Wine is intriguing because, unlike other fruit-based beverages, it expresses a world within a glass. All things of the earth can appear as ephemeral flavors—animal, vegetable, mineral and everything in between. A good wine is like St. Francis of Assisi or Nietzsche’s Zarathustra summoning all the beings in the forest for company, at one with all creation.
On that score, Sangiovese may be the greatest of wines. A good Sangiovese is never about the fruit alone, which is subordinate to the carnal stew of dust or loam giving birth to flowers, herbs, and kernel flavors that remind us of our own earth-bound existence.
To find such wines we usually travel to the hillsides of Montalcino, the small Tuscan town where the Brunello clone of Sangiovese has been planted since the 14th Century—or you can save the plane fare and travel to the hillsides of Ramona near San Diego.
In the wine world it is sacrilegious to compare upstart regions like Ramona, where serious winemaking has the relative longevity of a fruit fly, to established wine regions with ancient traditions. But we should be willing to give credit where credit is due—it’s what’s in the glass that matters. And what’s in a glass of this Chuparosa Sangiovese (Brunello clone) will rival most mid-range Brunellos from Montalcino.
The nose is full of aromatic finesse, showing seductive aromas of black cherry wrapped in layers of baked earth, dried flowers, and licorice topped off by vanilla highlights. There is some alcohol apparent as well. In the mouth, the intense cherry cola core gives way to a long, elegant finish that shows menthol or mint flavors. The evolution on the palate is lovely. Firm but polished tannins provide plenty of foundation for crisp acidity but neither the tannins nor the acidity dominate. Well-balanced, well integrated, it manages to be both pretty and muscular, ethereal and earthy.
Compared to the Italian version, these grapes seem a bit riper, the bitter notes often found in Brunellos are less apparent. But it is easy to conjure images of medieval villages, wild boar hunts, grilled steak and crostini when sipping this gem.
As with most of the Ramona boutique wines, your best opportunity to taste it is at the winery, in the charming company of Carolyn and Andy Harris in their lovely new tasting room.