GDP on Wine

Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz

Blind tasting some Cal-Itals and a few Shiraz

Posted by Gregory Dal Piaz, Dec 8, 2008.

Wines Tasted:

Flight 1 _ Sangiovese

2005 J Pedroncelli Alto Vineyard Dry Creek Valley 91pts
2006 Terra d’oro Amador County Sangiovese 86pts
2005 Pietra Santa Cienega Valley Sangiovese 89pts

Flight 2 - Other Italians

2006 Montevina Amador County Aglianico 88pts
2006 Bocella Rasott Campi Taurasini 89pts
2004 Pietra Santa Dolcetto Cienega Valley 87pts

Flight 3 - Syrah/Shiraz

2005 Shoo Fly South East Australia 84pts
2006 Kilikanoon The Lackey South Australia 88pts
2005 Valley of the Moon Sonoma County NR

Flight 4 - Syrah/Shiraz

2004 d’Arenberg The Love Grass McLaren Vale 91pts
2005 Sixth Sense Lodi County Syrah 84pts.
2005 Toasted Head Dunnigan Hills Syrah 86pts

This week saw a first for us at Snooth, a split tasting! I had hoped to taste more Cal-Italians together in a large group but it just hasn't worked out quite that way so I cobbled together the samples we did have and made two flights of these Italian varietals.

I have long been a fan of Barbera in California but the early examples of Sangiovese that I tried, those late 1980's examples from Atlas Peak, left a lot to be desired. It is surprising since the rolling hills of California have more than a passing similarity to the rolling hills of Italy but it has taken a pair of decades for the winemakers out there to sort out some prime locations for these varieties.

I was impressed with each of the Sangiovese we tried, the Pedroncelli was the most typical with a lovely bracing, austere, transparent quality that I associate with the variety. Those seeking more power and depth would be well advised to try the Pietra Santa, a winery turning out compellingly good wines at affordable priced.

We moved along from Sangiovese to a random flight that compared two wines from Caliofrnia, another Pietra Santa, their Dolcetto and Montevina's Aglianico with one far out, funky Organic Aglianico from Campania in Italy. This was a fascinating flight and the Campagnian Aglianico did not seem out of place with the Californians, though the nose set it completely apart. It was a pretty even flight without a clear cut winner.

We then moved on to a pair of Shiraz/Syrah flights. I am doing a more indepth Shiraz tasting tomorrow but wanted to throw in a few ringers so I pulled out a few wines and included them in todays event.

The first flight showed Shiraz in it's most intense iteration. Sadly the Valley of the Moon bottling was slightly corked. There seemed to be very promising raw materials there but the contamination prevented an accurate assessment of the wines. The Shoo Fly was just not my style at all. I felt it was clumsy and monotonous, Kilikanoon's The Lackey on the other hand was classic Shiraz, bright deep and focused. A killer value!

Our final flight mixed things up a bit pitting d'Arenbergs Love Grass bottling against two value priced bottlings from California. This Love Grass is Bottled as a Shiraz but the small bit's of other Varieties added to the blend punches up the complexity and yields a wonderful bottle of wine that outclassed the spice bomb Sixth Sense and light but lovely Toasted Head. While I greatly preferred the Love Grass the Toasted Head was a fun, gulpabble style that I could see drinking. The Sixth Sense needs to paired with Chinese Bar B Q or something like it, fatty, smoky and spicy other-wise it's just over the top for my palate.

That was the day's work, look out for the follow-up Shiraz event and if the Pietra Santa wines intrigue you you might want to check out They can get a mixed case shipped directly from the winery for only a penny. It's a great deal and I am writing an email about it to be sent tomorrow!

Flight 1 _ Sangiovese

2005 J Pedroncelli Alto Vineyard Dry Creek Valley

This has a great raw character, it’s a bit too woody but the light sour cherry,spice, herb and fruit notes are both intense and distinctive. There is a stoniness that is mouth watering and lovely notes of mushroom and watermelon accents the fruit.
Lean on entry with great acidity and a nice mineral cut to the cherry pie filling fruit. Impressive length and surprisingly complex with herb and spice notes, Perhaps a touch rustic though the good acids and tannins are well balanced, excellent austerity with a zest cherry finish. This has real Sangiovese character though many might want more body and a bit less herbal character. 91pts

2006 Terra d’oro Amador County Sangiovese
A bit woody and reticent on the nose with a sweet, tarry, backing spice tone above the macerated plum fruits, quite spicy and cedar with a gentle tone of milk chocolate that emerges with air. Juicy yet with some fleshiness too, a fair amount of austere fruit tannin adds a bittersweet tone to the cocoa tinged fruit but the obvious wood tannin obscures some of the fruit turning the wine a bit block. Rich and mouthfilling with a very spicy character from both fruit and wood. Finishes a bit short, this needs a bit of time to harmonize but seems to have good raw materials nice wine, ok Sangiovese 86pts

