Wine of the Week: Orsi Family, 2016 Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County Sangiovese
An old cow farm about a mile outside of downtown Healdsburg had a hillside many thought was “unplantable.”
But that didn’t stop the Orsi family from purchasing the property in 1990 and giving their Italian roots a chance to take hold in Sonoma County.
The unplantable hillside is behind our wine of the week winner - the Orsi Family 2016 Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County Sangiovese at $28. A muscular red, this sangiovese has generous fruit, crisp and tangy, with vibrant acidity. It has aromas and flavors of cherry, mineral and a hint of white pepper. It’s gorgeous.
“We have been growing this particular block of sangiovese for almost 30 years, and like many of the vineyards in Tuscany, our block of sangiovese is grown on a terraced hillside,” explained Mark Orsi, co-vintner. “We’re basically shooting for a lighter-bodied wine, with balanced acidity and fruit that has a lower alcohol content.”
The Orsi sangiovese is available online at www.orsifamilyvineyards.com. Other tasty sangioveses in the marketplace include: Noceto 2016 Amador County Sangiovese at $20; Castello Di Amorosa 2015 Napa Valley Sangiovese at $35; Broc Cellars’ Amore Rosso 2018 Mendocino Sangiovese at $28 and Davero’s AVIVO 2018 Sangiovese at $18.
The Orsi family planted 10 Italian varietals in addition to sangiovese, and the grapes have cachet. Most of the grapes it grows are sold to prestigious wineries like Sonoma County’s La Crema, Kendall-Jackson and Rodney Strong Vineyards.
As for its winning sangiovese, Orsi said the drought in 2016 contributed to its character.
“It created a higher skin to juice ratio during fermentation, the result of drier soils and less juice in the berries,” he said.
Other aspects that made the wine a standout, Orsi said, include using small open-top fermenters, punching down by hand and racking the wine by gravity.
Winemaker Dick Schultz, 54, has been tending the hillside block of sangiovese for 16 years.
“Schultz enjoys the wardrobe flexibility of winemaking, and the fact that his office is either in the cellar or a vineyard,” Orsi joked.
Schultz has a bachelor’s degree from San Francisco State in communications, and he took wine classes at UC Davis.
“Some may not know this, but sangiovese is the most popular grape planted in Italy,” Orsi said. “It’s similar to a pinot noir, a versatile light-bodied red that goes well with many different food options.”
One of the most challenging parts of making sangiovese, Orsi said, is picking at the optimum time. The winery handpicks the fruit for the sangiovese and its other Italian varietals.
Orsi, 53, keeps a steady eye on all aspects of the enterprise. He has a bachelor’s degree in finance from Santa Clara University, and he joined the family business in July of 2018.
“There is a long history of Italian culture in the Healdsburg area, so knowing that through this wine we are continuing that culture and spirit is gratifying,” Orsi said. “This is especially true considering both sides of the Orsi family have roots in Lucca, Italy.”
You can reach Wine Writer Peg Melnik at email@example.com or 707-521-5310.