When I was studying for my WSET Level 3 exam, I put together a great general guide to Central Italy. I still find it very useful in that it helps me compartmentalize where the most important regions are on the Italian map and where the most prominent DOCs are within those regions. And that’s great. But as those of you studying for your Diploma-level exam know, that information just scratches the surface of what’s expected of us now.
Italy’s big. It can be intimidating if we look at it like one big chunk. For me, it’s Central Italy that really causes the most confusion. So I want to take some time to look at Central Italy in little pieces and call out a few specifics included in our Diploma level studies that weren’t mentioned in Level 3 that, to my eyes, seem like good nuggets of information to keep in the front of the brain come exam time.
I came across Vino Noceto a few years ago, writing a travel article for the SF Chronicle. What I loved was the modern atmosphere of the tasting room that sits amongst the beautiful vineyard setting. This is in sharp contrast to what I loved about their wines. Light, delicate, youthful expressions of classically Italian grapes, it made me nostalgic for the days I spent in Italy. Even their more rustic blends are nuanced with site-specific characteristics and show very little winemaking interventions. But so much so for their single vineyard, single-varietal offerings, like this Sangiovese.
California Sangiovese can be a hard sell to hard-core Italian wine lovers. Can the climate and terroir of our sunny state create wines that pay true homage to the rootstock from whence it came? There are more winemakers producing Sangiovese in California than at least I certainly realize. And I’ve tasted quite a few — at various events and tastings around town — and I can say with confidence not all Sangiovese is made alike. It’s kind of a “just because you can doesn’t mean you should” situation. But if you’re going to try a Sangiovese that isn’t from the motherland, then I encourage you to seek a producer who’s focused on Italian varietals and Italian winemaking methods.
Say hello to Luna Vineyards. And to those of you only familiar with the Luna you see on the grocery store shelves, say hello to Luna’s elevated line — their Black Label. Say hello to Luna Vineyards Sangiovese Classico.
Just off San Francisco’s Bay Bridge, on the small, industrial Treasure Island are a few small businesses not too many non-SF-natives know about. And even those savvy to the SF scene may not realize that past the first few buildings that house Winery SF, Sol Rouge, and Sottomarino, there is an even smaller, more independent winery stationed in an abandoned school house — Kendric Vineyards.