Italians have been growing Sangiovese (San-jo-vay-say) since the early 1400s’. World-renowned wines from central Italy (Chianti, Brunello Di Montalcino, and Carmignano —to name a few) have Sangiovese to thank for their bright acidity, ripe fruit and leathery flavours.
This Italian stallion is typically rich in tannins, bursting with flavour, and begging to be served with a pasta Bolognese. There are approximately 192,000 acres of Sangiovese planted around the world and although most of it can be found in Italy, it turns out there are three glorious acres of these luscious vines plated right here in our very own backyard.
Like most innovative ideas, it started out as an experiment. Sandhill’s master winemaker, Howard Soon, wanted to put British Columbia’s award winning grape growing to the test. He knew that Sandhill Estate Vineyard was a one-of-a-kind microclimate. This piece of vineyard paradise, located just outside of Oliver, regularly registers temperatures near 40ºC and this heat is only intensified by the rocky cliffs and granite that surround it. It turns out that all that sunshine combined with coarse sandy soils (in some places up to 300 feet deep) and a gentle west-facing slope made for one Sangiovese-growing sweet spot for a successful, two-row test plant in 1995. Then in 1999, 3.7 acres of Sangiovese and 3.4 acres of Barbera was planted.
Over the next 20 plus years vineyard managers Robert Goltz and Richard Cleave have meticulously cared for these vines, managing the extremely rigorous vegetation and crop growth and ensuring premium fruit is delivered to the winery.
Once the fruit hits the crush pad, Soon is then challenged by Sangiovese’s large berry size and a thin skin. This Small Lot winemaking process is a labour of love but also an incredible opportunity for this master winemaker to explore and experiment. For Soon, it is all about patience and persistence.
Out of struggle comes art and Sandhill’s Small Lot Sangiovese is absolutely no exception. This award-winning, Italian wine is full of concentrated flavours and distinct character. It is floral on the front, balanced on the palate and pairs beautifully with creamy chicken dishes, Osso Buco, and tomato based sauces.
This Italian darling from the desert of British Columbia is a true experience from start to finish and something you’ll want to get your hands on. Given there are only 18 barrels made each year, you might want to do that pronto!
~ Joanna Schlosser