Esther Mobley (SFChron) on Kevin Harvey's (Rhys) new Italian venture

The intrepid SCM Pinot producer turns his sights to Italian varieties.

The first production (2014 Aeris Etna Bianco Superiore), a Carricante, will be released next year. Mobley promises that it’s not only delicious, but “the most unusual wine you’ve tasted in a long time.”

Looking forward to trying some of these wines so I’m mildly disappointed that the reds won’t be released for awhile.

He’s got some TomHill as a potential client, that’s for sure!

About fifteen years ago I took Mark Moorman from Stolpman to Colgin. At Colgin they were spending a small fortune on viticulture. This made me think of the Nebbiolo we were buying from Stolpman and how none of us could afford to spend what the Colgin people were on viticulture. I then realized that what American Nebbiolo needed was somebody plenty crazy about wine and rich enough to do it.

Thank heaven for Kevin!

Not only will he end up making some interesting wine, he will be a locomotive for Italian varieties here.

I can’t wait for Tom’s reviews of these wines.\

I then realized that what American Nebbiolo needed was somebody plenty crazy about wine and rich enough to do it.

Yep. Cab got it back in the 1970s. There’s so much more that can be done, e.g. I had great Blaufrankisch from Michigan since they’re not really a Cab state. I’m interested in trying some of this. Seems like we should be able to make it somewhere in the US. Good for Kevin.

Thanks for all the encouragement!
I am very excited about what we are seeing so far. Our theories (and hopes) on the relationship between a matching climate and the natural balance of these varieties looks to be working beyond our highest expectations.
My only regret is how slow the process has been. Starting from a blank slate, finding the right site, plant material, viticulture, winemaking etc has already taken 8 years and counting. It is a lot of fun but requires a level of patience that I didn’t know I had!

How do we sign up Kevin? I’m patient. I can wait until you think the wines are ready to go, but it would be good to get in line now.

You are signed up! All Rhys customers are first in line.
We do however have a teaser website that allows people to sign up at

The next NEB event will be 6/29 for the producers tech session and 6/30 for the public tasting at Jacuzzi Family Vineyards.
The 2016 session was very informative. We’d taste a small flight, the the producer(s) would talk about the wines, then field questions. It’s very helpful to be tasting the very wines while discussing and processing the information. Quite a range of sites where it’s planted, including some very cool ones. The issues there are Neb is very vigorous and it sets large clusters. There are solutions to both those issues that shouldn’t be out of the labor/cost range of tending other quality grapes.

This was posed as a question, not a statement.

I found the piece a little too gushy and a little condescending “chances are you’ve never tried a carricante wine”…please, we’re all grownups here. And Kevin not going for the “tried and true wine regions”? Santa Cruz County was planted very early in California’s history due to its proximity to San Francisco.
Other than that, interesting. I’m sure there will be enough people buying it to make it successful.

Wow. It’s like a new U2 album. :wink:

We at Uvaggio stopped making Nebbiolo in 2004. The wines were fine but nobody cared. My partner in Ici La Bas,Jim Clendenen, spoke to your group last year, I believe. Esther M seems to be ignorant of his efforts in this area.

Nope, Mel. Esther is well aware of NEB. She was not able to attend the last two NEB events because of scheduling conflicts.

Yes, it was a treat to have him. (Not my group. I’ve attended a couple times.) He poured a vertical sampling, which was fun and interesting. His '08 Clendenen Family Reserve is the best CA Neb I’ve tried. World class.

One of the topics that came up is Italian restaurants won’t buy Cal-Ital wines. They’ll carry your French variety wines, taste and like your Italian variety wines, but won’t buy them. Weird and frustrating for people like Jim.

Intersting project and article read. From the article I have found this point true for many varieties planted in California.

What Nebbiolo wants, Harvey decided, is a relatively low diurnal shift: cooler days and warmer nights — the opposite of what you’ll find in most of California. Although California wine regions are often praised precisely for their high daily temperature variations, Nebbiolo needs the lower diurnal, Harvey says, “so that you’re not burning off complex aromatics during the day.”

For different reasons barbera also needs this lower daytime and higher night time temperatures to respire the high acids which allows for slow development of beautiful varietal flavors that keeps all the components, post fermentation, in balance. Most California barbera is planted in areas that do not allow for this balance. Look forward to the wines from this project.

You are very right about that. The warm night is key to reaching proper acid balance for all Italian varieties (especially Barbera and Nebbiolo) that we have studied. In discussing the need for a low diurnal I explained this but I think Esther didn’t want the article to be that technical.
Most California microclimates (especially valleys) have a huge temperature swing which means a very cool night. Italian varieties retain too much acid if grown in this sort of climate. Meanwhile, the Coastal CA mountains at higher elevations have the needed low diurnal because the sinking cold air at night pushes the warm air up the mountain. and the altitude moderates daytime high temps.
Now that we have some data points (harvested grapes) it is exciting to see great natural balance being achieved from the vines.

As a side note, even Zinfandel’s high alcohol reputation is somewhat due to this climatic situation. If grown on a valley floor, producers often need to wait for the acid to decrease while sugar keeps accumulating.


Are you going to make it in the traditional Barolo style and are there any differences with growing in California where you are going to make alterations because of the climate?


Thanks Kevin for your thoughts. A couple of years back we paid a visit to Steve Clifton to discuss growing barbera in a cooler region than where it’s typically found in California. Not all but some of his fruit comes from the Honea vineyards in Santa Barbara county which I believe is situated far enough inland to be warm during the day yet close enough to the coast to retain some evening moderation from the too cold situation found farther inland.

Look forward to your zinfandel wines. In general I/we backed away from drinking zinfandels because of the hedonistic higher alcohol and raisiny flavors. I remember when Turley bought the Pesenti vineyard and they were offering the Pesenti stock they had on hand. Very nice well balanced zinfandels with lower alcohol content that surprised me in a good way.

Best wishes for your new venture.

We are making our Nebbiolo in a traditional style with submerged cap fermentation, long maceration and large casks (not barrels). The climate at our site is a close match to Piemonte so there has been no need to make the wine differently.

In my post, ‘his’ refers back to Clendenen, as I noticed that she did not mention Jim’s wines as among the better Nebbiolos being made here now.