Moretti Wines might be the most heart friendly winery you’ll ever find in the Sta. Rita Hills AVA. Well yes, this is a subjective matter of course, and wildly open to discussion. But here is why I say this…
Antonio Moretti is a man of values and he lets those values transpire through the hard labor of winemaking, resulting in powerful aromas and intense flavors throughout his entire wine collection. His motto: “Dedicated to producing small-lot, well-balanced, food-friendly wines in a European tradition”. Collectively, Antonio and his wife Jeni have been in the wine industry for about 35 years. They both fell in love with the Santa Rita Hills region (Santa Barbara County) for its beautiful rolling hills, its agricultural richness, a unique micro-climate and of course, the world renowned appellation’s growth: Sta. Rita Hills AVA.
After spending time getting to know the wineries and the vineyards of the Sta. Rita Hills, Antonio and Jeni have picked the varietals that best represents the region. “We have hand-selected the best of the Sta Rita Hills for you.” says Antonio. With the help of one of the most talented and famous winemakers of the Santa Rita Hills, they produce an excellent Syrah, a Pinot Noir, and a Bianchetto among others. They all truly reflect the terroir of this special region.
Going to Moretti Wines tasting room is like going to a friend’s house. Antonio has this unique ability to make you feel welcome. That said, he does have an definite advantage… it’s called fine wine ; )
Located in a “campus” of industrial buildings called The Wine Ghetto (Lompoc, CA.), you will discover Moretti’s tasting room. The humble decor of the tasting room is no reference to the wine and overall experience I had at Moretti Wines. As soon as you enter the room, you are welcomed by Antonio himself. After a quick introduction, he tells you a story about each wine you’re about to taste. No crackers or salted treats here, no siree! It’s fresh baked bread and charcuterie cut right in front of you on a wood cutting board – “à la bonne franquette” as we say in France. It’s about preparing simple food without fuss and sharing it with friends, because you are a friend the second you step foot in Antonio’s tasting room.
Antonio is currently offering 9 different wines. They all feature a very straightforward label in which the main ornement is Moretti’s logo. But don’t be fooled by the simple design of the label, it’s inside the bottle that matters most! Grown and produced in California, Moretti’s wines promote a flare of Italy. To tell you more about the wine and the philosophy behind the flavors, who better than Antonio Moretti himself…
• Moretti Bianchetto (2011) – An exciting combination of three of Northern Italy’s most distinguished white grapes: Tocai Friulano, Arneis and Malvasia Bianca. All are whole cluster fermented and vinified separately. Cold temperature fermentation and no malolactic bring out the very best of these varieties. They combine the finished wines in a way that shows the nuances of each: the limestone minerality and lychees of the Arneis, the pear, apple and oily viscosity of the Tocai and the aromas of jasmine, lemon blossom and honeysuckle of the Malvasia Bianca. ($18)
• Moretti Chardonnay, Gnesa Vineyard, Sta. Rita Hills (2012) – Irresistible bouquet, full of aromas of apples, pears, sweet peach and tropical flowers. It doesn’t stop there! On the palate the fruit explodes with hints of cantaloupe, lychee and lemon peel ending with a tiny dollop of creamy butter. The magical influence of the Sta. Rita Hills brings bright acidity and lovely minerals to complete this elegant, structured and seductive Chardonnay. 100 cases made. ($29)
• Moretti Vermentino, Camp 4, Santa Barbara (2012) – Vermentino, a grape originally from Italy, loves the sandy soil and warm days found in the Santa Ynez Valley. The expression is characteristic of the lush Vermentinos found in Sardinia and on the Tuscan coast. The wine is aged in neutral (over 5 year old) barrels and goes through a very small amount of malolactic fermentation. White flowers, citrus and tropical fruit on the nose lead to a bright cornucopia on the palate – lime, mulberries and ripe pear. This is a medium-bodied wine perfect for sipping alone or paired with seafood, chicken or fried foods. While rich on the palate, the low alcohol makes the finish clean and crisp. 74 cases made. ($23)
