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Sangiovese in the US


Rebel Rose
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Wow. I love sangiovese, and I was very interested in trying Leonetti's Walla Walla version. But $55 for a single bottle of Washington sangiovese? Not only that, but the recent mailer I received wants me to take 2.5 cases of wine for a total ticket of $2175, in order to get 3 bottles of sangiovese.

Ooh-la. Has anyone seen a California 100% sangiovese that costs more than this?

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Mary Baker

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can't speak to the price-value bit, Rose, but i can say that Leonetti's sangio has never disappointed, which is a rare thing for me to say. it's probably the least expensive entry into the Leonetti portfolio, and remains one of the wines of theirs i enjoy the most.

i know their mailing list has frustrated you in the past, but see if you can find a bottle on the open market. in Walla Walla, at least, you can occasionally hunt one down for market price, no need to buy the full 2.5 cases. better yet, strike a deal to go in on it with a few folks.

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Wow.  I love sangiovese, and I was very interested in trying Leonetti's Walla Walla version.  But $55 for a single bottle of Washington sangiovese?  Not only that, but the recent mailer I received wants me to take 2.5 cases of wine for a total ticket of $2175, in order to get 3 bottles of sangiovese.

Ooh-la.  Has anyone seen a California 100% sangiovese that costs more than this?

I am suprised (mildly) that you can't get some kind of reciprocal

deal going with Leonetti and your winery.

Professional courtesy etc etc.

Agree with J Bonne. The Sangiovese is quite good.

A brief check on Wine Search Pro shows the 2004 available at

Wine cask in Santa barbara for $62 and at Taylor and Norton in Sonoma $69.00. (they have the 2003 for the same price)

Leonetti wines have a lot of fans and they have no problem selling out at these prices.

They can be found on the retail market with a little perseverance.

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You guys are the best! I just snagged one online from the Wine Cask, along with a half-bottle of Seghesio sangiovese. The F&H was a little extreme, especially since I know what the UPS wine contract prices really are . . . :hmmm: but that's another story for another day. I'm really looking forward to trying this. Thanks!

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Just a note for a Sangiovese wine for fans to look out for in the future (I have no idea what the retail price is/will be) . . . Cuneo Cellars in Carlton Oregon has spent a few years developing a true Brunello-clone Sangiovese wine.

The vines were planted in 2002 at Ciel du Cheval Vineyard on Washington's Red Mountain. The plant material is known as Sangiovese VCR 6 (Montalcino) and came from Italy by way Cuneo and a California nursery and went through 2 years of UC Davis testing. The first crop was in 2004. I believe it is in bottle right now, but I am not too sure what the label is.

Gino Cuneo has said his intention is not to imitate Brunello, but to see what the Brunello clone Sangiovese will produce in the Northwest (Ciel du Cheval is one of the most respected vineyards in the Northwest). I haven't tasted the wine, though I was there when the grapes came in in 2004 and it looked really cool (the color of the juice is amazing . . . I've got a picture or two but I have no idea how to get them posted here). And, no, I have no commercial connection to Cuneo; except that I like the guy and admire the effort.

Sangio lovers take note . . .

-Cole

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can't speak to the price-value bit, Rose, but i can say that Leonetti's sangio has never disappointed, which is a rare thing for me to say.  it's probably the least expensive entry into the Leonetti portfolio, and remains one of the wines of theirs i enjoy the most.

i know their mailing list has frustrated you in the past, but see if you can find a bottle on the open market.  in Walla Walla, at least, you can occasionally hunt one down for market price, no need to buy the full 2.5 cases. better yet, strike a deal to go in on it with a few folks.

It dissapoints me.

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Wow.  I love sangiovese, and I was very interested in trying Leonetti's Walla Walla version.  But $55 for a single bottle of Washington sangiovese?  Not only that, but the recent mailer I received wants me to take 2.5 cases of wine for a total ticket of $2175, in order to get 3 bottles of sangiovese.

Ooh-la.  Has anyone seen a California 100% sangiovese that costs more than this?

I am suprised (mildly) that you can't get some kind of reciprocal

deal going with Leonetti and your winery.

Professional courtesy etc etc.

Agree with J Bonne. The Sangiovese is quite good.

A brief check on Wine Search Pro shows the 2004 available at

Wine cask in Santa barbara for $62 and at Taylor and Norton in Sonoma $69.00. (they have the 2003 for the same price)

Leonetti wines have a lot of fans and they have no problem selling out at these prices.

They can be found on the retail market with a little perseverance.

