HOME > Chowhound > Wine >


Paso Robles Sangiovese?

One of my favorite wines was the sangiovese made by Zenaida. They have recently trashed all their sangiovese vines, as has Justin. Mastantuono made a sangiovese, but they just went out of business and the winery that took them over is not producing one. Two questions: Is there a reason why sangiovese's are on the decline in Paso Robles? Can anyone recommend a good Central Coast sangiovese?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Foxen (in S.B. County) makes a nice Sangiovese Volpino.

    1. Rusak, Santa Ynez, had a very nice one two years ago when I was there. I wasn't crazy about the Zenaida Sangiovese when I was there. I wonder if Pipestone (Paso Robles) is producing any - their wines are stellar.

      1. There's only one slight proble with your premise. It's not that Sangiovese is on the decline in Paso; it's whether or not they were ever on the increase! In 2005, only 11,433 tons of Sangiovese were harvested in all of California. Compare this to Pinot Noir (56,358 tons), Grenache (71,419 tons), or Syrah (100,865 tons) -- let alone Merlot (327,655 tons), Cabernet Sauvignon (405,734 tons), or Zinfandel (419,222 tons).

        In terms of acreage, there were only 2,178 acres of Sangiovese in production in all California. Not very much. And most of it -- all things considered -- isn't all that great in terms of quality. Yes, there are some good wines from Sangionvese made in California, but they are few and far between. That's not only my opinion, but the opinion of consumers everywhere . . . after all, if the wine was selling like those proverbial hotcakes, growers would be planing more, not ripping the vines out or budding over to a different variety.

        8 Replies
        1. re: zin1953

          I am guessing it is too hot for sangiovese in Paso Robles. The vineyards must have been in the cooler areas.

          1. re: zin1953

            That is interesting. I tend to like California Sangiovese's, as well as several of the blends, such as Bacio Divino's Pazzo and Ferrari-Carano's Siena. Can you name any of the more reputable Cali Sangio's? Thanks!

            1. re: AlabasterDisaster

              I'm a bad person to ask about California Sangiovese . . . I've only had a few that I thought rose above "interesting." The Palmina has already been mentioned; Shafer, Unti and Seghesio are worth trying. But the best I ever had was Storrs, and they no longer produce it.

              Still, IMHO, Italy does it better and cheaper, so . . .

              1. re: zin1953

                Does Staglin still produce a Sangiovese?

                  1. re: zin1953

                    Shafer stopped Sangiovese production, literally sending a white flag of surrender with their last bottle to Antinori in Tuscany.

                    Luna makes a Sangiovese. It's OK, but I recommend you read the recs on
                    this board for Chianti, Chianti Classico, Morellino di Scansano, etc.

                    I don't think this country grows the grape well. With Sangiovese values from Italy, and high production/land costs in California, it doesn't make growing sense or financial sense for a winery to make it.

                    1. re: maria lorraine

                      No, it doesn't. I agree completely. Logically I think it should do well, but it never has -- not consistently. Whether that's due to clonal selection, viticultural- or winemaking practices, I have no idea. But were it to disappear completely from California, I wouldn't be disappointed . . .

                      1. re: zin1953

                        I guess everyone’s taste is different because I like CA Sangiovese. Although I drink gallons of Italian Sangiovese (Brunello, Vino Nobile, Super Tuscan, Chianti & 100% Sangiovese) every month, I really enjoy several domestic examples. My favorites are:
                        Altamura, Napa
                        Ramazzotti, Dry Creek Valley
                        Montevina - Terra D’ Oro, Shenandoah Valley
                        Vino Noceto , Shenandoah Valley
                        Flora Springs, St. Helena
                        Seghesio Family Vineyards, Healdsburg
                        2003 Meredith Family Vineyards, Trinity County
                        Macchia, Amador County
                        2001 Hunt Cellars, “Rhapsody”, Destiny Vineyards, Paso Robles
                        Pedroncelli, Dry Creek Valley
                        Monticelli Bros., “Mario”, Napa
                        Pietra Santa, San Benito County

                        I agree with Zin about Caparone in Paso Robles; it’s a little “rustic”.

          2. Palmina makes a sangiovese blended with a touch of merlot that is delicious; I think it's called Alisos after the name of the vineyard in Los Alamos.

