By Ray Isle
Native yeasts, volcanic soil terroir, and a new Sicilian wine from one of Italy’s greatest winemakers. Here are some new bottles we’re excited about right now.
Trediberri (Piedmont, Italy)
The Trediberri name may not sound Piedmontese, but when you think of it as “tre di Berri”—that is, the trio of father and son Federico and Nicola Oberto and partner Vladimiro Rambaldi, all from near the tiny town of Berri—ah, then it makes sense. And when you know that Federico was the winemaker at Barolo benchmark Renato Ratti for 40 years and that in addition to other vineyards, the Obertos own a prime slice of the great Rocche dell’Annunziata cru—then it really makes sense. New wineries making top Barolo out of the gate are rare, but this is one to seek out (the Obertos’ Dolcetto and Barbera are also excellent and are bargains, too).
Wine to Try: 2019 Trediberri Langhe Nebbiolo ($25)
Until the next vintage of Trediberri’s Barolo is released, drink this darkly spicy, complex red. Langhe Nebbiolo often gets called “baby Barolo”—this wine shows exactly why.
Ashes & Diamonds (Napa, California)
Is Ashes & Diamonds a style statement? The winery, with its retro mid-century modern look, starkly un-Napa white walls, and low-key lounging spaces, definitely says yes. A magnet for millennial wine lovers, à la Sonoma’s Scribe Winery? Yes on that, too. A reference to a Polish art film from 1958? Hey, why not. But most importantly, it’s a source for organically farmed wines that hark back to the lower-alcohol, more restrained California style of the 1960s and 1970s, made by wine-world stars like Steve Matthiasson and Diana Snowden Seysses. Owner Kashy Khaledi has a rare gift for being as good at nailing the vibe of the moment as he is at luring top talent to make his impressive wines.ADVERTISING
Wine to Try: 2017 Ashes & Diamonds Mountain Cuvée No. 2 ($105)
This brambly, black currant–y red has spice and elegance from old-vine Cabernet Franc in the blend.
Alma De Cattleya (Sonoma County, California)
Bibiana González Rave knew from age 14 that she wanted to make wine, but, growing up in Medellín, Colombia, the closest she could get was studying chemical engineering. Finally, she left for France, earning a degree in viticulture and enology and working at top estates in Côte-Rôtie and Bordeaux. Fast forward: After stints at several Central Coast wineries, she founded Cattleya Wines (the cattleya orchid is Colombia’s national flower). González Rave makes vivid, soulful wines at all levels—affordable ones under Alma de Cattleya and higher-end bottlings (like her stellar The Initiation Syrah) simply under Cattleya.
Wine to Try: 2018 Alma De Cattleya Chardonnay ($24)
This hard-to-put-down white manages the ideal California Chardonnay trick, which is to be rich in flavor without being heavy.
Maison & Domaines Les Alexandrins (Rhône Valley, France)
The complete genesis of this new Rhône producer would take a lot of explaining, but here’s the short version: Nicolas Jaboulet (sixth generation of the family that founded Rhône benchmark Paul Jaboulet Aîné) plus Guillaume Sorrel (son of Marc Sorrel, a winemaker in Hermitage) plus acclaimed viticulturist Alexandre Caso. Add background involvement from the Perrin family of Château de Beaucastel, and the result is one of the most exciting new projects in the Rhône. Les Alexandrins makes wines both from vineyards in Saint-Joseph and Crozes-Hermitage and from purchased fruit in Hermitage, Condrieu, Cornas, Côte-Rôtie, and the Côtes du Rhône; all are excellent.
Wine to Try: 2016 Domaine Les Alexandrins Crozes-Hermitage ($44)
This powerful Syrah’s peppery, smoked-meat character is lifted by a hint of violets.
Folded Hills (Santa Ynez Valley, California)
Folded Hills is a winery, but it’s also a 100-year-old ranch with vineyards, an organic farm, and a farmstead store. Currently, owners Kim and Andrew Busch care for 15 acres of grapes—as well as row crops, fruit trees, goats, pigs, llamas, and a camel named George. Their wines launched in 2017, with A Tribute to Grace’s Angela Osborne on board; she’ll pass that baton to Scar of the Sea’s Michael Brughelli for the 2020 harvest. Moderate in alcohol and made with native yeasts, the Folded Hills wines are supple, aromatic, and complex—standouts in a region packed with excellent wineries.
Wine to Try: 2017 Folded Hills August Red Wine ($43)
This translucently ruby-hued blend of Syrah and Grenache is savory and vibrant, with lingering blueberry and black pepper notes.
Camins 2 Dreams (Sta. Rita Hills, California)
In 2008, winemaking duo Tara Gomez and Mireia Taribó were both working at Spain’s Castell d’Encus; Gomez, a member of the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, was taking a break from California to tour the world. Today, they’re married, with Gomez in charge of Kitá Wines (owned by the Chumash tribe) and Taribó consulting for a number of wineries. In 2017, they started Camins 2 Dreams. Production is small for the moment (about 400 cases), but the vineyards Gomez and Taribó work with are among the region’s best. And though the grand opening party for their tasting room was canceled due to COVID, they are offering tastings by appointment.
Wine to Try: 2017 Camins 2 Dreams Zotovich Vineyard Syrah ($46)
Fresh-cracked black pepper and blackberry fruit are at the heart of this light-on-its-feet Syrah.
Idda (Sicily, Italy)
There is no more famous name in Italian wine than Angelo Gaja. His Barbarescos are legendary, his wineries in Tuscany are stellar…and yet it’s been almost 25 years since he started a new project. So, that Gaja has just released his first wine from vineyards on Sicily’s Mt. Etna is, to say the least, newsworthy. Why now? “I am eighty years old,” he says, “and being old is often when remorse becomes more important than dreams. But I still have dreams.”
Idda is a joint venture with Sicilian winemaker Alberto Graci. Together they have 27 acres of vineyard, planted with the local varieties Nerello Mascalese and Carricante; on the land they own, Gaja thinks that eventually it may be possible to plant 40 total acres. A winery is planned, ideally to be completed in about three years (currently the wines are being made at Graci’s winery).
And why Etna? “Sicily is an adventure for me,” Gaja says, but adds that, more than that, the island and Etna itself are unique. “I think more and more, with climate change, wines are gaining concentration; the makers of wine that will retain finesse and elegance are becoming fewer and fewer. But Nerello Mascalese on Etna allows that, just as Nebbiolo [in Piedmont] does.”
As for the name, idda is Sicilian dialect for “she”—which is what locals call the volcano. “Sometimes you feel the mountain move when you are standing in the vineyards,” he says. “You’re conscious that you’re on a mountain that’s living. There’s life. And the soil here come from deep in the earth, then down from the sky. So there is this contrast between very raw soil, the lava, and then this explosion of greenness on the slopes, of plant life.”
Of the first vintage of the Idda Etna Rosso, he says, “The first time I smelled this wine, I smelled smoky rocks, terracotta. And then—though maybe it’s in my mind!—I smelled pistachios, oranges, all of Sicily.” And Angelo Gaja—not the easiest critic to please, even of his own work—seems happy with that.
Wine to Try: 2017 Idda Etna Rosso ($50)
Finesse is the word here, as Gaja intends: the first vintage of his new Sicilian project has the scent of violets and cranberries, and a kind of lively energy underpinning its red berry fruit.