2017 Aeris, Bianco, Centennial Mountain Vineyard, Sonoma County.
From the proprietor of Rhys, Kevin Harvey, the famous Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noirs producer, comes this new project Aeris, with Italian and Sicilian grapes as the core mission behind the new label that will based in Sonoma, but with some of their wines being sourced in Sicily as they get started. This was the first Aeris I got to try, it is 100% Carricante, a Sicilian varietal found mostly on the volcanic slopes of Mount Etna, where it makes one of the most compelling white wines you could ever want, with this 2017 showing pure Carricante charm and grace, making for an exotic California version, maybe the only one. The is brilliant clarity of form and a nice rounded balance here in the Aeris Bianco with a striking mix of citrus and stone fruits, light spices, refined floral detail and a stony element too, all coming together very well, it really isn’t too far off some of the Etna classics, like Terre Nere. This is an early enjoyment style wine that should be enjoyed in its expressive youthful form, especially as this 2017 is a slightly lower acid vintage, though I hear the 2018 and 2019s are big steps up with more mineral intensity and more natural acidity benefiting this wine in perfect conditions for exceptional quality, not that this one isn’t exciting and its opulence is very attractive. The medium bodied and done dry palate reveals orange blossoms, tangerine, white peach, a touch of dried pineapple, crystallized ginger and honeydew melon along with a touch of earthy loam, saline infused rock and hint of lychee, making it compelling with Mediterranean and or Moroccan cuisines, from grilled octopus to lemon chicken and couscous.
The philosophy, behind Aeris, is rooted, literally, on expressing the unique character of their native Italian varieties grown in a completely new viticultural area, Centennial Mountain, which has some ancient volcanic influence itself, and Italian traditions. The site is not far from Lake Sonoma, just outside of the Dry Creek Valley AVA, on iron rich rocky soils with long warm sun-kissed Summer days and hillside vines. The core ideas, Harvey and his winemaker Jeff Brinkman, include organic farming, old world natural winemaking utilizing indigenous yeasts, without the use of nutrients or other additives, and the aging, which is done with the extensive use of large neutral oak casks to promote purity and transparency. The primary fermentation for the Aeris Bianco, according to the winery, was done in temperature controlled stainless steel tank to capture and preserve the delicate aromatics, after which the wine was raised in a combination of the large casks and a few stainless hogshead size barrels for about 12 months. Carricante, especially in the hands of Rhys’ talented winemakers, looks to have bright future here in California, and I’m excited to see what they do also with their new red grape Nerello Mascalese, another Sicilian and Mount Etna varietal, as well as their Nebbiolo. As I have mentioned in recent reviews, the Cal Itals, wines made from Italian grapes, have really come of age in the last ten years, especially Ryme Cellar’s Aglianico, Fiano and Vermentino, Martha Stoumen’s Nero d’Avola and Negroamaro, the Giornata Luna Matta Vineyard Nebbiolo and Barbera, Arnot-Roberts’ Falanghina and the Matthiasson Ribolla Gialla, to name just a few. It is a great time to discover these dynamic wines, and I am looking forward to seeing how these Aeris offerings develop, there is a lot to love in this well crafted Carricante already.
($39 Est.) 91 Points, grapelive