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San Felice Il Grigio Chianti Riserva 2013
Pair with grilled meats, roast pigeon and rare carved beef.
Agricola San Felice is steeped in local lore and history. Named after a local early Christian Saint from the 18th century, the property was bought by the Grisaldi Del Taja family – the founding members of the Chianti Classico consortium. The family produced wine for several centuries until 1968 when the estate passed to Enzo Morganti. Prior to assuming control, Enzo Morganti spent two decades researching and experimenting with Sangiovese clones at Tenuta di Lilliano. At San Felice, he restructured and transformed this venerable estate, concentrating on high quality winemaking, systematic scientific research and thoughtful vineyard purchases, which included the Campogiovanni vineyard in Montalcino in 1984. Today the property includes a 1,853 acre resort, 445 acres of vineyards and a 44 acre parcel dedicated to experimental viticulture and genetic improvement of Sangiovese,
The San Felice vineyards are situated amongst the gently rolling hills of the Castelnuovo Berardenga area of Chianti Classico. The vines are planted in two different soil types: calcareous clay and a combination of sand and lime. The terroir of Campogiovanni, including its sandy, mineral-rich argillous soil, allows Sangiovese vines to grow slowly and steadily, therefore producing unusually complete and balanced grapes. In addition to indigenous varietals like Toscana's classic Sangiovese, San Felice has plantings of international varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Like Enzo, winemaker Leonardo Bellacini has spent much of his career working with Sangiovese carries on the legacy of tradition and research and experimentation.
Famous for its food-friendly, approachable wines and their storied history, Chianti is perhaps the best-known wine region of Italy. This sub-zone of Tuscany has it all: sweeping views of rolling hills, the warm Mediterranean sun, hearty cuisine and a rich artistic heritage. Chianti includes many subzones but its best quality generally comes from Chianti Classico, Colli Fiorentini and Chianti Rufina.
Chianti wines are made primarily of Sangiovese, with other varieties comprising up to 15% of the blend. Generally, local varieties are used, including Canaiolo, Colorino and Mammolo, but international varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah are allowed as long as they are grown within the same zone.
Basic, value-driven Chianti is simple and fruit-forward and makes a great companion to any casual dinner. At its apex, Chianti is full bodied but with good acidity, firm tannins, and notes of tart red fruit, dried herbs, fennel, balsamic and tobacco. Chianti Riserva, typically the top bottling of a producer, can benefit handsomely from a decade or two of cellaring.
The perfect intersection of bright fruit and savory earthiness, Sangiovese is the backbone variety in Tuscany. While it is best known as the chief component of Chianti, it reaches the height of its power and intensity in the complex, long-lived Brunello di Montalcino. Elsewhere throughout Italy, it can make inexpensive wines for daily consumption ranging from inoffensive to deliciously easy. On the French island of Corsica, under the name Nielluccio, it produces excellent bright and refreshing red and rosé wines with a personality of their own. Sangiovese has also enjoyed moderate popularity in California and Washington State over the last few decades.
In the Glass
Sangiovese is a medium-bodied red with savory flavors of tart cherry, plum, tomato, fresh tobacco, anise, thyme, oregano, and dried earth. High-quality, well-aged examples will take on notes of smoke, clay pot, leather, gamey meat, potpourri, and dried fruits. Corsican Nielluccio is distinguished by a subtle perfume of dried flowers.
Sangiovese is the ultimate pizza and pasta red—its high acidity, moderate alcohol, and grainy tannins create an affinity with tomato-based dishes, spicy meats, and anything off the barbecue.
Although it is the star variety of Tuscany, cult-classic “Super-Tuscan” wines may contain no Sangiovese at all! Since the 1970s, local winemakers have been producing big, bold wines (with price tags to match) that are typically monovarietal or a blend of one or more of several international varieties—usually Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, or Syrah—with or without Sangiovese.