right circumstances) worked for me. Definitely a daily. Barbera's somewhere inbetween it and the nebbiolos, I've found. Nice local three-way...

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Reply by JenniferT, Jun 3.

I've only tried a few (I can't remember which ones) - but I do remember enjoying them. They were all quite distinct - I couldn't put my finger on it but there was something in the profile of each of them that I had never encountered before. 

I had almost forgotten it until I saw your post! Perhaps Dolcetto is worth revisiting in the near future. It might be good to pour one against a Barbera or Nebbiolo to compare. 

Any ideas on pairings? The saga of teaching myself to cook is ongoing.

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Reply by dmcker, Jun 4.

Jennifer, would be fun to hear more about your adventures in the kitchen, and your use of wine in and around them. Used to be a number of accomplished chefs on these boards, but they've dropped by the wayside it would seem....

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Reply by JenniferT, Jun 4.

Well it's only been an hour. :)  I will probably do my dolcetto dinner experiment this time next week, unless I'm already gone for work by then (which would afford people a ton of time to weigh in). 

I'll probably pick one main recipe with several smaller foods or elements (think accompaniments and/or charcuterie), pour 2-3 wines blind and then mix and match with the foods. I find that approach gets me the best bang for our buck in terms of the learning process. I'll come back and report our findings for anyone who might be interested. 

 

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Reply by JenniferT, Jun 4.

The last time I did a big dinner and blind tasting that I posted about was  chardonnay + lobster thermidor. A fantastic learning experience although I still have the scar from an unfortunate meeting of my finger tip and a cheese grater. This undertaking will be a little more lax and less bloody. :)

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Reply by gregt, Jun 4.

They could have stopped here:  "For years this was a grape that wallowed in mediocrity."

So what's changed? Nothing that I've tasted over the years. It's never as enjoyable as Barbera or as complex as Nebbiolo. It's just in the way. Plus, when it's done "well" it has a grapey note that reminds me of what I don't like about Pinot Noir. With no redeeming features, I find it an easy pass.

But then that's just me.

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Reply by dmcker, Jun 4.

I'm curious how often it gets caught up in field blends when only Barbera is advertised as another grape besides Nebbiolo.

The best dolcetto I've had has been in Northern Italy, on the ground at lunch or picnicking on a hillside (or out of a bota bag way up that hill) or what have you. Never have felt the need to chase it down continents away after however much travel shock and price additions.

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Reply by gregt, Jun 4.

Probably gets caught up a lot and some of what was thought to be Bonarda in Argentina is actually sometimes Charbono or Dolcetto. So maybe I was too quick. It's OK but never brilliant in Italy, at least those that I've had. However, that's not to say it can't do really well somewhere else in the world and I have had a few from CA that weren't bad so I'm remaining open-minded.

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Reply by dmcker, Jun 4.

Ah, charbono.... mmmmmm....

Inglenook and cases and cases of the stuff back in the late '70s, early '80s. Very first case lots I ordered regularly. Absolutely dailies, but something well beyond quaffable. Lots of enjoyment there.

 

From the LA Times back then:

Rare But Well Done : Charbonos by Inglenook Are Neither Common Nor Costly

August 06, 1989|ROBERT LAWRENCE BALZER
    •  
    •  
  DIVERSITY IS always welcomed by wine lovers seeking to expand their taste horizons. After all, they don't want to drink only Chardonnays or Cabernets. One interesting wine, especially attractive because it is rare, is Inglenook Charbono. It's a red wine with an intriguing bouquet. But what makes it even better is that it is available for less than $12 a bottle.The rare cuttings of Charbono--which, researchers speculate, Inglenook founder Gustave Niebaum brought from Piedmont in the northern Italian wine country in the late 1800s--occupy 40 acres at Inglenook. That acreage makes up about 85% of the total Charbono planting in California.

Inglenook, a Scottish word meaning a warm and cozy corner, was the name Niebaum gave to California's first architectural landmark winery in the Napa Valley. Niebaum, a wealthy, young Finnish sea captain, ran his winery as tightly as he might have run his ship. To create a constant shipshape sense of order, he had the aisles between the rows of grapevines swept daily. Magazine and newspaper articles, even books, were written about Niebaum's unusual management style.

Not much seemed to fluster Niebaum. In fact, the late John Daniel Jr., Niebaum's grandnephew, once told me a story about his great-uncle.

In the 1880s, a visitor turned into the grand driveway to the winery in his horse-drawn, two-wheeled gig. The visitor asked Niebaum, who happened to be walking by on an inspection tour, "What's going on here? A winery?"

Niebaum nodded.

"I'd like to see it."

So Niebaum climbed aboard and gave the stranger a tour.

When the tour was over, the visitor handed Niebaum a dollar tip and, with a sweep of his hand, indicated the apparent expanse of the winery.

"Who's doing all this?" the tourist asked.

"A foreigner called Niebaum," the host responded calmly. Niebaum pocketed the dollar and waved the stranger on his way.

Ever since Inglenook opened (and reopened in 1933 after the repeal of Prohibition), it has been considered an outstanding Napa Valley winery, dedicated to the finest wine-making procedures.

This spring, Jamie Daniel Morningstar, a granddaughter of Daniel and Inglenook's resident chef, toured the country promoting Inglenook Charbono. Six vintages--1984, 1983, 1981, 1980, 1979 and 1977--were featured at the seven-course dinners she presented.

"It's a wine that works with food. It likes bold flavors," she said. Indeed, the wine stands up to strong flavors, with rare harmony.

The '84, '83 and '81 are still available and at modest prices.

