Erik Neilson on March 30, 2017 0 Comments Most wine lovers have a special place in their hearts for Italian wine. Whether it be the regal reds of the north or the lip-smackingly satisfying whites that the southern portions of Italy are known for, the country has a great deal to offer no matter what one’s preference may be. It’s no secret that some Italian wines can sell for exorbitant amounts of money, even though the country is known for plenty of great values. If you’re looking to taste the higher-end grapes of Italy but would prefer not to break the bank, you may want to look to a different production region — namely, the United States. Many people don’t realize that some of Italy’s most famous grapes — Nebbiolo, Primitivo etc. — are currently being grown right here in America, and some rival their Italian counterparts in terms of depth of style. If you’re not sure where to begin or are new entirely to the concept of American-Italian wine, any of the following bottles will serve as an excellent starting point. 1. Terra d’Oro Barbera Barbera is one of Italy’s most well-known grapes, and for good reason. It’s an appetizing grape that tends not to be heavy or rich, yet offers dry, firm flavors and textures. Perhaps one of Italy’s best food-pairing grapes, there are few things more enjoyable than a glass of Barbera and a bowl of pasta with red sauce. Unsurprising given the climate, Barbera has taken up extremely well in California’s Sierra Foothills, and Terra d’Oro’s version of the wine speaks volumes. Medium in body and exceptionally well-balanced, Terra d’Oro Barbera shines with notes of ripe tomato, red raspberries and herbs. At around $18, it’s cheaper than you can expect to pay for an Italian Barbera of this quality. 2. Girasole Sangiovese In many ways, Sangiovese is considered to be one of Italy’s most important grapes. It’s the grape responsible for the highly-acclaimed Brunello di Montalcino, and it has made many a wonderful table wine, most of which are reasonable to be considered daily offerings in Italian households. Girasole Sangiovese hails from Mendocino, CA, and at less than $15/bottle, it’s an astounding value. This is as minty and flower-laden as Sangiovese gets, framed by notes of cranberries, shortbread and sweet stone fruits. A bit oily on the palate, the tannins in this wine are lean, mean and in control. Finishing with notes of lively sour cherries, Girasole Sangiovese is a veritable steal in the world of American-Italian wine. 3. Palmina Dolcetto Dolcetto is characteristic of the Piedmont region of Northwest Italy, but the grape does exceptionally well when grown in the California sun. It’s particularly well-approached by Palmina Wines, whose 2014 vintage of Dolcetto is nothing short of stunning. In the nose, you’ll find Bing cherries and youthful raspberries. Dark spices and a hard candy flavors dominate the palate, lending a pleasurable hint of sweetness to what is otherwise a perfectly dry wine. Finishing herbaceous with notes of basil and marjoram, Palmina Dolcetto stays on the tongue for nearly a minute before dissipating. It’s a stellar wine for under $25/bottle, and the 2014 is currently drinking beautifully. 4. Martin & Weyrich Nebbiolo Il Vecchio Reserve If you’re looking to taste a New World wine dominated by Old World characteristics, look no further than Martin & Weyrich Nebbiolo Il Vecchio Reserve. The last vintage of this wine was produced in 2004, and while bottles are becoming more difficult to find than in the past, they’re a huge discount at under $20 and offer some of the best QPR in the industry. Leather, dark fruit and Old World dustiness dominate the wine, allowing California fruit flavors to shine throughout. This wine is a great example of how Nebbiolo — typically expensive in Italy — can be found in America for a very good deal without having to worry about a sacrifice in terms of quality. 5. Oak Knoll Goose Ridge Vineyard Barbera Hailing from the Columbia Valley region of Washington, Oak Knoll Goose Ridge Vineyard Barbera is as worthy an American take on the grape as one can expect to find. With screaming acidity, it’s a perfect food wine that will pair nicely with roasted meats or even lobster. Puckering and loaded with brash fruit flavors, notes of wild game and vanilla bean hide behind soft tannins to create a quaffable wine if there ever was one. It’ll set you back around $30, but the price of entry is comparatively low given the wine’s quality. 6. Frank Family Vineyards Rutherford Reserve Sangiovese Sangiovese does so exceptionally well when aged in oak barrels, and Frank Family Vineyards Rutherford Reserve Sangiovese is the American bottle that proves it. With leafy green notes in the nose and a rush of spicy, woody tones, the wine’s palate is loaded with dried fruit, black currants and even hints of cured meats. The finish has focus to say the least, transitioning from lush tannins to flavors of vanilla and toasted oak. With an ABV of 14.5%, this Sangiovese has length like no other. It’s not exactly cheap at around $59 bottle, so save this one for a special occasion. 7. Cameron Winery Pinot Grigio Ramato One of the most distinct pink wines currently coming out of Oregon’s Willamette Valley, Pinot Grigio Ramato is actually an Italian wine that has taken up root in America. Cameron Winery’s version of Pinot Grigio Ramato drinks almost like an Alsatian Pinot Gris, showing flavors of apricot, ripe peach and fresh strawberries. It’s slightly savory (especially given the wine’s color), but ends with a subtle sweetness that begs for just one more sip. Bottles sell for around $37 — the wine is plenty unique enough to warrant the price tag. Italian grapes such as those mentioned above are quickly becoming more entwined in the world of American wine, and the trend isn’t looking to slow down anytime soon. Keep a close eye on California, Oregon and Washington specifically in the coming years, as more and more Italian grapes are likely to dominate the future of wine in these regions. For now, start with any one of the above bottles — you simply can’t go wrong.