Ronchi di Cialla Sol PicolitRonchi di Cialla “Sol” Picolit, 2001.  Sometimes a wine is so stunning, so completely soul-crushingly-delicious, that it’s hard to describe.  This was one of those wines.  We opened it in one of my favorite Los Angeles restaurants, Gusto, where only something like this astounding wine is distracting enough to keep me from thinking about Chef Vic Casanova’s food.

Ronchi di Cialla is a key Friulian producer, located in the province of Prepotto.  The winery is known for the ageing power of its indigenous whites like Verduzzo, and for the finesse of its red wines, made from exotic local grapes like Refosco and Schioppettino.  Friuli is a Wine Geek’s dream- the number of autochthonous varieties to discover is astounding.

This wine in particular is mythic and truly obscure- especially from an older vintage like 2001.  Ronchi di Cialla doesn’t even list this wine on their website.  It is made from 100% Picolit grapes, which are usually vinified in a sweeter style.  The “Sol” however, is bone dry.

Picolit is a wily little vine, giving tiny bunches sparsely populated with berries.  The vine has a peculiar habit of dropping many of its flowers, leaving only a handful of berries in which to concentrate its energies.  The result is a fruit that is extremely labor-intensive to pick and vinify, but is also very rewarding in its complexity, sugar and aromatic nuance.

Picolit @Bastianich Vineyards

Picolit: Image borrowed from the Bastianich Winery website.

I don’t know what I was expecting from the Ronchi di Cialla “Sol”.  Maybe a bit of weight from all the sugar that had been fermented out of the juice?  Maybe I thought it would still have a bit of residual sweetness left, kind of like an Austrian Riesling.  What I was not prepared for was the driving, momentous minerality that shot out of this wine like a knife.  At 11 years old this wine was still in its infancy.

Structured like a winter evening- a crystalline blanket of snow- this wine was bracing, elegant and awe-inspiring.  We kept going back to it over the course of the evening as it sat in the glass and continued to evolve.  First that mushroomy, wet earth aroma of an older wine just being let out of its cage.  Then the more delicate, vegetal notes laced with honey and spice.

If you ever see this wine, grab it while you can.  She’s elusive and wild and wonderful.  You just have to taste to understand.