Then there are grapes like Grignolino--born and raised in a tiny corner of Piedmont, in Italy's northwestern reaches. It's decidedly a country mouse sort of grape, much beloved at home but little known outside of a fifty or hundred mile radius. So what the heck is it doing at one of Napa's most revered, old-school wineries?
Heitz Cellar is proud of their status as the only American winery to produce a varietal Grignolino wine. When Joe Heitz purchased his eponymous winery in 1961, 8.5 hectares of this Italian obscurity were already planted, well before the Cabernet that would eventually make the family's name.
Grignolino takes its name from the local Piemontese dialect, and refers its extra seeds, or pips — and since it's a grape's seeds that impart tannins, winegrowers typically employ slow pressing and gentle extractions. It's one of the most warm weather-friendly red wines we can think of. Heitz's version is supple, welcoming and downright delicious, with barely-there tannins, concentrated, brambly fruit and a gentle, captivating spiciness.
Heitz Cellar was founded at a time when Napa was something like a Wild West town, still recovering from the oenological devastation of Prohibition and with just a couple dozen wineries still in production. Though much the Valley has morphed into something polished, pricey and dependent on just a few varieties, Heitz's Grignolino remains a key figure in its history (even if it is a bit of a weirdo outsider).
We love this wine — we'll be cracking a bottle or two the next time we grill anything from burgers to barbecue chicken — and we're very happy to share it with you today. Quantities are somewhat limited, but we think we've got enough to go around. Enjoy a taste of Napa's past and make your wine-drinking future that much better!