2019 Rime Cellars, Aglianico, Camino Alto Vineyard, El Dorado County, Sierra Foothills.
This wine is a bit of a Deja Vu, it is just like the 2018 version, which is stunning considering my expectations after loving the last vintage so much, with Ryme’s 2019 Camino Alto Aglianico delivering a fantastic repeat performance showing a full bodied palate of dark fruits, earth, spice and crushed flowers. The Camino Alto version of Aglianico is a thrillingly dark and inky wine in the glass with black currant, boysenberry coulis, plum, an earthy hint of leather and kirsch fruits in the mouth along with melted black licorice, minty herbs and a mix of violets and peonies. With some air and food things settle into a firmly detailed and powerfully structured wine, but supple too, very well balanced and with the vintage’s opulent fruit density contrasting with a nice sense of freshness and acidity that allow this Aglianico to be enjoyed in its youth, though it has depth and stuffing to age. I was incredibly impressed with this vineyard’s last offering, and this 2019 is just as compelling and it has cemented its place on my personal favorite list, it is definitely in my top ten wines of the year, with Ryme joining a fabulous new generation of wineries that are lighting it up right now, along with the likes of Sandlands, Desire Lines Wine Co, Jolie-Laide, Filomena Wine Co, Martha Stoumen and Ian Brand to name a few of which I am buying a bunch of wines for my own consumption! Also, I should note that Italian varietals have never been better in California than they are now, with Aglianico really showing a lot of promise, along with other rarities like Nero d’Avola, Arneis, Sagrantino, Refosco, Ribolla Giallo, Friulano and Montepulciano, as well as more established grapes like Vermentino, Sangiovese, Nebbiolo and Barbera. The Camino Alto vineyard is located at 2800 feet in mineral rich granite based soils in the El Dorado AVA. The Summer days here are hot, but, as Ryme explains, there is a huge diurnal shift of temperature change with cold nights keeping the vines refreshed, retaining natural acidity that plays a big role in making this wine so good.

As mentioned in my last review of this wine, Aglianico, is sometimes called “The Barolo of the South” (because of some similarities to Nebbiolo) and it is an Sourthen Italian varietal found mostly in the Basilicata and Campania regions, with Taurasi being its top expression. Taurasi is a town in the province of Avellino, in the Sannio part of Campania. Taurasi is a historic wine region and finally made a full DOCG in 1993. Two of the most famous Aglianico wines are the Radici Taurasi, Mastroberardino’s flagship wine which was originally released in 1928, though not officially called Radici, which translates as “roots”, as it was a special clonal selection of ancient Aglianico, until 1986, and Feudi di San Gregorio’s iconic Serpico, that comes from the historic “Dal Re” (“from the King”) vineyard in Irpinia near to Mt. Vesuvius. The Aglianico vines seem to thrive in particularly volcanic soils, but Ryme’s efforts with this grape prove it does great in the diverse soils here in California, particularly in these Sierra Foothills mineral rich granite soils. Ryme Cellars, with winemakers Megan and Ryan Glaab, have been exploring Italian grapes for many years and have a wonderful collection of them with Vermentino, Fiano, another Southern Italian grape, Sangiovese and Friulano, with three different versions of Aglianico, including a tasty Rosé of Aglianico and two single vineyard bottlings, this Camino Alto and a Luna Matta Vineyard, Paso Robles bottling which is very different in character, but also well worthy of your attention. Ryme’s Camino Alto Aglianico, is old school fermented with the grapes being crushed by foot using 100% whole cluster allowing indigenous yeast to start the process and it sees gentle hand punch downs, but to get full extraction from this bold Aglianico. After the maceration and primary, the husband and wife winemaking team age this one in neutral French oak barrels for about a year and then bottled it without filtration. This wine deserves a robust and hearty meal to accompany it, this stuff has real presence and would go great with a classic pairing of lamb and or hard sheep cheeses, I highly recommend checking Ryme out, and especially this sexy/sultry Aglianico, which is a great alternative to much more expensive Cabernet Sauvignon!
($42 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

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