One Red & One White Cuvée Per Annum
The Vagabondo wine-enthusiasts, Roberto Orsi and Jan Hohmeister, create their unique cuvées based on the idea to blend interesting grape varietals from all over Europe. They produce one red and one white cuvée each year. The ambitious endeavor is driven by the quest for clean and stylish wines with harmonious finesse. Each wine tells the story of a different vintage and cuvée. Only single vineyard grapes from small wineries are used. All releases are limited. The enologist and owner of the Azienda Agricola Roberto Orsi in the Southern Piedmont is the expert-nut in the cellar, while winemaker Jan Hohmeister turned into a European grape-hunter. He does not wear a hat or a whip.
Read our story and learn more about our wines and the team behind Il Vagabondo.
From our California wine specialist Dr. Hoby Wedler:
Consistent with all the wines I have tasted produced by the Il Vagabondo team, this wine is diverse, unique, most interesting, and absolutely delicious both aromatically and on the palate. Also consistent with all of their wines was this blend’s ability to change and metamorphose in the glass minute by minute. Il Vagabondo wines are packed with emotion and they change depending on temperature, how long they have laid down to rest before consumption, oxygen content in the air, and their mood at the particular time when they are being enjoyed. Few wines carry the same emotion that Il Vagabondo wines hand blended from some of the finest fruit available carry.
When the 2015 red blend was first poured into a Burgundy glass, sharp fruit aromas were observed including pear, a hint of green apple, ripe cherry, and black plum. The smell of a freshly-cut open pomegranate was also strongly evident.
In Northern California, we have a plum called the Santa Rosa plum which is a genetic cross between two other breeds of plum. It has a rich ester aroma and a fruitiness that I can only describe as intense. The one fruit note that stayed with the wine over time was a hint of Santa Rosa plum.
After about 2 minutes of sitting in the glass, the wine developed aromas of spices including all spice, clove, fresh pipe tobacco, and a touch of bay laurel. The aroma became much more complex. Fruit notes of just ripe blackberries, blueberries, and cranberries appeared after about 5 minutes of resting in the glass. The cranberry was extremely unique to me because I rarely detect it in red wines. This wine has a touch of Pinot Noir blended in which I suspect provides the cranberry note.
After about 10 minutes in the glass, the fruit changed from elements like pear and apple to components like over-ripe berries and pomegranate. While an aroma of freshly-cut pomegranate could be observed initially, after about 10 minutes the unmistakable aroma and flavor of pomegranate arils was observed. Pomegranate arils (or seed pods) do not have as much of an aroma when they are smelled. I smell most of what a pomegranate has to offer when the aril is on my palate. Here, we must consider that 95% at least of flavor perception comes from aromas observed retronasally. Retronasal smelling is when we pass air out of our nose and can taste what is on our palate.
After about 20 minutes in the glass, the wine developed an incredible spice aroma and flavor of dry grass, wet soil, a touch of oak, and a vibrant minerality. In my mind, the flavor and aroma combined to form the following image in my mind. Note that I have never described wines by images this way in writing.
It’s a hot spring day near the start of summer. Imagine being near the coast where the tide is rising. Between you and the waves washing in is a patch of dry grass, then a strip of sand, then the ocean. Water has not yet hit the dry grass for a long time but the sand is soaked through. Then, a large wave washes up and delicately washes against the dry grass. The aroma often described as petrichor, or wet earth, explodes from this grass freshly watered with sea water and all of the minerals that come with it. I can’t think of a better way to describe this aroma and flavor than coastal minerality. This phase of the wine is perhaps most intriguing and stunning indeed.
As the wine lingers in the glass for another several minutes, now about 30 minutes in, aromas of coastal minerality remain but are complemented with the aroma of freshly-rolled cigar, cedar, and unsweetened chocolate. The cocoa aroma that is perceived here is very subtle but rounds the wine out in a way that I have not observed before.
As the wine is tasted during this 30-minute window, the flavor is more consistent than the nose but all the aromas mentioned are also perceived (and change) on the palate. The texture and flavor of the wine are very delicate and show the beautiful finesse with which this delightful wine was produced. The palate presents medium to high acidity, lots of red fruit notes including pomegranate, ripe berries, plum, etc. Brilliant spice and mineral flavors match the changing aromas nearly identically described above. One key characteristic of the palate of this blend is how the red fruits first present slowly change to dried fruit flavors. It is almost as if the ripe fresh fruit flavors first present become what those same fruits would taste like if they were dried. The tannins are supple but firm and will allow this wine to age brilliantly.
As the wine rests in the glass beyond 30 minutes, notes of evergreen needles and pine forest appear which indicate oxidation of some of the terpenes present in both the Nebbiolo and Syrah which dominate this blend.
Overall, this is another stunning wine that has great ageability. At 13.6% alcohol by volume, this wine will continue to age and change positively until at least 2025. The tannin structure also lends itself to a long aging window for this wine. The blend of this wine is Nebbiolo, Syrah, Barbera and Pinot Noir.
