2004 Ettore Germano Dolcetto d'Alba Lorenzino

Ettore Germano Dolcetto d'Alba Lorenzino In Serralunga d'Alba, where the Germano Ettore estate is located, the best vineyards are located on steep hills. And the hills all have names, like Pra di Po, Lorenzino, Ceretta, and La Delizia. The limestone-rich Ceretta is the Oakville Grade of Serralunga d'Alba, and this important hill is where the Germano family traces its winemaking roots.

The Germanos got their start as farmers, and for generations they were known for producing some of Piedmont's finest Nebbiolo, Barbera, and Dolcetto from their small plots on Ceretta. In the mid-1970s, Ettore Germano and his father, Alberto, decided to set aside a small portion of each harvest so they could begin making wine themselves. For nearly twenty years, they gradually acquired a number of the best vineyard parcels on the hills around Ceretta, and at the same time they continued to expand their winemaking production.

The Germano FamilyBy the time Ettore's son, Sergio, earned a degree in enology and completed his apprenticeship at the large Fontanafredda estate in the early 1990s, Germano Ettore's vineyard holdings had more than doubled to sixteen acres. When Sergio took over, he installed new winemaking equipment in the cellar and he implemented a number of modern techniques that he learned in school. Not surprisingly, his reforms greatly improved the quality of Germano Ettore's wine, especially its Dolcetto.

Dolcetto had been considered "problem varietal" for decades. The best versions were wonderfully fruit-forward and aromatic, but more often than not you'd uncork something closed, sulfurous--even undrinkable. The problem is Dolcetto's tendency toward reduction: the more concentrated the Dolcetto, the more oxygen needed to complete the vinification. Using traditional methods, Piedmontese winemakers were seldom able to coax enough oxygen into their fermenting Dolcetto, and as a result these wines were of little interest to anyone outside of Piedmont.

In the 1990s, however, a few pioneering winemakers like Sergio radically improved the quality of their Dolcetto by trying innovative methods such as micro-oxygenation. By adding carefully controlled amounts of oxygen to their fermenting wine, these quality-conscious producers solved the "reduction problem" and began releasing superb wines that highlighted the varietal's supple fruit exuberance and early approachability.

The Dolcetto grapes in this wine came from the Germanos' parcel on Lorenzino, the hill across the road from Ceretta. Thanks to their high elevation on Lorenzino's south-facing slope, the Germanos' Dolcetto vines enjoy long, sunny summer days that allow the grapes to reach optimal maturity. This wine is deep red, with an extremely concentrated and fruity nose of cherry and tobacco. The structured, supple palate and the long and lingering finish complete this bright varietal Dolcetto. Among the very best of the vintage. Drink now-2009.