The 1981 Charbono, with a silky finesse, costs about $11.50. The 1984 has a youthful liveliness and vim that suggests that it can use cellar aging. But the softer, leaner 1983 is of an earthy, intriguing balance. It is drinkable now. Both are about $8.50.

At Inglenook, visitors can view Niebaum's tasting room, which was fashioned after a captain's shipboard compartment, and maybe even catch a glimpse of Jamie Morningstar. But you won't have to tip her if she shows you around.

 

 

Had all those vintages. Oldest I can personally remember consuming was back to '59. 

 

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Reply by duncan 906, Jun 4.

I had a very nice Dolcetto back in Jaanuary

www.snooth.com/wine/azelia-dolcetto-dalba-bricco-dellorilo-2007

 

I thought it lovely but it is not a wine I have seen very often

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Reply by gregt, Jun 5.

Good story D.  Charbono is still around - both Pride and Turley make it. Fife did for a while, Edmund St. John did if I recall, and there were a few others.

It's nice that people are still doing it. Maybe Coppola will bring it back to Inglenook? It's a shame that there are so few producers. People limit themselves to Cab vs Pinot Noir, and they talk about Syrah, while Merlot and Zin are sort of second-tier but that's about it with the US wine industry. Meanwhile, there are so many other grapes that need exploration in the US. And that includes stuff like Dolcetto, Freisa, Lagrein, Teroldego and so many others.

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Reply by JonDerry, Jun 5.

Had a pretty good Dolcetto out of Santa Barbera recently, it's actually a producer (perhaps the leader in CA)   known for their Nebbiolo. The name evades me now but I'll think of it.

To Greg's point there's somewhat of a movement going on (or at least an annual tasting) in CA called the 7% solution. The concept being that 93% of the acreage in Northern California is planted to 8 major grape varieties, and the tasting celebrates the less popular/appreciated grapes, along with these more adventurous producers (mostly negociants). Here's a good article about it. Unfortunately one of the main growers these 7% producers relied on recently passed away.

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Reply by dmcker, Jun 5.

For a minute, JD, I thought you were going to be talking alcohol levels with your 7%. I've had plenty of German riesllngs under 9%, seemingly heading in that direction.

Check out the alcohol percentage for that Charbono. That was the level for virtually ALL Napa reds until well into the '80s....

Was interesting to look at the list of wineries involved in the 7% project:

"from “a veritable Who’s Who list of many of the hottest small wineries in California” — Arnot-Roberts, Wind Gap, Ryme, Matthiasson, Massican, Broc Cellars, Scholium Project."

The winemaker who created Massican used to be a regular on these boards.

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Reply by JenniferT, Jun 5.

Greg T - I think that "grapey note" that you describe might be the same thing that I picked up on in the Dolcettos I've had. I didn't tie it in with pinot noir, it struck me as unique to those wines at the time. (Mind you, I enjoy a lot of pinot noirs and I haven't tasted a fraction of the wines that you have).

 

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Reply by JonDerry, Jun 5.

Dave, I just now read that article and realized how old it was, very cool.

Other than its own fruit profile, that "grapey" flavor in Dolcetto comes out more as the wines is typically low to medium in acidity. The best examples tend to be more towards medium in acid. However, it mixes in some earthy, spicy elements that give it more of a personality. Although I agree it's definitely a "daily drinker" kind of wine, I try to have a simple pasta/pizza night once or twice a week and Dolcetto really works in this spot, especially the good "Dogliani" stuff.

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Reply by vin0vin0, Jun 5.

Have only had one dolcetto in the recent past and wasn't too impressed.  It was a somewhat inexpensive bottle so I may have just caught one of lesser quality.  I'm going to put this on the shopping list for this weekend and we'll see if we can come up with a winner.  On a side note, also had an '07 Tofanelli charbono a few months back and didn't really care for that either.  Guess I just have to keep on tasting!

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Reply by JonDerry, Jun 5.

I should also mention I didn't like Dolcetto at first either. In fact, I bought two bottles based on Fox's recommendation (Chionetti - Dogliani, 2010 I believe) and thought the first bottle was kind of a joke. It was probably drunk too early, just after shipping, and I didn't drink it in the correct context as it was on a weekend in a party atmosphere, and really wasn't paired with food.

So the next bottle was opened about 6 months later, on a random week day "pasta" night. It happened to be the first night that I stayed home alone and cooked for my son, who was less than a year old at the time. The wine absolutely hit the nail on the head, matched the food, the situation, all to perfection. I also had low expectations, which no doubt topped it off...

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Reply by JenniferT, Jun 5.

I've got a simple pizza happening for a late night dinner tonight, along with a selection of cheese. I might run out and see if I can find a Dolcetto to pair with it - I'll let you guys know what happens. Here's to yet more tasting and food pairing experimentation.  

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Reply by dmcker, Jun 5.

Jennifer, Barbera can be your backup, if no Dolcetto to be found...

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Reply by JenniferT, Jun 6.

Oh what a bottomless pit of money and time this hobby can be! Sigh...all in the name of learning (cough, cough). No Dolcetto to be found in either store I checked. Pretty much the only thing I know I can access in town is a fairly inexpensive Dolcetto d'Alba that I don't know anything about. That was too far a drive.

I did, however, pick up a case of new picks at the store instead. Including one Italian wine made from Nerello Mascalese grapes grown on the North slope of Mt. Edna. I guess you never know where you'll end up on the road to learning about wine.

As for the Dolcetto - I'm out, for now. Too bad because I had been doing the simple pizza tonight, and I have committed to my Dolcetto pairing - I figured I had a chance to hit two birds with one stone.

Ah Dolcetto, you win this time! :)

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