Sunday February 25 , 2018
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Dinner With A Renegade Wine

The Story of Nello Olivo's Super Tuscan Style Toscanello Wine

Nello Olivo's Super Tuscan Style wine: ToscanelloNello Olivo Wines and Chef David Bagley announce a vertical wine-pairing dinner featuring four vintages of Nello Olivo's acclaimed Toscanello wine. Open to the public, the dinner will be at Wedgwood Sequoia Mansion in Placerville, January 25, 2013, at 6:30.

Toscanello is a prime example of today's popular Super Tuscan style wines. Super Tuscans began in the 1970s when Antinori Winery (Tuscany, Italy) tossed aside industry rules governing the making of Chianti. In defiance, it created a new style of wine, eliminating the required 10% white grape juice and instead, blending Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, or Syrah with the traditional Chianti grape, Sangiovese.

Read more: Dinner With A Renegade Wine


Mt. Democrat Publishes Nello Olivo Sagrantino Story

Nello Olivo with sagrantino grapesRecently the Mountain Democrat published an article (based on our press release) about sagrantino, a wine-grape variety rarely grown in the US. It tells the story of how Nello Olivo discovered sagrantino during a visit to Italy and how he began cultivating sagrantino his vineyard.

November 2012 marks the release of the first Nello Olivo wine to include sagrantino in its blend, Toscanello 2010.

Read more: Mt. Democrat Publishes Nello Olivo Sagrantino Story


Hang Time at Rancho Olivo Vineyards, 2012: Listening to Grapes

Nello Olivo grapes during hang timeThe grape harvest is coming soon, and one of the most important decisions we make as winemakers involves hang time—how long to let the grapes hang on the vine.



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George Washington's Favorite Wine

Much has been discussed and researched about George Washington’s likes and dislikes as far as food and drink are concerned. Some of his actual supply lists for Mount Vernon have survived into modern times. However, it is thought that many of the items he ordered were for entertaining guests, which he and Martha seemed to love to do. He enjoyed many wines that were available in his day, loved all sorts of meats and fowl, especially smoked meats, and liked to drink beer. He also loved nuts, which may be the reason his teeth broke off and had to be eventually replaced with his famous wooden set. But the general consensus on his favorite drink points to Madeira.

In Washington’s Day, Madeira must have been a welcome beverage after what must have been some rather poorly stored wines. With no refrigeration and a long time at sea to get imported wines to the shores of America, surely many wines were spoiled before they were poured in the New World.

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The history of Madeira is an interesting one…originally the grape was probably imported to Portugal’s volcanic island in the Atlantic, which is some 530 miles away to the southwest (about 375 miles off the coast of Africa) via the wine merchants of Venice. Many wines may have found their way to these rich volcanic soils, but one of the first was Crete Candia Malvasia which arrived in the 13h Century. In the next two hundred years the Madeira Malvasia became well known throughout Europe…it’s maturation process was accidentally developed  because of having to transport the wine to the mainland and other market areas, subjecting it to rough shipping conditions and often extreme tropical heat, all adding to the strong flavors that eventually developed in the wine. By the 16th Century it was decided to fortify the wine to 20% alcohol in order to better deal with this abuse…even so the rocking of the boat accelerated the aging process. Fortified Madeira, aged over long months on a rolling ship in the equatorial heat became a delicious rich wine. It did not take long for producers to realize that taking the wine to sea made it even more desirable and the most prized of all were the ‘vinhos da roda’…Portugese for wines that had made a trip around the world.

The fame of this extremely popular wine was spread largely by pirates who helped develop the distribution by occasionally invading the island of Madeira, and taking gold, silver sugar and, of course, wine…Madeira became the ‘Pirates choice.’ The pirates soon found that Madeira brought them a good price when resold into such markets as France. By the 17th century it was a regular import to the Colonies…and in the 18th century became a favorite of Benjamin Franklin, who no doubt promoted it to his friends. During the 18th Century one fourth of all the Madeira made was imported by the American colonies, and no wine was considered more prestigious.

George Washington drank a glass every day at dinner and Madeira is historically known to have been used in many celebrations such as the signing of the Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776.

In the 18th Century the sugar and wine industries of Madeira were largely controlled by English settlers who had come to the island and established themselves as local families a hundred years earlier. But in 1852 the vines were decimated by a mildew epidemic that forced many of the English families to leave the island, with their livelihood gone. The dreaded American scourge known as phylloxera also paid Madeira a visit and drove more producers into disaster. It took until the beginning of the 20th century for the revival of Madeira wine to come about and it was not until 1979 that the Madeira Wine Institute was founded. Today Madeira is popular worldwide, not just as a drinking wine but as a culinary ingredient. It is one of the wines that is still to this day traditionally crushed by foot.


