Wine stories come in many guises; family dynasties, self-made millionaires with a passion for wine and innovative pioneers all spring to mind. Maybe it’s because I’m writing this on Valentine’s day, but the story of Giornata is a simple tale of the heart…
Brian and Stephanie Terrizzi met at Fresno state University after both independently establishing a love for wine. Stephy moved to California from Illinois following a formative stint working in a wine bar. She developed her interest and knowledge working in Sonoma and Napa then headed to Fresno to study oenology and viticulture. She excelled and has since become a vinicultural guru in the state. Brian has Italy in his DNA and his Sicilian ancestry led him to Italy after working as a trainee winemaker at Rosenblum Cellars.
Time working at Isole e Olena, amongst others, helped him to fully appreciate Italian wine making philosophy, and it’s these principles which have helped shape the wines of Giornata. When their worlds collided in 2003, life changed very quickly. They fell in love, got married and honeymooned in Italy, where like most newlyweds do… they worked the harvest. Stephy, a pioneer in spirit needed no convincing that Italian varietals could be hugely successful in Paso Robles, an area which was firmly on the ‘up and coming’ wine map in the mid noughties. More than anything, the Terrizzi’s believe in Paso. Paso’s latitude makes it closer to Sicily than Piedmont but like the more illustrious Italian region, Paso’s diurnal temperature variation makes it a great place to grow grapes. After visiting Piedmont for the first time as a couple in 2004, Brian and Stephy realised that despite the significant Alpine influence, summers get pretty hot and as in Paso temperatures can often come close to 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The region is also fortunate that it typically doesn’t experience the same risks of rain and hail which often blight Piemontese vintages.
Stephy quickly understood the potential to cultivate high quality Italian varietals in the region, despite plenty of naysayers claiming they couldn’t be successful with Nebbiolo and Barbera. Stephy manages a number of high quality vineyards throughout the AVA and one of her favourites is the Luna Matta site in the western Adelaida district, which lies in the foothills of the Santa Lucia mountains. Here is a picture of Central Coast California. Small farmsteads linked by winding country lanes dot the mesmerising rolling hills. Vineyards rule, and in Luna Matta Stephy has access to some wonderful Aglianico, Nebbiolo, Sangiovese and Barbera fruit. Grape clones are all Italian, and she uses only organic farming methods. Her tireless work here, and at other great sites such as French Camp ensures Brian has beautifully healthy fruit to work with.
I was told for a very long time that I’d never do anything interesting with Italian varietals in California
Gut instinct and stubbornness can be dangerous traits but also admirable, especially when the results are special. “I was told for a very long time that I’d never do anything interesting with Italian varietals in California” says Brian. But, through his winemaking he’s relishing proving people wrong. His style certainly echoes his Italian lineage and he favours wines with balance and subtlety rather than intensity and extraction. A nuanced style which helps highlight the fantastic diversity on offer in California. Stephy picks grapes at lower sugar levels and the must is handled gently in the cellar resulting in wines which possess ample acidity and tannin. Fermentations rely solely on natural yeasts and Brian’s hands-off approach appears to be the perfect match for the wonderful fruit drawn from this enchanting landscape.
Giornata Barbera Paso Robles 2016
The wine that first grabbed our attention. Fermented in large oak casks, and aged in neutral barrels for 6 months, this wine is all about the purity of the Barbera fruit. Lifted red and black cherry aromas are followed by a delicious sappy and juicy palate. Just 400 cases were produced.
Giornata French Camp Vineyard Aglianico Paso Robles 2015
Again, a tiny production of just 200 cases, this Aglianico comes from French Camp Vineyard, one of the warmest sections of the Paso Ava. As the fruit here ripens evenly the resulting grapes retain freshness and acidity at low sugar levels whilst being typically thick skinned and intense. Concentrated and complex, there are notes of violet and game with a subtle earthiness. The palate is structured and has loads of blackberry fruit, along with notes of tobacco and black pepper.
Giornata Fiano 2017
This wine comes from the hilly Nightingale ranch vineyard in the San Miguel district. Here the silty clay loam soils suit Fiano and the variety maintains a clean and stoney profile. Aromatic, with fresh peach and citrus notes, the palate has minerality, stone fruit and hints of honey.