So quite by accident, The Rib and I opened two bottles of Sangiovese of the same vintage from Texas and Virginia within a day or two. I made some nice meat sauce earlier in the week and, as always, it fed us a couple dinners. So we opened a bottle with each sitting before I realized I had created an almost perfect smackdown scenario. Here are my thoughts on each one:
2008 Mandola Sangiovese, Texas Hill Country
The Mandola has an interesting story, or at least one that seems viable as a potential soap opera script. The winery was founded in 2004 by Damien Mandola (of Carrabba’s fame) and the Duchman Family (of the Houston Duchmans, apparently). Sometime late last spring, the Duchmans bought out Mandola. Winemakers Dave Reilly and Mark Penna remained on board. Visiting Duchman is a pleasure: the vineyard, tasting room, and restaurant are beautifully done, and the staff is pleasant and helpful. And the wines are well-priced and pretty good to boot!
I poured the Mandola through the Vinturi into a decanter for thirty minutes before our first taste. The Mandola Sangiovese had a nose of dark cherry, cranberry, and some earthy notes that I took as mushroom, along with a little stemminess. This is the second bottle The Rib and I have opened since I returned from a trek to the Lone Star State back in March with a good four plus cases of Texas juice. (In the first bottle we opened, the fruit on the nose was a bit muted, but still there). I also got a little licorice or spice on the last sniff before I took a sip.
On the palate, the Mandola was true to what it presented on the nose. There was some stemminess, but the black cherry and cranberry prevailed. The wine was a bit “puckery” and slightly bitter at first, but a little over an hour into the bottle, the fruit rounded out nicely. We only had a small glass on the night we opened it. The following evening, we finished the bottle (in lieu of dinner, actually) and enjoyed it very much. The Mandola held up well overnight, if it didn’t actually improve. The tannins and acid were up for the challenge of holding this wine together.
For $10, get a hold of this wine if you can (you can’t if you’re outside of Texas). It’s a nice little Sangiovese for the price. It paired well with both rich meat sauce and pasta on night one, as well as laughs with The Rib and some Texas country music on Sunday evening. www.duchmanwines.com
2008 Ingleside Plantation Vineyards Sangiovese, Northern Neck, Virginia
I first became aware of Ingleside Plantation Vineyards about 6 ½ years ago when I had the opportunity to spend the day with owner Doug Flemer and winemaker Bill Swain. If you have a chance to visit Ingleside, do it. The grounds outside the tasting room are beautiful and more than welcoming.
I poured the Ingleside Sangiovese through the Vinturi into a decanter and gave it an hour or so before pouring. On the nose, black cherry and cola were prominent. Prominent. There was a nice hint of licorice and/or spice in there, as well.
The Ingleside was true to its nose: this Sangiovese was a cherry coke—start to finish. And very nice. Softer tannins and moderate acid kept this wine pleasant throughout. A couple of sips in, I picked up a slight vanilla. Altogether, The Ingleside reminded me of having lunch at the Big State Drug and Soda Fountain in my hometown. Between a nice memory and some good wine, this bottle served us well.
The Ingleside can be had for about $20 and is a perfect easy drinker that will pair well with a variety of foods and even have non-wine drinkers asking for a second glass. I say give this one a go, as well. www.ipwine.com
Now To The Judges’ Cards…
So which of these two wines did I prefer? I didn’t exactly conduct the best side-by-side comparison, so it’s hard to say. Plus, I don’t like artistic competition, because who’s to say what is or isn’t good wine, and who makes more of it? But somebody’s gotta win, right? Not necessarily…
The Mandola was a bit more complex on the palate, but the Ingleside was a joy to drink, as well. I think non-wine drinkers would lean toward the Ingleside. As for price-to-quality comparison, The Mandola wins hands down, at least in these two sittings. And I want to reiterate that I didn’t really set up a tasting here; I just happened to notice that these two wines were from the same vintage after the fact. The other problem here is the fact that these wines are not widely available: Duchman cannot ship out of Texas and Ingleside doesn’t have a ton of presence outside of the Virginia/Maryland/D.C./Delaware area.
So in the interest of not starting any fights between my home state and my adopted home, I’ll say this one was a draw. These wines are very different, but both hit a spot along the Sangiovese spectrum, and did so respectably. This past weekend, The Rib and I did a more “formal” tasting of same vintage Viogniers from Texas and Virginia. I’m going over notes from objective tasters who were present, so look forward to Texas v. Virginia II later in the week.
Cheers from the Corkpit,