Alternative Viewpoint on Harvest from Uvaggio's Jim Moore

"With the impending Harvest, plenty of news is coming out of Napa," writes Lauren Eastman, who does Public Relations work from her office in San Francisco. "For an alternative viewpoint, esteemed winemaker and owner of Uvaggio, Jim Moore, provides another perspective. Jim’s career spans more than three decades in Napa, and his experience is well versed in the trends coming out of the premier California wine growing region.

"However, he’s chosen to take his wine dream to Lodi and launch his own brand, Uvaggio.

"As Jim is beginning harvest this week, he is seeing good flavor maturity at low brix, and expecting his Primativo to come in under 13 percent, providing a much different outcome for this wine than one might expect of the typical Zinfandel experience. Even for Lodi, he is breaking down the barriers. The high alcohol Zinfandels that come out of the region are often harvested at a much later date, awaiting the residual sugar.

"Jim’s Italian style cultivars include Vermentino, Italy’s most popular white grape this year, Barbera, Moscato (which will be harvested in sweet (dolce) and non-sweet (seco) in early October. Many of these wines will be perfect on the Thanksgiving table moving into the holidays. This week, I’m most excited about Vermentino, as its been hot in the Bay Area and this refreshing white is delightful on sunny afternoons."

With a build-up like that, I was curious about this winemaker. Lauren did a great job piquing my interest. His bio is pretty impressive, so here goes:

Biography: Jim Moore, Proprietor/Winemaker
l’Uvaggio di Giacomo (a.k.a. Uvaggio)

For a person who walked many vineyard rows throughout several decades for numerous others, the creation and development of Jim Moore’s own wine label - Uvaggio - is a gratifying achievement. Jim’s innovative approach toward winemaking in combination with traditional techniques and alternative varietals allow him to create wines with a distinct Italian flare, from grapes grown in the New World. The style of Uvaggio wines is true to everything Italian-ate. Tasting them blind, one might actually imagine they might come from Italy. With just one taste it is evident these are not typical wines from a typical winemaker.

With a career spanning more than three decades, multiple and diverse regions in California and in several parts of Italy, across a range of cultivars - everything from Arneis to Zinfandel – Jim’s atypical breadth of experience differentiates him and Uvaggio wines from the vast sea of California’s Franco-centric offerings.

Jim’s interest in Italian varietals began long before Pinot Grigio became ubiquitous in the marketplace and on wine lists across the county. He was first exposed to wines in college, then a broader segment while working in restaurants and a vast spectrum while working for a wine retailer, launching him on a quest for a career in winemaking, to experience and appreciate how fine wine is crafted. In 1976 he moved to Napa Valley and worked for several Napa wineries throughout the next three harvests.

In September 1979, Jim joined Robert Mondavi Winery in Oakville, beginning a two decade tenure California’s most renowned, if not iconic, winery. Initially, he held various production and supervisorial positions. Ultimately in 1988, he was promoted to the enology department and began guiding the winemaking styles. For the next seven years he continued his education by taking winemaking and business courses at UC Davis.

Jim’s palate for Italian wines was recalibrated after his exposure to the exceptional vintages of 1982 and 1985. These vintages were contemporaneous with an increased awareness of wine quality in Italy and in some instances they involved revolutionary production techniques. Inspired by these wines, he developed two vineyard trial blocks to evaluate the performance and gauge the merchantability of specific grape varieties and different clones - primarily Italian and secondarily from the Rhone. He helped to develop Mondavi’s Burgundian inspired, Carneros appellation Chardonnay and Pinot noir, reintroduced Zinfandel and revamped the wine style and packaging for Moscato d’Oro - a proprietary dessert wine. Additionally he created and developed La Famiglia di Robert Mondavi in California, while helping launch Luce and Lucente from Tuscany - a collaborative effort with the Frescobaldi family of Florence.

Jim’s work at Mondavi earned many accolades. Two of the Zinfandels he crafted were honored by Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines of the Year, as was a bottling of Luce. A subsequent bottling of Luce garnered a coveted “tre bicchiere” (three glasses - their highest rating) from the Gambero Rosso, Italy’s pre-eminent wine guide. Toward the end of his tenure at Mondavi, he was promoted to Assistant Winemaker and worked to help elevate the quality of Mondavi’s entire Napa Valley portfolio while investigating new winemaking techniques while working with the General Manager to incorporate all the applicable ideas into their To Kalon cellar renovation.

In 1998, Moore left Mondavi to develop l’Uvaggio di Giacomo, (“the Blends of James”) which he had begun with the 1997 vintage. Concurrently, he acted as the consulting winemaker for five new Napa Valley start-up ventures, all while holding a ‘day job’ as the general manager and winemaker for a small, family winery in St Helena. In early 2003 he became the Director of Winemaking for Bonny Doon Vineyard/Ca’ del Solo, staying only briefly, leaving to devote himself full time to revitalizing his Uvaggio project.

Today the Uvaggio label proves to have been worth the long wait and considerable effort. The portfolio consists of Vermentino, Rosato, Primitivo, Moscato (both secco & dolce) and Barbera - offering neophytes and aficionados alike with accessible wines possessing vibrant flavors, framed within a classic structure, all offered at moderate prices. With key attributes like lower levels of alcohol, distinctive flavor profiles and harmonious expressions, these wines are crafted for food affinity, bringing an Italian sensibility to the American table. Jim’s philosophy maintains that the primary role of wine is to accompany food, which results in three important attributes: accessibility, harmony and value.

Jim Moore is a graduate of UCLA and has traveled extensively in Italy; especially Tuscany, Piedmont, Friuli and Trentino - as well as Burgundy and Bordeaux in France in studying their vineyards, winemaking techniques and even coopering. He resides in Napa with his wife, a librarian and educator, where they explore new culinary and vinous horizons daily.

Thanks to Lauren Eastman & Associates for a lively look at Harvest news!

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