Sangiovese: Defying the Market
This winter, la Cuadrilla will plant 5.5 more acres of Sangiovese bringing our total acreage of the Tuscan vine to 21. After selling out of the coveted Estate Sangiovese bottling way too quickly for the past 5 vintages, it’s finally time to increase our production.
Our First Own-Rooted Sangiovese
After great success own-rooting Syrah and more recently, Mourvedre and Grenache, these new plantings will push our ratio up to 50% own rooted versus 50% grafted vines. We are betting that the hearty grape, bred for millennia on the rocky hills of Tuscany, will be able to thrive in the limestone soils, high winds, and 40 degree diurnal shifts of Ballard Canyon.
While risky – the own-rooted Vinifera will be susceptible to Phylloxera – Ruben can reduce irrigation to the own-rooted vines much more quickly than if he had to mind the health of graft unions. From our experience farming Sangiovese going on 25 years, we know that this varietal especially, must struggle to survive in order to create wines of character. The earlier we can cut the irrigation, the earlier we will get full-bodied, flavorful Estate Sangiovese.
While the rich, lush Estate Sangiovese is far bigger and headier than any of its Italian counterparts, the profile wins over folks looking for an interesting, but luxurious New World wine. 30 months in neutral French oak allow the wine’s robust tannin and high acidity to be enveloped by the ripe red fruit flavors of the mid-palate.
Estate Sangiovese – Hoarding
While the new own-rooted plantings will eventually give us more supply of Estate Sangiovese, we don’t intend on making enough to export to wholesale markets outside of California (with a few exceptions). East Coast Sommeliers tend to shy away from Estate Sangiovese for the very same reason consumers love it: The concentration of dry-farmed grapes; combined with the tactile intensification from thick, rugged skins – toughened by the Ballard Canyon elements – create a Sangiovese wine a world apart from the far lighter Tuscan archetype.
Alas, I dream of a day when we will have Estate Sangiovese in the tasting room year-round. We are keeping it all!
Sangio degli Angeli
Beginning in 2008 we began making a small amount of reserve Sangiovese “Blood of the Angels” from the same high-density block where we source La Croce – our 50-50 co-ferment of Sangiovese and Syrah. In 2014 and 2015, we did not make a Sangio Degli Angeli. In 2014 there wasn’t enough of a qualitative difference to make two different wines – all the lots were delicious! In 2015, spring winds created yields so low we needed all of the wine for Estate Sangiovese.
Sangio degli Angeli – our Savior
Luckily, I saved stockpiles of Sangio degli Angeli for further aging with the goal of re-releasing the wines at their peak. Because of our pending outage of 2014 Estate Sangiovese, we are making past-vintages of Sangio degli Angeli immediately available.
Love You Bunches
In 2013 we began making a light, chilled rose-like Sangiovese we now call “Love You Bunches”. As production of this wine grew from just a couple hundred cases, we took back most of the Block 5 Sangiovese that we had previously sold to other wineries.
Unlike Estate Sangiovese, the whimsical carbonic fermentation of Sangiovese has created an insatiable demand in the domestic and international wholesale markets. Beginning with the 2017 vintage, we augmented the core block 5 estate component with 30% purchased fruit from neighboring vineyards. There is simply not enough fruit for both Love You Bunches and Estate Sangiovese until the new acres mature.
Not only are we planting more Sangiovese for the Estate bottling, we stopped selling Sangiovese fruit, and we are even augmenting our production of Love You Bunches with purchased fruit. Seems like we have a serious case of Sangiovese Fever!