Fortune Favors the Bold: Tre Nova “Bonatello” 2008 Sangiovese
April 21, 2011 by Doug Haugen
"By Jove, I think he's got it!"
In 29 BC, according to tradition, Caesar Augustus commissioned the poet Virgil to construct an epic poem for Rome that would rival Homer’s Iliad. If Rome was going to be a big deal, it needed a literary history that could rival the celebrated mythology of Greece. So, for the last ten years of his life, Virgil tasked himself with writing the Aeneid, a story of a prince fleeing Troy at the time of its destruction, landing on the shores of Italy, and founding a city that would later become Rome. Of course, no epic would suffice without a bunch of mystical intrigue, so Virgil borrowed the gods from the Iliad, and gave them new monikers that better suited the time and place of his story. Thus, Zeus was reborn as Jupiter, or Jove.
2,022 years later, winemaker Gino Cuneo founded Cuneo Cellars, and set about making Italian-style wines in the Pacific Northwest. Borrowing Italian winemaking techniques, and pioneering the planting of Italian wine grapes in the Northwest (in 2002, Gino and Jim Holmes of Ciel du Cheval Vineyard planted the first commercial certified Brunello clone of Sangiovese in North America), he aimed to make wines that had the key characteristics of those made from the varietal in its native environment, while still allowing for the unique expression of the new terroir in which it’s grown. In my mind, his task was much like that of Virgil–adapting a longstanding tradition for a new time and place.
The term Sangiovese derives from the latin phrase, Sanguis Jovis, or “Blood of Jove.”
Chatting with my local wine steward Yancy Noll the other day, I was shown and recommended a bottle from Gino Cuneo’s latest label, Tre Nova. He said it was a Washington Sangiovese that actually tastes like Sangiovese. And, it’s only $14.99. I snatched it up, eager to give it a go.
The Tre Nova Bonatello is 100% Sangiovese, employing three Sangio clones grown in Washington State’s Columbia Valley. After de-stemming, the fruit was lightly crushed with about half of the berries remaining whole and then given an extended cold soak before fermentation with proprietary yeast. It was aged in a mixture of 1-4 year old French oak barrels.
At first sniff, you get an interesting old world wet-dirt-from-a-forest-floor funk that I really like. Beyond that are layers of wild flowers, huckleberry bushes, ripe raspberries and a hint of clove. Letting it breathe a while, you start to notice a nice orange zest coming through.
On the attack, powerful acidity and tannins make every attempt to punch your lights out, but after the jaw-clenching shock and awe, it settles into pleasant but firm diplomacy.
The Bonatello delivers ripe, macerated strawberries and dark plums splashed with lemon juice, which carry forward into the long, reverberating finish that finally fades into hints of green pasture grass. Letting the wine breathe for a bit has a noticeable anti-aging effect on the fruit, restoring it to a firm, fresh liveliness. Concentrated without being reductive, the 14.5% alcohol nearly disappears behind the fruit and structure.
This is a bold wine for bold wine drinkers. But, as Virgil wrote in the Aeneid, ”Audentes fortuna iuvat.” (Fortune favors the bold.)