Why would anyone pay such prices for oaky sangiovese? There is a glut of high quality over-oaked sangiovese in Tuscany that you can find for half the price.

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I am suprised (mildly) that you can't get some kind of reciprocal

deal going with Leonetti and your winery.

Professional courtesy etc etc.

I hesitate to impose. I don't ask for a winery discount outside of my immediate region . . . but will gladly accept one when offered.

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Mary Baker

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Why would anyone pay such prices for oaky sangiovese? There is a glut of high quality over-oaked sangiovese in Tuscany that you can find for half the price.

Why pay, say $50 for a bottle of oregon Pinot that is elegant lightly oaked earthy etc when you can find a similar wine--from Burgundy yet!!!!--that is thirty or forty bucks???

The New World Sangiovese is more about fruit and ripeness. T

As I see it, oaked and overoaked are two very different terms.

Because places like Oregon and New Zealand have established themselves as unique and successful growing regions for pinot noir. Many fine wines of definable styles are made. The best soil types and clones are known and in use. There is no such region outside of Italy when it comes to sangiovese, which is still experimental in the new world.

Tuscany is the home of the international style of winemaking in Italy and there are many wines just as ripe and fruity as new world wines.

Oak and over-oaked are indeed two different terms, that's why I use them.

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As I see it, oaked and overoaked are two very different terms.

Strnagely I agree with both of you on this one. I think many people often confuse over-oaked character for elegance, but it doesn't take long before even intermediate wine geeks object to overuse of oak. Too much oak or strong oak character dominates the fruit, destroys the food-friendly nature of wine, and ruins its chances of longevity.

Occasionally there are wines in which the oak seems dominant in the wine's youth, and that dominance fades with time, with the oak becoming more of a framework for a fruit. In my experience, however, this only happens successfully with leaner wines that have "high fruit" and plenty of acidity to balance the heavier flavors and mouthfeel that oak imparts.

Again, in my experience only, wines that are voluptuous and fleshy in their youth, with purple and bonbon flavors and abundant oak, will only become Married With Children as they age.

I do hope the Leonetti is not that style. I am eagerly seeking fine sangiovese produced on the west coast, as I feel it is an underappreciated grape in the New World, and I firmly believe we have some excellent sites for the varietal. Plus, I love the way it pairs with food. I'm looking forward to trying the Leonetti, and keeping my fingers crossed.

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I am suprised (mildly) that you can't get some kind of reciprocal

deal going with Leonetti and your winery.

Professional courtesy etc etc.

I hesitate to impose. I don't ask for a winery discount outside of my immediate region . . . but will gladly accept one when offered.

impose Mary, impose! :laugh:

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Why would anyone pay such prices for oaky sangiovese? There is a glut of high quality over-oaked sangiovese in Tuscany that you can find for half the price.

Why pay, say $50 for a bottle of oregon Pinot that is elegant lightly oaked earthy etc when you can find a similar wine--from Burgundy yet!!!!--that is thirty or forty bucks???

The New World Sangiovese is more about fruit and ripeness. T

As I see it, oaked and overoaked are two very different terms.

Because places like Oregon and New Zealand have established themselves as unique and successful growing regions for pinot noir. Many fine wines of definable styles are made. The best soil types and clones are known and in use. There is no such region outside of Italy when it comes to sangiovese, which is still experimental in the new world.

Tuscany is the home of the international style of winemaking in Italy and there are many wines just as ripe and fruity as new world wines.

Oak and over-oaked are indeed two different terms, that's why I use them.

My point was simply that choosing a wine doesn't necessarily come down to cost/price.

Where this fits into a person's list of criteria is up to them.

You are lumping the Leonetti in with those wines you deem to be "over oaked" (and high quality) and making a selection based on cost.

Actually, I would spend the extra money on the Leonetti. Why?

To see what a wine maker and vineyard outside Tuscany can do with Sangiovese.

(actually Cole's heads up has peaked my curiosity).

I may also find that I enjoy the Leonetti more that many of these similar Tuscan wines.

Sangiovese may well become established outside Italy and as with many other varietals it may open up new wine drinking experiences and options.

Oak or no oak is the least of the issues with this varietal. Getting the right clone is critical. (you have to admit Italy has been a mess in terms of prodigious plantings of awful clones of this grape).

It may well be that outside of a handful of areas and producers who make some of the world's most magnificent wines, sangiovese may benefit from at least moderate oak and even blending.

So the producers of truly great sangiovese are not going away, many other producers are finding new and exciting ways to make wine from the varietal. (Gary Figgins may be one of them, who knows?).

It iwll be fun to watch (and taste)!!!

