Ten years ago Kevin flew out to Boulder, Colorado for a birthday dinner at Frasca, one of if not THE most famous American Friulean restaurant. Located in northeastern Italy, bordering Austria, Slovenia and the Adriatic Sea, Friuli has a fascinating and historic food and wine culture. To pair with an asparagus risotto made tableside (something almost unheard of here in the states) a glass of Ronco del Gnemiz Friulano was poured. It's been a love affair ever since. After a decade of working to bring these wines into Ohio, we were finally able to get our hands on some! 

In the short list of producers coming out of Friuli, Ronco del Gnemiz is at the top of it. Period. Described as “pure renderings of nature,” these wines are an exceptional homage to their distinct terroir. 

Serena Pazzolo is the main face behind Gnemiz, though her husband Christian Patat, and their sons help to manage the vineyards and facilities as well. The family acquired the property in the 1960s, though like many of those in winemaking families–it took the drive and vision of a singular person to move the needle forward. Consisting of the verdant rolling hills of Friuli with the Alps in the distance, the beautiful Natisone river running through the base of the property coupled with the smell of sea air, it's easy to see why Serena decided to dedicate herself to farming’. And she’s not the first one with this idea, there is record of Augustinian monks planting vines on the hill of Rosazzo in the year 1000! 

Serena is known for the integrity of her biodynamic farming. Each vineyard is managed individually, from pruning to treatments to harvest, allowing for very individual expressions from plots located right next to one another. Making ‘cru’ level wines from separate vineyards is just one way Gnemiz stands out in the region. Utilizing compost made with local herbs, intervention is kept to a minimum and immense patience is practiced in the cellar. The wines are never rushed resulting in wines of uncompromising quality.

More about Friuli: 

While Piedmont and Tuscan dominate as red-growing regions, Friuli–more formally called Friuli-Venezia Giulia–is most certainly known for its white wines. Rich in texture, wildly aromatic, and often with an almond like finish–these wines have a way of expressing their surroundings unlike the other wines of Italy. The whites will often taste of salinity due to their proximity to the Adriatic. The reds in this region range–Schiava and Schioppettino–from light-bodied, aromatic and playful to the rich complex Bordeaux-style blends. 

The Friuli region hugs not only the Adriatic Sea and the Alps, but also the Slovenian and Austrian borders. It is a melting pot of cultures, having been divided between multiple empires over the course of the past 2000 years. The cuisine tends to be derived from peasant dishes and incorporates many hearty comfort dishes. The home of Prosciutto San Daniele one never has to look too hard from a steaming bowl of polenta–the region’s flagship dish. Seafood is also plentiful whether it's lake fish or cod from the nearby Adriatic. 

As Friuli is known for its eclectic cultural heritage, at the crossroads of Europe and the Middle east for much of history, it’s no surprise that international varieties are not only grown but thrive here. While the varieties grown in the region are many, most of the wines produced are mono-varietal wine, with blended wines found infrequently. 

It’s often said in the wine world that vines which struggle will yield more complex wine (not unlike people). This couldn’t be truer here in Friuli where growing conditions are often wildly difficult. In Friuli, the Julian Alps are to the north watch over the rolling hills of Friuli, bringing shelter to the vineyards. The Adriatic Sea to the east brings breezes keeping the vineyards cool, despite the southern exposure. Winters are harsh and heavy rainstorms are the norm in this region. If it wasn't for the North winds known locally as ‘Bora,’ the roots would become drenched in water, ultimately producing simple wine. This wouldn’t be a proper wine blog if soils weren’t mentioned. Friuli is known for ‘Ponca,’ a layered sandstone which has accumulated over millions of years. The whites especially are oozing with minerality and concentration; we might even go so far to say their essence is seductive.  

A terroir worthy of expression and honored in Ronco del Gnemiz’s creations. We are incredibly lucky to get our hands on these wines and can’t wait to share them with you!