Skip to main content

Current topics, themes, musings and travel notes

March 31, 2024

Enrico’s California Dream

Fed by the Blues, Dylan and Grunge — a Friuli native in New World wine

Returning from a recent trip to Sonoma wine country, I asked myself, “Where do Italian-style wines begin and end?”

Surely Italian winemakers using Italian grapes can make Italian-like wines in the right California terroir.  

Italians and their descendants built much of the California wine country as we know it today from the 19th century and right through Prohibiton.  Were it not for the American inferiority complex with all things French (read Bordeaux and Burgundy grapes), California’s wine scape would look a lot more Italian.

Arbe Garbe-Enrico Bertoz

Arbe Garbe-Enrico Bertoz in Catie's Corner Vineyard of Mavlasia. Photo @ Robert Camuto

In the 21st century there’s been a revival – albeit a niche one – of relatively obscure Italian grapes in California from Sangiovese to Nebbiolo to Barbera to you name it.

These efforts often yield everything from “that’s interesting!” curiosities to really good wines.

Enrico Bertoz of the tiny label Arbe Garbe is part of that second category. He came to America from his native Friuli in the late 1990’s based on a dream fed by the Blues, Dylan, Kerouac and Grunge.

Working his way up from an L.A. dishwasher, he’s become a cult winemaker. Outside of his day job making French-International based wines for a Napa winery, he’s returned to his native roots: going deep into the character, expression and potential of Malvasia Bianca in Sonoma soils.

“It’s easy to make a sunny-side-up Malvasia, but I don’t want to make sunny-side-up Malvasia,” he says with the intensity of a seeker.

It’s worth your time to read about Enrico and he and wife Letizia’s Arbe Garbe adventure in the latest Robert Camuto Meets…(free) at wine