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Wine of the week: Orsi Family, 2017 Nebbiolo, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County

Tasting Room: Exotic Reds

Orsi Family, 2017 Nebbiolo, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County, 13.8%, $54, 4.5 stars. An aromatic nebbiolo, complex with a range of explosive flavors. Notes of raspberry, cherry and tobacco coupled with savory herbs. Balanced, with firm tannins and nice length, it’s striking.

Graziano Family of Wines, 2017 Petite Sirah, Mendocino County, 14.4%, $22, 4 stars. A hearty petite sirah, meaty and a touch tart. Notes of ripe blackberries, Bing cherry and chocolate, with an undercurrent of cracked black pepper. Robust, with a lingering finish. Impressive.

Minus Tide, 2019 Carignan, Mendocino, Feliz Creek Vineyard, 14.1%, $32, 4 stars. Ripe black raspberry jam meets great minerality with this carignan. Notes of sage and pepper in the mix. Supple tannins. Well-crafted.

Corner 103, 2018 Malbec, Sonoma Mountain, Sonoma County, 14.2%, $55, 3.5 stars. This malbec has an impressive intensity. On the palate, it has blackberry fruit infused with a kick of cracked black pepper and lightly toasted oak. Riding on firm tannins, this malbec has crisp acidity and a supple texture. Tasty.

J. Lohr, 2021 Wildflower Valdiguié, Arroyo Seco, Monterey, 12.5%, $13, 3.5 stars. A layered Valdiguié with notes of high-toned fruit, cherry, pomegranate and currant. It has flavors of clove, black cherry and mineral. Balanced with crisp acidity and firm tannins, it’s lovely.

Nebbiolo, a feisty grape that hails from Italy, is a key part of the Orsi Family Winery’s varietal selection.

“It creates a versatile wine that anchors the more tannic and full-bodied part of the lineup,” winemaker Dick Schultz said in an email.

A champion of Nebbiolo, Schultz is behind our wine of the week winner — the Orsi Family, 2017 Nebbiolo, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County, 13.8%, $54. It’s an aromatic nebbiolo and complex, with a range of explosive flavors including raspberry, cherry and tobacco coupled with savory herbs.

“Nebbiolo holds its own,” Schultz said. “It has a little more recognition than some of the other Italians, which helps. Then the presentation of the light-colored wine with a firm acid and tannin structure seems to pull people in.”

What made this bottling a standout, according to the winemaker, is its vintage and location.

“The harvest of 2017 was the ‘end’ of the first phase of the drought. By this vintage, groundwater levels had dropped even further, (and the) must during fermentation were noticeably drier than in previous years,” Schultz said. “The skin-to-juice ratio was greater, adding to the concentration of the wine.”

The other factor, the winemaker said, is the specific location where the grapes are groomed.

“The difference between Orsi and other Italian varietal growers in the Dry Creek Valley — on the Western bench, Valley floor or Rockpile — is our unique location,” Schultz said. This spot, at the southeastern end of the Dry Creek Valley at a 900-foot elevation, faces south, with grapes farmed sustainably in clay and schist soils. Less fertile soils, plus a cooling effect from the Pacific Ocean, slows ripening and adds to the fruit concentration and profile of the wine.

Schultz, 56, has a bachelor’s degree from San Francisco State University in communications and he took wine classes at UC Davis.

“I’ve been making wine from this vineyard site for the last 19 years, which has aided my ability to produce balanced, food-friendly wines,” he said. “The other part of making nebbiolo, shioppettino, Biancolella, aglianico, sagrantino, etc. is that I have no real domestic frame of reference for these wines. I can’t call a friend or mentor and say, ‘How did you produce your nebbiolo last year?’ I have a friend who has 3 acres of nebbiolo in the Napa Valley, which make him the largest grower in the area!

“I started making beer when I was a teenager, and wine wasn’t that far behind,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed the process ever since. ... I moved to Healdsburg in 2000 and made stops at Quivira, Gary Farrell and Pellegrini, where I met Merry Edwards. I then went to Everett Ridge Winery, where I took over wine making in 2003. After having my own brand, Bernie Orsi, I started Orsi Family in 2012.

“I’m very fortunate to be a winemaker, enjoying the vineyards and making the wine,” Schultz said. “This will be my 27th harvest, and it feels like the first each year.”

Wine writer Peg Melnik can be reached at peg.melnik@pressdemocrat.com or 707-521-5310.

Peg Melnik

Wine, The Press Democrat

Northern California is cradled in vines; it’s Wine County at its best in America. My job is to help you make the most of this intriguing, agrarian patch of civilization by inviting you to partake in the wine culture – the events, the bottlings and the fun. This is a space to explore wine, what you care about or don’t know about yet.

Tasting Room: Exotic Reds

Orsi Family, 2017 Nebbiolo, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County, 13.8%, $54, 4.5 stars. An aromatic nebbiolo, complex with a range of explosive flavors. Notes of raspberry, cherry and tobacco coupled with savory herbs. Balanced, with firm tannins and nice length, it’s striking.

Graziano Family of Wines, 2017 Petite Sirah, Mendocino County, 14.4%, $22, 4 stars. A hearty petite sirah, meaty and a touch tart. Notes of ripe blackberries, Bing cherry and chocolate, with an undercurrent of cracked black pepper. Robust, with a lingering finish. Impressive.

Minus Tide, 2019 Carignan, Mendocino, Feliz Creek Vineyard, 14.1%, $32, 4 stars. Ripe black raspberry jam meets great minerality with this carignan. Notes of sage and pepper in the mix. Supple tannins. Well-crafted.

Corner 103, 2018 Malbec, Sonoma Mountain, Sonoma County, 14.2%, $55, 3.5 stars. This malbec has an impressive intensity. On the palate, it has blackberry fruit infused with a kick of cracked black pepper and lightly toasted oak. Riding on firm tannins, this malbec has crisp acidity and a supple texture. Tasty.

J. Lohr, 2021 Wildflower Valdiguié, Arroyo Seco, Monterey, 12.5%, $13, 3.5 stars. A layered Valdiguié with notes of high-toned fruit, cherry, pomegranate and currant. It has flavors of clove, black cherry and mineral. Balanced with crisp acidity and firm tannins, it’s lovely.

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