If there could be a wine further away from what we think of as the typical Napa wine, it would be Ribolla Gialla. Native to the Friuli region in Northeastern Italy, it’s not the most obvious grape to grow in the land of big reds and yet there it is—three acres in Oak Knoll.
George Vare, founder of Luna Vineyards and the man who bravely grafted his namesake vineyard to the obscure grape variety, passed away last weekend, much to the sorrow of all who had the pleasure of working with him. He was well-liked and much loved. Especially by those who considered it a privilege to purchase his fruit every year.
On Thursday, Arlequin Wine Merchant hosts a tasting of seven wines made from Vare’s vineyard (Arnot-Roberts, Ryme, Grassi, Massican, Forlorn Hope, Vare, and Matthiasson). Each producer approaches the grape differently — just as it is treated very different by winemakers in Friuli. Ryme makes a Radikon-inspired skin-fermented Ribolla Gialla, while Dan Petroski of Massican blends it with Tocai Friulano and Chardonnay.
Petroski wrote in a newsletter to his fans this week, "A friend, mentor, and leader in the Napa Valley, George was an inspiration for the wines we produce here at Massican. I am blessed to have known and spent time with George. While his contributions to the industry go beyond his three acres of Ribolla Gialla, to me he will always be the man who, when I met him in his vineyard in August 2009, offered me a generous smile and an infectious enthusiasm for an obscure North East Italian grape variety.”
Steve Matthiasson writes, "It is an idiosyncratic grape: tough to grow, different to make wine from, and hard to pronounce. But it is fascinating to taste, great with food, and represents a long tradition in Italy of toiling out of love, rather than following the latest trend. George loved this about Ribolla Gialla…to him, it was more than just a grape variety...it represented everything impractical but meaningful about the wine business, the business he loved and help lead for 40 years."
6-8 pm, Arlequin Wine Merchant, 384 Hayes Street, San Francisco, 415-863-1104