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02.23.2006

2003 Naggiar Vineyards Sangiovese, Sierra Foothills, CA

naggiar.sangiovese.jpgThe Sierra foothills is one of California's most under explored, and perhaps, underappreciated winegrowing regions. The Sierra Foothills AVA (American Viticultural Area) is the third largest appellation in California after the Central Coast, and the North Coast. It encompasses entirely the AVAs of Shenandoah Valley, El Dorado, Fair Play, Fiddletown, and North Yuba, and overlaps with Amador and Lodi.

In other countries in the world, the foothills of major mountain ranges are often the primary and most famous winegrowing regions, but in California they take a back seat to some of the valleys. Certainly Napa and Sonoma are more consistent and mature as winegrowing regions, but Italian and Russian immigrants were growing grapes in the Sierra Foothills long before winemaking was a major effort in Napa. Some areas of Fiddletown, Shenendoah Valley, Lodi, and Amador have the state's oldest vines growing in them, matched in age only by certain areas of the Livermore Valley, which was also an early winegrowing region.

Settled by pioneers, the Sierra Foothills continues to play host to a new generation of settlers who are staking claims not for gold but for grapes. Mike and Diane Naggiar purchased their 170 acre property in Grass Valley in the process of realizing a dream that had started many years earlier. For many years, the Naggiars lived in Saratoga, close to the headquarters of Hewlett-Packard where Mike worked in Sales and Marketing. Behind their house they had a one-acre vineyard in which Mike and Diane used to spend time as a respite from the business world of Silicon Valley. In this small vineyard winegrowing and winemaking went from a weekend hobby to a consuming passion, and by the time Mike was offered early retirement from HP, the couple knew that they wanted to retire to a life of owning and running a winery.

After a three year search around California for an ideal location to grow the grapes they loved the most (Tuscan and Rhone varietals) they settled on Grass valley. Their first grapes at A HREF="http://www.naggiarvineyards.com/" target="_blank">Naggiar Vineyards went into the ground in 1998, and the winery now has over 63 acres planted to vines encompassing a wide range of varietals Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, Sangiovese, Zinfandel, Barbera, Cunoise, Cinsault, Petite Sirah, Malbec, Petite Verdot, Roussanne, Marsanne and Viognier, to be exact. These are all planted over the rolling hills of their estate property, carefully situated according to the needs of the particular varietal.

Over the last 8 years various family members from around the country have moved up to the Grass Valley and neighboring areas, and several have taken an active role in helping Mike and Diane run the vineyard, making it truly a family affair.

The grapes for this Sangiovese come from well drained soil on the south west slope of the vineyard, with lots of sun exposure. Made from 100% Sangiovese, the wine spends 15 months in oak, with only 25% being new. 295 cases are produced.

Full disclosure: I was given this wine as a press sample.

Tasting Notes:
Medium garnet in color, this wine has a nose filled with high-toned aromas of cherry, vanilla and toasted oak. In the mouth it is balanced with nice acidity and primary flavors of cherry, cola, and the skin of red apples. The grippy tannins are reasonably well integrated into the wine and it has a pleasing finish. Unfortunately the wine doesn't show a whole lot of primary varietal characteristics beyond the primary cherry flavors, but that doesn't keep it from being tasty.

Food Pairing:
This wine would be a good accompaniment to this Italian sausage and wild mushroom risotto.

Overall Score:8.5

How much?: $19

This wine is available for purchase online from the winery.

Comments (8)

tduchesne wrote:
02.23.06 at 6:04 PM

Alder,
Great review as always. I am always interested in the reviews of wines that are not from your typical California grapes. It does seem that there are more Italian variatals coming out of the Siera Foothills as compared to other places in California.
Thanks for introducing me to a new wine, now I will have to go find it.
T

Dustin Platt wrote:
02.24.06 at 7:53 AM

It has been said that to become a man, a boy must leave his childhood behind... does that entail forgetting? It seems to. Growing up in the shadow of Mt. Lassen, I was first exposed to the wines of the Larocca Family and Honey Run Winery... thus, I always had a bias in favor of the coastals, starting with Glen Ellen. How easily we forget how appalatias and wineries grow as well. I was "treated" to a glass of LaRocca on my last trip to Chico, and was pleasantly surprised (though I think I still prefer El Dorado's Frie Brothers). A lesson to myself, indeed. Thanks for the 3rd person perspective, Alder. I will surely be sending out for some "Sacred Blood."

Dustin Platt wrote:
02.24.06 at 7:59 AM

My mistake, I do believe it was Husch I am referring to from El Dorado. My Old restaurant carried both.
Dustin

Arnaud H wrote:
02.28.06 at 7:10 PM

Thanks for this entry, it's very interesting. I only recently heard of Sierra Foothills as a California wine region, and I noticed indeed that a lot of Rhone-style blends came from that area.

Linda wrote:
03.02.06 at 1:37 PM

Alder,

Thank you for your review of our Sangiovese - it was most interesting. We are proud of our Sangiovese, as so far we have enterred it in three competitions: 2005 LA County Fair, 2005 West Coast Competition and 2006 San Francisco Chronicle - and in all three we won Silver. One of our family favorites for sure. Cheers!
Linda - Naggiar Family Vineyards

Jason wrote:
03.06.06 at 11:32 AM

I am relatively "new" to wine, having only been enjoying it for the last year and a half. To date I have been cautious, drinking only Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays...never really venturing into other varieties. This 2003 Sangiovese was my first dive outside of the lines and I only wish I had done it earlier...it went very well with rosemary encrusted lamb chops. I would definitely recommend this wine, and vineyard, to anyone interested in moving away from the safety net of large production wines into the world of handcrafted, select grape, varieties.

tony T wrote:
10.23.06 at 8:05 AM

We had the opportunity of participating at a wine dinner at a superb Indian Restaurant in Huston this past Friday evening 10-20 – Ashiana, they poured the Naggiar wines throughout the entire service. It was an exceptional pairing, the food was delicious and the atmosphere was exceptional. The Naggiar wines that were poured – Viognier, Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon & Syrah. We also had a blend – Mistero (Syarh / Sangiovese)

Michael Johnson wrote:
11.02.06 at 3:02 PM

This wine is tops for it variety. Very sexy wine. This wine after it breaths has a life of its own. Very smooth taste. The wine is higher than the 8.5 rating on this site, more like a 9.8 wine in its variety.

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