Has anyone else tried this cultivar in the US and what were your thoughts?
Refosco is grown primarily in Friuli, it is also found in Slovenia, Istria, and Greece. Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso is regarded as being the superior strain, but Refosco Nostrano, d’Istria and del Terrano are recognized, as well as the possibly related Cagnina in Romagna. The big story though is that DNA testing has refuted the claim that it is related to Mondeuse Noir in the Savoie region of France (however, it has been linked to the infamously mediocre Marzemino – and it has that feel). The most promising zone is Colli Orientali in Friuli, and now, Rosa d’Oro Vineyards. It also has the strongest, most aggressive tendrils I have ever fought, and even the young vines are prodigious producers, probably amping up the ample acidity and low ripeness this grape is famous for in cool climates. 1 bunch per cane will likely become the rule for a concentrated crop.
At the turn of the century, Refosco was well known to California. Famed To-Kalon vineyard was half planted to Refosco by Mr. Henry Krabb who knew it well through a Friulian count. It was a major part of Beaulieu Vineyards “Black Burgundy” wine after Prohibition. In 1971 there were 396 acres recorded in California, and in 1985 it disappeared from the radar. The true heritage of Californian Refosco is certainly in question. There are a few growers, one in Paso Robles, Matthiason of course in Napa, and our few rows on Kelsey Bench are the only dedicated bits I know of.
For me it has a Syrah sensibility often leaning into the plum/violet side of the spectrum. Grown in our warm climate it has low-ish acid which works well with the chunky, somewhat gritty Petite Sirah-like tannin that lends a sense of dark depth to balance the higher floral tones. This one is a blend of Yolo County and our estate fruit, but what we have in barrel for 2013 will be 100% estate and I think we are in for a real treat with what the Lake County elevation and climate will do with this cultivar.
Here is video I shot of the Refosco harvest right before crush: