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Long-time readers of the Arizona Wine Monk, whether in blog form or in the original publication in The Noise, know of my fondness for Sangiovese. It is a long-time friend of mine, connected to the very first wine I ever drank as a painfully naive 15-year old who’s knowledge of how to approach a glass of wine was largely thanks to growing up watching Frasier.
But in all the various Sangiovese reviews I’ve posted here on the Arizona Wine Monk, (or of wines made with the Blood of Jove, anyway), I don’t recall writing about any from the landscape which I can see stretching out below me as I sit on my deck in the town of Jerome writing this. While I’ve tasted a few here and there, often in blends, somehow I always forget to compare the manifestations of this grape here versus in Willcox (I can’t recall anyone growing Sangiovese in Sonoita, so if anyone knows someone doing it, let me know in the comments!)
Anyway, you’re here for wine, not digressions.
The Wine: The name translates to “Beautiful eyes,” and is a tribute to the grandfather of Freitas, who is the owner of the vineyard. This wine is 100% Sangiovese from the estate vineyard, located near Cottonwood. This wine picked up Double Gold medals at the Arizona Republic wine competition. I am still awaiting a reply to my query about the oaking regimen on this wine, but I would guess a small percentage (less than 25%) of new French oak.
The Nose: Earthy cherry and raspberry notes form the opening of this wine, giving it a rather Italian aura. I do not detect the Squadron Leader pipe tobacco blend notes that I normally associate with this grape in Willcox. What is particularly different is I’m also getting hints of limestone dust (distinct from the aforementioned earth) and orange peel on this wine. As the wine opens, the nose becomes more and more rich, with these aromas intensifying and additional notes of sage, rosemary, and anise emerge. I should also note that the longer this wine opens, the earthier this wine gets.
The Palate: On the palate, this wine opens with a salvo of cherry, elderberry, and plum. Immediately following is a massive acidity spike, that for my palate at least, seems to overwhelm any other set of flavors present on the mid-palate, except for limestone-infused earth. The finish of this wine lasts for 2 minutes, and contains limestone, raspberry, anise and a slight hint of Cavendish tobacco, with continuing acidity, and medium tannins. After it’s had time to open up for a while (to be honest I let this wine sit open in the fridge for a few days while life got busy), the high acidity does diminish, and the palate becomes more unified. Yes, it still has a higher acidity than most other versions of this grape to me, but overall the palate is far more unified and harmonious.
The Pairing: The acidity here leads me to lean against pairing the 2012 Freitas Sangiovese with traditional pairings for this grape. Pasta with red sauce, or lasagna would not be my go-to, unless with a heavy amount of mushrooms added. The Geologist suggested a more properly English take–Shepard’s pie. I am in agreement here… but after having set this wine aside for a few days and watching it develop, I think if decanted for two or more hours, or served at a slightly cooler temperature than normal, you could pair this with lasagna more easily, as long as there’s a heavy cheese component.
Impressions: I feel that this wine echoes most of my previous encounters with this grape grown in the Verde Valley. For some reason, Sangiovese grown here comes across as being lighter-bodied, and far more acidic than its Willcox brethren. I’m not entirely sure if this is due to terroir, local geology, or even which clones of this grape are being used here. (I know of at least two Sangiovese wines I’ve reviewed from down south which were made with the Grosso clone, while I have no idea what clones are being grown at this vineyard, or in the Marzo block by Caduceus)
I readily admit that for some reason, I didn’t really care for this bottle right away, and found the high acidity deeply distracting from the other characteristics on the palate, though I found the nose to be deeply satisfying. However, after letting it sit for a few days, and watching it change, I’m more inclined to think that I might have opened this bottle too soon. I perhaps should have aged it a little longer. I therefore recommend cellaring this bottle for a few more years, or decanting it for at least two hours It’s not my favorite Arizona Sangiovese, I admit.
The slightly acidic edge to the wine makes me think of consoling your best friend after a troubling day at work or the like. She’s crying on your shoulder and you’re trying to provide comfort for her in the very best way you can: with wine and ice cream.