Simply put Sangiovese is a generous grape, is easy to abuse. It is easy to over crop, or assume it can be managed in the vineyard as one would Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah even though it is thin skinned and prone to sun burning. Respecting the fruit’s different responses to canopy management, sun exposure, crop level, watering etc. as well as site selection, vine density, row orientation, and clonal selection, are essential to realizing a great Sangiovese wine.
Surprisingly Washington State grown Sangiovese actually has a few advantages that Sangiovese grown in Italy does not. Careful water regulation using irrigation can be used to control its natural rambunctious vigor. Mildew and bunch rot to which Sangiovese are susceptible are rarely problem as they are in Tuscany due to its extremely dry weather. There isn’t a need for rootstock as phylloxera is not present, and due to its relative gentle landscape, farming can be more easily mechanized.
Conversely the unique soils and varied growing climate of Tuscany have over the centuries proven themselves to produce one of the world’s great wines – Sangiovese. Generations of trial and error have informed an intimate understanding of those special places and their resultant world class wines like Chianti Classico, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Brunello di Montalcino.
All of which begs the question what are those differences which distinguish Washington State Sangiovese from the great wines of Tuscany.
The Sangiovese of the Columbia Valley in Washington tends to have a somewhat riper flavor and texture. Tannins tend to be more rounded. Overall, like most New World wines, they tend to have a more intense fruit component with respect to both aromas and flavors, and a sweeter note on the palate. At their best they are capable of dark color, excellent concentration, with full rich, ripe flavors and aromas while still retaining their exuberance and elegance. Without genuine attention to their unique growing habits they can be over cropped and overblown, resulting in weakly colored wines, with harsh tannins, thinner textures and overripe aromas and flavors.
The vineyards we work with have a commitment to growing outstanding Sangiovese fruit. Our “Bonatello” wines are the result of years of research in the vineyards of Tuscany, and collaboration with some of the best growers in Washington State. Some of our “Bonatello” wines come from vineyards we have designed form the ground up based on our experience to maximize the potential of the Sangiovese fruit. Our work led to the first planting in America of a certified, commercial “Brunello” Clone of Sangiovese, VCR6, and the excellent Romagnolo Clone VCR 23. We continue to work with these clones as well as carefully selected Sangiovese vineyard sites that have a proven track record of producing excellent Sangiovese wine.