There are a growing number of wineries in California growing Italian varietals. Martin & Weyrich had been doing so almost as long as anyone. Some grapes are notoriously hard to grow. Pinot Noir as an example is famously fickle about where it's grown. One that's at least as difficult, but less talked about is Nebbiolo. While it may be the second most famous red grape from Italy after Sangiovese, the wines it makes are often legendary. It all depends on taste but Barolo (which is made from Nebbiolo) is right up there with Brunello (made from Sangiovese) in every regard. There are very few California Wineries taking a stab at this grape. The two best I've had come from Paso Robles. One comes from Caparone Winery, the other is a Martin & Weyrich release and I'll look at it today. The Martin & Weyrich 2004 Nebbiolo is made from fruit sourced at 3 Paso Robles vineyards. This offering was aged in French oak for 15 months; 20% of the barrels were new. 1,645 cases of this wine were produced and the suggested retail price is $18.
The nose of this Nebbiolo is incredibly perfumed. Cherry and cinnamon are the standout characteristics. Throughout the palate dried cherry notes are prominent and distinct. Light vanilla and spice accompany these. The finish is rich, lengthy and gloriously dry. Mushroom, earth and a touch of chicory, are all part of the equation. This wine is well structured with pleasing tannins and terrific acidity. Like Italian wines, this baby wants to be paired with food. The good thing is it will pair well with a host of full flavored Italian dishes.
There are two things that stand out most to me about this Nebbiolo. First is the fact that this wine displays all the classic characteristics of a Barolo. It certainly has some California in it two, but first and foremost the pure Nebbiolo fruit shines through. Secondly for $18 this wine is an absolute steal. Great, even good Barolo is very expensive. This wine tastes like a California version of a baby Barolo. It's worth every penny and then some. It should also easily age well for at least another 7-8 years. At this price I recommend socking some away.