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It’s been a while since I reviewed anything from one of my favorite vineyards from down south, Flying Leap Vineyards.  I spent a day down there helping at the Still with Rose and Rolf which will be a whole other post when I get around to talking about it–it was not only a lot of fun, but I learned a great deal and even got a poem out of it.  Also, for the record, this is going to be an image-heavy post (and depending on if there’s snow tomorrow, there might still be more…)  One of the last times I was in the Willcox tasting room, I grabbed a bottle of the Sangiovese Reserva.  I tasted both… but I ended up liking the Reserva just a bit more, so that’s what I took home to review. But for those who took the other bottle, I didn’t want to leave you hanging on that harvest data, so I’m including that here.  (And knowing me and my love of Sangiovese, I’ll probably grab a bottle of the Classico eventually.)

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2014 Sangiovese Reserva from Flying Leap Vineyards.

The Wine:  The fruit for this wine was sourced from Block 1 of the Willcox Bench vineyard owned by FLV, in the Willcox AVA.  The clone of Sangiovese which Flying Leap is growing is VCR 06, and these grapes are growing on their own roots, rather than on any particular rootstock.  The Reserva forms part of a pair of Sangiovese wines found currently in the tasting rooms for Flying Leap, the other being the Classico. The grapes for the Reserva were harvested on September 14 at 25.5 Brix, and a pH of 3.57.  The grapes for the Classico were harvested on September 21st, at 23.8 Brix.  The Classico was aged in stainless steel, while the Reserva was aged in French Oak barriques for 12 months.  The idea was to demonstrate two different styles of making wines from the same grape; a classic European style which is light and acidic, and a more “American” style (for lack of a better word). The Reserva has an absolutely lovely light garnet-purple color, not nearly as dark as the 2013 Sangiovese I reviewed previously. The wine was made by the FLV team of Rolf Sasse, Mark Beres, and Marc Moeller.

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2014 Reserva and Classico in the Willcox tasting room

The Nose: On the nose, the Reserva opens with rich scents of cherry, raspberry, hazelnut, pipe tobacco (squadron leader–what else), Willcox dust, and sandalwood.  As the wine opens, additional notes of rosemary, plum, monsoon petrichor, and lilac intermingle with the opening notes. This is a wine that benefits from being decanted, or simply by taking some time sipping your glass.

The Palate: The 2014 Reserva is a fuller-bodied Arizona Sangiovese, opening with explosive notes of juicy black cherries and blackberries underlain by leathery tannins, sandalwood, vanilla,  pipe tobacco, and Willcox dust.  After decanting, additional notes of rosemary, plum, rosehips, lilac, and sage dance on the palate. As one would expect from Arizona Sangiovese, there is a refreshing acidity in this wine that will lend itself well to pairing with food, though it is not as acidic as the Classico.  The finish of this vintage is filled with notes of plum, vanilla, dust, and a stern backbone of tannins, lasting for 1 minute and 17 seconds.

The Pairing: I want to pair the 2014 Sangiovese Reserva with some sort of savory pork recipe, preferably some sort of garlic and pepper rubbed pork loin with a side of scalloped potatoes with parmesan and cheddar cheese with a little bit of truffle oil and grilled artichoke hearts. For a vegetarian pairing, stick with a five cheese lasagna, also with truffle oil.  I feel like you’ll need something richer with this wine, and the truffle oil will add just that nice touch.  Vegan pairing?  A portobello mushroom sandwich with green and red peppers.

Impressions:  With Sangiovese being one of my favorite grapes, it is hard for me to find one I don’t like (and when I do, I want to throw said winemaker down a mineshaft for somehow botching it–you just shouldn’t botch Sangiovese, ever), but there are expressions of this varietal that do stand out more than others.  I will say that consistently, the expressions of Sangiovese made by the FLV team stand out even amidst foreign brethren, and the Willcox Bench seems to be the best place for this grape in the state, as shown by other examples such as the Kitsune from Caduceus, the various vintages of Sangiovese from Zarpara, and from barrel-tasting at the winery I work at. I’ve not been as pleased at Verde Valley vintages on the other hand, such as that from Freitas. The takeaway from all this rambling is that the Reserva is a fine example of an Arizona Sangiovese, one I would readily recommend to anyone wanting to explore one of (I think) Arizona’s best varietals.

This particular Sangiovese is your platonic opposite-gendered best friend, dressed up in a little black dress joining you for a night on the town to a fancy party where she knows she’ll run into your ex, and therefore, wants to help you make her jealous.

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How can you not love the color of Arizona Sangiovese?  It’s truly the blood of the desert.