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Rogue Italians gaining ground

While Oregon in general is known for Rhône- and Bordeaux-style wines, Italian varietals are up and coming, especially in the warmer wine lands of Southern Oregon.

The AVAs of Southern Oregon present such a diversity of microclimates there must be a place for Italian varietals. Several local wineries have taken up the vinous opportunity to show their love for the Italian fruit of the vine and are cultivating some fine wines. These new world Italian-style wines tend toward more vibrancy and rich fruity character.

Italian wine is created specifically to be savored with food. Dining and drinking in Italy is a palate affair. So what and where are some of the new world Rogue Italians?

The invigorating blondes are vermentino and pinot grigio. Both of these are crisp, light bodied, zesty and lightly aromatic. Available at Awen Winecraft, Troon and Sound & Vision.

What does barbera wine taste like? High in acid, low on tannin, its expression is spicy and complex. Deep red with juicy black fruits, wild cherries and blueberries intertwined with warming vanilla and spice. Available at DANCIN, Sound & Vision, Bayer Estates and Naumes.

At the heart of Tuscan chianti is sangiovese. Chianti can be aged but is often quite good while young, bright and fresh, which speaks to its mouthwatering acidity, bright cherry flavor, nuance of violets and lucent red color. In the rolling hills and mountains of Southern Oregon, you can find tastings at Bayer, Awen Winecraft, Cliff Creek and Kriselle Cellars.

Additional varietals are appearing often. Primitivo, aka zinfandel, can be found at Anchor Valley. Belle Fiore offers the only new world Montepulciano and other Italian varietals in the valley. Spicy dolcetto shows up well at South Stage Cellars, Awen Winecraft and Bayer, and Bayer also produces the rarer nebbiolo.

To compare with Rogue Valley Italian-style wines, and for a distinctive lesson in Italian wines, through November, The Rogue Grape is offering an old world flight of four classic tastes.

They are featuring a 2019 Guerrieri Rizzardi Soave. The wine is like crystallized crunchy fruit, off dry, with pineapple on the nose, creamy mouthfeel, and a slow finish of popsicle tropical notes of pineapple, mango and sweet orange. There is sunlight in the glass.

The blend is a 2019 St. Magdalener. Although made from one of the oldest native varietals in Italy, this wine is meant to drink young. Well balanced, and for a red, it’s delicate and uncomplicated, with red cherry and raspberry flavors smoothed by a hint of almond.

The 2017 Costello di Meleto Chianti Classico is an intense ruby red wine. One hundred percent Sangiovese with deep notes of cherry, this wine is grippy and wants food.

2019 Langhe Nebbiolo is young for a noble nebbiolo, but at first taste it both promised and withheld itself. True to the varietal, there are hints of tobacco and leather on the nose, gentle tannins, dusty rose with black cherry shining through. This one should age beautifully.

Thanks to Sean Hopkins (Awen Winecraft) for insight, tasting curios and invigorating wine conversation during my Rogue Grape tasting.

Taste the Rogue — Italian style. Salute!

Reach Paula Bandy at pbthegrapevine@gmail.com and connect with her on Instagram at @pbthroughthegrapevine.