            1. I’ve enjoyed several good versions of California sangiovese. The ‘01 and ‘02 Altamura $28 and the ‘03 Ramazzotti $18 are my favorites. The Montevina - Terra D’ Oro $14 is always reliably good as is the Vino Noceto $14, both from the Sierra foothills. The ‘03 Seghesio $24 was good but so are the offerings from Flora Springs $13 reliably good at about half the price. From Lockeford, the ‘03 Macchia, Harmonious $14 is a very good sangiovese and they make a really good nebbiolo. The ‘02 Showket was highly recommended but I was only able to get the ‘03 for $30 and I was disappointed. A little winery up in the hills of Trinity County made a tasty ‘03 Meredith Family Vineyards $13 but only the ‘03. Most of these are 100% sangiovese, I believe. I like to hunt for Cal-Italian wines, although I mostly drink wines from Italy now. For instance, I got a sangiovese from Le Marche, ‘03 Fazi Battaglia $10.00, that was delicious. Cal sangiovese is some of the most reasonably priced wine produced in the state, but it still costs as much or more than Italian wines after shipping charges from halfway around the world.

              4 Replies
              1. re: BN1

                Hi, I think a lot of the Paso wineries that use Sangiovese are using it in blends, but Tobin James & Eberle produce Sangioveses (Eberle's is sold out).

                1. re: LANative

                  Have you tasted Martin & Weyrich Sangiovese? Have you tried Caparone Sangiovese or Nebbiolo? I’ve been planning a trip to Paso Robles to seek Cal-Italian wines, so I would appreciate any info.

                  1. re: BN1

                    I have had Caparone...it is really good! family style, small and personal tasting 'room' (it's a warehouse). They tout 'non-filtered', which really seemed to make the wines have a more complex taste, especially the aftertaste which was great. The Sangiovese and Nebbiolo were our faves, and for only $14 (last year) it's quite a good deal IMO. AFA Italian reds, Caparone is a real gem!

                    Haven't had M & W...we've heard good things but since there's so many choices in the area we tend to stay away from the larger places.

                    Doce Robles made a good Barbera a year ago.

                    All in all, we've had more luck finding good wines on the west side. Tobin James, Eos, et al just didn't do much for us, but things may have changed in a few years I dunno.

                    1. re: BN1

                      Keep in mind that everything is relative -- that is, it's all based on one's personal palate preferences.

                      Caparone began in 1978, and I gave up on their wines in the late 1980s, having never found a single one to my liking. That said, I've also had no desire to try any more of them based on that experience -- there are too many other wines out there to waste my time/money on wines I didn't like. Perhaps (hopefully) they're much better now than they were 20 years ago . . . .

                2. I picked up some lovely Sangio's from Fratelli & Perata at last years' harvest, as well of some of their library merlots. Small place, and they seem to be flummoxed by their own cash register, but there is a lot of heart and skill going into their wines.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: themis

                    I haven't tasted at M&W in a while; I didn't care for the people working the tasting room the last two times I was there, but the wine was good. If you are going to Paso, you'll have a great time, BN1. The wine festival this weekend (we're going) would be a great opportunity to get a lot of tasting in. I say, check out the winery profiles, visit the ones that intrigue you. My current top favorites are: Silver Horse, Turley, Linne Calodo & Lone Madrone, but there are so many great wineries, with their own individual charm...

                    1. re: themis

                      We belong to Fratelli & Perata and love everything they do. Greay sangio and I completely agree it is hard to find a good CA sangio.

                      I also agree with the Eberle.


                    2. I just tried the 2005 Showket sangiovese (oakville), wow is it great now--fruity and well balanced to the end--The 2005 Showket asanti sana (80%sangiovese/20%cab) was much deeper with more complex oak and tannic components, excellent wines and especially the blend will be better with a little age.

                      1. My favorites are Vino Noceto and Bennessere (However you spell it). As as blend, I like Siena. I've liked Flora Springs but I haven't seen a bottle in about three years.
                        The problem with sangiovese, as described by one grower, is that it grows best where cabernet sauvignon grows best but it's more difficult to grow. They figure they can get more money with less hassle by growing cabernet sauvignon.

                        1. I think that growing Sangiovese should be left to the Italians. It bothers me that people try and grow Sangiovese outside of Italy. When people say I had a great Sangiovese from California the other day, I think to myself no you didn't.
                          This is why people say that I tried a Sangiovese from Italy the other night and it didn't taste anything like the one I had from California. I hope not, the one from Italy had more depth and elegance than the Californian.
                          I think that with Italian Varietals you need to grow them only in Italy where they are supposed to be grown.

