Wine Line: The grape behind Chianti

I love Chianti wine, but didn’t know much about it. I knew Chianti was a district in Tuscany and the primary grape was sangiovese (sahn-joe-VAY-zeh). I knew it went well with pizza and anything with a marinara sauce. I also knew that a bottle of Chianti costs about $12, a Chianti Classico about $18 and a Chianti Classico Reserva is $25 or more. That was all I knew. Nothing more. Until the Navigator and I drove up to the Sierra foothills and paid a visit to Vino Noceto, California’s premier sangiovese producer.

Vino Noceto

Vino Noceto, located in Amador County, is committed to producing high quality and varietally correct sangiovese. The 2012 Noceto is their 23rd vintage and has been called “the best sangiovese in California” by noted wine critics. The grapes are sourced from 19 separate lots of six clonal selections and each is fermented separately. The result is a 100 percent sangiovese that is well balanced, medium bodied, with plummy flavors, savory spices and the biting acidity which makes it a very food-friendly wine. Vino Noceto produces seven different sangiovese bottlings along with pinot grigio, barbera, old vine zinfandel, moscato, a ruby-style port and grappa. This year Vino Noceto released a non-vintage Amador County Tuscan red blend, called Rosso. It won the best of class award in the 2016 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Tasting.

Wanting to learn more, we signed-up for the Farm-to-Glass Tour. It is given daily at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. It’s a fun and informative tour (I took notes), that follows their wine from vineyard to bottle. The easy stroll takes about 45 minutes. You walk through sangiovese vineyards, noting the different clones while sipping six Noceto wines along the way. I loved it, a field trip with wine. The Farm-to-Glass Tour is really a bargain ($10) and the Sangiovese Test at the end of the tour is optional. (I passed!) Vino Noceto is open every day and well worth the trip. Just look for the little red barn on Shenandoah Road. Find out more by going to

What’s on our table

Peter Mondavi Sr., a Napa Valley Legend, who led the Charles Krug Winery through more than a half century, died Saturday, Feb. 19, at his home in St. Helena. We made our first Napa Valley trip in 1972 and Charles Krug was one of the highlights. This week, on our table is a 2012 Charles Krug Family Reserve Generations Napa Valley Estate Wine. It’s a blend of cabernet sauvignon, malbec, merlot and petit verdot. Farewell, Mr. Mondavi.