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Those who know me well know of my fondness for Sangiovese; the signature varietal in Tuscany’s Chianti. Here in Arizona, it is definitely one of our best varietals for lighter reds or rosé. Recently, however, some winemakers have been finally experimenting with making this varietal in a darker, more tannic style commonly found with Brunello di Montalcino, but with a bit of Arizona flair. This is something I can totally get behind, as it again continues to demonstrate the versatility of this wine here in Arizona. Among the leaders in that effort is Flying Leap Vineyards and Distillery, who won a gold medal from the AWGA in the competition last year at the Festival of the Farm for their 2013 Sangiovese in particular, which we’re going to be reviewing now.

2013 Sangiovese from Flying Leap Vineyards and Distillery

2013 Sangiovese from Flying Leap Vineyards and Distillery

The Wine:  The 2013 Sangiovese from Flying leap is a quasi-Brunello style Sangiovese. For those who don’t know, the official rules for Brunello di Montalcino are that it must be aged in French oak for 2 years and then at least 4 months in a bottle before release. Flying Leap’s Sangiovese was aged in Hungarian oak for 12 months; longer than most other wineries age their Sangiovese wines in barrel.  This adds a fair bit of extra tannins, and it’s a nice Arizona take on the traditional Brunello style. The clone used to make this wine was VCR 06. The fruit for this Sangiovese came from Block 1 at their vineyard site in the Kansas Settlement region south of Willcox, on the bench, and was harvested by hand.  Mark Beres also blended in 9% of their 2013 Petit Verdot into this wine, which only further enhances the tannic, complex character of this wine; he’s convinced that’s what gave this wine it’s gold medal over the other Sangiovese at the festival. (and since I like Petit Verdot, I’m not about to disagree)

The Nose: Cherry and spice are the predominant notes on the nose of this wine; cedar, vanilla, plum, raspberry, campfire smoke, and nutmeg are also to be found here, intermingled with the standard notes of Samuel Gawith Squadron Leader pipe tobacco (which are to be found in every Arizona Sangiovese that’s not a rosé that I’ve encountered thus far) are also present.  The nose may be simplistic, but it is quite rich and fulfilling. Sangiovese provides the dominant aspects of the nose of this wine, but if you hunt really hard, you can find a hint of banana, imparted by that tiny bit of Petit Verdot.

Come to think of it, I’ve never had any Sangiovese from the Verde Valley. Every full Sangiovese I’ve had has come from Willcox Fruit.  I now find myself wondering if the Squadron Leader notes in these wines are “merely” an expression of Willcox terroir, or of Arizona as a whole.  Does anyone know of any Sonoita or Verde Valley Sangiovese I can compare?

The Palate: The palate is also rich, fulfilling, and more tannic than usual for an Arizona Sangiovese, again reminiscent of a Brunello. Cedar is repeated on the palate, intermingled with sandalwood and vanilla. These notes blend with rich cherries, plums, marionberries, tarragon, sage, smoke, cinnamon, thyme, and Squadron leader. There is a fair bit of tannins in this vintage, indicating it could easily be cellared for a time, but it tastes great now. The finish is long, spicy, and lingers, filled with flavor, lasting on average for 23 seconds.

Pairing: Like all Sangiovese, this 2013 Sangiovese will pair well with almost any food you place in front of it, but due to the more tannic nature of this wine, heavier foods such as pork chops or even leaner cuts of steak are an option with this wine, but a classic lasagna can’t be beat. Here’s a twist, though: use elk as your meat in the sauce, instead of pork or beef. A vegan/vegetarian option would be a grilled portobello mushroom on a roll with stir-fried peppers and onions.

Impressions: Everybody knows I like a good Sangiovese–hell, everyone who knows me at all knows that I’ll even enjoy a bad Sangiovese over the best of some other varietals–so, of course I like this one, and it’s definitely one of the best Sangioveses in the state.  It’s also got a fair bit of potential to age, and, happily enough, is one of the easiest wines of theirs to find in the store–just go to any Whole Foods in Arizona and grab yourself a bottle… Which is the only way you’ll get one since they’ve sold out of it in the tasting room.

This Sangiovese is your best opposite gender friend, dressed up to the nines in a nice red or deep purple-colored dress (or a fancy tux with a red/purple vest and nice tie) as you two head off somewhere to paint the town red.  Possibly the two of you are off to a dinner function, or the opening of a play.

Bonus shot, shared by Mark Beres, of the grapes that went into the Sangiovese, by Swift Family Photography

Bonus shot, shared by Mark Beres, of the grapes that went into the Sangiovese, courtesy of Swift Family Photography