Thursday, November 19, 2015

Setting High Standards for Sangiovese in California--and CHIANTI: Vino Noceto, Amador County

 When Jim and Suzy Gullett bought 21 acres in of land 1984 in Shenandoah Valley near Plymouth in Amador County to establish their Vino Noceto vineyard, they were not certain what their specialities might be.  Today the winery is known as a stellar producer of Sangiovese, and their traditional Chianti wines are gaining the attention of wine-drinkers too.

During a trip to Italy in 1985 with their two sons, then aged 2 and 4, the Gullett’s experienced food and wine that makes family meals in Italy so meaningful.  In particular they became interested in Chianti.  A trip to Tuscany in 1986 brought them in contact with the well-established Chianti and Brunello producers there.  It was a short hop from that experience to obtaining cuttings of Italian varietals to plant on their land.  By 1999, 21 acres were under their cultivation in the Shenandoah Valley.
Jim and Suzy Gullett

“Our goal has always been to make distinctive and varietally-accurate wine,” said Jim Gullett.  “We don’t want to blend to the point that our wines taste like something from Napa.  Our goal is to have our wine taste like a Sangiovese that you’d enjoy on a hillside in Italy.”   Today, the much-awarded Noceto Sangiovese is the standard against which all other US Sangiovese wines should be compared, say many wine critics.

Vino Noceto is also involved in an ongoing “experiment” to make a traditional Chianti wine.  Winemaker Rusty Folena is intrigued by this too. A Chianti-style wine as produced by Vino Noceto will undergo fermentation primarily in stainless steel, and some fermentation in large format barrels.  It will have the fruit characteristics preserved, and be able to be sold at a moderate price. 
Rusty Folena, Winemaker

“Historically, Chianti wines from the mid-19th century through most of the 20th century included at least 70% Sangiovese plus Canaiolo Nero and the white grapes Malvasia and Trebbiano,” explained winemaker Rusty Folena.  “Since 2000, Vino Noceto has experimented with varying percentages, finally settling on a field blend of about 10% white grapes (Malvasia and Trebbiano) and 90% red grapes (Sangiovese plus a little Canaiolo Nero).”

The first vintage of Vino Noceto wines in 1990, 110 cases, was made with the assistance of a consulting winemaker and neighboring wineries.  In 1999 the Gullets built their own winery and from that, 10,000 cases yearly are produced, and most of the fruit for those wines comes from their own vineyards.  They produce about 6,000 cases of seven different Sangiovese wines, and a fizzy Muscato, some Pinot Grigio, Barbera, Zinfandel and a few red blends make up the rest of production.

Of course you’ll want to stop in and see Doggie D ... but that’s another story!

Vino Noceto Winery
11011 Shenandoah Road
Plymouth, CA 95669

(You can read more about this winery and see Barbara and friends enjoying a recipe that pairs well with Vino Noceto's Sangiovese at a Lake Tahoe dinner party that photographer Johan Martin photographed for my forthcoming book...sign up to get updates/alert on publication date ...

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