You never forget your first love. This is a fact as true for the wine lover as it is for the romantic; and mine is Sangiovese. The first wine I ever had (and loved) was a Chianti Classico which I drank from a red solo cup in front of the embers of a juniper-wood campfire under the stars. I was 15 years old then, and to this day, it remains the most magical experience I have ever had; drinking slowly and deliberately, while listening to the owls, the coyotes, and watching the northern lights dance across the sky like a ballet. The moment I first tasted a Sangiovese it was like the fulfillment of all things, and the universe suddenly made perfect sense. Since that amazing night, I have often revisited “the blood of Jove” (the literal translation of Sangiovese) in all its varied forms, and only rarely have I found myself disappointed. (I’m not the only one: A gentleman I met once told me that the best advice he ever received from a sommelier was “whenever you see a Sangiovese, buy it.” I second this advice wholeheartedly.) So, with this love of Sangiovese in mind, I decided to take a close look at the 2011 Kitsuné, from Caduceus Cellars.
Drinking this wine is just like spending an evening revisiting an old lover who has become through time, the very best of friends. Sultry, subtle, and rich at the same time, this Sangiovese Grosso has a lot to offer to the palate, being very reminiscent of a classic Vino Nobile di Montepulciano (one of many Sangiovese styles from Italy). The grapes for this wine come from the Al Buhl Memorial Vineyard, located in Cochise County, Arizona. This vineyard is situated in the heart of the high desert of the Willcox bench, a region which is quickly becoming one of the premier areas in Arizona for growing grapes. This is due to the unique combination of rich alluvial soil and sandy loam which once formed the shore of an ancient lakebed; a geologic history which is echoed in the earthy terroir notes of the Kitsuné.
Like the Japanese fox spirit for which this wine is named, this Sangiovese Grosso is immensely playful. The color of this wine is a solid, rich, violet reminiscent of the iridescent throats of Black-chinned hummingbirds. This wine has a solid acidity and graceful, delicate tannins, which makes the Kitsuné exceedingly food friendly. The 2011 Kitsuné was aged in a combination of barrique and puncheon style barrels, with both neutral and new French oak. This combination of different styles of oak aging gives this wine a slight vanilla note on both the nose and palate which plays off the delicate medley of flavors which reside within.
The bouquet of this Sangiovese is quite intriguing. Along with the typical earthy and petrichor notes for this particular varietal (and the vanilla which I previously mentioned), I also sense hints of mint, tarragon, basil and cliff rose. The latter is something which is quite interesting; I’ve never smelled that particular local flower in a wine before, and I suspect it might be another influence of Arizona terroir. There is a massive explosion of cherries on the palate, backed by subtle notes of plum and raspberry, which are intermingled with the earthy terroir notes which are standard for Sangiovese-based wines. These strong fruit notes and earth are further backed by the familiar (to me, anyway) flavor of an English-style pipe tobacco blend (specifically, Squadron Leader, by Samuel Gawith) on the finish, with just a hint of allspice. It’s a fantastically flavorful, and subtle wine which is incredibly gratifying for the palate.
All in all, the 2011 Kitsuné is a fantastic expression of Arizona terroir in one of Arizona’s best grapes. It is exactly what I would expect from a Sangiovese Grosso clone grown in Arizona: a wine which is rich, explosively fruity, with fantastic terroir notes, and absolutely delicious. I highly recommend pairing this wine with a Tuscan-style grilled chicken cooked with herbs and olive oil, served with a side of pasta and Alfredo sauce. This wine will age quite well for at least ten years or more, so it is a great wine to grab a bottle and store it in your cellar for a special occasion. MJ Keenan produced two hundred and eleven cases of this wine, and you can acquire your bottle of the 2011 Kitsuné from Caduceus Cellars for $50.00 in their Jerome tasting room.
(note: Some Other reviews will be in this format, as these are the published articles from The Noise, the local arts newspaper in Northern Arizona.)