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A rare offering from Sandhill ticks all the boxes.
I’m going to start with an admission: there are few grapes I have more passion for than Sangiovese. I love cheap Chianti, I love mid-priced Chianti, I love expensive Chianti. I love Brunello, too and the Super Tuscans I flock to are the ones that use the grape in their blend. But once you leave Tuscany their grape’s quirky charm fades. Quickly. Few other parts of Italy make versions that are memorable and in the New World Washington State and parts of Australia can make interesting versions but they’re usually more expensive and not as good as widely available Chianti alternatives.
This aversion to travel is one of the reasons you see so little Sangiovese in the Okanagan, with Sandhill’s late 1990’s planting being the standard bearer for the grape. I’ve had their classic Small Lot Sangiovese a few times over the past decade and while I admire the idea of the wine, and have endless respect for former winemaker Howard Soon who shepherded its journey, it’s a wine that was always more oddity than awesome.
But then I tasted the tiny portion of the grapes that they turned into Rosé and then everything changed. It may be the hack that brings Sangiovese to the masses because in its rosé form the wine positively sings. It has a very pale pink hue and the palate follows this theme of minimalism with notes of lightly sated grapefruit eaten by a freshly plucked bouquet of wild flowers. I appreciate I’ve veering into the esoteric here, but there’s something about this wine that positively enchants.
And to be fair, some might find the wine too austere (my wife did, for one). But Sandhill has a backup in the form of their classic rosé, which is expressive, where the Sangiovese is restrained. Here juicy cherries and pomegranate juice lead the way in a deep hued wine that is offers supple fruit (while still keeping the body suitable light and the alcohol—12.6%—nice and low). And it’s very well priced at $22. The Sangiovese on the other hand is $30 —which is high for Okanagan, but would be the same price (or more) in Napa or Sonoma should a rosé of this rarity and pedigree come along. And yes, rarity, is the other rub—there’s only 5 barrels of this wine, so not much over 120 cases or so. That’s not a lot (they’re actually not kidding when they say “small lots”), but it can be ordered online and I imagine some savvy somms might try to snag some as well.