2019 Jolie-Laide, Fresia, Tres Pico Creek, San Benito County.
Scott Schultz’s latest collection of Jolie-Laide releases are a delectable set of hand crafted wines and one of the coolest of these is his beautifully aromatic and tasty Freisa from organic vines in the remote San Benito County, it is a totally unique Cal Ital bottling that show’s this rare varietals true characteristics, but in a style that is strikingly like a Cru Beaujolais in the mold of a fine Fleurie. This grape, which is a distant relative of Nebbiolo, comes from Italy’s famed Piedmonte region and has been making a comeback in its home region in the last 10 to 15 years, led by some fantastic versions made by Giuseppe Vajra of the famed G.D. Vajra in Barolo. The Freisa grape, which is native to the Monferrato and Langhe zones, is also a half-sibling of other Piemontese varieties including Vespolina and some other very obscure grapes, it is a daily deep colored berry with an intense blue-black hue on the vine and is known for its noted strawberry flavor, hence the name, and the Jolie-Laide example faithfully expresses that beautiful wild strawberry essence and core fruit. The garden strawberry led 2019 Tres Pico Creek Freisa is floral and with a touch or feral earthiness from the whole bunches and semi-carbonic maceration with a medium bodied palate that also reveals crushed raspberry, cranberry, pomegranate and plum fruits that are accented by zesty herbs and spices including cinnamon, rosemary, mineral tones and fennel notes. It’s been incredible to see in recent years the rise of fabulous California versions of Italian red varietals, I mean, I’ve been blown away with the quality and range of styles available and this wine is one of the most exciting, along with Ryme Cellars’ Aglianico, the Reeve, Odonata and Sheldon Sangiovese(s), Martha Stoumen’s Nero d’Avola and Negroamaro, as well as Giornata’s Barbera and Palmina’s Nebbiolo to name a few. Last year I loved the Jolie-Laide red blend of Trousseau, Gamay and Valdiguie, so I was thrilled to see this Freisa being offered, plus the new Clairette, which I will open soon and review as well, along with Scott’s 100% Gamay, the Melon de Bourgogne and a new Rosé, made from Gamay.
The Jolie-Laide Freisa is sourced from the Tres Pico Creek Vineyard, which was planted in 1994 and organically farmed by the Siletto family in San Benito, it is a site that has been gaining some serious gravitas within the natural wine community and has an intriguing selection grapes, including some lesser known Italian varietals like this one, as well as Gamay and other geeky goodies. This rocky site is set on gravelly loamy soils of an alluvial fan situated next to the Tres Pinos Creek where it takes its name, it is a well drained vineyard and has lots of good sun exposure along with cool nights that allow for ripe flavors, while retaining good acidity, that adds to the balance and smooth tannins found in Jolie-Laide’s Freisa. Freisa saw a huge surge in popularity in Piedmonte after phylloxera (which devastated most of Europe’s vines) in the 1880s and it is believed to have likely originated in the hills between Asti and Turin, though as Jolie-Laide’s winemaker Scott Schultz notes, it was often overshadowed by the more popular and more structured Nebbiolo, as well as the fruitier Dolcetto and Barbera wines of the region, though now, plantings of Freisa are on the rise again. Schultz adds that, akin to Nebbiolo, Freisa keeps its natural acidity and has a strong tannin profile, making it a wine that has plenty of aging potential. The garnet/ruby colored 2019 Jolie-Laide Freisa was traditionally foot trodded and fermented with native yeasts using 100% whole cluster with primary fermentation in concrete tanks. After going dry the wine was gently pressed from the cement to neutral French oak barrique(s) for about 12 months to soften the tannic profile, then the finished wine was bottle-aged for another 6 months before getting released to the mailing list. Scott Shultz, who works at Pax Wine Cellars, has worked also at Ryme and with Arnot-Roberts, is one of California’s youthful talents that is focused on interesting vineyard sites and mostly lesser known grapes, he doesn’t do a lot of wine under his Jolie-Laide label, but it is all compelling and transparent stuff, well worth searching out. There was only a tiny allocation available and will be super hard to find in the wild, but I would highly recommend joining their mailing list to get future offerings of this wine, plus the other limited production wines in Jolie-Laide’s lineup.
($30 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive