Tasting Room: Peg Melnik's wine blog

Greg Graziano has deep roots in the world of winemaking, ones that reach back three generations.

The vintner began toiling in the vines at a young age so it’s not surprising Graziano is behind our wine-of-the-week winner — the Enotria, 2014 Mendocino County Arneis, 13.5%, $15.

The arneis is a refreshing quaffer with spicy floral notes. On the palate, it has flavors of pear, apple, anise and almond. It has a nice undercurrent of mineral, and it’s well-crafted with an intensity of layered flavors.

“We were one of the first to produce arneis in California back in 1992, so we have had many years to work with this difficult Italian grape,” Graziano said. “Its name comes from the Piemontese dialect meaning the “little difficult one” or the “rascal.”

The rascal requires a lot of crop management in the vineyard to control its vigor because it’s a bountiful producer, Graziano said. It’s also temperamental.

“It rots and sunburns easily so the amount of light the fruit receives is all important,” he said. “One thing that sets our wine apart from many Italian versions is the intense fruit character and richness in the wine. It processes an almost aged riesling-like floral spiciness.”

The climate in Mendocino is well-suited for Arneis, Graziano explained. It has poor soils, high altitude, cool nights and warm days which help the grapes ripen later in the season so the aromas and flavors have a long time to develop.

“Having a long experience with many different white Italian grape varieties has helped me regulate and guide the wine to its full potential,” Graziano said. “For years we purchased grapes from Lowell Stone’s Fox Hill Vineyard in the Ukiah Valley. We now grow our own at the headwaters of the Russian River in high elevation Potter Valley, which has a great climate for Arneis.”

Graziano wishes Arneis had a bigger following.

“It’s a cult wine with a small but dedicated group of oenophiles, who appreciate such an unusual and stellar variety, much like who adore riesling.”

Graziano, 61, studied at UC Davis, and founded his first winery, Milano, in 1977 when he was 21. Later, in 1988 he founded Graziano Family of Wines. He has been at home in the wine business. His family has been Mendocino wine growers for 99 years, with its first vineyard planted in 1918.

“It was never in doubt that I would be a winegrower like my father and grandfather,” he said.