Today the adventures of enotecaMarcella take us to the industrial zone of San Francisco, mid way between AT&T and Candlestick Parks. We drive down a wide street, lined with warehouses and come upon a hefty garage-like door, open and exposing large metal-working machines and tools. Why are we here? We are in search of Harrington Wines and we know it must be someplace about. So we inquire.
A masked man, holding a lit blowtorch, answers my question with a nod and points to the back of the building, telling us to go through the grey door. We proceed through the workshop, moxie up, and step through the half-ajar grey door. And what is there? Ah! The usual makings of a winery—phew!: stacked barrels, stainless steel vats, tucked-away event signs, half-used glassware, cleaned and ready glassware, opened bottles, case boxes assembled and filled. A few glances around tell us unmistakably that the boxes are filled with treasures. If you like eccentric and out-of-the-ordinary wines, you are in the right place. I know I’m in heaven.
First off, let’s back up and ask why the heck are we at a winery in the middle of the city? When you think of locations of California wineries you most likely think Napa, Sonoma, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz Mountains, or maybe the Sierra Foothills or Mendocino, right? You probably don’t think “San Francisco,” do you? Well actually, the city used to base a lot of wineries—at least that’s what they tell me. (History is not my thing. But as it pertains to wine, I try to keep a decent grasp.) The historic Gundlach Bundschu winery, a present-day Sonoma landmark, took up an entire city block of San Francisco until the earthquake of 1906.
It actually makes a good deal of sense for Harrington to be located where it is, given that his grapes come from vineyards situated within a radius of about 100-200 miles in all directions (except west because that would be overly bizarre). There is Carignane from Mendocino, Marzemino from Lodi, Fiano from Santa Clara Valley, Lagrein and Nebbiolo from Paso Robles. The list goes on.
(Notes are from August 23, the day of my visit.)
First, the Nebbiolo
Bryan and I sit down and immediately start talking about Nebbiolo since that’s what got me there in the first place.* And why not start from the ground up? Why not start with dirt? Finally somebody did his homework! Bryan told me that he makes Nebbiolo with grapes from Paso Robles because the soil there is so similar to that in the Langhe. I had never compared them up close before.
The soil sample on the right comes from the Rivetto vineyard in the Sinio village in the Barolo zone, whereas the one on the left comes from the Luna Matta Vineyard on the west side of Paso Robles. They are both limestone-based, light, and relatively friable, allowing the roots to penetrate deep down. The Luna Matta Vineyard is at a relatively high elevation on Peachy Canyon Road. He sources other Nebbiolo from the nearby Berardo Vineyard off of Hwy 46 in the Templeton Gap.
Bryan made his first Nebbiolo in the 2008 vintage, although he started in the 1990s making wine with Sierra Foothills Zinfandel. He moved on to Pinot noir and then became interested in Nebbiolo. Since undertaking Nebbiolo, he has also become a lot more adventurous with what he is throwing into barrels (and keeps adding to his portfolio). His Nebbiolo usually undergoes maceration over about 4 days and ages in neutral Billon French barrels for roughly 16 months. It rests in bottle for another 6 months before release.
Nebbiolo 2010. Paso Robles. Luna Matta and Berardo Vineyards. On the nose, telltale Nebbiolo aromas of potpourri, rose, cherry, smoke, and ash. The palate is full and the finish is spicy, but with a very minute level of tannins.
Nebbiolo 2011. Paso Robles. Luna Matta and Berardo Vineyards. Pretty and floral with surprising black fruit flavors. This one shows a darker side of Nebbiolo and also more grip than the 2010. ★☆
(His 2010 vs 2011 reminds me in a way of 2008 Barolo vs 2009 Barolo. The former is more feminine; the latter is more masculine. The difference I attribute to the character of the vintage.)
Stepping back to the Fiano
Ooops! We forgot to try any whites. I happened to mention my upcoming trip to Campania so we went backwards for a minute to try his Fiano. His Fiano comes from the Fratelli Vineyard on Hecker Pass Road in Gilroy. When he told me this, I knew it must be coming from Solis Winery, whose Fiano I’ve had many times before, and he said I was right. But 2013 was the last vintage. They ripped out the vineyard a few months ago in lieu of other non-wine-related projects.
Very, very sad for many of us.
The Fiano was planted in a part of the vineyard that is closer to Uvas Creek and therefore richer in river stone. The stones gave a nice mineral quality to the Fiano.
Fiano, Fratelli Vineyard 2012. Santa Clara Valley. Almonds, tropical fruit, and a faint notion of tannins; smooth but dry. A little heavy in the middle but still bright at the end.
Fiano, Fratelli Vineyard 2013. Santa Clara Valley. Nutty, floral, leesy. Bright and clear on the palate and less fruity than the previous vintage. ★★
A special treat: Trousseau
“Want to try the Trousseau? It’s not Italian.” Bryan asks.
“Heck yeah! I’d love to try the “True-so!” (“The what,” I ask myself, searching the archives of my brain for any knowledge of this grape?)