2005 Pietra Santa Cienega Valley Sangiovese
Opens with a raw woody note then layers of herbal, mineral, earth, limestone, a touch roasted/fudgy gingerbread, chocolate chip cookie dough, blond tobacco, and medicinal ricola cough drop. Intense and complex! Big and broad in the mouth, deep tobacco right up front followed by intense cherry fruit There are very soft tannins and good acidity giving this a rich feel without excess fat but there is a bit of a shapeless feel to the wine, though it is seamless. Intense powerful and complex with a subtle and fruit driven finish, good purity and power, elegant even at this high alcohol - can stand a year or two in the cellar, cleansing finish 89pts

Flight 2 - Other Italians

2006 Montevina Amador County Aglianico
Opening with a very spicy herbal note this gains a flinty, woody note that accents the clean blackberry and dark cherry fruit with a touch of salame and pencil eraser underneath Rich and round with a sweet attack. Very well polished with fine tension between acid and tannin and a deep core of juicy fruit, very boysenberry/blackberry/black plum toned, without much complexity but with big fruit and lovely spice tones offering a fine, fresh finish Delicious if simple 88pts.

2006 Bocella Rasott Campi Taurasini
Soaring spicy herbs hit the nose, very chinato at first, touch of lurking coffee grinds and powdered milk adds some relief to the very medicinal tones. Elegant and balanced in the mouth with a big, suave entry and a really fresh feel with bright acids and fine tannins that are just a touch drying. Brisk in the mouth and on the finish with sneaky length. The black fruits turn a bit redder on the finish with notes of mint and spice adding complexity. Could be a bit longer and the nose will turn people off but it is an interesting and complex wine with great fruit. 89pts

2004 Pietra Santa Dolcetto Cienega Valley
This seems dominated by wood notes on the nose with burnt candle, tarry asphalt and coffee liquor notes. A touch reductive with slow to emerge herbal, clover tones and plum jam fruit. Smooth and plush in the mouth with a solid tannic core but also fairly rich so there is good balance here This could benefit from a few years ageing, deep dark fruit with cocoa, plum, prune, and juniper notes, a bit candied but with a powerful finish that offers up jammy plum and toast tones. 87pts

Flight 3 - Syrah/Shiraz

2005 Shoo Fly South East Australia
This offers up lovely tones of boysenberry and blueberry with just the subtlest roasted edge that contributes to a bit of a jammy quality but the vanilla tones and a honied floral character offer some complexity. With a big sweet entry that promises more than it delivers on the ponderous mid-palate, this offers deep fruit but no finesse and the alcohol sticks out a bit. A bit obvious. 84pts

2006 The Lackey South Australia
Classic aromas of black pepper, grilled meat and blueberry are joined on the nose by hints of light toast, menthol and wood spice. There is very good focus in the mouth to the meaty, layered fruit with blueberry and blackberry notes backed up with white pepper and spice tones. Really lovely purity and balance here, though one could ask for a little more length, it is still fine drinking. 88pts

2005 Valley of the Moon Sonoma County
This suffered from a bit of dreaded TCA. It did show admirable fruit, floral and spice tones on the nose in spite of the contamination and the palate was big yet balanced though typically muted and stripped on the finish. I look forward to trying a clean bottle as this showed the great potential of the wine.NR

Flight 4 - Syrah/Shiraz
2004 d’Arenberg The Love Grass McLaren Vale
Opening a bit stewy with strong black pepper overtones, this settles down offering great spice tones with light smoke and floral notes over a gentlly plummy core with an appealing touch of cow patty. A big, rich mouthful of wine that is chewy and layered with plum and prune tones that have a gamy edge. Adds notes of dried orchard fruits and freshens up in the glass adding a bit of florality and becoming more boysenberried. Very well balanced with solid length this is both interesting and enjoyable. 91pts

2005 Sixth Sense Lodi County
This offers up an intensely spicy note of dried ginger and clove on the nose over nuanced rare meat, dried apricot and burnt orange peel tones. With time a touch of violet and white pepper gets added to the mix. A bit fat in the mouth, languid and lacking a center with very loose structure this is relaxed but offers up adequate plum, cocoa and oak spice flavors. Not much on the finish. A spice bomb. 84pts

2005 Toasted Head Dunnigan Hills CA
A bit of reductive funk hits the nose and is slow to dissipate. Light spice and black pepper tones add to the slightly vegetal nose that recalls tomato paste/tomato leaf. Very light in the mouth with a bright, easy quality, if a bit soupy. A green herb top note in the mouth contributes to the fresh feel across the mid-palate with modest but refreshing red cherry fruit that has a crisp jolly rancheresque edge to it that continues through the reasonably long finish. Simple, yet easy to drink with a likeable character. 86pts


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