                          13 Replies
                          1. re: horvath42

                            I had a great Sangiovese from Argentina. Bodega Norton Sangiovese

                            1. re: horvath42

                              And syrah should only be grown in the Rhone, pinot noir and chardonnay only in Burgundy.
                              So that leaves the United States with what -- Concord grapes?

                              1. re: SteveTimko

                                And, Crljenak kaštelanski should only be grown in Croatia?

                              2. re: horvath42

                                While I agree Italy does Sangiovese extremely well, I'd be sad to restrict the growth of any varietal to one region of the world. The expansion of the wine world has resulted in better wine, better availabilty and more choice for wine lovers world-wide. I greatly appreciate the differences in regional expressions of varietals. I also am grateful that I don't have to battle with millions of wine drinkers for the few bottles of Pinot that are produced in Burgundy, and no where else. Let's not forget the role of the local wine industry in the growth of wine appreciation. The Californian wine industry has contributed significantly to the increased wine market in North America. It is the success of California that has significantly increased the chances of success in areas like Oregon/Washington, the Finger Lakes region, Niagara and the Okanagan Valley. These local wine industries in turn create an new market of wine drinkers, who then want to explore other wine regions, and then support other wine producers, including Old World producers. And so on. More market, more choice, all good.

                                Another point: Even the world's greatest wines have a time and place. I adore Brunello, but I would not want to drink Brunello all the time. For example, I'm not sure I'd be a big fan of it with barbeque. (although I could make do!) Sometimes you want a wine that isn't quite so elegant. Variety is a luxury.

                                BTW, I had a great Sangiovese from California the other day (yeah, I know what you're thinking :-), I'm cool with it). And yes,it was nothing like Sangiovese from Italy. And yes it had less elegance than a lot of great Sangiovese from Italy. But it was still a good bottle of wine, and it made the meal very special. And isn't that what wine is supposed to do?

                                1. re: moh

                                  "BTW, I had a great Sangiovese from California the other day"

                                  What bottle was it?

                                  1. re: AlabasterDisaster

                                    I had the Luna Reserve 1999. I got it for a really good price, half off its usual price. Would I pay full price for it? Maybe not. But at half price it was a very reasonable bottle... I don't disagree with Horvath42's point that good Italian sangiovese has a depth and elegance that is not as easily found in a Californian Sangiovese. But I wouldn't want to be limited to one style of wine from one region.

                                    Interesting, this notion that certain grapes should only be grown in certain places. But not an uncommon one! In another thread, Maria Lorraine posted an article on the owner of Biondivino in San Franciso. In that interview, the owner stated that nebbiolo should not be grown in California.

                                    1. re: moh

                                      Said that it should be grown in Piedmont, not even a larger area in Italy.

                                2. re: horvath42

                                  What specifically about the Italian varietals make them different than, say, the French ones? I've heard this about nebbiolo and sangiovese, but wonder why this is so.

                                  1. re: mengathon

                                    >>> I've heard this about nebbiolo and sangiovese, but wonder why this is so. <<<

                                    There is no one single answer for this. In theory, these varieties should do well in California. However, much of the early attempts wre made from poor examples of the variety -- either weak clones, diseased vines, etc.

                                    But more important than that is TIME.

                                    The California wine industry is often affected by what I've long called the "Instant Jell-o Syndrome." If one looks back at history, the first vineyards went into Monterey County in 1962 (IIRC). Early Cabernets, Zinfandels and even Pinot Noirs from that area (think up to 1974) were truly horrid! "Monterey veggies" was a common epithet associated with these wines. So, what happened? Everyone ripped out their reds and planted Riesling and Chardonnay . . .

                                    But first, Dick Peterson at The Monterey Vineyard showed that you could make pretty good "fighting varietal" (modestly priced; good, everyday wines) wines from Cabernet, Pinot Noir, Gamay and other reds. (Indeed, his was probably the first Monterey winery where the reds were better than the whites!) Then came along producers like Smith & Hook, Jekel, Hahn, and others who showed you could make "serious" Cabernets, Merlots, etc. from Monterey County.

                                    What changed?

