One of our greatest pleasures as winemakers is discovering great but obscure wines, finding the grapes, producing the wines, and having phenomenal results. Until this year, Tannat has been our greatest discovery. For Christmas in 2016, our Tannat supplier, Heringer Estates Vineyard and Winery of Clarksburg, CA in the Sacramento Valley, sent us a few of their wines. While all were superb, our favorites were their Tempranillo and Teroldego. Our winemaking staff, (Katie, Beth, and Me) unanimously decided that Teroldego would be our next endeavor. It was not a mistake.
Teroldego (pronounced te-ROHL-de-go) is a red wine grape that is grown in the Trentino-Alto Adige region in northeast Italy. Despite it’s relative obscurity, it has been produced at least back to the 15thcentury. There is some disagreement as to the origin of the name. Some contend that it may be named on the basis of its traditional method of cultivation, grown on a system of wire harnesses, or tirelle. Others believe it received its name from the German dialect for gold of the Tirol. Still others associate the wine with the Italian Village of Teroldeghe, where records of Teroldego wine date back to the 15thcentury.
Teroldego is a very dark full-bodied red that is a sibling of Dureza, one of the parents of Syrah. The relationship will not be surprising upon tasting the wine, as this is another very big red. California growers feel it compares to Zinfandel, with its full body and spicy red fruit notes. While similar, it would be a stretch to claim that there would be any difficulty differentiating the two in a blind tasting.
While Teroldego has a long history in northern Italy, it is not grown widely elsewhere. There are small amounts grown in Australia, and in California, primarily near Lodi in the Central Valley, as well as in the Temecula area. Again, ours comes from the Sacramento Valley, but there are few vineyards in that area that grow Teroldego.
Teroldego is a deeply colored red wine with intense fruity flavors and a bright acidity. It does have significant astringency, but in spite of this, it has a subtle soft character. It can also be earthy, and some have been described as “appetizingly bitter.” Our Teroldego has unmistakable raspberry and plum flavors with an earthy/smoky character. Regarding pairing, it just begs for pasta with Grandma’s sauce (tomato sauce made with red meat), sausage with peppers and tomatoes, and our baked maccheroni, but also would be an ideal choice served with preserved meats and sharp cheeses. I have had a glass of Teroldego with one of our meatball sandwiches and fried zucchini sitting in Piazza Talarico listening to Sinatra. There’s not a better way to spend an afternoon.
As the title of this blog entry states, Teroldego remains obscure; we are the only winery in Pennsylvania that makes it. Its popularity is spreading in California, especially in the northern Central Valley, and we suspect over the next few years you will start to see it more and more locally, although we hope not. Our trio of bold red wines, Montepulciano, Tannat, and now Teroldego have become our best sellers, and as familiarity with these great wines grows, we believe they will eventually become Papa Joe’s claim to fame (at least as famous as our little Italian peasant food restaurant/winery in Lawrenceville can become).