Trousseau is a rare dark-skinned grape from the Jura—it’s even rare there! And upon experiencing the Harrington Trousseau wine, I was immediately taken back to the mountains of Valle d’Aosta and remembered the wines made from grapes like Furmint and Cornalin. Those grapes produce dark red wines with pronounced black and red fruit, but also an herbal character, reminiscent of juniper, and the grip of minerals—altogether, the makings of a “mountain wine.” So while Trousseau isn’t technically Italian, if you look at a map, you can see that the Jura is not really so far from Valle d’Aosta and I bet this grape is related somehow to the Aostan grapes.
The Harrington Trousseau comes from the Siletto Vineyard, which is the spot of the old Almaden Winery’s experimental vineyards. The former president hung on to the spot and still maintains the vines. (Well Thank You, Sir!)
Trousseau, Siletto Vineyard. 2013. Cienega Valley. Black pepper, juniper, rose, licorice, a touch syrupy, black fruits, and strong tannins. ★★☆
Aglianico, back to Campania
I admire Bryan for picking out Aglianico; he had spotted it in a multi-page list of grapes available for harvest from a propagation vineyard west of Sacramento and decided to give it a try. Aglianico flourishes in the Campania and Basilicata regions of Italy. It also shows up in Puglia.
Aglianico, Nova Vineyard 2013. Yolo County. Definite big, black fruit up front, then a hint of grilled sausages and herbs in the background. Really fruity on the palate but its varietal character is still discernible and it does have some brawn in there somewhere. Bryan graciously sent me off with a few open bottles after our tasting and out of the ones I had kicking around for a few days after our tasting, the flavors and freshness held up best in the Aglianico. ★
A fun blend
The wine called L’Avventura, which means “the adventure” in Italian, is a custom-made blend for Bar Mikkeller in San Francisco. It goes into kegs for a by-the-glass program at the brew house. Anyone want to go get a beer with me? Errrr … actually, I’ll have wine.
L’Avventura 2013. A blend of Montepulciano, Sangiovese, Brunello (another Sangiovese clone), and Marzemino. Black plum, licorice, baking spice, a refreshing grassy note, and a well-structured finish. ★☆
Marzemino comes from the Trentino region of Italy in the north. Its genetic relatives include Marzemina bianca in the Veneto, Refosco dal Penucolo Rosso from Friuli and Teroldego from Trentino. It appears throughout Lombardia in blends with Barbera, Gropello, Merlot, and Sangiovese. Bryan’s Marzemino comes from an old vineyard in Lodi. He also told me that someone grows Rondinella and Corvina up there. “Ooooh! Who!? Where!? Who wants to go with me?”
Marzemino, Hux Vineyard 2013. Lodi. Blue fruit like that commonly found in Lagrein and Teroldego; almost syrup-like concentration. Besides that, there are layers of herbs, cocoa, chicory root, and some salinity on the back end. ★★
This bad boy comes from Trentino too. But Bryan’s came from the Fratelli Vineyard (same place as the Fiano, above). Although they tore this one out with the rest of it. 😦
Teroldego, Fratelli Vineyard 2013. Santa Clara Valley. Black fruit with scents of ash and moss; bold on the palate, a bit hot but the spice element helps to carry it up. Probably needs some age. ★
Lagrein comes from Alto Adige, most notably the Bolzano area, but also grows with success on other warm slopes scattered throughout the valleys. It’s a bold, inky, and sometimes highly tannic wine. Styles range from simple, easy drinking, full reds to highly structured, tannic, and age-worthy wines. It’s one of my favorite grapes.
Lagrein, Berardo Vineyard 2013. Paso Robles. This grape is growing alongside the Nebbiolo in the Berardo Vineyard in Paso Robles. Sounds like I need to pay them a visit! Grassy and herbal with blackberry, black plum, and firm tannins. ★★
Ok, ok, I know Carignane is French
Actually Carignano del Sulcis is one of Sardinia’s most noteworthy DOCs. While I can’t say I’ve had much of that wine, if at all, I am happy to add Carignane to the list of grapes that I can let myself cover here at enotecaMarcella (i.e., all Italian). Anyway, Bryan’s Carignane comes form Mendocino, from 100 year-old vines that are farmed organically.
Carignane, Lover’s Lane 2012. Mendocino. Fresh and bright strawberry fruit on nose and palate. Subtle traces of forest and moss. ★
Harrington also makes Charbono, Grenache, Pinot noir, … the list goes on. And I haven’t yet even mentioned his Terrane series, in which he uses oligomeric proanthocyanidins as a natural preservative in place of sulfur. You can find out more about this project on his website. I came across his Terrane Ben Lomond Mountain Chardonnay a couple of months ago at Vino Cruz in Santa Cruz. It’s an engaging wine; it tastes sincerely and tenderly expressive of Chardonnay.
* I first learned of Harrington Wines about a year ago at the Nebbiolo Festival in Paso Robles. One of Bryan’s trusted cellar helpers, Ken Zinns, was pouring a few different vintages of his Nebbiolo. Our mutual enthusiasm for the grape and other esoteric grapes revealed itself shortly. Over the course of the past year (thank you, social media), I learned that Harrington was making a lot more than Nebbiolo.