Italy in California: Nebbiolo from Humboldt’s Terragena and Santa Barbara’s Silver #ItalianFWT

CA Nebbiolo

Never heard of Nebbiolo? Not surprising because there’s so little of it grown in the US — only 1% of all of the Italian grape vines in California are this ancient Italian grape– and only 1% of the grape vines in California are Italian at all! Source: ENOFYLZ By ancient, I mean that Nebbiolo was first mentioned by name in 1266. And it’s not grown widely in Italy either where Nebbiolo is better known as the grape in Barolo. In a recent webinar about Nebbiolo, I learned that its parentage is quite obscure, and in fact that they those vines are extinct.

It seems that Nebbiolo is a non-migrating grape– it has stayed where it was born for many centuries with no other genetic relationship varieties in other areas in Italy or other countries. Fortunately Nebbiolo was brought to California by Italian immigrants in the 19th century.

But from what I’ve tasted of Nebbiolo made from grapes grown on the West Coast, it needs to leave the cradle and explore the world more!

This month the Italian Food Wine Travel group of wine writers is sharing their finds — Italian wines grown outside of Italy with host Linda Whipple. To see who wrote about what, scroll down. And you’re invited to our twitter chat tomorrow Saturday March 6 at 8am Pacific; find the discussion questions here by scrolling down


Nebbiolo is a lightly-colored, super tannic red wine that tends to take years to come into balance at which time it becomes brick colored. So we expected the 2010 to be delightful and surprisingly so is the 2017!

These Italian wines grown in California worked so well with the menu we developed for this evening. If you aren’t into meat, it was not necessary to make these wines shine. They all loved the rich creamy goodness of the cheesy sauces over rich pasta. In addition to Nebbiolo from Terragena in Humbolt and Silver Wines from Santa Barbara, we tasted and I wrote about these wines: 2018 Sunce Aglianico, Herringer Vineyard, Clarksburg, 2016 The Ojai Vineyard Sangiovese, White Hawk Vineyard, Santa Barbara County; 2016 Madrona Zinfandel, El Dorado County.

  • cheese plate
  • tossed green salad with a garlic balsamic vinegarette
  • gnocchi with a gorgonzola cream sauce
  • mushroom ravioli with a telagio cream sauce
  • grilled sweet Italian sausage
  • grilled Watkins Ranch rib eye steak


2010 Silver Nebbiolo, Santa Barbara County
ABV 13.3% 
SRP NA; however 2 Sangiovese are available at $32 and $35
purchased at a wine auction fundraiser 

With degrees in Italian and in Animal Science from U Mass Amherst in 1994, Benjamin Silver landed an internship at Santa Barbara’s Zaca Mesa, followed by forming his own label, and work at White Hawk Vineyards. 

I’m not sure how many years ago I bought this wine as part of a vertical fully intending to meet and interview Benjamin Silver at his Santa Barbara Sliver winery. In fact I’m sure I said as much the last time we wrote about wine from the vertical — back in January 2017! While it’s located a quick 45 minute drive up the coast, to date it just hasn’t happened but when it does, I’ll be sure to report back!

You can travel through time and space with a wine. 
With this wine, we travel through time: what were you doing in 2010 when these grapes were grown?

Color: Tomato brown, burnt orange rim

Nose: Rich nose, perfume, roses, cigar box, potpourri, herbs de Provence, earth, loamy earth, wet slate,

Palate: Cherry and plum, violets, violet pastilles, the fruit is ripe, the tannins in the fruit is ripe, nicely acidic, lots of acidity,  the perfume on the nose comes across on the palate. Great wine now, it can even lay down longer.

Pairing: Rich deep decadent were the adjectives we used to describe the pairing of creamy blue cheese and this wine. Such an insanely rich wonderful experience. Wow, oh wow were our words when tasting the wine with our truffle brie. It is almost a “Calgon, take me away” moment. Fun with the spice in the salami, they are playful partners together. Proscuitto was also nice. This is a very versatile food wine. Fabulous with the grilled sweet Italian sausage loving fennel in the sausage bringing out lovely fruit and herbal notes in the wine. Fabulous with the ravioli in tellagio cream sauce. While it was all right with the gnocchi and blue cheese sauce, it was not the best pairing in the entire meal. So much better with the mushroom ravioli. Fantastic with the tossed green salad tossed with the garlic balsamic vinegarette.  Great with the Watkins Ranch rib eye and Italian sausage.

