2011BenessereSagrantino2011 Benessere Vineyards, Sagrantino, Napa Valley.
From a tiny half acre plot comes Benessere’s Sagrantino, about 4 to 6 Barrel’s worth of this gets produced, and Sagrantino is rare, especially in California, there isn’t much around, I think Benessere is the only Napa label doing it, and maybe 3 or 4 others in the whole state. Sagrantino is the great grape of Umbria in central Italy, made famous by producers like Arnaldo-Caprai and the ironic Paolo Bea, it is a deeply tannic grape, in fact it has the highest levels of polyphenols in the grape world with loads of antioxidant and power, in fact until fairly modern times most growers made only sweet wines from the varietal, it was so difficult to manage the tannic nature. Now, with gentile techniques and controlled fermentations, they’ve tamed this beast, there is almost no sweet Sagrantino now, though they are very good. While it took Umbria a long time to make Sagrantino a world class wine, and it certainly is, Benessere has a steep learning curve, but the 2011 is showing some the grape’s potential (in California) and is drinking wonderfully, I must say I am impressed by the quality and complexity found here, especially given the tough vintage, though the longer growing season and lower sugar levels may have been a blessing too, the 2011 drinks with refined grace, firm, but well polished tannins, it doesn’t feel like a monster, and it has a nice medium weight palate with tangy, minty red fruits, spice and subtle earth and herbal elements along the leather and cedary wood notes. The main flow on the palate is morello cherry, briar, strawberry and rhubarb as well as dried, dusty currant, red peach, licorice, lavender and brandied plum. At 14.2% alcohol this no whimpy effort, but it is not a jammy wine, it feels just about right and has a solid structure with density as well as a well judged play between savory and fruity, though it does finish dry with lingering sage, tobacco and kirsch. This will be an interesting offering to follow over the next couple of years, though I think it should be enjoyed sooner v later, most likely best from 2016 to 2021, if you are looking for something rare from Napa this would be a good choice, it will be great companion to rustic cuisine, grilled meats and lamb come to mind, this is nice stuff. Benessere is focused on Italian varietals mostly with solid bottlings of Pinot Grigio, Sangiovese and now an Aglianico which I’ll be trying soon, as well as top notch Zinfandels, be sure to check them out.
($50 Est.) 90+ Points, grapelive

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