I arrived in Templeton, California, a dusty small town just south of Paso Robles, around 11:45a this morning to meet with Stephy Terrizzi, co-owner and vineyard manager of Giornata wines (Giornatawines.com) The name Giornata was inspired from neighborhood clubs in Siena where Stephy and her husband Brian have traveled. Stephy agreed to meet with me to discuss her and her husband’s winery and vineyard management, as well as take me through a tasting of their recently released wines. We met at small wine bar and restaurant in downtown Templeton called 15 Degrees C Wine Shop & Bar. It was a very informative two-hour meeting….one that really surprised me, mainly because Stephy has a very unique and interesting story about how she got involved with wine. She grew up on a farm in Wisconsin and began her career in sales for Revlon, selling makeup and other women’s beauty products before moving to Illinois to work at a wine bar. Here’s a little bit of Stephy’s story from Giornata’s website: Stephanie’s interest in wine was sparked more than ten years ago while working at a wine bar in Illinois. Her desire to get closer to the action led her to Sonoma County where she was inspired by some of Sonoma’s best wine professionals while managing and building the wine programs for Ca’Bianca and Sassafras restaurants. Stephanie’s interest in science and her pre-med background led to more formalized wine training, leading to a Certificate in Viticulture from the Santa Rosa Junior College while performing vineyard duties in Napa and Sonoma. Next, on to Fresno to pursue a degree in Enology, Chemistry and Plant Science from Fresno State where she gained winemaking experience while also experimenting with Cabernet Sauvignon in her own backyard project. She is currently managing the small west-side Paso Robles vineyard Luna Matta and is doing vineyard consulting for one of the country’s top young female winemakers. Last year she completed her advanced sommelier certificate from WSET Court of Master Sommeliers. She teaches wine education courses at 15 degrees C in Templeton.
Pretty fascinating stuff right? The woman has an encyclopedic knowledge of everything wine and it was such a incredible learning experience for me today. An interesting trend that Stephy shared with me earlier was how in many major cities, wine bars and restaurants are starting to offer wine in 5-gallon stainless steel kegs, rather that traditional bottles. Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Washington DC seems to be the hot markets for this trend right now and Giornata Wines is out front on this, providing kegs of their Il Campo wine to various restaurants in these cities. The kegs are injected with carbon dioxide or other inert gases to keep them fresh in case you were wondering. Giornata also distributes wine to many major restaurants in Los Angeles and San Francisco, including The Hart and the Hunter and Ink in Los Angeles.
As for Giornata, they aim to create wines from Italian grape varietals, “employing the sensibility and philosophy of Italian winemaking.” They work with a variety of Italian grape varietals such as Sangiovese, Nebbiolo, Aglianico, Barbera, Pinot Grigio, and Vermentino. Stephy took me through five (5) of their current release wines:
2012 Il Campo White, Central Coast ($18) – this is a blend of white Italian grape varietals Tocai Fruliano, Pinot Grigio, and Muscat. The wine is extremely dry, but it’s still comes acros as youthful, fresh, clean, and pretty much perfect for sipping on the porch on a hot summer day. It’s go nice citrus notes but without a fierce, lingering acidity.
2012 Vermentino, Paso Robles ($25) – let’s called this Stephy and Brian’s experimental release from this vintage. They have traditionally released a Vermentino which is a Sardinian grape varietal, but they changed it up this year in two ways: they macerated the juice on its skins for 3 months and then aged the wine in Amphora, large clay vats that have been used in Italian wine making dating back to ancient Roman times. They had the vats shipped over from Italy and will be experimenting with them more in the future. The ’12 Vermentino was surprisingly complex with earthy, vinegary, and white pepper notes, although still maintaining a good deal of fruit. I love a funky white wine, but unfortunately this not available to purchase today, otherwise I would have bought one.
2012 Il Campo Red, Paso Robles ($25) – Another blend from Giornata that consists of Sangiovese, Barbera, and Merlot. Yes, Merlot. This was probably my favorite wine of the tasting because it was showing well today and is definitely the most ready to drink of the other reds I tasted with Stephy. It is a very fruit driven wine with sour cherry and plum on the palette, balanced with a nice acidity that would make this wine a perfect pairing with pizza or pasta with red sauce. Very interesting and tasty wine. I picked up a bottle of this.
2011 Aglianico, French Camp Vineyard ($30) – Aglianico is a black grape varietal grown in the Basilicata and Campania regions of Italy that has rarely seen planted in the US. This particular wine wasn’t showing well today as opened with a blue raspberry jolly rancher taste that was a little overpowering at first, but finally mellowed out a little to pick up some dark fruit and meaty flavors. The wine had very aggressive tannins that I’m sure will mellow out as it ages, but this is definitely a wine to wait a few years on.
2010 Nebbiolo – Luna Matta Vineyard ($45) – The Luna Matta Vineyard is one of the vineyards managed by Stephy and this particular wine is her and Brian’s favorite to make. Nebbiolo is the noble Italian grape varietal used in rock star Barolo and Barbaresco wines, but it has yet to be mastered on US soil. I found it very interesting that Giornata has taken on this challenge and they’ve actually succeeded in producing a modern version of Nebbiolo that compares favorably to modern Nebbiolo produced in the Piedmonte. Stephy and I agreed that this wine wasn’t showing well today as we noticed a sweet oak smell that was a little overbearing at first. As the wine opened up, it definitely got better, and took on the characteristics of a young Barbaresco (black fruits, spice, and gripping tannins). I think this Nebbiolo has a ton a of potential, but it will require some patience in the cellar.