Avanguardia Wines: Bringing Italy to California



By Kori ~ June 17th, 2009.

When you hear the grape varietals Barbera, Sangiovese, and Dolcetto mentioned, you probably think of Italy. These three varietals are all native to Italy but are now being grown in other parts of the world as well. While many traditional wineries make the occasional Barbera or Sangiovese varietal wine, one winery in California is focusing exclusively on producing blends from European grape varieties.

Avanguardia WinesAvanguardia Wines, located in the Sierra Foothills of California, was founded in 2004 by Rob and Marilyn Chrisman. For years prior to starting Avanguardia, Rob has had an appreciation for traditional blends from European wine regions. As a result, he has been a pioneer in bringing some of the lesser known Italian varieties to the United States. He also uses varieties from Russia and France as well as some University of California crosses in his blends.

We recently had the opportunity to try three of Avanguardia’s red wines made with Italian grape varieties. I was not sure what to expect when we first received these samples but was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the wines as well as their value. Too often when U.S. wineries produce wines from lesser known varieties, they cost more than the wines made with the same varieties that have been imported from other countries. All three of the Avanguardia wines that we tasted retail for $18.

If you are looking for something different, for a wine with an interesting story behind it, then I encourage you to give Avanguardia Wines a try.

2004 Avanguardia Sangineto (Sierra Foothills, California): Sangiovese, Carmine, Montepulciano. Ruby red with petrol aromas. Strawberry flavors come through on the palate. Medium-bodied with crisp acidity and medium tannins. A really nice wine with a very long finish. Would be even better with food. Similar to a Super Tuscan wine from Italy.
Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 5 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Received as sample, suggested retail $18; Winery, $18

2004 Avanguardia Ampio (Sierra Foothills, California): Refosco, Carmine, Negrara. Ruby red and very aromatic. Aromas and flavors of dried cranberries and other red fruits with a hint of pepper. Medium-bodied with crisp acidity, medium tannins, and a long finish. Refosco is a red variety from Friuli in Northeast Italy.
Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 4 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Received as sample, suggested retail $18; Winery, $18

NV Avanguardia Premiato Lot 56 (Sierra Foothills, California): Barbera, Dolcetto, Zinfandel. Ruby red with a beautiful bouquet of plums and spices. More plums and some black pepper come though on the palate. Medium-bodied and crisp with soft tannins and a long, but slightly off, finish. Barbera and Dolcetto are both varieties native to Piedmont in Northwest Italy.
Quality: 3 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 4 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Received as sample, suggested retail $18; Winery, $18


Filed under: American Wine, Barbera, California Wine, Five-Bangs For Your Buck Wines, Lesser Known Varietals, Montepulciano, Red Wine, Sangiovese, Wines Under $20, Wines Under $25, Zinfandel

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