Thursday, July 28, 2011

Chiarito Winery: Dry Farmed, Organic and...Nero d'Avola!

Last fall I went with friends to Rome. We were so happy to find a neighborhood enoteca (Cul de Sac) and to sample Real Italian Wines. Cul de Sac only has 1,500 different wines.

The first night we asked the waiter for a recommendation and he suggested a Sicilian wine. It was so good we ordered it every time we went back to Cul de Sac, which was quite a few times. The wine was a Nero d'Avola.

Imagine my intense pleasure, then, at finding a California, organic, dry farmed Nero d'Avola from Chiarito Winery - that is as good as it gets. I myself am not a sommelier-grade taster, but I hear that the pretty powerful palettes of the Talmage Tasters in Mendocino (a group of the area's vintners and at least one super sommelier type) did a Nero d'Avola blind tasting and ranked Chiarito's the best against native Sicilian counterparts.

Are we surprised?

Ristorante Don Camillo in Siracusa, Sicily
Even famed Sicilian chef Giovanni Guarneri who has now become a friend of John Chiarito's, has Chiarito's Nero d'Avola on HIS wine list in his prestigious Sicilian restaurant, Ristorante Don Camillo.

John was the first to apply to the TTB to be able to label a wine Nero d'Avola in the U.S., as well as the first to petition for and bottle Negroamaro, another southern Italian varietal, which noooooooobody else grows here.

(With climate change, who knows what will happen - maybe Cab country Napa-ians will revert to unirrigated, dry farmed, organic vineyards, which is how it was before WW2. Napa's number one varietal used to be Petite Sirah in the 50's and 60's - only a generation or so back.)

John also grows Petite Sirah and Zinfandel. His Zin is the house red wine at Scopa's in Healdsburg.

You can read more about him at the web site, too.

John Chiarito (center)  talks with my friend Mark Taylor (left) about his vineyard site and dry farming practices

Chiarito, a contractor when he isn't being a winemaker, built the winery, house and work rooms on his Talmage winery on a bench off of River Road

Chiarito does all of the vineyard work and winemaking on the five acres of estate grapes; he also leases a few more acres on the other side of the valley.
Remarkably, Chiarito says that even his baby vines are able to grow without water. 

What winery is complete these days without a pizza oven or a place to roast a pig...which is what they did last month at their annual wine club dinner with Healdsburg's Scopa chef Art Rosen cooking the main meal with Dina Diavola (of Geyserville) making pizzas
The winery has gorgeous views looking across the valley

So many things to like about Chiarito's traditional approach, but best of all (in my humble opinion) is his amazing Nero d'Avola, my new favorite wine. 

Alas to date, Chiarito is not certified organic (but is practicing). Only one more step to go...but I personally would run, not walk, to the winery or join his wine club to stock up.

And while you're at it, run by Diavola's in Geyserville and pick up a few pizzas...with some housemade charcuterie...and then pop that cork! Life is good.

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