Uvaggio’s Latest Cal-Ital Release

Jim Moore is a man on a mission. Whereas most winemakers would prefer to fetch the highest price possible for their wines, Moore is determined to keep his under $20 a bottle. He is also committed to making exclusively Italian-varietal wines: right now, that means vermentino, barbera and primitivo. Moore, who has been making Italian-varietal wines in California for nearly two decades — first for Mondavi and now for  his label Uvaggio (which means cuveé, or assemblage, in Italian), sources his fruit almost entirely from Lodi. By making simple but expressive, low-alcohol, food-friendly wines, Moore proves that the region is capable of producing more than just ripe, jammy zinfandel.

This week, we visited Moore at one of the wineries he works out of and tasted his newest release.

2010 Uvaggio Vermentino

Moore’s Vermentino is made from a Corsican clone but he uses the wines of Sardegna, specifically the northern area called Gallura, for his inspiration, where, he believes, the best expressions of vermentino originate. Grown in Gayla’s Vineyard and Bella Vigna Vineyard (both in the Lodi AVA) Moore employs a small percentage of barrel fermentation to pull aromas from the notoriously neutral wine. Chinese green melon, fennel bulb and a remarkably briny, salty finish (one block, he says, which is planted in pure sand, actually tastes like drinking salt water) make this wine a perfect accompaniment for charred octopus, seafood salad, and of course a dozen oysters.

2009 Uvaggio Barbera

A thin-skinned, high acid grape, Barbera, according to Moore, does well in Lodi because it helps to tame the acidity and ripen the grape — enhancing flavor and tannins. Harvested from old Barbera vines, the 2009 is layered and complex with aromas ranging from cherry lifesaver to hickory smoke and a distinct but subtle gaminess. This here is what we call a backyard barbecue wine.

2010 Uvaggio Primitivo

Moore describes this as a “simple take home wine.” With aromas of Cassis, raspberry and bright red cherries, the primitivo (which, while it shares genetic heritage with zinfandel is, in fact, not the same grape) is simply delightful. Pizza, pasta, in fact anything with tomato sauce is in order.