                                    Nothing. Well, nothing but time. When the first vineyards went into Monterey, Paul Masson's vineyard managers continued to grow the grapes utilizing the exact same methods that they used in Saratoga; Wente continued with the same techniques employed in their Livermore vineyards. But the weather and soil are completely different in, say, Soledad than either Saratoga or Livermore, and it took time -- and experimentation -- to see what growing methods worked, what didn't; which ones to keep, and which to discard. You can't change viticultural practices today and see the results tomorrow . . . it takes years.

                                    Beause of the poor material planted in the past, many Californiawine drinkers were -- and remain -- turned off by even the thought of Nebbiolo and Sangiovese grown here in California. Heck, I'm one of them. But there remains no reason why -- with GOOD clonal selection, planting in the right location, and utilizing the right techniques in both vineyard and winery -- California cannot make some pretty good wines from these varieties . . . if they have the patience.

                                    In other words, we are some 10-20+ years away . . .

                                  2. re: horvath42

                                    Right attitude, wrong answer . . .

                                    >>> When people say I had a great Sangiovese from California the other day, I think to myself no you didn't. <<<

                                    Yes they did!

                                    No wine grape variety is native to California. Some (Vitis labrusca) are native to the East Coast of the United States, but most of the world's great wines are produced from the varities found in the Old World (Europe, originating in the Middle East), that is to say, Vitis vinifera.

                                    So if the spirit behind your statement ("When people say I had a great Sangiovese from California the other day, I think to myself no you didn't") has to do with planting grape varieties only in their original locales, the multi-billion dollar wine industry of California -- and by extention, virtually the entire New World -- would cease to exist.

                                    OTOH, if the spirit behind your statement ("When people say I had a great Sangiovese from California the other day, I think to myself no you didn't") has to do with the quality of the Sangiovese grown in California, there are many who might agree with you BUT it all boils down to own's own personal palate preference. For instance, I've often said that I can count the number of truly great California Sangioveses I've tasted -- defined simply as "I'd buy another bottle" -- on one hand, but I wouldn't dare tell someone else who loved (e.g.) Castello Cache Phloe Napa Valley Sangiovese that they really didn't enjoy it, they just thought they did, but in fact if they TRULY thought that was excellent . . .well, they obviously have the palate of an iguana!


                                    People like what they like. It's their palate, not yours, not mine.

                                    >>> . . . I tried a Sangiovese from Italy the other night and it didn't taste anything like the one I had from California. I hope not . . . <<<

                                    I hope not, too! The climate, the soil, the viticultural practices, the winemaking techniques -- all these (and more!) are DIFFERENT. And just as a Chianti Classico doesn't taste like a Chianti Rufina or Chianti Colli Senesi -- let alone a Brunello di Montalcino, neither does a Tuscan Sangiovese taste the same as a Sangiovese from Umbria or Romagna . . .

                                    The same is true when one compares Cabernet Franc from the Loire Valley to that grown in Bordeaux, let alone here in California, in Long Island, Italy, Hungary or elsewhere; or Cabernet Sauvignon grown in Bordeaux, the Languedoc, Tuscany, Napa Valley, Santa Barbara Co., Washington State, Australia, Israel or Argentina!

                                    >>> I think that with Italian Varietals you need to grow them only in Italy where they are supposed to be grown. <<<

                                    So Italian grapes should only be grown in Italy? How does one define an "Italian" grape? Is it origin? Is it traditional plantings? Do they have a passport?

                                    Just curious . . .


                                    1. re: zin1953

                                      It's so true about Sangiovese grown in different regions of Italy. Recently, I've been lucky enough to find several wonderful examples from Le Marche. Why is it a crime that California Sangiovese tastes different than Tuscan model? Wouldn’t the question be whether or not it is good wine and fun to try? My only observation is that California Sangiovese has way more oak, like most CA Wines.

                                    2. re: horvath42

                                      Yes, and I've had Sangiovese from Italy that tasted like grape Kool-Aid mixed with toilet water. I don't think its fair to say that all California Sangiovese is not as good as all Italian Sangiovese.
                                      I've had several California Sangiovese that far and away exceeded some of the Italian swill that is imported under that varietal name.
                                      I will concede that Antinori is my favorite Italian Sangiovese. But when I say I had a good California Sangiovese, it isn't anyone's place to say "no, you didn't".
                                      I also agree with the other post that indicates that all varietals shouldn't be limited to the places where they're most known for. I had a Carmenere that came from Chile. I wouldn't drink that again if I were paid to. I've had very good syrah that came from Paso Robles.
                                      So let's not limit the U.S. to concord grape wine. Ok...?!

