Notes From The Cellar

2009 VJB Estate Sangiovese

Steve Paulo

Italy Comes to Sonoma Valley

During my recent jaunt through Sonoma Valley, a winery on the side of Highway 12 caught my eye. A large Italian-style palazzo stood out from its neighbors and beckoned us in. Several Italian varietal wines, including this Tower of Tuscany, this Count of Chianti, this Sangiovese, was our reward.

A vineyard in sangiovese's ancestral home, Chianti

I’m a huge fan of Italian wine. Two of my favorite Old World wines are Italy’s Barolo and Brunello di Montalcino; my favorite-ever rosé is a Rosé of Sangiovese from Pithy Little Wine Company; I root for Juventus F.C. (not sure how that ties in here, but there it is).

So discovering wineries focusing on Italian varieties grown in California is always exciting for me. Just like when I first discovered Livermore Valley’s Tamas Estates for myself, I feel like I’ve made a new friend in VJB Vineyards and Cellars.

Founded in 1999 by brothers Henry and Vittorio Belmonte to provide wine for their Santa Rosa restaurant, the winery project has grown to the point where it’s now a force in the world of Sonoma-Italian wine. VJB focuses on varieties like sangiovese, montepulciano, primitivo, aglianico, and barbera; putting them right alongside more common Sonoma varieties like chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon, and zinfandel. They also import a private-label Prosecco from Italy, made just for them.

This is the 2009 Estate Sangiovese, from the winery’s Sonoma Valley vineyards. It’s a very good, very typical sangio: in the glass, it shows a vermilion edge to a brilliant ruby core. On the nose are cherry fruit and cherry blossom, but light hints of chocolate, blueberry, and raspberry.

On the palate, the 2009 VJB Estate Sangiovese is soft, round, and lush, without being sticky or overbearing. A hint of orange zest mingles with the same wonderful berry notes from the nose here, a decadent yet refreshing combination. Everything ends with a luscious finish, that, while not overlong, does not disappoint.

All in all, this is a wonderful example of sangiovese. It’s not something that can compare to the expressions of the grape from its own homeland—though little can compare to Chianti Classico and Brunello di Montalcino—but it’s a solid expression of the grape, filtered through the soil and spirit of California.

Price Point: $32
Verdict: A-

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