First, why is it spelled two different ways? This grape has been harvested since the Middle Ages mostly in Serbia and southern Croatia. It also has been cultivated in Macedonia. In Serbian & Croatia it is spelled Vranac and in Macedonia it is spelled Vranec. No matter the spelling the transliteration means “black stallion”. Once you pour this wine, it is almost void of any red or ruby coloration, it is almost jet black! With the meaning of stallion, you get a sense of the strength and wildness of this wine.
I was in Sutter Creek, California recently having lunch and shopping but had time to “pop into a winery tasting room” on Main Street. The name is Sierra Ridge Winery. I was not there to do a story, but asked the proprietor about his Nebbiolo wine on the tasting list. It was good, but had a distinct Amador County flavor (a bit sweet). I asked about a wine on the list called Vranac. It turned out to this wine was steeped in its own history far greater than the gold rush history of Sutter Creek!
As I spent time with John Bree, owner of the winery, I was enthralled hearing the history of his family’s development of the wine and grapes in the local area. Today, the fourth generation of Sicilian winemakers, harvest some 150 acres of grapes, many with ancestral roots in Sicily, Italian and old Europe. Specifically they have 23 varieties of grapes growing at about 2,000 feet in Amador County. Varietals include the standard Bordeaux grapes, but unique to them are Pinotage (South Africa); Vranac, Fresisa, Aglianico, etc. I did not taste the other wines, but will be back for a full tasting very shortly!
The Vranac was fascinating from the color in the glass, to the infectious smell, to the complete mouthful explosion! It was uniquely standalone without a true comparison. That said, it had the earthliness of Tempranillo, the subtle fruit of a Barbara, the fullness of a non-fruity Zinfandel and the completeness of a Cabernet Sauvignon in the palate. I instantly became a convert to this chewy grape varietal. This wine will only improve with age similar to a hearty Barolo. Stop by and try this wine at their tasting room.
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