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John, would you be willing to order a bottle and try it soon, so we can compare thoughts?

Part of my quest for good sangiovese is my own personal obsession, and part of it is to learn more about the clones planted here and how to define my style as a producer. I make a small quantity of sangiovese every 2 years under my own label, a limited production of 120-200 cases which is sold primarily to about 6 stores.

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John, would you be willing to order a bottle and try it soon, so we can compare thoughts?

Part of my quest for good sangiovese is my own personal obsession, and part of it is to learn more about the clones planted here and how to define my style as a producer.  I make a small quantity of sangiovese every 2 years under my own label, a limited production of 120-200 cases which is sold primarily to about 6 stores.

that's a great idea! (I will pick up a bottle did you order the 2003?)

I tasted the 2000 Leonetti--my notes indicate a nice wine. I thought it was a bit Rhone like with black pepper notes.

However, there have been boatloads of poor, high acid thin wines from Italy over the years--this is not an easy grape to grow and make wine from. A good chianti can be very nice but they are so few and far between

I hate the term "food wine" but good Sangiovese cries out for food!!!

Craig is correct --I believe-- in noting the "modern style" wines of Tuscany. Some producers seem to lose the attributes of Sangiovese in their blends etc and some really get it right.

It will be interesting to taste some of the efforts from California and the Pacific Northwest.

What's yours like? (your wines --all of them are hard to find if at all here on the East Coast)

also I am interested in tasting the wine Cole noted.

Edited by JohnL (log)
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Getting the right clone is critical. (you have to admit Italy has been a mess in terms of prodigious plantings of awful clones of this grape).

It may well be that outside of a handful of areas and producers who make some of the world's most magnificent wines, sangiovese may benefit from at least moderate oak and even blending.

It iwll be fun to watch (and taste)!!!

While old plantings in Tuscany may have been a mess, new ones are not. The family of sangiovese clones, thanks to the Chianti 2000 project and Banfi's research, is among the most defined on the planet. New plantings have been based on better clonal selection for years.

Certainly sangiovese, like cabernet sauvignon, can benefit from blending (with the notable exception of the magnificent Montevertine Le Pergole Torte) unlike mono-varietals like pinot noir and nebbiolo. However, unlike the more robust cabernet, the delicate nature and naturally light color of sangiovese make it a poor candidate for new oak barrique, which quickly overwhelm its character.

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I thought it was a bit Rhone like with black pepper notes.

However, there have been boatloads of poor, high acid thin wines from Italy over the years--this is not an easy grape to grow and make wine from. A good chianti can be very nice but they are so few and far between

I hate the term "food wine" but good Sangiovese cries out for food!!!

Good Chianti "few and far between"? I think not, the quality level of Chianti has skyrocketed over the last decade. Sure if you want to include all the crap in "fiasci" and the low end Ruffino type stuff there is a lot of junk, but you can apply that logic to Bordeaux and Napa too. Do you really want to define a region by its industrial mass production - its "boatloads"?.

Fine sangiovese is nervous, high-strung and refined. I don't think it should be Rhone-like. It is a varietal known for both high acidity and low color and a dark over-ripe wine is just not varietal in character.

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Getting the right clone is critical. (you have to admit Italy has been a mess in terms of prodigious plantings of awful clones of this grape).

It may well be that outside of a handful of areas and producers who make some of the world's most magnificent wines, sangiovese may benefit from at least moderate oak and even blending.

It iwll be fun to watch (and taste)!!!

While old plantings in Tuscany may have been a mess, new ones are not. The family of sangiovese clones, thanks to the Chianti 2000 project and Banfi's research, is among the most defined on the planet. New plantings have been based on better clonal selection for years.

Certainly sangiovese, like cabernet sauvignon, can benefit from blending (with the notable exception of the magnificent Montevertine Le Pergole Torte) unlike mono-varietals like pinot noir and nebbiolo. However, unlike the more robust cabernet, the delicate nature and naturally light color of sangiovese make it a poor candidate for new oak barrique, which quickly overwhelm its character.

Good points Craig.

I have noticed over the past few years that we are seeing more good to very good Chianti's--it is not news that Italian wine makers have really improved both growing situation via better clonal selection and better wine making technique. Especially with whites--there are more interesting whites coming out of Italy than anywhere else in the world at the moment.

I partially agree about the new oak issue. As better clones are utilized combined with more ripeness and substance in the grapes, judicious use of new oak can be a plus but also healthier riper fruit means that Sangiovese will be better able to stand on its own. There will always be different styles of sangiovese.

