We had an opportunity to speak with Michael Larner about his 2014 Malvasia Bianca (among other things) last April during the Vintner’s Spring Weekend. Larner Vineyard & Winery have 35 acres of vineyard planted on their 134 acre property located in the Ballard Canyon AVA in Santa Barbara California.
We met Michael at his office at the Vineyard. The focus at his vineyard are Rhone varieties with special attention to Syrah, which expresses itself particularly well in Ballard Canyon. Other varieties include Grenache, Mourvedre and Viognier, but he takes a dip into the Italian Malvasia Bianca for a single block.
We began speaking about the 2014 Malvasia Bianca. Keep in mind this is last years vintage. Find the Larner booth at the Santa Barbara Vintners Spring Weekend and find out how this vintage compares with the 2015 Malvasia Bianca!
Malvasia Bianca – a little background
Malvasia Bianca is believed to originate on the northwest coast of Italy. Of white Italian varieties, Malvasia Bianca is one of the most widely planted in Italy.
The berries of Malvasia Bianca are yellow to an oily brown when ripe and they grow in large clusters. This grape can be made into a variety of styles, from a lighter wine to a more full-bodied wine, dry to sweet, low to high alcohol and sometimes into a sparkling wine. In Italy it is often blended with Trebbiano to create light dry wines. It is also used in the Tuscan “Vin Santo” (trans. holy wine), which is a straw wine where the grapes are dried on straw mats. This wine was traditionally used for Mass.
Malvasia Bianca is sweet on the nose, but surprisingly acidic on the palate. Malvasia Bianca has great aromatics. A distant cousin to Muscat, it is a beautiful wine to start or end a meal.
The Larner 2014 Malvasia Bianca
We enjoyed this wine at the 1st Larner Winemakers Dinner at the Ballard Inn, where we tasted this wine with appetizers before dinner and then Budi Kazali paired this wine with a coconut mochi for dessert.
They only produced 129 cases of this wine, which ages 6 months in stainless steel and just reached 12.9% for alcohol.
With the 2014 vintage they tried a more traditional style with more maceration. The grapes were destemmed and crushed and then macerated on the skins at a cool temperature to keep them from beginning to ferment. The maceration brings out the floral notes on the wine. In previous years they tried macerating for 6 hours, 8 hours, 12 hours and finally have settled on 24 hrs as the magic number. More than 24 hours and the wine becomes to phenolic and gets an astringency that they were not looking for. After that the grapes stay on the lees for an extended period of time. Finally the wine ages 6 months in stainless steel. This wine has beautiful sweet aromatics on the nose, but is not a sweet wine. On the palate it has great acidity.
Michael likes the Malvasia Bianca paired with fried calamari. At the time of our interview with Michael they had just completed a wine pairing dinner with “All Star Academy” runner up Vanessa Craig. She paired the Malvasia Bianca with a fried wonton with avocado mousse and local cerviche. Michael say it paired great with the acidity and fruit qualities of the wine and the bit of spice in the cerviche.
While this vintage may be completely gone, the Larner 2015 Malvasia Bianca has arrived. Stop by the Larner tasting room in Los Olivos where you can find them next to the Los Olivos General Store daily from 11-5. Or find them at the Grand Tasting at the Santa Barbara Vintners Spring Weekend on Saturday April 23rd and give it a taste!
Want more information on Larner Wines or other wines or winemakers in the Santa Barbara Area? Find out more at Crushed Grape Chronicles.