I am always amazed by the work of the Il Vagabondo team and this wine most certainly does not change that fact. Interestingly, being from Northern California, I am not as familiar with lighter red wines made with such elegant finesse. I was truly impressed with this red blend and now am most excited to even further expand my knowledge of excellent wines of the old world. I said in my notes for the Sambruno that art and science are very connected with a fine line marking their intersection. Jan and Roberto of the Il Vagabondo team have made a wine which beautifully rests on this intersection. The science comes in with the terroir of Piedmont and the amazing fruit they found but blending, aging, etc. are all art. As I like to think of it, science gives us the tools we need to succeed. Art is defined by how we use these tools.
Enjoy and saluti!
Sambruno Uno 2015
From our California wine specialist Dr. Hoby Wedler:
Overall, this blend is unique, thought-provoking and truly extraordinary. It is completely different than the previous vintage but it maintains its clean, fresh, and irresistible nature true to the talent and passion of the Il Vagabondo team. This wine is a different blend with grapes sourced based on quality for this vintage and the brilliant noses of Roberto & Jan who developed the blend.
When the cork was first removed, aromas of green apple and under-ripe pear appeared immediately around the open bottle. The cork smelled of fruit with a touch of spice. After smelling the wine directly out of the bottle just after opening, fruits including fresh green apple, blackberries, and fresh cherries were noted. The true aroma adventure of this wine began once the wine was poured into a Burgundy glass.
One aspect of all Vagabondo wines that makes them truly unique and unlike anything I have ever tasted is how they change over time when resting in the glass.
At first, the wine possessed robust fruit aromas of berries, under-ripe stone fruit dominated by white peach, star fruit, and fresh pears. Citrus zest including Meyer lemon, pink grape fruit and blood orange also clearly shined through. Hints of floral notes were apparent at first, reminiscent of jasmine, lilac and honey suckle just prior to blooming. The aroma was as if you smelled a honey suckle vine covered with buds just ready to open up and release their strong characteristic aroma. The aroma of blooming honey suckle lurks in the background but does not over-dominate.
Just 10 minutes after opening, the wine’s aroma began to change noticeably. Now, notes of spices appeared including turmeric, black pepper and a hint of clove. Also, the floral aromas changed slightly to include a hint of rose, fuchsia, and a touch of morning glory (which was also evident in the 2014 Sambruno wine). The fruit became more tropical, bosting notes of pineapple, fresh melon, and a bit of toasted coconut. Also, an unmistakable vanilla note began to make itself known. The vanilla hints in this blend enhance its complexity and make it very intriguing and most enjoyable. Also, if you really focus on the aroma, just a touch of fresh Morel mushroom pokes out from hiding. It is precisely the earthy nature that this wine needs to add complexity and truly amaze me. The aroma of the wine changed dramatically over the next four hours. It showed different intensities and combinations of the aromas mentioned here as different components oxidized and opened up.
After about 25 minutes of resting in the glass, the fresh green apple aroma changed to a browning green apple. Imagine cutting open a fresh green apple and letting it rest open to the air for a few hours. The apple would begin to brown and the flavor would change. It is this browning green apple aroma and flavor which came out after 20-30 minutes of being open.
On the palate, let me begin with a discussion of texture. When drinking a white wine, I enjoy a balance of acidity, level of extraction and viscosity. The acidity of the Sambruno would be considered medium-high which works perfectly for this blend. The wine is rich on the palate and clearly extracted but not over-done. The wine presented a balanced viscosity which was crisp and refreshing but the wine lingered on the palate with a magnificent finish.
At the beginning, near the front palate, the wine’s fruit notes shine through. Apple, citrus zest, fresh melon, kiwi and lychee begin the journey. At the mid-palate, many of the spices mentioned in the aroma including black pepper, turmeric, and a touch of fresh pipe tobacco are apparent. The melon quality at the mid-palate blended with the spice notes mentioned are characteristic of the Viognier present in this blend.
The back palate has an almost indescribable green nature. As a blind person, I can only imagine what green looks like but I have an idea of what natural green smells like.
The aroma experienced on the finish of the wine is a combination of fresh leaves that just fell from a tree in autumn, fresh grass that has just been rained on, and bay laurel. This combination of aromas and flavors are the perfect way for this wine to finish and remind whoever is enjoying the wine just how clean, fresh and full-bodied this exquisite wine is.
Throughout the aroma and palate of this wine is an unmistakable minerality of flint, wet granite, and fresh snow. Fresh snow has an unmistakable rich mineral flavor and I encourage all who have not tasted it to give it a try. The minerality of this wine provides a unique savory quality which interacts beautifully with the fresh fruit, floral and spice notes. Fresh crushed evergreen needle aroma is also very slight but apparent and brightens the wine nicely.
Ultimately, the 2015 was different than the previous vintage but absolutely no less impressive.
