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5218 Lawton Avenue
Oakland, CA 94114

510-654-9159

Oliver McCrum Wines has been importing small production Italian wine and distributing to fine retail and restaurant establishes throughout California since 1994. Over time, our portfolio of producers has steadily grown to over 45 producers from 15 different regions of Italy. We look for typical Italian wines with clarity and freshness, usually made from indigenous Italian grape varieties using clean, transparent winemaking techniques and no obvious use of oak. 

Nobili

 

What makes Nobili stand out -
・ very small production, organic farming
・ 100% Nebbiolo from the Alps
・ drinkable when young


 

There are three places in northern Italy which produce great wines from the Nebbiolo grape. The best known is the Barolo/Barbaresco area, in region of Piedmont; then there are a cluster of small appellations in northern Piedmont such as Ghemme, Lessona and Bramaterra, known collectively as Alto Piemonte; then there is the Valtellina, in Lombardy north-east of Milan. The Valtellina is a small alpine valley, not far from St Moritz in Switzerland as the crow flies, with high mountains all around it. The valley runs east-west, so only the north slope of the valley is useful for grape growing, and this rocky slope, in some places very steep, is intensively terraced with vines. Nicola Nobili is the second generation of his family to farm these steep vineyards; he produces less than three thousand cases in total of Sassella, Inferno and Sforzato.

Nebbiolo from the Valtellina can be aged, but is generally very drinkable when released. The best wines are expressively aromatic, and elegant, lithe, lacy, and full of red fruit flavors on the palate. They match a wide range of foods; use them as you would a good Pinot Noir or red Burgundy. Nobili’s wines are perfect expressions of this beautiful area.

I asked Nicola about the difference between the soils in the Sassella and Inferno sub-zones, and his answer surprised me. They are essentially the same, he said; the vineyard terraces of the Valtellina were created many centuries ago by building dry-stone walls to hold the soil, and over time the rain washed traces of soil out through the retaining walls, which were then topped up with soil from the valley floor. After many centuries the soil contained by the retaining walls has been completely replaced by morainic soil from the valley floor, in effect a man-made terroir. (The rock under some of the vineyards is serpentine, which used to be mined here.) Re-building these dry-stone walls is a large part of the work here in the Valtellina,which the Italians call ‘heroic viticulture’ (viticoltura eroica). These soils are all slightly acidic, in contrast to the soils in the Barolo area, which are basic.

This peculiar characteristic of the Valtellina terroirs means that the important differences between the different zones in the Valtellina are climatic, not soil-related. The aspect of the vineyard determines whether the warm, moist breezes from Lago Maggiore or the cooler, dry breezes from the Alps are predominant.

Sassella

These vineyards were planted with a massal selection of local nebbiolo clones in the 1940s, and are situated at 480 meters (1,575 feet) above sea level. Farming practice is organic; manure only, no chemical fertilizer. No use of herbicide, grass under the vines cut with a weed-whacker.

The grapes are harvested in late October; fermentation is with indigenous yeasts; wine is macerated with the skins for about 2 weeks, kept in tank for about 3 months, then aged in botti for 30 months. It is made entirely of Nebbiolo.

In the glass this is classic Valtellina Nebbiolo; medium red, very distinctive aromatically (a combination of red fruit, violet, and amaro-like mixed spice); very elegant structure, with fresh acidity and modest alcohol (around 13%). This is very drinkable when young but will also age for at least 10-15 years in the bigger vintages.

Inferno

Vineyards were planted with a massal selection of local nebbiolo clones in the 1950s, and are situated at between 350 and 580 meters (between 1,150 and 1,900 feet) above sea level. Farming practice is organic; manure only, no chemical fertilizer. No use of herbicide, grass under the vines cut with a weed-whacker.

The grapes are harvested in mid October; fermentation is with indigenous yeasts; wine is macerated with the skins for about 2 1/2 weeks, kept in tank for about 3 months, then aged in botti (mostly oak but also some old chestnut) for 42 months. It is made entirely of Nebbiolo.

In the glass this is classic Valtellina Nebbiolo; medium red, very distinctive aromatically (a combination of red fruit, flowers, and amaro-like mixed spice); very elegant structure, with fresh acidity and modest alcohol (around 13%). In contrast to the Sassella, the Inferno is lacy and elegant, with a very clear sour cherry aroma and flavor. Irresistably drinkable when young but should easily go for 10-15 years in the cellar.