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Unicorn Nebbiolo from the Italian Alps

Unicorn Nebbiolo from the Italian Alps

These Pictures are Crazy

Growing Grapes in the Italian Alps

Back in the very beginning of October I was on a trip through Piedmont. I've had to hold off on writing about my visit to Muraje in Carema until now though because I didn't have any wine! It was hard to sit on these pictures because, well, you can see why.

Muraje is Federico and Deborah Santini. There first vintage here was 2017. They fell head over heels in love with this crazy place and threw themselves into wine making here.  

Currently there are 22 hectares planted in Carema. Maybe 80-100 years ago at it's peak there were about 90, so it's never been a big region. The entire appelation makes about 60,000 btls per year. The majority of Carema is a rocky mountainside that forms a natural amphitheater facing south. There is no flat land so the vines grow on small rocky terraces. They grow on trellises so that other foods like potatoes could grow underneath. The town was originally built before cars and it was too steep for horses or carts so everything was done by mule. The grape, picotaner, is a version of Nebbiolo adapted to the climate but there are several other indigenous varieties allowed as well.

Federico came across as a very passionate and really nice guy. He was clearly in love with and totally absorbed by this terroir. All natural and organic vineyard work. He does lots of pruning to let more light in and air to the grapes. Thanks to the trellises the grapes are up high enough above the ground to protect them from humidity, mildew, and frost not really a problem. Maybe for some vines down low and at the back. The mountains also help shelter Carema.

It's sort of funny: of course the vineyards he was able to buy are some of the hardest to physically work: steep, rocky, hard to access; because of course those are the vineyards that an elderly winemaker getting ready to retire would sell first to downsize! The result is Federico and Deborah have done a lot of work to recover older neglected vineyards.  

Cantina Muraje "Sumie" Carema DOC

36 btls came into Maine

It is approximately $115/bt

Aroma: Right off the bat this is very beautiful high toned Nebbiolo!. There's raspberry, pomegranate, wild red cherry.... it's floral as well but it doesn't really strike me as roses. It comes across a little bit more like lilacs. I can't get over how pretty this smells! It's almost blueberry flavored! The flowers and the fruit are gorgeous and impossible to miss, but behind that there's also an interesting aromatic herbal component - maybe like sage or thyme.

Taste: Supple polished texture up front but really deep structure. Dark cherry fruit backed up with some gentle delicious salt. Cracked pepper and then a dimension of dark baking chocolate. There's a focus and purity to the flavor and it has this lovely gently dry raspberry on the finish. This is excellent deliberate thoughtful Nebbiolo that impresses with its poise and depth and elegance! 

I initially wasn't able to get any of this wine. But then I went to the winery and Federico asked the importer to release 18 bottles to me. Then I sent this email to all my wholesale customers and forwarded it to the importer. It impressed the importer enough that they bartered with a different importer who sells this on the west coast to get me another 18 bottles.... so I've managed to get a total of 36 btls and couldn't help drinking 1: it was worth it. You can find this at Novios, Havana, Treats in Wiscasset, Graze and Vine in Ogunquit, The Well, and Bath Natural Foods

Traditionally the vines were planted up on these trellises so that they could grow food such as potatoes on the ground beneath the vines.

It's a beautiful little town built into the mountain side with houses built on top of each other and a crazy winding warren of streets. I ran back and forth through it and p and down the mountain side. I parked at that church though so even though the town is a maze I could always just run up hill, find the steeple, and get back on track.

Here's a quick video of looking around the town of Carema and up the mountain.

We wondered all over the mountainside inspecting different terraces to see how everything was doing, if there was any bird damage (yes), and how some new vines were doing. The vineyards literally border Val d'Aosta. I took a wrong torn and actually was in Val d'Aosta.

The vines literally grow out of cracks in the rock. It's ridiculous.

Look at those grapes! This was October. Most wineries in the rest of Piedmont had harvested in August or September. Federico didn't harvest here until early December. December! It's madness.

The winery is in the cellar of the building next to the mini truck. Not the garage doors, just the ground floor of the tiny old stone building directly next to the mini truck.

It is a very very small winery! Federico makes about 170 cases of Sumie per year.

That's a typical path we're walking down. There are no roads normal cars will fit on; only mule paths like this.

Here's a picture of me finally actually drinking a bottle of wine here and describing it

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