By the way--as a side note:

I just last week tasted a number of Barolos and Barbarescos from the 1982 vintage. what magnificent wines.

Gaja, Conterno (A and G), Ratti, Marcarini, Borgogno, Cesare,Giacosa. Scavino, Rinaldi etc all I can say is

Mama Mia what wines!!!!!!

Edited by JohnL (log)
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I thought it was a bit Rhone like with black pepper notes.

However, there have been boatloads of poor, high acid thin wines from Italy over the years--this is not an easy grape to grow and make wine from. A good chianti can be very nice but they are so few and far between

I hate the term "food wine" but good Sangiovese cries out for food!!!

Good Chianti "few and far between"? I think not, the quality level of Chianti has skyrocketed over the last decade. Sure if you want to include all the crap in "fiasci" and the low end Ruffino type stuff there is a lot of junk, but you can apply that logic to Bordeaux and Napa too. Do you really want to define a region by its industrial mass production - its "boatloads"?.

Fine sangiovese is nervous, high-strung and refined. I don't think it should be Rhone-like. It is a varietal known for both high acidity and low color and a dark over-ripe wine is just not varietal in character.

See my comments earlier in this thread.

Yes--over the past several years things have improved markedly.

It is hard to establish or generalize just what constitutes a paradigm for wines made from sangiovese.

The wines of the sixties and seventies?

The changes in Tuscan wine making have been so dramatic since the nineties that many of the shortcomings in sangiovese are/have been overcome by viticultural and vinicultural progress.

I am not talking mass production only.

I believe we are in general agreement. However, you are attempting to establish a paradigm for sangiovese wines (a romantic view). I am being pragmatic.

Sangiovese produced in a warmer climate where it can ripen more fully produces a different wine than sangiovese grown in a cooler climate.

It is as simple as that.

If one establishes a paradigm based on wines from a cooler climate then wine from a warmer clime from the same grape will taste over ripe or at least different.

So which one is the "true expression" of the grape?

The Italians realized this and thus, chianti can be a blend. Blending, use of oak, clonal selection, etc etc etc are all attempts to overcome the shortcomings of the sangiovese grape.

Many of the wines from past years were often tannic, acidic, thin, charmless and easily oxidized

wines. (not just the industrial versions). These are traits of Sangiovese that does not achieve ripeness.

Anyway--I have recently tasted so many different styles of Tuscan, sangiovase based wines, blends, non blends, oaked, non oaked I would be hard pressed to relate any of them back to some paradigm from the sixties--I can only say they are much much better quality overall.

I will say that to me, sangiovese of any style has a note of cherries (black) and a tang that comes from acidity with smoke and an earthy woodsy quality.

I will also say that too much oak flavor or cabernet or merlot or anything in a blend will certainly over come the sangiovese--the wine may be fine and very enjoyable but it will not be recognizable as a sangiovese based wine.

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  • 4 months later...

Ah, my tasting notes resurfaced! Here they are:

2004 Leonetti Sangiovese

Walla Walla Valley, WA 14%

Aroma: heavy cherry, evident oak, cinnamon, roast beef and a smoky, herbal quality. Flavor: Pie cherry, rhubarb, cranberry and a little blackberry in the background. Lots of oak on the palate and some sweetness but you have to work your way toward it. Very full mouthfeel. I wouldn't be disappointed to pay $35 for this retail, or $55 on a wine list. Very soothing. I can imagine serving this with a balsamic-glazed pork tenderloin and garlic mashed potatoes.

2004 Seghesio Sangiovese

Healdsburg, CA 14.8% 375 ml. bottle

Aroma: Initial impression of candied VA, followed by mossy, herbaceous aromas--summer hay and geranium leaf. Flavor has less evident fruit than the Leonetti, more one-dimensional with a simple cherry mid-palate and more tannins. However, I found the combination of moss and cherry inspirational and enjoyed drinking it while planning dinner.

Second night:

What a turnaround! (The first night I let both wines air for about 20 minutes.) On the second evening, the Leonetti tasted flabbier, the fruit was softer like overripe dark cherries, with strong oak (not overbearing, but not subtle, either). It lacked the gypsy character I love about sangiovese. The Seghesio blossomed into a very layered, textured, and spritely wine.

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Have you tried Noceto's Sangiovese?

They are in Amador County, the Sierra Foothills, which is mostly associated with Zinfandel, but Noceto specializes in Sangiovese.

I was introduced to them when I found their wine on the (short) wine lists of two very different, but favorite restaurants. Prices are quite reasonable too.

Pamela Fanstill aka "PamelaF"
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