Grapelive: Wine of the Day February 19, 2021

2017 Ryme Cellars, Aglianico, Luna Matta Vineyard, Paso Robles.
Ryme’s Aglianico collection is simply stunning and some of the best versions of this grape in California, if not the best and are wines that really stand out with this extended aged Luna Matta Vineyard being at the pinnacle, with its dusty firm tannins and intense palate, which also does a too good of a job of bringing its Campania inspired profile to life! The black and leathery Aglianico thrives in warm zones and Ryme’s winemakers, the talented husband and wife team of Megan and Ryan Glaab, have done a masterful job in getting the very best out of this grape, known as the Barolo of the South, in reference to the Aglianico’s similar characteristics to the famous Nebbiolo, and found a California sweet spot with it, making a bold and powerful wine that is also graced with our sunny opulence of fruit. While I admit to love Ryme’s other Aglianico, the Camino Alto, from the Sierra Foothills more, this Luna Matta Vineyard is more true and it certainly has more profound presence in the glass with a much more old world style of experience on the dense and gripping palate, it reminds me of the very best Taurasi DOCGs, giving me the same thrill I had when I had Feudi di San Gregorio’s mighty Serpico for the first time. The Ryme 2017 Luna Matta, coming from a warm ripe vintage with small opaque thick skinned berries was whole cluster foot trodded and saw a spontaneous natural yeast fermentation with a gentle and deep extraction period with daily punch-downs, after which the Aglianico was aged an astonishing 30 months in used French oak barrels to allow for complete integration of its fruit, savory elements, including a subtle smokiness and maturity of its fiery and chewy structural tannin, which still make their point clear when you sip this awesome wine. Finally California is breaking out with its Italian grapes with many producers finding a sweet spot with them, it is a great time to explore these wines, with Ryme being a must. Potentially, there is a lot more to come here with this taut 2017 Luna Matta Aglianico, I might suggest putting a bottle away for 5 to 10 years, it will almost assured to bring even more rewards, patience might pay off greatly with this one.

The Luna Matta Vineyard, on the west side of Paso Robles, is an all organic site on the region’s limestone soils and refreshed by cooling influences from the Templeton Gap, but still basks in the heat of Summer that the rough and tumble Aglianico loves, soaking it all up, but still retaining some lively acidity to cut a fine balance, which this fabulous Ryme example delivers, while also being very true to the varietal’s inner personality. The nose is still restrained with dusty spices, dried cherries, a touch of iron and is subtlety floral, it leads to a full bodied mouth of dense red fruits with huckleberry, tart currant compote, plum and raspberry layers that are accented by hints of game, leather, cayenne, cinnamon and melted black licorice as well as raw beef, cedar, kirsch and violets. This wine will rock you back in your seat, like a youthful Cabernet Sauvignon, but intrigues with a sense of the exotic and charms with a rustic edginess that is sometimes lost in the modern world, but is welcome here, especially with robust cuisine. Megan and Ryan have done a lot to promote Italian varietals in recent years and I adore their whites too, with their Vermentino, that brings a bit of the Mediterranean to us and their mineral driven Fiano, also a Southern Italian grape, that dances on the palate with lovely stone fruit. In the latest releases, Ryme has raised the game with their Italian selections, in particular, these Aglianico bottlings, led by this alluring purple/garnet Luna Matta, are outstanding efforts, including the Rosé of Aglianico and the mentioned Camino Alto, which might be my personal favorite version of this grape I’ve tried to date, from anywhere, including its historic home in Campania. Ryme also does a fun lighter Sangiovese based red, a co-ferment with 20% Friulano, that I reviewed (here at grapelive.com) not long ago along with their sparkling Vermentino and a Ribolla Gialla, an exciting white wine I hope to explore soon. I recommend discovering these Ryme offerings sooner versus later, plus while the Italian inspired stuff are stellar, don’t over look their Cabernet Franc and their Crackling Carignane Pet-Nat, when available!
($60 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive