As a prelude to tomorrow’s review of Michael Chiarello’s three year old Yountville, CA restaurant Bottega, this week’s highlight vintage is this 2011 white wine that packs a wallop of flavor, while being easily drinkable and complimentary to all sorts of foods. At first, a beautiful nose of fresh spring time and slightly dew covered grass greets you, followed by a citrus zing that reminded me of a twist in a negroni a bit. There was some nuttiness apparent, vaguely similar to a denser dry sherry.
The cloudy nature of the wine comes because it is crafted in the same manner as a red wine, with lots of skin contact. I find that the structure is incredibly well-rounded because of this, mixing the best of both white wine worlds: top notch chardonnay structure with the fresh awakening of a pristine sauvignon blanc. The young wine is finished for six months in aged French oak barrels. It’s a young wine that is already at its peak, fully balanced between some sweet, some fruit, and some herb-mineral accents.
Chiarello Family Vineyards operates and grows their grapes in St. Helena, a little north up Highway 29 from the Chiarello’s restaurant, Bottega. Only 100 cases of the Chiara Bianco are sold and were just released two weeks ago. The family also makes various cabernet sauvignons and zinfandels, all named after family members. These are bold Italian style wines without the off notes- too much tannin or too much mineral that drag down many Italian wines.
So, what again is this Italian grape? It’s ribolla gialla, a very rare white grape that the Chiarello’s planted with cuttings from the Fruili region in Northeast Italy, a region known for its bold, slightly fruity whites.
It’s a perfect fresh, springtime wine…especially with any dish by Chiarello at Bottega.