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Chuck Hill, wine reviewer and columnist

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Wines of the Week Archive
Archived March 17, 2017
Originally Published February 22, 2017

Italy Comes to America – Part 3
Part 3 of a 4-Part Series  (Part 1)  (Part 2)  (Part 4)
By Chuck Hill

Exploring another group of Sangiovese-based wines, I continue to marvel at the comparison of the Old World versus New World crafting of this historic grape.  Winemakers from the Pacific Northwest have embraced the variety, making hearty wines from Sangiovese alone or taking the cue from the Italians to blend Super Tuscan bottlings by adding Cabernet and Syrah.  Also from this variety, you will find plenty of pink wines – Rosť of Sangiovese; a few selections are included below. 

We enjoyed these red wines with Chef Ted’s Pasta Bolognese. 

Claar Cellars
2013 Sangiovese, White Bluffs
Columbia Valley AVA

Claar Cellars White Bluffs Vineyard is located along the Columbia River north of the Tri-Cities near Sagemoor Vineyards.  The excellent grapes harvested from this site include Sangiovese, which was a favorite with my tasters this year.  Look for ripe cherry and strawberry with notes of earthy mineral and intriguing hints of tar and fragrant tobacco. 

Kitzke Cellars
2012 Monte Caramelle
Columbia Valley AVA

This wine from Paul and Vickie Kitzke’s small winery near Red Mountain is a blend of 57% Sangiovese, 28% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Syrah.  It is made in the powerful Columbia Valley style showing cassis, black cherry and plum with notes of vanilla and toasty oak.  This wine was made by Charlie Hoppes, but in 2016 son Seth Kitzke took over as winemaker…cheers! 




Leonetti Cellar
2013 Sangiovese
Walla Walla Valley AVA

This is the first year that Chris Figgins of Leonetti Cellar did not blend other red varieties into his Sangiovese.  The 100% Sangiovese wine comes from grapes grown at three of Leonetti’s estate vineyards: Seven Hills, Mill Creek Upland and Loess.  Look for Old World character in the complex palate showing cranberry, dark cherry, dusty mineral and dried herbs.  Benefits from extended breathing time. 



Spangler Vineyards
2013 Sangiovese

Pat Spangler continues to impress my tasters with his hearty red wines that show variety character and food-friendly acidity.  A tight nose reveals cherry, toast and mineral as the wine breathes up.  The palate warms in your mouth to reveal cranberry, dark cherry and earthy tar with hints of toasty oak and smoky cedar.  Structure and balance make this a wine to age for a few years. 

Coyote Canyon Winery
2012 Sangiovese
Horse Heaven Hills AVA

Mike Andrews grows the fruit for Coyote Canyon wines at his family's namesake vineyard in the Horse Heaven Hills of Washington State.  Many other Northwest wineries use Coyote Canyon grapes for their wines as well.  Quality attracts many followers to fruit from this 1,125 acre vineyard.  Coyote Canyon Winery's 2012 Sangiovese offers ripe, dark fruits and toasty oak on the nose, followed by ripe and juicy cherry and plum on the palate with notes of tar and mineral.  Enjoy with hearty meat dishes and spicy sauces. 

2015 Sangiovese
Columbia Valley AVA

Here is a tasty and approachable Northwest Sangiovese with a price point that makes it a go-to for almost any informal meal.  Precept Wines is taking Peter Dow’s Cavatappi brand to new heights in the midst of Sangiovese aromas of cherry and berry with complex dried herbs; hints of barrel age and nice acidity on the finish. 

Rosť Wines

2015 Rosť of Sangiovese
Columbia Valley AVA

Rosť of Sangiovese has become one of Washington’s hallmark wines and with each vintage the public demands more and more.  If you find this wine at the store, buy a few bottles now and stash them away for the warmer months.  Aromas and flavors of strawberry, watermelon and spice mingle with hints of citrus and tropical fruit. 

Maryhill Winery
2015 Rosť of Sangiovese
Columbia Valley AVA

Come the heat of summer, this will be a favorite at Maryhill’s view tasting room in the Columbia Gorge.  Quench your thirst with a kiss of bright strawberry and citrus and lingering flavors of bracing cranberry.  Great with all types of cuisine. 

