Arnot-Roberts Vare Vineyard Ribolla Gialla 2017
Ribolla Gialla is alive and well in the Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley thanks to George Vare, who fell in love with Ribolla Gialla in the early ‘90s while traveling in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region of Northeastern Italy and took cuttings from Josko Gravner’s heralded vineyard in Friuli, signaling the first arrival of this ancient variety in California. Whole cluster pressed, fermented in stainless steel with native yeast, then aged in neutral oak for 10 months. 8 barrels produced.
Arnot-Roberts was Founded in 2001 in Healdsburg, CA by childhood friends, Duncan Arnot Meyers and Nathan Lee Roberts. The focus of this two person operation is on small lot, single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Chardonnay, as well as several other varieties uncommon in Northern Californian vineyards. Sites are carefully chosen and are generally on the cooler end of the spectrum for the planted varieties. Collaboration with dedicated and passionate growers is paramount in the farming of these sites.
Duncan and Nathan grew up around winemaking in the Napa Valley. Nathan is a second generation cooper and personally builds all of the French oak barrels that are utilized in the ageing of all Arnot-Roberts wines. Over the years Duncan has worked making wine in the Napa Valley in wineries like, Caymus, Groth, Acacia, Kongsgaard.
Total production of Arnot-Roberts is around 2,000 cases per year with thirteen individual wines. Both primary and secondary fermentations are carried out utilizing native yeast. For the Syrahs whole clusters are retained during primary fermentation before being basket pressed to French oak barrels. For the Cabernets, hillside sites of intense character are chosen, small amounts of whole clusters are retained during primary fermentation and the wines are aged for two years in varying amounts of new French oak cooperage, selected and toasted to meld with the vintage at hand. White wines are whole cluster pressed and stainless steel fermented with native yeast, then aged in neutral French oak barrels.
As one of Napa’s coolest sub-appellations, the area begs for diversity among its vineyards. Merlot and Chardonnay firmly compete with Cabernet Sauvignon for a place here. Some of Napa’s best Zinfandels also come from the Oak Knoll District.
Situated far in Napa’s southern end, Oak Knoll receives a strong cooling influence from both the San Pablo Bay and the Pacific Coast’s evening fog and breezes. Summer days are warm but on average ten degrees cooler than in St. Helena farther north up the valley; summer nights are chilly. A long growing season promotes for leisurely ripening of grape berries, resulting in an impressive balance of sugars, phenols and acidity.
Notable producers include Trefethen, one of the appellation’s oldest wineries, Robert Biale, legendary Zinfandel producer and Lewis Cellars, a family-run, hands-on establishment.
The exact origins of Ribolla Gialla remain unclear, though it most likely came to Friuli before the 1200s by way of Slovenia, where it goes by the moniker, Rebula. Blanketing vineyard hillsides along the Italian-Slovenian border, unconcerned about which side it is on, this pink-skinned variety creates a range of styles from the crisp, dry, still or sparkling whites to the charmingly ephemeral, skin-contact orange wines. Somm Secret—If you’re into orange wines, go visit Collio’s Oslavia and Slovenia’s Goriska Brda regions. They are so close you’ll hardly know you’ve gone from one to the other.