The Charles Smith Vino Rosso 2015 is 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Sangiovese sourced grapes grown in Washington State (the label says Washington State and not Columbia Valley). The Sangiovese came from 2 vineyards in the Yakima Valley AVA and the Cabernet came from the Frenchman Hills vineyard, which is located near the Wahluke Slope AVA, Frenchman Hills is applying for their own AVA status. The Charles Smith/K Vintners Vino series of wines are inspired by Italian wines, most West Coast wines are influenced by French wine, such as Bordeaux, Burgundy, or the Rhone Valley. The blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese is reminiscent of Super Tuscan wines (in Tuscany the blend would be mostly Sangiovese with a French grape (to be clear, a French grape varietal grown in Tuscany)added in), which back in the 70s were outlaw wines. The DOCG and DOC rules did not allow the winemakers to add French grapes to the Sangiovese and initially, these wines were classified as table wine, the lowest Italian wine classification. But the Super Tuscans proved to such a success that they eventually created the IGT classification (means the grapes have characteristics of the region but the wine was not made to DOCG or DOC rules) just to lose the table wine status. So here, an outlaw winemaker is making his version of an outlaw wine. The Vino Rosso was aged for 9 months in oak barrels (20% new oak, the rest used) and “on lees” which indicates the dead yeast and grape residue are left in the barrels. The alcohol content is 13.5%.
The color is raspberry jam red with black highlights and a strawberry rim. The nose is interesting, a mix of ripe berries with a touch of bell pepper, light herb, plums, and blueberry crème brûlée. The Vino Rosso has a very taut structure, there is fruit to taste, but it is elegant and well-balanced. It tastes of blackberry, plum, licorice, a slap of dusty tannins, and black pepper. The mid-palate mostly mirrors the initial flavors but does add soft exotic spice, tomato (actually more ketchup than plain tomato), and tart cranberry. The acidity is solid and the tannins add a bit to the flavor profile but do not over do it. The finish is full and lengthy.
The Charles Smith Vino Rosso 2015 is unexpected fun, who would expect a Super Tuscan from Washington state? It drinks very well on its own, but this would be a great bottle to pair with old-school Italian favorites, maybe spaghetti and meatballs or lasagna. In Chicago, we have Al’s Beef, it’s a sandwich that has been around since the 1930s, it is real-deal Chicago street food. The Vino Rosso would slay with Al’s Beef with peppers, dipped.