2017 Terragena Nebbiolo, Lost Coast’s Dragon Vineyard, Humboldt County
ABV 12.7% 
SRP $49
27 cases produced 
sample for my participation in a Craft Wine ZOOM webinar with the LA Wine Writers

The Craft Wine Association supports small growers and vintners by helping get word about their wines in the same manner as craft beer is now available widely in the marketplace. Members of Craft Wine offer to the public “commercially-available, limited-production wine most commonly in production runs of 5,000 cases or fewer.” Find a list and links to members here. In addition to being small in size, Craft Wine members offer authenticity and traceability: “Wines must be authentic and traceable to their roots: producers that buy grapes need to know the source their fruit to qualify for this designation.” Craft wines are “lead by the heart and soul of the wine maker.” Learn more about what makes a Craft Wine a Craft Wine here. 

Terragena means “born of the earth” in Latin, and Terragena’s winemaker and vineyard proprietor Chris Buchanan seeks to nurture vines and midwife wines that sustainably express “the unique characteristics of our estate vineyard as well as our diverse partner vineyards.” At their off-grid vineyard in Humboldt County, Chris and his team find inspiration in the rugged region of this remote area of Northern California. I have more to say about Terragena but that will have to wait! After tasting two of his wines, I’m excited to try and write about more. I may even get a visit in soon as my son has been accepted at Cal State University Humbolt and he’s never been there, so we may be taking a road trip that direction in our VW van and it sure looks like a lovely place to camp! 

Read about Terragena’s Riesling here.

You can travel through time and space with a wine. 
With this wine we travel through space. 

Color: Light in color like a rose. The color of the sun when there is a fire in hillsides. Pale and translucent. 

Nose: Such perfume. Like walking through a flower garden. Super inviting, cinnamon and clove, carnation, tuber rose, such a fresh clean wine. 

Palate: I asked Sue “Where is this wine going to be in 10 years? She responded with, “I don’t know, I just want to drink it now.” This is such a lovely complex wine. Fresh strawberries and raspberries, followed by rose petals and cherry; the cherry stays with you through a long lingering finish. Lots of bright acidity. Nebbiolo has a reputation for being a difficult wine to sip without spending a bit of time laying down on the shelf. This wine is an exception to the rule.

We taste so many wines throughout the year, and this Nebbiolo from Terragena really stands out. 

Pairing: Not surprising that we loved it with the prosciutto, light like a rose so it will go beautifully with a easter ham dinner. With the salami, the wine was a bit too bright, competing a bit too much. Over the top with our truffle brie, so much so, that it is going to take everything we have not to continue drinking the wine and eating the truffle brie. The ripeness of the brie combined with the truffle flavors works so well with the wine and makes you yearn for more. Fantastic with the blue cheese, Sue tried to restrain herself to having more wine to go along with it, but broke down to experience the moment again. It is like a roller coaster of love. It handles the bold flavors of the blue from beginning to end and is a party in your mouth. So, so good are the two together, definitely a stand out moment in the evening. The wine carried through beautifully with the entire meal. 

Discover more Italian wines grown outside of Italy from:

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Find today’s 8am twitter chat questions here.

12 thoughts on “Italy in California: Nebbiolo from Humboldt’s Terragena and Santa Barbara’s Silver #ItalianFWT

  1. Pingback: Honoring An Italian American: Palmina Wines in Santa Barbara County #ItalianFWT - Savor the Harvest

  2. I admit, I tend to have mixed feelings about CA Nebbiolo, but will definitely be on the look out for these as I’m always excited to find good versions. Congrats to your son as well!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: A Splendid Cal-Ital: 2016 Giornata Nebbiolo Luna Matta Vineyard #ItalianFWT – ENOFYLZ Wine Blog

    • In the right micro climate In the right place there’s a lot of potential! We’ll see if more people attempt it. California is still such a young growing region compared to other parts of the world– like Italy! We’re still figuring it out and with climate change, figuring it out again.


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