                                    3. Paso still has a few vineyards growing some incredible sangiovese.........I don't think they have it right now but "iniquus cellars" will be releasing a sangiovese they sourced from Ranchita Vineyards in Paso. I barrel tasted this stuff and WOW, definitely worth checking out when it get released. I think you can find them at iniquuscellars.com or myspace.com/iniquuscellars.

                                      1. you might like this one, also from Chateau Margene in Creston/Paso:
                                        2006 Cielo Rosso

                                        Cielo Rosso (Heavenly Red) A Super Tuscan style blend made up of 73% Sangiovese and 27% Cabernet Sauvignon. Ruby color with aromas of dried fruit, black cherry, raspberry and spice. Well balanced through the mid palette with a lingering finish. Cielo Rosso will age beautifully over the next 6-8 years. 538 cases produced $44

                                        1. I recently picked up Kris Curran's sangiovese, but I haven't opened it yet. Anyone tried it?

                                          1. Niner produces a great Sangiovese. Their tasting room opens at the end of 2009.
                                            This 2006 Sangiovese is big and complex, boasting a broad mix of fruit and spice/herb flavors. Blackberry and black cherry are the most prominent fruit flavors in the glass. Spice, licorice and fennel balance the fruit nicely, while white chocolate and cocoa fill the mid palate. All of this is brought together by a rich crème fraiche mouthfeel and a juicy, mouthwatering acidity.

                                            1. I believe Opolo used to do a fairly decent Sangiovese in Paso. I also used to like the Luna that others mentioned.

                                              Jeez, some of you folks are pretty cranky and limiting about who should grow what and drink what where. I manage a wine shop and our motto is: "if it tastes good it is."

                                              9 Replies
                                              1. re: Shooley

                                                Bringing this thread back to see if things have changed in 2012.
                                                I really like Sangiovese and have some good ones from California.
                                                Opolo being my favorite but also Ortman and a new winery in Buelton called Tessa Marie.
                                                Of course I have enjoyed some Chianti's but it is always harder to find wines that are produced overseas. Recently had a bottle of La Carraia Sangiovese and it just didn't do anything for me.

                                                1. re: pantani

                                                  There are a few wineries in Amador county that make Sangiovese.

                                                  1. re: pamf

                                                    I have some Syrah from Renwood in Amador and it is very good for the price.

                                                    1. re: pantani

                                                      In my opinion, Vino Noceto stands head and shoulders above other Amador
                                                      sangiovese producers. I recommend inparticular their block designate
                                                      sangioveses: Hillside (sangiovese piccolo, i.e. Chianti style) and Doas Oakies and Marmellata (sangiovese grosso, Brunello style).

                                                      For syrah, I would say that in Amador, Domaine de La Terre Rouge
                                                      is closest to a classical Rhone Valley style. In El Dorado county,
                                                      Cedarville and Holly's Hill make also fine syrahs-- Cedarville
                                                      also in a Rhone style, whereas Holly's Hilll's Wylie Fenaughty syrah
                                                      is a new world beast, but tastes great!

                                                      BTW, I think Renwood has gone bankrupt. Its founder was an East Coast
                                                      venture capitalist who arrived in Amador with grand plans of making
                                                      the best CA zins. However, his wines never quite matched his

                                                      1. re: bclevy

                                                        I have heard good things about Noceto and would like to try it someday.
                                                        I think Renwood got bought out last year:


                                                        Maybe that is why I got a good deal on the Syrah at $13.
                                                        I really like the stuff, definitely new world. From what I have read it has some Barbera in it.

                                                        1. re: pantani

                                                          The Vistalba "purchase" of Renwood was really a part of the
                                                          bankruptcy auction. I guess I should drop by to see what has

                                                  2. re: pantani

                                                    John Falcone makes a nice one at Rusack with fruit from their vineyard and Stolpman, both in the Ballard Canyon area of Santa Ynez Valley.


                                                    1. re: Midlife

                                                      Think I had a glass of Stolpman once.
                                                      Tried to go to their tasting room in Los Olivos but the high tasting fee and snooty attitude really put me off. Plenty of other fantastic wineries in the area so not a problem.

                                                    2. re: pantani

                                                      There are some Livermore wineries that have Sangiovese. I know Mitchell Katz has one. Ruby Hill might have one too.