Finding Falanghina

On a recent trip to Napa I simply HAD to stop in at Bistro Don Giovanni, which was the butt of a running joke throughout the guidebook to wine tasting in the Napa Valley that I had just finished reading.

Regardless of the way this well established restaurant was portrayed in the book, I found it quite enjoyable and upon making my selection from their wine list I was thrilled at the added bonus of discovering a new wine!

The book is Moveable Thirst, by Rick Kushman, a syndicated columnist for the Sacramento Bee, and Hank Beal, the wine buyer for Nugget Markets. Hank is the wine expert who guides Rick, a normal wine lover, who professes to know very little, through the wonders of the wines they encounter. It is a truly delightful read, although a bit outdated now, with a publishing date of 2007. The book is a year’s worth of visits to almost all of the wine tasting rooms of the greater Napa wine producing area – 141 to be exact. Almost everywhere they go they encounter wineries recommending that customers visit Bistro Don Giovanni, a restaurant they have been advised to dismiss…When they finally decide to go there themselves they are pleasantly surprised.

My son and I had an early dinner there this past week and apart from the pleasant experience of the attractive ambiance, professional service and delicious food, I made my new wine discovery…at least new to me - a 2008 Falanghina from the Campania area of Italy, an adventurous alternative to Sauvignon Blanc.


The grape is one of the oldest on the planet according to my online research…dating back to before the time of Christ. It was most likely brought to Italy by Greek settlers in the 7th Century B.C. The Romans grew this grape close to their capital city and indeed it is still grown there today. It is perhaps a cousin of the lovely Southern Italian white known as Fiano (known in Italy as Fiano di Avellino) that we at Nello Olivo wines have grafted for harvest this year. The name, Falanghina, is derived from the Latin noun “falangae” – the name used for the stakes that were used to prop up the growing grape vines. Even though Southern Italy is more usually know for its red wines, this fresh-tasting and complex white, grows comfortably in light, porous, volcanic soils, to be found in the hills around Naples and Caserta.


My glass of Villa Matilde Falanghina had a beautiful golden color, soft balanced acidity and a fruity flavor, with perhaps a hint of vanilla on the finish. It was served really cold, which was appreciated on that particularly hot day, but the temperature did not disguise the fresh delicious taste. I found a new wine to love…

Being a fan of California wines, I was disappointed to find that in the history of the grape it did not look like anyone was growing it in the U.S yet. In fact, in recent years, the grape had almost become extinct due to the scourge of phylloxera in Europe, but was resurrected from a few stumps of the Falanghina flegrea grape that were discovered struggling on a local hillside by the Martusciello family. Since we are growing such unusual varieties as Sagrantino, Fiano and Arneis now here at Rancho Olivo, maybe the Olivo family can find a way to bring some Falanghina to El Dorado County, where the warm summer climate, elevation level and  ancient volcanic activity might provide the perfect terrior for such a venture. Stay tuned.


Passport Has Come to Pass

Well Passport Weekends have come and gone...and a great time was had by all!

For those of you who are new to El Dorado County wine events, Passport Weekend is probably the highlight of the year. Our local winegrowers association, EDWA, throws a great party! Wine-lovers buy their passports for one of two early spring weekends and then armed with their souvenir wine glasses, they trek from winery to winery throughout the county, tasting wines and the fun foods the winemakers have paired them with. There is no need to eat a meal all weekend when you’re on passport. This year some wineries featured live music and one even offered belly dancing.

Read more: Passport Has Come to Pass


Nello Writes About "Organic" Vineyard Practices

Nello, can you tell me what is the difference between "organic" wine and all the wonderful stuff I have been drinking without the word "organic" on the label? By the way, congratulations on your recent awards. Hurrah!!
warm regards, Marnie
Dear Marnie,

To answer your question, I don't know how much better a wine labeled "organic" is for you than other wines. Personally, I question the notion implied by organic labels that man-made substances are all inherently "evil."

Read more: Nello Writes About "Organic" Vineyard Practices



Nello Olivo Online Store

Nello Olivo wine tasting room in Placerville

643 Bee Street, Placerville

Monday: closed
Tuesday: 11-5
Wednesday: 11-5
Thursday: 11-5
Friday: 11-7
Saturday: 11-7
Sunday: 11-7

We're the closest winery to Hwy 50, at the "corner of" Hwys 50 and 49. Start your wine tour here. We have winery maps!

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