• Moretti Syrah, Santa Barbara County (2010) – This cool-climate Syrah has a very alluring nose of ripe berries and violets, followed on the palate by gobs of gorgeous fruit. It has a deep concentration of blackberries and boysenberries, with black pepper, and smoked meat, all wrapped in a silky texture. Reminiscent of a classic Northern Rhône wine. Pairs well with spicy salami, hard cheeses, grilled meats or grilled eggplant drizzled with balsamic vinegar. ($28)
• Moretti Rosso Mio (2010) – This is a blend of Dolcetto, Barbera and Nebbiolo from the Sta. Rita Hills. The bouquet shows hints of roses and violets from the Nebbiolo and Barbera, and rich fruit from the Dolcetto. On the palate the flavors unfold in layers – first the boysenberry and lively acidity of the Barbera, then the bright, dark cherry fruit of the Dolcetto, and finishes with the mature, deep notes and earthiness of the Nebbiolo. It is mouth-filling, with well-integrated, medium tannins. The long, long finish is reminiscent of chocolate covered strawberries. This wine will pair well with a wide variety of food like grilled meat, hard cheeses, cured meats, pizza, pastas and stews. ($25)
• Moretti Pinot Noir, Zotovich Vineyard (2010) – Fruit-forward aromas lead into a palate of lush blackberries and hints of vanilla with a backbone of bright acidity and lively, light tannins. It is very well integrated for a young wine, showing a lot of complexity from its fresh, fruity start to its round, serious finish. The fruit is all clone 114 and was picked at 22 brix, 28 day maceration with a mixture of Burgundy and Barolo yeast. 16 months aging in 20% new (Gamba) barrels, 80% neutral. 48 cases made. ($33)
• Moretti Pinot Noir, Machado Vineyard, Sta. Rita Hills (2011) – This is Moreti’s first Pinot Noir from this vineyard which is planted to a very special clone of Pinot Noir – the Mt. Eden Clone. This is probably the oldest clone of Pinot Noir in California and was originally brought over from the best of the Louis Latour vineyards in the 1880s. It has similar characteristics to the Pommard clone – deep, dark and smooth. The nose has notes of boysenberry and paprika. The palate is complex with notes of cranberry, raspberry, black cherry and dusty cocoa with a long finish. This vintage spent 16 months in oak (15% new, 85% neutural.) The resulting wine expresses what we feel is the best of the Sta. Rita Hills – darker berry fruit balanced by minerality and acidity, making it an ideal match with pork, lamb, and mushroom dishes… and of course – truffle cheese! ($33)
• Moretti Grenache (2011) – Their first ever Grenache… and what a crowd-pleaser! From the first sniff – aromas of bright purple fruit and violets jump out of the glass. Its vivid color gives you a hint of the powerful fruit in the glass . The rich combination of black cherry, ripe strawberries, blackberries as well as touches of licorice and violet make this a wine irresistible. The wine is bright, lively, medium-bodied with medium tannins and a long jammy finish. Pairs well with bbq ribs, braised meat, salami, earthy stews or soups, steaks. ($27)
• Moretti Merlot, Santa Barbara (2010) – In this area Merlot has gotten a bad rap from the movie Sideways. But Merlot is a noble grape and will survive the harshest opinions of any critics. Like the rest of their wines, their premier Merlot release is modeled in the European tradition to be elegant, complex and food friendly. Rich nose with dusty cocoa, red cherry, and medium tannins leads to the long lingering finish. The friendly, medium body compliments beef especially the local tri-tip. ($26)
As if the above wasn’t enough to entice you, I will wrap up this article with Ubriaco cheese, which I had the pleasure to taste during my visit at Moretti Wines. Ubriaco cheese – aka the “drunken cheese” – is from Treviso, in the Veneto region of northern Italy. Made from unpasteurized cow’s milk and covered with crushed grape skin, it is soaked in local wine (mostly Prosecco) – a process known as “ubriacatura”. After which it is left to mature for a maximum of 12 months. Upon maturity, it will develop a soft and supple texture, which ages to become firm and crumbly, similar to a Parmesan. Antonio Moretti makes a fantastic Merlot (mentioned above) that is a perfect match for the nutty and fruity flavors of this Italian cheese. You can typically find Ubriaco cheese at the Mel & Rose specialty food store in Los Angeles, though they run out of it very quickly. Consider paying Antonio Moretti a visit and if you ask nicely, he might sell you some of his private reserve.