|Birichino (Italian for impish or mischievous) specialises in making wines from the more unusual grape varieties planted in California. They currently make three wines: a straight Grenache, a Vin Gris (Provence style rosé) from Cinsault and Rolle, and one of the best Malvasias I’ve tasted. Winemakers Alex Krause and John Locke chose Santa Cruz as the location of their winery in 2008. They have made wine in France, Italy and California, in addition to previously working at Domaine Ostertag in Alsace and Bonny Doon in Santa Cruz.
Malvasia is a fascinating grape with over 12 different varieties grown throughout Italy, Croatia, Portugal, and Spain. That is without including what the French call Malvoisie, which can be a synonym for Pinot Gris, Bourboulenc and Clairette, depending on which region of France the wine is made. Suprisingly Malvasia Bianca has a relatively large planting of over 700 hectares in California. The variety they use is Malvasia Bianca, which was imported to the USA in the 20th century from Calabria, in the South of Italy.
Birichino harvests all of their Malvasia from the San Bernabe vineyard in Monterey. They find that the large difference in temperature between the day and night helps to preserve the acidity and freshness of the grape. After the grapes are picked they go through several soft and slow press cycles. This is to extract as much of the flavour as possible from the grape without taking any bitterness. Once pressed and fermented, the wine has extended lees contact to add a soft and creamy texture.