Nero d'Avola 2016
100% Nero d'Avola
Clusters were hand harvested, and destemmed into small, . ton, fermentation bins to keep the mass low and the fermentation cool. 1-2 daily punchdowns were performed during fermentation. Both primary and malolactic fermentation occurred naturally. Wine was pressed at dryness (~2 weeks) and put to neutral barrel where it aged on its lees for 18 months. The only addition was SO2 just prior to bottling: Free SO2 12 ppm, Total SO2 48 ppm
Benson Ranch (70%): Non-certified organic, leased by Martha Stoumen. These head-trained, dry-farmed vines rely on a deep root structure to access water from May to November, when we have no rain in CA. Head trained, or bush vines, are not trellised, meaning we can cross-cultivate (drive the tractor in both directions—up rows and across rows), limiting soil compaction. We only apply elemental sulfur dust to combat mildew (never copper, even though copper is considered organic) a few times per year, by foot with a backpack duster (further limiting soil compaction). We never use herbicides or pesticides in any form, and like to encourage as much microbial life in the soil as possible.
Fox Hill (30%): Conventional, no Round Up. Viticulture pioneer Lowell Stone started planting his 150-acre ranch to more obscure Italian and Port varieties in 1975. He has 60 of the 150 acres planted to grapes, olives and fruit trees. Vineyard parcels are found on the natural contours of the land and separated by native oak woodland. Very little water is given to the vines at key moments during the growing season, usually only once per year. Farming has been conventional, yet an infusion of younger winemakers working with this fruit is resulting in more earth-friendly practices. This year Lowell has stopped using Round Up, which is a huge win! We are happy to be working together with Lowell on these changes, as he is already doing so much right when it comes to his farming.
This Nero d’Avola comes from mother-daughter Mendocino vineyards in the Ukiah area: Fox Hill planted in 1986—arguably the oldest Nero d’Avola in California—and Benson Ranch, planted with cuttings from Fox Hill in 2004 (30 and 12 years old, respectively). This soulful red wine is versatile and balanced, with bright acidity, soft dusty tannins, a touch of Worcestershire, coco, and dark, wild forest fruits.
The beauty of Nero d’Avola is its Chiaroscuro-like nature: brightness from its ability to hold onto acidity in warm Mediterranean climates, and darkness from its characteristic forest fruits. I spent a very impactful vintage working with this grape at COS in Sicily, so the fact that Nero d’Avola even exists in California—AND I get to work with it—makes my heart happy. While everyone else is clamoring for cool climate sites along the coast, I am proud to be looking inland for elegance, it just means we need to think outside of the box with our choice of varieties.
Production: 516 cases