Coyote Canyon Winery
2015 Life is Rosť
Horse Heaven Hills AVA

This wine is actually a rosť of 100% Barbera, but it drinks as wonderfully as the Sangiovese-based wines listed above.   Look for dried strawberries, red fruits and herbs with a bold palate that pairs well with hearty foods as well as lighter fare. 

Pinot Gris

A to Z Wineworks
2015 Pinot Gris

You can spend more on Pinot Gris wines, but you won’t find a better value than this perennial best seller from A to Z Wineworks in Newberg, Oregon.  A veritable fruit bowl in a glass showing aromas and flavors of peach, kiwi, pear and honeysuckle. On the finish, the spice box is opened with cinnamon, ginger and lime zest creating a delightful food pairing. 

2014 Pinot Gris

My tasters enjoyed this wine last year, and it continues to be a favorite!  Round and complex, with a zippy acid finish, look for pear and orchard blossom dancing with melon, tangerine and tropical fruits. 

Nicola’s Redmark
2014 Pinot Grigio
Columbia Valley AVA

From the folks at Claar Wine Group, Nicola’s Redmark is named in honor of “Papa” Nicola Metrione, and the bright red paint he applied to his tools to identify his ownership.  The red mark is now marking the wines made in his memory.  Enjoy aromas and flavors of Asian pear, honeydew melon, ginger and orange blossom. 

Ponzi Vineyards
2015 Arneis
Chehalem Mountains AVA

This unique Italian variety almost became extinct in its native Piedmont region until a renewed interest in the 1990s brought expanded plantings.  The grape name means “little rascal” in the Piemontese dialect, because it is reputedly difficult to grow.  The Ponzis have conquered that problem and continue to produce a fabulous Arneis offering aromas of apple and baking spice and a complex palate of pear, spice, floral perfume and hints of Japanese plum wine.

Wines from other areas:

2014 Chianti
DOCG, Tuscany, Italy

This delightfully Italian Chianti offers the Sangiovese grape in its intended style of bright cherry-berry fruit, earthy-tarry mineral and good acidity on the finish.  The wine is a great value and shows that less (money) can be more (quality and flavor).  Serve it with anything from steak to pizza to cheese-and-crackers.  

Jacuzzi Family Vineyards
2014 Arneis
Paicines AVA

This wine comes from the Central Coast area of California in San Benito County.  The grapes were whole-cluster pressed and the juice chilled and settled for two days.  After racking off the solids, the wine is cold fermented to preserve fruit character.  Look for aromas and flavors of mandarin orange, mint and Crenshaw melon. 

Carpene Malvolti
Prosecco Superiore

What would an Italian tasting be without a little Prosecco?  The Glera grape is used to produce the wine in northern Italy, but has not been planted in the U.S.  The Carpene Malvolti winery was founded in 1868 by Antonio Carpene, one of Italy’s great proponents of the science of winemaking.  Enjoy this delicate sparkler as an aperitif or with lighter meals; pear and bread on the nose with hints of melon and citrus on the palate. 

Castello Banfi
2014 Vermentino, La Pettegola
Toscana IGT

The Vermentino grape is grown in several places in Italy with large plantings on Sardinia.  This version from Tuscany offers great character and is a superb food wine.  Aromas and flavors of zippy grapefruit, tangy peach and intriguing notes of sage, flinty mineral and floral perfume make this a wine worth seeking out.  By the way, Vermentino has also been produced at Tablas Creek Winery near Paso Robles for about 15 years. 

Ecco Domani
2015 Pinot Grigio
delle Venezie IGT, Italy

This Italian brand was conceived by U.S. wine giant Gallo and has been made by talented winemaker Fabrizio Gatto for almost 20 years.  With production reputed to be 8 million bottles per year, there are obviously a lot of folks enjoying the wine.  It is delicious, offering pear, spice and mineral with nice citrus notes and food-friendly acidity on the finish.

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To find contact information for most of the wineries in the above text,
visit our alphabetical lists for Northwest States.



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