2003 Naggiar Vineyards Sangiovese, Sierra Foothills, CA

The 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.