Where are you on your wine journey with Italian varieties?

Italian Varieties

Beginning in the eighties, those awesome Petite Sirah and Cabernet Sauvignon wines from places like Tephra Ridge and Guenoc Valley in Lake County have shown promise. Ever since then Lake County has kept me interested in finding values that accommodate my sense of taste with their sense of place.

American Viticultural areas (AVA’s) like Lake County, Mendocino, Anderson Valley, Lodi and Livermore Valley have shaped the California wine industry’s success as much and in some ways even more than Napa and Sonoma regions.

I try to use just five rules to decide if I will try a California wine from a specific vintage or region.

(1) Not all California wines are good.

(2) Just because it is from an AVA in Napa or Sonoma, does not mean it has to be good.

(3) All other California AVA’s are capable of making good wines and sometimes are better values than ones from the well-known AVA’s.

(4) If a vintage is declared superior it does not mean all producers will produce stellar wines in that vintage.

(5) When a vintage is rated poorly it does not mean all wines are bad.

Italian varieties grown in California have been around for a long time, but Aglianico and Sagrantino are not that common. Wine enthusiasts are usually pretty far along on their journey with Italian wines before they try either of those varietals. Your wine discovery journey could be moved ahead by light years by giving these wines from Roso D’ Oro a taste.

Nick Buttitta (Roso D’ Oro’s founder) used to grow and sell grapes to some of the best Sonoma wineries until he retired in 1991 and opened his own winery in Kelseyville. His experience as a viticulturist is apparent in the fruit he chooses to go into the wines they make. Starting with a great product goes a long way in winemaking just like it does in cooking. Right after harvest we received some newly released wines from Roso D’ Oro in Lake County, California. Around the same time, I was fortunate enough to spend some time with all four of my siblings on the Oregon Coast and we consumed a couple of Roso D’ Oro wines during our culinary extravaganzas. All who imbibed upon the wines thoroughly enjoyed them. Please enjoy my reviews and remember wine reviews are not advice for investment. Instead, they are more like horoscopes, mostly for entertainment purposes.

2011 Rosa d’ Oro Lake County California Aglianico

An interesting bottle of wine and although quite a departure from the style of wine this grape usually yields. I recommend anyone who likes expressive, not too dry, red wines to grab a bottle and enjoy. The Aglianico grape originated in Greece, but southern Italy grows most of the Aglianico produced in the world today. Pliny the Elder commented on this wine in ancient roman times comparing it to a first growth Bordeaux. In ancient times, it was the Macdaddy of red wines. Known to produce wines with medium to long aging potential, Aglianico grapes, are also quite tannic when young. Well enough of the ancient history lesson and on to reviewing this Rosa d’ Oro wine. With the aromas of chocolate, spice and plums that carry through to the palate, this wine excites. When you add the soft sensual textures of this wine exhibits on entry it is a double bonus. Rosa d’ Oro’s Aglianico somehow avoids the tannic turnoff that sometimes accompanies bottlings of this varietal from Campania, Italy. This departure from the traditional should be embraced. The subtle difference in style should become an enticing and marketable attribute for Aglianico wines.

Rating: Very Good (87) | $24 | 14.5% ABV

Rosa d’ Oro Lake County California Aglianico

2010 Rosa D’ Oro Oso Vista Vineyards California Sagrantino

The Sagrantino grape is from Umbria in central Italy. Only 250 total acres are cultivated there, making it a fairly rare Italian varietal. Sagrantino from California is quite a rarity. The fruit for this wine comes from Tracy Hills, located east of Livermore Valley and southwest of Lodi. Geographically that location has quite a bit of viticulture potential. Sagrantino wines produced in Italy sometimes express pronounced tannins. This grape, when grown in Tracy Hills, does not produce a highly tannic wine. That feature should be viewed as an attractive departure from its Italian counterpart. The bouquet reflects a seductive violet floral note juxtaposed by dense, fruity complexity. Rich plum, earthy baking spice with pronounced minerality are the beginning flavors and on the mid-palate, the blackberry fruit is bold without approaching jammy sweetness, balanced by a white pepper nuance. This is a fantastic food wine that will pair well with cool weather fare. My go to favorites would be hearty exotic elk or wild boar roasts or rich full flavored pasta, with sauces like Carbonara or Amatriciana.

Rating: Excellent (91) | $24 | 14.4% ABV

Rosa D’ Oro Oso Vista Vineyards California Sagrantino


About the Author:

Marc has held almost every position in the food & wine industry and is committed to Celebrating Hospitality with Pride. In addition to being the co-founder and editor-at-large for Enobytes, Marc is a wine blogger contributor to OregonLive.com (Wine Bytes) and writes the Wine Knowledge column in the print magazine About Face. The Contra Costa County Times, San Jose Mercury News, Tacoma Times Tribune and Washington Post have either interviewed or quoted Marc on his viniferous and culinary opinions. Marc has also appeared on Portland's "Vine Time" on News Radio 750 KXL and on California's Central Coast "From the Growing of the Grape to the Glass" on KUHL-AM 1410. He is also the author of A History of Pacific Northwest Cuisine: Mastodons to Molecular Gastronomy. While continuing to tenaciously search for what he may finally proclaim as his favorite wine Marc is relentless in his quest for the ultimate food and wine experience.


  1. Loire Wine Spectator December 18, 2013 at 7:11 AM - Reply

    We like so much you Blog, in fact we are a group of wine students in Bordeaux, we created a amazing Blog about Loire Valley Wine, we wish we can help more and more people to know this magical wine region and let them understand the mystery of Loire wine. In our Blog, You can find appellation explication, food&wine matching, wine tasting suggestion, and all of information about Tasting Salon in Loire Valley.
    We’ve just written an article about Three great Sauvignon regions that we have forgotten
    Enjoy it.

    Loire Wine Spectator

    • MacDaddy Marc December 21, 2013 at 11:19 AM - Reply

      Thanks for the comment and letting us know about your blog. Many American enophiles feel Loire is a very under-appreciated region and the wines that do get international exposure only scratch the surface of the many undiscovered treasures available there.

      The red wines definitely do not get the attention they deserve, especially Cabernet Franc.

      Enobytes has plans to travel in the Loire in 2014, we look forward to coming to your region.

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