2016 Desparada, Sangiovese, Amphora Raised, White Hawk Vineyard, Santa Barbara County.
The incredibly rich and opulent Amphora Sangiovese by Vailia Form at Paso Robles’ Desparada Winery is deeply colored with a dark garnet hue in the glass and ripely dense on the layered palate with blackberry, plum, brandied cherry and strawberry compote, as well as an earthy and savory background of black olives, minty herbs, warm stones and a touch of meatiness. As the wine opens you get pretty details that flirter up with dried flowers, anise and framboise coming to mind, this is one of the most version’s of this grape I’ve tried in California and it gets more and more interesting with every sip. Vailia explains that every year there are some of her Amphora wines that just sing with terroir, with this one being very special, it comes from the White Hawk Vineyard, which one of Santa Barbara’s best sites, famous for suppling grapes to Sine Qua Non and Ojai Vineyards. From continues that she decided to release these wines which are unique in the clarity of their expression their terrior, with each of these cool and complex Amphora offerings coming from a single site and each was fermented and aged, usually for about a year, in a single 800L amphoae, with this Sangiovese being de-stemmed and native yeast fermented in the terra-cotta. While this Sangiovese is going to be hard to find, Desparada has another Italian red to enjoy, an Amphora fermented Nebbiolo from the Luna Matta Vineyard that saw an extra 22 months in neutral barrels, it has peaked my curiosity and I hope to try it soon.

Desparada was founded in 2009 and is located in Tin City, a place where you can find some of Paso’s Independent talents like Vailia Form, who’s been making wine for more than 17 years on the Central Coast and has been a go to label for quality small lot wines, including her signature Sackcloth & Ashes Bordeaux style wine, which is always a fantastic bottle. The Sackcloth & Ashes Bordeaux Blend, usually sees all of the classic varietals with a breakdown that typically is close to 38% Cabernet Franc, 34% Petit Verdot, 18% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot and is sourced from many outstanding small parcels throughout the region, and is aged in traditional French oak for about 15 months, it is an effort that never disappoints and I highly recommend trying, as is her specialty Amphora wines, both white and red. I got this bottle of Amphora Sangiovese on a visit a few years back now and I’m glad I waited open it, as the 2016 vintage was pretty powerful and as of now the tannins have smoothed out to good effect, allowing for the wine to almost perfectly display its full array of flavors. In the last few vintages, Vailia has focused her attention on Sauvignon Blanc and she currently is offering out close to a half a dozen examples in a vast range of styles, plus she has done an excellent Nebbiolo and then there’s her exciting hybrid Soothsayer red blend, that contains Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese, Barbera, Tempranillo and Petite Sirah. These wines are a lot of fun and if you’ve not tried them, it is a great time to discover Desparada, these are wines that are uniquely Californian by nature and go best with robust cuisine choices.
($55 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

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