Italian grape varieties are among my favorites from around the world, particularly Sangiovese. Whether it's the fresh, youthful Chianti or the grizzled old Brunello, I love what this grape does when it's wine.
Gran Premio is an estate-grown Sangiovese from Cimarone’s Three Creek Vineyard in Santa Barbara County’s Happy Canyon AVA. Happy Canyon is in the eastern end of the Santa Ynez Valley, which is protected from the cooling influence of the Pacific Ocean by the same Mountain range that channels that cooling effect into the Sta. Rita Hills.
Cimarone's Gran Premio is a blend of two clones - there are are 14 clones of the Sangiovese grape - which were picked before full ripeness. This allows for the exclusion of excessive sugar and a resulting wine which is quite dry. The wine is fermented in open-top wood barriques, and the wood has quite an impact on its aromas and flavors.
Doug Margerum was the winemaker for Gran Premio. Effective with the 2011 vintage, Margerum's purple shoes will be filled by Andrew Murray, who has taken over as winemaker for Cimarone. According to the label, I had bottle 36 of 600! That means only 50 cases made, so you'd better grab fast.
Gran Premio shows a medium dark hue in the glass. The nose exudes blackberry and tar. Very dark flavors of earthy plums and blackberry show up on the palate, with that tar angle coming in just behind the fruit. What the label calls "fine tannins" means that this is a very smooth wine. You can add several "o"s to "smooth" if that helps convey the message.
This wine drinks not like a fruity, young wine, but more like a brunello, laden with the tarry notes that years can bring to this grape. It's great tasting and very easy drinking. With smoked Gouda on rosemary bread the taste is amazing. I'd love to try it with lamb, or merguez sausage. Premio retails for $40 and carries a 14.5% abv number.