The Vagabondo style of making wine is one that I respect tremendously. The highly skilled team of viticulturists and wine makers travel the vineyards of Piedmont looking for the perfect fruit to add to their masterful blends.
In 2015, they noted that Cortese (better known as Gavi) tasted absolutely exquisite once ripened on the vine. This is unusual but the team went with 40% Cortese because they knew this was perhaps a once in a lifetime opportunity to find such incredible Cortese. It gives the blend tremendous complexity and uniqueness. The other varietals that round out this gem are 28% Viognier, 20% Sauvignon Blanc (10% from two completely different vineyards), and 12% Timorasso. This blend will age brilliantly over the next 4-6 years. The medium-high acidity and 12.6% alcohol by volume will allow the fruit, spice and floral notes to hold up perfectly. Enjoy this wine now through 2021 and beyond.
Note: I write many tasting notes and it is always a treat that I cherish to write tasting notes for Il Vagabondo because their wines always intrigue me and make me think. The wines are truly unique and tell a story of the growing season, the region, and perhaps most importantly the people behind it. To me, art is anything that makes us think differently and focus on what we are experiencing. The team at Vagabondo are artists in the truest sense and I am deeply honored and flattered to work with them.
Cuvée: Bruno 15
Cuvee: Sambruno Uno 2015
Jan Hohmeister was born and raised in Germany, but has been living abroad since his early twenties. After studying journalism and literature in Boston, USA, he lived in Madrid, Spain and Paris, France and finally settled down in Liguria, Northern Italy.
In his autodidactic style he learned about the crafts of wine making, planted his own little vineyard with different grape varietals and tried various maceration styles. After ten interesting years he took over an old Nebbiolo vineyard near Barolo, Piedmont and started to blend his Ligurian grapes with the noble Northern berries. In the following years, he also added grapes from Provence to his list and started to sell his blends to a small list of wine enthusiasts.
Ever since then, he’s been chasing the dream to create wild and interesting blends from all over Europe. After meeting Roberto Orsi, who contributed the professional base for a meaningful production, the team of the Vagabondo family has grown by more interesting characters, which Jan found on his travels through Europe.
Coming from a viticultural background, Roberto studied for six years Enology and Viticulture in Alba, Piemonte. After that, he frequented for two more years the Facultà Agraria di Torino for a specialization in viticultur & enology leading concequently to the title of an enologist. From '91 to '96 he moved to the Tenuta Cannona - Centro Sperimentale Vitivinicolo della Regione Piemonte. Here Roberto was able to experiment with micro fermentation processes on numerous varietals.
In 1996 his father let him choose, to either sell the family vineyard close to Aqui Terme or to take it over. He decided to keep the land and moved from the lab to the countryside. The vineyard has grown to 40 hectars (99 acres) in the Alto Monferrato zone South-East of the Piedmont region.
Even though Roberto is not a man for big titles, it should be mentioned that he is also part of the government-licensed personnel, which hands out the DOC & DOCG seals, guaranteeing a wines quality. In his words: "It's a way to compare what's out there."
Roberto's intimate relationship to his wines is best shown on his impeccable vineyards. "My roots are in the viticulture not enology," sounds almost controversial, regarding his incredible knowledge of the wine cosmos.
Dr. Henry (Hoby) Wedler (Ph.D. of Organic Chemistry, University of California, Davis)
Dr. Henry “Hoby” Wedler has been completely blind since birth. He just completed his Ph.D. in organic chemistry at the University of California, Davis, he is the founder and director of the nonprofit Accessible Science, and he is a food and beverage sensory expert. Hoby found his passion for food, drink and how they relate to the senses when he began hosting truly blind wine and beer experiences in 2011. Hoby grew up in Petaluma, California where early on he fell in love with beautiful Sonoma County. When he’s not busy pursuing his academic studies or leading his blind or visually impaired chemistry camp students in conducting hands-on organic lab experiments through touch and smell, he turns his attention to food and drink – where he’s most passionate about flavor, accurate flavor descriptors, and how flavor and aroma relate to science.
In 2012, Hoby was one of only fourteen individuals honored at the White House when he was named one of President Barack Obama’s Champions of Change for enhancing educational and employment opportunities for Americans with disabilities.
In 2016, Hoby’s work in the food and drink industry was generously recognized by Forbes Magazine when he was named one of Forbes’ 30 under 30 in the food and drink category. This prestigious honor is granted to 300 individuals from around the world all under 30 years of age across ten categories, making a total of 30 individuals per category. Hoby was also recently recognized as one of the Sacramento Business Journal’s 2016 40 under 40 recipients. Hoby completed his Ph.D. in December, 2016 and is now working full-time in the food and drink industry.
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How to find us
Il Vagabondo is located in Diano Castello in the Province of Imperia in the Italian region Liguria, located about 90 kilometres southwest of Genoa and about 5 kilometres northeast of Imperia.
Strada Bestagni 6
18013 Diano Castello